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2015 Mississippi Conference


June 4-6, 2015, Jackson Convention Complex, Jackson, Mississippi

Officiating bishop: Bishop James E. Swanson Sr.

Guest speakers: Bishop Young Jin Cho, resident bishop of the Virginia Conference, the Rev. Sharma Denise Lewis, district superintendent of theAtlanta -Decatur-Oxford District in the North Georgia Conference and Bishop James E. Swanson Sr., resident bishop of the Mississippi Conference.

Memorable points or quotes by speakers

Bishop Young Jin Cho - One Thing Lacking:   “I think our fundamental issue is more than a lack of programs or initiatives.  It is more than the restructuring of our boards and agencies.  It is a faith issue.  It is a spiritual issue.  This is one thing we lack today.  If we do not address this fundamental issue, all our efforts to turn around our churches will be like building a house on sand.”

Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr. – God is Expecting You to Produce Fruit - “This problem why our churches are not growing in worship attendance is not a challenge you can quickly fix.” “We need to sit down and get on our knees as Bishop Cho told us and petition heaven to help us…I don’t care how bad the numbers are, because my hope is not in numbers, my hope is in the Lord.”

Rev. Sharma Denise Lewis – God Uses Cracked Pots:   “Some of us sitting here want to hide our cracks. When we hide our cracks brothers and sisters, we hide God’s Glory. I don’t know if you know this, but suffering is never without a purpose.  How many of you can agree with me today that God can, and God will,  use your flaws, your mistakes, your struggles, your imperfections, and even your weaknesses for God’s Glory?”

Main actions enacted and resolutions adopted by the conference:

While the main focus of the annual conference was the election of our delegations to the both the General Conference and South Eastern Jurisdictional Conference, and the celebration of our mission and ministry (both within the bounds of Mississippi and abroad), the conference also adopted 16 resolutions, including 12 that will be forwarded to the 2016 General Conference. 

Resolutions adopted include: 

  • An annual call to prayer
  • Resolutions dealing with retiree housing allowances and the annual conference archives
  • Five petitions to be forwarded to the General Church submitted by the Disability Ministry Committee addressing the needs and equitable treatment of those with disabilities
  • Seven petitions to be forwarded to the General Conference with regards to changes in the Discipline
  • One resolution to be forwarded to all active bishops encouraging all General Conference delegates to uphold the disciplinary language with regards to violations of the human sexuality standards. 

Delegates elected to 2016 General Conference

Lay delegates: Timothy Crisler, Turner Arant, Ann LaSalle, Ann Harrington, David Beckley and Lauren Sledge.

Clergy delegates: The Revs. Mattie Gipson, Stephen Sparks, Fred Britton, Zach Beasley, Mitchell Hedgepeth and Mike Childs.

Jurisdictional Conference delegates

Lay: David Stotts, Bo Gabbert, Connie Walters, Kay Barksdale, Bill Scott and Steve McAlilly

Clergy: The Revs. Bob Rambo, Bill Beavers, Leanne Burriss, Jim Genesse, Bryan Collier and Tim Prather.

Reserve lay delegates: Yolander Jones, Martin Butler and Brian Jones.

Reserve clergy delegates: The Rev. Connie Shelton, Joe May, Barry Male.

Clergy statistics: Ordained one deacon and one elder, commissioned one provisional deacon and 10 provisional elders. Received three into associate membership. Twenty-two local pastors  received their  licenses.

Retired: One deacon, 15 Elders, two associate members. Nine local pastors were recognized.

Remembered at memorial service (may also include laity): 30 clergy, 24 clergy spouses, one clergy dependent, one Deaconess, and 11 Laity

2014 Conference statistics:

Membership stands at 176,555, down 1,893 from the previous year.

Worship attendance stands at 67,466, down 1,240.

Church school attendance stands at 29,643, down 1,189.

Professions of faith stand at 1,877,  up three from the previous year.

Baptisms stand at 1,707, down  123.

  1. What did your annual conference do to reinforce the Four Area of Focus, and what commitments has the conference made for the coming year?

Mississippi United Methodist churches, Sunday school classes, and mission-minded individuals in Mississippi were asked to donate items for the Annual Conference Mission Auction. Items such as crafts, antiques, unique gifts, and experiences valued at $25 or more, went to the highest bidders. All proceeds for the auction will go toward the mission and ministry organizations located in the eleven districts of the Mississippi Annual Conference.  The Missions Marketplace 2015 beneficiaries are:

•   Brookhaven District: District Food Banks and Meal Ministries

•   East Jackson District: Millsaps Wesley Foundation/The Methodist Children’s Homes

•   Greenwood District: The Unique Learning Center, Greenville

•   Hattiesburg District: Fellowship Health Clinic at Edwards Street Fellow- 
ship Center.

