Mission Breakfast highlights conversation on welcoming the immigrant

The Transforming Communities Vision Team hosted the Mission Breakfast on June 9. The breakfast highlights mission and outreach ministry in the context of the Rio Texas Conference and the General Board of Global Ministries [GBGM]. Approximately 40 people attended this year’s event held at First UMC – Corpus Christi. A presentation was shared by Audra Hudson, a GBGM Mission Fellow US-2, the church’s missionary service program providing two-year assignments in the U.S.

Audra shared of her work at Tacoma Community House http://www.tacomacommunityhouse.org/. Tacoma Community House is a nationally-respected, community-based service center for immigrants, refugees, and long-time South Sound residents seeking enrichment and pathways to self-sufficiency.

The presentation was timely and a relevant word for the church and its’ Biblical mandate to welcome the sojourner.

Welcoming the Stranger, Welcoming the Holy Spirit

Presentation made by Audra Hudson – GBGM Mission Fellow US-2

Audra Hudson of the UMC General Board of Global Ministries spoke with members of the Rio Texas Conference during a luncheon

Audra Hudson of the UMC General Board of Global Ministries spoke with members of the Rio Texas Conference during a luncheon

Good morning, everyone. Thank you all for inviting me here to share this morning. My name is Audra Hudson. I am a Global Mission Fellow US-2 serving on behalf of the United Methodist Church General Board of Global Ministries in Tacoma, Washington. There I worked as a community organizer with Tacoma Community House, a Methodist-founded organization that for 107 years has worked alongside immigrant and refugee communities in Western Washington. I thank you all for joining me this morning to learn about supporting immigrants and refugees.

At Tacoma Community House, I work in our Development and Communications department—the arm of the organization that is charged with communicating with folks about the work we do as an organization and mobilizing communities to stand in solidarity with our immigrant and refugee neighbors. Fundamentally, this department has the privilege of sharing stories and statistics that help our potential supporters answer the question: “Why support immigrants and refugees?” I thought I’d begin today with sharing the ways that we often answer this question.

By the merits of our front-line staff and research communities across the globe, we’re able to share some incredible narratives and facts that testify to the truth that immigrants and refugees are blessings to our communities rather than burdens.

We’re able to share the economic merits of welcoming immigrants and refugees; that foreign-born folks contribute 140 billion dollars annually to the US economy in the form of taxes.  The Texas immigrant community contributes the largest share of that sum. Immigrants and refugees enrich and strengthen our communities as they are more likely to start small businesses than US-born folks. Immigrants and refugees also commit crimes at lower rates. These figures help to reorient perceptions cultivated by misinformation, fear, and racist tropes that wrongly assert that our foreign-born neighbors are lazy, a drain on our economy, and criminal.

These facts—and many others—are certainly powerful, but don’t touch our emotional selves. A coworker of mine—who often measures the success of an appeal by whether she has goosebumps—would say that facts and statistics don’t quite do it for her. So, when answering that question of “why support immigrants and refugees,” we share stories of the lived experiences of our clients—goose bump-inducing narratives, if you will, that highlight the depth of struggle immigrants and refugees experience in their journeys to the US, the joys of finding employment, learning English, or obtaining a green card, and the challenges that these communities face in the time between initial journeys and these successes.

We humanize these facts and figures with stories of our real clients, like Aziz. He served as an interpreter for US armed forces in Afghanistan. He was threatened by the Taliban, forcing him and his wife, Maryam, to flee to the United States. We share his story to illustrate our immigration system’s need for reforms because it took months for Aziz to obtain a US visa, despite his recognized relationship as an ally to the US and his family being in immediate danger. We happily share about how he has resettled in the US with success— Aziz and Maryam are employed, own a house, and are now have two, young, US citizen children.

We share these stories to remind folks that our humanity is shared—that we must look out for one another, lending hands, hearts, and resources to seek justice alongside our immigrant and refugee neighbors. For many folks, this recognition that immigrants and refugees contribute to our nation, states, and neighborhoods in tangible and relational ways is an adequate answer to the question of why support immigrant and refugee communities. Usually, this is where the discussion ends.

