The 2021 Session of the Mississippi Annual Conference convened at Christ United Methodist Church, 6000 Old Canton Road, Jackson, Mississippi, from Wednesday, June 23 to Friday, June 25. Bishop James E. Swanson Sr. officiated. The theme was “The Mission Continues.” The theme scripture was John 21: 15-22.
Due to the continuing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 Session of the Mississippi Annual Conference was all virtual and attendees joined by Zoom, Facebook Live and YouTube.
Videos from the 2021 Session of the Mississippi Annual Conference can be found here.
Wednesday’s session opened with a spirited devotion. “Are We Yet Alive” was the opening hymn followed by a litany from the Rev. Joseph Ranager, senior chaplain for Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, and an opening prayer from Dr. Marcus Gaut.
Afterward, attendees were presented with a tutorial on the virtual voting process and were allowed to vote on practice ballots.
Wednesday concluded with the 2020 Session of the Mississippi Annual Conference. Video can be found here.
Thursday began with a video assembly of the Wells United Methodist Church Mass Choir singing “I’m Going to Sing When the Spirit Says Sing,” followed by opening prayer from the Rev. Smith Lilley of First United Methodist Church in Tupelo.
“I Am Thine, O Lord” was the hymn of preparation before Bishop Swanson delivered a sermon titled “Extravagant Love.” Followed by a Love Feast that could be shared by those in attendance and people watching online.
After worship, the 2021 Session of the Mississippi Annual Conference began. Video can be found here.
Friday began with the final business session followed by closing worship.
Dr. Raigan Miskelly and the Rev. Trey Skaggs opened worship. Next came an opening song “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” followed by a medley of “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” and “I’ll Fly Away.”
After a Scripture and prayer, Bishop Swanson closed the 2021 Session of the Mississippi Annual Conference with a sermon and benediction. Video can be found here.
Main Actions Enacted by the Conference
In addition to the regular business and reporting of the Mississippi Annual Conference, the conference adopted the budget for 2022 and voted on the following resolutions:
Petition 1: Call to Prayer
Encourages United Methodists to take time to pray for our Bishop, clergy, laity, families and the world beyond. The petition was placed on the consent calendar and approved by the body.
Petition 2: Housing/Rental Allowance for Retired and Disabled Ministers
Allows pension payment to be rental/housing allowance for retired and disabled licensed members of the Mississippi United Methodist Conference. The petition was placed on the consent calendar and approved by the body.
Petition 3: Human Sexuality
Declares the Bible is the final authority on what is holy and unholy and establishes the conditions in which all men and women can have harmonious relationships with God. Bishop Swanson ruled the petition out of order because it has already been dealt with and should not have been brought before the body.
Petition 4: Resolution for the Establishment of a General Conference Educational Task Force
Petition 4 sought to create a committee of six lay and six clergy to study changes to the United Methodist denomination, and how they may affect members. The petition was referred back to the original creators, the Mississippi Conference Transition Team, for clarification and revision.
Petition 5: Financial Equity
The Chair of the Board of Ordained Ministries will establish a task force to examine the effects of the student debt on females and people of color. The Petitions and Resolutions Committee referred Petition 5 back to the Board of Ordained Ministries for further work.
Petition 6: Resolution for the Celebration of Female Clergy and the Remembrance of the Life of Rev. Ruth Wood
A resolution for the celebration of female clergy and the remembrance of the life of Rev. Ruth Wood. The petition passed with a vote of 551 Yes and 18 No.
Ordination and Retirees
Individuals answering the call to ministry were ordained during a service on June 11. These newly commissioned pastors will go forth answering their call from God in service to the Mississippi United Methodist Conference.
There were six elders ordained, two commissioned and two named as associate members. The average age of those ordained was 50.
Twenty-three churches voted by a simple majority of their membership to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church. David Stotts, conference treasurer and director of finance and administration and benefits officer, explained by video the requirements churches must go through to separate as it pertains to paragraph 2553 in The Book of Discipline. Video can be found here.
Church Closings and Merger
Eleven churches voted to discontinue functioning as a congregation and entrust their property to the Mississippi Conference of The United Methodist Church:
Bude United Methodist Church
Clarks Chapel United Methodist Church
Daleville United Methodist Church
Dekalb United Methodist Church
Ebenezer United Methodist Church
Green Grove United Methodist Church
Hermanville United Methodist Church
Mt. Vernon United Methodist Church
Thrailkill United Methodist Church
Union United Methodist Church
Weir United Methodist Church
The congregations of Louisville and Noxapater First United Methodist Church voted to merge in accordance with paragraph 2546 of the 2016 Book of Discipline.
Membership and Worship
Membership stands at 150,506, down 3% from 156,154 in 2019.
Average worship attendance stands at 39,562 down 27% from 54,650 in 2019.
Online worship attendance stands at 89,239, up 997% from 8,131 in 2019.
Church school attendance stands at 19,791, down 24% from 26,122 in 2019.
Professions or reaffirmations of faith 664, down 46% from 770 in 2019.
There were 29,359 adults and young adults in small groups for 2020, down 9,007 people in 2019.
There were 60,442 worshippers engaged in mission for 2020, down from 76,928 in 2019.
*Jasmine Haynes, communications specialist for the Mississippi Conference.
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