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.
“The assignment of District Superintendents requires considerable thought, conversation, analysis, and prayer regarding the best use of people and resources for sustaining and multiplying our mission,” Bishop Schnase said. “The decision to appoint one District Superintendent to two districts follows numerous conversations with clergy and laity in the districts, directly and through our superintendents. Andy has done excellent work in the West District this past year and I have confidence in his abilities and capacity to serve two adjacent districts. He has expressed his eagerness and willingness to serve the conference in this model of supervision that has worked well in other places in our conference.”
Rev. Smith embraces the opportunity to serve the Hill Country/West area. "During the past year I have really enjoyed moving around the West District, seeing the unique communities and churches, and getting to know the people. I am really looking forward to also getting to know the communities, churches and people of the Hill Country as well,” Smith said. “God has given us a big, beautiful landscape in the Hill Country and West Texas; and I love working with the United Methodist people to spread the Gospel here.”
Smith said, "Throughout my almost-thirty-year career as a United Methodist pastor, I have been blessed to work alongside some amazing pastors, staff persons and laity. I’m learning new things all the time, and I’m excited to continue serving the Church in this expanded field of ministry."
Before his appointment to the cabinet, Smith served as Senior Pastor of Seguin: First UMC. He has also served at Bastrop, Lake Travis, San Antonio: St. Matthew’s, Dripping Springs and El Campo: St. Paul.
To support Andy in fulfilling his expanded responsibilities, Bishop Schnase also announced the appointment of Rev. Colleen Haley as the new Ministry Assistant to the District Superintendent for the West and Hill Country Districts, serving part-time and working in both areas.
Schnase is excited about Haley's appointment. “Colleen has earned the respect of her colleagues through her fruitful and effective congregational leadership, her work on the Board of Ordained Ministry, and her passion for ministry. We could not approach this new model without someone like Colleen to help support the District Superintendent.”
Haley is ready for this new opportunity. "I look forward to working with Andy as he has been a trusted friend and colleague for all my years in ministry. We have worked together on the Board of Ordained Ministry, and he has served as my District Superintendent for the past year. It is a privilege for me to have this opportunity to serve in both the Hill Country and West districts in this new way. I have served congregations in both districts and look forward to forming and nurturing new friendships and connections as we walk into the future, leaning on God.”
Rev. Haley is retiring this year after serving six years as Senior Pastor of First UMC, Mason. Her previous appointments include associate pastorates at Lake Travis, Fredericksburg, and Columbus. Colleen will reside in Gillespie County, between Fredericksburg and Mason.
This type of multi-district appointment is not new to Bishop Schnase. "This marks the sixth time during my 14 years as a bishop that I’ve appointed a single superintendent to serve two districts while providing additional staff support in an assistant position,” he said. "In each case, the congregations, pastors, and laity have felt well-served and have appreciated more strategic focus of the Superintendent’s work while reducing overall costs and redirecting resources to more effectively increase the number of fruitful congregations that make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world."
Some of the most innovative and effective conferences in the US have moved to larger districts in recent years, with District Superintendents often serving from 80 to 120 churches. In contrast, the Districts of the Rio Texas Conference tend to have 40-50 congregations with two-thirds of the churches served by part-time pastors.
"In the case of the Hill Country and West Districts the combined responsibilities will mean that Rev. Smith and Rev. Haley will provide oversight for a total number of congregations and pastors far closer to the denominational average for Superintendent supervision." said Bishop Schnase.
The two districts are not merging or uniting; each will keep its own leadership teams, offices, support staff, and missional programs. However, Schnase anticipates the two districts working more closely together on common ministry projects because of the new model of supervision. Schnase said, “The cabinet and leadership of the Rio Texas Conference is learning the practice of ‘Creative Adaptability’.”