2018 Mississippi Annual Conference
The 2018 session of the Mississippi Annual Conference convened at the Jackson Convention Complex from May 31-June 2. Bishop James E. Swanson Sr. officiated.
May 30 was full of events ranging from pre-conference workshops on communications and discipleship to a glory sightings banquet featuring awards for church of the year, vital congregations, evangelism and racial reconciliation.
Craig Catlett, who serves as the manager of local church services at United Methodist Communications, facilitated pre-conference workshops on “Church Marketing” and “Managing Internal Church Communications.” The Rev. Jeff Campbell, executive director of conference relationships at Discipleship Ministries led a pre-conference workshop on “Developing an Intentional Discipleship System.”
Opening worship, laity and clergy executive sessions and the mission service officially kicked off the first day of annual conference.
A spirit-filled opening worship welcomed in the light of Christ and set the tone for holy conferencing. Glory sightings abounded throughout the day during discussion of the conference mission focus, Imagine No Malaria. This year’s mission service was unique in that rather than having a speaker, there were several people telling short stories on how they participated or were the beneficiaries of mission work, celebrating love that’s on the move in Mississippi.
The first story highlighted a ministry called The Studio at Court St. United Methodist Church. This ministry utilizes art to empower those who are differently abled and disenfranchised. The Studio used recycled goods or leftovers—things that other people may consider trash—and they turn it into art.
The second story was from a junior at Delta State University who shared how coming to know Christ changed her perspective on life and influenced her decision to attend seminary after graduation. What she learned on a Spring Break mission trip—funded by a conference mission grant—with her Wesley Foundation to Delta Grace, a United Methodist home repair ministry in Sunflower, Mississippi. The goal was to get young adults to understand the level and effects of poverty in our own state in the Mississippi Delta.
The third story was about Alta Woods United Methodist Church in Jackson and how they have actively engaged the community in various ministries that were started with the purpose of caring for the food and physical health needs of their surrounding community.
June 1 began with participants and directors from Wesley Foundations leading prayer, worship, Scripture and Bible study. Several lay-led committees reported on their work including the conference lay leader reminding the laity of their purpose and call as explained in The 2012 Book of Discipline. The Mississippi Conference joined with Methodist Le Bonheur in celebrating their 100th anniversary, especially since the health service was spearheaded by a Mississippi layman (see full story on page 16 of The Circuit Rider Souvenir Journal).
Memorial service was a time for remembering those who served well before joining the Church Triumphant. The Rev. Mattie Gipson, Greenwood District superintendent, preached during the memorial service and imparted wisdom to the crowd that “to be an apprentice for Jesus puts us in tight spaces and hot spots.”
Bishop Swanson presented his Episcopal Address titled, “We Had Hoped,” encouraging us as the body of Christ to remember to fear not, for Jesus is with us even in difficult times, even until the end of the age. Additionally, Bishop Swanson said during ordination, “God is trying to shake the church into realizing we can’t do church the same as usual.”
Friday concluded with ordination where 13 persons were commissioned for the work of deacon and elder, two people were recognized as associate members, one person was ordained a deacon, 12 persons were ordained as elders and one person whose orders were recognized as an elder (see full list of those in the service for the Ordering of Ministry and the complete list of retirees on page 24 in The Circuit Rider Souvenir Journal).
Wesley Foundation directors and students opened the last day of conference with prayer, worship, Scripture and Bible study. The first class of certified lay ministers were celebrated on stage, the commission on archives and history helped us celebrate 50 years of The United Methodist Church (see full story on page 20 of The Circuit Rider Souvenir Journal) and the appointive cabinet paused to remember those churches that closed this year.
Closing worship was full of lively liturgical dancing and singing by the choir as well as the audience. Bishop Swanson delivered the message for closing worship and left the audience with some ‘tweetable’ thoughts: “God does not give ‘a’ vision without ‘pro’ –vision!”
Main Actions Enacted by the Conference
In addition to the regular business and reporting of the Mississippi Conference, the 2018 Session voted on the corrected amendment to the Constitution as submitted by the General Church, adopted the leadership and committee structures and members for the new quadrennium and adopted the budget for 2019.
Resolution #1 Prayer: ADOPTEDEncourages all Mississippi United Methodist to participate in regular, dedicated prayer for the Mississippi Annual Conference, the Global Church and our bishop.
Resolution #2 Housing/Rental Allowance for Retired and Disabled Ministers: ADOPTED
Required by the IRS to allow those ministers to set aside a portion of their compensation for Housing Allowance.
Resolution #3 To Petition the General Conference of the United Methodist Church Concerning the Practice of Homosexuality: REFERRED TO THE DELEGATION
Encourage the General Conference to hold true to the current language with regards to human sexuality
Resolution #4 Supporting the Process of the Way Forward and urging Mississippi United Methodists to Remain True to the Vows of our Covenant: ADOPTED
Encouraging all Mississippi United Methodists to remain committed to the process of the Commission of the Way Forward and to remain true to our vows and connection.
Resolution #5 Concerning the Practice of Homosexuality: REFERRED TO THE BOARD OF ORDAINED MINISTRY
Encourages the board of ordained ministry as well as district committee on ministry to remain faithful to the language of The Book of Discipline with regards to clergy behavior and human sexuality.
Resolution #6 Raise Awareness of the Dangers of Elder Abuse from Scammers and Con-Artists: ADOPTED
Encourage churches to educate and inform its members and communities about the dangers of scams targeting elderly and vulnerable populations.
Ordinands and Retirees
The call to ministry is between the individual and God. Friday, June 1, 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 12 elders ordained (average age 47.5), 13 persons commissioned (average age 37.5), one person with recognized order from another denomination and two persons received into associate membership (average age 55). There was a total of 33 retirees at the 2018 Session of the Mississippi Annual Conference.
Membership and Worship
Membership stands at 165,150, down 7,142 (4.14 percent) from the previous year.
Worship attendance stands at 62,854 63,883, down 964 (1.5 percent) from the previous year.
Church school attendance stands at 28,031 up 835 (2.98 percent) from the previous year.
Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2017 1,622 down from 2016 by 292 (14.42 percent).
Adults and young adults in small groups for 2017 are 7,238 down from 2016 by 489 (6.33 percent).
Worshippers engaged in mission for 2017 21,040, 18,429, up from 2016 by 2,631 (2.4 percent).