My job as a Global Mission Fellow at Tacoma Community House is to push a bit further: to ask people of faith to lean more deeply into that question. I’m not asking you to forsake research or stories that pull at our heart strings, but to consider how seeking immigrant and refugee justice is also tied up in our identity as Christians. I’m asking you to consider how the call to welcome the stranger is both deeply traditional and theological.  This is where I’d like to steer our conversation this morning: examining the teachings and traditions of our faith that illuminate both why and how we are called as followers of Christ to stand in solidarity with our foreign-born neighbors.

The answer to why we are called to walk alongside immigrants and refugees is first woven into the Jewish tradition that underpins Christian faith. The Hebrew Bible—our Old Testament—recounts God’s command to the Israelites to practice radical hospitality, welcoming the sojourner, the foreigner, and stranger into their communities with dignity and justice. They were to do this not out of mercy, but out of remembrance and empathy as they too were once “strangers in a foreign land,” living as exiles in Egypt. The Israelites were to recall their own harsh treatment as Egyptian slaves and respond not with vengeance or anger, but with love as intimate and generous that offered to family.

This tradition of offering deep hospitality is reinforced in the Gospels. Christ—a man who, himself, was denied shelter at birth and who was a refugee fleeing Herod’s tyranny in his first years of life—offers his company and love to all. On countless occasions, Jesus invites folks on the margins, foreigners, and outcasts into shared meals and life, modeling a posture of how to walk alongside our brothers and sisters, no matter how different from us they might be.

These narratives of our religious ancestors and Christ are powerful reminders that the act of loving our immigrant and refugee neighbors is a deeply traditional and holy practice that connects the living church to our sacred history and honors fundamental teachings of our God.

But, this call to welcome radically is not only traditional narrative, it is also profoundly theological. This last Sunday, the global church celebrated Pentecost—a time in our church calendar where we remember the Holy Spirit filling all people on Earth. Where God’s wisdom and power enter into human bodies, giving gifts of dreams, prophesy, visions, and language. We remember on this holiday that the divine who is above in God and walked beside us in Jesus now also works within as the Holy Spirit.

The understanding that we all carry an ounce of the divine in the Holy Spirit within enriches our call to welcome our immigrant and refugee neighbors. It suggests that when we welcome others into our lives—those who might look, act, and think differently—we are welcoming God into our midst. 

Friends, we are called as Christians to recognize the God in our foreign born brothers and sisters, listening for the wisdom the Spirit offers when they share their experiences and affirming their God-given gifts when we invite them into our communities. Truly, what a gift to welcome the Spirit and the many people who accompany Her.

Now that I have given quite the litany of reasons why welcoming immigrants and refugees is of importance to our tradition and identities as Christians, we must ask the much more difficult and complicated question of how to welcome these folks into shared life. The tension of word and world is quite evident in this endeavor. It is seemingly simple to welcome our foreign-born neighbors into community as equals in accordance with Biblical teachings, but very real practical and social hurdles stand in our way.

Most fundamentally, systemic barriers to ensuring that immigrant families can remain together and that undocumented immigrants can have a pathway to citizenship stand in the way of fully incorporating these folks into shared life. These systemic difficulties are compounded by limited opportunities for our foreign-born neighbors to access resources and build self-sufficiency skills—like language—that might ease their ability to navigate these systems. Of course, Dehumanizing anti-immigrant rhetoric deeply rooted in this country’s ugly history of racism complicates and adds layers of difficulty to truly welcoming immigrant and refugee communities.

This is a certainly messy web of barriers, that needs plenty of people—with different experiences, gifts, and skills—to unravel with careful consideration, hard work, and plenty of creativity. We follow the path of a justice-seeking God who on this earth spoke truth to power. Removing and mitigating these obstacles—with the guidance and leadership of immigrant and refugees themselves—is truly central to the answer of how we are called as Christians to stand in solidarity with our newest neighbors.

We also know that alongside those often tedious and difficult paths to justice, we need to tend to the immediate physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of our foreign-born brothers and sisters. Ministries that are already lending relief to those in need of housing, sanctuary, food, legal services, and more are in need of the resources and time of supporters to contribute to their welcoming initiatives. And, in communities where these resources are needed but do not yet exist, those called into radical hospitality will stand with immigrants and refugees in new ministries.

There are multiple ways that Christians are and will be working to live out the biblical imperative to welcome—different ways of answering that “how” question, all requiring different knowledge, experience, and skills.

