Union News

2019 Texas Conference Constituency Session Report

May 21, 2019

The Quadrennial Session of the Texas Conference of Seventh-day Adventist was held in Bryan, Texas on May 19, 2019. Over 1,200 delegate representatives elected conference officers and directors for the next four-year term, and also voted items pertaining to Adventist education and the Valley Educational Foundation.

The day began with a devotional by Carlos Craig encouraging the delegates to be faithful to God and rely on His purpose. The Texas Conference then recognized John Hopps who recently retired after nearly 49 years of service in Adventist education. His 43 years in Texas include 11 as an Associate Superintendent and five as the Education Superintendent of the Texas Conference. Hopps expressed his desire to see our children and grandchildren in the Kingdom and encouraged the audience to minister to the children around them.

The session officially began with the reading of the call and seating of the delegates. The final delegate and delegate-at-large count presented to the audience was 1,225. Doug Walker served as parliamentarian and the North American Division representative was Ken Denslow, Assistant to the North American Division President.

Six new churches were officially added to the sisterhood of churches: Pflugerville Spanish, Alvin Spanish, Houston Spanish South Haven, Houston Spanish Westchase, Richwood Spanish, San Antonio Adventist Christian Fellowship. These churches were organized from April 2017 to April 2019.

Administration Reports

The President’s report consisted of reports from three pastors throughout the conference who shared about the work and ministry in their respective areas. Encile Brown, pastor of the Mission Hope Church in the Rio Grande Valley, shared that his church started with 30 members and they are currently blessed with 137 members. They have a vibrant community service and have been working with the city of Mission in various projects. Angel Rodriguez, Houston Central Church pastor, shared about his church’s high visitor involvement. Houston Central opened their doors seven days a week providing food and clothing during hurricane Harvey and the church serves 8,000 people a year with their community services. James Milam, Hurst Church pastor, shared his church’s recent journey of following “Christ’s Method Alone.” The Hurst Church has started new creative ministries including a food truck called Back to Eden. The food truck is out during public evangelism at the church, goes to events and gives out a GLOW tract with every meal. All profits from the food truck go back into evangelism and the church does public evangelism twice a year.

The Secretariat report was presented by Richard White, who shared that the conference experienced a steady increase in membership over the last few years. At the close of 2018, membership was 60,580, with 2,203 baptisms during that year. White shared that the conference had 129 Spanish churches (44%) and 173 non-Spanish/English churches (55%). He also presented a statistical analysis by area for the conference’s 10 areas. The areas with the biggest growth were South and North Houston, Dallas North and the Valley. He praised the work of the ministers and members in the field who are dedicated to sharing the gospel.  

Michael Merrifield, CPA, CGMA, General Conference Auditing Service Regional Manager, shared the December 31, 2018, 2017, 2016 and 2015 audit report for the Texas Conference and Texas Conference Association. The conference received an unmodified or “clean opinion,” which is the best opinion review an organization can receive, for all four years.

 The Treasurer’s report was presented by Randall Terry who shared that tithe has increased 19.2% over the last four years or an average of 4.8% per year. The conference experienced a $5.7 million tithe increase in 2018 which was highest in the North American Division. That 12% increase was the third highest in the division. Over the last four years, $6.4 million have be allocated to evangelism, $3.1 million to church and school buildings, $18.2 million to elementary education and $5 million to secondary education amongst other expenses.

Nominating Committee Report

Larry Moore, Southwestern Union President, introduced the Nominating Committee report to the delegates. He recognized the committee and thanked them for their hard work. The Nominating Committee report was read and voted, and the following positions were confirmed.

Officers: President, Carlos Craig; Secretary, David Montoya; Treasurer, Randall Terry.

Departmental Directors: Undertreasurer, Efrain Murillo; Associate Treasurer, Betsabe Cuevas; Associate Treasurer, Barbara Craft; Associate Treasurer, Francisco Pollock; Children’s Ministries Director, Alexis Rivera; Communication Director, Jason Busch; Communication Associate Director, Tamara Terry; Community Services Director, Marshall Gonzales; Community Services Associate Director, Julie Gonzales; Education Associate Superintendent, Raul Aguilar; Education Associate Superintendent, Ellen Thomas; Evangelism Director, Dan Serns; Human Resources Director, Renee Crawford; Human Resources Associate Director, Tatiana Meharry; ITS Director, Zeb Worth; ITS Associate Director, Ron Macomber; Ministerial Director, Nathan Krause; Family Ministries Director, Ruber Leal; Family Ministries Associate Director; Ketty Leal, Print Shop Director, Bo Gendke; Public Affairs/Religious Liberty Director, David Montoya; Publishing Director, Antonio Correa; Publishing Associate Director, Joshua Reyna; Hispanic Ministries Department/Spanish Evangelism Director (Vice President for Hispanic Ministries), Osvaldo Rigacci; Hispanic Ministries Department/Spanish Evangelism Associate Director, Ismael Castillo; Texas ABC Director, Mickey Johnson; Texas ABC Associate Director, Francisco Robledo; Transportation Director, Dennis Habenicht; Transportation Associate Director, David Lambeth; Planned Giving & Trust Services Director, Roger Mekelburg; Planned Giving & Trust Services Associate Director, Lynette Ecord; Youth/Pathfinder Director, Paulo Tenorio.

