Officiating: Bishop W. Earl Bledsoe
The Northwest Texas Conference, under the leadership of Bishop W. Earl Bledsoe, was able to meet in person for a shortened Annual Conference gathering.
Our theme this year was Dusk to Dawn, using a combination of videos, sermons and other presentations. Our main scripture was John 1:5, but we also spent time wondering what the disciples and believers must have felt on Holy Saturday, waiting for Sunday and Christ's resurrection to come. This time in the darkness is the messy middle. We can wait and be weighed down with fear, or we can find peace and growth in the darkness as we wait for dawn and the beginnings of the new story.
We focused on necessary business, with most of it being voted through as a consent calendar. First United Methodist Church in Hedley and its pastor, the Rev. Dr. Stan Cosby, were recognized for receiving the Kate Warnick Award. This was for a book Cosby wrote about the church's history. He shared how looking back through their history stirred a fire in the church again to continue going. They were on the verge of deciding to close the church but have found new life and focus and are beginning to grow. Laramie McEntire and Sandy Waterfield of First United Methodist Church in Canadian received the Denman Award this year for the decades of work they have done and are continuing to do in Canadian and our entire Conference and beyond.
Our newly formed transition team spent time presenting to the Conference educational information they have gathered to help educate clergy, laity and the Conference as a whole on what may happen if the Protocol is passed as is at the next General Conference. While this presentation was based on assumptions, it provided space for people to ask questions and begin to understand the impact the Protocol may have on the NWTX churches if passed. If you are interested in more information on that, please visit our website at www.nwtxconf.org/transition.
Our main action on resolutions was on one submitted from First United Methodist Church in Albany, Resolution in Response to the Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace through Separation. The resolution was passed with 184 for and 39 against with an amendment. The resolution is aspirational, meaning it is not binding. It is based on assumptions of the Protocol passing at the next General Conference meeting. It was submitted in order to poll the Conference to see where they would stand if the Protocol passed and the Conference was able to vote to leave or remain in the Post UMC. Praise God; there were no resolutions for churches to close this year!
Four pastors were celebrated as they were ordained this year, and one was commissioned as a provisional elder. Six pastors retired this year as well.
The COVID-19 pandemic affected our Conference in several different ways. While it has impacted our 2020 statistical numbers, it has not dampened our heart for making disciples nor growth that continues to come to NWTX in one key area. Our membership stands at 48,757, down 1,231 from the previous year. Our worship attendance stands at 31,098, up 9,267 from the last year since so many of our churches transitioned to online worship for the first time. Church school attendance stands at 6,259, down 2,541. Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2020 were 338, down 303 from 2019. Adults and young adults in small groups for 2020 were 10,287, down 3,604. Worshippers engaged in mission for 2020 were 7,407, down 13,509 from 2019, reflecting city shutdowns.
— Jaime Montgomery, director of communications & discipleship, Northwest Texas Conference.
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