Members of the global Church are gifted by the Holy Spirit in many different and profound ways—ways that can contribute to seeking systemic immigration justice, ways that might create and sustain opportunities to provide relief and training to immigrant and refugee communities, and ways that build peace and reconciliation across difference.

Our Christian tradition affirms that the body of Christ is wonderfully and purposefully diverse—that each part of the body has something to contribute to the community of God. In conclusion, I invite you—if you haven’t already--to discern how your God-given spiritual gifts can contribute to living out our ancient tradition of offering radical hospitality and our deep understanding that welcoming the stranger is an act of welcoming God.

 

First TCOP Class for Church Teams Begins

Four church community teams met to begin their transformational journey on May 19-20. During the course of this year, these teams will gather for three sessions to learn about the application of asset-based community development process to their current ministry engagements with their community mission fields. 

An initiative of the Transforming Communities Vision Team, the Transformational Communities of Praxis [TCOP] program is designed for a church community resident teams to begin (or go deeper in) the application of community development with the end goal of effecting measurable transformation within a given community. 

Over a one-year period, participants will gain training, knowledge, and application of asset-based community development [ABCD] process and methods, facilitation techniques, action planning and application, identifying underlying contradictions and challenges within communities, and the understanding of Missio Dei – the mission or sending of God.   

The churches participating in Class 1 of this program:

  • FUMC / Hope Outreach Center – Brackettville
  • Pollard Memorial UMC – San Antonio
  • Parker Lane UMC – Austin
  • FUMC / Mission Border Hope – Eagle Pass

Each congregation and community is unique. The community contexts of Class 1 reflects two urban areas [population 900,000 to 1.3 million], one small town area [population 25,000], and one rural community [population 3,000]. 

This initiative is made possible due to funding support from Methodist Healthcare Ministries, who likewise is vested in the application of asset-based community development approaches through the Wesley Nurse and Community Health Worker programs.

With continued funding and support, the program hopes to grow a class of four churches every year. The program hopes for models of ministries applying community development principles and processes to emerge for serving as reference points and even teaching centers of spiritual transformation within the church and community.

Contingent upon funding support, the Transforming Communities Vision Team is receiving requests for teams to apply for participation in this program. Teams applying should be composed of no more than 5 persons, with 2 persons being community residents, 2 persons being church members, and 1 person being the pastor or a designated church staff member. Four teams will be selected for each year’s Transformational Communities of Praxis class. The applying team should possess the willingness and readiness for this learning opportunity and the ability to meet the team composition requirement.

Request for 2018 – Class 2 TCOP Team request for applications will be available via riotexas.org by September 24. The deadline for team applications to be received for consideration is November 16.

For a slide show tour Learning Session 1, click here. To learn more about the Transformational Communities of Praxis initiative and / or the Team Application Process, contact Abel Vega - Director of Outreach Vitality at avega@riotexas.org  / 210.408.4514. 

Pastors Get a Head Start for a Right Start

Pastors from across the Rio Texas Annual Conference gathered this week at Coker United Methodist Church in San Antonio for the first annual Right Start event. Pastors who are moving to new appointments in July were invited to the two-day workshop designed to help prepare them for leaving one appointment and beginning a new one.

The event opened with worship and included talks from district superintendents, conference staff, and other conference leaders. Pastors gained information and insight through talks on leaving congregations well, starting well at new congregations, and caring for one’s self and family during transition. Participants also had the opportunity to meet in affinity groups with pastors facing similar transitions.

Laura Merrill, Executive Director of the Mission Vitality Center, was involved in the planning for the event. "This time together was a gift," she said. "As pastors in itinerant ministry, it's important for us to draw wisdom and comfort from each other. I hope our sharing at Right Start will encourage and build up this body for fruitfulness in our communities."

The event concluded with reflections from Robert Schnase, Bishop of the Rio Texas Conference and a time of worship and Holy Communion. 

Peace with Justice Sunday

Peace with Justice Sunday

Moved by Christ’s love to pursue reconciliation and peace, honoring the dignity of every individual made in God’s image, The United Methodist Church is unwilling to turn a blind eye to injustice. Although you, and possibly even your congregation, may lack the resources alone to effect change in a broken world, your giving is vital for the UMC to continue its global ministries of reconciliation.

