Spirit delivers inspiration for AC


By Woody Woodrick
Advocate Editor 

God speaks to the faithful in a variety of ways based on comments of those who attended the 19th session of the Mississippi Annual Conference. 

Members of the conference said they were inspired by the Service of Ordination, the worship service led largely by youth, the music and the spirit of the gathering held June 10-13 at Christ United Methodist Church in Jackson. 

“I liked the motivation and spirit of the kids,” said Roy Keeton of Zion Chapel UMC in the Meridian District. “This group of kids pulled together with a group of complete strangers and showed a lot of love and compassion.” 

David Pierce of Cockrum-Lewisburg Charge in the Senatobia District also liked the youth component of the Mission Service. “My favorite part was the kids,” he said. “The one thing our church must improve on is children. That meant a lot to me.”

The Rev. George Pulliam of Tupelo St. Paul UMC cited the Service of Ordination and the Commissioning Service. “It’s a time as an elder to remember and reflect,” he said. “It’s sort of like being ordained again.” 

Musical offerings ranged from hip-hop to traditional choral presentations that usually resulted in standing ovations from the congregation. 

Amid the inspiring services, the conference completed its business. It approved a $20 million budget, made plans for ministry and elected a delegation to the 2008 General Conference. 

“Annual Conference is a journey that we go on together,” said Bishop Hope Morgan Ward. “It’s always instructive to me. Annual Conference always helps me remember that we are a family together. We may not always think alike, but we can love alike.” 


While ministry might be the primary focus of most annual conferences, voting grabs most of the attention during election years. The General Conference, which sets policy and ministry for the entire denomination, meets every four years. The 2008 gathering will be in April and May in Fort Worth, so representatives are chosen the preceding year. 

Thirty-seven laity announced their desire to serve prior to Annual Conference, and several more were nominated from the floor. All clergy in full connection in good standing were eligible for election. 

The Mississippi Conference is allotted eight lay and eight clergy delegates to the General Conference, plus an additional eight each for the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference set for July 2008. 

Six of the clergy elected have General Conference experience, while five laity have served previously. The SEJ delegation includes a few more first-timers, including two youth. 

Clergy members of the General Conference delegation (in order of election) include: Steve McDonald, Joe May, Bill McAlilly, Tim Thompson, Sheila Cumbest, Ginger Holland, Mike Childs and Bryan Collier. Childs and Collier are first-time delegates. Holland first served as a youth from the old North Mississippi Conference.

SEJ clergy delegates include Mattie Gipson, Embra Jackson, Andy Ray, Warren Black, Sam Morris, Phillip Heidelberg, Karen Koons and Tommy Artmann. Alternates are Vicki Sizemore-Tandy, Fred Britton, Giles Lindley, Jim Genesse and Lisa Garvin. 

Laity elected to General Conference include Turner Arant, David Beckley, David Stotts, Bill Smallwood, Sara Hillman, Mary Ford, Jack Ramsey and Steve McAlilly. Elected to the SEJ Conference were Phoebe Hathorn, Kiah Hitt, Anne Harrington, Dalton Garner, Kay Barksdale, Jack Walters, Bill Scott and Elizabeth Cumbest, with Patricia Battle, Dewey Lane, Sara Sanders, Billy Keyes and Gay Huff as alternates. 


The Mississippi Conference took a step on June 11 that many hope will add to an already strong bond with the Episcopal Church. With Bishop Duncan M. Gray III preaching, United Methodists and Episcopalians shared communion. 

Gray called the effort to build stronger ties between the Episcopal and United Methodist churches a “radical, counter-cultural act.” 

“It is a foolish and risky thing we do today, but it is a God-commanded thing we do as well. May God’s peace, God’s spirit upon us, guide us through our common walk in the fellowship of God’s holy spirit. May God not merely warm, but inflame, our hearts with the power and courage and vision to be God’s instruments of grace, healing and hope in a world that probably will never understand what we do,” he said. 

In a change from tradition, the Service of Ordination was held opening night, June 10. Calling on them to recognize both the power and humility of their calling, Ward ordained 17 new deacons and elders. 

