2016 Memphis Annual Conference
“Offering Christ: One Neighborhood at a Time” was the theme for the 2016 Memphis Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church that took place June 19-22 in Jackson, 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.
For the first time ever, Northside United Methodist Church hosted the conference. Delegates, along with family, friends and special guests, gathered to worship, learn, conduct business and celebrate accomplishments.
“Change is here, friends,” said Bishop McAlilly during his Monday state-of-the church address.
He used the acronym VUCA to describe a world that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous and is greatly affecting the global United Methodist Church.
McAlilly stated he is looking for “people who will see what is possible, not impossible,” and added, “In the next four years, we are going to build on the work God is doing.”
His message included several examples of churches doing work that speaks of a “thriving church,” not the “dying church” that receives so much attention.
McAlilly reminded delegates, “Your church is a mission station. You need to take the emphasis off mission projects.” To engage the mission field, he said, “Turn missional gestures into missional encounters.”
“We’ve never done it that way” is a phrase he said churches must eliminate to be agile and creative.
“How am I going to give love away in my neighborhood?” was a question McAlilly asked of all delegates and guests.
Memphis Conference clergy and clergy spouses who died in the previous year – 19 in all – were memorialized in a Sunday afternoonService of Remembering.
Retiring pastor the Rev. Emily S. Matheny, associate pastor and executive director of congregational care at Christ United Methodist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, delivered the sermon, “Common Bonds of Remembering.”
Matheny reminded attendees that annual conference is about building and sustaining relationships. “By recalling the lives of colleagues and friends, we honor their faithful work. …We keep our conferencing in holy perspective,” she said.
Of the 19 who were remembered, she said, “Each caught a glimpse of God’s world made real here on earth.”
Those remembered included the Revs. Monta Ann Bledsoe, Dorothy S. “Scottie” Wilson Brafford, Richard Taylor Carruth, Jerry F. Corlew, Norman L. Crittenden, Martin N. Crockett, Sr., Earl C. David, William E. Elkins, Mary Jane Granberry, William H. Granberry, Larry B. Jarvis, William R. McClarin, W.A. Nance, Alma C. Napier, Owen Everett Roseberry, William B. Springer, Charles E. Stewart, Lena Gail Haley Stewart and William M. Vaughn Jr.
A group of 17 college-age young adults serving as summer interns with Project Transformation Memphis were commissioned during the Opening Worship on Sunday evening.
In response to one of its four areas of focus to “invest in young people,” the Memphis Conference is partnering for the first time this summer with Project Transformation. By living in intentional community and building relationships with children and youth from low-income communities, the interns are exploring a call to ministry and service.
“One Neighborhood at a Time” was the title of Bishop McAlilly’s sermon that unpacked the questions: “Who are my neighbors?” and “Do I know them?” and “Who should I love?”
“You cannot say what God is up to if you stay inside the walls of your church,” said McAlilly.
Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey, resident bishop of the Louisiana Conference of The United Methodist Church, was the preacher for Monday evening’s Service of Commissioning and Ordination of Deacons and Elders, with Licensing of Local Pastors.
“Know Who You Are” was the title of Harvey’s sermon that she began by saying to the group being ordained, commissioned and licensed, “You are at an incredible threshold. … It’s not an easy path, but it is a privileged path. You will never be the same.”
Talking about the “ever-changing world” and “ever-changing church,” she said more than once that today’s church is not the church of previous generations.
During the “wilderness times” of every life, she reminded, “God is a god of the future who brings hope out of desperation and makes a way when there is no way.”
Noting that “Tomorrow, today will be yesterday,” she stressed, “God is doing a new thing today.”
Addressing laity in attendance, Harvey said, “I remind the rest of you that clergy are not the only ones with credentials. “You, too, by your baptism,” are called of God.
“Our life’s work,” Harvey preached, “is to share the love of God. …God does not call us once and for all. God calls us again and again and again.”
Ordained as elder was Jeffrey Martin Rudy.
