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Annual Conference

Believe it or not, it is almost time for Annual Conference! For those of you who are new to The United Methodist Church or have no idea what “Annual Conference” means, you can tell by the name that it’s some sort of meeting that happens once a year. Actually, it is a gathering of clergy and lay delegates from each United Methodist congregation in our “Tennessee Conference,” which is basically the geographical area of Middle Tennessee. Over a thousand pastors and lay leaders will gather at Brentwood United Methodist Church from June 8-11. We will worship, pray, celebrate ministries, ordain new pastors, honor retiring pastors and make decisions about the future of The United Methodist Church in Middle Tennessee.

Our congregation will actually have ten delegates at Annual Conference this year, our largest delegation ever! We have five clergy delegates: John, Mark, Paul, Nancy and myself. (Anne Hook is an ordained deacon, but she’s a member of the Memphis Conference.) Because we have five clergy delegates, we also get five lay delegates, and this year they are: Heather O’Dell, Ann Freeman, Bill Greer, Ouida Greer and Tammy Lovell. I would ask you to be in prayer for all of us who will be representing   our congregation at Annual Conference, that God might guide our worship, our prayer and our decisions.

Every year at Annual Conference we consider resolutions that are put before us by various groups and congregations. They vary widely in subject matter, but this year there are two resolutions in particular that I wanted to tell you about. One of the resolutions focuses on the death penalty in the state of Tennessee. As I mentioned in an article a few months ago, the state of Tennessee is preparing to execute at least ten people in the next two years, and just this week the governor signed a law to reinstate the electric chair as a viable means of capital punishment. The Social Principles of The United Methodist Church stand in opposition to the death penalty, and this resolution would call our state leadership to end its use in Tennessee.

A second resolution calls us into respectful and loving dialogue around questions of human sexuality. As you may know, The United Methodist Church is not united on these issues, and the division often becomes very politicized and rancorous. It is a debate that causes a lot of pain, and the resolution coming before Annual Conference simply invites us to acknowledge that—for the moment—we are not of one mind. It invites us to continue our dialogue and not walk away from one another.

I tell you about these resolutions because they are often the ones that make the headlines. You need to know what your church is talking about so that you can pray and be part of the conversation. If you would like to talk more in depth about these resolutions and where I or any of your other pastors or delegates stand on these questions, please let us know. Even if we disagree with one another, we are indeed called to love one another, to respect one another and to share openly from our hearts. God calls us to be the body of Christ. May we live that out so that the world will be amazed at our love for one another!