•   Meridian District: Wesley House

•   New Albany District: District Clergy Sustentation Fund

•   Seashore District: The Barn-MGCCC Perk Campus Wesley Foundation

•   Senatobia District: Senatobia District El Salvador Mission Team

•   Starkville District: Team Hope - Starkville District Health Ministry

•   Tupelo: Tupelo District Food Pantries

•    West Jackson: Methodist Children’s Homes and JSU Wesley Foundation 

Mississippi United Methodists celebrated reaching their 1 million meals goal for the hunger relief agency Stop Hunger Now during the 2015 annual conference session.  The Rev. Ray Buchanan, founder of Stop Hunger Now, attended the 2015 session and presented Delphine Swanson with an award that she accepted on behalf of the Mississippi Conference. She thanked the church for their faithfulness to feed those who hunger around the world and encouraged United Methodists to continue supporting Stop Hunger Now. Bishop James Swanson Sr. of the Mississippi Area initiated the charge a year ago at the 2014 session. Mississippi Conference local churches, districts, and groups participated by hosting meal packaging events. There were approximately 70 events held across the state. Stop Hunger Now meals are nutritiously sound. Every dehydrated rice/soy meal is fortified with 23 essential vitamins and nutrients. Research has shown that one in three people in developing countries are adversely affected by vitamin and mineral deficiencies. In the end, the Mississippi Conference packed 1,358,706 meals, nearly reaching the additional 500,000 meals challenge from Bishop Swanson. 

Developing Principled Christian Leaders

The church needs leaders rooted in Christ, who has a vision for changing the world. Today’s young people have fearless hearts, vibrant ideas and a passion for ministry. Their talents should be nurtured to shape the church’s path into the future. The church must recruit young people — including women and people of color a world over — for ministry, equip them to be effective leaders and be open to where they want to lead us. We also must strengthen lay members, who are ministering at every level of the church. One way of doing this is helping to assure the future of Africa University with endowments.

The cost of attending Africa University for one year including tuition, room, board, and books is $5,200. To create an endowment to provide an annual scholarship of $5,200 requires $130,000.

The goal of the Mississippi Conference campaign is to provide 10 endowed scholarships of $130,000 each for a total of $1,300,000. The campaign goal of $1,300,000 can be reached by gifts from churches and individuals in the following amounts:

• To endow a scholarship for one year = $130,000

• To endow a scholarship for one month = $14,400

• To endow a scholarship for one week = $3,600

• To endow a scholarship for one day = $725

Every local church in the Mississippi Conference is challenged to participate in the campaign at the level appropriate for that church. For some churches, the endowment for one day of $725 will be an appropriate and significant gift.

The Mississippi Annual Conference welcomed the Africa University Choir. The group consists of 15 talented singers from six countries of the continent Africa. The choir performed for several United Methodist communities during an 18 day tour across Mississippi with a final performance during the session of annual conference on Thursday, June 4, 2015.

Creating new and renewed congregations

Around the world, United Methodists are innovating with what it means to be the church, planting new congregations and revitalizing faith communities in every kind of setting. United Methodists seek to re-evangelize the world so that we can reach more people, especially the young and those from diverse backgrounds. By being relevant and vital, United Methodists will touch more lives and draw more people to Christ. The Faith Communities Formation Committee was created as a result of the annual conference restructure in 2014. The Faith Communities Formation Committee has been tasked with forming new faith communities and revitalizing existing congregations. Rooted in the Great Commission of Matthew 28, we are tasked with “seeking the lost” and “discipling the found.” In these tasks, Mississippi Methodism has its being. The reality of starting new faith communities is to understand the power in the “new.” The reality is that new groups connect more people than existing groups because everyone in the group is “new.” A “new” group makes it easier for newcomers to connect. New groups generate fresh excitement and more opportunity for connection and growth within the church. The 2015 Mississippi Annual Conference saw the kickoff of our 20/20 campaign of 20 new faith communities by 2020, as well as the commitment to work with all 11 Chief Missional Strategist across the conference to revitalize targeted existing congregations.

Tamica Smith-Jeuitt, senior communications specialist