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Mommy Station at Annual Conference 2017

The 2017 Rio Texas Annual Conference Hospitality Team is proud to announce that our June session will be baby friendly! We are still offering great child care at First UMC, Corpus, but sometimes very little ones do better closer to family. Babies are cute, portable and unlikely to run away, making them perfect attendees during plenary sessions. To make things more comfortable for Rio Texas babies and the moms, dads, and others caring for them, the Hospitality Team is planning a couple of upgrades. 

One is the addition of rocking chairs in the back of the plenary hall. We may have to post bouncers to make sure the chairs do not become napping spots for big people, but hopefully this will be a spot where little ones can be comforted and encouraged to chill out.

A second change is an upgrade to the station provided last year in a separate room for nursing moms. This year the Mommy Station will be located in the plenary hall itself, to allow for more convenience and the ability for moms to still hear the action. The station will include comfortable seating, a microwave and refrigerator. 

Sometimes babies have just had it with conference and need to take a walk outside. (Don't we all?) But while they're in session, we want to make their presence as easy as possible. Your Hospitality Team looks forward to greeting both babies and attendees of all ages on June 7 in Corpus Christi!

Special Message from Robert Schnase, Bishop of the Rio Texas Annual Conference

Special Message from Robert Schnase, Bishop of the Rio Texas Annual Conference

En español

Dear Friends,

Grace and peace of the risen Christ be with you.

As you may have already heard, the Judicial Council of the United Methodist Church heard arguments this week concerning the election of Bishop Karen Oliveto by the Western Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church. They will release a decision when they conclude their business, likely later this week. As we await the decision, I would like to share the following thoughts.

It is important to understand the limited reach of the Judicial Council's decision in this case.  The Judicial Council is the church’s highest court, but it does not make church law.   The Book of Discipline will not change because of the Judicial Council’s decision.  Only the General Conference can change The Book of Discipline.

The 2016 General Conference asked for the formation of the Commission on A Way Forward to work on a way by which those who disagree on issues of human sexuality can coexist in the same church. The Commission seeks to maximize the presence of a United Methodist witness in as many places in the world as possible. We seek to allow for as much contextual differentiation as possible, balancing different theological understandings of human sexuality with a desire for unity.  I am a member of this commission and its work is well underway.  The Council of Bishops called a special session of General Conference in 2019 for the sole purpose of hearing the report of the commission.
 

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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. Dr. Robert Lopez as the new District Superintendent of the Coastal Bend District. Lopez will replace retiring District Superintendent Eradio Valverde. Lopez is currently the superintendent of El Valle and Crossroads districts and will continue to serve El Valle in addition to Coastal Bend. Rev. Dr. Marcus Freeman III was earlier announced as the incoming superintendent for Crossroads.

To support Robert in fulfilling his expanded responsibilities, Bishop Schnase also announced the appointment of Rev. Dr. Karen Boehk as the new Assistant to the District Superintendent for the Coastal Bend and El Valle Districts, serving part-time and working in the Corpus Christi area.

 

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Bishops Call Special Session of General Conference for 2019

The Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church has called for a Special Session of the General Conference. It will be held in St. Louis, Missouri, February 23-26, 2019.

According to Bishop Bruce R. Ough, president of the Council of Bishops, the session will be "limited to receiving and acting on a report from the Council of Bishops based on the recommendations of the Commission on a Way Forward."

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Conference introduces VIM Coordinator

Frank Rojas is the new VIM Coordinator for the Conference

Frank Rojas is the new VIM Coordinator for the Conference

The Office of Outreach Vitality, Mission Vitality Center of the Rio Texas Annual Conference is excited to announce and welcomes the service of Frank Rojas as the Rio Texas Conference Volunteer-In-Mission (VIM) Coordinator. Frank is a long-time active member of Bethany UMC, Austin. He has directed United Methodist Army Youth mission teams as well as VIM trips to Cuba. Frank brings to this work a heart and passion for missions, social justice, and great interest in the organizational development of Volunteer-In-Mission ministry in the conference. 

A volunteer position, the VIM Coordinator serves as a focal point for equipping disciples in growing in relationships and partnerships with communities around the world; growing partnerships between UMC and agencies that are active in local communities; and aiding church teams grow “In Mission Together” (50/50) events that leverage assets in local communities and bless all involved by developing strong collaborative partnerships. The vision is that missions are directly linked to each member’s calling and their discipleship walk with God. This work will be carried out by the conference VIM committee composed of VIM coordinators from each district. 

