The Rio Texas Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church is pleased to announce they are in the process of receiving a new church into the conference.
Leaders of the Rio Texas Conference and Austin New Church (ANC), a former Free Methodist Church, began in Spring 2017 to explore whether The United Methodist Church might be the right home for ANC. As conversations developed between ANC’s clergy and leaders in the Rio Texas Conference, there was a mutual sense of resonance and excitement about a possible partnership.
The UMC and ANC share a Wesleyan call to mission and people on the margin. “We are excited to welcome the people of Austin New Church,” says Robert Schnase, Bishop of the Rio Texas Conference. “They embody John Wesley’s call to personal holiness and social holiness with an evangelical spirit and missional zeal.”
ANC is nationally known for their focus on social justice and outreach to the homeless. Currently worshiping in a middle school, ANC will soon be moving to the campus of Faith United Methodist Church, on South Lamar in Austin.
“It became clear to me early on that ANC is already reaching the mission field in the immediate area around Faith,” says Rev. Teresa Welborn, District Superintendent of the Capital District of the Rio Texas Conference. Faith UMC has struggled to adapt to the changing demographic around them in South Austin. After much conversation, prayer, and discernment, Rio Texas Conference leaders met with members of Faith UMC to inform them of the intention to have ANC worship at the Faith UMC campus early in 2018.
"Of course, there is loss and sadness for the members of Faith UMC as they see what they know and love change so dramatically", said Rev. Welborn, "But having a vital Wesleyan presence in this thriving location is compelling. Our faith is grounded in the promise of life after death. We are the people of resurrection.”
Chuck McClenon, an active lay leader at Faith UMC, has expressed hope in moving forward saying, “I want to be a part of the new movement on South Lamar. Some of us have dreamed of a reinvigoration of the Wesleyan message. For us, this is the fulfillment of that hope.”
Despite recent decline, ministries of compassion and justice have long been a part of the DNA of Faith UMC. In the transition, leaders of the two churches, along with Rio Texas Conference, are in dialogue regarding the continuation of many of the current outreach ministries, such as the Alzheimer’s Caregivers Respite.
Austin New Church is in a season of growth and renewed energy following an intentional move last year to become an LGBTQ inclusive congregation. “We were founded as a community whose primary focus was serving the poor. Nine years later, that remains our focus. We are a natural pairing for a progressive Wesleyan denomination seeking to serve the heart of Austin. We feel like this is a match made in Heaven," said Jason Morriss, pastor of ANC. “We could not be more excited about the future.”