By Rev. Ritney A. Castine, 8th Episcopal District. The Rev. Ritney Castine is a recently-ordained itinerant elder and serves as the dean of the Conference Institute. He is the pastor of Trinity AME Church in Gonzales, Louisiana.
The annual conference is always such an interesting time. This rings particularly true as we all look towards the 2020 General Conference. The 155th Session of the Louisiana Annual Conference was one for the record books. In addition to getting updated on the work happening in local congregations across the conference and the various component-led worship services, we were also challenged by several special guest facilitators on the importance of advocacy and community mobilization.
Across the Eighth Episcopal District, Bishop Julius McAllister charged the Conference Institute deans with organizing sessions that would provide relevant and specific information to attendees that would allow our ministers and laity to continue in our rich history of social and political activism. In the Louisiana Conference, we focused on matters related to the 2020 Census and the runoff elections.
The Census session relayed the importance of being counted, particularly in this hyper-partisan political environment, where skepticism in government and other institutions is particularly high. Karan Stewart, the Southern Regional Manager with the United States Census Bureau, dispelled myths while also reminding us how being under-represented in the count negatively impacts political representation, funding, and other government services. She also encouraged attendees to apply to work for the Census as an enumerator, a part-time field-level position that pays from $18-$23 hourly, on average. Enumerators can make their own schedules and assist the government by visiting the homes of individuals who failed to respond to the Census via phone, mail, or the internet.
Later in the week, we pivoted to the state’s runoff elections where several statewide and legislative positions are up for grabs. John Bel Edwards, the incumbent and the country’s only Democrat Governor in the Deep South is in a closely-watched election against businessman Eddie Rispone. This election has attracted national attention and Rispone has received the full-on support of President Trump and Vice-President Pence. While no official endorsement of either candidate was (or can be) offered, the importance of protecting Medicaid expansion, criminal justice reform, infrastructure investment, and teacher pay raises were all addressed. Additionally, the Secretary of State’s runoff pits Gwen Collins-Greenup, an ordained Democrat Black clergywoman, against the Republican incumbent. In Louisiana, the Secretary of State oversees all matters related to elections and several state-run museums.
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Source: The Christian Recorder