2017 Memphis Annual Conference
“Sent to Serve: God and Neighbor” was the theme for the 2017 Memphis Annual Conference held June 4-6, in Collierville, Tennessee, with Bishop William T. (Bill) McAlilly presiding.
McAlilly is the resident bishop for the Nashville Episcopal Area of The United Methodist Church that includes the Memphis (West Tennessee and Western Kentucky) and Tennessee (Middle Tennessee) Conferences.
Collierville United Methodist Church hosted the event, which it also did in 2013. Delegates, along with family, friends and special guests, gathered to worship, learn, conduct business and celebrate accomplishments.
Conference Secretary David Russell reported 626 delegates (317 lay and 309 clergy) who registered and attended.
‘Sent To Serve’ Message
“To be a disciple is not just to be apprenticed to Jesus, but sent by Jesus,” said Bishop McAlilly during his June 4 evening worship service message, “Sent to Serve,” based on these scriptures: John 1:14, John 8:42, and John 6:37-38.
Talking about the Paul the Apostle, McAlilly said, “Because of Paul’s willingness to be a missionary, we are sitting here tonight in Collierville.”
McAlilly also credited the spread of Christianity in North America to the first Methodist bishops: Francis Asbury and Thomas Coke, who traveled in 1784 with instructions from John Wesley to ordain and consecrate ministers in a new country.
“God is a missionary God and we are a missionary people,” said McAlilly. He later added, “As a baptized Christian, our central purpose is to be on a mission.”
McAlilly asked church members if they are about having a missional mindset or about consuming goods and services. The future depends on the mindset that is chosen, he said.
Building on the conference theme of “sent to serve,” McAlilly pointed out that a church’s competition is not other churches, “but the world.”
At the conclusion of the service, McAlilly commissioned a group of 17 college-age young adults for summer internships with Project Transformation Memphis. The interns live in intentional community and build relationships with children and youth from low-income communities while they explore a call to ministry and service.
Rev. Randy Cooper, pastor of Martin First United Methodist Church in Martin, Tennessee, preached the opening worship service, using questions from scripture about the “valley of dry bones.”
“As the Father Has Sent Me” was the title of Cooper’s sermon based on Ezekiel 37:1-14 and John 20:19-23.
God questions Ezekiel, “Can these bones live? Do my people have a future?”
Observing that the membership of the Memphis Conference of The United Methodist Church (West Tennessee and Western Kentucky) has declined from 125,000 members when Cooper was in high school to 78,000 today, Cooper said those same questions are relevant today.
Confessing he is “afraid” when he looks at the “church’s future,” Cooper described his fear as being about “powers outside the church” that “weaken our witness.”
Jesus is the answer – Cooper proclaimed – Jesus, who “comes among us and stands as risen Lord” and whose first words to the gathered disciples were “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19)
The way: Service of Recovery
A service of recovery was presented June 5 by worship leaders from “The Way” at St. John’s United Methodist Church in Memphis, Tennessee.
The Rev. Jonathan L. Jeffords, lead pastor at St. John's, explained The Way’s purpose, context and structure in its home setting. The Friday night service is the church’s “largest service,” he said, fueled by live music and designed for the broken – those who have been “sober 25 years or two days” and those who are “figuring out their own sobriety or the sobriety of someone they love.”
The church provides a place of “safety and sanctuary,” said Jeffords.
“If (your) sanctuary is too pretty to get messy, you might ask yourself if it’s a sanctuary,” he teased.
Jeffords continued, “We all have a God-size hole in our hearts that we are trying to fill with anything we can, except the grace of God … God provides a way if we look for it.”
Memphis Conference clergy and spouses who died in the previous year – 17 in all – were remembered in June 5 memorial service.
Retiring pastor The Rev. David Comperry of Emmanuel United Methodist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, delivered the sermon based on the book of Isaiah, calling for people to remember their history, including who God is and their special relationship to Him.
One by one, Comperry named each of the deceased and highlighted their unique witness.