Ordained as deacons were Camille Waggaman Bradley and Jonathan Chambers Lewis.
Commissioned as elders were Amanda Leigh Crice and Amanda Hartmann Westmoreland.
Commissioned as deacons were Eric Joseph Soard and Janean Lee Tinsley.
Licensed as local pastors were Kyle Bomar, Matthew Emison, Robert Field, Lisa Harper, Dallas Pfeiffer, William F. Simms and Roger South.
The Service of Sending Forth and Setting of Appointments on Wednesday afternoon included a message from Bishop McAlilly, meditations on different ways churches are offering Christ in their neighborhoods and the setting of 2016 clergy appointments.
Looking to the future, McAlilly asked, “What’s going to become of the church if we don’t move in a different way?”
He emphasized that “any good idea for the body of Christ can come from anywhere.”
Among other parting words, McAlilly told clergy and laity, “I believe The United Methodist Church is one of the best-kept secrets in the world.”
“Traditioned Innovation” was the theme of three teaching sessions on Tuesday by Dr. L. Gregory Jones, author of a book on the same subject released in May by Abingdon Press and titled Christian Social Innovation – Renewing Wesleyan Witness.
Jones is executive vice president and provost at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Previously he was senior strategist for leadership education at Duke Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina, and Ruth W. and A. Morris Williams Jr. professor of theology and Christian ministry where he served as senior strategist for the Fuqua-Coach K Center on Leadership and Ethics at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business.
Jones believes churches today must take innovative approaches through social entrepreneurship to provide renewal, re-establish trust and cultivate sustainability. He stressed that a faith-based organization must avoid becoming “just another social service agency” and “must not let the past get in its eyes.”
“Isn’t that what weighs us down?” he asked – referring to the past.
“If we don’t know why we are doing something, we should stop,” he stated candidly.
Rather than being part of the “broken institutional landscape,” Jones advocates for churches and Christians to embrace “social innovation” and “social entrepreneurship.”
Too many Christian churches, he said, are guilty of an inward focus, a “failure of imagination,” “mediocrity that parades as faithfulness” and a mindset rooted in scarcity, rather than God’s abundance.
Jones pointed to what he termed “Biblical illiteracy” in some churches. Many fights over “authority of scripture,” he lamented, are “amidst ignorance of scripture.”
“You can’t teach someone to be a Christian in one hour per week,” he said, to draw attention to learning priorities that, for instance, emphasize spending more time per week playing a sport than grappling with the challenges of being a Christian.
Church-led social innovation is possible, Jones said, when churches “rise out of (their) pettiness and infighting” and become inventors “in a way that bears witness to the love of God.”
Citing Ephesians 3:20-21 (RSV: Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.), Jones called for churches to:
Adopt a mission that has great value
Align everything in service to that mission
Adapt, innovate, renovate and discard
Act boldly using resources at hand
Account for outcomes and lessons learned
Bishop McAlilly said Jones’ message “has stirred up in us a desire to be more.” He asked clergy and laity to pray about how love can make them inventors.
A’Cappella Choir Concert
At the conclusion of the last teaching session on Tuesday afternoon, delegates and guests experienced a sacred concert by the A’Cappella Choir of Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi, a United Methodist educational institution.
The group of 22 vocalists (a portion of the full choir), mesmerized concertgoers with a repertoire that included hymns, spirituals and gospel music. Vernon L. Jones directs the choir.
“Has this not been a glorious day?!” Bishop McAlilly exclaimed, referring to Tuesday’s teaching sessions and the concert.
Offerings for 'Churches Reaching Neighbors' and 'The Jerusalem Fund'
Offerings during annual conference benefitted two initiatives:
Churches Reaching Neighbors is a new program of the Memphis Conference that will award grants to local churches that develop ministry action plans that connect churches to community neighbors and make disciples, as well as develop strategies to increase numbers of baptisms and “professions of faith.”
The Jerusalem Fund is a confidential ministry that provides assistance to Memphis Conference clergy facing short-term financial hardships.