The Nominating Committee voted to designate the Education Superintendent as a Vice President of the Texas Conference and after discussion and majority vote, the action was approved by the delegates. The Nominating Committee referred the position of Education Superintendent to the conference administration to form a search committee to fill the position.

A motion from the floor was made to move forward with approving one the Nominating Committee’s recommendations to the Executive Committee. The recommendation was that the Director of Hispanic Ministries be designated as a Vice President. After discussion and majority vote, the motion was approved by the delegates.

The following positions were referred to the Personnel and Executive Committees of Texas Conference by the Nominating Committee: Lake Whitney Ranch Director and Associate Director, Sabbath School Director, Stewardship Director and Young Adult Ministries Director.

The following recommendations were made by the Nominating Committee to the new Executive Committee:

  1. To recommend consideration of adding a Church Planting Department.
  2. To recommend that the Texas Conference consider hiring a third Education Associate Superintendent.

The delegates also confirmed the nominees for the new Executive Committee, Associate Board Committee and Constitution and Bylaws Committee.

Adventist Education

Carlos Craig shared about the work of the Texas Adventist Education Advancement Committee, a group of individuals tasked with studying and making recommendations regarding Adventist education. The minutes of the Education Advancement committee’s meetings had been shared to the delegates in their delegate’s packages. Craig shared the committee’s resolve to continue working throughout the next  quadrennium to grow and strengthen Adventist education.

The meeting continued with the delegates entertaining items pertaining to Adventist education. After discussion and majority vote, the following items were approved:

  1. To petition NAD to allow for a variance from 30% to 50% (sliding scale going up 3% each year) for teachers’ salaries.
  2. A 5% tithe rebate of total tithe from each church to return to churches yearly (funds to be taken from working capital). When the working capital drops below 120% the rebate will be limited to 1-5% (sliding scale). This will ensure safeguards for the working capital.

A number of teachers, parents and pastors spoke in favor of the motions, reiterating the importance of the ministry of teachers as co-laborers with pastors, stating that the largest field of evangelism is within schools. Teachers mentioned that they are issued credentials by the Texas Conference as Ministers of Teaching. Pastors shared that they believe in the ministry of teachers.

Craig pointed out that the intention of the rebate would be to encourage churches to take initiatives to be innovative and take steps to strengthen their individual education programs in their communities, rather than to supplement the financial contributions the churches are already making.

Valley Educational Foundation

The Texas Conference Constituency Session closed temporarily, and the Valley Educational Foundation constituency session opened. The VEF Audit report for 2015-2018 was shared and accepted. Carlos Craig explained that the Valley Educational Foundation had been established to manage funds from the profits of Valley Grande Manor for Valley Grande Adventist Academy, which closed several years ago and there had been no activity for the last two years.

After discussion and majority vote, the following item was approved:

  1. To approve the dissolution of the Valley Educational Foundation.

The Valley Educational Foundation Constituency Session closed, and the Texas Conference Constituency Session reopened.

Valley Grande Academy Property

Randall Terry presented an appraisal of the VGAA property which encompasses 17.75 acres in Weslaco, Texas adjacent to the Weslaco Church. The property was appraised at $3.45 million.

Carlos Craig explained that the property still incurred significant costs through maintenance and utilities but has been deteriorating for some time. Based on the history over the last several years, the prospect of having another boarding academy on the property was very unlikely.

After discussion and majority vote, the following item was approved:

  1. To sell the Valley Grande property, and have proceeds placed in a fund for Adventist education. Recommendations and requests were made to give the Weslaco Church consideration and priority regarding a portion of the property and an amendment was approved that allowed for 50% of the proceeds from the sale be distributed to the churches in the Valley for Adventist education.

The meeting came to a close just after 6 p.m,. and the agenda item pertaining to Lake Whitney Ranch was tabled until the midterm constituency session in 2021. The administration thanked the delegates and staff for their work during the day and dismissed the meeting with prayer. Congratulations to those individuals elected to serve the Texas Conference for the next four years. We pray for God’s guidance and blessing to be over them, their families and the ministry efforts in the territory as we all labor and look “for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.” Titus 2:13.

By Kristina Pascual Busch, Southwestern Union Associate Communication Director