Bishop Announces New District Superintendent and Assistant

Bishop Announces New District Superintendent and Assistant

Robert Schnase, Bishop of the Rio Texas Annual Conference, announced the appointment of Rev. Andy Smith as the new District Superintendent of the Hill Country District. Smith will replace retiring District Superintendent John Wright. Smith is currently the superintendent of the West District and will continue to serve the West in addition to Hill Country.

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Rio Texas Commissions New Trusted con Confianza Facilitators

 27 new Trusted con Confianza facilitator trainers. 

27 new Trusted con Confianza facilitator trainers. 

Members of the Rio Texas Safety Task Force Team welcomed 27 leaders from across the conference to the very first Trusted con Confianza facilitator training retreat March 23-24. These leaders represent each of our districts. Many were recommended by their District Superintendents and all filled out an application, received a recommendation from their senior pastor, and signed a covenant committing to the work of equipping and supporting churches in the work of keeping all of God’s children safe.

The group met at Laurel Heights United Methodist Church for a 24-hour training retreat that prepared them to lead Trusted con Confianza facilitated sessions across our conference.

Rev. Joy Melton, United Methodist Deacon, lawyer, and author of the Safe Sanctuary resources led the training as the keynote speaker. In her remarks, she reminded the group of the importance of doing the work of keeping children, youth, and vulnerable adults safe.

Rev. Melton praised the Rio Texas Conference on their work to create a strong, solid, and faithful policy and certification process. She noted that she was excited to share that the Rio Texas Conference is now a Safe Sanctuary conference. Rev. Melton encouraged the new facilitators in their work as they go out to equip and support churches in keeping all of God’s children safe.

These facilitators will be leading Trusted con Confianza certification facilitated sessions across the conference. For a complete description of the certification process please visit this page

Need to attend a training? Check out information about upcoming trainings at:

Trusted con Confianza facilitators:

  • Carrie Anders
  • Lori Balensiefen
  • Bonnie Bevers
  • Laurel Bradford
  • Tanya Campen
  • Kim Carroll
  • Rita Cavazos
  • Meredith Copeland
  • Kelly Duke
  • Pam Elliott
  • Megan Getman
  • Jodi Gutierrez
  • Anne Hardegree
  • Chéri Heldstab
  • Patrick Jackson
  • Cheryl Kendall
  • J’Nevelyn Lloyd
  • Donna Magee
  • Valerie Mendoza
  • Mark Mitchell
  • Bridget Preece
  • Lisa Rush
  • Barry Sharp
  • Michael Smith
  • John Paul Spurlock
  • Erika Stiner
  • Vanessa Tirey
  • Carol Ann Weston

Bishop of Puerto Rico Visits Conference Office, Leaders about Recovery

 Bishop Ortiz met with leaders at the Rio Texas Conference. Photo by Rev. Will Rice

Bishop Ortiz met with leaders at the Rio Texas Conference. Photo by Rev. Will Rice

Almost five months since two Category 5 hurricanes – Irma and Maria – made landfall in Puerto Rico, Bishop Hector Ortiz of the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico was in San Antonio, telling the church’s story of recovery response to the devastation.

Ortiz met with United Methodist Church leaders to share how the church is setting up the infrastructure to receive volunteer teams that wish to come and be part of the rebuilding process.

A third of the population still does not have electricity and over 300,000 people have left Puerto Rico for the U.S. mainland. Upwards of 30 Methodist churches in Puerto Rico were damaged.

Conference leaders empathized with Bishop Ortiz’s story, as Methodists here have been dealing with the recovery of the Texas Gulf coast from the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey last August, including damage to Methodist churches in the conference’s area.


The United Methodist Committee on Relief, or UMCOR, the church’s global relief agency, is working with both Rio Texas and Puerto Rico to provide funding and support recovery needs assessments through case management.

Bishop Ortiz indicated that in some areas of the island, relief work as basic as placing tarps on roofs to prevent leaking and mucking out debris is still desperately needed. In other areas of the island, the rebuilding of homes and buildings has started.

Bishop Ortiz champions this mission of Puerto Rico’s recovery, a ministry of traveling, connecting and listening to people, offering hope through his pastoral presence and prayers.

