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2008 Louisiana Annual Conference

June 1-4, 2008, Shreveport, La.

More than 1,000 United Methodists from around the state gathered at Centenary College in Shreveport for the 2008 Louisiana Annual Conference.

"Sanctify You, Through and Through" was the theme for this year's event. The focus on sanctifying grace continued a quadrennial theme of "Grace from the Wesleyan Tradition," with previous themes being prevenient grace (2005), justifying grace (2006), and means of grace (2007).

Members of the conference celebrated Bishop William W. Hutchinson's decision to remain as an active bishop for four more years. The body voted unanimously to send a recommendation to the South Central Jurisdiction Episcopacy Committee to return Bishop Hutchinson to Louisiana for four more years.

The conference also celebrated the fact that all local churches met 100 percent of their apportionments, both at the conference and the general church level.

The Louisiana Disaster Recovery Ministry reported that, to date, more than 53,000 volunteers from around the world have served in rebuilding storm-stricken areas of the state. Those volunteers have worked more than 2.4 million hours, at a value of $45.4 million in in-kind donations.

Of 50 churches deeply affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, six have closed. An additional six have merged with other area churches. Churches continue to work with "hurting" people who are rebuilding their communities, working several jobs, seeking affordable housing and spiritual support. Affected churches still seek relationships with partner churches from throughout the connection to provide prayer, physical assistance and financial help.

The conference celebrated three new church starts: The Well United Methodist Church, serving the Tangipahoa Parish area of the state; New Song United Methodist Church in Prairieville; and Faith Crossings United Methodist Church, covering the Walker/Denham Springs area.

Celebrations also included the creation of Luke's House, a free clinic serving the New Orleans area, and the strengthening of already established Hispanic ministries with the addition of two United Methodist Board of Global Ministries missionaries.

Jackie Vaughan with Igniting Ministry invited the conference to serve as a test conference for the denomination's advertising and welcoming initiative over the next quadrennium.

Ten people were ordained elder in full connection during the Service of Ordination and Commissioning, held June 3 at First United Methodist Church in Shreveport, with Bishop Hutchinson as keynote speaker.

During the ordination service, three people were ordained as deacons in full connection, and one elder was brought into full connection by having his orders recognized from another denomination. Four were commissioned as probationary elders and two were commissioned as probationary deacons.

Members voted on making it mandatory for conference churches and agencies to adopt safe sanctuary guidelines to guarantee the safety of our children and youth involved in church programs and ministries.

A report was made by Louisiana Conference delegates to General Conference, held in April.

The conference membership also heard a report on the United Methodist Property and Casualty Trust, a conference-wide program of insuring church properties throughout the state that is under consideration, and will be addressed in a called session of the annual conference later in the year.

Information was also shared regarding the conference's participation in a building campaign for a new dormitory for Africa University in Zimbabwe.

Special offerings were collected at the conference session. The offering from the June 1 Memorial/Communion service, designated for the Nothing But Nets initiative, totaled $60,580. The offering taken June 2, raised $4,919 and will support the construction of the Louisiana Friendship Plaza at Mount Sequoyah, Ark. The plaza is the conference's way of visibly showing its appreciation to the conferences in the South Central Jurisdiction for their assistance in helping Louisiana's recovery from Hurricanes Rita and Katrina. Another offering of $6,096 received during the ordination service will be used to provide conference ordinands with an opportunity to tour the Holy Land.

The Memorial and Communion Service was held June 1 at Asbury United Methodist Church in Bossier City. Retired Bishop J. Woodrow Hearn, who served a number of appointments in the Louisiana Conference, was the speaker. Hearn is a native of Louisiana. The Rev. Grace Imathiu, pastor of Brown Deer United Methodist Church, near Milwaukee, served as the Bible study leader.

Appointments for 2008-2009 were fixed June 3 and included the Alexandria District superintendent, the Rev. Ellen Alston; the Baton Rouge District superintendent, the Rev. Ralph Ford; the Lake Charles District superintendent, the Rev. Stephen Spurlock; and the New Orleans District superintendent, the Rev. Ramonalynn Bethley. The Rev. Roger Lathan (Acadiana), the Rev. Bob Burgess (Monroe), and the Rev. Doug Cain (Shreveport) will return to their respective positions as district superintendents.

The new director of Administrative Services for the conference is the Rev. Larry Miller and the new conference director of Multicultural Ministries is the Rev. Martha Orphe.

Ken Medema, music leader for the 2008 session of conference, led a worship service through music and testimonies of God's sanctifying grace.

Total membership for the Louisiana Conference stands at 123,233, down 2,404 from last year. Worship attendance stands at 43,862, down 1,092. Sunday school attendance stands at 18,621, down 866.

Betty Backstrom