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2012 Tennessee Annual Conference

Tennessee Annual Conference
June 12-15, Brentwood, Tenn.

For the 2012 Tennessee Annual Conference, the 45th session in its history, the theme of "Extravagant Generosity" was the culmination of a yearlong emphasis that began with the close of last year's sessions at Brentwood United Methodist Church. This focus is also the fifth and final "practice" as described by Bishop Robert Schnase's book "Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations" (Abingdon Press). The Tennessee Conference has adopted all five practices as "themes" for every annual conference since 2008.

Unveiled during the United Methodist Foundation's report near the close of last year's annual conference, everything during the conference year surrounded this theme including the artwork for most of the print and digital materials used before and during the annual June event.

The lavish tree in the "Extravagant Generosity" artwork represents growth, abundance and health - traits and results that are experienced through all types of generosity (note: the tree in last year's artwork, while bearing fruit, was still not abundant in growth - emphasizing the forward motion of growing). The acorn (or "seed") in the 2011 logo also represented the fifth and upcoming (now current) "practice," of Extravagant Generosity. In a short animated video clip, the acorn can be seen as the seed producing the lavish tree featured in the current logo. The dusk-like backdrop, a contrast to the bright blue "sky" of last year's logo, represents the close of a five-year focus of Schnase's influential book with an implication of a brand new day for the conference soon to begin.

From Bishop Schnase's website, "Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations," describes practices that shape and sustain congregations. Vibrant, growing, fruitful congregations repeat and deepen certain fundamental activities, seeking to perform them with excellence: Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship, Intentional Faith Development, Risk-Taking Mission and Service, and Extravagant Generosity. These edgy words focus us on the appropriate work that helps us fulfill the mission of church. Congregations offer the invitation and welcome of Christ, provide worship that connects us to God and to one another, offer opportunities for people to grow in Christ by learning in community, relieve suffering and improve the conditions of people in need through service and mission, and teach people to give of themselves."

In addition to celebrating five years of learning how to and living into being a fruitful conference, the Tennessee Annual Conference was in the midst of commemorating a very special time in its history - the year 2012 marks the 200th year of Methodism in Tennessee. The conference was organized in the year 1812 and was at that time the largest geographically in American Methodism. It embraced eight states and the southern part of a ninth, Kentucky. It was formally organized by two of Methodism's most famous and historic figures, Bishops Francis Asbury and William McKendree.

Many of the conference's laity, volunteers and office staff, in addition to the archives and worship committees tirelessly worked together much of the year in preparations to utilize all four days of annual conference as a continuous celebration and commemoration of the 200th anniversary. Several clergy, lay people and friends closely associated with the conference volunteered to portray key historical characters in the Tennessee Conference's history at predetermined times throughout the annual conference agenda. As if they stepped right out of the history books, characters such as Bishop Asbury, Green Hill, Margaret Lavinia Kelley, Thomas Martin and Bishop McKendree addressed the annual conference body, spoke of their impact on the formations of the Tennessee Conference, and even opened official sessions by presenting ceremonial gavels to presiding Bishop Ben Chamness.

During the opening session of the 2012 annual conference, one of those featured historical characters, D.C. Kelley (portrayed by David Barton), along with Committee on Archives and History Chair Leland T. Carden and lay delegate to General/Jurisdictional Conference Connie Clark presented an official proclamation signed by Governor Bill Haslam to the floor of Annual Conference. The proclamation, signifying that the dates of June 10-13, 2012 were to be honored as "Tennessee Conference United Methodist Days" in the state of Tennessee, was penned by Carden and edited by the Rev. Susan Spieth.

Bill Freeman, Tennessee Conference Center staff (Information Technologies), who was extremely instrumental in the coordination of the historical celebrations, invited the Rev. Spieth to be involved in the editing process as her congregation, Liberty United Methodist Church, also received a similar proclamation upon their 200th anniversary in 2008. Connie Clark, currently serving as Chief Justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court, introduced the finished proclamation to Governor Haslam for his eventual approval and signature. The endorsed proclamation, framed, is currently on display at the Conference Center in Nashville and will be throughout 2012 until it will be moved to Conference archives for historical preservation.

Special take-home items were available for those who wished to remember this historical time in the life of the Tennessee Conference. Commemorative mugs, personalized certificates of recognition, and limited edition die cast medallions are among some of the items offered. SLAM Multimedia, a digital production company and ministry based out of Old Hickory, Tenn., filmed the entirety of Annual Conference and at the time of this summary report are editing content to make professional quality DVD productions available to the public. Of the many titles being produced, a copy of the Sunday evening "Service of Celebration and Commemoration Recognizing 200 Years of Tennessee Methodism" will be featured.

