Advocacy continues to be a work of grace in our Annual conference. With the restructuring of how we practice advocacy, various committees were moved under the Episcopal Office as extensions of that office.
Each of these committees, under the leadership of Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr., seeks to undergird justice, equity, and dignity by valuing God’s image in every person. We continue to work for new partnerships and the renewal of established ones as we work toward justice. Each of the varied areas of Advocacy reflects the desire of fulfilling God’s preferred future for our Annual Conference. Faith filled action in the Mississippi Annual Conference will present an opportunity for us to become a parish of peace and advocacy because we as United Methodists are a people of advocacy.
Advocacy committees include:
Christian Unity and Interreligious Relationships — Representatives are attending conferences during this year that will further empower the ongoing work of this commission. The United Methodist Ecumenical and Interreligious Training event in conjunction with the National Workshop on Christian Unity provides opportunities to network across the United Methodist Church and with our ecumenical partners. The Mississippi Conference CUIR has partnered with several churches to sponsor the Mississippi Legislative Prayer Breakfast. Rev. Warren Coile, chair
Church and Society – Church and Society through the Advocacy team continued to advocate for and join efforts aimed at establishing justice, wholeness, and peacemaking among the clergy and lay people of Mississippi. The Reverends Kevin Kosch and Domini Henry represented the annual conference at the Young Adult Clergy event held in January 2020 in Washington DC. We now have four persons who are equipped to lead local church seminars around justice issues. The Reverend Bruce Case continues to lead Church and Society’s efforts at Peace with Justice. Under discussion for the new conference year is an emphasis on environmental justice concerns. Advocacy team members participated in a discussion of the proposed revision of our Social Principles to be brought to the General Conference in 2021. Rev. Willis Britt, chair
Commission on Religion and Race – Commission on Religion and Race is continuing its work of building relationships and partnering across our state in an effort to promote unity. Representatives attended conferences with GCORR as this work moved forward. Under the direction of our Bishop we have been actively building a relationship with Mission Mississippi to host sacred conversations, create action plans and seek racial reconciliation. Rev. Kathy (Price) Vaughns, chair
Commission on the Status and Role of Women – Commission on Status and Role of Women continually seeks to help the church in the recognition of laity, clergy, adults and children as full and equal parts of God's human family, embracing the diversity each person brings to the vitality of the church. The Commission seeks to provide resources for districts and local churches, to cast a vision for our Conference around issues of justice and advocacy in a holistic manner, and to send a COSROW representative from our Conference to training events that relate to its mission. Over 25 clergywomen from our Conference attended the Uncharted 2019 SEJ clergywomen’s conference. We held a pop up clergywomen retreat at Seashore Assembly in December and will continue with regular Zoom gatherings until we can schedule additional retreats throughout the conference. Rev. Emily Sanford, chair
Disabilities—Disability Ministries Committee for the Mississippi Conference continues its work of advocacy, education, and empowerment for individuals and families with disabilities. Rev. Dr. Eric Pridmore, chair
Peace with Justice – This past year Peace with Justice has been active in shining the light on the plight of our children and teachers in our Mississippi public school system. We invited leaders from Pastors for Children nonprofit from Texas, as well as met with state senators from Tupelo and from the Delta to hear what our political leaders are doing on behalf of our children. About forty clergy gathered at Fondren Presbyterian to think through what we all can do to strengthen the education experience of all our children in our state. We focused on education because we believe everyone can get behind expanding the opportunities of our young people.
As Peace with Justice chair, I was able to represent our Annual Conference in the fall at Lake Junaluska at the last Interfaith Peace Conference. This was the tenth conference where leaders from the three Abrahamic faiths came together to pray and think through some of the greatest challenges in our world today. This year's theme was "Religion and the Arts." We witnessed the best from all three faiths in the area of music, tapestry, theatre, dance, and much more. This experience led us to offer an interfaith experience in Hattiesburg. In mid-February of this year, Rabbi Rami Shapiro joined our community for four talks and one meditation exercise at our local synagogue. The theme of his talks was based on his latest book: "Holy Rascals." Rabbi Rami's talks were moving and brought people from all churches and faiths in our community together. About 150 people participated in this experience. This is the second year Rabbi Rami has joined us for talks.
Peace with Justice will continue to pursue unity, justice and love that invites all people to come together for the good of all of God's creation. God is reconciling the world through Christ so that all of us can walk humbly with God as the Kingdom of Justice and Kindness is emerging on earth as it is in heaven. Rev. Bruce Case, chair
The Advocacy Committee along with Church and Society reiterated our churches stance on immigration during the country’s ongoing debate around immigration policy. From 2016 Book of Discipline, Social Principles ¶162 (H): Rights of Immigrants—We recognize, embrace, and affirm all persons, regardless of country of origin, as members of the family of God. We affirm the right of all persons to equal opportunities for employment, access to housing, health care, education, and freedom from social discrimination. We urge the Church and society to recognize the gifts, contributions, and struggles of those who are immigrants and to advocate for justice for all. We oppose immigration policies that separate family members from each other or that include detention of families with children, and we call on local churches to be in ministry with immigrant families.
Rev. Warren Coile
Rev. Kathy (Price) Vaughns