2022 Mississippi Annual Conference

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The 2022 session of the Mississippi Annual Conference convened at the BancorpSouth Arena located at 375 E. Main Street in Tupelo. Beginning Wednesday, July 13 and concluding Friday, July 15. This was the last annual conference presided over by retiring Bishop James E. Swanson Sr., and it was a celebration of his legacy with the Mississippi Annual Conference. The annual conference theme was “The Journey Continues Together.” The Scripture reference was Matthew 26: 17-30.

Annual conference was in person. Those not in attendance could join by livestream but could not vote.

After two years of being limited by a worldwide pandemic, United Methodists from across the state of Mississippi gathered Wednesday, July 13, for a family meeting hosted by Bishop James E. Swanson Sr. He opened with a message about finally being able to come together again and gave the audience the opportunity to give statements about what they have missed most due to three years of the pandemic. At the end of the family meeting, Bishop Swanson hosted a town hall-style question-and-answer session with the audience addressing issues facing the church. After the family meeting, Bishop Swanson struck the opening gavel commencing the 2022 session of the Mississippi Annual Conference. 

The first official event for the 2022 session of the annual conference was a Consecration for Church and Community Worker, Althea Belton. Video can be found here.

An opening medley from the Saltillo Circuit Riders opened worship on the second day of annual conference. The Rev. Emily Sanford, pastor at Wesley United Methodist Church in Tupelo, and the Rev. Sapada Thomas, pastor at Central United Methodist Church in Jackson, were the host pastors for opening worship service. Bishop Mike Watson concluded the worship service with a sermon entitled “Accept the Gift.” Video here.

On Thursday, conference attendees celebrated #BeUMC day commemorating the values that make being a part of The United Methodist Church extraordinary. In the laity address, conference lay leader LaToya Redd-Thompson described how the mission of the lay and #BeUMC work together. She informed attendees that United Methodist Church values — like disciple-making, generosity and belonging and inclusion — allow church members to feel welcomed and people of different backgrounds to worship in unity. She finished with her personal story of how The United Methodist Church allowed her to find God through the grace, forgiveness and prayerfulness of the people in The United Methodist Church. Apparel, buttons, stickers and resources for #BeUMC are available here. Video of the laity address can be found here.

The memorial service honored 29 clergy and 17 clergy spouses who have joined the Church Triumphant. A processional from the Tupelo First United Methodist Church Handbell Choir opened worship for the service followed by hymns, prayers and a reading of the names of those passed away. Bishop Swanson ended the service with a sermon titled “The Journey Continues Together,” reminding listeners of how the sacrifices of the generation before paved the way for us to continue their work today. Due to a power outage, the memorial service was recorded in two parts, click here for part one and here for part two. 

Bishop Swanson delivered his final state of the church address as the Mississippi Conference’s bishop in residence. In his address, he described the state of the church as afraid because we have let the pressures of the outside world prevent us from stepping out in the power of Jesus to bring a Godly presence to people hurting outside the church walls. Bishop Swanson went on to say that he has worked hard to provide resources and through the office of faith community formation and spiritual leadership for pastors in churches to empower their members to overcome fear and be the light of God in the world. Find the state of the church video here.

Thursday evening concluded with an “Out of This World” youth service and kickoff to The Gathering Fall Tour featuring a performance from Phil Joel and the Newsboys. Click here for video.

During Friday’s first business session, conference treasurer David Stotts gave an update on the settlement reached by the Boy Scouts and The United Methodist Church. The Boy Scouts and United Methodist ad hoc committee came to an agreement about having scouting units in the local church. Churches now have three options:

  • The use of an affiliation agreement.
  • Have a chartering institution other than the local church.
  • Stop scouting at the local church.

The United Methodists of Mississippi honored Bishop and Mrs. Swanson by contributing a gift of more than $58,000 to the Methodist Children’s Homes for facility refurbishment. A recently built facility on the campus will be named the Swanson House in honor of Bishop James E. Swanson Sr. The Swansons were also presented with two portraits of buildings at Methodist Children’s Homes’ campus by renowned artist Wyatt Waters in appreciation for all they’ve done for the children who have resided there. Video of the presentation can be found here.

The Vital Congregations Committee is made up of nine churches from across the Mississippi Conference of varying size and demographics. The group reads the pastoral and congregational reports from every church in the Mississippi Conference. After serving faithfully for three years, Morton United Methodist Church and Hazlehurst United Methodist Church are rolling off the committee. Decatur United Methodist Church and Noxapater United Methodist Church are joining the committee.

The most recent VCC research found that 100% of the churches in the Mississippi Conference were heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many churches had to make changes to worship, congregational care and ministry. Most of the churches in the conference weathered the storm and have begun to revitalize thanks to new ministry and outreach opportunities created due to the pandemic. Click here for video.

The conference board of medical benefits reported they were able to reach receipts 98.95% for the 2021 budget. The board does not recommend a rate increase 2023. Click here for video.

Friday’s closing worship service included a celebration of Bishop Swanson’s ministry. Songs of praise from the University of Mississippi Gospel choir opened the worship followed by sermons from Bishop Jonathan Holston, resident bishop of the South Carolina United Methodist Conference, and the Rev. Randy Frye, lead pastor at First Broad Street United Methodist Church. 

Bishop Holston’s sermon reminded listeners that we are the light of the world and sometimes we need to be a reflection, and that Christ has already equipped us for the mission ahead no matter what challenges there seems to be.

The Rev. Frye’s sermon focused on his relationship with Bishop Swanson and how instrumental it was in shaping his ministry.

