The Association of Annual Conference Lay Leaders Gathers Virtually
By Gayla Jo Slauson, LaToya Redd Thompson, Nancy Tam Davis & Rich Hughen
The 2021 annual meeting of the Association of Annual Conference Lay Leaders was held virtually on Saturday, February 27, 2021. The theme was “Rise Up! And Revive God’s Gift” based on 2 Timothy 1:3-7 (also this year’s Laity Sunday theme). Conference lay leaders attended from the Central Conferences and the Northeastern, Southeastern, North Central, South Central, and Western Jurisdictions.
David Teel, the Director of Laity and Spiritual Leadership for Discipleship Ministries; AACLL Vice President LaToya Redd Thompson (Mississippi Annual Conference); Bishop James E. Swanson, Sr. of the Mississippi Annual Conference; Bishop Stanovsky of the Greater Northwest Annual Conference; and AACLL President Nancy Tam Davis (Pacific Northwest Annual Conference) brought greetings during the opening of the meeting. The recent deaths of Rev. Junius B. Dotson, General Secretary of Discipleship Ministries, and Gary Locklear, former conference lay leader of the North Carolina Annual Conference were acknowledged. Micheal Pope, Conference Lay Leader of the California-Nevada Conference, led opening worship, which included diverse offerings of music.
Rev. Michelle Ledder, GCORR Director of Equity and Anti-Racism, led an interactive workshop titled “Lay Leaders Rise Up: Doing Ministry by Doing the Work of Anti-Racism.” Rev. Ledder taught the AACLL and guests the definition of anti-racism from the perspective of asking this question: What is God asking us to rethink that we think we already know? She provided options for immediate action so that conference lay leaders could promptly start leading in anti-racism work after the meeting. For the first time, the learning portion of an AACLL meeting was opened to district and local church lay leaders as well so they would also have the relevant tools presented.
Rev. Ledder taught the AACLL and guests the definition of anti-racism from the perspective of asking this question: What is God asking us to rethink that we think we already know?
President Davis led a business session, which included receiving minutes from AACLL Secretary Gayla Jo Slauson (Mountain Sky Conference) and a financial report from AACLL Treasurer David Koch (Eastern Pennsylvania Conference). The body as well as jurisdictional groups had lengthy conversation about the AACLL stance on the current situation of our church. AACLL members, as do many, lament that we will not be together for General Conference this year and recognize that this delays the vote on the current issues that divide us. AACLL members understand the decision made by the Commission on General Conference and by the Council of Bishops to maintain the health and safety of our members and to protect the integrity of our deliberation process at General Conference.
The AACLL remains committed to pursuing opportunities to engage numerous key social issues that require the attention of our congregations and our communities. Conference lay leaders repeatedly affirmed that the ACCLL is unified in its commitment to spread the good news of the gospel and make disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. A committee with representation from each jurisdiction was formed to work on a statement to share the AACLL’s perspective on where we are and moving forward together.
Videos from multiple jurisdictions and one of the central conferences were shared, highlighting great and creative ministry that took place during the pandemic and other challenges in 2020.
John Denham, conference lay leader from the Kentucky Annual Conference, provided an inspirational closing message.