El Valle District Ministry Center – We’re Writing Our Story!

El Valle District Ministry Center – We’re Writing Our Story!

El Valle District Ministry Center is a vision of the district which involved repurposing a closed church and building ministry partners. The building was redesigned to support its new purposes. We envision partnering with other groups to educate and promote healthy eating and healthy choices. We aim to help lower childhood obesity rates in the Rio Grande Valley. 

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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. 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: riotexas.org/safetrainings.

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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