2015 Louisiana Annual Conference
June 7-10, 2015, Centenary College in Shreveport, Louisiana
"This is not your mama and daddy's church," said Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey during her episcopal address, delivered June 7. "We must lead with greater boldness than ever before."
From June 7-10, more than 1,000 United Methodists from throughout Louisiana gathered in the Gold Dome at Centenary College in Shreveport for their conference. The scriptural focus for the conference meeting was John 1:39-51, where Jesus invites His disciples to believe in Him—and to “come and see.”
The Louisiana Conference continues to work toward our “vision and preferred future.” Compelled by Christ’s love, lay and clergy leaders of the conference are “leading others into abundant life in Christ; engaging with our surrounding communities locally and globally in significant ways; learning, living and telling the gospel story to the nations; and reaching out and drawing in people from all walks of life resulting in vibrant, alive and vital congregations.”
Fierro Harvey encouraged Louisiana's United Methodists to "be all in." "You can't be lukewarm," said Harvey, who also encouraged clergy and laity to be "more efficient and effective with what you DO have."
Compelling vision takes deep, hard work, she emphasized. "Stop, be still, quiet yourself. Be slow and deliberate."
Harvey said that the church's "delivery mechanism has to change" in order to reach more people. "If we're not responding to the ends of the earth, I believe our vitality will be in question," she added.
Emphasizing a strong missional focus, the Louisiana Conference dedicated more than $22,092,755 to missional efforts in 2014. Continuing in this commitment to mission, an offering was received during the conference meeting for the United Methodist Committee on Relief in celebration of its 75th anniversary. The total collected to date stands at more than $53,000; an additional $5,100 was raised for UMCOR by the sale of a community mural, which was collaboratively created by conference members during the meeting.
Louisiana's local churches also celebrated UMCOR's 75th anniversary by filling a truck from UMCOR Sager Brown Depot in Baldwin, Louisiana, with health and school kits.
The 10th anniversary of Louisiana’s collision with Hurricanes Katrina and Rita was remembered several times. Most memorable was a presentation of video shot immediately after the storms hit. The video was accompanied by the singing of a commemorative song by Stacy Hood during Tuesday night's Wesley Awards. The Louisiana Conference celebrates the incredible partnership that the conference had with UMCOR during successful recovery efforts from these two devastating storms.
While the meeting was being held, parts of the Shreveport/Bossier City area remained flooded from recent devastating rains. Plans began at the meeting to ramp up donations, flood bucket assembly and the staging of early response teams that will serve in the area once floodwaters have receded in a few weeks.
The Louisiana Conference has as its priority the development of new faith communities, with a commitment of 10 percent of the Conference budget apportioned for this purpose. A new Benchmark Project will involve 16 of our local congregations participating in this initiative for congregational vitality. Several programs related to clergy training, mentoring and recruitment are being offered for younger and mid-career pastors.
Harvey has appointed a pastor to the Seventh Ward of New Orleans, a community that was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, and that had been without a United Methodist presence since that time. The pastor assigned to the area is to engage the community and seek the best ways to be a witness for the gospel in this specific area.
More young adults in our conference sessions were involved as either lay members from local churches, district delegates or observers. These persons, falling into the 19-35 age bracket, held conversations throughout the conference and reported to the body with a summary of their observations and discussions at the close of the event.
Four people were ordained elder and one person was ordained deacon and received into full connection with the conference. The average age of the new clergy was 43. A total of 12 people were commissioned as provisional elders with an average age of 39. View videotaped messages from the five ordinands.
Guest speakers included Elaine Heath, McCreless Professor of Evangelism for Perkins School of Theology, along with the Rev. Eric Huffman, lead pastor of The Story Houston (a satellite ministry of St. Luke’s UMC in Houston), and the Rev. Justin Coleman, chief ministry officer of the United Methodist Publishing House in Nashville. Read more.
During this year’s Laity Breakfast, Dean Harvey served as keynote speaker and the Daughenbaugh Matheny Scholars were recognized.
A report from the Conference Restructure Task Force, which recommends a proposed alternative structure for our work as a conference, was passed.
Local churches were recognized for excellence in ministry during the 2015 Wesley Awards, held in the Gold Dome. Winners were chosen for implementing creative ministries that embody our Conference Core Values and Preferred Vision.
Lifetime Achievement Awards were give to the Louisiana Methodist Children's Home and to United Methodist Committee on Relief. The Harry Denman Awards and the Bishop and Kay Hutchinson Endowment Scholarships were also presented during The Wesleys.
Prior to the episcopal address, conference members gathered for a Louisiana tailgate party outside the Gold Dome to visit colleagues and start new friendships while enjoying treats provided by local food trucks.
Clergy and clergy spouses who entered died during the past year were remembered during the Celebration of Life.
Before departing, conference members witnessed and participated in the Passing of the Mantle and shared in communion during a Service of Celebration and Hope: Going Forth to See, Hear, Believe the Good News.
Worshippers in mission are reported at 27,402, an increase of 3,361 over last year.
Small groups for adults have increased to 23,542 and small groups for young adults, standing at 3,117, experienced a small decline.
Membership stands at 118,725 with a loss of 1,385 from 2013 (1.1 percent down); average weekly worship attendance stands at 39,764 with a loss of 991 from 2013 (2.4 percent down); Sunday school average attendance stands at 14,712 with a loss of 468 from 2013 (3 percent down).
Professions of faith stand at 1,513, a decline from 2013 at 1,772. Reaffirmations of faith stand at 123, a very small decline from 2013 at 134.
Facebook coverage of AC2015: Come and See.