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2007 Tennessee Annual Conference

June 10-13, 2007, Brentwood, Tenn.

During the Tennessee Annual Conference, Bishop Bob Fannin was conference preacher, and Bible study was led by W. Waite Willis, professor of religion at Lakeland (Fla.) College. Fannin is retired and serves as bishop-in-residence at Florida Southern College.

The Tennessee Conference grew in membership in 2006 from 117,477 to 118,244, or by 767 people. Average worship attendance was 48,254, which is 41 percent of membership total. Also, 443 churches, or 71.8 percent of its churches, paid 100 percent of their apportionment request.

The Rev. Loyd Mabry, director of the Conference Council on Ministries, shared conference statistics to initiate discussion on congregational revitalizations. According to 2006 year-end reports, United Methodists total 118,244, which is only 5.2 percent of the population. Meanwhile, 53 percent of people within the conference are unchurched.

Mabry shared the good news that the Tennessee Conference is growing. Using figures from the 2006 Annual Conference Journal, the conference grew by 946 people, or .8 percent. The conference has had a net gain in membership for the last 11 years, but its growth is still not keeping pace with the state's population growth. Worship attendance was 48,254, up 207 over the previous year.

Mabry said it is troubling that only 47 percent of conference churches had people join on profession of faith, which means that 53 percent did not have a single person join on profession of faith. The national average for United Methodist churches with no professions of faith is 42.4 percent.

Tennessee Conference Bishop Richard Wills spoke about the need for a clergy effectiveness document, adding that the Memphis Annual Conference has asked the Judicial Council for a ruling on it. Using the typology in the recent book of colleague Bishop Schnase (Missouri), Wills suggested the church needs to be a place of radical hospitality, passionate worship, intentional faith development, risk-taking mission service and extravagant generosity.

Renewal of Methodism will be the study topic at a joint meeting of the Orders and the Memphis Conference, to be held Nov. 12-14 at Montgomery Bell State Park, with a related lay meeting on Nov. 10 at Dickson First United Methodist Church.

Bishop Wills said stress levels among clergy are extremely high, perhaps aggravated by too many night meetings. He challenged all 227 retired clergy to start one new Sunday school class in 2007-08. He noted that Life Journals are now available online.

An offering was taken from the churches in the conference for the Kamina relief effort. The faith goal for the children of Kamina for 2007 is $100,000, with more than $57,862 raised so far.

Eleven first-time local pastors were licensed for pastoral ministry, seven were ordained as elders in full connection, three were ordained as deacons in full connection and nine were commissioned as first-year probationary members of the Tennessee Conference.

Elected as clergy delegates to the 2008 General Conference are: Lynn Hill, Franklin; Cathie Leimenstoll, Murfreesboro; Bettye Lewis, Pulaski; Barbara Garcia, Nashville; and John Collett, Nashville.

Elected as lay delegates to General Conference are: Don Ladd, Nashville; Joe Williams, Tullahoma; Betty Alexander, Hendersonville; Beth Morris, Hendersonville; and Opal Ransom, Nashville.

Elected as lay delegates to the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference are: Holly Neal, Crossville; Rachael Hagewood, Goodlettsville; Patricia Sailors, Pulaski; Andrew Miller, Franklin; and Debbie Robinson, Franklin.

Elected as clergy delegates to the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference are: Harriet Bryan, Clarksville; Karen Barrineau, Clarksville; Michael Williams, Nashville; Max Mayo, Fairfield Glade; and Ken Murray, Nashville.

Clergy reserve delegates are: Lisa Gwock, Brentwood; Thomas Ward, Fayetteville; Loyd Mabry, Spring Hill; Elijah McGee, Hermitage; and Robert Lewis, Nashville.

Lay reserve delegates are: Vivian Martin, Jim Austin, Rockvale; Gloria Watts, Columbia; Heather Bennett, Pleasant View; and Robert Sullins, Brentwood.

The newly elected delegates, meeting in session for the first time, endorsed a candidate for bishop from the Tennessee Annual Conference. The Rev. A. Lynn Hill, pastor of First United Methodist Church of Franklin, received the endorsement that was affirmed by the conference.

Awards presented included:

  • Francis Asbury Award for contributions to higher education: Betty Alexander;
  • Dick Allison Social Holiness Award for laity: Denise Skidmore, Hilldale United Methodist Church, for founding F.U.E.L. to feed hungry children;
  • Dick Allison Social Holiness Award for clergy: the Rev. Jack Gilbert, pastor of Harris Chapel United Methodist Church, Murfreesboro District, for working diligently to overcome racial, economic and cultural barriers;
  • Denman Evangelism Award for laity: Tina Neeley, Mt. Lebanon United Methodist Church, who is chairperson of the congregation's Evangelism Committee that is credited with the church's 10 percent growth in membership;
  • Denman Evangelism Award for clergy: the Rev. William Allen Weller III, pastor of Good Shepherd United Methodist Church, Hendersonville, one of the fastest growing congregations in the conference;
  • Journal Dedication for laity: Norris and Fran Allen, First United Methodist Church, Dickson, who have been strongly involved in Volunteers in Mission since 1978;
  • Journal Dedication for clergy: the Rev. Randall Ganues, who has been in ministry for 43½ years. Until retirement at annual conference, Ganues had served for 10 years as director of the Conference Council on Connectional Ministries;
  • The Order of St. Andrew: C. Don Ladd and the Rev. Randall Ganues.

