MethodistThinker.com is presenting a retrospective on Bishop Lindsey Davis 12 years as the leader of the North Georgia Conference, now the largest U.S. conference in the United Methodist Church. His tenure in North Georgia ends later this month.
On June 16, 2004, speaking at the annual luncheon sponsored by the Conference Board of Laity (PDF), Bishop Davis reflected on the continuing work of renewal in the North Georgia Conference, much of it led by lay people.
Eight years ago, I told you that our church was in need of renewal, and I invited you to join me on a journey of faith. You’ve been there by my side all the way. And, occasionally, you’ve even be out in front of me, leading the way….
The lay leadership of the North Georgia Conference is extraordinary. Those of you in this room represent the best our church has to offer to a spiritually hungry world.
With your leadership, the North Georgia Conference has grown by 51,347 persons in the last eight years. That’s an 18 percent increase in church membership.
Bishop Davis also noted that North Georgia’s laity had helped the Conference launch “new mission efforts all over the world,” including bringing the Disciple Bible study to Russia, offering refugee assistance in Iraq and Afghanistan, building a school in Honduras, and re-constructing a church building in Estonia that, years earlier, had been shut down and desecrated by Soviet troops.
In concluding his remarks, the bishop said lay people must help the United Methodist Church steer a course based on biblical fidelity and theological soundness.
Many challenges stand before us — none, in my opinion, more important than for us to teach and preach in these days to come with theological clarity.
We must support and proclaim, in my view, the classical, orthodox doctrines of our faith — what St. Jude said “was once and for all delivered to the saints.”
We live in a culture of disbelief; we live in culture of bizarre beliefs.
The United Methodist Church must not be timid. We must be loving, and compassionate, and respectful of all persons — but we must also, I think, reemphasize the great verities our faith, which [have] sustained the saints down through the ages.
It is this apostolic faith which will empower, shape, and guide us in the future.
And we cannot be faithful to this task without the ministry of a fully engaged laity. I believe that 99 percent of the vision that God has for this Annual Conference rests in the hearts of the laity.
As a pastor, over and over again, the really important things that we did in our church did not originate in my heart or my mind, but in the hearts and minds of the lay people who were there as a part of the congregation. I believe the same is true for this Annual Conference. And that’s why a fully engaged laity is so very important.
So we look to the future with hope and optimism and excitement. Let us hold on to God’s vision, and let us also hold on to one another, in these days to come. God bless you all.
Streaming audio of his full address is below (13 min.) — or download the mp3 file (3MB).