Retired Bishop Joe Pennel was the speaker of the evening and offered a powerful message to the conference membership and guests at the Sunday evening service. "One thing that really stood out to me from tonight's sermon was when Bishop Pennel said 'A vital congregation is one that practices the means of grace.' That is one of the few times I have heard the term 'vital congregation' defined, and I believe that Bishop Pennel's definition is a good one," said the Rev. Brad Smith.

Joe E. Pennel Jr., was elected Bishop of The United Methodist Church in 1996 and served as the episcopal leader of the Virginia Conference from 1996 to 2004. Prior to his election, he served as pastor at Brentwood (1988-1996) and Belmont (1977-1988) in the Tennessee Conference. He had previously served at St. Luke, Harris Memorial, and Frayser Heights in the Memphis Conference. He currently serves as professor of pastoral leadership at Vanderbilt Divinity School.

A reception followed the evening's service of celebration featuring displays created by many of the historical churches throughout the Tennessee Conference, an ice cream social and a ceremonial cutting of the cake resembling the first meetinghouse.

In addition to Bishop Pennel, this 45th Session of the Tennessee Annual Conference featured two more guest speakers: M. Douglas Meeks and the Rev. Vincent Harris. As the Cal Turner Chancellor Professor of Theology and Wesleyan Studies in the Divinity School of Vanderbilt University, Meeks delivered the daily Bible study sessions at annual conference. Harris provided the message for an extremely moving and Spirit-filled final worship service on Tuesday evening of annual conference. Harris is an elder in the Texas Annual (regional) Conference serving his seventh year at First Love Community and is a graduate of Tennessee State University in Nashville.

Another special edition to the 2012 Tennessee Annual Conference was that of our presiding and interim episcopal leader, Bishop Benjamin Chamness. Bishop Chamness came out of retirement in Texas to serve the Tennessee Conference in an interim position in September 2011. Bishop Chamness and his wife Joye were honored on Tuesday evening of annual conference with a special reception.

In the introduction to his State of the Church address, Bishop Chamness encouraged the Tennessee Conference by stating that both church membership and worship attendance have increased since 2010, baptisms are slightly up and that a higher percentage of apportionments are accounted for than this time a year ago. In a challenging set of statements, the bishop addressed the decline of membership across the overall United Methodist connection in the United States since 1968 and that the church is, for the first time despite that decline, also facing a financial struggle.

Emphasizing that the Wesleyan nature of our church as a structured and inter-connectional body was at the time indeed a "movement," Referencing the most recent General Conference that ended May of this year, Bishop Chamness also echoed the realization that "what is being called for [again] is a movement.

"Gil Rendle, a noted author and consultant, says that 'A movement is a group of people who intentionally, at their own risk, join together to make a change in the status quo.'

"Isaiah cries out during the time of the Babylonian captivity, 'Look! I'm doing a new thing; now it sprouts up; don't you recognize it? I'm making a way in the desert, paths in the wilderness' (Isa.43:19 CEB).

God is doing a new thing in The United Methodist Church! The overall direction of the United Methodist Church is set to change. A new movement has been set loose.

"What is the motivation for this movement? Is it to save the collapse of our denomination, or is it to recapture the heart of the Wesleyan movement? Is it to appease a handful of leaders, or is it to point to the heart of our cause?

"Gil Rendle goes further by writing: 'The particular thrust of the early Methodist movement was to reform the nation, particularly the Church, and to spread scriptural holiness over the land. "Being a Methodist was and is meant to make a difference where we live. Methodists were connected by grace - prevenient, justifying and sanctifying.

"'For Wesley there is no religion but social religion; no holiness but social holiness. The communal forms of faith in the Wesleyan tradition not only promote personal growth; they also equip and mobilize us for mission and service to the world.'

"Across the years our denominational life has become more regulatory than missional. Having been going in an institutional direction, The United Methodist Church is now struggling to turn around and head in a healthier, different, missional direction.

Rendle says, 'Our hope, our testimony, is that this is God refining the organizational church for missional purpose. The new thing that is happening also challenges and changes our understanding and practices of connectionalism.' He goes on to say that 'We are now constructing a new definition of connection and connectionalism.' The shared identitiy (Who we are) and the shared purpose (What has God called us to do?) holds us together.

"So the institution of the UMC continues to give us a connection in many facets. And now, to the extent that we adopt the renewed movement within the denomination, we are connected by shared purpose and mission. May our identity always be one that holds us together in the hands of Almighty God." You can watch the entire address on our YouTube channel.

