Bishop James Swanson
James Edward Swanson Sr., elected to the episcopacy in 2004, was the resident bishop of the Mississippi Conference of The United Methodist Church.
He retired on January 1, 2023.
His tenure in the Mississippi Conference began Sept. 1, 2012, with his first public appearance one day earlier to the conference’s Seashore District. He went there to be with those affected by Hurricane Isaac. The hurricane made landfall on August 28, 2012, causing additional devastation to Mississippi coastal communities recovering from Hurricane Katrina seven years earlier.
Swanson listened to the people of Mississippi and discovered values deep within their hearts—love, generosity, justice and apprenticeship—thus, becoming the Core Four Values of the Mississippi Conference. It is from this Core Four that the churches seek to center their unique ministries. However, none of these values are accomplished alone. Swanson travels the Mississippi Conference teaching, “We are one Church in 1,030 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 is modeling 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.
Swanson was elected a bishop of The United Methodist Church during the 2004 Southeastern Jurisdiction Conference. He was assigned to the Holston Conference where the episcopal office is located in Knoxville, Tennessee. Swanson served the Holston Conference for eight years. Under his leadership, the Sudan Mission initiated. The number of United Methodist congregations in Sudan grew from three to 30 between 2006 and 2012. A residential home for Sudan’s district superintendent was built and used as a training site for clergy and laity of South Sudan. Plans were laid for Holston to raise funds for the campaign, Imagine No Malaria to prevent and treat the deadly malaria disease in Sub-Saharan Africa. The campaign resulted in $1.2 million dollars.
Swanson serves as the president of the General Commission of United Methodist Men for 2017-2020. He was re-elected to the post following his service for 2012-2016. Swanson is a member of the International Association of Methodist Schools, Colleges and Universities (IAMSCU). He serves on the board of trustees for Emory University, Rust College and Millsaps College. He is also the chairman of the board of trustees at Gammon Theological Seminary.
Swanson is a sought after preacher, workshop leader and lecturer. He 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.
Bishop Swanson is the son of the late Carl Swanson and Arnola Triplett. He is married to Delphine Yvonne Ramsey Swanson. They have the joy of being parents to six adult children, Karen Latrese Swanson Jones married to Earl Jones Jr.; James Edward Swanson Jr. married to Yaki Bryant Swanson; Shondell Swanson married to Angela Drain; Carlton Eugene Swanson married to Ivis Rosario; Janae Evonne Swanson Brown married to Vernon and Joshua Emile’ Swanson married to LaShay. The Swansons are blessed with 15 grandchildren.