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Special session of the SEJ votes to unite the Memphis and Tennessee Annual Conferences

8/1/2021

Newly formed Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference will launch in January

By Sybil Davidson, adapted from a UMNS report by Heather Hahn

At a special session on Wednesday, July 21, the delegates of the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference worshiped, received video updates from across the jurisdiction, and approved realigning the boundaries of Memphis and Tennessee Annual Conferences to create the Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference. 

Bishop James Swanson of the Mississippi Conference presided over the virtual session, with the theme “This I Know.” Opening worship included a message from Gammon’s President-Dean Dr. Candace L. Lewis.

Resolution Approved

Delegates voted overwhelmingly to approve the resolution to unite the Memphis and Tennessee Annual Conferences. The resolution passed by a vote of 335 to 3.

Preparations to unify the Tennessee and Memphis conferences, which together extend from Middle Tennessee to the Mississippi Delta, began in 2017. The two conferences long have shared a bishop and various ministries. Each conference approved the union by more than 87% in 2019.

“Our new conference is in the process of being born because we believe that the mission and vision and the ministry that we can do will increase and become fruitful in a way we couldn’t do alone,” said the Rev. Melinda Britt, co-leader of a team guiding the transition to the new conference.

Conference leaders plan to have an organizational meeting in December and take the final steps toward opening the new Tennessee-Western Kentucky Conference in January.

The formation of a new conference will not affect the number of delegates to the coming General Conference and regular jurisdictional conference meetings. Both Memphis and Tennessee, as legacy conferences, will send their elected delegates to the gatherings.

Ministry Across the SEJ

Candler School of Theology Dean Dr. Jan Love presented a report on Emory University’s involvement in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, from vaccine development, to patient care, to vaccine rollout. 

The Southeastern Jurisdiction also got a preview of a decision coming before it at its next regular session in 2022. The Red Bird Missionary Conference has proposed a new name – the Central Appalachian Conference – to better reflect its mission field.

Additionally, the delegates and viewers watched video reports highlighting the ways the Annual Conferences in our Jurisdiction have remained active during this challenging year, responding to the pandemic and working to dismantle racism across the jurisdiction. (Watch South Georgia's update on our response over the last year to dismantling racism: https://vimeo.com/579430723.)

South Carolina Conference’s Bishop L. Jonathan Holston told those gathered that the jurisdiction’s bishops call church members “to own the work of anti-racism that is so desperately needed in our world.”

“Between February 2020 and April 2021, our Southeastern Jurisdiction witnessed the tragic deaths of three persons of color, all of which made national news,” he said. He listed their names: Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky and Andrew Brown in North Carolina.

At the end of the session, the jurisdiction recognized Bishops Lawson Bryan, Hope Morgan Ward, Paul Leeland and Mary Virginia “Dindy” Taylor, who are retiring Sept. 1.

Read the United Methodist News Service article by Heather Hahn at https://www.umnews.org/en/news/2-jurisdictions-plan-for-church-future.

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