Those remembered included William P. Bailey, Jr.; Elton K. Baker; John Reid Bonson; Ruby Sue Crockett; Frances Darby; Roberta Louise “Berta” Dickerson; Billie Lois Gaddie; Jimmy Gillespie; Beverly H. Hartman; Charles L. Parker; Darrilyn K. Parker; Ora Belle Peck; Grace E. Phelps; Russell Lowell Reid; James Larry Riley; Ozella Sykes; and Fred Thomas.
Licensing, Commissioning, Ordination
”Travel Light” or “We Make Our Way By Walking” was the title of the sermon by Bishop McAlilly during the Service of Licensing, Commissioning, Ordination, Fixing of Appointments and Sending Forth on June 6. It was based on Matthew 9:35-10:23.
Shannon Dee Rogers Pryor was ordained as deacon. No elders were ordained.
Commissioned as provisional elders were Kyle Micah Bomar, Samuel Leroy Chambers, William Robert Clark and Mimi Elizabeth White.
Licensed as local pastors were Jonathan Althoff, Larry Case Cupples, Michael Andrew Dodd, Paul D. Hare, David Horne, Keith Osborne, Donna Spencer, Mark Stephens, Jerry Stephenson, Matthew J. Thomas and Amy Thompson.
McAlilly told those who were ordained, commissioned and licensed to “walk in a way that is worthy of your calling” by realizing the life of a minister in The United Methodist Church is “a marathon, not a sprint” and that this point is “the beginning” of a “rich life.”
Commission on a Way Forward & 2019 Called General Conference
Bishop McAlilly took time June 5 to talk about the called General Conference of The United Methodist Church, set for Feb. 23-26, 2019, in St. Louis, Missouri, that will be limited to acting on a report by the Council of Bishops, based on proposals from the Commission on a Way Forward.
The 32-member commission, appointed by the bishops, is charged with finding ways for the denomination to stay together despite deep differences about human sexuality.
Even the bishops, McAlilly confessed, are not in agreement in “opinion, theology and practice.”
McAlilly urged everyone – no matter where they stand on the issues – to “care for each other in the midst of our difficulties.”
There being no movement to elect a new slate of delegates to represent the Memphis Annual Conference at the called 2019 General Conference, Bishop McAlilly said the Memphis Conference will follow the United Methodist Book of Discipline and send the same delegates in 2019 that were elected and deployed for the 2016 General Conference.
Click here to read transcript of Bishop McAlilly's remarks that he posted on his blog on June 14.
Offerings for ‘Congo Women Arise / Mama Lynn Center’ and 'The Jerusalem Fund'
Offerings received during annual conference benefitted two initiatives:
- $22,141.75 for Congo Women Arise / Mama Lynn Center, a program and center to address the needs of female rape survivors in central Africa. Women in Congolese culture are the foundation of the family, church and village and often targeted and used as pawns in war. Aggressors abandon the women, leaving them with physical, sexual, psychological, social and domestic problems.
- $6,403.80 for The Jerusalem Fund, a confidential ministry that provides assistance to Memphis Conference clergy facing short-term financial hardships.
In addition to young people who led prayers during business and teaching sessions and participated in worship as musicians and vocalists, other evidence of young people included:
- Black College Fund Ambassador Kevin Kosh of Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi, who thanked the Memphis Conference for its support of the Black College Fund of the United Methodist General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
- Josh Shaw, president of the Wesley Foundation campus ministry at Bethel University in McKenzie, Tennessee, and member of Alamo First United Methodist Church in Alamo, Tennessee, where he also serves as youth director, who gave the devotion at the Tuesday morning prayer room communion service.
A group of 40 youth and leaders participated in a Youth Annual Gathering at nearby CrossRoads United Methodist Church, also in Collierville, that ran Saturday and Sunday, June 3-4, wrapping up in time for the start of annual conference.
The annual conference approved a budget of $6,058,671 for mission and ministry in 2018. This is a $2,075,585 decrease (25.5 percent) from 2017.
Delegates also approved for 2018 a new income-based, tithe (10 percent) for churches to replace the conference's apportionment formula system, along with new direct billing to churches from the conference for the pension and insurance responsibility of a church's appointed clergy.
