Rev. Thomas J. Pace serves as Senior Pastor of St. Luke’s UMC in Houston. Previously, he was the Senior Pastor of Christ UMC in Sugar Land, Founding Pastor at Bay Harbour UMC in Clear Lake and Pastor of Faith UMC in South Houston. He also celebrates a long family tradition with the Texas Annual Conference. His grandfather Dr. Lawrence Landrum, Sr., was a well-respected District Superintendent, and his uncle Lawrence Landrum, Jr. was the pastor of Memorial Drive UMC for a number of years. Rev. Pace was raised in Southern Illinois, the son of two professors. He came to Texas upon finishing seminary, with a Master’s of Divinity degree from Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in 1982. He earned his Doctorate of Ministry from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey in 2001.
Q. Why did you throw in your hat to be elected as delegate for the 2020 General Conference?
A. This is my first general conference delegation for the church. It’s an important time. The Church has been very good to me. I have been loved and supported and cared for. Like the Bible says, “Who knows perhaps if you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” I’m just responding to what God calls me to do. I’m a pastor of a larger church in the conference. People would tell me, “I hope you run.” It’s not something I sought, but I thought, If I’m called, I’ll serve. If they want to elect me, I’ll do my job. And I’m honored to do so. I’m a novice to General Conference, to the committees, the legislation, the politics. In some ways, I think that’s why they wanted to elect me, to get a fresh look.
Q. How do you describe your job as a delegate preparing for General Conference?
A. My responsibility is not to advocate so much as to educate. I do my job to make sure my delegation has all the information they need, the answers from all the voices they need to hear from. As a pastor, I have my own ideas, but that’s not my job as the head of the delegation. Rather, it’s to bring us together, to learn together and discuss in ways to open our minds.
Q. What is your reaction to the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace Through Separation?
A. We can read the protocol itself and talk about it, but the legislation isn’t written yet, so it’s a little difficult to reflect on what it really means. The Protocol says it can repeal discipline and adapt, but there’s a great deal of debate about what’s adapatable and what’s not. But nothing is decided until it’s decided. We’ll figure out a way to move forward. At our church, we’ll stay focused on our own mission. Our vision is to be a city transformed by the love of Jesus. We want to keep our eye on the ball. We’re going to keep pressing forward. A bicycle falls over when it stops. We have to keep moving.
Q. What do you think will be the future of the Church?
A. Whatever happens, we’re in a place of a restructuring of the church, in terms of the amount of money we want to spend, and the level of bureaucracy we will need to address – together or apart. Everyone realizes we need to get through this to move on to other stuff, to address other significant issues. The Church is the body of Christ. I do believe that the Church has to figure out how it can be a witness. We live in an incredibly polarized world. To be a witness to a world that is struggling and broken, that’s our job. It’s not going to look the same, but the future of the Church is bright.
Q. What gives you hope or makes you feel excited during this time?
A. We can’t keep going like this. We can’t keep in the stalemate we’re in. The Protocol is hopeful. There’s a lot of stuff in it that hasn’t been figured out yet. The details are hard to figure out. But there is hope that this is a step forward, that there could be a solution. I do believe that blessing one another rather than attacking each other is a possibility, and that gives me hope.