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2011 Rio Grande Annual Conference

Rio Grande Annual Conference
June 16-18, 2011, San Antonio, Texas

Now in the 158th year of its origins of ministry, the Rio Grande Annual Conference met at University United Methodist Church in San Antonio, Texas, June 16-18. Under the theme of "Moving Forward to Do God's Will," approximately 220 delegates received various reports on the state of the conference's vitality, initiatives and opportunities to create a culture of growth.

The annual gathering began Thursday evening with an opening community dinner and celebrative worship and communion service where Bishop Minerva Carcaño served as the special guest preacher. She was warmly and enthusiastically welcomed home as a native of the Rio Grande Conference. Her sermon challenged and encouraged the conference truly to move forward together toward the next levels of doing the will of God.

Friday evening, during a Celebration of Ministry worship service, the lives and ministries of clergy and their spouses were memorialized and honored, including: Antonio Luna, Yolanda Z. Barrera, the Rev. María Magdalena Pino, the Rev. John Shanks, Julia Anita González, Natalia Nieto, María Cristina Espinoza, Felicitas Arévalo de Gamez, Eduvina Sosa and the Rev. Oscar Francisco Garza. David Sanchez, originally of Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico, was commissioned for ministry during this service. Bishop Dorff was the worship service's preacher.

Worship service offerings were dedicated to support the work of Imagine No Malaria, disaster relief for tornado victims in Missouri and the Central Conferences pension fund.

In his annual address to the conference, Bishop Jim Dorff emphasized that the "time is now" more than ever to respond to the growing population in the episcopal area in making disciples of Jesus Christ. As an expression of preparing the area for deeper change and engagement in congregational vitality, Bishop Dorff spoke of the need for both conferences to prepare themselves through financial assessment, clergy leadership development and maximizing the sharing and leveraging of resources in the area for the greatest missional good and outcomes.

Within the episcopal address, a report was given on the Bishop's Commission on Area Cooperative Ministries stating that "after two years of discernment, the BCOACM invites the Rio Grande Conference and the Southwest Texas Conference to embrace a merger-not necessarily of structures or conferences-but of vision and purpose. We believe that if we are to reach our common mission field more effectively, we must begin to function as: One church. One ministry. One people."

The Common Table reported on various programmatic developments:

  • The Lay Missionary Planting Network held in the lower Rio Grande valley announced nine participants completing the 10-month training in starting new faith communities and eventual congregations and two more networks to begin in September 2011 in the Austin and San Antonio area.

  • The new church-start Ekklesia in East El Paso, Texas
  • The Congregational Mobilization Process as a means of revitalizing our existing congregations
  • The conference's partnership with the Methodist Church of Colombia, the March mission trip for beginning construction of a church in Ponedera, and an invitation to go to Colombia to continue and complete this construction project

  • An increase in the number of outreach and justice ministries coming from our congregations

Retiring clergy honored, serving a total of 158 years in ministry, were: David Maldonado, Jose L. Palos, Bernabe Muoz Sol and Melquisedec Soliz.

Edgar Avitia and Cindy Johnson were elected to the 2012 General Conference as clergy and lay delegates respectively. Additional alternate delegates and observer team members elected were: Alex Valverde, Sandra Cabrera, Robert Lopez, Daniel Soliz, Javier Leyva, Samuel Blanco, Leticia Ortegon, and Jeremiah Gutierrez.

Business items were:

  • Delegates approved a total budget of $1,428,979 of which $675,122 is apportioned to the local churches, a decreased apportioned amount of $108,430 from the previous year resulting in all churches (with the exception of two) facing reduction in their 2012 apportionment assignment.

  • The annual conference tentatively agreed to return to University United Methodist Church, San Antonio for the 2012 annual conference, June 14-16.

Conference membership stands at 13,845, up 58 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 4,597, down 167. Church school attendance stands at 1,949, down 211.

-Abel Vega, Jr., Director of Connectional Ministries