The quadrennial meeting of the South Central Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church runs July 13-16 in Witchita, Kansas. The South Central Jurisdiction covers eight states: Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. Delegates from twelve annual conferences will gather to elect and assign bishops. Delegates also select members of boards and agencies. The 2016 gathering will be of special interest to members of the Rio Texas Annual Conference since this conference will be receiving a new episcopal leader.
Before a new bishop can be assigned to Rio Texas, the jurisdiction must first elect three new bishops. Balloting will begin on Thursday, July 14. To be elected, a candidate must receive the votes of 60% of the voting delegates*, plus one.
The Rio Texas Annual Conference has two candidates that will be a part of the election process. Rev. Dr. Ruben Saenz, Jr. has been endorsed by the Rio Texas Conference Delegation to the General and Jurisdictional Conferences. Saenz currently serves as the Executive Director of the Mission Vitality Center of the Rio Texas Conference. Coastal Bend District Superintendent, Rev. Eradio Valverde, is also a candidate and has been endorsed by Metodistas Representando la Causa de los Hispano Americanos (MARCHA).
Once three bishops are elected, the process of assigning bishops begins. This is the work of the South Central Jurisdiction Episcopacy Committee. The current Rio Texas representatives to that committee are Edgar Avitia, Cindy Johnson, Jay Brim and Laura Merrill. This process is long and deliberate and leaves room for the work of the Holy Spirit.
Once the bishops are assigned and approved by the body of the Jurisdictional Conference, most episcopal areas host a breakfast for their new or returning bishop on Saturday morning prior to the service of consecration for the new bishops.
The new Rio Texas bishop will officially take office on Sept. 1
*Corrected to reflect correct number of votes required to elect a bishop.