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2007 Mississippi Annual Conference

June 10-13, 2007, Jackson

The 19th session of the Mississippi Annual Conference met at Christ United Methodist Church in Jackson with Bishop Hope Morgan Ward presiding. Based on Isaiah 61, the theme was "Arise! Shine! Rejoice!"

The conference opened with ordination. Two deacons and 15 elders were ordained. One person's orders were recognized.

Bishop Ivan M. Abrahams of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa was guest preacher, and Dr. F. Belton Joyner Jr. taught from his books Being Methodist in the Bible Belt and Life in the Fish Bowl.

Bishop Duncan M. Gray III and several clergy of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi participated in a special service of shared communion.

Building on the "Chabadza Covenant," which the conference entered last year with the Zimbabwe Area, conference youth who just returned from Zimbabwe led the worship service focused on mission. The Chabadza offering of $110,222 will support youth and children's ministries in Mississippi and Zimbabwe. Chabadza is a Shona word meaning helping someone who is already at work.

Worship, workshops and reports centered on the conference's five ministry priorities: congregational development, racial reconciliation, mission, small-membership church development, and health and wellness. More than 100 runners and walkers participated in the third annual 5K run/walk, and approximately 600 people enrolled in the Amazing Pace wellness program.

The conference celebrated starting three new congregations, adopted a Safe Sanctuaries policy for conference events and recommended guidelines for local churches and revised portions of the Equitable Compensation policy. Members approved a budget of $20,664,572 for 2008, the first increase since Hurricane Katrina.

Members also voted: to join in commemorating the 40th anniversary of the bombing of Temple Beth Israel in Jackson and similar acts of violence against churches in the civil rights era; to continue to examine the impact of legalized gambling on Mississippi; to work toward eliminating the use of Styrofoam and other plastics; and to establish a food ministry grant program.

Resolutions approved for submission to the 2008 General Conference call for:

  • Bishops to face re-election after eight years;
  • Amending the Discipline to allow local pastors the right to vote in elections for jurisdictional and General Conference delegates;
  • Deleting support for the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice from the Book of Resolutions, and changes in the wording of the Discipline regarding the church's stance on abortion;
  • The definition of the local church and the function of the local church.

In addition, members approved petitioning General Conference to allow local pastors to continue serving sacraments.

Clergy delegates elected to the 2008 General Conference are: Steve McDonald of Meridian; Joe May of Jackson; Bill McAlilly of Gulfport; Timothy Thompson of Meridian; Sheila Cumbest of Moss Point; Ginger Holland of Pontotoc; Mike Childs of Louisville; and Bryan Collier of Tupelo.

Elected as lay delegates to General Conference are: Turner Arant of Sunflower; David Beckley of Holly Springs; David Stotts of Madison; Bill Smallwood of New Albany; Sara Hillman of Kosciusko; Mary Ford of Quitman; Jack Ramsey of Hattiesburg; and Steve McAlilly of Tupelo.

Clergy delegates elected to the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference are Mattie Gipson of Hattiesburg; Embra Jackson of Jackson; Andy Ray of Tupelo; Warren Black of Oxford; Sam Morris of Columbus; Phillip Heidelberg of Brookhaven; Karen Koons of McComb; and Tommy Artmann of Hattiesburg.

Elected as lay delegates to the Jurisdictional Conference are: Phoebe Hathorn of Columbia; Kiah Hitt of Philadelphia; Anne Harrington of Houston; Dalton Garner of Booneville; Jack Walters of Philadelphia; Kay Barksdale of Jackson; Bill Scott of Holly Springs; and Elizabeth Cumbest of Moss Point.

Sixteen probationary elders and one probationary deacon were commissioned. Twenty-four clergy retired.

Membership stands at 186,208, down 1,555. Worship attendance stands at 74,751, down 1,055.

-Gwen Green