Alabama laywoman to give General Conference Laity Address

News media contact: Linda Green · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn

NOTE: A head-and-shoulders photo of Gloria Holt is available on the Headshot Gallery and a General Conference logo is available at http://umns.umc.org/photos/02/02370.jpg.

Gloria Holt, president of the United Methodist Association of Annual Conference Lay Leaders, has been chosen to deliver the Laity Address at the 2004 General Conference.

The selection was announced during the association's Feb. 20-23 annual meeting in Fargo, N.D.

Holt will talk about the state of the laity during the first week of the General Conference. The Commission on General Conference will set the conference's agenda at an April 3-5 meeting in Chicago. The denomination's top legislative body, which gathers every four years, will meet April 27-May 7, 2004, in Pittsburgh.

Three women and three men, chosen to represent the denomination's diversity, delivered the first laity address at the 1980 General Conference. A competition has been held every four years since then for a layperson to make the speech.

The association invited annual conference lay leaders from around the world, rather than the laity at large, to submit written manuscripts, which were judged on their own merit and without the names of the authors attached.

"I am humbled and honored to have had my speech chosen ... to be the voice of the laity at the quadrennial gathering of our denomination," Holt said. "I never imagined that I would ever have this privilege, and I thank God for inspiring and gifting me to do so."

Holt is both the North Alabama Conference lay leader and president of the Southeast Jurisdictional Association of Annual Conference Lay Leaders. She is a founding member of ClearBranch United Methodist Church, in Trussville, Ala., one of the denomination's fastest- growing new churches.

The theme of the 2004 legislative gathering will be "Water Washed, Spirit Born." The General Conference logo features the United Methodist cross-and-flame symbol centered in the globe, with Pittsburgh's three converging rivers - the Allegheny, the Monongahela and the Ohio - flowing from the foot of the cross.

During the association's meeting, it was announced that Sandy Zeigler has been selected as the new director of designated laity leadership for the United Methodist Board of Discipleship, effective March 17. She succeeds Tim Moss, who retired from that position in January 2002 and served as the board's staff liaison to the association. Zeigler, from Butler, Pa., is currently the associate lay leader of the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference.

Each annual conference lay leader is elected to promote lay ministry and develop lay leadership in partnership with the bishop and the clergy. The church has 64 annual conferences in the United States and 53 in Europe, Africa and the Philippines.

Affiliated with the United Methodist Board of Discipleship, the association seeks to strengthen the presence, voice and role of the laity in the church and in the world. The group's primary goal is to assist annual conference lay leaders in training, supporting and advocating for district and local church lay leaders.

The 59 meeting participants decided that the association would continue to aggressively seek funding for scholarships to enable more central conference lay leaders to attend annual meetings.

"We consider it critically important that if the United Methodist Church is to be a global church, we must find the resources to help central-conference (non-U.S.) conference lay leaders participate in our meetings," Holt said. The group is looking to church agencies for guidance and support.

The association devoted much of its meeting to preparing legislation for General Conference that seeks to strengthen the relationship and ministry of lay leaders with their clergy counterparts.

The lay leaders also:

  • Made $1,000 seed grants to both the Liberia Annual Conference and the Northern Philippines Annual Conference for leadership training and assistance.
  • Participated in a leadership training session on laity and clergy working together and sharing ministry as "One in the Spirit, All In Ministry," the theme of the annual meeting.
  • Set April 23-25, 2004, in Pittsburgh, as the date and location of the next meeting so that annual conference lay leaders from central conferences, who will be delegates to General Conference, could attend the association's meeting without additional travel expense.

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