Revised Thoughts on the Tennessee Annual Conference 2011

Editor’s Note: It must have been late last night because I posted this on the wrong blog. I’ll be removing this from Just Nashville, which is generally focused on Nashville advocacy. The comments in italics below represent some additional commentary on the first post.

It’s late and I don’t have the energy to think coherently about the Tennessee Annual Conference session which ended this evening after four long days of meeting. It was, in many ways, a great experience which challenged me missionally (yes, I know that sounds surprising, but it pushed some buttons) and as always was a good time to reconnect with colleagues whom I can’t generally see much during the year. Here are some random thoughts about what happened this week:

  1. There was a radical reordering of the leadership dynamics of the Annual Conference as almost the entire General and Jurisdictional Conference delegations on the clergy side are youngerish (under 40) clergy. Here is the clergy delegation in order of election with a few details:
    General Conference–
    –Harriet Bryan, Salem UMC (Duke Divinity School)
    –Stephen Handy, McKendree UMC (Vanderbilt Divinity School)
    –Max Mayo, Cookeville 1st UMC (Candler School of Theology)
    –Lynn Hill, Franklin First UMC (Vanderbilt Divinity School) Jurisdictional Conference–
    –Jacob Armstrong, Providence UMC (University of the South)
    –Carol Cavin-Dillon, Christ UMC (Candler School of Theology)
    –Kaye Harvey, Brentwood UMC (Vanderbilt Divinity School)
    –Tommy Ward, Fayetteville UMC (Candler School of Theology)
    Seeing the list of names does not truly represent how radical a shift this is. Of this list, at least 6 and maybe 7 are first time delegates. Lynn Hill, the last elected General Conference delegate, was the head of the delegation (first elected) last time, and endorsed by the Annual Conference as an episcopal candidate in the last round. The conference didn’t endorse an “official” candidate this year, something that hasn’t happened in many years. Our conference has also tended to concentrate power in Vanderbilt Divinity School graduates (VDS, as a local school, trains a large number of TN Conference clergy) however the rise of Candler students of a particular generation on this delegation says something about the changing nature of the conference (a source of pride for this author who attended seminary with all of them). The group also includes a successful church planter, which provides a difference perspective from institutional maintenance. 
  2. My notes on the lay delegation are sketchy, but it was a bit less radical in terms of the makeup of the delegation. We did have several new persons elected, and several old-timers who served many years were not elected, representing a very huge shift in the conference. According to my records the following were elected: General–Jim Allen, Opal Ransom, Don Ladd, & Cornelia Clark; Jurisdictional–Heather Bennett, Holly Neal, Betty Alexander, and Joy Lewter.
    The lay elections are unfortunately a bit less radical in nature. While the head of the delegation has changed, most of the folks on the list have served in some capacity before. It is hopeful that at least two of the delegates are younger, but the lion’s share are older adults who are rooted in institutional realities. It’s not that they aren’t missional at some level, but they generally tend to be program focused. There was a bit of history that the first openly gay person ran to be a lay delegate, and was elected as one of the alternates. Congrats to Deen Thompson.
  3. Jorge Acevedo was a great addition to the conference and inspired me in ways that will affect my ministry for quite a while.
  4. I think Bishop Wills’ State of the Church address was the best message he has every given while he was here. I know that there have been struggles along the way during his tenure, but he has always been gracious and responsive to me and I consider him a friend (that is, as soon as he retires in September). I really think that the knowledge that he is retiring took some pressure off and he was able to be himself in a way that he hasn’t since he’s been here. I wish him the best, hoping that the Florida sunshine will restore (or at least maintain) his health and that he will have great fun following Jesus as a non-professional.

I’m sure there is more to say, but it’s been a long conference and it’s time for bed. Peace.

8 thoughts on “Revised Thoughts on the Tennessee Annual Conference 2011

  1. Jay,
    Thanks for your report. As this is the first AC that Rachel and I didn’t attend at least in some part, it was interesting to see the outcomes of the GC votes. It has seemed in the last two elections that the outcome was a forgone conclusion before conference even began, so it was nice to see such a radical change this time around. I would’ve thought that allowing local pastors to vote this time would’ve further ingrained the conference in their older, institutional-minded, repeat delegates. Maybe Rachel gave up to early and should have run this time around.


  2. Good summary. I’d noted some of what you did about the delegation shifts but didn’t think about the greater seminary diversity.

    The one thing I noticed about the laity is that we had 6 women and 2 men. I wonder how that stacks up to past years.

  3. Jay, Good summation and insight. I have one comment though. Only one person is under the age of forty Jacob Armstrong unless Stephen is as well. The rest all being my friends are in their early forties and of course a couple older than that. While we would like to consider ourselves the young clergy we once were, we have all left that demographic.

  4. As a younger clergy myself, I was paying particular attention to the ages. Lynn and Kaye are both in their 60’s, Stephen is actually in his 50’s (who would have guessed!), Jacob is in his 30’s, and the rest in their 40’s. A pretty good spread. Very nice to see some age diversity, as well as gender.

  5. Interesting… I would have thought Kaye to be my age (50) and Handy to be younger. I guess part of the reason that we don’t have anyone under 30 is that our dang ordination process takes so long that turn 30 before you become eligible!

  6. It’s very difficult to have any clergy delegates younger than the ones we have, because it’s extremely hard to get ordained before you’re in your 30s, and you have to serve for a while to be well known enough to have a realistic shot at getting elected. Given those factors, I think the change is significant.

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