Special collections also were received for Project Transformation and the Rust College A’Cappella Choir.
As of July 1, the Memphis Conference Treasurer’s Office reported monies received as follows: Churches Reaching Neighbors, $18,232.52; The Jerusalem Fund, $4,966.14; Project Transformation, $600.00; Rust College A’Cappella Choir, $2,983.00.
Episcopal Candidate: The Rev. Sky McCracken
Memphis Conference delegates unanimously nominated the Rev. Sky McCracken for the office of bishop in the Southeastern Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church. Last year delegates endorsed his candidacy, along with delegates of the Tennessee Conference.
McCracken currently serves as dean of the Memphis Conference cabinet and superintendent of the Purchase District in Western Kentucky.
Episcopal elections take place during the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference, July 13-15, in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina. Visitwww.skymccracken.com for more information about McCracken. Click here for information about episcopal elections.
In addition to young people who led prayers during business and teaching sessions and participated in worship as musicians, vocalists and dancers, speakers included:
Hope Cody from Bolivar First United Methodist Church in Bolivar, Tennessee, who delivered the “Young People's Address,” sponsored by the Memphis Conference Board of Laity. She answered the question, “How is God calling you to offer Christ to those in your neighborhood?”
Black College Fund Ambassador Jacob Cogman, a 2016 graduate of United Methodist-affiliated Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina, who thanked the Memphis Conference for its support of the Black College Fund of the United Methodist General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
The youth of Northside Methodist Church sold box luncheons and snacks to delegates and visitors to raise money for their missions and ministries.
The annual conference approved a budget of $8,134,256 for mission and ministry in 2017. This is a $521,136 (six percent) decrease from 2016.
Bethany K. Huffman, president of the Memphis Conference Council on Finance and Administration (CFA) stressed the group’s ongoing work to align the conference’s budgets and resources.
Conference Health Insurance Plans
Delegates affirmed the recommendation of the Clergy Wellness Commission to move from its longtime, self-funded plan to plans offered by Wespath Benefits (formerly known as the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits).
“This change affects all of our retirees, full-time clergy and conference lay employees,” said Larry Davis, Memphis Conference Treasurer, speaking after annual conference.
Davis provided these summary points of the changes:
The Board of Pensions and Clergy Wellness Commission are now combined to form the Conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits.
Retirees will access their Medicare supplemental coverage through the One Exchange program.
Retirees and their spouses will each receive $250 per month in a Health Reimbursement Account (HRA) to fund their coverage premiums. Future retirees will have to have served 20 years to qualify for this subsidy.
Clergy under the age of 60 on July 1, 2016, will no longer receive a medical subsidy upon retirement.
Full-time active clergy and conference lay employees will be enrolled in the Health Flex insurance program offered by Wespath.
Davis said workshops will soon be announced to assist retirees and active clergy in transitioning to the new program.
By a significant margin, delegates did not pass the one resolution that was submitted by William (Will) R. Clark, a member of Lambuth Memorial United Methodist Church in Jackson, Tennessee; a member of the Duke Divinity School (Durham, North Carolina) class of 2017; and a certified candidate for ministry in the Memphis Conference.
The resolution proposed an addition to the conference’s standing rules: “guaranteed voice, but not vote” on the floor of annual conference for “current enrolled seminarians and candidates for ministry.”
Memphis Conference Lay Leader David R. Reed, chair of the resolutions committee, said the committee supported the “spirit” of the resolution, but committee members said they could not remember a time when anyone who wanted a voice at annual conference did not receive voice. The committee recommended non-concurrence of the resolution.
For the second year, language translation interpretation services were provided to Spanish-speaking delegates and guests from four Hispanic congregations. This was accomplished with equipment from the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries and volunteer interpreters.
Awards: Harry Denman, One Matters and Scouting
Three individuals were named recipients of the 2016 Memphis Conference Harry Denman Evangelism Award:
Clergy: Rev. Mark Carrigan, Huntingdon First United Methodist Church, Huntingdon, Tennessee
Laity: Jim Hathcock, Bartlett United Methodist Church, Bartlett, Tennessee
Youth: David Gerle, Trinity United Methodist Church, Paducah, Kentucky
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.