Click here for video of closing worship.

Main Actions Enacted by the Conference

The conference approved the proposed budget for 2023 of $11,265,145 — about a 2.5% decrease from $11,547,527 budget in 2022.

In addition, the conference voted on the following resolutions. The content and definition of the resolutions can be found beginning on page 141 in the preconference journal here.

Rev. Johnny A. Dinas Call to Prayer

Passed with 755 yes votes three no votes and seven votes to refer.

Housing/Rental Allowance for Retired and Disabled Ministers

Passed with 743 yes votes, five no votes and 10 votes to refer.

Petition on Human Sexuality to the Mississippi Annual Conference

Passed with a count of 402 yes votes, 348 no votes, 22 votes to refer and eight votes against referral.

Petition of Court Street United Methodist Church in Hattiesburg, Miss., to set aside the decision of the District Board of Church Locations Regarding the sale of the church building

Did not pass with 459 no votes, 290 yes votes, three votes against referral and 28 votes to refer.

Call for vital relational conversations among leadership and churches of the Mississippi Conference

Passed with 711 yes votes, 40 no votes, 27 votes to refer and four votes not to refer.

Clarity and transparency for congregations using paragraph 2548.2 in the Mississippi Annual Conference

Referred with 589 votes to refer 144 voted against referral 53 yes votes and six no votes.

Recognition of the Global Methodist Church by the Mississippi Annual Conference

Referred with 573 yes votes for referral, 163 no votes against referral, 45 yes votes and seven no votes. 

Resolution on Conference Medical Insurance

Passed with 774 yes votes, seven no votes and eight votes to refer.

The annual conference also took up amendments and revisions to standing rules. A list of the proposed changes can be found on page 173 in the preconference journal here.

Amendments to standing rules 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 26 and 27 were approved. 

Amendments to standing rules 4, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20 were postponed until the 2023 Session of the Mississippi Annual Conference. Video here.

Ordination and Retirees

The Service for the Ordering of Ministry took place Wednesday, July 13. The conference happily welcomed 14 newly commissioned clergy members who will go forth answering their call from God in service to the Mississippi United Methodist Conference. Bishop Swanson ended the service with a sermon titled “By Whose Authority Will You Journey?” Bishop Swanson’s inspiring sermon reminded the ordinands they serve with the authority of God Almighty and that the presence of the Holy Spirit will lead and guide them through any challenges in their charges. Video here.

The ordination class was made up of nine elders, four commissioned and one associate member. The average age for those ordained was 35.

Click here to see a list of the 2022-2023 Mississippi Conference appointments.

The conference noted the long and dedicated service of 30 sisters and brothers of the clergy in The United Methodist Church who moved on to retirement. Combined, these servants offered more than 580 years of service to The Mississippi Conference of The United Methodist Church. The full listing of retirees can be found in the Circuit Rider Souvenir Journal on page 32, here. Video of retiree recognition can be found here.

Disaffiliation

Through a simple majority vote of their membership, 13 churches elected to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church according to Paragraph 2553 in the Book of Discipline. All of the disaffiliations were passed by vote during annual conference.

Church

District

Harrisville United Methodist Church

East Jackson

Mendenhall United Methodist Church

East Jackson

Pelahatchie Little Zion United Methodist Church

East Jackson

Heritage United Methodist Church

Hattiesburg

Heidelburg United Methodist Church

Hattiesburg

Beaumont United Methodist Church

Hattiesburg

Pleasant Grove-Waynesboro United Methodist Church

Hattiesburg

Sand Hill United Methodist Church

Hattiesburg

Vaiden United Methodist Church

Greenwood

Grenada Grace United Methodist Church

Greenwood

St. Stephen Columbus United Methodist Church

Starkville

Ethel United Methodist Church

Starkville

Hamilton United Methodist Church

Tupelo

Bethlehem United Methodist Church

New Albany

Church Closings 

There were 20 churches that voted to discontinue functioning as a congregation and entrust their property to the Mississippi Conference of The United Methodist Church.

  • Bethesda United Methodist Church
  • Georgetown United Methodist Church
  • Providence United Methodist Church
  • Drakes United Methodist Church
  • Sharon United Methodist Church
  • Linn United Methodist Church
  • Shaw United Methodist Church
  • Ovett United Methodist Church
  • Stringer United Methodist Church
  • Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church
  • Bethel (Hickory Flat) United Methodist Church
  • Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church
  • Brownfield United Methodist Church
  • St. Mary United Methodist Church
  • Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church
  • Palestine (Marietta) United Methodist Church
  • Pleasant Hill United Methodist Church
  • Flora United Methodist Church
  • Bentonia United Methodist Church
  • Lynch Chapel (Vicksburg) United Methodist Church

Membership and Worship

Membership stands at 143,815, down 6,691 from 150,506 in 2020.

Worship attendance stands at 35,914, down 3,648 from 39,562 in 2020.

Church school attendance stands at 16,895, down 2,896from 19,791 in 2020.

Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2021 was 854: up 190 from 664 in 2020.

Adults and young adults in small groups for 2021: 1,727, down 262 from 1,989 in 2020.

Worshippers engaged in mission for 2021: 15,231, down 809 from 15,943 in 2020.

Media

To read the Circuit Rider Souvenir Journal click here.

For videos of annual conference business sessions, worship services, reports and tributes to Bishop Swanson, click here.

Pictures from Wednesday, July 13, can be found here.

Pictures from Thursday, July 14, can be found here.

Pictures from Friday, July 15, can be found here.


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