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2009 Central Texas Annual Conference

Central Texas Annual Conference
June 7-10, 2009, Southlake, Texas

As new Episcopal leader, Bishop Michael Lowry led his first annual conference at White's Chapel United Methodist Church, Southlake. This was the first time in over 40 years for the conference to convene in a church setting.

With the theme of "Energizing & Equipping Local Churches to Make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the World," the local church's vital role in making disciples was emphasized in the bishop's episcopal address, in his daily Bible studies on Paul's instructions in Acts to witness for Christ, and in the dynamic preaching of the Rev. Walter Kimbrough, pastor emeritus of Cascade United Methodist Church, Atlanta, at three worship services.

In a series of "firsts," the Rev. Karen Greenwaldt, top executive of the United Methodist Board of Discipleship and a member of the conference, led the laity in a special session on "Reaching Out to God/Reaching Out to the World" in which she expounded on the denomination's four focus areas. In the first joint clergy/laity memorial service, Kimbrough's message of remembrance for the clergy and the laity who had passed during the year was one of joy for "We are standing this morning on their shoulders, having benefitted from knowing them." He reminded the body that "We are recipients of the gift of grace &ellipsis; with death swallowed up in victory;" that we need transformational experiences in our own existence-"Life is a loan that you have to give it back;" and instructed, "If you can't be excited about what God has given you, how can you share it with others. I don't know about you, but I've got something to shout about."

Perhaps the biggest "first" was the "United Methodist Night at the Ballpark" time of fellowship with Bishop Lowry throwing out the ceremonial first ball for the Texas Rangers vs. Toronto Blue Jays baseball game. The Texas Rangers lost the game, but the United Methodists had a winning evening!

In other actions, the body:

  • Celebrated 35 years of consecutive membership growth;
  • Received recognition for the largest increase in missionary support among conferences in the South Central Jurisdiction;
  • Celebrated a Mission Ministries report that lifted up current ministries that are fulfilling the Church's missions under the four areas of focus;
  • Passed a $10,545,210 budget that reflects a 0.54 percent decrease from the previous year;
  • Adopted a model for Congregational Effectiveness;
  • Approved health benefit premium increases of 11.2 percent for both active members and retirees;
  • Appointed a task force to examine the conference alignment of resources, structure and organization to ensure faithfulness and fruitfulness in the ministry of making disciples;
  • Commissioned 11 for provisional membership and ordained 10 as elders - the average age for those ordained is 52, for those commissioned is 35.7, and for combined group 43.85;
  • Retired seven elders, one associate member and one local pastor, collectively representing 266 years in ministry;
  • Awarded the first G. Alfred & Opal Brown $5,000 scholarship for a United Methodist seminary student;
  • Recognized outstanding achievements and services with the Morris Walker Awards to the Rev. Mary Gean Cope (clergy) and Diane Griffin (laity);
  • Celebrated nine Global Mission Churches, 36 Five Star Churches and 36 Covenant Relationship Churches;
  • Received $10,551 for the Annual Conference offering to support four justice ministries - Crime Victims Council, Methodist Justice Ministry, Parents & Children Together and Tarrant County Restorative Justice Center/Home of Greater Joy; and
  • Collected $5,551 for the Central Conferences Pension Initiative

In a special report, the Board of Pension prepared conference members for what will be major increases in pension support beginning in 2011, and urged that this additional support not be at the loss of ministries.

On the proposed Constitutional Amendments, members had a thoughtful, prayerful debate. Votes will be reported after all annual conferences have had an opportunity to vote. Conference members passed a resolution to continue support to the Justice For Our Neighbors (JFON) ministries and another calling attention to immigration, customs enforcement raids and detentions.

Membership stands at 163,793, up 1,282 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 47,004, up 167. Church school attendance stands at 58,336, down 2,181.

-Carolyn Stephens