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2012 Southwest Texas Annual Conference

Southwest Texas Annual Conference
June 7-10, Corpus Christi, Texas

About 1,350 lay and clergy delegates met June 7-10 inside the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi for the Southwest Texas Conference's 2012 annual conference session.

Bishop Jim Dorff, bishop of the San Antonio Episcopal Area, presided over the gathering.

In a historical action, delegates voted (813 yes, 111 no, 11 abstentions) to bring the following resolution to the South Central Jurisdictional Conference in July: "Be it resolved that the Southwest Texas Conference commits itself to the creation of a new conference for the ministry of Jesus Christ through the unification of the current Rio Grande and Southwest Texas Conferences and further requests permission from the 2012 Jurisdictional Conference to implement this request prior to the 2016 General Conference."

Membership stands at 116,919, down 1,814 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 46,548 weekly, down 988 from the previous year. Church school attendance stands at 17,059 weekly, down 1,609 from the previous year.

Twenty-seven people were ordained, commissioned or received into associate membership. Average age was 42. Eighteen clergy members retired.

Guest speakers included the Rev. Gil Rendle, a senior consultant with the Texas Methodist Foundation; Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño, bishop of the Phoenix Area; and the Rev. Jorge Acevedo, pastor of Grace Church in Florida.

Carcaño talked to delegates about the importance of caring for the needy.

"Love, mercy and compassion, especially as we extend them to those most in need, are the evaluative tools of the reign of God and Christ's own dashboard of the report of who is journeying with him and who is not," she said. "'When you did one of these to the least of these, you did that to me as well.' That is Christ's report back to us. How are we doing?"

She said that many delegates left General Conference 2012 feeling a little fearful, paralyzed, directionless, unable to chart the way forward.

"But the way forward has been charted, the direction has been set and our fear can be banished and the paralysis has been healed," Carcaño said. "We take our struggles of The United Methodist Church as a sign that God is still at work among us, a God who loves us and wants to save us - save us not for a superficial and ultimately meaningless life but for a deep and meaningful life that will bind us to each other.

"God wants to save us, our individual and collective souls, from self obsession to outward living because it is what does us good. Jesus was serious when he said, 'It is in losing your life that you will gain your life.' He was serious when he said, 'I have come to serve, not to be served.' He was serious when he said, 'The last will be first and the first will be last.' He is trying to save us when he says, 'Feed the hungry.'

"It is when we live this way, the way of Christ-centered love, that we will see Jesus and faithfully be, with Christ, one ministry, growing the church."

The Rev. Jorge Acevedo, pastor of Grace Church in Florida, talked to delegates about evangelism during two worship services.

"If a pudgy Puerto Rican in Southwest Florida, a redneck city, can lead a prevailing church that was ready to close and now is vital and vibrant and, as we're sitting here folks are coming to know Jesus, it can happen anywhere," Acevedo said. "We serve the God who can do anything."

He told delegates that their churches should be a whoever-will-come, whenever-they-come kind of church.

"Here's a church-growth principle: If Jesus will show up in your church, a crowd will show up in your church," Acevedo said. "Might it be the reason folks don't show up in our church is that Jesus doesn't show up? There's a difference between Jesus' presence and his power. There were places he couldn't perform miracles, and my fear is that the churches have become places where that happens.

"When Jesus shows up, the people nobody else wants or sees will show up at your church. Is my church a whoever-will-come kind of church? Am I a whoever-will-come follower of Jesus? Do you love your music and liturgy, your precious parlor and carpet more than you love people? Do you love church nice and comfortable for you because it's all about me?

"It ain't about you and it ain't about me. It's about him and lost people."

Acevedo said that churches that meet the needs of people would have those people beating their doors down.

"But if the only door open is Sunday morning worship, good luck," he said. "Most of our churches suffer from spiritual malpractice, offering Jesus the healer without offering the people, the places and the processes for healing. Don't open the trash can lid unless you're willing to stay there and help them clean it up.

"We are in the business of being conduits of his grace, and people in need are crazy about Jesus. They just don't know it yet. We need to introduce people to the Savior because the Savior still saves."

The Rev. Gil Rendle, a senior consultant with the Texas Methodist Foundation, talked to delegates about traveling through the wilderness - comparing this time in The United Methodist Church to the time the Israelites were wandering and came to the Red Sea.

"This is where all the fun is," Rendle said. "It's in the wilderness that God forms and reforms God's people. It's in the wilderness that we get changed.

"For you and I to be in the wilderness is to walk in with the kind of courage that doesn't know that God is going to intervene. This wilderness we are living into is one that will challenge us but one we cannot escape. This is where the fun begins for the people who are relating to a living Christ."

He said we must start "getting used to the wilderness God has led us into" because it changes us - but it also takes time.

"The first step in our transition into the wilderness is to let go of what we have been holding onto for so long," Rendle said. "This is not a world where people join anymore. This is a world where people participate. If we do not let go, we cannot move on. This is the most painful work of being in the wilderness.

"We don't know how to make disciples. I was not trained to make disciples. Disciples are changed people who have a changed relationship with Christ, a changed relationship with their families, their community, their world. I was not trained to change people's lives. I was trained to change their affiliation. I was trained to make them members, not disciples."

He said that one of the things about the wilderness is "you have to go into the wilderness before you can know the details."

"What if God's dream is bigger for you and me than we already know, and what if we take a couple of steps in that direction to find out what's there without knowing all the answers?" Rendle said. "One of the things we have to let go of is certainty. Wandering demands that we trust God. Wandering requires us to trust God."