2017 Mississippi Annual Conference
The 2017 Session of the Mississippi Annual Conference convened at the Jackson Convention Complex, which is located at 105 E. Pascagoula St., Jackson, Mississippi from Thursday, June 8 to Saturday, June 10, 2017. Bishop James E. Swanson Sr. officiated.
Wednesday’s slate for annual conference consisted of clergy ethics training, two pre-conference workshops and the highly anticipated “Connected: A Night of Worship.”
Youth ministry expert, the Rev. Dr. Kenda Creasy Dean, led the pre-conference workshop, “Young Faith in a World of Nones and Dones: The Future of Children's Spiritual Lives and the Ministry That Will Sustain Them." This workshop was designed for parents, youth pastors and church leaders drawn to children or youth ministries.
Thomas Kemper, general secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries, hosted the pre-conference workshop, titled “A New Mission Age.” Kemper explored global mission opportunities for United Methodists in Mississippi and the church as a global community of Jesus’ followers.
Wednesday wrapped up with “Connected: A Night of Worship” where dynamic praise duo Shane and Shane led the audience in worship and Kenda Creasy Dean delivered a message centered around a story about a flying squirrel named ‘Angel’ (you just had to be there to get it).
Opening worship, laity and clergy executive sessions and the mission service officially kicked off the first day of annual conference Thursday.
A spirit-filled opening worship welcomed in the light of Christ and set the tone for holy conferencing. Glory sightings abounded throughout the day as we discussed our conference mission focus, Imagine No Malaria, and had Thomas Kemper speak to the crowd about “Mission in Christ’s Way.” Kemper held a Q & A session after the mission service to discuss mission opportunities across Mississippi and around the globe.
Friday opened with a powerful morning Bible study led by the Rev. Andrea Summers, director of the Center for Women in Ministry at Wesley Seminary. Coming from 1 John 4:18, attendees got to leave with the thought, “Perfect love is the juice that justice requires.” Bishop Swanson and conference lay leader LaToya Redd-Thompson shared glory sightings from across the conference in the state of the conference address. The Rev. Darian Duckworth, pastor of First United Methodist Church of West Point, offered a reflection on how new things can be birthed from death at the service of thanksgiving and remembrance where we celebrated the life and legacy of those who have joined the Church Triumphant since the last session of annual conference.
Glory sightings continued throughout the day in the business session as several conference and general church agencies shared how local church generosity through mission shares and human resources have impacted the lives of those in the communities being served by community centers, higher education and campus ministries, student ministries, camping ministries and the like. Retirees were honored for their many years of service and the Mississippi United Methodist Foundation celebrated their 50th anniversary. Bishop Swanson delivered the message “Going Public” at the 2017 ordination service.
The Rev. Andrea Summers started the last day of conference off right with Saturday morning Bible study. She reflected on her time growing up in West Africa and her willingness to learn about cultures that differed from her own, only to find out that her daughter feared leaving the country due to what she sees happening in foreign nations in the media. Summers pointed out that if we dismiss ourselves from fighting the injustices happening in the world because we see it as an inconvenience, then we need to reassess our commitment as followers of Christ to take care of God’s lambs.
Charity Gordon, our Imagine No Malaria field coordinator, gave us the current tally of how much we’ve raised as a conference for Imagine No Malaria, the churchwide initiative to eliminate this preventable disease. The conference raised well over $409,000 by the end of the session. Bishop Swanson closed the conference with a call for us to take a more active role in the injustice we see not only in the world, but also right outside our front steps.
How the Mississippi Conference Session Impacts the Greater Jackson Area
Mississippi Conference Receives ‘Hometown Hero’ Award
For the second year in a row, the Mississippi United Methodist Conference received the ‘Hometown Hero’ Award at this year’s 25th Hometown Hero and SUMITT Awards Celebration Gala. Sponsored by ‘Visit Jackson! Mississippi,” the gala took place at the Hilton Garden Inn Jackson Downtown / King Edward Hotel June 15 at 7:00 p.m. Connectional ministries and communications office project coordinator Cat Foster accepted the award on the conference’s behalf. The conference received the award because the session of annual conference brings in numerous out-of-state speakers, representatives from global church agencies and approximately 3,000 lay and clergy delegates from across Mississippi. The tourism dollars from these guests has a tremendous economic impact for local restaurants, hotels and various other industries.
Main Actions Enacted by the Conference
The 2017 Mississippi Annual Conference session marked sadness, frustration and anxiety at the announcement of the discontinuance of and the vote for closure of The Orchard United Methodist Church in Tupelo and Getwell Road United Methodist Church in Southaven. These are two of the four churches that were closed this year. Both churches had been engaged in a discernment process to determine whether the respective members of each church would remain a part of The United Methodist Church or would withdraw.
In the three weeks before annual conference a vast majority of the membership of the two churches voted to withdraw their membership in The United Methodist Church, thus rendering both churches unviable to continue with the few members that remained, leading to their discontinuation by each of the respective district superintendents.
Thursday afternoon, space was given for a question-and-answer time that resulted in an outpouring of emotions around the departure of the members of the two congregations and the surrendering of their credentials by the affected clergy. Later Friday afternoon, David Stotts, conference treasurer; and Rickey Haynes, chair of the conference trustees came to the stage to explain the process the Mississippi Conference Finance and Administration and the conference trustees used in making a decision on the disposition of the property of both churches.
Because both churches had a debt to asset ratio that made retention of the property untenable, the trustees made the decision to sell the property to the respective churches for the mortgage balances. Both agreed to fully fund their commitment to the 2017 mission share and clergy benefit invoice.
Along with our sister conferences around the world, the Mississippi Conference voted on the amendments and results were sent to the Council of Bishops.
The annual resolution asking all Mississippi United Methodists to pray for our bishop and conference and the resolution celebrating the 50th anniversary of Black Methodists for Church Renewal were the resolution adopted by the conference this year. Several resolutions dealing with human sexuality were referred without vote to the conference council on finance and administration, the Council of Bishops, the Commission on a Way Forward and the 2020 General Conference.
The call to ministry is between the individual and God. Friday, June 9, 2017, there was singing, praying and celebrating for the men and women commissioned and ordained for the work of ministry. Called to be servants, these individuals will now go out to proclaim and live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
There were eight elders ordained (average age 42), seven persons commissioned (average age 38) and six persons received into associate membership (average age 54). No openly gay candidates for ministry were approved during the clergy session. There was a total of 32 retirees at the 2017 Session of the Mississippi Annual Conference.
Membership stands at 172,292, down 2,905 (1.7 percent) from the previous year.
Worship attendance stands at 63,883, down 2,321 (3.7 percent) from the previous year.
Church school attendance stands at 27,247, down 1,741 (6.3 percent) from the previous year.
Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2016 were 2,025, up from 2015 by 11 (.6 percent).
Adults and young adults in small groups for 2016 are 40,419, down from 2015 by 305 (.8 percent).
Worshippers engaged in mission for 2016 is 18,429, down from 2015 by 443 (2.4 percent).
-- Submitted by the Mississippi Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church