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 Skype.

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.



Am I a racist? or am i in deep denial?

Rev. David Billings

Happened on May 27, 2018

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

and race relations. 

On May 27th, 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. 

The Future of the

United Methodist Church

with Rev. Wil Cantrell

Happened on February 25th

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

Wil Cantrell, who serves as an associate pastor at Concord UMC in Farragut is a General Conference delegate who recently authored a book called 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 means 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.

The Quest for Racial Reconciliation

Rev. Leah Burns

Happened January 28, 2018

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.

Poverty Simulation - with Ann Travis

Happened September 24, 2017

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 for it.

Is immigration bad for the environment?

Dr. Stephanie Bohon

Happened July 30, 2017

On July 30th, 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.


Dr. Phillip Sherman

August 28, 2017

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.

What happened at General Conference?

with Del Holley

Happened July 31, 2016

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)

Challenging Segregation

Rev. Dr. Joseph Reiff

Happened April 24, 2016

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. 

Late last year, 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 is currently the chair of the Religion Department at Emory and Henry College in Virginia. 

Click here to read more about "Born of Conviction" and Dr. Reiff's challenges in writing it. 

Homosexuality and the Church

February 28, 2016

Last year's 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 the 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.

Click here to listen to this conversation. 

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.