To learn more about the In Mission Together process, see:http://www.umcmission.org/Get-Involved/Partnerships/In-Mission-Together

Frank Rojas can be reached at frankr6591@austin.rr.com / 512.422.0210. 

Texas Conference Representatives meet with El Valle District

The El Valle District recently hosted representatives from six Texas Annual Conference United Methodist churches, their Conference Center, and Center for Missional Excellence.  They came to the Texas/Mexico border to meet with representatives from the El Valle District and the Mexican Methodist Church as part of a new TAC Border Partnership Initiative. 

The March 30-April 1 trip is part of a new mission initiative birthed through the TAC Center for Missional Excellence, the El Valle District and General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) Missionary Willie Berman.  The partnership is based on the 50/50 “In Mission Together” program conceived by Global Ministries.  The goal of the partnership is to begin from an asset-based approach rather than a needs-based approach.  Instead of looking to a mission field and asking “what does that community need?”, the partnership asks, “what do I have to share with that community, and what do they have to share with me?” 

In years past, the temptation in mission engagement was to go somewhere and do something FOR someone else.  Now, we are moving to a model of being in ministry WITH another community. 

The 50/50 model looks at both partners as equals and allows both communities to share their gifts and graces together for the Kingdom of God.  Using 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 as a guide, partner churches share their unique talents and callings for ministry.  Ideas for partnerships discussed during this trip were: shared discipleship and training sessions, shared worship experiences, a shared youth camp experience, and assistance with construction of sanctuaries, education buildings, and parsonages.

Churches represented from the Texas Annual Conference included Kirbyville UMC; Faith UMC, Orange; FUMC, Livingston; FUMC, Conroe; FUMC, Humble; and Christ Church UMC, Sugar Land.  Representatives from the Center for Missional Excellence and Lakeview Methodist Conference Center were also in attendance to explore conference-wide partnership possibilities. 

Those from the El Valle District taking part in the visit were Rev. Cindy Layton from El Mesias UMC; Pastor Juanita Martinez from Nueva Vida UMC, Las Milpas and El Paraiso Mission Church; Rev. Amelia Beasley and Cindy Johnson from El Buen Pastor UMC, Brownsville; Rev. J.J. Wicke of First UMC, Weslaco; Roland Pecin, and Susan Hellums the EVD Border Area Mission Coordinator.  Also participating from the Methodist Church of Mexico were Guillermo “Willie” Berman, GBGM Missionary and others, including Pbro. Raul Garcia de Ochoa and Pbro. David Medrano.

Article adapted from TAC article                     

 

This article was written by Abel Vega, Director of Outreach Vitality, Mission Vitality Center, Rio Texas Conference, United Methodist Church

Missionaries from Ecuador Visit Conference Office

Missionaries Sara Flores Quinonez and Dakin Cook visited the Rio Texas Conference offices in San Antonio on April 4 to discuss their ministry in Ecuador. The couple has witnessed seven new mission initiatives, including five churches for indigenous peoples and after-school programs for 300 children, as well as a K-10 school.

They are visiting churches in the Hill Country District emphasizing the need for more formal pastoral training. “Our pastors are earning minimum wage, so they usually work more than one job,” said Flores.

The Outreach Vitality Center hopes to hold more luncheons focusing on missionary work in the future.

To donate, please click here.

Missionary Advance #13988Z

 

Bishop Announces New Conference Staff Member

Bishop Announces New Conference Staff Member

Robert Schnase, Bishop of the Rio Texas Annual Conference, has announced the appointment of Rev. Diana Phillips to the position of Director of Connectional Ministries. The Director of Connectional Ministries serves as a steward of the vision of the conference; leads the process of continual transformation; works to ensure alignment with the conference vision; and ensures the connection between the local churches, districts, annual conference and general church.

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Conference Celebrates UMCOR Sunday

Photo: Courtesy West Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church

Photo: Courtesy West Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church

UMCOR Sunday is March 26

In the Rio Texas Conference, we have supported UMCOR for many years through One Great Hour of Sharing.  This year the name has been changed to UMCOR Sunday.   

