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2013 Louisiana Annual Conference

June 2-5, 2013
Centenary College, Shreveport, La.
Theme: "Blessings in the Wilderness"

Addressing more than 1,000 attendees, Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey delivered her first Episcopal Address on Monday morning, focusing on newly adopted core values for the Louisiana Annual Conference. Harvey said that ascribing to the five values of Integrity, Accountability, Unrelenting Love for All People, Courage and Risk, and Holding Nothing Sacred but the Mission would assist the conference in "living into its vision for a preferred future."

"If we are not leading others into an abundant life in Christ," Harvey said, "we cease to be the church. We are about making disciples, not members. We must deepen our discipleship by leading people to an experience of what it means to be in right relationship with Jesus Christ."

Bishop Gregory Palmer, episcopal leader of the West Ohio Area of The United Methodist Church, delivered powerful messages in the Gold Dome during Monday night worship and Tuesday morning. Palmer reminded the conference that every church, whether it has five members or hundreds of members, has "everything they need to take the next step in ministry."

Each congregation turned in financial and ministry commitment forms during Monday night's worship service for the "Bless the Children" initiative, focusing on ministry with underserved children. Louisiana local churches pledged $485,034 to this initiative.

Our continued concern for the elimination of global diseases was woven throughout the conference, particularly as delegates celebrated the March 2 Louisiana Skeeter Run. More than 2,500 volunteers, walkers and runners participated in 10 runs throughout the state to raise funds and awareness for Imagine No Malaria. More than $75,000 has been raised for the cause to date.

Conference members also signed petitions in support of the Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. These petitions will be sent to Senators Mary Landrieu and David Vitter.

A Transition Task Force, appointed to guide the conference in the implementation of major budget cuts and the elimination of several conference offices, issued its report. A Structure Revision Team, appointed to study our current conference structure, proposed the dissolution of the Conference Ministry Team and a movement toward a strategic visioning entity known as the "Joshua Team." Members approved the report.

Three people were ordained elders in full connection with the conference, and two were ordained as deacon in full connection during the Ordination and Commissioning Service led by Harvey. Five were commissioned as provisional elders, one as provisional deacon. The average age of the ordination class is 44.8.

Appointments for 2013-14 were fixed on Wednesday, including the appointment of the incoming Baton Rouge District Superintendent, the Rev. Van Stinson, and the incoming Monroe District Superintendent, the Rev. Ellen Alston (previously Alexandria District Superintendent). The Alexandria District is being eliminated, and those churches currently in the district are dividing among the Acadiana, Lake Charles, Monroe and Shreveport districts. A service recognizing the realignment of conference districts - eliminating the Alexandria District and moving to six districts - was held Monday afternoon in the Dome.

All proposed constitutional amendments from the 2012 General Conference received affirmation from the members. The body passed a resolution proposed by the conference Native American ministry. The resolution asked the annual conference and its members to request that flood insurance rates be kept affordable and to encourage the sustaining of federal flood insurance programs.

Twenty-three college students were awarded the 2013 Daughenbaugh-Matheny Scholarship. Additional award winners included the Rev. Michael McLaurin, Sue Catchings and Katelyn Delia for the clergy, lay and youth Denman Awards, respectively; Jessica Dauzat for the Sojourner Truth Award, given by COSROW; and Connie Bouligny for the Sarah Schoeffler Award.

To view photos and highlights of the event, visit our Facebook page and find our new mobile app which can be downloaded at www.la-umc.org.

Seventeen clergy retired; membership stands at 120,935, up 945 from the previous year; worship attendance stands at 41,195, down 393 from the previous year. The total number of participants in Christian formation and small-group ministries was up 1,073.

- Betty Backstrom, communications director, Louisiana Annual Conference