A distinct facet of his visit was to invite U.S. United Methodist Churches to partner with Puerto Rican Methodist churches in the rebuilding process. As U.S. volunteer work teams come to help, Puerto Rican Methodists will be alongside them. The bishop highlighted the need for attentiveness to his flock of pastors because of burnout due to “compassion fatigue.”

Bishop Ortiz shared again the country’s recovery status with various UMC congregations and pastors as well as members of San Antonio’s Puerto Rican community.

Despite the story of hardship reflecting the slow and methodical pace of the recovery, Ortiz’ story reflected the confidence that Puerto Rico’s future is bright.

“With the help of God, we want to rise up again. We are going to rise up again,” he said.

Information on how you can help the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico is on their official Facebook page here. You can also send a check or money order to: Iglesia Metodista de PR. PO Box 23339 San Juan, PR 00931.
Mariana Bracetti #8 San Juan, PR 00931.

Written by Abel Vega, Outreach Vitality Director
This 'Belief' editorial was featured in the March 4, 2018 edition of the San Antonio Express-News



Virgin Pulse - Wespath Winter Sports Challenge

Virgin Pulse - Wespath Winter Sports Challenge

Attention clergy, clergy spouses, and staff covered by the conference health plan:

In a couple of weeks, a new challenge will begin on Virgin Pulse, the Wespath Winter Sports Challenge. Teams can be organized with up to 10 people in them. One team, Rio Texas Ramblers, organized by Paul Harper, is already full. Assistant to the Bishop, Laura Merrill has started a team, Rápido Rio TX, and she invites others to do the same or to join teams with empty spots.

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Clergy Convocation Draws Over 350 Pastors

Clergy Convocation Draws Over 350 Pastors

Over 350 Rio Texas pastors gathered together last week for the annual Clergy Convocation. This year's event was hosted by University United Methodist Church, San Antonio. The time together kicked off worship event led by Abel Stewart of Northern Hills UMC, San Antonio and his band of clergy and friends. Attendees were inspired by a sermon delivered by Rev. Olu Brown, Lead Pastor of Impact Church in Atlanta.
This year's theme was, "Resilience: From Staying Alive to Thriving in Anxious Times." Brown focused on that theme.

"Friends, we are living in the midst of anxious times," said Brown. "But we still believe that there is a God who sits high  and looks low."

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Rio Texas to Send Delegates to South Africa for Global Young People's Convention

The Rio Texas Conference will send several delegates and members of the Young Adult Ministry Council and the Youth Ministry Council to the Global Young People’s Convention in Johannesburg, South Africa on July 18-22.

The Rio Texas individuals going to the GYPC include three delegates:

  • Marlee Claes (Youth, Kyle UMC)
  • Zephyr Straus (Young Adult, Westlake UMC, Austin)
  • Tori Perales (Young Adult, Christ UMC)


“I want to make church relevant for people in my age bracket who have questions and doubts and encouraging them to ask the questions instead of discouraging exploration of self and other topics of religion and spirituality,” said Strauss. “As a 20-year-old who has gone through periods of having questions and even doubts about my faith and feeling like church was not a safe place to express those things, I would like to help equip the church to nurture youth who are in the same place as I was.”

In addition to these youth delegates, other members of the conference traveling to Johannesburg are:

  • Melissa Phillips (Youth member of Rio Texas Youth Ministry Council)
  • Rev. Kallie Green (Clergy and member of the Young Adult Ministry Council)
  • Rev. Dr. Tanya Campen (Director, IG Discipleship)
  • Rev. Abby Herrera (Young People's staff at Discipleship Ministries)
  • Rev. JD Herrera (Adult member of the Rio Texas Youth Ministry Council)
 Marlee claes

Marlee claes

The purpose of the GYPC is to celebrate the mission and vitality of young people in the United Methodist Church, raise the joys and concerns of young people from the global community, develop young people as leaders for effective ministry in local churches and communities of faith, highlight emerging trends in youth and young adult ministry, provide a common forum that embraces the global reality of the church.

Rio Texas Conference represented in Wespath’s Young Leaders Advisory Board

CHICAGO–Robert Perales, from the Rio Texas conference, will be working in 2018 to help shape the way Wespath Benefits and Investments (Wespath) serves The United Methodist Church by participating in Wespath’s inaugural Young Leaders Advisory Board (Y-LAB).