Four churches, one from each district, were presented the One Matters Discipleship Award:
Bemis United Methodist Church in Jackson, Tennessee, in the Tennessee River District
Edith United Methodist Church in Ripley, Tennessee, in the Mississippi River District
El Redentor United Methodist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, in the Metro District
Trinity United Methodist Church in Paducah, Kentucky, in the Purchase District
Sponsored by Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church, this award recognizes churches that have moved away from zero professions of faith and baptism to positive numbers. Each award included a $1,000 gift.
The Bishop’s Award of Excellence in Scouting from the General Commission on United Methodist Men was presented to Arlington United Methodist Church in Arlington, Tennessee.
Rev. Larry Woodruff received two plaques (one each) on behalf of Cub Scout Pack 452 and Boy Scout Troop 452, both chartered by the church.
The chapel at Northside United Methodist Church was transformed into a “prayer room” – a place for delegates and visitors to go who needed a quiet place for prayer. Morning prayer services with communion took place in the prayer room on three mornings.
Monday’s clergy retirement recognition service celebrated the Memphis Conference’s 13 retiring clergy: the Revs. William Barnard, Steven Callicoatt, J. Steve Cavitt, Harry Durbin, Stephen Mark Earheart, Larry Kendrick, William Lawson, Paul Lynn, Emily Matheny, Tony Meek, Terry Presson, James Roper and Stanley Waldon.
“For everything there is a season, a time for every matter under heaven,” said Bishop McAlilly. “So, too, there is a time for movement, new adventure, fields of service not yet touched. With love, we send you forth in the spirit of John Wesley: May the world be your parish.”
Exhibits and Displays
More than 40 organizations with ties to the Memphis Conference and The United Methodist Church had displays and exhibits in the gym at Northside United Methodist Church.
Streaming, Social Media and Mobile App
2016 marked the fourth time the Memphis Annual Conference was streamed, allowing non-attendees to watch live from their homes, churches and offices.
Using hashtag #2016mac, social media provided a way for conference attendees to participate in online discussion before, during and after the event.
A new mobile app allowed delegates and others access to annual conference information and materials in electronic and digital formats.
2017 Memphis Annual Conference
Delegates voted to meet June 4-6, 2017, at Collierville United Methodist Church in Collierville, Tennessee, for the 2017 Memphis Annual Conference.
Delegates and attendees also:
Participated in an Open House at the nearby office of the Memphis Conference on Sunday afternoon that included tours and refreshments
Were welcomed to the city of Jackson on Monday morning by its mayor, Jerry Gist
Recognized the 60th and 20th anniversaries of the ordination of women and deacons, respectively, in The United Methodist Church
Paused to remember the death of former Bishop William Morris, who died in January 2016. He served the Memphis Conference from 2000 to 2008.
Recognized the Memphis Conference’s newest Wesley Foundation at Bethel University in McKenzie, Tennessee. Previously, it was a Wesley Fellowship, but was granted official recognition by Bethel University in January, paving the way for “Foundation” status with the Memphis Conference
Learned about a July 2017 mission trip opportunity to travel to East Congo with Bishop McAlilly to, among other things, build a center for women victimized by ongoing wars and conflicts
Heard a report and watched a video about the 2016 General Conference of The United Methodist Church that took place in May 2016 in Portland, Oregon
Approved charge line changes and church discontinuances
Learned about a restructuring of the episcopal office staff in Nashville, Tennessee, that began July 1
Received reports from many different committees, boards, agencies and affiliated organizations of the Memphis Conference
More information – including video, photos, a list of 2016 clergy appointments and more – about the 2016 Memphis Annual Conference is available on the Memphis Conference website at www.memphis-umc.net/2016AC or by firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lane Gardner Camp, Memphis Conference Director of Communications