Lisa Gwock, chairperson of the Tennessee Conference Order of Deacons, presented a video report on the 10th anniversary of the Order of Deacons. She also highlighted the 30th anniversary of diaconal ministry and the 12 diaconal ministers active in the conference.

The Rev. Garry Speich delivered the memorial service sermon titled "An Endless Line of Splendor." Each member whose life had been touched by those remembered was asked to stand as the names of the deceased were called.

The Rev. Steve Angus presented the Board of Pension report, and conference approved a service rate of $557 for pre-1982 service.

A check for $7,772 was received from United Methodist Publishing House. Since the early 1800s, the Publishing House has provided a portion of its earnings to annual conferences across the United States to augment clergy pensions. This carries on a tradition with spiritual roots reaching back to Methodism founder John Wesley, who emphasized the need to care for retired pastors and their dependents. The check was forwarded to the United Methodist Board of Pension to be used for ministerial pension support in the Central Conferences.

The Rev. Vin Walkup reported for the Nashville Area Foundation that 2006 was an excellent year for foundation investments. The 13.2 percent gain in market value represented a net gain of just over 12 percent. Through mid-May, the gain was 6.1 percent. With some new funds placed with the foundation and the interest gained, a record in total funds being invested with and managed by the board was set. As of May 31, the funds from churches and individuals totaled $22,896,223, the largest amount ever managed by the conference foundation. The foundation has participant accounts totaling $8,926,000, with 20 percent held as reserve. On July 1, a new rate of 4.8 percent paid on participant accounts went into effect to help other churches and extension ministries to grow, when they borrow from the fund at a rate of only 7 percent.

The conference set a budget of $13,821,610 for 2008, an increase of 3.09 percent.

In his Laity Address, conference lay leader Joe Williams asked whether we are following our dreams as a conference or whether we have set them aside. He questioned whether our destination as a conference is that of the Titanic or that of the Mayflower. Evangelism should be a primary concern, he said.

Ted Brown, president of Martin Methodist College, said record enrollments continue at the school in Pulaski, Tenn., making it possible to reach the goal of 1,000 students by 2010. There are now 27 academic programs available.

The conference adopted resolutions:

  • Creating a financial health task force to deal proactively with the conference's fiscal health and to bring a comprehensive proposal to next year's annual conference aimed at solving current problems. Bishop Wills is to name this task force, which is to convene no later than August 1;
  • Referring Clergy Benefits 2007 to the Committee on Health Insurance, which was instructed to reduce the premium by modifying some of the plan's provisions;
  • Requiring all district offices to be in handicapped accessible locations and have handicapped accessible restrooms no later than July 1, 2010;
  • Supporting the Roadmap for Peace, urging direct talks with all nations for a lasting Middle East peace that includes self-determination and recognition of human rights, free elections and freedom of press, speech, religion and assembly for all peoples. The resolution also urges that a state of Israel is fully recognized to exist by all nations of the Middle East, if not the world;
  • Designating as conference Advance Specials: Grace Assistance Program (Clarksville Urban Ministries), Tennessee Conference United Methodist Volunteers in Mission, Community Care Fellowship, Tennessee Conference Disaster Response, Mountain T.O.P., Tennessee Conference Corrections Ministry, Tennessee Conference Hunger Ministries, Mary Chaffin Memorial/Upton Heights After School Program, Edgehill Brighter Days After School Program, Bethlehem Centers of Nashville, Friends of Beersheba Assembly, Friends of Cedar Crest Camp, Gallatin Shalom Zone and Salvus Center;
  • Granting common table authority to bring recommendations to sessions of the Tennessee Annual Conference;
  • Requesting a declaratory Judicial Council ruling regarding the meaning and application of Paragraph 642.3o of the 2004 Book of Discipline, which is unclear whether the Conference Commission on Religion and Race is to observe and report actions in the conference or to become an investigatory body. If the latter, there are legal implications that should be considered by anyone asked to serve;
  • Taking a stand against legislation in the Tennessee Legislature (HB133 and SB162) stating that "no state agency has the authority to require or to prohibit or impair in any way the right of any public or private institution to continue to honor certain persons or cultures through the use of symbols, names, and mascots."
  • On rental housing for retired and/or disabled clergy: That an amount equal to 100 percent of the pension or disability payments received from plans authorized under The Book of Discipline, which includes all such payments from the United Methodist Board of Pension and Health Benefits, during the year 2007 by each active, retired, or disabled clergyperson who is or was a member of the conference, is designated as a rental/housing allowance;

-Tom Nankervis