Each day of the 55th session of the Texas Annual Conference was dedicated to one of the powerful concepts from its overarching theme: “Revive. Renew. Reinvigorate. Reimagine.” The event was held Sunday, May 28 through Wednesday, May 31 at Hilton Americas, Houston.
Annual Conference 2023 on Sunday centered on “ReVive,” opening with an exhilarating worship service before Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey delivered her Episcopal Address, entitled “All You Need is Love.” During her uplifting talk, she said, “Revival is possible because the Spirit is stirring in us, right in this moment, in this place.”
Then, Monday was dedicated to “ReNew,” a time of reaffirming connection within the Texas Annual Conference and with partners in ministry. Tuesday was a call to “ReInvigorate,” a day of awards and ordination. Finally, Wednesday centered on “ReImagine,” launching members into a hope-filled future.
The Conference focused on reinvigorating worship and renewing prayer. The event featured a reimagined way of gathering – around a table, instead of seated in rows, to foster deep listening and thoughtful dialogue. Time was even reserved for “Holy Conversation at the Table,” intimate discussions facilitated by the Conference Leadership Team.
Throughout the Conference, video tributes recognized retiring members, who, as Bishop Harvey explained, together represent more than 1,000 years of ministry. Rev. Dr. Jerry Neff, from United Methodist Church of the Pines, delivered a Memorial Service to honor members who passed away in the past year.
The Annual Conference also provided the opportunity to celebrate new beginnings, including the faith communities forming throughout the Conference. A powerful commissioning and ordination service was celebrated at FUMC Houston, which ended with an overwhelming number of people coming to the altar for prayer.
Presentations were made by the General Board of Church and Society, the Board of Ordained Ministry, the Board of Higher Education and Campus Ministries, Texas Methodist Foundation, Lydia Patterson Institute and Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology. Lay Leader John Esquivel delivered his lay leader remarks and moderated a panel discussion on connectionism in the Laity Session. Participants in the panel discussion included: Bishop Harvey, Romonica Ramone-Wardley, DS to the SE District; Bishop Bickerton, Roland Fernandez, and Ashley Boggan.
There were cabinet gatherings, business sessions and presentations from the Center for Leadership Formation, Ministry Specialist Program and United Women of Faith.
Rev. Jill Daniel provided an update on the We Love All God’s Children initiative, Rev. Godfrey Hubert spoke about disaster relief programs, and Shannon W. Martin gave an update on the Communications department. Partners in ministry also addressed the Conference, including Houston Methodist Hospital, Lakeview and Methodist Retirement Communities.
Outstanding churches and clergy were recognized. The Small Church Award, granted to congregations worshiping 100 or fewer, were given to Wildwood UMC in Magnolia, Clinton Park UMC in Houston, McMahan Chapel UMC in San Augustine, First UMC Hooks, Fairwood UMC in Tyler, St. Emily UMC in Baytown, Wesley UMC in Orange, FUMC Van Vleck and FUMC Centerville.
During the AC 2023, two delegates – Jan Ervin and Wayne Haglund – were elected to attend the next General Conference in April. Robert Besser was elected as Conference Treasurer and Bill Kroger as Conference Chancellor, while Chancellors Mary Daffin and Frank Jones announced their retirement.
Copeland Awards were given to churches based on the number of professions of faith, when calculated as a percentage of worship attendance. Recipients included Chapelwood, Memorial Drive and St. John’s UMC in Houston, Perryville UMC in Winnsboro, League City UMC and Magnolia UMC.
The One Matters Award, which rewards growth in professions of faith from zero to at least one, was granted to Angleton UMC. Pastor Lindsey Kirkpatrick from Asbury UMC received the Eric Anderson Award, which recognizes young pastors who excel in evangelism.
The consent calendar passed and the 2024 annual budget of $4.232 million was also approved.
The proposal to reduce the amount of districts from nine to five passed.
A Resolution for Our New Life Together passed unanimously. The measure acknowledges that the TAC is “recovering from a season of conflict, division, power politics, and competition. Whereas, though this kind of culture might have benefited a few, it has not served us well as a whole, and has left us divided, fractured, and dismayed, rather than united, focused, and hopeful.”
The resolution calls for the remaining churches in the Conference to reaffirm their faith and renew their commitment, adding, “It is a new day in the Texas Annual Conference, with the opportunity before us to shed our old ways of being, to repent of our sins, and to embrace the revival that the Spirit is stirring in our midst.”
Bishop Harvey ended the last day of Annual Conference on center stage saying what a great day as we have expanded our tables. “I can’t wait to sing new song together — sing a new verse together at the Texas Annual Conference, she said.”