Wrap-up ... 'Sent to Serve: God and Neighbor' was theme of 2017 Memphis Annual Conference
The 2017 Memphis Annual Conference included the celebration of the 10-year anniversary of Grace Place United Methodist Church. Bessie “Doll” Dodd, a former member of the Memphis Conference prison-based mission congregation, presented Bishop Bill McAlilly with a framed picture of her being baptized by him in 2013 in the prison. Dodd is now out of prison and building a new life. (Photo by Lane Gardner Camp ~ To see more Annual Conference photos, click on PHOTO ALBUM link above left)
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By Lane Gardner Camp, Memphis Conference Director of Communications
“Sent to Serve: God and Neighbor” was the theme for the 2017 Memphis Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church that took place Sunday through Tuesday, June 4-6, in Collierville, Tennessee, with Bishop William T. (Bill) McAlilly presiding.
Collierville is a town in Shelby County and an eastern suburb of Memphis.
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 in Collierville, Tennessee, 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 Dr. 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 Sunday 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. to which 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.”
Inquiring about each church’s “posture of sentness,” McAlilly asked if it is “enthusiastic” or “sluggish.”
He reminded churches to “stay attuned to God’s love for others and your sentness” in neighborhoods and communities. “God is already there. All you have to do is show up and give God a hand.”
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 with communion Monday morning, 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)
Cooper unpacked the significance of this "Peace be with you" as, “I am with you. All will be ok,” and then said there is no reason “liberals and conservatives” among United Methodists cannot coexist – one band perhaps focused on justice issues and the other band on moral matters, but all embracing “forgiveness” as “our most important work.”
Being “sent by Jesus in Christ-like peace,” Cooper said, is to always “offer words of comfort and speak of the mercy of God.”
The way: Service of Recovery
A service of recovery was presented Monday evening by worship leaders from “The Way” at St. John’s United Methodist Church in Memphis, Tennessee.
“We brought some midtown Memphis to Collierville,” said Dr. Jonathan L. Jeffords, as he opened the model service.
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.”
Dr. John Kilzer, who started The Way in 2010, shared the service’s catch phrase, “We’re gonna love you, and there ain’t nothing you can do about it.”
Describing the service as “a different kind of happy hour,” Kilzer said it is based on the spirituality of 12-step recovery from a Wesleyan theology perspective – with emphasis on the “power of small groups” the “notion of accountability” and “loving God and loving neighbor.”
“How is it with your soul?” – That question, said Kilzer, is not a rhetorical question for those who worship at The Way.
In addition to Kilzer on guitar and Jeffords doing vocals, band musicians included Kurt Clayton, keyboard; Steve Potts, drums; Dave Smith, bass and vocals; and Paul Taylor, guitar.
Memphis Conference clergy and spouses who died in the previous year – 17 in all – were remembered in a Monday afternoon memorial service.
Retiring pastor Dr. 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.
Comperry reminded all that the work of the kingdom is “built upon the legacy of many,” including many we “never knew” and those “we do know” who served in the Memphis Conference.
One by one, Comperry named each of the deceased and highlighted their unique witness.
“They blessed me. I am grateful for them,” said Comperry, who added, “God does not allow any witness to be wasted in the economy of His kingdom.”
Referring to the “ripple effect” of their faithfulness, he said, “We, too, add to that ripple effect so (God’s love) will not end.”
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.
Service of Licensing, Commissioning, Ordination, Fixing of Appointments and Sending Forth
”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 Tuesday evening. 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.”
He cautioned the group that, even with all the preparation they have received so far, they “all have a little room to grow,” but that God will make their way as they walk.
McAlilly said God is still showing him how to take the “next step.”
Describing the clergy shepherd’s life as “risky” and “challenging,” McAlilly warned about pride becoming an obstacle to successful ministry. He condemned clergy ever “scheming to get something.”
“Emotional intelligence,” McAlilly said, can help clergy “tenderly show the way” as they “walk by faith, not by sight.”
Humility, he said, comes not from speaking, but from listening.
McAlilly told the laity in attendance that their job is to help their clergy lead with love.
Blaine Tooley, director of music at Collierville United Methodist Church, directed a Metro District Mass Choir with 97 voices from the following churches: Asbury, Bartlett, Centenary, Collierville, Germantown, Memphis First, Millington First, Mullins, Somerville and St. John's.
Also particpating in the service were the Genesis Ringers handbell ensemble from Collierville United Methodist Church.
Matthew Bogart, director of music and worship arts at St. John's United Methodist Church, and Amy Martin, director of music and organist at Paris First United Methodist Church in Paris, Tennessee, were the organist and song leader, respectively.
Other musicians were David Spencer anf Ben Lewis (trumpets), Dan Phillips (horn), Greg Luscombe (trumbone), Kevin Sanders (tuba), and David Carlisle (timpani).
Commission on a Way Forward & 2019 Called General Conference
Bishop McAlilly took time Monday 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.”
He invited everyone to “not be consumed by negative press (The United Methodist Church) will receive in coming years” as it works through its difficulties.
He said, “God will show us the way” and “I’m going to be part of the family of God that does not lose heart.”
“The central ethic of the Gospel is love,” said McAlilly.
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.
“Imagining the Possibilities” and “God’s Misfit Mission” were the titles of two teaching sessions on Tuesday presented by Rev. Scott Chrostek, pastor of the downtown campus of United Methodist Church of the Resurrection (Resurrection Downtown) in Leawood, Kansas.
As he illuminated the term “extravagant generosity.” Chrostek said, “A life of faith begins when we realize how much we have to give, even if we think we have nothing to give.”
Chrostek asked those in attendance and watching by live stream how they are seen – not in their churches, but in their communities. He believes Christians are” called to be seen and see the world.”
