Delegates heavy on GC experience


By Woody Woodrick

Advocate Editor


Members of the Mississippi Annual Conference chose an experienced delegation to the 2008 General Conference.


Of the 16 clergy and lay delegates selected to attend the April 23-May 2 conference in Fort Worth, 11 have previously served. Among the laity, two delegates – David Stotts and Mary Ford – were elected for the first time, while a third – Jack Ramsey – served as an alternate in 2004. Among the clergy, Tim Thompson, Mike Childs and Bryan Collier are first timers. Ginger Jones Holland served as a delegate in 1988 for the old North Mississippi Conference.


“We elected a good delegation,” said Linda Leatherwood of Moses Chapel of Ripley as the Annual Conference concluded June 13. Several others who attended Annual Conference agreed.


Turner Arant, the leader of the delegation, said having experienced delegates helps. He said the 2008 gathering could be a landmark event for The United Methodist Church.

“This could be the most important General Conference because there will be a lot of decisions to make that will probably determine which way the church goes,” he said. “The church is growing outside the United States and losing people in the United States. We need to plan programs that bring in more members in the United States.”


The Book of Discipline, the denomination’s rule book, limits the number of General Conference delegates to 1,000. Approximately 30 percent of those delegates will come from outside the U.S.


The Mississippi delegation plans to meet again in August. By that time, they should have their legislative committee assignments. Each member of the delegation is assigned to a committee to examine resolutions and proposal presented to the General Conference, which meets every four years to make policy for the church. While each resolution presented to the conference is voted on by the body, committees make recommendations to the body. Committee meetings take up most of the first week of the conference, with the second devoted to plenary sessions.


In addition to those attending General Conference, an additional 16 were elected to attend the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference in July 2008 at Lake Junaluska, N.C. One of the primary purposes of that gathering is to elect bishops.


Five of the eight jurisdictional delegates are first-timers, while four clergy are rookies.

Here is information about the delegation:


General Conference delegates


Turner Arant

Hometown: Sunflower

Church: First UMC, Indianola.

Election ballot: 1

Experience: Delegate to General and Southeastern Jurisdictional conferences in 2000 and 2004. Has served on the general church and jurisdictional Episcopacy committees since 2000. Also serves on the General Board of Global Ministries, United Methodist Committee on Relief and the World Methodist Council.


David Beckley

Hometown: Holly Springs

Church: Asbury UMC

Election ballot: 3

Experience: Served as delegate to General and jurisdictional conferences in 1996, 2000 and 2004. Chaired the Committee on Higher Education at the 2004 General Conference. Chairs the Petitions and Resolutions Committee for the Mississippi Conference. President of the National Association of Schools and Colleges of the United Methodist Church.


David Stotts

Hometown: Madison

Church: Madison UMC

Election ballot: 3

Experience: First-time delegate. Serves on the board of directors of the United Methodist Property and Casualty Trust. Mississippi Conference director of finance and administration/treasurer and conference benefits officer.


Bill Smallwood

Hometown: New Albany

Church: First UMC, New Albany

Election ballot: 3

Experience: Reserve delegate to General Conference in 1988. Delegate to General Conference in 1992, 2000 and 2004. Reserve delegate to jurisdictional conference in 1996. Delegate to jurisdictional conference in 1988, 1992, 2000 and 2004. Director of the General Board of Global Ministries and UMCOR board, 1992-96; director of General Commission on Religion and Race since 2004.


Sara Hillman

Hometown: Kosciusko

Church: First UMC, Kosciusko

Election ballot: 6

Experience: Delegate to the 2004 General Conference and to the 2000 and 2004 Southeastern Jurisdictional conferences. Member of the Long-Range Study Committee for Lake Junaluska and the Study Committee for Agencies of the Southeastern  Jurisdiction; conference secretary for United Methodist Women, 1993-97; dean of School of Christian Mission, 1998-99.


Mary Ford

Hometown: Quitman

Church: First UMC, Quitman

Election ballot: 6

Experience: First-time delegate. Conference director of Lay Speaking Ministries. Serves on the SEJ Lay Speaking Association for District and Conference Directors and on the general church Conference Directors of Lay Speaking Ministries.


Jack Ramsey

Hometown: Hattiesburg

Church: Heritage UMC, Hattiesburg

Election ballot: 8

Experience: General Conference alternate delegate in 2000 and 2004. Delegate to jurisdictional conference 2000 and 2004. Past chair of Seashore Assembly board; Seashore District Board of Trustees.


Steve McAlilly

Hometown: Tupelo

Church: First UMC, Tupelo

Election ballot: 12

Experience: Delegate to General Conference in 1996, 2000 and 2004. Delegate to SEJ Conference in 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004. Board of Directors of Methodist Publishing House. Conference Personnel Committee, 1998-2004, chair 2002-04; chair of Commission on Equitable Compensation.



