2007 Louisiana Annual Conference
June 3-6, 2007, Baton Rouge, La.
During the 2007 session of the Louisiana Annual Conference, Bishop William W. Hutchinson reported that one of the capstones of celebration for the year was the 2006 apportionment payout of 98.47 percent. Six of seven districts paid 100 percent, and the New Orleans District paid more than 94 percent.
The Louisiana United Methodist Disaster Recovery Ministry, in conjunction with The United Methodist Committee on Relief, continues to help rebuild Louisiana in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. More than 16,870 clients have been served through 1.7 million volunteer hours given by more than 32,000 volunteers from every state and 22 foreign countries. Through the efforts of dedicated work teams, the ministry has gutted more than 3,000 flooded homes, accomplished minor and major repairs on thousands of others, and rebuilt 465 homes.
Churches destroyed in 2005 by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita continue to reopen. On April 1, Palm Sunday, nearly 300 attended the reopening of Cornerstone United Methodist Church in New Orleans East. In the immediate future, Hartzell, Peoples and Mount Zion United Methodist churches in New Orleans will reopen for worship, as well as the Grand Chenier and Wakefield churches in southwest Louisiana.
The conference has decommissioned five churches in New Orleans: Trinity of Gentilly, Napoleon Avenue, Felicity, John Wesley and St. Philip - all of which were damaged by Hurricane Katrina. "Though laying these great servants of Christ to rest was a painful and sad process, they at the same time are making possible some new emerging ministries," Bishop Hutchinson said.
Mergers have taken place with the LaHarpe and Thompson congregations and with First Street, Peck and Wesley United Methodist churches. When the mergers for new life are completed, the conference will decide which properties will be sold and which will be enlarged and enhanced for the "new bodies of Christ that are forming."
Plans for four transitional congregations known as "anchor" churches are in development for New Orleans. Located strategically, these congregations will provide outreach ministries that will have a dramatic impact on New Orleans' continued recovery.
Additional associate pastors, musicians, educators and other key staff will be provided for each setting with the help of Katrina Church Recovery funds that have been generously given by United Methodists from across the denomination. The anchor churches are the new First Street PW (standing for Peck and Wesley), St. Luke, Bethany and First United Methodist.
The Cooperative Parish system, in what has been termed the "Mission Zone" (serving areas most deeply affected), will continue with three cooperative parishes - New Orleans East, New Orleans West and Cross-town New Orleans. Social ministries such as counseling and support services for emotional needs; a new clinic that will serve the medical needs of those in the city who have no other place to turn; and retreats and time away for Mission Zone pastors and their families are being provided through volunteers and staff with financial support from the Methodist Health System Foundation, Inc.
The Louisiana Methodist Children's Home in Ruston, with the help of an endowment, plans to construct a sister facility in southwest Louisiana. The Methodist Home for Children in New Orleans, which evacuated to the Ruston facility, has reopened and is serving the city's children.
The Wesley Center, the conference center in Woodworth, La., is now debt free and poised for expansion. The first phase of a major construction plan, with a $1.3 million budget, is under way.
Retired Bishop Fritz Mutti, chairman of the United Methodist Global AIDS Initiative, spoke to the conference, which raised more than $127,000 for the initiative. Other offerings collected more than $19,400 for the Nothing But Nets campaign and more than $4,000 for assistance to the Kansas area for storm recovery.
Bishop Hutchinson ordained seven elders and one deacon into full connection and commissioned 13 probationary elders and three probationary deacons. Fifteen people retired from ministry.
Conference members elected delegates to the 2008 General Conference and the South Central Jurisdictional Conference. Clergy delegates elected to General Conference are: Robert Burgess of Monroe; Andy Goff of Baton Rouge; Chris Andrews of Baton Rouge; Ellen Alston of Shreveport; and Bernadine Johnson of Baton Rouge. Lay delegates are: George Anding of Baton Rouge; Anita Crump of New Orleans; Sarah Kreutziger of New Orleans; Carolyn Dove of Many; and Terrel DeVille of Ruston.
Clergy delegates elected to the South Central Jurisdictional Conference are: Pat Day of Shreveport; Carol Crawford of New Orleans; Larry Miller of Baton Rouge; Don Avery of Natchitoches; and Daniel Gleason of St. Francisville. Lay delegates are: Rachel Scott of Shreveport; Jared Williams of Slidell; Joyce Robinson of St. Gabriel; Pete Aguila of Baton Rouge; and Fred Loy of Baton Rouge. Clergy alternates: Juliet Spencer of Destrahan and Ramonalynn Bethley of Woodworth. Lay alternates: Tim Hebert of Houma and Fane Peeples of Shreveport.
Membership stands at 125,637, down 1,189 from 2005. Worship attendance stands at 44,954, down 3,305 from 2005.
- Betty Backstrom