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2007 Memphis Annual Conference

June 3-6, 2007, Jackson, Tenn.

It was not business or even worship as usual at the 2007 Memphis Annual Conference. Meeting under the banner "Changing Hearts, Changing Lives, Making Disciples of Jesus Christ," delegates agreed it is time to take seriously their task of planning for growth and change, new congregations and revitalized churches. A graphic demonstration of losses in membership and churches since 1968 drove home the need to take the Good News to the people of West Tennessee and western Kentucky.

Worship was led by Bishop Dick Wills, and conference preacher was Bishop James Swanson Sr. of the Holston Area. Bible study leader was Dr. Waite Willis Jr., and music leader was the Rev. Mark Locke. Bishop Swanson's emotional and spirit-led call moved many to kneel at the altar, rededicating themselves to God's service. The June 3 offering of $10,640 will help establish the Dream Farm at Africa University, buying animals and tools to develop a farm that will serve as a model of sustainable agriculture for Zimbabwe's small farmers. Offerings from worship services on the evenings of June 4 and June 5 totaled $5,719 and will be shared equally by children's ministries at Memphis Conference agencies: Hannah's Hope, Reelfoot Rural Ministries, Lakeshore, United Methodist Neighborhood Centers of Memphis and West Ky. United Methodist Family Services.

Lay delegates elected to the 2008 General Conference are: Sandra Burnett (co-head of the delegation) of Paducah, Ky.; Beth Brown of Union City; and Selena Henson of Memphis.

Clergy elected to the 2008 General Conference are: Randy Cooper (co-head of the delegation) of Ripley; Gail Gaddie of Memphis; and Roger Hopson of Jackson.

Lay elected to the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference are: Gary Shorb of Memphis; Cynthia Bond Hopson of Jackson; and Mike Freeman of Jackson. Lay alternates to the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference are: Solomon Christian of Memphis; David R. Reed of Martin; and John Michael Fisher of Dyersburg.

Clergy elected to the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference are: David Comperry of Paducah; Sandra Leatherwood of Bolivar; and Kevin Presley of Memphis. Clergy alternates to the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference are: Sky Lowe-McCracken of Reidland, Ky.; Stan Waldon of Dyersburg; and Anthony Anderson of Memphis.

The Rev. Randy Cooper was unanimously declared the delegation's episcopal candidate and was heartily and unanimously endorsed later by annual conference delegates. The long-anticipated Annual Conference Study Task Force report came to the floor amid much discussion and debate. After a motion by Sandra Burnett, conference lay leader, the structure and financial sections of the report were accepted as a work in progress with district meetings to be scheduled for study and discussion. Included in the tabled report is a recommendation to decrease the number of districts from seven to five. Standing rule #4 was amended to allow the change if it becomes the will of the annual conference. "Even though standing rule #4 has been amended from saying that the annual conference will have seven districts to 'at least five districts' we will make no changes in the number of districts until the conference has the opportunity to consider it in the context of the whole motion of the task force," said Bishop Wills. "The cabinet wants to do what the annual conference tells us to do and I don't believe we have a mandate for making that change now."

Delegates voted unanimously to submit to the 2008 General Conference a petition to rescind the current pension plan (CRSP) and reinstate its predecessor (MPP), effective January 1, 2009. The vote followed the reading of a prepared statement from the United Methodist Board of Pension and Health Benefits that opposed the petition.

Thirteen pastors retired in 2007, five probationary members were commissioned, one elder and one deacon were ordained, an associate member was recognized, and one elder transferred into the conference.

Membership stands at 87,639, down 625 from the previous year. Average worship attendance stands at 34,350, down 651 from the previous year. Church school attendance stands at 19,665, down 1,324 from the previous year.

-Cathy Farmer