Editorial Roundup: Mississippi

Columbus Dispatch. March 21, 2023.

Editorial: A painful exodus

When a vote is taken, it stands to reason that there are winners and losers.

Yet today, it’s hard to imagine that anyone who calls Columbus First United Methodist Church his/her church home is celebrating. It’s even harder to imagine that the prevailing emotion of anyone in the church is anything other than sadness.

On Sunday, by a painfully narrow margin, the church membership voted to disaffiliate with the United Methodist Church, the second largest protestant church in the world with more than 6 million members. The United Methodist Church created a process by which a church could leave the organization four years ago as the debate over ordination of LGBT pastors and same-sex marriage ceremonies increased.

Since 2019, more than 60 Mississippi Methodist churches have voted to leave. In the Golden Triangle, Caledonia/Flint Hill Church, St. Stephen’s in Columbus, Hamilton and Long View in Starkville have chosen to leave the United Methodist Church organization.

The United Methodist Church has set Dec. 31 as a deadline for individual churches to make a decision.

According to the process, a church can disaffiliate by a vote. It requires two-thirds (66.7 percent) of the voters approving disaffiliation to be accepted by the United Methodist Church.

On Sunday, Columbus FUMC voted to leave by the narrowest margin — 222-107 for a percentage of 67.4%. The issue was decided by just three votes.

This is not how the church intended to celebrate its 200th anniversary year.

What lies ahead for the congregation is uncertain. It will have to pay a considerable amount of money to meet the obligations it has to United Methodist Church. It could mean a change to the pastoral staff, as well.

There is also the matter of whether the 107 members who voted to remain affiliated with the United Methodist Church will continue attending the church or will seek another United Methodist Church as their home.

Given the long history of Columbus FUMC, some of those members will stay. They’ve been members for decades, have had weddings and funerals for their families there. The associations are deeply-rooted.

Others, especially LGBT members, are deeply wounded by the votes to leave cast by the people they attended Sunday School with, worked with on church organizations and fellowshipped with for years.

We offer no opinion of the vote because that decision rests with the membership alone.

But we do regret the likely departure of so many in the church family.

For those who are in pain, we offer our sympathy and our hopes that they will find a way forward in grace.

Sunday was a difficult day for all.


Greenwood Commonwealth. March 17, 2023.

Editorial: Another Poll Result That’s Hard To Trust

Mississippi Today and the Siena College Research Institute are at it again, releasing another poll whose results seem counterintuitive to the last decade of politics in this state.

In January, the two organizations released a poll that said two-thirds of respondents wanted to vote for someone besides Gov. Tate Reeves in the November general election. Shortly afterward, they delivered another poll that said there was widespread support for expanding Medicaid in the state.

We’ll know in a few months whether there is truly a groundswell of opposition to the governor — who happens to be 5-for-5 in winning statewide elections. But the poll on Medicaid expansion turned out to have a modest degree of foresight when Reeves changed his mind and got behind extending Medicaid coverage for new mothers to a year after childbirth, and House Speaker Philip Gunn allowed the measure to make it through his chamber after killing it previously.

The most recent Siena/Mississippi Today poll of 764 registered voters reported strong support for full funding of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program. The survey came a few days after the state Senate’s surprise of its own: a unanimous vote for a bill that revised the program’s formula and added $181 million to reach the new, reduced level of full funding.

According to the poll, 79% of respondents favor full MAEP funding — including 91% of Democrats, 73% of Republicans and 77% of independents. Another 9% opposed full funding, while 11% had no opinion.

Those results, while ideologically desirable, simply must be questioned. For starters, do nearly three of every four Republicans in Mississippi really think education should get another $181 million?

Siena takes polls nationwide and has a good reputation, but its education poll results are every bit as eye-opening as its reports on Reeves’ reelection chances and expanding Medicaid to cover hundreds of thousands of the state’s uninsured.

It must be noted that the question about education funding was overly bland. Because the poll came out before the Senate revised the MAEP formula downward, Siena asked respondents if they supported adding $275 million to the program “that sends state money to local schools for basic school needs.”

Well, who wouldn’t support that? But digging into the details of where that money would come from, and what it would be used for, might have affected some of the responses.

It would have helped, for example, if the question had included estimates of what percentage of the extra money would be for classroom needs such as teacher pay, textbooks or supplies; and how much would be used for administrative purposes.

Or the poll could have asked people if they believed it is appropriate to spend some of the state’s surplus to fully fund education.

Mississippi Today commissioned the poll because of the Senate’s MAEP vote. We’ll know soon whether the survey’s results got the attention of Reeves and GOP leaders in the House of Representatives, who signaled that they have no plans to get on board, at least not anytime soon.