Bishop Bill McAlilly officially opened the 53rd Tennessee Annual Conference at 9 a.m. on September 19, 2020.
While a limited number of leaders were present at Brentwood United Methodist Church, the bar for voting was set for lay and clergy members to participate via Zoom Webinar with the production assistance of GNTV.
Opening Worship began with a call to worship from the lay leader, Holly Neal. A traditional verse from the hymn “And We Are Yet Alive!” was then sung by Rev. Jackson Henry as by a collection of singers from around the Tennessee Conference joined in singing a contemporary arrangement by Mark Miller of “And Are We Yet Alive!”
A prayer was offered by David Ssebulime. The scripture reading, Hebrews 11:1-11 and 12: 1-2, was presented by a diverse group of clergy and lay members of the conference in a variety of languages.
Bishop Bill McAlilly preached a heartfelt, visionary, and inspiring sermon, “By Faith We Travel.” His sermon discussed the many struggles the church is facing right now, from learning to preach during a pandemic to facing the reality of racism and the importance of walking by faith throughout these struggles. He closed the sermon with this impactful quote: “We pray, we live, we overcome. Yes, we struggle. But we thrive when we travel by faith.” A pre-recorded confessional prayer led by Tom Lee followed the sermon.
District Superintendent Scott Aleridge introduced the 2020 conference offering for Tornado Recovery and said a brief prayer. The offertory hymn, “We’ve Come This Far by Faith” was sung by a virtual choir consisting of members from several churches in the Tennessee Conference.
Worship concluded with a benediction by Bishop McAlilly, in which he said, “Step boldly, step courageously, and do not be afraid. For God is with us.”
Morning Business Session
Tennessee Conference Secretary Monica Mowdy joined Bishop McAlilly for notes of welcome and conference organization. Following a call to order, a roll call of 658 clergy and 658 lay delegates was taken and opening motions were made that included setting the bar as the online Zoom webinar.
Votes were then taken on organizing motions and the Consent Agenda. They were affirmed.
Rev. Jeremy Squires presented the Resolutions Committee report. All resolutions met the test of constitutionality and concurrence. Resolutions were presented individually and all were approved.
- Rental/Housing Allowance for Retired, Disabled or Former Clergypersons of the Tennessee Conference
- Call to Care for God’s Good Creation After discussion, an amendment was made and affirmed to replace Heavenly Parent with Heavenly Father. (Resolution passed as amended)
- Golden Cross Date Change Resolution
New Conference Report and Resolutions
New Conference Guide Team members presented information to support the resolutions brought before the annual conference.
Members of the Guide Team include Bishop McAlilly, Melinda Young Britt and Rob Martin, co-chairs, Jefferson Furtado, John Pearce, Jim Allen, Bethany Huffman, Larry Davis, H. G. Stovall, and Cindy Solomon. The make-up, function, and work of the Advisory Team also were explained.
H.G. Stovall, Communications Team liaison, shared information about the new conference website www. twkumc.org. Visit it for conference-related information.
Melinda Young Britt spoke about our ever-changing context, timeline, tools used, covenant, and current transition task teams. This work is not complete but is laying the foundation for our future church. For more information, visit the TWKUMC website for launch packet tools and communication strategies.
Jefferson Furtado spoke about teams working to make the new conference a reality. Each is discerning how to live out the conference’s mission, vision, and values and has been collaborative, engaging clergy and laity from both conferences. No team stands alone; they interact with one another. Many teams are in different stages of development.
Bethany Huffman spoke about work being done by the Structure Design Team. The Book of Discipline and other resources provided guidance. for the proposed structure. The proposed structure is based on our mission to discover, equip, connect, and send lay and clergy leaders that offer Christ to the world one neighborhood at time. The goal is to streamline and simplify to eliminate silo functions while keeping our mission front and center. More on the proposed structure.
Rob Martin spoke about the nominations process. Nominations were affirmed by each legacy conference’s committee, but vacancies have and will occur. The hope is to live into the new conference structure as much as the Book of Discipline and civil law will allow until we formally become the Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference. It was proposed that current officers and leaders continue in their positions as willing, able, and needed through December 31, 2021.
John Pearce provided information from the 2021 Budget Task Team. The team developed a joint budget but each conference will vote on their own portion of the budget. The team wants to achieve as much alignment and consistency as possible and have made good progress with the 2021 proposal. He also discussed the new funding model for the conference through a percentage-based Connectional Commitment. For information and slides related to the budget process visit the page twkumc.org/materials-for-2020-annual-conference-consideration.
Deb Suddarth and Jerry Wallace provided information about the work of the Benefits Task Team on aligning conference health plans and pension benefits. Jim Allen presented information about the Tennessee Conference property and a proposed office space study. The disciplinary need for a Joint Distributing Committee during 2021 was also explained.
The following resolutions then were presented and all were passed.
- New Conference Resolution
- Joint Distributing Committee
- Office Space Study
- Officers, Boards, and Agency Representatives
Council on Finance and Administration Action Items
John Pearce presented the CFA report and action items that all were passed. Slides and budget narrative are available online under Budget Information at tnumc.org/reports-for-annual-conference-2020.
Martin Methodist College Presentation
Rev. Dr. Mark La Branche addressed the annual conference about the proposal and the merits for Martin Methodist College to become part of the University of Tennessee system. “Although our partnership may change in its structure, it will be more important than ever,” he said. To view the video go to tnumc.org/reports-for-annual-conference-2020.
Director of Administrative Services Report and Action Items
Jim Allen presented four action items regarding the health plan, pensions, and equitable compensation. All were passed.
