By Riley Manning/NEMS Daily Journal
Mississippi’s United Methodists will have a new bishop in September, and he’ll make history.
The appointment of Bishop James Swanson to Mississippi was announced Friday at the denomination’s Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference in Lake Junaluska, N.C. Swanson will become the Mississippi Conference’s first black bishop.
Swanson, 62, succeeds Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, who has led Mississippi’s approximately 1,900 UMC churches and 181,000 members since 2004. Ward was assigned to her home conference of North Carolina.
The new assignments are effective Sept. 1.
Since his election as a UMC bishop in 2004, Swanson has served the Holston Conference, which includes 906 churches in parts of Tennessee, Georgia and Virginia. He has lived in Knoxville.
Before being elected bishop, Swanson served as superintendent of the Savannah District in the South Georgia Conference.
His ministry has been focused on congregational and denominational growth and he has a track record of growing local churches.
When he was elected a bishop eight years ago, Swanson emphasized his commitment to evangelism and reversing the denomination’s membership decline.
“I really feel that we have a message the world needs to hear,” he said at the time. “We believe in personal salvation. We are so committed to social justice.”
Swanson was unavailable for comment Friday.
He graduated from Southern Bible College and C.H. Mason Seminary in Atlanta and is pursuing a Doctorate of Ministry in Evangelism through the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University.
In another assignment at the Lake Junaluska Conference on Friday, former Tupelo United Methodist Church Senior Pastor Bill McAlilly was assigned to the Tennessee Conference in Nashville. McAlilly was elected a bishop Wednesday.