Texas Conference Delegation Endorses Rev. Morris Matthis
Take a behind-the-scenes look at what’s ahead for the elected delegation preparing for the 2016 General and Jurisdictional Conferences.
Following a process of prayerful discernment initially involving five individuals, the Texas Conference Delegation to the 2016 General and Jurisdictional Conferences endorsed the Reverend Morris Matthis as the Episcopal candidate from this conference in next year's elections. Matthis, who is currently serving as the superintendent of the Central North District, was selected following a day of interviews at the second meeting of the delegation on September 11 in Livingston. All 44 lay and clergy members of the group, including six that joined the session electronically, were present for the session that also heard from two other finalists for Episcopal endorsement, Dr. Janice Gilbert and the Reverend Matt Idom.
"We are excited by Morris' candidacy," says Dr. Chappell Temple, lead pastor at Christ Christ Sugarland, who co-chairs the delegation with Reggie Clemons, Administrator for FUMC Pearland, "and we know that he can be a genuine gift to the greater church should others across the jurisdiction select him."
In the words of Reverend Matthis, “a good Bishop can put forth a vision and bring others along in that direction, is grounded in the United Methodist theology, is creative and willing to take risks and can clarify the vision of the denomination during changing times. My personal passion is to serve the church, more than anything else – which I can do whether I am a Bishop or not, but I would be truly honored to do so as a Bishop if given the opportunity. Having experienced ministry in a variety of settings and situations, I believe my experiences have inspired me to pursue this opportunity and I truly value the endorsement of the Texas Annual Conference.”
The endorsement of Reverend Matthis has been shared with the nine other delegations from the South Central Jurisdictional Conference, and he along with candidates from other conferences in the SCJ will begin a process of interviewing with each delegation after the first of the year. The election will take place in July 2016, with new bishops then assigned to their areas for a September 1 start.
In the meantime, the focus of the Texas delegation will turn to preparing for the upcoming General Conference in Portland, Oregon next May. Already the delegation has formed legislative teams corresponding to the 12 committees that will deal with the thousands of resolutions expected to be received from across the church worldwide, including those which were passed by the Texas Conference at its session in May.
The delegation had its first full meeting on August 9 in The Woodlands and at that time discussed the needs of the jurisdiction and overall denomination and agreed upon a slight revision in its endorsement process for discerning a candidate for bishop. Led by Dr. Laceye Warner, the group adopted a delegation covenant that will be shared at each meeting, agreeing to honor each other and the tasks assigned to the group by being flexible, open to risk, open to differences, and valuing "vision, inclusiveness, understanding, prophetic witness, theological grounding, understanding of our heritage and consensus building."
Out of the 44 delegates that were elected by the annual conference in June, 10 members are women, 10 are African-American, and three are Hispanic. In addition to those who serve as pastors, among the occupations represented are accountants, insurance agents, medical social workers, retired physicians, lobbyists, economists, caterers, lawyers, music leaders, web developers, two seminary deans, a general board secretary, district superintendents and conference staff, along with a conference center director, and three who are preacher's kids, as well.
The youngest is 23 and the oldest members are in their 80s. Five are under 40, but the average age is 56. Eight were born in Houston, with 15 others born elsewhere in Texas, and the remaining 21 members hailing from Illinois, California, Washington, D.C., Tennessee, Wisconsin, New York, Virginia, Ohio, and Mexico.
“In short,” notes Chappell Temple, who has served in one capacity or another on every delegation since 1988, “the Texas Annual Conference delegation to the 2016 General and Jurisdictional Conferences represents perhaps the most diverse collection of any prior delegation elected, including among its ranks those from various theological perspectives. We will work hard to make this delegation as representative, transparent and responsive as possible.”
Delegation co-leader Reggie Clemons, First UMC Pearland adds, “In addition to diversity, we have a relatively new group of delegates, many who have been elected to serve in this capacity for the first or second time. I am proud of the fact that we have been very focused on making sure everyone understands the processes we use to go about performing our tasks, and that everyone has been willing to contribute their thoughts, ideas and suggestions. It has been very rewarding.” Lay member Carolyn Huntsman, First UMC Lovelady, echoes that perspective, adding, “The Texas delegation is very special! We are almost like extended family. While we are committed to taking our responsibilities seriously, we also take the time to minister to and pray for each other! We are so blessed!”
Your Input Welcome
The group plans to hold two listening sessions prior to the General Conference in order to hear from those in the TAC who might have individual resolutions that have been submitted, or would like to discuss pending items that are likely to come up at the meeting in Portland in May.
A website is being developed which will be linked to the conference website, enabling any who are interested to follow its proceedings, see the attendance of members, and know who to contact regarding particular legislative items. To find out more, contact either of the chairs, Reggie Clemons at First UMC Pearland, or Chappell Temple at Sugar Land Christ Church.