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2013 Tennessee Annual Conference

Tennessee Annual Conference
June 10-12, Brentwood (Tenn.) United Methodist Church

A Conference of firsts
There were many firsts for the 46th session of the Tennessee Annual Conference, themed "Expecting Greater Things (2013 - Being Disciples)," which took place once again at Brentwood (Tenn.) United Methodist Church.

This was the first annual conference for new Nashville Area Leader Bishop William T. "Bill" McAlilly. Correction: This was Bishop McAlilly's first "Annual Conference Week" - as he initiated his first actual annual conference sessions as presiding Bishop last week in the Memphis Annual Conference at Collierville United Methodist in West Tennessee.

In fact, this was also a week of "firsts" for Bishop McAlilly. As soon as the Memphis Conference sessions adjourned last week, he and wife, Lynn, were headed back to their home state of Mississippi to celebrate in the ordination of their son, Christopher, as part of the Mississippi Conference. The bishop's father was also honored at the Mississippi Conference for reaching a milestone in ministry, and to top it off, it was the new Bishop's birthday.

Awards Banquet
One first for the Tennessee Conference was a direct result of the Bishop's travel schedule for the weekend. Traditionally beginning on Sunday afternoon, the 2013 annual conference had to kick off this year's sessions on a Monday. To compensate for lost time during the week, the conference held its first awards banquet on Sunday night, June 9 at Brentwood United Methodist Church. Bishop McAlilly's benediction can be viewed on our YouTube Channel, TNUMCtv.

The Denman Evangelism award winners went to youth Aaron Bell (posthumously - East End United Methodist Church) and Jonathan Earl (Andrew Price Memorial United Methodist Church); laity, Sandy Gruber (Mount Gilead United Methodist Church); and clergy, the Rev. Allen Black (Hermitage United Methodist Church). The J. Richard Allison Social Holiness awards went to laity, Jim Webster (Cook's United Methodist Church) and Patricia Zornow (Smithville and Bright Hill United Methodist Church); and clergy, the Rev. Paul Slentz (61st Ave. United Methodist Church). A number of other awards were given.

A 40 Day Walk With God
Bishop McAlilly called the Nashville Area to a season of prayer that we might step into the "greater things," which Jesus spoke about in Scripture (John 14:12). Every United Methodist clergy and lay person within our conference area was called to this task. To help facilitate a faithful response to this call to prayer, Area-wide Spiritual Formation Teams developed a 40-day guide to prayer titled, "A 40 Day Walk with God."

More on transformation, less on institution
Another first for the conference was an attempt to intentionally focus reports and presentations officially given on the bar of annual conference to the transformational power of Christ. Bishop McAlilly's hope for the atmosphere at this annual conference was rooted more in the stories of God's movement among our communities and less on institutional reporting. With McAlilly's leadership, a cross-Conference team was established to produce special GODSTORY videos to be shown throughout the proceedings at both sessions. GODSTORY's featured individuals from both conferences simply telling their transformational God story on-camera. You can view the GODSTORY videos on the Conference YouTube Channel, TNUMCtv,

Consultant spoke at annual conference
Previously, Interim Bishop Ben Chamness set in motion the Financial Advisory Consulting Team (F.A.C.T.)from the General Council on Finance and Administration and the United Methodist Board Of Pension and Health Benefits.

In October 2012, 30 individuals were selected to engage in conversation about a wide variety of topics affecting the future of our two conferences.

In December 2012, the F.A.C.T. Team returned with their final report and increased the group to more than 60 representatives from both conferences for further evaluation. For reference, these reports have been posted on the websites of both Conferences.

The F.A.C.T. Team concluded that the two most significant issues facing our church are 1) developing a shared mission and vision across the conference borders, and 2) determining the future of the work of the Uniting Committee, which ultimately led to its disbandment.

During this process, the Rev. Gil Rendle was invited as consultant to help us think around these ideas of deep change. He further pressed the matter that the Strategic Mapping Team is not necessarily focused on churches being sustainable, but more about United Methodist churches being more fruitful.

Extravagant generosity
The annual conference collected donations on behalf of two special ministries: TheEast Congo Episcopal Area, andHunger Ministries of the Tennessee Conference.
Another first for our dinner hour at annual conference this year was substituting a "normal" meal with the packaging of more than 20,000 meals comprised of beans and rice for the Stop Hunger Now organization. Stop Hunger Now serves 65 countries. It was announced that the totals for the week of annual conference reached $27,531.81.

Special guests
The conference had two special guests - Jan Love, the dean and professor of Christianity and world politics of Emory University's Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, and the Rev. Derrick-Lewis Noble, the award-winning pastor of Crenshaw United Methodist Church in Los Angeles. Noble also arrived to Middle Tennessee early to lead a session with the Comprehensive African-American Strategic Team on June 8 at Patterson Memorial United Methodist Church.

Pilgrimage to the Holy Land
Bishop McAlilly has announced to the Memphis and Tennessee Annual Conferences that he is inviting anyone to participate, along with he and Lynn, on a trip to the Holy Land to take place Feb. 17-26, 2014.

New clergy and other business
The Tennessee Conference included the licensing 23 local pastors, welcomed one associate member, commissioned three provisional members, ordained six deacons and ordained seven elders.

To view all of the Resolutions and Standing Rules reports presented to the 2013 Annual Conference, please CLICK HERE (PDF).

According to Bishop McAlilly, the final approved budget for 2013-14 was "seamlessly" approved for $12,790,590.00 - a reduction of $1,003,313.00 or -3.53 percent from the 2012-13 budget.

The Tennessee Conference paid its general and jurisdictional apportionments for 2012 in full. According to Conference Treasurer Jim Allen, this is believed to be the first time in the conference's history that 100 percent of apportionments have been remitted.

Church contributions from 2011-2012 were up 3.6 percent and this year up to 10.5 percent. Pledges up by 18 percent.

During the Board of Pensions Report, the representatives lifted up particular change that clergy and church treasurers must take into consideration. Beginning in January 2014, the conference will match clergy compensation up to 100 percent so all full-time clergy must make at least a 1 percent contribution in order to be able to receive the full 3 percent.

Statistical information

The Tennessee Conference reported 118,916 total professing members in 2012, down from 119,571 in 2011. The average weekly worship attendance was 48,435, down from 49,288. The number of professions of faith was 1,800, up from 1,799 in 2011. The number restored by affirmation was 178, up from 139. The number of baptisms was 1,417, down from 1,537. Children participants in all formation/small groups were 12,535, up from 11,945. Youth participants in all formation/small groups were 6,530, up from 6,069. Young adult participants were 3,915, up from 3,400. Other adult participants were 26,956, up from 23,908. Sunday school attendance overall was 23,967, down from 24,201.

- Kevin Sparkman, communications coordinator of the Tennessee Annual (regional) Conference