Here is recap of 2012 Memphis Annual Conference, held June 3-6 in Jackson, TN


Bishop Benjamin R. Chamness closes 2012 Memphis Annual Conference. Photo by Lane Gardner Camp

NOTE: Many of the reports, presentations and worship services referred to in this article are being posted in manuscript and video form HERE. This is not a quick process. Please check back often for new postings and links. Also watch for more stories about events of Annual Conference that will be shared in conference communications in coming weeks and months. If you have questions or need assistance with any coverage, email To see photos of the 2012 Memphis Annual Conference, click HERE.  Video here.

"Extravagant Generosity" was the theme for the 2012 Memphis Annual Conference held June 3-6 in Jackson, TN. Interim Bishop Benjamin R. Chamness presided.
Delegates and attendees representing approximately 425 churches in West Tennessee and western Kentucky gathered for worship, preaching, music, business, annual reporting, Bible study, workshops and awards.
7 a.m. devotions and communion took place on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Celebrants were Dr. Paul Scheirer of Aldersgate UMC in Memphis, Rev. Gregory Waldrop of Fountain Avenue UMC in Paducah, KY, and Rev. Deborah Suddarth of Mullins UMC in Memphis, respectively.
Incoming Conference Lay Leader Gerry Campbell (Deputy Chief with the Jackson Police Department), along with three Jackson-area churches, Lambuth Memorial UMC, Northside UMC and Malesus UMC, coordinated and executed downtown Jackson prayer walks each morning, as well.
These were to the Madison County Criminal Justice Complex, Jackson City Hall and the local police and fire stations.Prayers were lifted for the incarcerated and for those who serve and protect the citizens of Jackson and Madison County. ”Upper Room” and “Strength for Service” devotional books were presented.
Other than these walks, all Annual Conference events took place at the Carl Perkins Civic Center and Jackson First United Methodist Church, located within walking distance of each other in downtown Jackson.
Jerry Gist, Mayor of Jackson, welcomed delegates to the city during the opening session on Monday morning.
Before Sunday night’s opening worship, delegates attended separate sessions for laity and clergy and then came together for a Memorial Service to remember 25 saints of the church. Dr. Deborah Smith of Centenary UMC in Memphis brought the message: “Living and Dying in Faith.”
Dennis Walker, outgoing Co-Lay Leader for the McKendree District, addressed the laity. Read text HERE.
Also during the laity session, Mike Freeman, Conference Director of Lay Speaking Ministry, spoke about the upcoming (2013) name change to "Lay Servant Ministry" as a result of decisions made at the 2012 General Conference. Read his report HERE.
Gloria Holt, former Lay Leader of the North Alabama Conference, was the speaker for the Sunday evening Laity Banquet. "Extravagant Generosity" was the subject of her talk.
Rev. Shane Stanford of Christ UMC in Memphis brought the Sunday evening opening worship message: “Running to the Fire.” Upbeat music was provided by members of Covenant UMC in Cordova, TN. See video HERE.
A three-part Bible Study with table discussions was conducted over three days by Dr. Douglas Meeks, Cal Turner Chancellor Professor of Theology and Wesleyan Studies at Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville, TN. Topics were:
·       The Extravagance of God’s Grace/Love: John 3:16
·       Stewards of the Manifold Grace/Love of God: I Peter 4:10
·       Extending God’s Grace/Love across time: John 13:34-35
Meeks, a member of the Memphis Conference, was one of 13 recent retirees recognized at Annual Conference. Others were Cecil Bellew, Myra L. Bennett, Jim Cooper, Ronnie J. Cunningham, Bill Elkins, James Michael Elliott, Wesley Fears, Robert Ray Fejes, Joseph E. Moseley, Craig S. Ramsey, Willliam E. Tate, Ken Uselton and Ronnie Ward.
While 13 retired, the conference saw the ordination of one elder, Toni Gantt Watson, and received the orders of William Ryan Boatright from another denomination. The ordination service took place Monday evening with Bishop Chamness delivering the message, “Hold to the Traditions.”
The annual conference commissioned five provisional elders (Jason W. Jones, Martha Dell King, David Coleman Stewart, Gregory Scott Shrein Taylor and Derek Wayne White) and one provisional deacon (Rebecca Russell Alexander).
All business sessions were conducted with assistance from Dr. David Russell, Conference Secretary and Senior Minister at Dyersburg First UMC in Dyersburg, TN, along with Chancellors Mark Whitlow and Kevin Floyd.
