By the Advocate
With a theme geared toward celebrating ministry, the 19th session of the Mississippi Annual Conference will open and close with services focused on pastors.
That is just one of the changes to the schedule for this year’s gathering in June. However, the difference that’s likely to get the most attention is elections. Members will choose delegates to attend General and Southeastern Jurisdictional conferences in 2008.
Another key change is the dates: June 10-13, a reduction by one day from the dates originally announced. Meanwhile, the Service of Ordination has been moved from its traditional spot on the Tuesday night schedule to the opening night of the conference. In addition, the Service of Consecration has been moved to the closing service.
“We felt like what better way to open and close the conference since we’re celebrating ministry,” said the Rev. Steve Casteel, director of Connectional Ministries. “What better way is there than to bookend it?”
The conference is scheduled to be held at Jackson’s Christ United Methodist Church for the third consecutive year.
The theme of the conference will be “Arise! Shine! Rejoice!” with the emphasis placed on rejoicing in the ministries of the conference, both clergy and lay. Another special part of the conference will be the celebration of Holy Communion with representatives of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi, including Bishop Duncan Gray III. Also, a songfest will celebrate the 300th anniversary of Charles Wesley’s birth. Charles Wesley was the brother of John Wesley, who is considered the founder of Methodism. Charles Wesley wrote numerous hymns that are still sung in the denomination.
Guest speakers for the conference will be Bishop Ivan Abrahams from The Methodist Church of South Africa and Dr. F. Belton Joyner Jr., author of Being Methodist in the Bible Belt and Life in the Fish Bowl: Everyday Challenges of Pastors And Their Families.
The Mississippi Conference will send nine clergy and nine lay delegates to the 2008 General Conference in Fort Worth. Those delegates, along with another nine of each, will represent the conference at the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference at Lake Junaluska, N.C., next summer.
The conference Board of Laity met Jan. 20, said conference Lay Leader Dr. Aubrey Lucas of Hattiesburg, and reaffirmed the following policies to govern the election of lay delegates:
While encouraging all lay candidates to follow the policies, Lucas emphasized that “nothing in the policies is meant to prevent a person from discussing his or her candidacy with friends and acquaintances.”
Laity who wish to be considered for election as delegates to General or Jurisdictional conferences must complete a two-page nomination form, obtain endorsements and mail the form to the office of Connectional Ministries by Feb. 28.
The forms will be mailed to all lay members of the Annual Conference and are available from Connectional Ministries.