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2009 Rio Grande Annual Conference

Rio Grande Annual Conference
June 11-13, San Antonio, Texas

Now in its 156th year of ministry, the Rio Grande Annual Conference met at University United Methodist Church San Antonio. Under the theme of "Los Cuatro Senderos" or the "Four Areas of Focus", the annual conference welcomed Bishop James E. Dorff for his first Rio Grande annual conference. The San Antonio Area Episcopal leader presided over the Southwest Texas annual conference a week earlier.

In his episcopal address, Dorff affirmed that God is not yet done with the two annual conferences in the episcopal area. Given the uniqueness of the episcopal region with a booming Hispanic / Latino majority population, Dorff exhorted the need to develop a culture of growth in the episcopal area. The bishop will be composing a special commission with leaders from both conferences to explore how the two conferences could best work missionally as one area to create this culture of church growth to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

The Common Table gave an update on the conference's action plan for leadership development and church growth reporting that this past year has been about local church leaders reflecting and responding to the denominations' call for United Methodist to develop leaders, revitalize existing congregations and start new churches, partner in ministry with the poor, and engage in health and wellness ministries. Testimonies were shared reflecting examples within the conference where local church ministries are engaging in the four focus ministry areas.

A group of consultant pastors were recognized for their work in providing facilitative leadership assisting local church leaders to better understand how they can engage in the four areas of ministry focus as well as, in some cases, helping leaders develop ministry action plans.

Bishop Juan Alberto Cardona of the Colombian Methodist Church was the guest preacher for the memorial / communion service where eight people were memorialized. Cardona also gave witness to the plenary session and during a special dinner of the mission and ministry of the church in Colombia. A special offering was taken to support the construction of the church's first sanctuary. The Colombian Methodist Church has no physical infrastructure as it has been very much a church located where the people are, particularly the poor and marginalized.

The conference celebrated the retirement of one pastor the Rev. Rodolfo Barrera. As there were no people to ordain or commission this year, the Board of Ordained Ministry held a special worship service to celebrate ministry and the call to the vocation of ministry. Six people responded to this call. A reception thereafter displayed information on various ways to serve in ministry.

A youth / young adult led worship service was a significant conference highlight where Robert Elizondo shared on the importance of the youth / young adult contribution to the ministry life of the church.

During the conference celebration luncheon, Bishop and Mrs. Dorff were festively welcomed as the conference's episcopal leaders and treated to congregational singing led by a mariachi band. With the bishop's birthday being the following day, the joyful crowd saluted him with the traditional Mexican birthday favorite "Las Mañanitas". The episcopal leader's response soon after was, "this has been my best birthday ever!"

Business / legislative items included:

  • Adopting a Safe Sanctuaries policy whereby giving local churches and ministry entities one year to develop their Safe Sanctuaries policy.
  • Approving a $955,757.00 budget, an increase of $31,923 from the previous year.
  • Affirming all the proposed constitutional amendments except for amendments 4, 10, 13, 15, and 23.
  • Electing to return to University United Methodist Church San Antonio for the 2010 annual conference, tentatively set for June 10 12.

Conference membership stands at 13,988 down 38 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 4,647, down 52. Church school attendance stands at 2,994, down 12.

-Abel Vega, Jr.