Hazelwood moves from UMCOR to Memphis Conference

By Lane Gardner Camp, Special Contributor…Rev. Tom Hazelwood of Springfield, Va., has been named Director of Connectional Ministries for the Memphis Conference of the United Methodist Church, beginning June 1.

Rev. Tom Hazelwood

The Memphis Conference, part of the Nashville Episcopal Area, includes 425 United Methodist Churches and numerous agencies and ministries in West Tennessee and Western Kentucky.

Bishop Bill McAlilly announced Hazelwood’s appointment to Memphis Conference staff last week.


As an executive with United Methodist Committee on  Relief (UMCOR) for 15 years, Hazelwood brings to the Memphis Conference extensive knowledge of the institutional church and established relationships with lay and clergy leaders across the United Methodist denomination.

UMCOR is the humanitarian relief organization of the United Methodist Church. Headquartered in New York, it responds when war, conflict, or natural disaster disrupt life to such an extent that communities are unable to recover on their own.

Hazelwood’s current position with UMCOR is Assistant General Secretary, Disaster Response, U.S., Caribbean, Latin America. He resides in suburban Washington, D.C.

Before joining UMCOR in 1998 as Executive Secretary, Hazelwood served churches in the Arkansas Conference going back to 1981. He was elected an elder in the Arkansas Conference in 1990.

Hazelwood earned his Master of Divinity degree from Memphis Theological Seminary in 1988. He received a bachelor’s degree in education in 1980 and a master’s degree in education in 1981, both from Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, Ark.

Reflecting on his ministry with UMCOR of the last 15 years, Hazelwood said, “It has been dedicated to helping United Methodists ‘be’ the presence of God in the midst of suffering related to disaster and human crisis.”

UMCOR’s work, he explained, is to “train and equip United Methodists for disaster response – and to faithfully use the resources of our connectional church in the restoring of lives.”

UMCOR work, he continued, has taken him to places and to meet people he said he “could never have imagined” growing up in Arkansas.

“As a result, I am not surprised – ever – by the work that can be accomplished when we align our vision with God’s. Time after time I have seen miracles of recovery, both human and habitat, that can only be explained by this: God called, and United Methodists showed up,” said Hazelwood.

When making the announcement about Hazelwood’s appointment, McAlilly said, “I have worked with Tom over the last seven years across the Church through Disaster Response on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. …Tom led us back to life. He helped us organize our systems to maximize our resources for long-term recovery.”

Before he was elected bishop in the Southeastern Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church in July 2012 and assigned to the Memphis Conference, McAlilly was Superintendent of the coastal Seashore District of the Mississippi Conference. He was appointed to that position in 2006, soon after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005.

“Under (Tom’s) leadership in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina,” remembered McAlilly, “many homes and churches were rebuilt and restored, and the District created a space and services for displaced persons.”

Hazelwood, in turn, praised McAlilly for his “powerful, servant leadership that helped transform the recovery work for the United Methodist Church along the Gulf.”

Hazelwood will immediately begin developing a transition plan with the Memphis Conference’s current Director of Connectional Ministries, Dr. John Bonson, who is retiring at the end of the 2013 Memphis Annual Conference, June 2-5. Bonson has held the position for four years.

Hazelwood said he and his family hope to be moved from the Washington, D.C. area to Jackson, Tenn., where the Memphis Conference office is located, by June 1.

“A coming home of sorts” is how Hazelwood described the relocation.

“I grew up and served churches in Arkansas, graduated from Memphis Theological Seminary and have family in Tennessee,” said Hazelwood. “The Mid-South feels like home, just as each person I have met in the Memphis Conference feels like a familiar friend.”

Hazelwood’s family includes wife Stephanie, son Robert, and married son John, who lives with his wife Jessica in Dayton, Va.

“John and Jessica are excited to know Stephanie, Robert and I will be living close to our roots in a place that is as comfortable as our skin,” said Hazelwood.

One of the primary responsibilities of the Director of Connectional Ministries, according to the conference’s job description, is to ensure connections among local, district, conference and general church ministries for networking, resourcing and communicating shared ministries.

The position reports to Bishop McAlilly, who described it as “shepherd of the vision of the conference,” per the United Methodist General Board of Discipleship.

Hazelwood is well suited for the work, said McAlilly, due to his personal knowledge of West Tennessee and Western Kentucky “which will help us forge a future together” and his disaster response management experience that includes “equipping persons for ministry and understanding the value of strong teams.”

Familiar with the Memphis Conference by proximity to his home state and by reputation, Hazelwood described it as having “a long history and tradition of Wesleyan commitment to the faith and welfare of West Tennesseans and Western Kentuckians.”

He said he believes the conference has grasped its mission to make followers of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world “from those earliest circuit riders who crossed the Tennessee River and planted United Methodism until today.”

Hazelwood’s knowledge of the Memphis Conference, he said, comes from time spent, family and friends in the area.

“I have seen how this area reaches out to neighbors in need, how churches have caught fire when catching a vision from God, and how much has been done with little,” he shared.

As for Hazelwood’s hopes and plans for the Memphis Conference as its incoming Director of Connectional Ministries, he said that is “not what matters.”

Rather, “God’s hopes and plans – and those dreams that Memphis Conference Methodists are dreaming – are the ones I want to help seize,” he emphasized.

“I hope we, as a conference, will take our loaves and fishes, the crumbs we sometimes feel are not enough, and cast them into God’s measuring cup and see what ‘greater things’ can come forth. I am committed to this new ministry opportunity and rejoice that I will be joining old friends and new ones to move forward in service to our God.”

Hazelwood said he is “eagerly awaiting” opportunities to meet and hear from clergy and laity in the Memphis Conference to collectively consider “plans that are in alignment with God’s vision and Memphis Conference needs.”

He said he fully embraces Bishop McAlilly’s theme of “Greater Things are Yet to Come” and is “honored and excited” to soon join the Memphis Conference.


Ms. Camp is director of communications for the Memphis Conference.


Sam Hodges, Former Managing Editor, UMR

Sam Hodges

Sam Hodges was the managing editor of The United Methodist Reporter from 2011-2013. A formee reporter for the Dallas Morning News and the Charlotte Observer, Sam is a respected voice in United Methodist journalism.

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