News & Announcements

Bishop Bledsoe’s Announcements Regarding COVID-19

April 30, 2020

I want to thank the members of the New Mexico and Northwest Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church on the way in which you have responded to the Coronavirus Pandemic in our area. Your commitment to the mission of the church is exemplary. It speaks volumes to the leadership of both clergy and laity in our midst. I am also appreciative for the work of our front-line workers, i.e. the healthcare workers, first responders and those who continue to make our communities and our world function. In this extraordinary time, many of you have found creative ways for worship, bible study, prayer and missional outreach. We continue to pray for comfort for those affected by the pandemic. Some among us have lost loved ones and could not gather in great numbers for a homegoing celebration. We also pray for the farmers, ranchers, oil producers and small business owners whose livelihoods have been devastated by the effect of COVID-19.

I am asking each of our congregations to practice safe distancing and to remain in our homes following the recommendations of the state and local emergency declarations, as well as the guidelines provided by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and our doctors and scientists. Some areas will reopen faster than others, however I am suggesting that each church go through a discernment period of asking the critical questions needed to keep our congregations and communities safe before returning and how best to live into a “new normal”.  The process of re-opening will, undoubtedly, be gradual and different in each locale.  I suggest we seek answers to the following questions:  How can we keep our congregation and communities safe? Even as we re-open, will our congregation feel safe?  What must we do to be safe and help our people feel safe? What new skills or means of connection have we learned or implemented that we should continue even as we re-open? What blessings have we experienced during this time, and how can we turn those blessings into ministries? What new ways will we do mission and outreach? What specific ways can we bring hope to those affected by the shutdown?

The Conference and district offices will continue to work remotely and stand ready to assist with any needs during this period of transition. The cabinet continues to meet with me. Appointments for this year will continue as announced effective July 1, 2020. We ask for a period of grace on the move date. The superintendents will work together to provide a smooth transition of leadership.

All United Methodist Church conferences have been postponed or rescheduled for this year:

  • The 2020 General Conference scheduled will be moved to the end of August 2021. The new prospective dates are August 31-September 10, 2021.
  • The South Central Jurisdictional scheduled for July has been moved to November 2021. The new dates are currently being negotiated.
  • The June 2020 Joint New Mexico and Northwest Texas annual conference scheduled for Lubbock, Texas has been postponed. NWTX will meet Saturday August 15, 2020 in Lubbock, Texas. The New Mexico Conference will meet Friday evening and Saturday, August 28-29 in Roswell, NM. We will only deal with the essentials needed to carry on the work of each conference. A detailed schedule will be shared by the New Mexico Conference Provost and the Northwest Texas Conference Director of Mission and Administration.

Leslie and I are postponing our retirement until a new bishop can be assigned by the SCJ Episcopacy Committee. We will continue to go where invited, eat what you eat and sleep where you sleep, journeying in ministry with you.  Let us continue to pray for one another and for our church in the world. May God continue to bless and keep each of you.

Bishop W. Earl & Leslie J. Bledsoe

NM Conference Offers Local Churches Financial Support

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Dear Friends and Colleagues in Ministry,

The vision and mission of the New Mexico Annual Conference are centered on local church ministry: our priorities are to support, equip, and resource local congregations to do God’s work in their mission field. I’ve been working with leadership from our Council and Finance and Administration (CF&A) and our Conference Board of Pensions and Health Benefits to find ways to provide immediate financial relief during this season of the coronavirus/COVID-19, especially recognizing that as most congregations are no longer gathering for in-person worship and as the economy struggles, giving to local churches is impacted, producing undue strain on your finances and ministries.

Effective immediately, CF&A has agreed to suspend the expected local church tithe of 8% of operational income for two months (March and April). In other words, churches are not expected to remit their fair share (the 8% tithe) for the next two months as we all live into this uncertain season, with no expectation of needing to “catch up” later in the year. Because of past faithfulness on the part of our local churches, coupled with prudent stewardship on the part of our CF&A, sufficient reserves are available at the Conference level to allow local congregations this short-term reprieve. It is hoped that this will help local churches weather this time of uncertainty and even, perhaps, expand ministry in their local contexts.

