Swanson to be guest preacher at 2023 Annual Conference


Bishop James SwansonBy Paul Black
PEORIA – Bishop Frank Beard has announced that Bishop James Swanson, resident bishop of the Mississippi Annual Conference, will be the guest preacher at the 2023 Annual Conference June 8-10 at the Peoria Civic Center.

Swanson, who will be retiring from active assignment with the Council of Bishops Dec. 31, will be participating in the Service of Ordination and Commission on June 10 and may undertake other responsibilities as a guest of the Annual Conference. Details are still being finalized for the three-day Annual Conference

Bishop Beard also announced that in continuation with the quadrennial theme of “There is a time for everything…,” the 2023 theme will be A Time to Plant and A Time to Build, as the annual conference begins focusing on the mission of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference even amid some churches disaffiliating and charting a different course for their ministries.

Two special sessions – on May 6 and on Dec. 2 – will be a part of Annual Conference sessions for 2023. These two special sessions will be held online to deal with resolutions for disaffiliating churches. The Annual Conference has the final authority on approving these resolutions as per the Book of Discipline (2016) and recent Judicial Council decisions clarifying issues that have emerged.

While the two special sessions will be virtual, the June 8-10 session will be in-person only with a live webstream available to watch but credentialed persons will not be able to vote and participate in the plenaries. The 2023 session will also include the possibility of voting for new General Conference and Jurisdictional Conference delegates during the clergy and laity sessions.

The election is dependent upon a ruling from the Judicial Council as to whether new elections are needed since the current delegation, elected in 2019, did not have General Conference in 2020. At issue is whether the General Conference session, scheduled for April 23-May 3, 2024 in Charlotte, N.C. is the 2024 General Conference or whether it is the 2020 General Conference which was postponed three times due to the Covid pandemic, technological challenges over 14 time zones globally and the inability of international delegates to obtain visas to the United States.

Bishop James Swanson

Bishop Swanson is a gifted preacher and leader who was elected to the episcopacy in 2004. Since 2012, he has led the Mississippi Conference during this time, discerning with its members four core values — love, generosity, justice and apprenticeship — that Mississippi churches have sought seek to center their unique ministries, with Bishop Swanson saying, “We are one Church in 942 locations.”

His contagious spirit of hospitality, a determination to excel at being “the you” God created each person to be and spirited preaching has helped bring life, laughter and light to congregations in the Mississippi Conference and beyond. He continues to emphasize that winning people to Christ requires risk-taking love and crossing old boundaries to discover where the Holy Spirit is at work. He has modeled with the extended cabinet how coaching can revolutionize ministry. Cabinet members and other conference groups meet for two eight-hour sessions each month to be trained in loving, learning and leading. Because of this coaching, Swanson continually asks Mississippians about their “glory sightings”—where they see God at work.

Upon election, Swanson served eight years in the Holston Conference where a mission to Sudan was initiated, and the number of United Methodist congregations grew from three to 30 in a six-year period.  
A sought after preacher, workshop leader and lecturer, Bishop Swanson has presented to people in Japan, Korea, Brazil, Russia, Estonia, Chile, Canada, the Holy Land, Egypt, Liberia, Sudan, Uganda, South Africa, Zimbabwe and throughout the United States.

He and his wife, Delphine, are the parents of six adult children and are blessed with 15 grandchildren.