By David Hampton
The Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church headquarters will soon have a new home.
Delegates to the 2012 annual conference voted to move the conference administrative offices from the current location at 321 Mississippi St., across from the state Capitol and next to Galloway United Methodist Church, to a new home in renovated space at Briarwood United Methodist Church on Briarwood Drive just off of I-55 in north Jackson. The headquarters will be purchased by Galloway to be used to expand the church’s urban ministries.
The decision to move the administrative offices was among the handful of action items approved overwhelmingly by lay and clergy delegates attending the annual conference in Jackson. Delegates also approved plans designed to improve the conference health care program and to shore up the pension plan for retired clergy.
Bishop Hope Morgan Ward introduced the building move proposal to delegates, saying it represented a “missional opportunity” while solving facility needs for the conference administration at no additional cost.
“We will be preserving our historical presence in downtown Jackson with a missional sign so that everyone who sees our presence will know who we are at our best, what the heartbeat of our life is, the way that we are in ministry to all of God’s people,” Bishop Ward said.
The Rev. Henderson Raspberry, chair of the trustees, said they had considered several options to deal with the ongoing needs for space, parking and impending maintenance issues at the current Methodist Building. The trustees determined that building a new facility would be “very, very expensive.”
The cost of renovation for Briarwood would be about $602,000. The highest appraisal of the Methodist Building put the value at $535,000, but Galloway offered to match the cost of renovation. Briarwood will retain use of part of the building for worship.
“I think we’ve got a wonderful opportunity, a unique opportunity,” Raspberry said.
Some delegates raised questions about the wisdom of renovating an old building in the north Jackson area. A motion to defer action and to build a new building at a site to be determined was defeated, however.
Delegate members of the affected churches were pleased with the move. Red Moffat, a Galloway member, said Galloway now would have more space to serve the homeless, while Yvonne Dyson of Briarwood called it a “Godsend.”
“For Briarwood it means that we are going to continue to operate as a church. And the move out there is going to revitalize that area, I think,” Dyson said. “We are looking forward to it.”
In other action, delegates approved recommendations from the Board of Medical Benefits to make minor changes in the conference medical plan, including improvements to the Medicare supplement plan to help with drug costs.
Delegates also approved recommendations by the Board of Pensions designed to shore up the program for the long-term.
“We made promises. We now have to stand up and accommodate those promises,” said Dr. Ed Jones, chair of the Board of Pensions.
Clergy Pension Benefit Billing was extended to include retired and supply clergy. The rates will be 14.5 percent for part-time clergy and 17.5 percent for full-time clergy, the same rates as paid by churches with non-retired clergy under the Clergy Retirement Security Program. This will mean 220 churches with retired and supply clergy not currently paying for pension costs will now be billed.