Louisiana Laity Want “No Louisiana United Methodist Left Behind”

Mark Lambert
June 15, 2023
United Methodist laity in Louisiana wants a church that is inclusive and welcoming, is engaged with its communities, and is building new ministries in “deserts” so that “no Louisiana United Methodist is left behind,” the conference lay leader said Thursday at the 2023 Annual Conference.

While the business of the Annual Conference must include dealing with the fallout of disaffiliation, lay leaders across Louisiana are quietly doing God’s work, “not watching or waiting for us to act,” Louisiana United Methodist Church Lay Leader Jennifer Swann told delegates. Swann said.

“Many don’t even know we are here,” Swann told the delegates during the second day of the conference in Baton Rouge. “They are at work literally as I speak in their churches, homes, workplaces, and communities. The work they are doing in their communities and the world is how the church exercises its power.”

During the previous day’s laity session, Swann asked lay delegates to write responses on index cards to three questions:
  • What are your hopes and dreams for the church?
  • What are the essential conference functions?
  • How can laity help raise up and develop more lay leaders?
“Many expressed hopes and dreams for a church where all persons can experience and participate unconditionally in the body of Christ,” Swann said. Others wrote they want the church to be welcoming, a place of refuge, and “a church where all people are included in its ministry. Words used over and over in our laity’s responses were unity, inclusion, reconciliation, and diversity.”

Lay people also said they wanted the church to “dream big” with a “renewed commitment…to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” and to be “more engaged and committed to learning from and serving our communities,” Swann said.

Considering the short-term post-disaffiliation reality of fewer members and smaller budgets, Swann said, “We asked our laity to help us answer the question: What are the conference’s essential functions?” Lay people responded that “we need to be led in a spirit of hope, and not just some kind of rosy optimism or superhero magic…We follow the real Jesus who lived and died and rose from the dead, the resurrected Jesus.”

Laity also said it is important for the conference “to help fill those United Methodist Church deserts in Louisiana,” Swann said. “Many of our communities in Louisiana are unserved or underserved since the recent disaffiliations. We need leadership, assistance, and resources in these areas so that no Louisiana United Methodist is left behind or forgotten.”

Additional responses included treating pastors “justly and compassionately” and “holding them accountable for their calling;” training lay people so they can be “ministry partners with our clergy, not consumers of ministry services;” and helping bring lay people across the conference together to “tend our essential connection.”

The last question involved developing more lay leaders, Swann said, and it elicited varied responses, including supporting young people, mentoring and training, and being “a living example of what you want to see,” Swann said.
“And as Bishop Williamston urged us yesterday, it’s time to get up and do it,” Swann said. “We have everything that we need. We can’t wait until we have all the answers. We need to get started right now with the answers we have right now.”
Found an issue with this page? Click here to let us know.