Preaching from the text of Isaiah 61:1-6, Ward said the song challenges those whom God has called to provide “the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.” 

“It’s a good thing to know God’s call upon our lives,” Ward said before an overflow crowd. “It’s good to be overwhelmed by the goodness, praise and grace of God on our lives.” 

Maxine Bolden, who was ordained an elder in full connection, said the scripture resonated with her. “It reminded me very much of the people who have affirmed me through candidacy, through the seminary experience and the different congregations that have allowed me to learn through them,” she said. 

“What a memory,” Bryan Carrubba said of the service where he was ordained an elder. “I didn’t think it would affect me like that.” 

The Mission Service was held the evening of June 11. Bishop Ivan Abrahams of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa preached. He challenged those attending to put their love for God into action. “At this Annual Conference, we need to move beyond words into action as we respond to God’s call to arise, shine, rejoice,” he said, invoking the conference theme. “Our hearts have not been warmed if it doesn’t lead to an extended hand of welcome.” 

Abrahams challenged the Mississippi Conference to always be in service to the poor and weak. “We may not be a poor church, but we must be a church of, with and for the poor,” he said. “We can be the hope for the world by going where Jesus would go and doing what Jesus would do.” 

Three youth – Amber Burke, Callie Stewart and LaKeadra Coffey – shared some of their experiences from the recent youth trip to Zimbabwe, part of the Chabadza Covenant between United Methodists in Mississippi and Zimbabwe signed at the 2006 Annual Conference. “Chabadza” is a Shona word meaning to join someone already at work. 

The June 12 service served as a celebration of Charles Wesley’s life and work. Wesley was the brother of John Wesley, considered the founder of Methodism. Charles Wesley wrote hundreds of hymns, many still in use today. The service featured styles that ranged from choral grandeur to rockin’ contemporary.

The service, led by the Rev. Jim Matheny, featured the Christ UMC Sanctuary Choir and Worship Orchestra, a short account of Wesley’s life and performances by Jonathan Moore of Grenada, the Delta State University Wesley Foundation praise band and the Trinity Mission Marimba Band from Forest. 


The conference approved a budget of $20,664,572 for 2008. It was the first budget increase since Hurricane Katrina hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast in August 2005. The 2006 Annual Conference voted not to increase the budget from $18,605,585 as churches struggled to recover from the storm or provide financial assistance. The biggest increase in the 2008 budget came in the area of clergy support — which includes pensions and insurance — where there was an increase of $1.5 million. 

Meanwhile, nearly $125,000 was collected in offerings at Annual Conference. $110,222 was given to the mission offering, which will be divided between youth and children’s ministries in Mississippi and Zimbabwe. Some $6,274 was given at the Service of Ordination to aid the Ministerial Education Fund, and an impromptu offering to assist Millsaps College, Rust College and Wood Institute raised $7,462. 


Several resolutions received action. A resolution on prayer was approved, as was a measure allowing Camp Lake Stephens to sell or swap property to create a buffer around the camp as the Oxford community grows.

A resolution calling for bishops to face re-election after eight years passed with some wording removed. The measure calls for a petition to General Conference on the matter. 

A resolution on continuing to examine legalized gambling in Mississippi was approved, as was a resolution calling for churches to work toward eliminating the use of plastics and Styrofoam. 

A resolution asking that the Delta Mission Foundation, Inc., be designated an Advance Special was referred to the Committee on Missions. A measure seeking to empower ordained deacons the right to administer communion was referred to the Board of Ordained Ministry. 

Members approved petitioning General Conference to allow local pastors the right to vote. 

Also approved was a resolution to join in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the bombing of Temple Beth Israel in Jackson and other acts of violence against churches in the civil rights era. 

Members also approved a petition to the General Conference seeking changing in the wording in the Book of Discipline on the church’s stance on abortion to include late-term abortions and another to delete support of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice from the Book of Resolutions. 

The conference also approved a resolution to provide food ministries grants to local churches. 

Other Business

Members also:

  • Adopted a Safe Sanctuaries policy for conference events and recommended guidelines for local churches.
  • Approved four measures related to medical benefits, including adding an open enrollment period.
  • Revised portions of the Equitable Compensation policy.