Texas Annual Conference coming to your area this summer, new dates announced
By Lindsay Peyton
Bishop Scott Jones has announced that the date for the 2020 Annual Conference, originally set for late May, has been postponed until mid-August to protect the safety and health of members in the Texas Annual Conference. To ensure enough room for social distancing, instead of gathering in one location, delegates will meet at multiple sites that connect them together electronically for the event.
The Annual Conference is now a two-day, hybrid event slated for Friday, Aug. 14 and Saturday, Aug. 15. There will be locations throughout the Texas Annual Conference where attendees can gather – and connect with the primary broadcast site at The Woodlands UMC, 2200 Lake Woodlands Drive.
Delegates at each site will be able to speak and vote. The locations will all have a microphone, internet and an elder to preside over the meeting.
Ordination will still be held at The Woodlands UMC, as well as celebration of retirees and worship. Families are invited to watch the event online in the safety of their homes.
Bishop Jones explained that there will be virtual sessions before the event, including the Clergy Session on Tuesday, May 26. Other pre-conference meetings will also be scheduled online for late July with exact dates announced soon at www.txcumc.org.
“We’re trying to make adjustments,” Jones said. “Please look for announcements on how we will continue to be a connectional church as we reschedule.”
B. T. Williamson, assistant to the Bishop, explained that the decision was made with patience and caution – in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s statement on April 27, solidified the decision, Williamson added.
“The Governor called for no mass gatherings,” he said. “Churches can resume, but even if you go to worship, you have to practice social distancing.”
Those practices would be difficult to maintain during the Annual Conference, with more than 2,500 members expected to attend. In addition, a number of attendees are over the age of 60, placing them at high risk for the virus.
“We put all of that together, and we’re not saying no, we’re just saying, ‘Not now,’” Williamson said.
While canceling the May event was difficult, he explained that the commitment to “do no harm” must outweigh other considerations. The Texas Annual Conference is in consultation with other conferences around the country to share best practices.
“We have discovered creative ways to maintain the life of the church and faith in spite of safety concerns,” Williamson said.
Bishop Jones said that he is impressed with how area churches are already discovering innovative ways to move forward with their missions. “I’m hearing so many great stories about how United Methodist Churches in the Texas Annual Conference are making a difference for Christ under very difficult conditions,” he said.
Between now and August, Williamson said the Conference will continue monitoring the virus – and will consider ideas to plan pre-conference activities in a safe way.
“We’ve got a lot of things to work on still,” he said. “In some ways, it’s back to the drawing board.”
For instance, a two-day Annual Conference will require downsizing, he explained. Determining essential activities will be key.
“One of the outcomes of this time is that we’re going to learn some new ways of doing things,” Williamson said. “Necessity is the mother of invention.”
There’s an urgency of remaining in ministry and being connected spiritually. “It’s making us come up with creative strategies that we wouldn’t have considered before,” Williamson said. “But we are finding solutions.”
To watch the Bishop’s announcement, visit txcumc.org/newsdetail/tac-2020-update-from-bishop-scott-j-jones-13651245.