Appointment News

Bishop Swanson Appoints New Cabinet and Staff Posts for the Mississippi Annual Conference  

Rev. Heather Hensarling

Bishop James E. Swanson Sr. of the Mississippi Area has announced that the Rev. Heather Hensarling, begins immediately serving as interim district superintendent for the Brookhaven District while also serving as district superintendent for the Seashore District.
Effective July 1, 2015, Hensarling will transition from the Seashore District to the Brookhaven District.  She replaces the Rev. Dr. Wayne Webster who passed away on Feb. 19, 2015. 
“It is a humbling thing to know that I follow my friend and colleague Wayne Webster. It is bittersweet. I can never fill his shoes, but I pray I can follow in his footsteps. Brookhaven is like going home for me. I practically grew up on my grandparents' farm there and look forward to traveling the roads of the Brookhaven District again. I feel blessed to have served one fantastic district in Seashore and now I have an opportunity to serve a second fantastic district in Brookhaven,” said Hensarling.
She has a Bachelor of Arts from Millsaps College, Master of Divinity from St. Paul School of Theology and is a trained transitional intentional interim minister.
Hensarling has served as the chair of the district committee on ordained ministry, Gulfside Assembly board member, Millsaps board of trustees, Church and Society and the Mississippi Conference Commission on Religion and Race.  
She has three pets, Trigger (Weimeraner), Sugar (beagle) and Lexie (cat).


Rev. Jim Fisher

Also on July 1, 2015, the Rev. Jim Fisher will move from pastor of First UMC in Pascagoula, Mississippi to replace Hensarling as district superintendent of the Seashore District.
Fisher has served on the board of ordained ministry, chair of Seashore District board of ministry and chair of equitable compensation.  He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Tennessee where he earned his Bachelor of Science in secondary education.  He is a graduate of Duke Divinity School.
“I am honored and humbled that Bishop Swanson would extend an invitation to serve on the cabinet and as district superintendent of the Seashore District. I look forward to working with the clergy and the laity within the district. I covet their prayers and I really look forward to the work that is in front of us,” said Fisher.
Fisher has been married to his wife, Madge, for 37 years. They have two adult children, Will Fisher and Lindy Jones.

Bishop James E. Swanson Sr. of the Mississippi Area is pleased to announce new Cabinet and staff posts effective July 1, 2015.    In addition to the new appointments, Rev. Timothy "Tim" Thompson, serving as assistant to the bishop, will be expanding his role immediately to administrative assistant to the bishop for Faith Community Formation.  Thompson will work with staff, district superintendents and committees to lead and assist in the development of vital communities of faith by creating new faith communi­ties and encouraging vitality in existing communities of faith.

Rev. Timothy "Tim"

Thompson became a deacon in 1992 and an elder in 1995.   He has served at New Fork UMC in Meadville, Hopewell UMC (North Georgia Conference), Itta Bena-Samuel Wesley Foundation at Mississippi Valley State University in Itta Bena, St. Paul and Haven Chapel UMCs in Meridian and district superintendent of the Meridian District. 

Thompson graduated from Jackson State University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in history and a minor in finance. In 1993, Thompson received a Master of Divinity from Candler School of Theology, Emory University, graduating a Jean Ray and Sherman Scholar. He majored in preaching, teaching and pastoral care.

Thompson said "I am so excited to serve in this new position of director of Faith Community Formation. It will give me the opportunity to build the Kingdom of God by getting people into vital relationships with Jesus Christ, by starting new places for new people and strengthening the body of Christ by maturing the saints through vital congregations.”


The new appointment changes are as follows: 

Rev. Stephen Cook 

 The Rev. Stephen Cook who serves currently at Central UMC in Jackson will become district superintendent of the West Jackson District.   Cook’s previous positions in the church include pastor at Revels Memorial UMC in Greenville, president of Bethlehem Center board of directors, president of the Jackson State University Wesley Foundation board of directors, president of the Mississippi Valley State University Wesley Foundation board of directors, vice-president of the Center for Ministry board of directors, member of the Mississippi Annual Conference Board of Ordained Ministry, the Mississippi Annual Conference Board of Medical Benefits, The United Methodist Hour board of directors and the Mississippi Annual Conference Commission on Religion and Race.

Cook has a Bachelor of Arts from Mississippi State University, a Master of Divinity from Memphis Theological Seminary and a current Doctor of Ministry student at Memphis Theological Seminary.

He and his wife Erma have two children, Sylvia and Endia. 

