2014 Central Texas Annual Conference
June 8-11, 2014, in First United Methodist Church, Mansfield, Texas
From the beginning moments of Sunday’s opening worship to Bishop J. Michael Lowry’s benediction and blessing on Wednesday afternoon, the members and guests of the 148th Central Texas Annual Conference were challenged to be purposeful about their faith and reminded that Intentional Faith Development is vital for the success of our mission to energize and equip local churches to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Bishop Lowry, who presided over his sixth Central Texas Annual Conference, delivered his Episcopal Address with “joy in his heart and a song on his lips.” During the 15-minute address, he shared many of the highlights and narrative tales of transformation about what God is doing in and through the churches of the Central Texas Conference. He reported that for the past two years, the Central Texas Conference has participated in a Vital Congregations pilot project along with 11 other Annual Conferences to track five signs of vital congregations: worship attendance, new disciples of Jesus, disciples engaged in small groups, disciples engaged in missions and generous giving (especially to missions). The Central Texas Conference is up in every single category, with the number of Vital Congregations increasing 31 percent. Bishop Lowry also addressed the struggles the conference continues to face as we traverse the wilderness of our Exodus Project journey. He called for intentional and faithful perseverance, even as our local churches actively engage in a deep cultural change that embraces radical discipleship, our districts and conference empower those churches committed to our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, and everyone works to identify and develop the next generation of lay and clergy leadership.
The conference preacher, Bishop Paul Leeland, presiding bishop of the Alabama-West Florida Conference, brought several powerful and pointed messages related to Intentional Faith Development. He reminded us that we must be intentional about why we work for the Lord, intentional in our prayer time and intentional about how we answer God’s calling in our lives.
The conference was also blessed by the presence of four conference teachers who brought unique and vital perspectives in the area of Intentional Faith Development. On Monday, June 9, Bishop Scott Jones, episcopal leader of the Great Plains Conference, addressed the entire membership and explored what it means to grow in the Christian way of life as servants of the Lord — particularly as Wesleyan servants. On Tuesday, AC2014 attendees had the opportunity to reflect faithfully on the development of a path of discipleship in their own lives and the life of their local congregations by attending one of three different faith development workshops. The Rev. Candace Lewis, executive director of Path1, discussed building a system for making disciples; Dr. Phil Maynard focused his workshop on his book, “Shift: Helping Congregations Back into the Game of Effective Ministry; “and Sue Engle from the Memphis Conference unpacked “Charting a Course of Discipleship: A Workbook on Christian Discipleship,” by Teresa Gilbert, Patty Johansen and Jay Regennitter.
Other highlights of the 2014 Central Texas Annual Conference included:
- “The Basics of Leadership,” the keynote address during the Laity Session, by Brig. Gen. Charles “Ray” Bailey, Deputy Chief of Chaplains, US Army;
- The announcement that the Exodus Project, adopted in a called session of the Annual Conference Nov. 13, 2010, is on schedule. A review of its progress by an outside consultant begins this summer and will be presented in early 2015;
- The introduction of Kevin Walters, Ph.D., as director of the center for leadership, whose primary role is in the area of lay leadership development, and the Rev. Joseph Nader as coordinator of campus ministry, who will work to increase our scope and reach on college campuses;
- A report on the four new church starts planned for 2014;
- The recognition of 8 new and 54 returning 5-Star Congregations; and
- A report on the Central Texas Conference Volunteer in Mission projects in the communities of West and Granbury, Texas.
Many more of the ministries and missions of the conference were also celebrated throughout the meeting, and special awards and acknowledgments were bestowed.
- The Harry Denman Evangelism Awards, recognizing those whose life and ministry exemplifies the teaching of Christ and the Great Commission, were presented to the Rev. Betsy Godbold (clergy recipient) and Mr. Jimmy Adams (laity recipient).
- The Morris Walker Award, given by the Conference Board of Laity to laity who demonstrate “above and beyond” service to their local church, community and conference, was conferred on Pat & Patricia Stroman.
- The Conference Merit Awards, given to students headed to or attending a United Methodist affiliated school, were given to Fred Bates, Kaitlyn Frantz and Erin Jackson.
- The fifth-annual Bishop's Excellence in Preaching Award was presented to Dr. Will Cotton, senior pastor, St. Barnabas United Methodist Church.
While the conference successfully continued its six-year tradition of spending as much time as possible in worship, service or learning sessions, the business of the conference was, of course, fully addressed. Chief among that business was the election of the 2016 General and Jurisdictional Conference delegates. The clergy delegates to General Conference are Tim Bruster, First Fort Worth; John McKellar, White’s Chapel United Methodist Church; Clifton Howard, South District superintendent; and Brenda Wier, retired. The 2016 General Conference Lay Delegates are Tom Harkrider, Arborlawn United Methodist Church; Kim Simpson, St. Barnabas United Methodist Church; Steve McIver, First Ferris; and Darlene Alfred, St. James United Methodist Church.
The South Central Jurisdictional clergy delegates are Tom Robbins, First Temple; Chris Hayes, First Keller; Jim Conner, Genesis United Methodist Church; and Debra Crumpton, St. Andrew’s United Methodist church. The lay delegation to the South Central Jurisdiction Conference is made up of Ethan Gregory, Arborlawn United Methodist Church; Darcy Deupree, First Fort Worth; Kylie Campbell, Austin Avenue United Methodist Church; and Kevin Gregory, First Mineral Wells.
The conference also elected six alternates — three clergy, three laity. The clergy alternates are Louis Carr, Thompson Chapel United Methodist Church; Mary Spradlin, Arlington Heights United Methodist Church; and Jason Valendy, First Saginaw. The lay alternates are Mary Percifield, First Alvarado; Marianne Brown, St. Philips United Methodist Church; and Kathy Ezell, First Keller.
Other business conducted by the conference included voting to pledge $300,000 to the Lydia Patterson Institute to help build four new ESL classrooms in the middle school wing of the school; the passing of all items put forth via the consent agenda; approval of the proposed budget for the conference; and extending the lease on the new Central Texas Conference Service Center under construction near the campus of Texas Wesleyan University.
Bishop Lowry ordained four elders and one deacon and commissioned eight others into the ministry of elder or deacon. The membership of the conference stands at 166,162 as of the end of 2013, which is a decrease of 758 from the year prior. This is the first time in 40 years that the conference has registered a decline in membership. However, the average weekly worship attendance rose to 47,140 (+100 from 2012). Church school membership numbers increased dramatically, up 4,993 persons for a total of 74,233.
— J. Vance Morton, director of communications & IT, Central Texas Conference