Dear Mississippi Conference,
I send you holy greetings during this season of Epiphany. It is with a heavy heart I announce to you that it has come to my attention that two of our congregations are seeking to discern whether to continue their historic relationships and connections with The United Methodist Church. These two congregations are Getwell Road UMC of the Senatobia District and The Orchard UMC of the Tupelo District.
Jim Genesse, Senatobia District Superintendent; Jimmy Barnes, Tupelo District Superintendent and I met last evening with the two senior pastors of the churches. Bill Beavers of Getwell Road and Bryan Collier of The Orchard, explained to us that they and their congregations have separately been in a "period of discernment" since about October 2016.
The rationale given for this discernment is that within both congregations, there is a deep concern that any legislative or judicial solution to the denomination's current impasse on human sexuality will sow seeds of deeper division within our Church. They see this division as something that continues and will continue to damage the witness of The United Methodist Church of which they are currently connected. This "period of discernment" will help them discover if they are to remain connected to The United Methodist Church or seek to depart.
Last night marked the beginning of an additional round of discernment between me, the district superintendents and the conference treasurer/administrator officially being a part of their discernment process.
I covet your prayers for Getwell Road, The Orchard, Bill Beavers, Bryan Collier, Jim Genesse, Jimmy Barnes, David Stotts and myself as we seek to hear God's voice and follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
Living Out The POWER of We,
Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr.