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Conference lay leader calls laity to action

Conference lay leader calls laity to action

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Conference lay leader calls laity to action

June 4, 2005    News media contact:  Tita Parham*    
800-282-8011     Orlando  {0307}

An e-Review Feature
By J.A. Buchholz**

LAKELAND — Florida Conference Lay Leader Bill Walker said there are assaults on the United Methodist Church in the Florida Conference and the laity must do something about it.

LAKELAND — Conference Lay Leader Bill Walker urges lay delegates attending the opening session of the 2005 Florida Annual Conference Event June 2 to accept the call to take action and serve “a fractured, hurting, lost world." Photo by Geoff Anderson, Photo #05-0175.

“I feel particularly called by God to address issues that face large systems like the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church,” he said in his address to delegates at the opening session of this year's annual conference event. “I come to you as the conference lay leader, with an obligation to make some comment on the state of the church that faces us as clergy and laity alike.”

Walker affirmed the need for transformation in the conference and local churches — transformation that’s being addressed through the conference restructure and work of various conference ministries in helping local churches transform.

“Our state is that we do have serious challenges. Our state is that we are prepared through our leadership to address these challenges. Our greatest need is to be resolute, to be disciplined, to rely on our faith in God to accomplish the work ahead,” he said. “In others words, what my mother called ‘be Methodist.’

Walker said some of the most visionary, futurist leaders available across the United States and the Florida Conference told the conference in past years about the challenges it is facing today.

“These are persons who can see through that dark cloud a little more pensively than most of us can,” he said. “We welcomed them; we’ve listened. They’ve given us a chance to prepare, and we are prepared.”

Walker said the conference faces two fundamental challenges: continuing to see into the future and dealing with the present. Those challenges can be met, he said, because plans are in place and “outstanding” individuals such as the bishop, conference staff, district superintendents and a new group of district lay leaders are ready to assist and lead.

“We need only to join together as one body in one spirit to gain that victory to which God calls us.”

Walker said a corps of spiritually molded laity is at the heart of the plan to transform the conference.

“First, we as laity must intentionally deepen our faith in our God experienced through Jesus Christ by vital worship, prayer and learning. That’s number one,” he said. “Number two, we must summon our Wesleyan traditions of discipline, accountable living, care of learning, love of each other, service to all humanity, particularly to the least of these.”

Walker said laity must also support and encourage clergy and the two must hold each other accountable for deepening each other’s spiritual lives.

LAKELAND — Delegates begin the opening session of the 2005 Florida Annual Conference Event June 2 with words of challenge and support from conference leaders, but also with praise and song. Photo by Geoff Anderson, Photo #05-0176.

“ ... Christ calls each of us to daily experience a rich communion with God through prayer. If that’s not your experience, I suggest your ask yourself, ‘Why not?’ ” Walker said. “If you know that the worship experience is critical to helping others, as well as yourself, experience God and give praise to God’s name, and your own experience at your own church is not all that it can be, ask yourself, ‘Why not?’ ”

Walker said laity must also make themselves aware of the stressors placed on clergy and take personal responsibility to work on clergy issues. He said the stressors are so numerous the looming crisis of clergy care has led to the creation of a specialized ministry to “prop and support” clergy needs.

Walker closed his comments by reiterating the call of all lay people “to be in ministry in the world, proclaiming Christ by word and deed.”

“We live in a hurting, angry, sick world,” he said. “It’s on our television set every day. We’re surrounded in every setting, high and low, with illness of body and spirit, abuse and addictions not imaginable by most of us. In other words, we have a lot of folks utterly lost. And some of them are in our pews. We find them under the expressway bridge, but they are also in the country club. They are the responsibility of us all. The Lord has given them to us. If you are not engaged with turning their lives around, I must ask you, ‘Why not?’ ”

The time to answer the call of those in need is now, Walker said.

“A fractured, hurting, lost world is waiting for us to serve and in doing so, lead them to Christ,” he said. “Why not?”


This article relates to 2005 Florida Annual Conference Event.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Buchholz is a staff writer with e-Review Florida united Methodist News Service.