Similarly, our Conference Board of Pensions and Health Benefits will suspend the next two months of billing for the local church portion of pensions and health benefits (your bills for April and May will reflect this reduced burden). Again, these two months will not need to be “caught up” later in the year. Any payroll deductions (UMPIP withholding, MRA/HRA or additional, selected coverage such as dental or vision) will continue to be billed to the local church. Because of past faithfulness on the part of local churches and very effective management of these funds by the Board, Pensions and Health has reserves to provide this shortterm relief.

I’m so very grateful to our CF&A (and especially the Chair, Rev. Dan Boyd) as well as our Board of Pensions and Health Benefits (and its Chair, Rev. Joe Whitley) for this bold step in faith. Both groups quickly took up this challenge and the question was not if we might do this, but how. Again, it is hoped that this short-term relief will support all of our local churches during this unusual season and strengthen us all for ministry together. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Griselda Sandoval (Conference Treasurer), Anna Marshall (Conference Benefits Officer), or myself at 505-255-8786.

Blessings,
Randall W. Partin, Provost

Statement from Bishop & Cabinet Regarding COVID-19

A MESSAGE FROM BISHOP BLEDSOE AND THE APPOINTIVE CABINET

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

We are writing to the churches of the New Mexico and Northwest Texas Annual Conferences to support and encourage you as we work together to respond to the recent outbreak of the Coronavirus in our world. Our political leaders and healthcare professionals have all come together to provide guidelines for us to live by in order to minimize the spread of the virus over the weeks and months ahead. The threat is real, and the risks are high, if we do nothing.

The 2020 General Conference scheduled for May in Minneapolis, Minnesota has been postponed until a later date due to the threat and complications related to the Coronavirus. We will keep you informed as decisions are made and alternate plans develop for our Annual as well as the South Central Jurisdictional conferences.

We as a church do not want to abandon or neglect our core values and mission in the world to care for others and to share hope and encouragement during this crisis. We do not know how long the crisis will be with us before we have an effective vaccine to curb the spread. At this point, the experts are anticipating it will get worse before it gets better.

Because we are The United Methodist Church, we are asking each of our churches to help maintain our sacred connection while practicing safe physical distancing. We applaud the work that is already occurring in many of our congregations to minimize the risk, while carrying out their mission in the world.

Let’s work together in creative ways to accomplish our mission by doing the following:

  • Prayer is our most powerful tool, and our first response to crisis. Be creative in finding ways to implement prayer as individuals and as congregations.  Prayer calendars, specific times during the day to pray in unity as a congregation, video conferencing for group connection and prayer, and social media connections, can be powerful ways to join in prayer. Remember that persons we might encounter who are in fear will be most open to a word of hope, and a promise of prayer.  Pray for all those affected by the current crisis, and be challenged to consider persons others might tend to overlook.
  • Practice good hygiene by washing our hands and cleaning areas most used or touched by individuals. For additional information, go to one of the following, cdc.gov or https://www.webmd.com/lung/news/20200306/power-of-hand-washing-to-prevent-coronavirus
  • Practice safe distancing by meeting in smaller rather than larger groups and gatherings. https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/14/health/coronavirus-asymptomatic-spread/index.html Many large churches have gone to live streaming and online worship. Several smaller congregations are instilling the Wesleyan Class meeting concept to stay in touch with families and individuals through class leaders. Be creative! Be the church and learn to share effective ideas with others. See https://www.resourceumc.org
  • Work at being the church: practice the best of Wesleyan “social holiness” by extending love and care to each other, staying connected with those who are isolated (especially the elderly) by checking in with and encouraging them during this time and offering assistance with food, groceries, and childcare where needed.
  • Do not hoard resources. Do not neglect to be generous with those in need – this is the way of Christ!
  • Financially support your church by continuing to give of God’s tithe and offerings, using online giving or by mailing in your gifts. Our CF&As in each conference are working on implementing financial relief (help in shared ministries, health benefits and pension) and help to support you in your ministry.
  • As many schools are closed or closing, find creative ways to make sure children are safe and cared for in the community. Pay attention and be ready to respond to the emerging needs these families might be experiencing.
  • Being in God’s Word is also an important tool. May we suggest 2 Timothy 1:7, Isaiah 40:28, Isaiah 41:10, Matthew 6:34, and Philippians 4:4-13.

