NEW YORK ANNUAL CONFERENCE AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH
REPORT ON LAY MINISTRIES
Greetings in the Matchless, Majestic, and Mighty Name of Jesus Christ, our Lord!
To Bishop Richard Franklin Norris, Mother Mary Ann Norris, Officers, Pastor, Preachers, Delegates, Laity,
Youth, Members and Friends of this 189th session of the New York Annual Conference, we, the Committee
on Lay Ministries, beg leave to submit this report.
Our New York Annual Conference is exceptionally blessed with an abundance of anointed, gifted, trained,
and educated clergy in various ministerial capacities. Those in the local church serving as Pastors, on the
Ministerial Staff, or in other capacities are crucial to the prophetic and priestly roles in the life of the
church, as well as overseeing its overall administration. Yet, the work of ministry cannot and ought not to
be left to those called to the preaching ministry. God has a role for every member of the body of Christ,
and every church member ought to be doing his/her part as led by the Spirit of the living God. Each
congregant is, therefore, called to share in “lay ministry.”
Lay is a term we use to define those members of our congregation who are not ordained clergy. Those
who are considered as laypersons are also referred to as being a part of the Laity. So, the majority of the
people within our local church bounds are lay members (not necessarily in organized Lay Organization),
but laity in the sense of non-clergy. To this end, the bulk of work of the church is dependent upon the
spiritual commitment and active participation of the lay members of that congregation.
Ministry in general refers to serving. Those who share in ministry, serve, work, or do something specific
to carry out duties assigned to them. It’s not just about being busy, or merely doing a lot of things in the
name of the Lord/ Christianity. It’s about being led by the Spirit, operating within our gifts to be effective
in kingdom building, and working together in Christian love! Jesus said if we want to be great, we ought
to serve. How we serve is dependent upon the calling and anointing of God on our lives, coupled with
other knowledge, gifts, skills, talents, and interests. So, we have members of the body of Christ who share
in various specialized ministries (such as preaching, teaching, singing, administrating, etc…). That being
said, we stress that every lay member should be saved. And every saved member is responsible for
exercising good stewardship of time, talent and resources to help the church be and do all that the Lord
Lay Ministry, in general, is what the laity (non-clergy) of the church share in to help the church carry out
its divinely mandated responsibilities. Lay ministry is what the lay members of our congregations are
called to carry out in order to help edify the body of Christ and to advance God’s kingdom on earth. The
truth of the matter is that the local church is the hub of all that we do in African Methodism. So, the
salvation, training, and empowerment of our lay members helps all of us serve more effectively for the
common good, and for Christ to be glorified in all things.
Lay Ministry in our A.M.E. Church Book of Discipline (pp. 128-130) is listed in the section on Local
Ministry. Lay Ministry is a term used in this context to refer to those persons who are called to be Lay
Speakers/Preachers in the Local Church. They are in good and regular standing, of solid piety, knowing
the Scriptures, and loving our Zion, and are authorized to help conduct and assist with worship services,
witness to the spoken word, and provide leadership in lay ministry. This is a recent addition from the
General Conference intended to address the needs in remote places where trained, ordained clergy are
scarce. Yet, they function under the auspices of the Pastor in charge, and perform duties such as the
reading of our liturgy except those related to our sacraments.
The General Areas of Service & Challenge
We salute those members of our congregations who sacrifice of themselves to serve in the overall lay ministry. We
would urge that each of us be reminded of what we are called to do rather focus on what we personally want to do.
Our desire is that we look more this conference year at doing “ministry”- “serving the Lord” rather than merely
carrying out expectations out or habit, or just going through the motions. In other words, all that we say and do in
the church in whatever areas of service we share in ought to be viewed as and carried out as ministry. We must
keep in mind our purpose for being as a church; as specialized ministries, and for each event, project, service, or
activity, ask: What does the Lord require of us? How does the Lord want us to move forward? How will this help
someone know God better, and/or give their lives to Christ? How will this strengthen the body of Christ?
In particular, let us remember that whether we are talking about Music Ministry (musicians, choirs, praise teams),
Dance Ministry, Ushering, Serving as Church Officers, or within the many groups that are set up to “carry out
specialized ministries”, our duty is to serve in such a way that everyone is drawn closer to Christ by what we do.
The areas of ministry in which lay members serve are designed to help us “minister” to the holistic needs of our
congregations and communities. We are to serve/ minister in such a way that is supported and undergirded with
the Word of God, that our worship services are enhanced, someone learns something about the goodness of the
Lord, and others cry out “what must I do to be saved; to be the person God created me to be; to know and walk in
We are not here for entertainment or to showcase our personal skills without regard to the will of the Spirit.
Ministry, both ordained and lay, is about service. Let us, therefore, go forth, therefore, to serve the Lord by serving
Respectfully submitted 13th day of May, 2011,
Your Committee on Lay Ministries,
Chairperson: Rev. Dietra C. Bell
Members: Rev. Charles Watkins, Rev. Melvin Wilson, Sis. Edith Cartledge & Sis. F. Jane Harris
The Lay Preacher in the Methodist tradition
Main article: Methodist local preacher
A very early tradition of preaching in the Wesleyan / Methodist churches was for a Lay Preacher to be
appointed to lead services of worship and preach in a group (called a 'circuit') of meeting places or churches.
The lay preacher walked or rode on horseback in a prescribed circuit of the preaching places according to an
agreed pattern and timing, and people came to the meetings. After the appointment of ministers and pastors, this
lay preaching tradition continued with Local Preachers being appointed by individual churches, and in turn
approved and invited by nearby churches, as an adjunct to the minister or during their planned absences.
In addition to being appointed by members of their local churches, Local and Certified Lay Speakers of the
United Methodist Church (more commonly in the United States) attend a series of training sessions. These
training sessions prepare the individual to become a leader within the church. All individuals who are full
members of the church are laity, but some go on to become Lay Speakers. Some preachers get their start as Lay
In the Uniting Church in Australia, that was constituted in part from the Methodist Church, persons can be
by the congregation as a Lay Preacher; and/or
by the regional Presbytery to conduct Communion.
A well-known lay preacher was the late King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV of Tonga.
The comparable term in the Anglican and Episcopal churches is Lay Reader.
Layman, ‘laity': In short: "laity" means "common people". The English word "laity" comes from the Greek
laikos which meant "of the people", "common" (common, in the meaning "unholy", "unclean" and similar). The
related verb laikoô meant "to make common", "to desecrate". Whoever calls people "laity" (or "layman" or
"laymen" in within the religious context), is actually calling them "common", that is, unholy or "unclean".
However, most people are perhaps unaware (we pray) of the true meaning, and it has become a custom to call