Rio Texas Annual Conference 2019
With Pastor Paul Harris
Every year, lay and clergy delegates from the churches of the Rio Texas Annual Conference gather for worship, learning, and business in a 3-1/2 day conference. This year the conference was held in Corpus Christi, Tx from June 5-8. Joyce Schupp served as Lay Delegate from Hunt UMC.
The conference is an event and a conversation. Conferencing is a practice started by John Wesley in England to provide annual conversation and evaluation of ministry among the pastors of the people called Methodists. Conferencing continues today as delegates gather to enter into conversation with the resident Bishop and each other in setting priorities and budgets for shared ministries.
The conference is the connection of United Methodist churches and the ministries they share together in the south and central Texas areas. The conference includes clergy persons Methodists call ordained Elders and Deacons (servings as local church pastors and church staff specialists), Licensed Local Pastors, clergy serving in Extension Ministries, and retired persons from each of these clergy groups.
This year’s Conference Highlights included the election of Lay and clergy delegates from the Rio Texas Annual Conference to serve at the General Conference 2020 (global church conference) and at the South Central Jurisdictional Conference 2020 (regional conference which establishes conference boundaries and elects bishops to be assigned in the jurisdiction).
We also experienced several very meaningful and spirit-filled worship services opening the conference, honoring in memorial pastors and family members who passed since the last conference, a celebration of retirement for pastors and spouses who elected to retire this year, and the commissioning and ordination of new clergy into the Annual Conference.
For the most part, this conference was very similar to other Annual Conferences I have attended in 19 years as a pastor and 15 years as a Lay Delegate. But there was also something very different about this Conference.
We celebrated our “connection - the shared ministry of disaster recovery, border ministry, transforming communities, new church starts and revitalized churches, fresh expressions of ministries, a new non-profit lease of Mt Wesley, and much more. New items but similar successes in the connection.
And then there was an undercurrent of change and the evidence of new construction within the leadership of the Annual Conference. A much younger delegate group was elected to serve at the 2020 general and jurisdiction conferences. And leadership expressing moderation and inclusion.
I am encouraged in the outcome of the Annual Conference. And I give thanks for the opportunity to serve under appointment for another year in West Kerr County and as pastor of Hunt UMC.
Along the Way
It is summer time in the Texas Hill Country. And some folks are bringing their children to camps along the North Fork or South Fork of the Guadalupe River near us in Hunt, Texas. As schools conclude and graduates make their way across stages, families gather to celebrate family and rites of passage. In all the travel, coming and going, I ask for safe travel mercies and blessings Along the Way.
This week I will travel to Corpus Christi for the Annual Conference of the Rio Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church. With pastor colleagues and lay delegates from churches across our geographical area of South and Central Texas, we shall arrive in Corpus Christi Wednesday and stay through Saturday (and some longer). I enjoy the time in Conference with colleagues and friends and the week always goes by too quickly.
This year, I ask for each of you to join me in prayer for our Annual Conference. We may still be a year away from a potential fracturing of the United Methodist Church, but this year I expect we will be on edge in our words and actions with one another. We all are going to feel the emotion of outcomes from the 2019 General Conference and the subsequent association gatherings.
The Wesley Covenant Association, UM Next, UM Forward - all tribal groups within our UMC connection continue to fine tune next steps on how to either split up or stay together in some fashion. Some expect that Annual Conferences may soon have the option on where to align if some new connectional system is adopted in 2020.
Lots of questions remain. And so we go to Conference with one another. Conference is indeed an event, but more importantly, it is a conversation. I pray that the conversations we hold together will find blessing in the sight of our Lord. I pray that our conversations will yield some form of unity in the midst of separation.
And I hope and pray that whatever the UMC becomes in the future, it will be more about living a life with Christ in which all are included than about arguing over exclusive rules and penalties for not following those rules.
In need of your prayer,
Along the Way
Author: Paul E Harris
Journal posts from a pastor and spiritual friend