Local Reaction to New United Methodist Bishop

United Methodists voted last week to make James Swanson, Sr., the bishop of the state of Mississippi.

Swanson comes to Mississippi from east Tennessee and western North Carolina, where he has served as bishop for the last eight years.

The election of Swanson is significant, as he will become the first black bishop of the Magnolia State. While Bishop Swanson will be leading the 182,000 United Methodists in Mississippi, he cannot do it alone.

The people who make up the membership will be the new bishop's greatest asset.

Rev. Billy Owen, who is the superintendent of the Meridian District of the United Methodist Church, tells us, "His greatest asset, I think, is the people. The people who love God, and love the Lord, and really want to see the church by a dynamic influence in our society and in our area."

Many of those people reside right here in the Meridian District, and our district has several churches whose members are predominately African American.

"We're significant here in Meridian in that we have more African American United Methodist churches than any other district, and we're really looking forward to Bishop Swanson bringing a fresh encouragement to our churches," Owen says.

Incoming Bishop Swanson replaces Bishop Ward, who was the first female bishop in the state of Mississippi. The bishops elected by the United Methodist Church represent the makeup of their congregation.

"As we see the trend throughout the church, the Bishop and the episcopacy reflects the nature of the church itself as an inclusive place," Owen said.

Owen tells us that five bishops were elected at their conference last week in North Carolina. One was an African American male, one Korean male, one white female, and two white males.

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