As you read this, several members of our congregation—along with your three, appointed clergy—will be involved in the Tennessee Annual Conference meeting at Brentwood UMC.
Our Book of Discipline demands that we strive for an equal number of clergy and lay delegates, but the fact is that we always have more lay delegates at Annual Conference than clergy delegates. This is by design. Each church is allotted one lay delegate for each appointed clergy person on staff. In our case, that means three clergy and three lay. However, we also have alternate lay delegates who stand ready to serve if one of the first three lay delegates cannot. Clergy have no such backup. And on top of that, each year the District elects several more “at large” lay delegates to ensure that the lay delegates outnumber the clergy. Two of our members have been elected as at large delegates. So, Belle Meade UMC will be well represented with a total number of 11 persons.
Merging with Memphis
This promises to be a historic Annual Conference. Last year we voted to study in earnest the potential merger with the Memphis Annual Conference. We voted last year with a clear intention of moving forward with this merger so long as we didn’t discover any serious issues that we couldn’t overcome. This year, we will take the ultimate vote to merge or not. By all accounts it appears we will do so.
This has been a long time coming. We’ve discussed merger for many years. Our Tennessee Conference (which actually comprises all of Middle Tennessee from Crossville to Savannah) and our sister conference in Memphis (which includes everything west of the Tennessee River and also includes parts of southern Kentucky including Paducah) are two of the smallest conferences in the Southeast Jurisdiction of our church. For many years, our Bishops have served over both of these conferences—much like a two-point charge. This has never been an ideal situation. Our merger with Memphis will accomplish several things. We can eliminate certain duplications of effort, the clergy pool will effectively double so that churches in Middle Tennessee will now be open to many talented clergy persons in the Memphis area, and we get a chance to start fresh and set a new course.
There will be bumps along the way—this is inevitable. And although there are some financial ramifications for our churches, most of our churches will benefit financially from this merger.
Looking Ahead to 2020
In addition to this merger vote, we will also be electing new delegates for the 2020 regular General Conference. We all know there was a special called session of that General Conference just last year, but the General Conference meets every four years and 2020 is the next year in that rotation. As was evidenced by the outcome of last year’s special session, the persons we elect to represent us have a very important responsibility. We should keep this election, and those elected, in our prayers.
And please prayer for the eleven of us who will be representing our congregation at thias Annual Conference.
Finally, Sam McGlothlin will receive her Elders Orders as a fully ordained clergyperson. This is a long and arduous process. Sam has been examined thoroughly by our Board of Ordained Ministry and has been found to possess the gifts and graces necessary to serve effectively. Of course we, at Belle Meade, already knew this as Sam has worked and moved among us. It’s a very big day for her and we congratulate her!