Conference strengthened through unification
By Rev. Mickey McCandless, Director of Church Connections & Spiritual Care
The Rio Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church was created January 1, 2015 through the unification of the Rio Grande Annual Conference and the Southwest Texas Annual Conference. The newly formed Rio Texas Conference now encompasses 74 counties of South Texas and marks the geographic area served by Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, Inc. (MHM).
A church conference is the primary organizational unit of The United Methodist Church and has been the basic structure of the Methodist Episcopal Church since beginning in North America in 1784. A conference is equivalent to a diocese in the Roman Catholic and Episcopal Churches or presbytery in the Presbyterian Church. The Rio Texas Conference is one of 57 conferences in the U.S. and 79 additional in Africa, Europe and the Philippines and administratively guided by Bishop James Dorff.
The unification of the two conferences developed from two reports issued by a committee of The United Methodist Church's Council of Bishops. These two FACT (Financial Advisory Consulting Team) reports concluded that neither of the conferences was sustainable into the future. It did indicate that the Rio Grande Annual Conference had missional strength in the growing Hispanic population of South Texas and the Southwest Texas Annual Conference had financial strength for a sustained future. By unifying, the two conferences provide a powerful witness to the work of God for the people in South Texas.
MHM is striving to grow our impact on the population of South Texas for improved physical, mental and spiritual health. At the same time and in the same area of South Texas, the newly-formed Rio Texas Conference is striving to "make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world." (The Rio Texas Unification Plan Uniting the Rio Texas Annual Conference & the Southwest Texas Annual Conference, February 8, 2014). Our journeys are joined today and into the future by a shared history and collaborative mission.