The Methodist Ministry we now call UMCOR was born at the General Conference in 1940.  Ministry to people hurting because of war and conflict continues to be an important part of the UMCOR ministry but it has expanded relief to those impacted by natural disaster and now includes disasters in the United States as well as those around the world. Another important change over the years has been extension of the ministry to include recovery and development, rather than simply relief from the immediate suffering from war and disaster. 

Today, UMCOR operates several interrelated programs. UMCOR's Global Health program's top priorities are water and maternal and child health.  In addition to these top priorities, they address malaria, HIV/AIDS, and malnutrition. UMCOR works with communities rather than simply “dumping” programs on them without their involvement.    

UMCOR helps communities fix existing water infrastructure as well as help to dig new wells.  Education is also important so the community can develop long-term strategies to meet their water needs. Unfortunately, water is not the only problem. In developing countries, diarrhea kills 2.2 million people each year so sanitation education and infrastructure are also important.  UMCOR builds latrines and hand-washing stations so that people can live healthier lives.

During this time of war and strife, UMCOR is deeply involved in ministry to refugees.  In Syria and in Africa, they are ministering to displaced people just as they did when they started their work in 1940.  UMCOR works closely with Church World Service who has an extensive network of resettlement houses across the United States. They also work with local United Methodist Churches to help them become more welcoming congregations. 

Of special interest today, UMCOR founded JFON in 1999 and, although it is now a separate organization, UMCOR continues to support their programs. 

In the past three years, UMCOR has given $220,000 of grants for refugee programs in the Rio Texas Conference. They have made a $100,000 gift to the Austin Chapter of JFON and have awarded the Rio Texas Conference $120,000 to assist with immigration ministries related to the influx of unaccompanied minors and women and children from Central America. 

UMCOR provides aid to communities all around the world following natural disasters.  Whether it is a tsunami in Japan, an earth quake in China, Ebola in Africa, or Tornadoes in San Antonio, UMCOR can be counted on. In the short run, disaster response relieves human suffering while in the long run they work with community partners to build capacity and to reduce disaster risk.

Most people in the Rio Texas Conference may not know the extent to which UMCOR supports our disaster response effort.  During the past eight years, UMCOR has made 21 grants through the Southwest Texas and Rio Grande Conferences totaling $612,500. This is in addition to the $220,000 to immigration programs mentioned earlier.      

Grants are important but they are not the whole story. UMCOR provides many additional services at no cost to the Conference.

  • UMCOR has provided expert consultants to work with Disaster Response leadership as well as pastors and congregations in areas devastated by disasters. 
  • They send subject matter experts to teach courses needed to carry out our disaster relief ministry. 
    • During the past eight years UMCOR has offered Spiritual and Emotional Care workshops on four occasions
    • They have offered Case Management Training ten times.
  • They train and certify Early Response Trainers within the Conference so that more than 500 Early Response team members have been trained and credentialed under UMCOR guidelines.
  • UMCOR supplies flood buckets and health kits when the supply in the Conference is insufficient to meet the demand during a disaster.
  • UMCOR Academy at Sager Brown in Louisiana is held each year and offers advanced training to Disaster Response leadership in the Conference.
  • UMCOR provides assistance to the South Central Jurisdiction to offer an annual Disaster Response academy.  Dozens of United Methodists from the Rio Texas Conference have attended these workshops.
  •  UMCOR has developed tools to assist local churches as they develop their own disaster response plans and has trained coaches in the Conference to assist churches as they develop their plans.

During the past year, UMCOR has impacted Disaster Response in the Rio Texas Conference in the following ways:

