The 2019 Tennessee Annual Conference met recently at Brentwood UMC. Approximately 750 lay and clergy delegates representing every church in Middle Tennessee were present. The theme for the conference was “WORD, WATER, & WITNESS.” We were all called to remember that our identities were formed at our baptisms. Here are some of the highlights:
We elected 20 persons to serve as delegates to the 2020 General and Jurisdictional Conferences. Sam McGlothlin was one of those elected to represent our conference.
We voted to merge with the Memphis Annual Conference. This conversation has been ongoing for many years. The actual merger will not begin until 2021. We will report to you on the ramifications of this merger at a later date.
The Board of Ordained Ministry recommended 28 persons for Ordination and Commissioning and another 19 persons to be licensed to preach. This is an unusually large class and represents a genuine hope for our future. The Service of Ordination took place on Wednesday, June 12th. Many of you were part of the packed church to witness Sam’s final ordination.
The Council on Finance and Administration (CF&A) presented 7 action items to the conference. Most importantly for our local churches was the recommendation and approval for a change in our apportionment system. Up to now, clergy health insurance and pensions have been an apportioned item. Beginning in 2021 or 2022, churches will now be directly billed for these two items. And with this “direct bill” system will come a significant decrease in the amount apportioned. When the new system goes into effect, the new apportionment amount—based on a churches reported revenue from the previous year—will be 11% and then graduated downward by a quarter of a percent for the next four years until we arrive at a flat 10% apportionment. For frame of reference, most churches are currently apportioned anywhere between 16 and 20%. Is the new system awash (for Belle Meade will the amount saved in apportionments be equal to the amount we pay in direct billing)? The short answer is no. Under the new system, Belle Meade will benefit financially from this system because larger churches have been “subsidizing” other churches for a long time. Again, we will bring more information about this change later.
The Conference passed an “Inclusion Resolution” that reads as follows:
It Is Resolved That - “The Tennessee Conference apologizes for the harm that actions at the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference has caused LGBTQIA+ persons, their families, their friends, and the body of Christ. We affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God, and urge all in ministry, whether lay or clergy, to affirm that no human being is incompatible with Christian teaching. Be It Further Resolved that we urge all lay and clergy in the Tennessee Conference to make all reasonable efforts to address issues of LGBTQIA+ ordination and marriage in a manner so as to treat church trials and judicial processes as a last resort.”
There was debate around this resolution. A written ballot was taken and the Resolution passed with a 62% vote in favor.
There were numerous luncheons and dinners held by various organizations and seminary alumni groups. One of these gatherings was The Golden Cross dinner which recognizes and honors outstanding efforts by Sr. Adult ministries in local churches. This year our own MOSAICS group received one of only five such awards given for 2019. Congratulations to our Mosaics!
Belle Meade was represented very well by the following persons: Martha Brooke Martin and Marshall Brown, who are two of our elected lay delegates, and by Ashley Terrell and Kristy Westover, who were elected as Red River District at-large delegates, and by our three clergy delegates Sam McGlothlin, Gracie Dugan and Jim Hughes.