Miss. United Methodists get first black bishop

Published 12:16 am Sunday, July 22, 2012

JACKSON (AP) — Mississippi’s United Methodists will be getting their first ever black bishop.

Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr., who has been serving in eastern Tennessee since 2004, has been assigned to lead Mississippi’s 182,000 United Methodists

Swanson’s appointment was announced Friday at a regional Methodist conference in Lake Junaluska, N.C.

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The bishop had served since 2004 in a Methodist jurisdiction that covers eastern Tennessee and southwestern Virginia.

Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, who was named Mississippi’s bishop in 2004, was the state’s first female bishop. Ward was moved to a new post in eastern North Carolina. Methodists typically rotate their bishops after two four-year terms.

The bishop runs the church’s central organization in Mississippi and appoints ministers to its 1,100 churches.

Though most United Methodists are white, the church has long had a group of predominantly black congregations. There are also three major black Methodist denominations that are not part of the United Methodist church.

Swanson was first elected as a bishop in 2004. He had served as a superintendent of the church’s Savannah district in its South Georgia conference. Before that, he had served as pastor of a church in Columbus, Ga., where membership increased from 16 to 950 during his tenure.

Swanson is married to Delphine Yvonne Ramsey Swanson. The couple has six children and twelve grandchildren.

The Rev. William “Bill” McAlilly, who has overseen the Mississippi conference’s Seashore district since 2006, was elected as a bishop and will be assigned to Nashville, Tenn. McAlilly previously served as a minister in churches in Tupelo, Philadelphia, Madison, Southaven, Lambert and New Albany. The Mississippi delegation had nominated McAlilly to become a bishop.