Bill Milliken, chair of the Memphis Conference Council on Finance and Administration and a member of Fulton First United Methodist Church in Fulton, Kentucky, said the mission of CFA is to “empower and increase the capacity of the local church to make disciples of Christ,” which it is currently working to accomplish by focusing on “simplicity, sustainability and transparency.”
The reduced budget and apportionment system change, Milliken said, are about “right sizing” the conference.
David Hayes, vice chair of CFA and a member of Dyersburg First United Methodist Church in Dyersburg, Tennessee, urged everyone in the Memphis Conference to eliminate “apportionment” from their vocabulary and use the word “tithe.”
Larry Davis, Memphis Conference treasurer said about the move away from apportionments: “Tithing is biblical and it makes sense.”
Harry Denman Evangelism Awards for the Memphis Conference were presented to three individuals by Dr. David Russell, Memphis Conference chairperson for evangelism and senior pastor of Benton First United Methodist Church in Benton, Kentucky:
- Lay: Ann Alexander, Puryear United Methodist Church, Puryear, Tennessee
- Lay: Israel “Yakko” Flores Matamoros, Northside United Methodist Church (People of Hope campus), Jackson, Tennessee
- Clergy: Rev. Gene Rollins, Union United Methodist Church, Trenton, Tennessee.
Sponsored by the Foundation for Evangelism, the Denman Award honors persons who have made outstanding efforts in Wesleyan evangelism by helping to bring others into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
One Matters Discipleship Awards were presented to four churches, one from each district:
- Atwood United Methodist Church in Atwood, Tennessee, in the Tennessee River District (Pastor Sylvia Newman)
- Campground United Methodist Church in Drummonds, Tennessee, in the Metro District (Pastor David Horne)
- New Life United Methodist Church in Ripley, Tennessee, in the Mississippi River District (Pastor James Paris)
- Russell Chapel United Methodist Church in Murray, Kentucky, in the Purchase District (Pastor Ronnie Burkeen)
Sponsored by Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church, the One Matters award recognizes churches that have moved away from zero professions of faith and baptism to positive numbers. Each award includes a $1,000 gift.
David Abarca, assistant director of annual conference relationships with Discipleship Ministries, made the presentations and noted that all four recipient churches are served by local pastors.
The Order of St. Andrew Award was presented to Rev. Sky McCracken, outgoing superintendent of the Purchase District where he has served for six years. The award from the United Methodist Foundation for the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences that honors the work of ministers and laity.
The Walter Russell Lambuth Scholarship was presented to Kathryn Nation, a student at Martin Methodist College in Pulaski, Tennessee. She is a member of Baker’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Big Sandy, Tennessee.
A Board of Laity report was delivered Tuesday morning by David R. Reed, Memphis Conference lay leader. He yielded his time to three other presenters to share information on three Memphis Conference initiatives that are helping “find the next generation of leaders” for the Memphis Conference:
- Lay Servant Ministries (Susan Davidson, Mississippi River District resource leader)
- Generative Leadership Academy (Elyse Bell, Tennessee River District resource leader)
- United Methodist Men (Frank Holbrook, president, Memphis Conference United Methodist Men)
Monday’s clergy retirement recognition service celebrated the Memphis Conference’s 13 retiring clergy: Allan B. Bell, David P. Comperry, Phillip Allen Cook, Aaron Dowdy, Phillip Jackson, Patricia Ann King, Jerome Scales, Sr., James E. Smith, Richard P. Smith, Steve Stone, Dan Weathersbee, T.J. Wesley, Keith Wright.
Retirees who were present for the service spoke a few words about their ministries and careers.
2018 Memphis Annual Conference
Delegates voted to meet June 3-5, 2018, in Paducah, Kentucky, for the 2018 Memphis Annual Conference.
- Worship attendance stands at 27, 073, down 3 percent from 2015.
- Church school attendance stands at 13094, down 8 percent from 2015
- Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2016 stands at 778, down 3 percent from 2015
- Adults and young adults in small groups for 2016 stands at 22,443, down 1 percent from 2015
- Worshippers engaged in mission for 2016 were 17,227, up 19 percent from 2015.
—Lane Gardner Camp, director of communications