Louisiana Conference Set to Gather for Annual Conference with Renewed Hope and Unity

June 11, 2023

United Methodists from across the Louisiana Conference who are committed to staying united will convene in Baton Rouge from June 13-16 for their annual conference. With a theme of 'hope', this year's gathering marks a significant turning point, as disaffiliation concerns fade into the background, allowing for a renewed sense of optimism and purpose.

Although the decision to approve disaffiliation for nearly 40% of its churches has caused a reduction in size, the Louisiana Conference remains steadfast in its commitment to ministry and the strengthening of hope. Bishop Delores J. Williamston, set to preside over her first annual conference as a bishop in the United Methodist Church, expressed her excitement for the upcoming event and the prospect of reconnecting with fellow United Methodists.

"It'll be refreshing to know that we all want to be there, that we want to move forward in hope, that we want to put ourselves back in front of Jesus so that Jesus could say, 'Get up, take your mat, and go home,'" Bishop Williamston stated, emphasizing the shared enthusiasm and commitment to spiritual growth.

Annual conference sessions serve as both business meetings for the Conference and a chance for attendees to share experiences and stories of faith, allowing for a rich exchange of ideas and inspiration. Bishop Williamston expressed a deep appreciation for the vibrant ministries that continue to take place within the conference. Notably, she highlighted the many feeding programs across the Louisiana Conference and the formation of new class meetings, where congregations embrace those whose churches have disaffiliated but they have not. The meetings, being held spontaneously all across Louisiana, are offering committed United Methodists sacred space for worship and safe space to embrace a shared desire for full inclusion.

Anticipation is growing among the delegates. Many of them are looking forward to meeting Bishop Williamston for the first time, inspired by her remarkable Boots on the Ground Tour and the unique and unforgettable installation service, complete with a New Orleans-inspired second line.

Bishop Williamston's passion for moving forward and focusing on what can be accomplished, rather than dwelling on limitations, has left a lasting impression on those who have seen and heard her.

Her infectious excitement and unwavering hope have instilled a sense of optimism all across the Conference. The result? Eagerness to explore new possibilities. Likewise, Bishop Williamston herself is eagerly awaiting the opportunity to connect with and get to know the delegates from Louisiana.

"I'm just overly excited about moving forward to the annual conference and what we can do, not about what we can't do, but what is it we can do? And that gives me hope. And I hope that gives everybody else hope too," Bishop Williamston exclaimed.

While acknowledging that all the answers may not be easy to come by, Bishop Williamston encouraged attendees to approach this current challenge with creativity and adaptability, likening the resourcefulness to using a butter knife in the absence of a screwdriver.

"If you don't have a screwdriver, get a butter knife, and it'll do the same work," Bishop Williamston said. "That's the kind of innovative spirit we need as w remove forward and re-imagine our future. So, let's do that together." 

There is no doubt, the 2023 annual conference will be smaller in size. But don't tell that to Bishop Williamston. In her, concluding remarks, following the special called session that resulted in 95 disaffiliating churches, she was quick to point everyone to the hope of Christ. 

"For we know in this season of disaffiliations, as Romans 5 says, in part, 'In this season of suffering, it has produced in us perseverance, character and hope.' And hope does not put us to shame, and hope does not disappoint because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit who is with us right now," she said. "So let us go from this place, ready for what God will do in the life of the United Methodist Church in Louisiana and in the United Methodist denomination. And let us remember Psalm 90, 'The Lord has been our dwelling place throughout the generations,"' throughout the generations, from everlasting to everlasting, God is God. And may Christ's blessings and shalom be with you!"
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