2015 Rio Texas Conference
The Rio Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church held its first annual meeting at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi from June 11-14. The conference dedicated the offerings from worship services, more than $13,000, to relief efforts for the spring floods that devastated victims in San Marcos, Wimberley, Blanco and other communities across the conference.
Approximately 1,500 voters, plus friends, family and other United Methodists, gathered to participate and witness the historic gathering. This is the first conference since the Southwest Texas Annual Conference and the Rio Grande Annual Conference voted to become the Rio Texas Conference in June of 2014. The Southwest Texas Conference and Rio Grande Conference became the Rio Texas Conference on January 1, 2015.
San Antonio Area Bishop James E. Dorff presided over the four-day meeting.
“The work of United Methodists has been alive and well in this region for well over 150 years. The names, the forms, the languages, the missional outposts (or churches as we now call them) and the annual conferences have all been in transition during these many years,” said Bishop Dorff. “This transitioning continues through the Rio Texas Annual Conference. In the midst of these transitions and this newness of life, one thing has held steady: our purpose. We have been here all these years to live out the biblical mandate to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. As we gather for session number one, our task is the same. May we never lose sight of our calling. It is what has brought us this far, by God’s grace.”
He was joined by seven bishops for several worship services held at the Selena Auditorium in Corpus Christi. They all have strong ties to the former Rio Grande and Southwest Texas Conferences.
Bishop Robert C. Schnase of the Missouri Conference (former pastor of First United Methodist Church, McAllen) encouraged United Methodists to take action while acting as the new Rio Texas Conference.
“You’ve had the courage to take this step; now lead us. In this fast-growing part of the country, become leaders in starting new congregations,” Bishop Schnase said. “Become leaders in multicultural and bicultural ministry. Become the leaders in reaching young people. Become the leaders in social justice. We need you to do that for us.”
Worship was at the heart of the gathering. Bishop Minerva Carcaño of the California-Pacific Conference (former pastor in the Rio Grande Conference) preached at the traditional Memorial Service and Bishop J. Michael Lowry of the Central Texas Conference (former pastor of University United Methodist Church, San Antonio) shared the word at the service of Baptismal Renewal.
Bishop Joel Martinez of the former Rio Grande and Southwest Texas Conferences joined Bishop Dorff in presiding over the ordination of the first deacons and elders ordained in the Rio Texas Conference.
Four Areas of Focus
During the business sessions, delegates listened to presentations from the new Rio Texas Mission Vitality Center. Under the leadership of executive director, Ruben Saenz, the Mission Vitality Center seeks to equip Rio Texas churches to reach the mission field to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Per the design of the new annual conference structure, the missional work of the conference focuses on providing churches with the tools they need for creating vital congregations, uniting people, transforming communities and developing leaders. This is Rio Texas’ approach to engaging our local churches in our denominational efforts to engage in ministry with the poor, improve global health, develop principled Christian leaders and create new and renewed congregations.
Specifically, delegates were introduced to a new disciple making initiative with leadership from Phil Maynard. They also learned about a new emphasis on cultural competency that will facilitate us working together across race, gender, age and socioeconomic background. Interns and leaders from were also on hand to feature the great work of the newly created Project Transformation, Rio Texas, an outreach ministry that focuses on connecting churches, college-aged adults and children to improve literacy among at risk children.
Even though the former Southwest Texas and Rio Grande annual conferences elected their delegates separately, they will be seated as one at both conferences; General Conference in May in Portland, Oregon, and the South Central Jurisdictional Conference in July in Wichita, Kansas.
Nine elders and three deacons were ordained with an average age of 49.
Current membership as of January 1, 2015: 123,442
Average worship attendance: 47,446
Church school attendance: 16,899
Due to the fact that the Rio Texas Annual Conference came into being on January 1 of 2015, statistics for previous years are not available.
— The Rev. Will Rice, director of communications and media in the Rio Texas Conference