Steve McDonald

Hometown: Meridian

Appointment: Central UMC, Meridian

Election ballot: 2

Experience: Delegate to General and Jurisdictional conferences in 2004. Superintendent of the Greenwood District, 2004-07; served Buckatunna-State Line Charge, Wayne County Parish, Petal-Batson Charge, Columbia First UMC and Corinth First UMC.


Joe May

Hometown: Jackson

Appointment:  Anderson UMC

Election ballot: 4

Experience: Delegate to General Conference numerous times, including 1998, 2000 and 2004. Served appointments in Lexington, Kosciusko Wesley, conference Council on Ministries staff, superintendent of the Cleveland District of the former North Mississippi Conference, Meridian St. Paul-Haven Chapel, administrative assistant to the bishop and director of Ministerial Services.


Bill McAlilly

Hometown: Gulfport

Appointment: Seashore District superintendent

Election ballot: 4

Experience: Delegate to General Conference in 2004. Served appointments at New Albany First, Lambert, Getwell Road, Philadelphia First, Madison St. Matthew’s, Tupelo First.


Tim Thompson

Hometown: Meridian

Appointment: Meridian District superintendent

Election ballot: 6

Experience: First-time delegate. Served  New Fork and Hopewell in the North Georgia Conference and Itta Bena-Samuel Chapel/Wesley Foundation director at Mississippi Valley State University, Meridian Haven Chapel, Meridian St. Paul.


Sheila Cumbest

Hometown: Moss Point

Appointment: Ministerial Services director

Election ballot: 9

Experience: Delegate to General Conference in 2004. Served Jackson Galloway, Lucedale First, Jackson Alta Woods. Ordained Deacon.


Ginger Jones Holland

Hometown: Pontotoc

Appointment: Fairview-Robbs

Election ballot: 13

Experience: Served as delegate to General Conference in 1988 in the former North Mississippi Conference. Served appointments as staff on the North Mississippi Council on Ministries, Oxford-University, Cleveland St. Luke-Shipman, Wesley Foundation director at Delta State University, Olive Branch Maples Memorial and Wesley Foundation director at Itawamba Community College.


Mike Childs

Hometown: Louisville

First UMC, Louisville

Election ballot: 13

Experience: First-time delegate. Served appointments at Horn Lake, New Hope-Murrah’s Chapel, Goodman, Meadville, Houston First and Louisville First.


Bryan Collier

Hometown: Tupelo

The Orchard, Tupelo

Election ballot: 16

Experience: First-time delegate. Served appointments at Tupelo Wesley and as founding pastor of The Orchard since 1998.


Jurisdictional Conference delegates


Phoebe Hathorn

Hometown: Columbia

Church:  First UMC, Columbia

Experience: First-time delegate


Kiah Hitt

Hometown: Philadelphia

Church:  Sandtown UMC

Experience: First-time delegate


Anne Harrington

Hometown: Houston

Church:  McCondy UMC

Experience: Served as jurisdictional delegate in 2004


Dalton Garner

Hometown: Booneville

Church:  Christ UMC, Booneville

Experience: First-time delegate


Kay Barksdale

Hometown: Jackson

Church:  Galloway Memorial UMC

Experience: First-time delegate


Jack Walters

Hometown: Philadelphia

Church:  Sandtown UMC

Experience: Delegate to 2004 SEJ Conference


Bill Scott

Hometown: Holly Springs

Church:  Asbury UMC

Experience:  General Conference delegate in 1996, 2000 and 2004. Jurisdictional delegate in 1984, 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004. Numerous general church boards and agencies, including General Board of Church and Society.


Elizabeth Cumbest

Hometown: Moss Point

Church:  St. Paul UMC, Ocean Springs

Experience: First-time delegate



Mattie Gipson

Hometown: Hattiesburg

Appointment:  St. Paul

Experience: Served as jurisdictional delegate in 2004


Embra Jackson

Hometown: Jackson

Appointment:  Administrative assistant to the bishop

Experience: First-time delegate


Andy Ray

Hometown: Tupelo

Appointment:  First UMC, Tupelo

Experience: First-time delegate


Warren Black

Hometown: Oxford

Appointment:  Oxford-University UMC

Experience: General and jurisdictional delegate in 2004


Sam Morris

Hometown: Columbus

Appointment:  First UMC, Columbus

Experience: General and jurisdictional delegate in 2004


Phillip Heidelberg

Hometown: Brookhaven

Appointment:  Brookhaven District superintendent

Experience: Jurisdictional delegate in 2004


Karen Koons

Hometown: McComb

Appointment:  Centenary UMC

Experience: First-time delegate


Tommy Artmann

Hometown: Hattiesburg

Appointment: Heritage UMC

Experience: First-time delegate