Conference youth opened each business session with a prayer. These young people included Pradia Slack of Wesley Chapel UMC, Carlie Vowell of Martin First UMC, Jeremy Holland of Gadsden UMC, Alex Story of Broadway UMC, Richard Clay Wilson of Gleason First UMC and Ryan Pattat of Shiloh UMC.
Josh Gonzalez, an 18-year-old member of Curve UMC in Gates, TN, delivered the Young People’s Message. His message was chosen by the conference’s Board of Lay Ministry from among many submitted. Read text HERE.
Rev. Randy Cooper of Martin First UMC was endorsed by the Memphis Conference as a candidate for bishop in the Southeastern Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church. He previously had been endorsed by the 2012 delegation to General and Jurisdictional Conferences. The episcopal elections take place during the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference in July in Lake Junaluska, NC. Currently there are 15 nominees for bishop, according to the Southeastern Jurisdiction Web site. 
Of interest to many was a progress report from the Committee on Uniting the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences, presented by Gary S. Shorb, President and CEO of Methodist Healthcare.
Shorb is co-chair of the committee created by Bishop Chamness in February in response to encouragement from the Southeastern Jurisdictional College of Bishops, in consultation with the Southeastern Jurisdictional Episcopacy Committee, for the Memphis and Tennessee conferences to begin moving toward uniting.
Shorb reported that the committee is at work “developing the case for uniting” and “identifying barriers.” He said all work will be done “with transparency and inclusiveness.” Read report HERE.
Reports from Methodist Healthcare, Board of Pensions, Clergy Wellness Commission and Board of Trustees, presented by Shorb, Rev. David Atkinson (Benton First UMC), Rev. Scott Alford (Colonial Park UMC), and Rev. Bill Lawson (Briensburg UMC), respectively, were adopted.
The Annual Conference also heard reports from the Board of Ordained Ministry (Dr. David Comperry, Chair), United Methodist Men (President Charles Gilliland) and United Methodist Women (Shirley Williams, President of Jackson District UMW and Angie Cherry, President of Dyersburg District UMW).
Conference Lay Leader Sandra Burnett of Lone Oak UMC in Paducah, KY presented the laity address with the help of District Lay Leaders “dressed for service.”
The Annual Conference adopted the report of the District Superintendents, presented by Dr. Joe Geary, Dean of the Cabinet and Paris District Superintendent. Read text HERE.
Geary also presented the charge-line changes in the conference that were approved.
“We are leading and serving our congregations in the midst of a time of transition," said Geary. "It is uncomfortable, even painful to live in a season of discontinuity. Whenever we are in transit, we need to be reminded that God is with us and yes, even ahead of us, preparing the way." Resolutions were approved to dissolve Olivet UMC in Gleason, TN and discontinue Christ UMC in Dyersburg, TN.
Reports of the Nominations Committee (by Rev. Roger Hopson, Area Executive Assistant to the Bishop) and Equitable Compensation Commission (by Rev. Sky McCracken, Paducah District Superintendent), were presented and approved.
An understanding of connectionalism in its many forms, not just apportionments, was the subject of the State of the Church report from Bishop Chamness on Tuesday. He named 12 ways connectionalism manifests itself and lamented “local churches that act more like congregationalists” because they “do not understand the connectionalism” of the United Methodist Church. Read text HERE. See video HERE.
“It is an ongoing process to help new generations of United Methodists be supportive of the Episcopal form of government and the connectional nature of the United Methodist Church,” said Chamness, who also spoke at the Monday evening ordination service. His messaged was titled, “Hold to the Traditions.”
Numerous presenters gave the report of the Conference's Connectional Ministries Team (CMT), led by Dr. John R. Bonson.
This included stories of “extravagant generosity” shared by Elyse Bell, Paris District Lay Resource Leader, and Denise Russell, Dyersburg District Lay Resource Leader.
The CMT report included updates from Rev. Trina Morrison, Executive Director of Hannah’s Hope; Rev. Michael Blake, Executive Director of Reelfoot Rural Ministries; and Rev. Brent Porterfield, Executive Director of United Methodist Neighborhood Centers.
Sue Engle, Intentional Discipleship Action Team Leader and Paducah District Lay Resource Leader, reported on the work of the Conference’s Action Teams, as well as ministry in the Paducah District.
Rev. Joe Moseley gave a report on the work and plans for “Church Vitality and New Church Development.”
