Baptist Minister with Methodist Roots Meets Bishop Swanson


By Jasmine Haynes

Bishop Swanson and Rev. Toney Crisler
Bishop Swanson (Left) and 
Rev. Toney L. Crisler, pastor of Belmont Missionary Baptist Church in Raymond (right).
Along a lengthy and winding road in Crystal Springs, Mississippi stands a sign barring the cross and the flame pointing travelers in the direction of White Oak United Methodist Church. People ventured from other counties and endured hail and thunder storms to worship at White Oak's annual spring revival. Methodist-raised, Presbyterian seminary graduate and pastor of Belmont Missionary Baptist Church in Raymond, Rev. Toney Crisler, eagerly anticipated hearing from guest preacher, Mississippi Area Resident Bishop, James E. Swanson, Sr.


Crisler said he returned to his native church's revival--fittingly titled, "Finding Our Way Home"--because of Swanson's many accomplishments, which includes being Mississippi's first African-American United Methodist bishop, and Swanson's rapport within the communities he has visited.


"He's the first bishop I have ever met and I really wanted to fellowship with him and let him know how proud I was to be able to see this day," said Crisler.


According to Crisler, Swanson's dynamic and vibrant preaching style would intrigue anyone to stay focused on the message and not denomination differences. "I hope that Bishop Swanson can continue to bridge the gap between the different denominations and races because we all worship one God," stated Crisler.


Rev. Crisler shared younger brother, Tim Crisler is the Conference Lay Leader for the Mississippi United Methodist Church and connectionalism is a family matter. When asked about him and his brother's theological perspectives, Rev. Crisler responded, "We argue and laugh sometimes about the differences between the Baptist and Methodist denominations but I am so proud of Tim and it brings joy to my heart to know that he's doing such a great work for the Lord."


Rev. Crisler said that hearing and meeting Bishop Swanson was worth the trip and he hopes that Bishop Swanson will journey to Belmont M.B. Church in the future.


In all, White Oak UMC will host four bishops during revival. Bishop Thomas Louis Brown, Sr. of the Fourth Episcopal District will preach Wednesday night; Bishop Duncan M. Gray, III of the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi will preach Thursday night; and Retired Holston Conference Resident Bishop of The United Methodist Church, Clay Lee will close out revival on Friday night.


All evening revival services begin at 7:30 p.m. White Oak United Methodist Church is located at 10053 New Zion Road, Crystal Springs, MS 39059.