Technology has advanced so rapidly. Our medical care is better. Our ability to keep informed with the world is better. Grandparents are able to watch

grandchildren grow up, even from great distances with the help of Facebook and Zoom.

With the advancements in communication, has come unintended side effects. Online we have the ability to comment on a world of topics anonymously leading us to say things we would never say to someone's face. On Facebook, we can hide the things that we don't like. We don't have to see the other side of an argument. We can filter our news so we never hear of the world's events.

As people who are called to be a light in this world... 

We need to know what is happening in the world. 

We need to hear all sides of the story. 

We need to respectfully share our side.

During each Conversation Matters event, we will have  conversations about specific cultural and historical topics. These discussions will be led by scholars and experts who care deeply about the conversation and the church.

The next Conversation Matters event is coming up on Saturday, February 24th.  It's a depolarization workshop presented by the Braver Angels organization.  Register by clicking the button below. 


Upcoming Events

Hang tight while we look up scheduled events...

past conversations

Just click on any of the clips below to hear and/or watch past Conversation Matters presentations. 


The Church and the State

January 31, 2016

When Adolf Hitler and the Nazis took power in Germany, how did church leaders and ordinary Christians react? 

Our "Conversation Matters" series kicked off with the Rev. Steven Martin, a United Methodist scholar, showing his film Theologians Under Hitler.  It is based on groundbreaking research into the lives of three Christian scholars of the 20th Century: Paul Althaus, Emanuel Hirsch, and Gerhard Kittel.  

Following the film, Rev. Martin led a discussion on the film and how it is relevant in today's debates over the role of church and state. 


Below you can watch an excerpt from the film. 

february 28, 2016

Homosexuality and

the church

The US Supreme Court decision regarding gay marriage did not end the debate over it.  In fact, churches like the United Methodist Church continue to debate homosexuality and how it fits into our understanding of the Bible. 

Dr. Phillip Sherman of Maryville College led this 2016 discussion on this controversial topic.

During the event, he explained what is expected to happen at the upcoming General Conference of the United Methodist Church, the top legislative body for the denomination.

april 24, 2016

Challenging Segregation

Rev. Dr. Joseph Reiff

Fifty three years ago, more than two dozen white Methodist pastors in Mississippi  issued a public statement called "Born of Conviction."  The result was a large backlash against them, one that was overshadowed by many of the other events of the time. 

In late 2015, the Rev. Dr. Joseph Reiff, who grew up in Mississippi, released his book "Born of Conviction: White Methodists and Mississippi's Closed Society."  He joined us on April 24th for conversation about the book, what happened to those ministers and how themes of the book are still relevant today.

The Rev. Dr. Reiff is an ordained United Methodist minister.  He served as the chair of the Religion Department at Emory and Henry College in Virginia prior to his retirement.

July 31, 2016

What happened at General Conference?

with Del Holley

Del Holley, the Lay Leader for the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church joined the conversation with information on the debates at the 2016 UMC General Conference.  

(no audio or video available)

august 28, 2017

islam 101

dr. phillip sherman

On August 28th, Dr. Phillip Sherman of Maryville College led the Conversation Matters event. The focus for the evening's discussion was on the basic tenets

of the Islamic faith.

If you would like to hear the conversation from August 28th, click here.

may 27, 2018

Am I a racist? 

or am i in deep denial?

Rev. David Billings

These are questions that might come up in a conversation about race and race relations. 

Ordained UMC minister, Rev. David Billings joined us for an important conversation about racism and its roots in American life.    

Billings has been an anti-racist trainer and organizer and has worked with anti-racist organizing groups across the country. He is the author of Deep Denial, The Persistance of White Supremacy in United States History and Life

Click here to watch Rev. Billings presentation. 

July 30, 2017

Is immigration bad for the environment?

Dr. Stephanie Bohon

Dr. Stephanie Bohon of the University of Tennessee joined us to share her research into immigration and how white supremacist groups are infiltrating certain organizations in an effort to spread an anti-immigrant message. 

Click here for audio of the conversation.

SEPTEMBER 24, 2017

Poverty Simulation

with Ann Travis

More than 15 people came out on this night for this special Conversation Matters hands on learning exercise. Anne Travis led the group in a poverty simulation. The activity was designed to help people begin to understand what it might be like to live in a typical low-income family trying to survive from month to month. The object was to help sensitize participants to the realities faced by low-income people.

*Due to the nature of this event there is no audio or video for it.

january 28, 2018

The Quest for Racial Reconciliation

Rev. Leah Burns

2018 marks the 50-year anniversary of the unification process that created the  United Methodist Church. Not unlike many denominations, the United Methodist Church has a history fraught with both slavery and civil rights issues. Black people have been part of the American Methodist story almost from the beginning.


Although Methodism’s founder John Wesley strongly opposed slavery, the church split in 1844 over this issue, and its reunification in 1939 built segregation into the very fabric of Methodist Church discipline. In 1968, the newly “united” church officially did away with segregation by discipline, but that decision to unify did not

break down the actual barriers standing in the way of diverse and beloved church community. It did not make racism disappear.

Through a history lesson and conversation, Rev. Leah Burns explores how we can learn from the church's past and use that to create healing throughout the denomination. 

Click here for video of the presentation.

Click here for audio of the presentation.

february 25, 2019

The Future of the

United Methodist Church

Rev. Wil Cantrell

In February 2019 United Methodists from around the world convenef for a called General Conference in St. Louis, MO. The church's top lawmaking body acted on a report by the Council of Bishops based on proposals from the Commission on the Way Forward. What happened as a result profoundly affected the future of the church.

Wil Cantrell, who serves as an associate pastor at Concord UMC in Farragut served as a General Conference delegate.  He is the author of Unafraid and Unashamed: Facing the Future of United Methodism.

For the February 2018 Conversation Matters event, Wil joined us for a candid conversation on what the upcoming General Conference might mean for the denomination and what it means to be a United Methodist.

Click here to watch part 1 of this presentation. 

Click here to watch part 2 of this presentation.

2022 events

Beyond the Shouting

Timothy Lomperis

February 27th

Book Challenges

Suzanne Sherman

March 27th