Wespath is the general agency of the UMC responsible for administering benefits and investing retirement plan assets.

Wespath created Y-LAB in 2017 to engage and better serve young adults dedicated to the Church. Members are partnering with Wespath to identify gaps in connecting with young clergy and lay employees, generate ideas that help improve Wespath’s products and services, and help shape how Wespath shares information.

In November, the group traveled to Pensacola, Florida to attend Wespath’s revitup! For a Lifetime in Ministry, an event for young clergy, where they provided insights about how Wespath can enhance its educational outreach. The group also met at Wespath’s headquarters in Glenview, Ill in September, where they interacted with Wespath employees and senior leadership, including General Secretary, Barbara Boigegrain.

Their hard work will continue into 2018!

“The discussion among the Y-LAB members has been lively and energetic, and their feedback has already proven valuable,” said Ms. Boigegrain. “We appreciate their willingness to help us better serve the Church, and look forward to hearing more from this engaging group of young UMC leaders!”

The 15 Y-LAB members are all aged 35 or younger, and represent both laity and clergy across the U.S. Y-LAB members were selected by Directors of Connectional Ministries in their UMC jurisdictions who viewed these individuals as young leaders within the Connection.

Wespath has created a similar Conference Advisory Board consisting of Conference Benefits Officers and Treasurers across the UMC in order to better engage with, and connect to, the annual conferences and participants it serves.

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Special Guests Announced for Annual Conference 2018

Special Guests Announced for Annual Conference 2018

The 2018 Rio Texas Annual Conference will be held June 6-9 at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas. This year's theme is "From Come & See to Go & Do: Rethinking the Five Practices." It has been ten years since the release of Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations by Robert Schnase, Bishop of the Rio Texas Conference. Much has changed in those ten years.

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Austin New Church Celebrates First Sunday Worship in New Location

Austin New Church Celebrates First Sunday Worship in New Location

Austin New Church (ANC), a congregation in the process of becoming part of the Rio Texas Conference, celebrated their first Sunday worship service in their new location this week. ANC is now gathering on the former Faith UMC campus in South Austin. 

While this was ANC's first Sunday service on the new campus, they previously celebrated Christmas Eve a day early at Faith UMC on December 23. The church began renovation on the sanctuary in early January to be ready for this Sunday's worship.

The freshly updated sanctuary welcomed a large crowd. "The seats are full," said Rev. Laura Merrill, Assistant to the Bishop of Rio Texas. "Youth even claimed the balcony–some things never change!" 

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2018 Rio Texas Scholarship Awards Program is Now Accepting Applications


The Higher Education Team & GBHEM are now accepting applications for three Scholarship Awards. Awards are given to United Methodist students, who have been a member of a church in the Río Texas Conference, high school seniors through college seniors who are seeking their first undergraduate degree. 

For more information and details, please read the guidelines for nominating students for either the Craven-Wilson or the Albert & Nancy Wilson Merit Awards.  Visit Rio Texas Scholarship Opportunities Page and click on the Scholarship Nomination Application.  The deadline to submit applications and all related documents is April 1.  

The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) is also offering a merit award. To apply for the GBHEM Merit Award , please click here

Application available online only. The Fall 2018 GBHEM application is now open and the deadline for completion is March 7, 2018.  

Bishops, Agency Respond to #MeToo Movement

Bishops, Agency Respond to #MeToo Movement

By Heather Hahn
Jan. 23, 2018 | United Methodist News Service

As allegations of sexual misconduct rock the U.S. from the sets of Hollywood to the halls of Washington, United Methodist leaders acknowledge that the church also has seen such abuses of power.

In a joint statement released Jan. 23, the Council of Bishops and the Commission on the Status and Role of Women “strongly encourage and support the reporting of sexual misconduct, including sexual harassment allegations within the church.”

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Commission on a Way Forward Prepares Updated Report to Bishops

By Rev. Dr. Maidstone Mulenga, Director of Communications - Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church

 Robert Schnase, Bishop of the Rio Texas Conference looks on with other members during the recent meeting of the Commission on a Way Forward.