“Our time isn’t our own,” he said. “It’s a gift.”
By sharing stories about how his new Christian community grew (from 9 to 1000 adults in weekly worship in its first six years), Chrostek said he had to figure out how to “model” what he wanted others to do.
For his time and place, Chrostek said he came to realize it was about meeting people where they are and creating a shared understanding that “church” is not a place to which one goes.
He said Resurrection Downtown has five principles that guide its mission and ministry, based on the acronym FOCUS:
- Focus on always intentionally looking at the world around us.
- Own it: our circles of influence and comfortable places.
- Create a culture of invitation.
- Use all available media by connecting with as many people as possible and going where people are.
- Stay open to interruptions.
When God is going to do something great, Chrostek said he “chooses misfits who don’t match up to the task at hand” and he provided examples of misfits he knows and the unexpected, but valuable, work they do.
Chrrostek disclosed tools for meeting neighbors, sharing the Gospel and ministering to one’s community:
- Structure programs around not just the church calendar, but also the community calendar, local school calendar and calendar year.
- Establish short-term, community groups that meet outside the church.
- Hire staff only for work that can’t be done by volunteers and then regularly and sincerely thank and recognize volunteers.
- Create a leveled, missional approach to bringing new people into the life of the church, from easy entry points like benevolent Sundays through one-day service opportunities and on to longer-term, sacrificial commitments like mission trips and tutoring.
- Invite interruption.
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.
2018 Narrative and Summary Budget Brochure | 2018 Budget Detail
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 (CFA) 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.
>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)
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.
>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 Purchase District nominated McCracken for the award from the United Methodist Foundation for the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences that honors the work of ministers and laity. Foundation President Dr. Phil Jamieson made the presentation.
>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.
The scholarship fund is administered by the United Methodist Foundation for the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences. Martin Methodist College is a United Methodist-related institution, a requirement to receive the scholarship.
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)
“That,” he said, “is how you make disciples.”
There also was a lay servant lunch on Monday for active and prospective lay servants, lay speakers and lay ministers. Those who were certified during 2016-17 were commissioned during the meal event.
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.
Streaming, Social Media and Mobile App
2017 marked the fifth time the Memphis Annual Conference was streamed, allowing non-attendees to watch live from their homes, churches and offices.
Total viewer hours came to 734.43. This was on 571 desktops and 1,125 mobile devices. Broken down by days, the number of total views was 401 on Sunday, 615 on Monday and 680 on Tuesday for total views of 1,696.
Using hashtag #2017mac, social media provided a way for conference attendees to participate in online discussion before, during and after the event. The Memphis Conference has a presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
For the second year, a mobile app allowed delegates and others access to annual conference information and materials in electronic and digital formats before, during and after the conference.
2018 Memphis Annual Conference
Delegates voted to meet June 3-5, 2018, in Paducah, Kentucky, for the 2018 Memphis Annual Conference.
Delegates and attendees also:
- Utilized a prayer room at Collierville United Methodist Church, which also was the location for a prayer service with communion on Tuesday morning.
- Were welcomed to Collierville on Monday morning by the city's mayor, Stan Joyner, Jr., a member of Collierville United Methodist Church.
- Were led in song and prayer by Steven Oldham, director of church operations, and James Story, director of chancel choir, at Gallatin First United Methodist Church in Gallatin, Tennessee, in the Tennessee Conference. They served as song leader and pianist, respectively.
- Received greetings from Hector Costilla of the Eastern Mexico Conference of the Methodist Church of Mexico in recognition of the Memphis Conference’s pacto (covenant) for mission and ministry with the Eastern Mexico Conference.
- Heard a report from Rev. Randy Rambo, senior pastor of Memphis First United Methodist Church about his church’s ground breaking for a new sanctuary to replace the 113-year-old downtown Memphis sanctuary that burned in 2006. He shared details about how the new sanctuary is designed to be “inviting, not intimidating” and blends traditional and modern elements.
- Celebrated the 10-year anniversary of Grace Place United Methodist Church as Bessie “Doll” Dodd, a former member of the Memphis Conference prison-based mission congregation, presented Bishop McAlilly with a framed picture of her being baptized by him in 2013 in the prison. “Doll” is now out of prison and building a new life.
- Voted on five General Conference Constitutional amendments, the results of which were not announced. Vote totals are reported to the Council of Bishops so all annual conferences may vote without influence from other annual conference vote results.
- Voted and approved standing rules changes for the Memphis Annual Conference.
- Received updates on Project Transformation (PT) Memphis from PT co-chairs Lynn McAlilly, Bishop McAlilly’s wife, and Dr. Cynthia Davis, senior associate pastor and executive director of congregational care at Christ United Methodist Church in Memphis, Tennessee, along with Rev. Renee Dillard, who was named director of Memphis programs in February. Dillard said Project Transformation "brings out the best of our connection” as it helps children learn to read, young adults discern a call to ministry and families find church homes.
- Approved charge line changes and church discontinuances.
- Approved the conference nominations report with the addition of one name.
- Visited exhibits and displays of more than 40 organizations with ties to the Memphis Conference and The United Methodist Church.
- Benefited from Spanish language translation interpretation services accomplished with Memphis Conference volunteer interpreters and transmitter/receiver equipment from the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries. The 14 people who used the equipment were from Columbia, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico.
- Heard a report from the Committee on Episcopacy from Richard Griffin, a member of Martin First United Methodist Church in Martin, Tennessee.
- Benefited from free childcare services that included a nursery and kids’ camp.
- Received ministry and board reports in pre-conference materials.
- Enjoyed a photo booth (backdrop), set up with lights by Collierville United Methodist Church, that provided a place for individuals, couples and groups to take photos with the repeating annual conference logo as a background. See those photos HERE.