ReCap of the 2021 Memphis Annual Conference


Held Online on June 3 & 4, 2021 

The 182nd and final Memphis Annual Conference Session was celebrated amid tears of nostalgia mingled with prayers of thanksgiving for all that has passed and of anticipation in looking forward to the expanded ministries of the future Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference expected to launch January 1, 2022.

“By Faith” remained the theme for the 2021 Memphis Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. The Clergy, Business, and Worship Sessions were held online on Thursday, June 3 and Friday, June 4.  On Saturday, June 19, as a joint event with Tennessee Conference, the Commissioning and Licensing service was held in the morning and the Ordination service in the afternoon.

Preparation for delegates included two training events on May 28 and 29 to familiarize delegates with updated webinar features and more streamlined voting procedures. In addition, an Event Information Page and a Q&A Page were furnished on the conference website and in the mobile app. Information about the sessions for both conferences was also highlighted on the TWK website.  These resources remain available for everyone to review reports, videos, and other information about the 2021 annual conference sessions.

Everything was aligned as closely as possible with the Tennessee Conference with intentionally seamless similarity except for those items specifically pertinent to each individual conference. Where feasible, pre-recorded agenda items were produced featuring musicians, speakers, leaders, and others from both conferences and then presented during both the Memphis and Tennessee Conference sessions. Pending action by the Southeastern Jurisdiction, this is expected to be the final session for each of the two conferences before the Future Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference is formed.

Design Team planning meetings led by Melinda Britt, Delores Smith, and Amy Hurd were conducted jointly with breakout sessions for issues pertaining to either specific conference. In addition, Kylie Marino and Bill Lawson coordinated video and live stream production for the teams collaborating across the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences.

Grace UMC in Jackson, Tennessee, graciously hosted the presenters and support teams. Good News TV Media, a United Methodist-related video ministry located in Macon, Georgia, provided the technical equipment and experienced staff for live streaming the event.

A Video Showcase of the proceedings is online. The showcase also includes various individual segments and production clips from Memphis Conference and United Methodist denominational agencies. All of these videos are available to download and show to congregations and other church groups.

The Event Schedule, Reports, and Information page on the Memphis Conference website provides links to additional information about the conference. In addition, many reports from ministries, boards, and agencies included in the Consent Agenda are provided individually, along with direct links to videos and other vital resources.


Bishop McAlilly offered a reflection on “Expecting Greater Things” before introducing the history celebration. Then, a special presentation of a beautiful Commemorative Quilt, depicting historical ministries of the Memphis Conference and the Tennessee Conference, once divided but now united by the Tennessee River. “Threads of Faith Ministry” of Temple UMC in Millington, Tennessee, made the quilt for the Future Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference.  The news article “Commemorative Quilt Presented to the TWK Annual Conference” features a photograph of the quilt on the TWK website.

“BY FAITH...” a Memphis Conference history video, debuted as part of our virtual annual conference session. The dramatization offers a glimpse at 200 years of history during our 182nd and final Annual Conference virtual gathering. Jacob Taylor of St. Luke’s UMC in Memphis and volunteer producer Mark Matheny created the video.  Churches and others are encouraged to view, share, or download this historical video.


The Opening Worship Service on June 3 included the sermon “Lay Aside” by Bishop McAlilly. A stirring performance by musicians from both the Memphis and Tennessee Conferences of Charles Wesley’s “And Are We Yet Alive,” traditionally sung at the opening of annual conferences in the Wesleyan tradition, segued from the worship to business. The opening worship, “Lay Aside” sermon video, “And Are We Yet Alive” video, and the worship bulletin for the service are available online.

The Memorial Service on June 4 included the sermon “Cloud of Witnesses,” preached by retired Bishop Joe Pennel. In addition, eleven clergy and clergy spouses who died during the past conference year were honored: Eugene Burkeen, Nadine Jones, Deborah Riley, William Evans, Charles Leist, Sr., Richard Flick, Howard Wayne Burkeen, Mark Engle, Richard Lee Hackleman, James Richard Haley, and David Atkinson. The video recording and worship bulletin for the service are posted online.

The Closing Worship Service on June 4 included the sermon, “Run the Race,” by Bishop McAlilly. As part of this service, the new Project Transformation Interns were commissioned. Following confirmation by each district superintendent, Bishop McAlilly set the 2021 Clergy Appointments and gave the benediction for this 182nd and Final Session of the Memphis Annual Conference.  The closing worship video and the worship bulletin are provided online, along with separate videos for the “Run the Race” sermon, the Project Transformation commissioning, and the final benediction.

Joint Ordination Services were held on June 19, 2021, at West End UMC in Nashville, TN. The services were live-streamed; however, a limited number of guests and participants were able to gather in-person for the services since COVID-19 restrictions had eased up in recent weeks.

Candidates from both the Tennessee and Memphis Conferences were licensed, commissioned, and ordained. Leaders from both conferences participated in both services. The sermon message, “I’ve Laid Down A Pattern For You,” was offered by Bishop William T. McAlilly at both services. Video of these services is available online. 
Service of Licensing and Commissioning | Bulletin
Election of Associate Members and Ordination of Deacons, Ordination of Elders | Bulletin


The Retirement Video on June 4 celebrated ten clergy retirees: John Randy Cooper, Harry Deloach, Mark Irvin, Herbert Lester, James Paris, TroyAnn Poulopoulus, Deborah Smith, Jerry Stephenson, Joe Walker, Jr., James Wolfgang. The retirement video, including comments by several of this year’s retirees, is offered online.


