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2016 Río Texas Annual Conference

Dates of conference gathering: June, 9-12, 2016

Officiating bishop: Bishop Robert Schnase

Guest speakers: Patrick Friday, Bishop Janice Riggle Huie

Memorable points or quotes by speakers:

"You take care of Kingdom work and the institutional church will be just fine." — Bishop Janice Riggle Huie.

“Most of the churches represented here have been on a 50 year decline, and we don't need to teach people how to do that." —  Bishop Robert Schnase.

“For the sake of the mission before us, we cannot afford to “Walk Apart” from each other with an attitude of distrust and self-protection. We cannot afford to “Walk Behind” each other in a state of dependency, with an active and passive relational dynamic between each other. Instead, let us choose to “Walk Together,” collaborating with each other, engaged and active in finding new ways to be faithful and fruitful in our contexts for ministry and in our time.” —  the Rev. Ruben Saenz Jr., Executive Director, Mission Vitality Center.

Under the direction of Executive Director, the Rev. Ruben Saenz Jr., the Rio Texas Annual Conference honors its commitment to the Four Areas of Focus through the work of its Mission Vitality Center. The Rio Texas Mission Vitality Center clearly focuses on one thing. That is, we align and direct the flow of attention, energy, and resources to foster and sustain an increase in the number of vital Rio Texas Conference congregations. The Center is designed around helping churches grow in congregational vitality, mission vitality and leadership vitality. Here is how the Mission Vitality Center’s work continues to reinforce the Four Areas of Focus:

Engaging in Ministry with the Poor

The Rio Texas Outreach Vitality Office, under the leadership of Abel Vega is engaged in a multi-year process adopting the “In Mission Together” model as a foundational approach to ministry. This approach focuses on long-term relationships as opposed to fly-by mission opportunities. This year, the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries’ Patrick Friday spoke to the gathered assembly to help the conference understand the impact of this model of ministry.

Improving Global Health

Through our local churches, United Methodists in Rio Texas are engaged in health ministries throughout the world. However, moving forward, we are hoping to bring the “In Mission Together” model to bear in our approach to global health ministries in order to create more longer-term, sustainable models of health improvement.

Developing Principled Christian Leaders

The Rio Texas Leadership Vitality Office, under the leadership of the Rev. Marcus Freeman, III continues to develop and promote initiatives to promote Christian leadership development in local churches and throughout the annual conference. The most ambitious plan is the release, this summer of a new curriculum, Missional Leadership Development. Developed with Ken Willard, the curriculum will be paired with facilitator training for maximum impact.

Creating New and Renewed Congregations

The Rio Texas Congregational Vitality and New Faith Community Office, under the leadership of the Rev. Bob Allen continues to find innovative ways to create new places for new people in new congregations and revived congregations. The latest tool shared at this year’s annual conference is the New Places New People Grant. Awards up to $25,000 over three years are awarded to congregations with solid plans for reaching new people groups and/or extending their ministries outside the walls of the church.

Number of people ordained, commissioned or received into associate membership, and average age: 6 ordained elder with an average age of 45; 5 ordained deacon with an average age of 47; 3 received as associate nembers with an average age of 66; 11 commissioned as provisional elders with an average age of 42.

Overall average: 49

Number of people retired: 21

Membership stands at 119765, down 123,669 from the previous year.

Worship attendance stands at 44937, down from 47,505.

Church school attendance stands at 16, 219, down from 16,899.

Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2015, 2341.

Adults and young adults in small groups for 2015, 32172

Worshippers engaged in mission for 2015 at 18742, down from 22748 in 2014.

Will Rice, director of communications and media support, Rio Texas Conference.