Regarding his new appointment, Cook expressed “I am sincerely humbled that Bishop Swanson would ask me to serve on the cabinet. I pray for God’s gracious hand to be upon the West Jackson District, as together, we make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. I look forward to focusing on building relationships with clergy and laity and cultivating existing ones.”  

Rev. Billy N. Owen

 The Rev. Billy N. Owen will move from district superintendent of the Meridian District to district superintendent for the New Albany District.  Owen, a native of Ripley has been in the pastoral ministry serving in the Mississippi Conference since 1988.  His first appointment was to the Carolina-Pisgah Charge in Booneville, followed by Bethlehem in New Albany, New Covenant in Meridian, Decatur UMC and Cleveland First and Merigold UMCs.  He has served as Meridian District superintendent since 2011.

Prior to entering the pastoral ministry, Owen practiced law.  He is a graduate of the University of Mississippi, the University of Mississippi School of Law and Memphis Theological Seminary.

Owen is married to the former Renelda Pharr.   They have two adult sons, Andrew and Whitney (Jenni) and granddaughter Emily.

“I am excited to be appointed to the New Albany District. I have enjoyed my four years in the Meridian District and look forward to the new opportunities which lie ahead. We live and serve in a great state and I am continually humbled by being able to serve the Lord and The United Methodist Church as a district superintendent.” 

Rev. Steven P. 
"Rusty" Keen

 The Rev. Steven P. “Rusty” Keen will move from pastor of Winona Moore Memorial UMC to district superintendent of the Meridian District.  Keen is a native of Vicksburg.  After entering candidacy from Crawford Street UMC, he served the Eden-Thornton-Pleasant Hill Charge, Yazoo City First UMC, the Houston North Charge, Amory First UMC, Gilmore Foundation  (deacon appointment) and Winona: Moore Memorial-New Hope.  In addition, he also served as district program staff in the Tupelo District and presently the Greenwood District since 2005.  Currently, Keen serves as co-chair of the Mississippi Annual Conference Session Planning Committee and as a member of the conference Council on Finance and Administration (CFA).  Prior to serving on CFA, Keen served as a member of the Board of Ordained Ministry.
Keen is a graduate of Millsaps College and Memphis Theological Seminary.  He and his wife Fawn Hyland Keen have three adult children, Hyland, Suzanna and Wilson.
Regarding his appointment, Keen said, “With great humility I give thanks to God for this opportunity to use my gifts and graces as a district superintendent in the Mississippi Conference of The United Methodist Church. Bishop Swanson is a tremendous spiritual leader for United Methodists in the state of Mississippi and I am honored to work more closely with him and my sisters and brothers on the cabinet.”

Rev. Dr. Connie


 The Rev. Dr. Connie Shelton will move from director of connectional ministries and communications to superintendent of the East Jackson District.    Shelton is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a Bachelor of Science in Radio, Television and Film and a Master of Arts in Public Relations. She also holds a Master of Divinity from Duke Divinity School at Duke University and her Doctorate of Ministry from Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, Georgia.  Shelton has served Galloway Memorial UMC in Jackson.  She was co-director of field education at Duke Divinity School. She has also served as the executive director of The United Methodist Hour and served as pastor of Court Street UMC, Hattiesburg, Batson UMC, Petal and Crossroads, Moselle.
Shelton is married to Rev. Dr. Joey Shelton.  They have two daughters, Bailey and Jessica. 


Rev. Victoria "Vickie"

 The Rev. Victoria “Vickie” White will transition from East Jackson District superintendent after four years of service, to director of connectional ministries and communications for the Mississippi Conference.   For the past two years she has served as dean of the Cabinet.   Prior to moving to the East Jackson District, White served as the district superintendent of the Greenwood District for four years.  Included in that time was a year in which she also served (along with Rev. Jerry Beam) as the Senatobia District superintendent.  She has served as a pastor of congregations (small and large, suburban and rural) in north and south Mississippi as well as a campus minister and for two years in a clinical pastoral education program at Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare in Memphis.
White is a graduate of Millsaps College and Mississippi State University where she received her Bachelor of Science in Special Education and Vanderbilt Divinity School where she received her Master of Divinity. 
“I am very grateful and humbled by the opportunity to serve as the new director of connectional ministries and communications.  In the midst of this exciting time for ministry in the Mississippi Annual Conference, I am looking forward to building on the foundation that Rev. Dr. Connie Shelton and the staff have set in place, utilizing the learnings from the laity and clergy with whom I have been privileged to work with over the last 29 years in ministry.”