  • Two case managers and a construction manager have been working in Caldwell and Guadalupe Counties on a grant from UMCOR.  The case managers are still working with survivors of the devastating Blanco/San Marcos River floods of 2015 while the construction manager is working with volunteers to repair homes damaged by the flood and tornadoes that hit later in that year.  So far, $150,000 in UMCOR grants have supported this effort which is scheduled to be completed in August 2017.
  • A case manager has been working with survivors of the 2015 floods in the Coastal Bend area for the past year.  UMCOR has underwritten this effort with a $100,000 grant which also provides funds for materials used to repair homes.
  • UMCOR has provided Case Management training for case managers hired by the Rio Texas Conference as well as other case managers working with survivors of disasters within the conference.  In addition to the two areas mentioned above, training was provided to case managers working in the Rio Grande Valley and in Travis County.
  • An UMCOR consultant has worked with our case managers to assist them in offering high quality service to clients.
  • A $10,000 emergency grant provided support for the relief work done by the conference following floods in Aransas Pass and Ingleside.
  • Disaster response leaders in the Conference attended training at Mt. Sequoyah that was underwritten by UMCOR.
  • UMCOR designed and supports the Early Response Team program which is active in the Rio Texas Conference.  Although no direct financial support is provided, UMCOR serves in a coordination and advisory capacity. Eleven trainings were held this year with 105 people being trained.  During the past year, ERT teams responded to three disasters in the Rio Texas Conference and were also deployed to floods in Louisiana.     
  • The Martinez Disaster Response Center in Kerrville is a member of the UMCOR Relief Supply Network. UMCOR kits stored in the warehouse are part of the national inventory of kits and are available to be distributed as needed. 
  • UMCOR’s Connecting Neighbors program provides guidance and materials to support churches who develop disaster plans for their local congregations. 

All UMCOR does for and through the Rio Texas Conference and all they do throughout the world is done because United Methodists give special gifts to make it possible.  UMCOR receives no apportionment funds.  They depend upon UMCOR Sunday and gifts designated for specific disasters to fund their work.  

CLICK HERE TO SUPPORT UMCOR

Bishop Appoints Two New District Superintendents

Bishop Appoints Two New District Superintendents

En español    

Robert Schnase, Bishop of the Rio Texas Annual Conference, has announced the appointment of two new district superintendents. Rev. Andy W. Smith will become the new superintendent of the West District. Rev. Smith will replace Rev. Steve Purdy who has taken medical leave. Rev. Dr. Marcus Freeman, III will be the new superintendent of the Crossroads District. He will replace Rev. Robert Lopez who has served both Crossroads and El Valle districts since last fall.

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Bishop Announces Conference Office Changes

Bishop Announces Conference Office Changes

En español

Robert Schnase, Bishop of the Rio Texas Annual Conference, has announced the appointment of Rev. Laura Merrill to the position of Assistant to the Episcopal Office. Merrill will replace Rev. Virgilio Vázquez-Garza, who will retire at this year's annual conference.

Bishop Schnase has also announced the appointment of Rev. Karen Horan as Merrill’s successor in the position of Executive Director of the Mission Vitality Center. While overseeing the work of the Mission Vitality Center, her primary role in the conference will be congregational excellence and new church plants. Her work will include responsibility for the conference’s role in starting new churches and faith communities and in revitalizing existing congregations.

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Bonner Named Representative for SCJ OCUIR

Mr. Byrd Bonner of Travis Park UMC, San Antonio was named lay South Central Jurisdictional representative for the United Methodist Council of Bishops Office of Christian Unity and Interreligious Relationships (OCUIR) at an Atlanta meeting on Feb. 7-8.

Members of the OCUIR includes one lay or clergy from each jurisdiction in the USA, one lay or clergy from Europe, Africa and Asia, two ecumenical members, and four bishops. Byrd will represent the South Central Jurisdiction.

“The Ecumenical Movement and the Unity of the Body of Christ are at the heart of my walk with Christ,” said Byrd. “Our world and our Church have perhaps never seen a more needful time for interfaith understanding and relationship. I am honored to be asked to be a part of this journey through the coming quadrennium.”

Conference Seeks Coordinator for Volunteers In Mission

April Update: This position has been filled. Thank you for your consideration and your prayers. 

The Office of Outreach Vitality / Mission Vitality Center seeks a volunteer who will coordinate the Volunteers-In-Mission [VIM] ministries of the annual conference in cooperation with the General Board of Global Ministries mission volunteers’ office and the jurisdictional Volunteer-In-Mission office.

The coordinator will work through and receive administrative support from the conference Mission Vitality Center - Office of Outreach Vitality and the Transforming Communities Vision Team. Volunteers-In-Mission is a grassroots movement within the United Methodist Church designed to provide an official channel whereby Christians, both lay and clergy, may offer their skills and talents for Christian service at home and around the world on short term assignments at their own expense.

For more information and an application, please click here

Click here for more information about UMVIM

If you have a question or a comment, please contact Shelly Kennerdell, Outreach Vitality Office, at skennerdell@riotexas.org