The following is a list of persons that were licensed, elected, commissioned, or ordained at the 2011 Tennessee Annual Conference:

First Time Local Pastors (29)

David Christopher Allen, Claire E. Archer, Laura Bunch Brantley, Roger Presley Brown, Johnny Burton Hayes, Willie Lee Cameron, Lucretia Rhea Campbell, Dorothy June Cobbett, Myriam Cortes-Rivera, Kevin Carlton Cross, Ben Melvin Day, Pieter Andries du Toit, David John Evans, Walter Gerard Harlan, Heather Pennington Harriss, David Winship Johnson, Joseph P. Johnson, Adam Ross Kelchner, Penny Ann Kirby-Stratton, Jamie Ray Mandrell, Dustin Ephraim Mille, Jerry Alfred Bryson Myers, Jr., Jimmie Lawrence Paschall, Marshall D. Price, Betty Lois Proctor-Bjorgo, Noel Sanchez, Carl Joseph Stiglich, John Michael Weiss, Michael Ray Womack

Associate Members (1)

David Russell Sauer

Commissioned Provisional Members (9)

Jessica Paige Bridges, Robert Andrew Fiser, Connie O'Dare Hall, Whitney Stone Mitchell, Regina B. Proctor, Joy Reeves Samuels, Jonathan Ramsay Snape, Merrilee Meeham Wineinger, Niger Amin Woodruff

Deacon and Full Member of the Conference (1)

Stephanie Baxter Dunn

Elders and Full Members of the Conference (8)

Gwendolyn Annette Hill Brown-Felder, James Carmack Johnson Jr., Matthew Lloyd Kelley, Brian Michael Marcoulier, Michele Roberts Morton, Monica Denise Mowdy, John Christopher Seifert, Michael Drew Shelley

Awards presented at the 2011 Tennessee Annual Conference:

Denman Evangelism

Youth: Maggie Taylor, Edgehill United Methodist Church; Laity: Sherrie Reeve, Homestead United Methodist Church; Clergy: The Rev. Dewey Smith, Blankenship United Methodist Church

J. Richard Allison Social Holiness

Maridel Williams, Murfreesboro First United Methodist Church

Journal Dedication

Laity: Aline Wesley, Epworth United Methodist Church; Clergy: The Rev. Ed Crump, Bellevue United Methodist Church.

You can see photos and read bios of the award winners at Annual Conference Central (, Click here.

Twelve (12) resolutions were passed at the 2012 Tennessee Annual Conference:

- Resolution #1: Rental/Housing Allowances for Retired or Disabled Clergy Persons of the TN Conference

- Resolution #2: Resolution from the Cabinet

- Resolution #3: From the Board of Camp and Retreat Ministries

- Resolution #4: Expanded Older Adult Ministry Initiative in the Tennessee Annual Conference

- Resolution #5a: REVISION, TN Conference Statement of Covenant with Project Transformation Tennessee, Inc.

- Resolution #6: Conference Advance Specials Resolution 2012-2013

- Resolution #7: Regarding the Election of Clergy Delegates to General and Jurisdictional Conference

- Resolution #8: Funding to Help Make Disciples for Jesus Christ!

- Resolution #9: Resolution for funding for Feed America First

- Resolution #10a: REVISION, Committee on Native American Ministries

- Resolution #12: A Resolution Regarding Immigration

- Resolution #13a: REVISION, Working Together to End Bullying

To review the resolutions submitted to the 2012 TN Annual Conference, please visit Annual Conference Central (, Click here.

Budget: According to the Council on Finance and Administration, the final approved budget for 2012-13 is $13,792,903 - a reduction of $505,413 or -3.53 percent from the 2011-12 budget. You can view the entire breakdown by clicking here.

Membership, attendance:

Membership is 119,571, up from 119, 287 in 2010. Worship attendance is 49,416, up from 49,056 in 2010.


- $9,354.84 (including pledges) was collected for the Central Conference Pension Initiative

- $2,492.46 was collected for the United Methodist Global HIV/AIDS Advance

- $5,352.70 was collected for the Episcopal Emergency Fund

Read more about the extravagant generosity through giving experienced at this year's Annual Conference at Annual Conference Central (, click here.

For more about the 2012 Tennessee Annual Conference at Brentwood United Methodist Church, please visit, or At annual conference central, you can download resolutions, official minutes, appointment lists and much more! Videos and photos are featured on our official Facebook page.

- Kevin Sparkman, Tennessee Conference Office of Communications