‘Woven Together: Changing the World': 2014 Louisiana Annual Conference

Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey told conference members, "The closer you get to God, the riskier it gets" during her Episcopal Address delivered June 8 during the Communion Service at the 2014 Louisiana Annual Conference. “Woven Together: Changing the World” was the theme for this year's Conference, held at Centenary College in Shreveport, La. from June 8-11. Highlights from the event can be found on the Conference Facebook page at www.facebook.com/louisianaconference

The logo for this year's Annual Conference, featuring a double helix, spoke to the DNA of the United Methodist movement, and the idea that we are woven by God into this DNA. In her Episcopal Address, Bishop Harvey said, "I want us to be a people who are not only woven together but act like they are woven together, love that they are woven together even with all of our quirkiness, our uniqueness and all that we hold in common and in tension. A people called United Methodist woven together that are changing the world."  Read the Bishop's address at http://www.la-umc.org/pages/detail/2167 

Stacy Hood served as Worship Leader for the Communion Service, which featured youth teams of liturgical dancers and step dancers. An offering taken during the service raised more than $33,400 for UMCOR health kits. This year’s inspirational scripture upon which the worship and sessions were centered is Psalm 139. Hood, director of Worship Related Ministries for Grace Community UMC in Shreveport,  served as Worship Leader throughout this year's Annual Conference.

Prior to the start of the Sunday night Communion Service, conference members gathered outside the Gold Dome on Centenary's campus for a Louisiana tailgate party, enjoying music, refreshments from food trucks and lots of fellowship with friends, old and new!

Monday morning, after the Clergy and Lay Sessions were held at Brown Chapel and Broadmoor UMC respectively, conference members convened in the Gold Dome for a Celebration of Life, as we remembered those clergy and clergy spouses who have entered Life Eternal in the past year. Rev. Don Avery, Rev. Juliet Spencer and Austin Rinehart served as speakers for the service.

The recognition of local pastors, those completing the License to Preach School, and those receiving professional and lay ministry certification was held during Monday afternoon's session. Ten people were recognized for completing License to Preach School. They are Robbie Murry Alford, Eugene Wathen Bryson III, Valla Marie Johnson, Chyrelena Lynn Peyton, Bettie Jo Rhodes, Bryan Garrett Sibley, Denise Latrell Smith, Barbara Ann Soniat, John Elbert Tellis, Sr. and Debria Lewis Upton. Those receiving their first appointment were Robbie Murry Alford, Kelly Vicknair Beachman Berne and Christopher David Winterman. Charlotte Ann Birdwell was appointed as a local pastor this past year ad-interim with her first appointment. Recognized as local pastors having completed the Course of Study School are Anita Cleaver Dinwiddie, Kendall Ray Docter, Junius Egby Jr., Christopher Shane Fryou, Sonia Denise Gee, Mary Louise Jones, Marshall Andrew Sevier and John Henry Wilkins. Recognized as certified lay minister were Charles David Sanders and Heidi Helen Spell, while Debria Upton received her certification in youth ministry.

Delegates participated in discussion surrounding several T.E.D. talks that will help strengthen and enhance our work as the Church. Monday's topic was, "Start with Why." The T.E.D talk which served as the focal point for discussion can be found at http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action  Tuesday morning's T.E.D. talk by Brene Brown can be found at http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability Further talks included one on handling conflict with Margaret Heffernan http://www.ted.com/talks/margaret_heffernan_dare_to_disagree  and the importance of education with Rita Pierson http://www.ted.com/talks/rita_pierson_every_kid_needs_a_champion
 
Monday evening, the Ordination and Commissioning Service was held at First United Methodist Church in Shreveport. The service was live streamed and may be viewed at www.firstshreveport.org/watch-online . Four persons were ordained elders and received into full connection with the conference. They are Edith Louise DeVilbiss-Finch, John Garrison Hankins, Andrew David Sutton and Kathy Snare Wafer. Cathalyn Hildebrand Brewton was ordained deacon and received into full connection with the conference. Theodore Stanley Fine, Rachel McConnell-Switzer and AnnaKate Rawles were commissioned as provisional elders. Mary Nannette McMullen was commissioned as a provisional deacon.
 
