Every year in June, I am humbled and honored to serve as a delegate to the Rio Texas Annual Conference (at least for five of the last six years—I missed one due to getting married). Having said that, being a delegate actually starts earlier than June. It starts by making connections at TUMC and being active in a variety of opportunities that TUMC has to offer. The main activity takes place in the Administrative Board meetings, which happen regularly throughout the year. These meetings provide an opportunity to learn what is going on around the church outside of the circles I am in, and they give me a chance to connect with others at TUMC that I do not see on Sundays. Another important meeting is when the church comes together as either a “Charge” or “Church” Conference and approves the nomination of new leaders, which includes the delegates to Annual Conference.
Before going to Corpus Christi, where Annual Conference is held, delegates need to attend the district meeting in May. This is where all the churches in a district (ours is the Capital District) meet and talk about what is happening across the district. We also approve the budget and district leadership. This year, our District Superintendent, Rev. Teresa Welborn, made some announcements about the variety of mission work that has been done around the district as well as new church starts. District Superintendent Welborn also announced that our district has the highest percentage of apportionments paid compared to the other districts. We also discussed what was coming up at Annual Conference. The main issue this year was about the “Children, Youth and Vulnerable Adults Safety Policy,” and a request to help recycle the water bottles at conference (since the conference center in Corpus does not recycle).
This year at Annual Conference, there was more emphasis on learning sessions, than in years past. These sessions included learning together with the whole conference as well as smaller, breakout learning sessions that covered a wide variety of topics. Bishop Robert Schnase, who is our presiding Bishop, made a presentation on the “Commission on a Way Forward.” (Read Bishop Schnase’s own words about the commission.) The results of this commission will be voted on during a special called General Conference that will be held in 2019. (The General Conference is an international meeting of delegates from every Annual Conference around the world and normally meets every four years.)
There were many conversations concerning the administration of the conference (picture an Administrative Board meeting with over 1,200 voting members, speaking both Spanish and English). At most meetings I have attended, there is usually a topic that creates a stir among those present. This meeting had two that stood out to me: the first was a motion from the floor asking the conference to suspend the rules, which was passed. The resolution was to ask the US government to stop separating parents from children (this was done before the US government stopped this practice), which was approved overwhelmingly by the Rio Texas Conference. The other issue from the floor was regarding the “Children, Youth and Vulnerable Adults Safety Policy.” There was a motion to change a word from “required” to “recommended” on how many trainings a person must complete before being allowed to serve in leadership with children, youth and vulnerable adults. This motion did not pass.
While gathered, we also worshiped together several times, and each service had a different focus and theme. There was an Opening Service with Communion, a Service of Remembrance (where we lift up all clergy and spouses who had passed away since the last time the Rio Texas Conference met), and the Ordination and Certification Service, where we as a conference ordain or certify our clergy. If you want to see more of what happens, you can watch the video recap.
Just like we have a Lay Leader here at TUMC, the Rio Texas Conference has a Conference Lay Leader, who hosts a welcome session on the first day. Our Conference Lay Leader is Ralph Thompson, and he did a great job welcoming returners and new folks to what the conference is and what we are called to do. (You can read his reflections on what happened at conference.)
All in all, I believe going to conference is a calling to the church to help make wise and informed decisions as we gather once a year to conduct the work of the church. I am humbled and blessed to represent our TUMC family and look forward to serving in this capacity as long as you will have me.
Peace in Christ,
TUMC Delegate to Rio Texas Conference