Louisiana Conference Addresses Disaffiliation Opportunities, Offers Support and New Beginnings

June 14, 2023
The 2023 Annual Conference of the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church witnessed a significant development as efforts were announced to address the void left by churches that have chosen to disaffiliate from the conference. In recent months, a number of churches, including 95 this year and 68 last year, decided to leave the denomination due to resistance to LGBTQ inclusion.

One area affected by disaffiliation was Ruston, Louisiana, where two United Methodist churches made the decision to leave the UMC. Grace United Methodist Church found itself nearly divided, with numerous members opting to transfer their membership to the conference while embarking on establishing a new congregation. Recognizing the importance of supporting these individuals, the Louisiana Conference Congregational Development team is actively working with the Ruston group to explore various possibilities.


Recently, District Superintendent Reverend Tom Dolph expressed gratitude and excitement for the ongoing commitment of the Ruston group. He assured them of the conference's unwavering dedication, saying, "We are as committed to you as you are to our beloved church. We will spend time with one another, sharing both our grief and our hopes for the future."

As part of the efforts to transition into the future, it was announced that retired Reverend Fred Wideman has agreed to serve as "pastor pro tem" while the conference and the group work together.

Rev. Dolph also emphasized that the path forward holds boundless opportunities, contingent upon the desires and willingness of the Ruston group. The aim is to establish a regular pattern of worship, potentially on a weekly basis, as well as Bible studies, Christian formation opportunities, and mission work.

In a separate corner of the state, members from the now-departed St. Timothy's on the Northshore have found solace at First United Methodist Church in Covington.

Anita Goode, one of the displaced members, shared her experience, noting that signs of unwelcoming behavior had become increasingly evident within the leadership of St. Timothy's. She reflected, "We saw it in real-time. This evolvement of making sure everyone who was different was made to feel unwelcome. So we got the message loud and clear."

Rhonda Rouyer echoed Anita's sentiments, expressing the discomfort she felt at St. Timothy's. "Can we be comfortable here? And the answer was no," she stated. "And so it's kinda like Jesus told the disciples, shake the dust off your feet and move forward and wish 'em well and hope their ministry continues to be fruitful, but not with us."

Undeterred, both Anita and Rhona found solace at First United Methodist Church of Covington. Anita described the love she experienced at Covington as a manifestation of the love Jesus has for her. "It is an extension of his love. I feel it's palpable. I feel that love every time I walk into this building," she said, "We're alive. We're thinking forward. We're bringing the message to generations that are to come. We're not thinking about the past. We're not thinking about old thoughts and old opinions and old mindsets. We're thinking about how we can bring the most amount of people into a relationship with Christ. That's an alive church!"

In light of these disaffiliations, the conference extended an invitation to those facing similar situations but desiring to maintain their connection to the United Methodist Church. Individuals are encouraged to transfer their membership to the annual conference, which will hold their membership and actively work to find them a new church home.

Through collaborative efforts and a spirit of inclusivity, the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church remains committed to supporting its members and fostering new beginnings amid the challenges posed by disaffiliation.
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