2010 Central Texas Annual Conference
Central Texas Annual Conference
June 6-9, Fort Worth, Texas
Excitement and expectations were heightened at the 144th Central Texas Annual Conference in Fort Worth from the opening worship June 6 to the sending forth on June 9.
Combined youth choirs led the music during opening worship Sunday evening, and about 2,400 junior and senior high youth were commissioned for summer mission work in Texas and Oklahoma. About 700 of those youth were in worship and the remaining youth, their families and their congregations were able to participate via live streaming online.
As part of the sending forth three days later, members were challenged to come forward, one by one, with signed covenants to be Christ's disciples in the world by witnessing to at least two people each week. Adding to this focus on evangelism, the conference participated for the first time in the Foundation on Evangelism's Denman Awards by recognizing the Rev. Leah Hidde-Gregory (Frost UMC), Dr. John McKellar (White's Chapel UMC, Southlake), and Pat Stroman (Central UMC, Waco).
God is at work in the Conference, leading its people down new paths for living into the mission and ministry of the future. Members were called on to make hard decisions regarding finances and structure. They approved a $10.5 million budget for 2011, a .41 percent decrease, but they struggled before passing direct billing churches for their clergy comprehensive protection plan costs. A preliminary report on the new conference alignment was introduced and a Nov. 13 date approved for a called session to vote on the new alignment of resources and structure. Formal studies found the present conference building insufficient and found unsustainable the current clergy pension/health insurance and conference staffing costs.
Bishop J. Michael Lowry welcomed Dr. Jessica Moffatt Seay, senior pastor at First United Methodist Church in Ardmore, Okla., as preacher for all three worship services, and added for the first time this year an address by conference youth leaders Ethan Gregory, Matt Epting, Marianne Brown and Katie Lewis. Bishop Lowry gave his Episcopal address and led two Bible studies. Copies of Bishop Robert Schnase's latest book, Five Practices of Fruitful Living, were provided to all members by the Texas Methodist Foundation and served as a basis for a study by Dr. John McKellar of White's Chapel UMC.
Mosquitoes invaded almost every aspect of the conference (Bishop Lowry even dressed in a mosquito costume) as a reminder of the Imagine No Malaria offering, which raised about $35,000. Members "selling" the pipe-cleaner mosquitoes that landed at their seats raised another $3,540. Plus, more than $100,000 was pledged in a Cabinet-sponsored "A Pound-a-Weigh" weight loss project that ends in November.
Central Texas celebrates the 100th anniversary of the division of the Northwest Texas Conference in 1910 that created the Central Texas Conference. The blowout Centennial Celebration, featuring native Central Texan Willie Nelson as the headliner, was heavily promoted for Oct. 23 in Fort Worth.
In other actions, members approved a study of the conference relationship with the Central Texas Methodist Foundation; a recommendation that the 2012 jurisdictional delegation develop a procedure for interviewing all clergy who desire consideration as Episcopal candidates; and a resolution calling on the 111th U.S. Congress to enact comprehensive, human and equitable immigration reform. Members also recognized the new Ghanaian church start, the close of one church and merging of another with an existing church start. The body failed to approve a resolution calling for the election of at least one young adult to all future Annual Conference voting sessions, but will work with the Student Leadership Team to accomplish this goal by other means, and rejected a resolution calling for support of teaching "creation science" in our schools.
Lowry commissioned five into the ministry of elder or deacon, ordained 16 elders and six deacons, received one for associate membership and another on recognition of orders. This represents one of the youngest classes in the last two decades. Membership stands at 164,919, up 1,084 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 46,156, down 700. Church school attendance stands at 22,005, down 853.
-Carolyn Stephens, Associate Director for Mission Ministry & Director of Communications