A slide show video of the work of the CMT, put together by Rev. Sammy Tillman, Associate for Young Persons Ministries, was shown.
In addition to a report on the work of the United Methodist Foundation for the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences, Foundation President Dr. Vin Walkup presented the Foundation’s “Order of St. Andrew” award to Jerry Severns, outgoing Chair of the Conference Council on Finance & Administration, and James Finger, Conference Treasurer. Each of the recipients thought the other was receiving the award and was genuinely surprised by his own recognition.
The dates and location for the 2013 Memphis Annual Conference were announced: June 2-5 at Collierville UMC in Collierville, TN.
A report on the 2012 General Conference (April 25-May 4 in Tampa, FL) was presented by lead clergy and lay delegates, Rev. Randy Cooper of Martin First UMC and Selena Henson of Collierville UMC.
Part of their report was a video produced by United Methodist Communications and narrated by Bishop Chamness.
Other reports to Annual Conference included Wesley Senior Ministries (Larry Kaler, CEO), Volunteers in Mission (Nancy Eubanks), church milestone anniversaries (Dr. John R. Bonson), the UM Black College Fund (Dr. Cynthia Bond Hopson, Assistant General Secretary of the General Board of Higher Education & Ministry,  and Jessica Love, a student at Rust College in Holly Springs, MS), Lakeshore Camp & Retreat Ministry (Rev. Gary D. Lawson, Sr., Executive Director) , Scouting Ministries (Phil Craig, Scouting Ministries Coordinator) and “Access to Justice” ministries (Linda Warren Seely).
As part of the Scouting Ministries report, Craig presented the Bishop's Award of Excellence to three churches: Arlington UMC in Arlington, TN; Bartlett UMC in Bartlett, TN; and Collierville UMC in Collierville, TN. Craig is the Memphis Conference Scouting Ministries Coordinator.
Rev. Eulas Greer (posthumously), Lisa Clements of Northside UMC in Jackson, TN, and Carlie Vowell of Martin First UMC in Martin, TN, received the Harry Denman Evangelism Awards for clergy, laity and youth, respectively.  Dr. David Russell, Memphis Conference Evangelism Chair, made the presentations.
The report of the Conference Division of Higher Education by Andrew Halford included an update on the conference’s newest campus ministry at the University of Memphis Lambuth Campus in Jackson, TN by Rev. Steven B. Fonville, who serves that ministry.
Delegates and visitors to Annual Conference were able to attend one of 14 concurrent one-hour workshops on Tuesday afternoon on the following topics:  Access to Justice, Are We There Yet? Crossing the Ethnic Divide, Beyond Metrics to Ministry, Clergy Sexual Ethics, Connecting Your Church and Community, Connecting With Your Neighbors, Connecting With Youth: Current and Future Leadership, The Extravagance of Mission, Growing Deeper to Grow Wider, The Mission of Certified Lay Speaker Ministry, Parish Nurse Equipping: The Extravagance of the Medical Community, Planned Giving: Funding the Future, Rethink Church and Stewardship of Creation.
The Tuesday evening service of worship included celebration of a “reverse offering.” Representatives of churches that received unexpected financial gifts to be in ministry reported on their use of the funds. Click HERE to read how reverse offering funds were used.
Rev. Melvin Amerson, Stewardship Ministry Consultant with the Texas Methodist Foundation in Austin, TX, brought the Tuesday evening worship message: “My Eyes, My Heart, My Hands.”
Offerings during Annual Conference benefitted The Central Conference Pension Initiative (CCPI) and The Jerusalem Fund. CCPI provides retirement support for church leaders and surviving spouses in the central conferences of the United Methodist Church in Liberia, Mozambique, Angola, Cote d'Ivoire, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Russia and Nigeria. The Jerusalem Fund is a confidential ministry to assist Memphis Conference clergy experiencing short-term financial hardship.
One of the last acts of business was the approval of the 2013 budget as presented and amended by the Conference Council on Finance & Administration. The approved budget is $9,130,627. This is a $242,536 decrease from the 2012 budget.
The “sending forth” service at the close of the Annual Conference on Wednesday included the “confirming” of appointments for 2012-13 by Bishop Chamness and a message from Rev. Joy Weathersbee, outgoing Jackson District Superintendent: “Filled Up to be Poured Out.” See video HERE.
~Compiled by Lane Gardner Camp with valuable assistance from Rev. Dean Emerson.  If you know of any corrections, email