The 2019 Mississippi Annual Conference Session Report


*This report and all things 2019 Session of the Mississippi Annual Conference can be found here.
The 2019 Session of the Mississippi Annual Conference convened at the Jackson Convention Complex, which is located at 105 E. Pascagoula St. Jackson, Mississippi from Wednesday, June 5 to Saturday, June 8. Bishop James E. Swanson Sr. officiated. This year’s theme, “The POWER that makes us One,” was centered on the Message Translation of John 17:20-23—which speaks to the unity of the body of Christ.

Opening worship officially kicked off the first day of annual conference with Rev. Dr. Cynthia Wilson, executive director of worship resources at Discipleship Ministries, who was accompanied by Monya Logan, minster of worship and the arts at St. Luke United Methodist Church in Dallas. They began worship with Walt Whitman’s arrangement of “We Are One.” While singing, attendees were invited to cross isles and hold hands as a symbol of our oneness in the Spirit. Rev. Jessica Moffatt, lead pastor of First United Methodist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma preached the opening worship message entitled, “Hearing God’s Word.” Moffatt focused on four words—repent, relinquish, receive and rejoice. In between the focus on each word she paused for a time of reflection, “so if God wanted to whisper something in your heart today, you might be able to hear it.”
The service was followed by the laity and clergy executive sessions and later in the evening there was a glory sightings banquet featuring awards for church of the year, vital congregations, evangelism and racial reconciliation.
Rev. Dr. Herbert Marbury, associate professor of Hebrew Bible at Vanderbilt University led the conference in Bible study with a message titled, “The POWER that makes us One—In our Love.” He came from Matthew 18:1-6, and 19:14-15.
Opening plenary began and clergy and lay members voted on delegates for 2020 General and Jurisdictional Conferences. Below is the list of delegates:

Names of delegates for 2020 General Conference
Fred Britton clergy
Mattie Gipson Clergy – retired
Stephen Sparks clergy
Zach Beasley clergy
Mitchell Hedgepeth clergy
David Stotts lay
David Beckley lay
Latoya Redd-Thompson lay
Turner Arrant lay
Anne Harrington lay
Connie Shelton clergy
Leanne Burris clergy
John Branning clergy
Amy Daniels clergy
Embra Jackson clergy
Jim Ainsworth lay
Connie Walters lay
Jaci Murden lay
Jan Hitt lay
Steve McAlilly lay
Karie Sue McCaleb clergy - reserve
Fitzgerald Lovett clergy - reserve
Stephen Cook clergy - reserve
Ann LaSalle lay - reserve
Kathleen Smith lay - reserve
Tywanda Johnson lay - reserve
Disaffiliation Ratification by Annual Conference in Compliance with the new 2016 Book of Discipline Paragraph 2553
Conference treasurer, director of finance and administration and benefits officer, David Stotts and conference trustee chair, Rev. Tim Prather shared a video with the conference to help everyone deepen their understanding of the disaffiliation process as it pertains to paragraph 2553 in The Book of Discipline. Those attending also had access via the conference app and website to review Judicial Council Decision No. 1379 and the Judicial Council Ruling on Paragraph 2533. For more details on disaffiliation, refer to page 20 and 21 in The Circuit Rider Souvenir Journal.
The Disaffiliation Agreement must now be “ratified by a simple majority of the members present and voting” at a duly-called session of annual conference, as required by Judicial Council Decision 1379 and paragraph 2529.1b(3). The following local churches have held a church conference, in compliance with paragraph 246.8, 248 and 2553.2-.3 of the professing members present at the church conference local church voted to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church:
Coy UMC #5090 Meridian 790 84
Dennis UMC #6051 New Albany 796 77
Mt. Evergreen UMC #6241 New Albany 800 73
Tabernacle UMC #9173 Starkville 805 68
Whitehall UMC #9570 Starkville 796 75
Pleasant Grove UMC #10214 Tupelo 802 70
Oak Hill UMC #10451 Tupelo 801 71
Glory sightings abounded throughout the day as we celebrated our conference generosity in raising $600,000 for Imagine No Malaria, The United Methodist Church-wide effort to overcome malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa and eliminate deaths caused by this preventable disease. The details of this conference mission focus begin on page 17 of The Circuit Rider Souvenir Journal. Additionally, the Mississippi Conference contributed $1 Million towards an endowment fund for the future of students and rising leaders at Africa University, a United Methodist-related institution located in Mutare, Zimbabwe. The journey of the Mississippi-Africa University Partnership can be found on pages 14 and 15 of The Circuit Rider Souvenir Journal. The conference also commemorated the 150th anniversary of United Methodist Women and 200th anniversary of the General Board of Global Ministries.
Mission service was a time for word and worship and a continuation of a day of mission project that took place throughout the conference May 4, themed, “Moved to Serve.” Those attending celebrated and prayed over Kathryn Sappington, a global ministries mission fellow who will be a justice and outreach advocate at First United Methodist Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Her ministry there will center on communities and people at the margins. This year’s mission service was unique in that in addition to having Bishop Swanson deliver the message from John 17:20-23, he also gave a call to action for everyone to help grab the materials they dropped off at conference earlier in the week to assemble health kits for disaster response ministries. The goal was to complete 10,000 kits and packers exceeded that number so much so that kits will also be dispersed at United Methodist community centers throughout the state. The final count of health kits reached approximately 15,000. The total amount collected for the mission service offering--including donations from David Stotts' Christmas in June Fund that took place Saturday morning—came to $112,546.95. Donations from the mission offering will benefit Mississippi disaster recovery.  This service also caught the attention of WAPT, a local news station in Jackson that featured a story on the event.
Rev. Dr. Herbert Marbury, associate professor of Hebrew Bible at Vanderbilt University led the conference in Bible study with a message titled, “The POWER that makes us One—In our Ministry.” He came from 1 King 17.
Friday consisted of directors from Wesley Foundations sharing their ministry and the laity address by conference lay leader, LaToya Redd Thompson. Several lay-led committees reported on their work.
Memorial service was a time for remembering those who served well before joining the Church Triumphant. Rev. Dr. Embra Jackson, Starkville District Superintendent, preached during the memorial service.
Bishop Swanson presented his Episcopal Address where he discussed “The Environment Effecting the Church Today,” and “Seven Things Millennials are Seeking in the Communities they are Involved in Already.”
Friday concluded with ordination where eight elders were ordained, 13 persons were commissioned, one person was recognized with orders from another denomination and three persons were received into associate membership. There were four ordained deacons (see full list of those in the service for the Ordering of Ministry and the complete list of retirees on page 29 in The Circuit Rider Souvenir Journal).