Following Jim Allen’s presentation – which included his tradition of singing a song from the podium – his years of service as director of administrative services and conference treasurer were acknowledged by Bishop McAlilly. Allen’s retirement began at the close of the annual conference.
Bishop McAlilly recognized and prayed for missionaries, home missioners, and deaconesses.
Monica Mowdy introduced the video of the 2020 annual conference award recipients. This video is available at tnumc.org/tnac2020videos.
Bishop McAlilly made a personal point of privilege and spoke about his receiving Harry Denman Award and heart-felt reflections from his childhood about Harry Denman.
Board of Ordained Ministry Report
Bryan Brooks presented the report for the Board of Ordained Ministry including the names of those who were licensed, commissioned, and ordained in August during the clergy session and at two services held separately because of COVID-19 precautions. A recording made using footage from both of the worship services was shown the Friday evening of the annual conference (tnumc.org/tnac2020videos).
- Licensed local pastors: Amber Armistead, Andrew Polk, Angela Reiss, Denise Settle
- Provisional Deacons: Nicole Nyembo, Maggie Ward
- Provisional Elders: Tory Shane Dillard, Scott Walter Marshall-Kimball, Nate Partee, Christine Penner, Elizabeth Ann Williams,
- Deacons in full connection: Jessica Bridges, Margaret Ann Jarrell, Carlisle White Jones, Sarah Elizabeth McWhirt-Toler
- Elders in full connection: David Brandon Baxter, Robert Presley Brown, Seonwoong Hwang, Theresa Ann Johnson, Mark Wallace Templeton, Abraham David Zimmerman
Brooks shared video clips of ordinands answering historical questions as well as the symbolic passing of the mantle.
He also recognized the conference’s Certified Lay Ministers (CLM), many who are faithfully serving local congregations as their spiritual leader or leading in varying ministries on the district and local church level. These CLMs are Wallace Dale Caldwell, David Hill, Holly Neal, Melvin Boone, Carol Overton, Jamie Shelby Wallace, Dianne D Holland, Beverly Dycus, Linda Hatcher, Nita Heilman, Betty Ann Meriwether, Bill Wheeler, Matthew Brown, Monica Smith Butler, Larry Crabtree, Rosemary Crabtree, Angela Ford, Ruthan Patient, and Carol Reynolds.
A retirement video featured this year’s retirees reflecting on questions about our current annual conference theme “By Faith” as well as about past annual conferences. They also gave advice for new pastors. Bishop McAlilly offered a prayer for the retirees. The video is on the conference website at tnumc.org/tnac2020videos.
Antiracism Coalition Presentation
The Tennessee-Western Kentucky anti-racism coalition presentation featured a video centered on the question: “Systemic change begins with us. What are we going to do?” Invest in our younger generations; embrace the diversity of our community; be open to learning and changing how things are done; and go home, gather your loved ones, and have the hard conversations. “It is the church that has been ordained to transform our broken world.” Next Step Resources (tnumc.org/anti-racism-coalition-resources/)
The presentation was followed with a spirit-filled version of “Order My Steps” sung by Linda Furtado.
This year’s memorial recognition video featured a ringing of the bell as the names and images were shared of the 29 saints who have gone before us during this past year. This video and the 2020 Memorial Book written about each person is available on the conference website at tnumc.org/tnac2020videos/
Board of Laity and Lay Servant Ministries
Holly Neal was the featured speaker in the Board of Laity and Lay Servant Ministries video. The video celebrated that lay servant ministries existed in over 500 churches, in rural, suburban, and urban areas. People in lay servant ministries are called to use their gifts, services, witness and prayers to serve their communities as lay people in God’s name. This year, over 200 people participated in lay servant ministry training.
The Resolutions Committee correction was noted that in some of these resolutions, the date for changes or closings needed to be changed to reflect today’s date.
All District Charge Line Resolutions were approved.
- Caney Fork Charge Line Resolutions
- Cumberland River Charge Line Resolution
- Harpeth River Charge Line Resolution
- Red River Charge Line Resolutions
- Stones River Charge Line Resolutions
District church closing resolutions were voted on individually and all were passed. Bishop McAlilly prayed for each district’s closed churches.
Wartrace UMC | Hickory Grove UMC | Hilham UMC | Pleasant Grove UMC | Martin’s Chapel UMC | Jacob’s Pillar UMC | Shipley UMC
Bigbee Chapel UMC | Payne Chapel UMC | Trinity UMC | Mt. Olive UMC |
Mt. Nebo UMC | Shawnettee UMC
Barth Vernon UMC | Cedar Valley UMC | Cumberland City UMC | Leatherwood Asbury UMC | Spring Hill UMC
Bishop Bill McAlilly closed the Tennessee Annual Conference with the inspiring and passionate sermon, “In Christ Alone.” He used the text from Exodus 14:13-29, the story of the Hebrew Midrash, Nashon: The first to walk into the Red Sea. It did not part until he had taken the final step to be all in.
The bishop said, “When we depart this Annual Conference session, God will invite us to take steps into God’s future — unafraid.” He sent everyone forth into the future with quiet courage and a gladsome mind, free and joyful, in the spirit of Christ.
“The spirit of the Lord is all upon us because our Lord has anointed us to bring good news to the poor, the recovering of sight to the blind, and to set at liberty those who are oppressed.”
“We look to Jesus, who is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, for without Him we don’t have a prayer — in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
The closing hymn, “Go to the World” was performed by the West End UMC COVID quintet.
Links to more information are available at tnumc.org/AC2020
A recording of the Annual Conference live stream is available at tnumc.org/tnac2020videos.