Will Clark presented Harry Denman Evangelism Awards to three distinguished individuals from Memphis Conference. Davis Cox of Emmanuel UMC and of the Conference Youth Council received the Youth Award. Elyse Bell of Paris First UMC was the recipient of the Laity Award. Marty Arnold, the pastor of the Holladay-Palestine-Yellow Springs charge, received the Clergy Award. A video by Will Clark describing the Denman Awards and including the Youth Award presentation is available online.  The Laity and Clergy Awards were presented separately after approval by the voting delegation.  


The “Memphis Annual Conference Resolution Regarding Approval of Plan of Union for the Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference of The United Methodist Church” was presented by Rob Martin. He led in a discussion time before the delegates voted approval. The passing of this resolution enables the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference to approve the formation of the new Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference.

The “Resolution Requesting General Conference to Receive Legislation” submitted by Rob Martin was presented by Tim Atkins and approved. This resolution addresses clarity issues regarding the submission of legislation due to the postponement of the 2020 General Conference to 2022.

Rob Martin presented the Cabinet Resolutions prepared by each district superintendent for charge line changes, church closures, and disaffiliations, and all were approved.

The “Resolution for Prayerful Studied Dialogue” was ruled out of order, and no further action was taken.

Copies of all resolutions were posted online prior to the conference session for delegates to study, and are still available for viewing or download on the Event Information Page.


The Future TWK (Memphis and Tennessee Conferences) Board of Laity and Lay Servant Ministries presented a joint video report narrated by Janice McCallen and George Brown. The report especially highlights how the laity found ways to continue vital ministries during the pandemic. Churches and other groups are encouraged to download the video for presentation in their worship services and other meetings. Their written report is also online.


The Board of Ordained Ministry report was presented by Autura Eason-Williams, naming those approved by the Clergy Session to be licensed, commissioned, and ordained at the June 19 worship services. 

The twelve newly Certified Lay Ministers are John Burgette, Solomon Christian, Matthew Cooper, Mike Cooper, James Ellington, Stephanie Hale, Tommy McElyea, James “Bo” McEwen, Ken Pullias, Jean Alice Smith, Marcia Watson, and Jonathan Wheeler.

The two new Local Pastors are Charla Ramey Burnette and Jackie Renee Bell Gardner. In addition, Emily Walker was congratulated on her completion of the Course of Study.

Two clergy persons were received into Full Connection at the Clergy Session.  Amy Wingrove Martin was approved for Ordination as a Deacon, and William Robert Clark was approved for Ordination as an Elder.


Two offerings were received online during the conference.  The “Camp and Retreat Offering” benefits the Camp Scholarships Fund for the Lakeshore Camp and Retreat Center.  The “Episcopal Emergency / Jerusalem Fund,” combining the two such offerings of both the Memphis and the Tennessee conferences, provides relief to the clergy of both conferences experiencing financial hardships.


Delegates approved the 2022 TWK Budget and other action items after viewing the TWKAC CFA Report slides and presentations by David Hayes, Larry Davis, and John Pearce. In addition, the Joint Distributing Committee (JDC) report was presented. All of these reports are available on the conference Event Information Page to view or download.


The Consent Agenda (Part 1 – Boards of Directors and Part 2 – Reports) and the  Organizing Motions were approved as presented by Conference Secretary David Russell. The Organizing Motions consist of several items pertaining to how the session will be conducted as agreed upon by all delegates before the business starts. In addition, the Consent Agenda is comprised of many reports from the various conference and denominational boards and agencies, theological schools, foundations, hospitals, campus ministries, organizations, and other ministries related to the Memphis Annual Conference. These reports are listed on the conference Event Information Page and are available for downloading or viewing.


Only the live presenters and support personnel were present at Grace United Methodist Church. There were 1,061 online viewers on Thursday and 1,013 on Friday. Registered delegates had access to the interactive webinar with 335 unique viewers on Thursday and 304 on Friday. Additional people accompanied some viewers.
The webinar was streamed to YouTube and Facebook, bringing total non-delegate viewers to 726 on Thursday and 709 on Friday.  YouTube accounted for 310 on Thursday and 413 on Friday and Facebook for 416 on Thursday, and 296 on Friday.  Another 227 people, and counting, have viewed the recordings on Vimeo in the weeks following the live conference.
The 539 total registered delegates eligible to vote included 274 lay delegates and 265 clergy delegates.
The separate Clergy Session registered 161 connections, with some clergy sharing devices.


  • December 4, 2021, was announced as the date of the Organizational Session for the new Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference.  
  • Early to mid June 2022, was announced as the tentative time for the 2022 Tennessee-Western Kentucky Annual Conference.


  • Two churches disaffiliated. 
  • One church closed.
  • Membership stands at 69,758, down 3,479 from the previous year
  • Worship attendance stands at 16,005 in-person and 34,298 online, down 7,744 in person, and up 31,440 online.
  • Church school attendance stands at 8,296, down 4,389.
  • Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2020 were 286, down 265 from 2019.
  • Adults and young adults in small groups for 2020 were 13,887, down 3,284 from 2019.
  • Worshippers engaged in mission for 2020 were 9,558 down 4,854 from 2019.