Robert Schnase, Bishop of the Rio Texas Conference looks on with other members during the recent meeting of the Commission on a Way Forward.

DALLAS - The Commission on a Way Forward is nearing the completion of its task of making recommendations of possible ways forward for The United Methodist Church regarding the inclusion of LGBTQ persons in this global denomination.

The 32-member Commission concluded its three-day meeting in Dallas, Texas, on Saturday after reworking sketches of possible models of the future of the denomination that will be part of the final report to the Council of Bishops in May.

 Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball addressing the commission.

Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball addressing the commission.

Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball, one of the moderators of the Commission, noted that the members who have had six meetings since January last year, are confident that the Commission will succeed in its work.

“The common work of God’s spirit moves in each one of our lives.  The spiritual gifts that are gifted to each of us by God are given to be used for the common good of all people.  It is this Spirit that both unifies us and inspires us to use the diversity of spiritual gifts to be visionaries and to consider the whole realm of what is possible; to dream dreams, big dreams, to the glory of God.”

She said the Commission, in the unity of God’s Spirit, continues to take a fresh look at the church and what is possible.

“We seek a way forward for The United Methodist Church that strengthens and expands Christ’s mission in ways that value and enable the Church to reach more people in different contexts around the world and to minister with faithfulness, humility, creativity, and generosity,” said Bishop Steiner Ball.

Council of Bishops President Bishop Bruce Ough and Area Resident Bishop Michael McKee both addressed the members on Thursday, the first day of the meeting.

“Time is running short and we need to focus. Simple is better than complex. Reasonable detail is better than ambiguity. Fewer disciplinary changes is better than more. Honor the parameters and values of the Mission, Vision and Scope document -  unity, contextualization and enhanced mission,” said Bishop Ough.

Bishop Ough also asked the Commission to provide the Council with a draft theological statement that both informs the structural models and creates a compelling narrative for the models.

 The commission meeting began each day with a devotion.

The commission meeting began each day with a devotion.

Each day of the three-day meeting began with devotions that were led by the moderators, Bishop Steiner Ball, Bishop Ken Carter and Bishop David Yemba, using the 1 Corinthians 12 scripture on the importance of being one body of Christ despite the differences.

In reviewing the feedback from the Council of Bishops, the Commission worked on incorporating the UMC theological foundation in proposed models for the future of the UMC.

“We understand that a way forward must go deeper than structural change and legislative revision.  A way forward for the church draws upon the deep consensus of all that we believe and teach, especially about the grace of God which leads to mission and holiness, “said Bishop Carter as he reflected on the theological work.

“At the same time, we approach this theological work with a ‘convicted humility’—we are grounded in important convictions, and yet we ‘see through a glass darkly,’ in Paul’s words, and so we hold these convictions with humility before God and each other,” he added.

The Commission members also discussed the importance of maintaining the missional focus of the UMC in any future structural changes.

“As the commission continues its efforts to dream anew, it also continues to work to paint a picture of the dream for people in ways they can catch glimpses of and have hope for a wholly and holy way forward that enables the UMC to better reach new people, and more people with the good news of Jesus Christ in all parts and contexts of the world.” Bishop Steiner Ball noted.

With Central Conferences being integral parts of any way forward, the Commission spent time working on how those conferences outside of the United States would be incorporated in any possible structural models in this global denomination.

 Commission members praying together during their latest meeting.

Commission members praying together during their latest meeting.

“We are a global church and every decision we make should be seen in that context,” noted Bishop Yemba as he shared a report on Central Conferences. “As the United Methodist Church continues the struggle on how to find a way forward on the burning issue of human sexuality, we need to continue using our collective wisdom as Connection in order to create space and flexibility that allow central conferences to stay and work together to fulfill our missional mandate.”

Bishop Yemba further noted that: “Many United Methodists outside of the United States would like to see the context be taken into consideration seriously. Whatever models the Council of Bishops will come up with and recommend to General Conference as a way forward, it is expected that such a recommendation will provide space to focus on what unites us and not what separates us as well as what we can say together as basic principles on human sexuality in the light of the Gospel.”

The Commission plans to share its reworked models of possible ways forward with the Council of Bishops next month at a meeting that has been called to specifically hear more from the Commission.