On Tuesday, conference members elected delegates to the 2016 General and Jurisdictional Conferences. Clergy delegates to General Conference are Revs. Andy Goff, Juliet Spencer, Pat Day and Bernadine Johnson; and Lay delegates are Carolyn Dove, Dr. Sarah Kreutziger, Pete Aguila and Terrel DeVille. Clergy delegates to Jurisdictional Conference are Revs. Lynn Malone, Juan Huertas, Ellen Alston and James Mitchell; and Lay delegates are Stacy Hood, Amanda Price, Walter Weiss and Olivia Pruett. Alternate Clergy delegates are Revs. Katie McKay Simpson and Matt Rawle; and Lay delegates, Rob Fairly, Jr. and Todd Rossnagel.
 
Conference Lay Leader Carolyn Dove delivered the Laity Address to Conference members in the Gold Dome. In that address, Dove stated that the Conference Board of Laity Church Starts Ministry program designated $80,000 for the New Church on Louisiana Avenue in Lafayette, $30,000 for the Carrollton Rebirth in New Orleans, and $20,000 for Love UMC (formerly Kenner/El Mesias UMCs) in Kenner.
 
A budget of $7,553,653 was proposed by CF&A for approval. An amendment proposing an additional $60,000 in the budget for Wesley Foundations was approved by the body. A final budget of $7,613,653 was approved by conference members.
 
The conference voted in favor of a petition calling for a "commitment to unity, peace and mission" in the Church. The item was submitted by 62 persons, both lay and clergy.  View the document here.
 
A report from the Restructure Task Force recommended that the committee submit its final support at the 2015 Annual Conference, with the intent of implementation by the 2016 Annual Conference. The group's work is focusing on an alternative structure for our work as a conference.
 
Our very own Rev. Matt Rawle served as master of ceremonies for the first annual Wesley Awards celebration, held Tuesday evening. "A la" Oscars (in our case, "The Wesleys"), winners from throughout the conference were given "gold plated" John Wesley bobble-head statuettes in recognition of outstanding ministries. To add to the fun and festive nature of the event, those attending dressed in outfits ranging from tuxedos to "tuxedo t-shirts," church dresses to evening gowns, and Bermuda shorts to jeans. Two very special Lifetime Achievement Awards were presented to the United Methodist Foundation of Louisiana and to the Lydia Patterson Institute of El Paso. A list of Wesley Award recipients can be found here
 
The 2014 class of clergy retirees was honored during the traditional "Passing of the Mantle" service, held Wednesday morning in the Gold Dome. Rev. Don Avery represented the retiring class and Rev. Kathy Wafer represented the new full member class. Clergy retirees include Revs. Don Avery, Thomas Beeler, Ed Boyd, Samuel Bradley, Lance Brown, Eddie Carpenter, Linda Clark, Debbie Drash, Gene Finnell, Ralph Ford, Frances Guy, Kibbie Hatfield, Jerry Hilbun, Alvin Hodges, Elva Jacobs, Jimmy Parker, Charles Penuell, Louis Smith, Lusinda Warren and Thomas Wesley. Photos and biographies of the retirees (when provided) can be found at www.la-umc.org/pages/detail/2022
 
Awards and scholarship winners were recognized throughout the Conference. A list of awards and scholars can be found here.

Please be in prayer for the Annual Conference, and continue to take a daily walk with Louisiana United Methodists by reading devotionals found in Walking the Path Together, written and compiled by Revs. John Winn and Carole Cotton Winn.

SAVE THE DATE: THE 2015 LOUISIANA ANNUAL CONFERENCE IS SLATED FOR JUNE 7-10 AT CENTENARY COLLEGE IN SHREVEPORT!!!