In 1968, Bishop James Swanson, episcopal leader of Mississippi Conference, was 18 years-old when his mother's life tragically ended. His stepfather, an alcoholic, killed her when she refused to give him money for booze.
After that, Swanson pledged to grow up and be part of the solution to end and bring awareness to domestic violence. In 2006, he received an email that reminded him of his promise. The message narrated thoughts of a domestic violence victim from her grave.
"Most of my life I thought I was never in a position to make a difference concerning domestic violence until 2006," said Swanson, who was serving as resident bishop of the Holston Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church when he read the story. So, with a heavy heart he disclosed his grief in a memo to the denomination.
Shocked by response
"I was shocked by the response: I got so many emails and letters from people saying they wanted to do something to help. So I decided to form a Bishop's Task Force on domestic violence," Swanson explained.
I got so many emails and letters from people saying they wanted to do something to help.
Swanson is planning to advocate against abuse in Mississippi where he is the new resident bishop.
"God wants us to be concerned about people who cannot defend themselves and as a church we need to find a way to speak to that and empower people so that they open their mouths and speak out against domestic violence," Swanson said.
Because of his personal experience, it was no surprise that Swanson agreed to an interview on the topic for a pilot television program titled, "Mississippi Lawmen." The show will feature Mississippi efforts to fight crime and support victims of it.
Ginger Grissom, executive director of the United Methodist-funded, Wesley House Community Center for victims of abuse in Meridian, asked Bishop Swanson to participate. The producer of the show, Wayne Burns is a photojournalist for the ABC affiliate in Meridian and the host of "Outdoors Allstars" that airs on Direct TV. He said Swanson's presence was needed.
Right on track
"Bishop is on the right track. He's all about families,” Burns said. “He's about children working together in a Godly manner, helping people who are hurting right now, and that is what we want the viewers to see.” Burns is meeting with local Mississippi ABC affiliates about airing "Mississippi Lawmen" this fall. Thus far, no one has made him any promises, but at least he has helped one man keep his promise to break the silence on abuse.