We will get through this if we do not grow weary or lose heart. We look at this as an opportunity for us to learn to be the church in creative and effective ways. May God bless and keep you as we work together to keep our focus on the ministry of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

Bishop W. Earl Bledsoe, Resident Bishop
Mr. Sid Strebeck, NM Conference Lay Leader
Mr. Randy Stutes, NWTX Conference Lay Leader
Rev. Dr. Randall Partin, NM Conference Provost
Rev. Wendell Horn, NWTX Conference Director
Rev. Dave Anderson, NWTX Treasurer & Benefits
Rev. Kathryn Boren, NWTX Cabinet Dean & Big Springs DS
Rev. Dr. Eduardo Rivera, NM Cabinet Dean & El Paso DS
Rev. George Price, Abilene DS
Rev. Craig Cockrell, Albuquerque DS
Rev. Don Boren, Lubbock DS
Rev. Felicia Hopkins, Amarillo DS
Rev. Ernest Vineyard, Cabinet Secretary & Clovis DS
Rev. Les Hall, Incoming Big Springs DS
P.S. The bishop, conference lay leader and lead clergy person to General Conference will be sharing a video that speaks to additional plans. In the meantime, take care of one another as God cares for us all.

A Message from Bishop W. Earl Bledsoe Regarding the El Paso Shooting

Psalm 34:18: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

As a country, we have experienced yet another crisis involving gun violence. This time it happened in one of our beloved cities in the New Mexico Conference. A young man bent on hatred and bigotry, walked into a local Walmart store to enact murder and bloodshed upon innocent victims. What do we do with the remaining grief, anger, and feelings of vulnerability in which so many other communities in our country have had to reconcile? How do we make sense of our loved ones ripped from this world by senseless violence? As a bishop of the church, as well as a husband and father, I struggle with this, too. I am heartbroken and grief stricken by these senseless acts.

For many years now, the El Paso area has been besieged by the controversy over immigration, and yet our faith communities have worked together to respond to the needs of those seeking asylum and a better way of life for their families. I want to thank all our churches that have given of their time, resources, prayers and love. Many of you have been the hands and feet of Jesus for “The Stranger” among us. I’m sure that many have heard stories from people who have faced intolerable circumstances in their home countries, and you have responded with grace and love. The irony of how mercy on one hand is met with hatred and violence on the other is very painful to bear. Now, we ask what can we do to ease the suffering? What can we do to lift “crushed spirits”?

In the coming days, family members will bury their loved ones and care for the injured. At last count, approximately 25 people will heal from wounds that can be seen, but the community of El Paso will need to move forward with wounds and scars that cannot be seen. My fervent hope is that you can tangibly feel the passionate, heartfelt prayers of so many lifted to God for the many families and friends caught up as victims in this senseless act. I pray that God grant strength and renewed hope to get through the immense grief and uncertainty. I also encourage all of us to get involved in helping to bring about peace and racial reconciliation for the sake of community. Remember, the Spirit of Christ always stands with those who are hurting and grieving loss, reminding us that we are never alone in our grief nor are we forsaken during times of tragedy.

May God bless each and all!
Bishop W. Earl Bledsoe

 

NMAC Asylum Seeker Assistance Update

Thank you, those of you who have given more than $2,000 since the close of annual conference to the ministry of assisting asylum seekers. We are so grateful for the continued support.

You may have heard that the number of asylum seekers coming across the border and leaving detention centers has decreased recently. With this decrease, El Calvario UMC to has been serving 70 people per week for the past few weeks.

The decrease that we are seeing is related in part to the Remain in Mexico policy, more formerly known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP). With this policy, many asylum seekers are being returned to Mexico to await their court dates associated with their asylum cases. In Juarez alone, 8,000 migrants have been enrolled in the Remain in Mexico program waiting for their asylum court dates in El Paso. The shelter of our sister denomination, the Methodist Church, is housing 130 people in a space designed to shelter less than 50. The need in Mexico is great, and we are working to establish relationship with the Methodist shelter in Juarez to learn how we can best support them. We will share this information with you as we receive it.

The construction of an ICE detention center facility in Estancia, NM, will present another opportunity to serve, so stay tuned for more information.

The work to repurpose Houchen Community Center into the Borderland Hospitality House continues, as does the creation of a local Justice for our Neighbors (JFON) site. Part of the work of JFON is to provide accurate legal advice for clients and communities about immigration. As we work toward establishing a JFON, we also would like to offer educational opportunities to the conference, such as an Immigration 101 webinar. Check back in future the newsletters for more information on this opportunity.

If you are interested in supporting our emerging immigration ministries, please contact Rev. Nicole Crouch at deacon.ncrouch@gmail.com.