Rev. Dr. Herbert Marbury, associate professor of Hebrew Bible at Vanderbilt University led the conference in Bible study with a message titled, “The POWER that makes us One—In our Vision.” He came from Genesis 1.
The second class of certified lay ministers were celebrated on stage.
As conference treasurer, David Stotts wrapped up his administry report, he offered one last opportunity for lay and clergy delegates to participate in generosity towards the conference mission offering for Mississippi Disaster Recovery and rewarded their generosity by changing into a light-up Christmas onesie. Needless to say, it raked in an additional $3,695.50 for the cause and fun was had by all.
Closing worship was full of lively singing by the choir under the direction of Rev. Dr. Cynthia Wilson. Bishop Swanson delivered the message for closing worship and left the audience with this message based on a scene from the movie, “Shawshank Redemption”—‘get busy living or get busy dying.”
Main Actions Enacted by the Conference
In addition to the regular business and reporting of the Mississippi Annual Conference, the 2019 Session adopted the budget for 2020 and voted on the following resolutions:
Resolution #1 Prayer:  ADOPTED
Encourages all Mississippi United Methodists to participate in regular, dedicated prayer for the Mississippi Annual Conference, the Global Church and our bishop.
Resolution #2 Housing/Rental Allowance for Retired and Disabled Ministers:  ADOPTED
Required by the IRS to allow those ministers to set aside a portion of their compensation for Housing Allowance.
Resolution #3 Petition on Human Sexuality:  TABLED INDEFINITELY
Declares the Bible is the final authority on what is holy and unholy and establishes the conditions in which all men and women can have harmonious relationship with God.
Aims to remove all age limits imposed on licensing school be removed for full-time and part -time local pastors.  
Resolution #5 Do No Harm: ADOPTED
Seeks to be in holy conversation with all persons as beloved children of God with sacred worth and equal value.
Resolution #6 Discontinue Karen Oliveto as a Bishop of the UMC: REFERRED TO DELEGATION
Asking General Conference to “provide for the discontinuance” of Karen Oliveto as a bishop of The United Methodist Church for unacceptability, by removing such person from such position and declaring such position vacant.
Resolution #7 Require General Conference Ratification of Bishops: REFERRED TO DELEGATION
Resolution #8 Merge Western Jurisdiction into South Central Jurisdiction: REFERRED TO DELEGATION
Request a merging of the two jurisdictional conferences.
Resolution #9 A Conscientious Dissent from the Traditional Plan: NOT ADOPTED
Condemns the decision of the 2019 General Conference to pass the Traditional Plan and apologizes for the harm that it has caused LGBTQ+ persons, their families, their friends and the body of Christ.
Ordinands and Retirees
The call to ministry is between the individual and God. Friday, June 7, 2019, there was singing, praying and celebrating for the men and women commissioned and ordained for the work of ministry. Called to be servants, these individuals will now go out to proclaim and live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
There were eight elders ordained (average age 46), 13 persons commissioned (average age 38), one person with recognized order from another denomination and three persons received into associate membership (average age 57). There were four ordained deacons (average age 38).
There was a total of 29 retirees at the 2019 Session of the Mississippi Annual Conference.
Did your clergy session approve any openly gay candidates for ministry? No. If so, how many? There were none.
Was there a push at your conference to elect younger delegates? There were both clergy and lay who made reminders to the body from the floor to include younger representatives in the delegation. However, only one delegate was elected—Jaci Murden, who is 20 years old. Another one came extremely close—Karie Sue McCaleb, was elected a jurisdictional reserve delegate and she is 36.
Membership and Worship
Membership stands at 161,121, down 3,403 (2.07 percent) from the previous year.
Worship attendance stands at 56,213, down 4,942 (8.08 percent) from the previous year.
Church school attendance stands at 66,913 down 1,492 (2.18 percent) from the previous year.
Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2018 were 1,662 down from 2017 by 252 (15.54 percent).
Worshippers engaged in mission for 2018 21,198, up from 2017 by 245 (1.16 percent).
There was a 14 percent increase in the total funds collected for annual conference Special Sunday Offerings (from 26,330 in 2017 to 30, 104 in 2018). There was also an increase in the following General Church Special Sunday Offerings:
  • 59 percent increase - UMCOR Sunday (formerly One Great Hour of Sharing) - from $28,773 in 2017, to $45,909 in 2018
  • 18 percent increase – Peace with Justice Sunday – from $1,381 in 2017, to $1,632 in 2018
  • 11 percent increase – Native American Ministries Sunday – from $2,311 in 2017, to $2,575 in 2018
  • 10 percent increase – United Methodist Student Day – from 4,212 in 2017, to 4,656 in 2018

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