News & Announcements

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.

Bishop Bledsoe Responds to GC19

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, this about these things.” (Phillipians 4:8)

Dear Members and friends of the New Mexico and Northwest Texas Conference Churches,

Greetings in the Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

This letter is in follow up to my video just after the Special Called Session of the 2019 General Conference. In the video, I shared the outcome of the General Conference as well as my hopes of continuing to uphold our Book of Discipline, acknowledging the human pain that the struggle continues to cause many.

I want to encourage all our church pastors and laity to live out our calling with compassion and love as United Methodists in the various mission fields we are each called to serve. As in the days of Christ, the cultural context varies from place to place and from region to region. We must continue to serve Christ and share the love of Christ with all persons. Although the 2019 General Conference retained the current language prohibiting the ordination and conducting of same sex marriages by clergy, the action does not preclude churches from serving and ministering to LGBTQI+ communities and families in their local context. The church of Jesus Christ is open to all persons, and no church is free to discriminate or exclude others from the love of God through Jesus Christ.

As your bishop, I have learned a valuable lesson while serving the churches of the New Mexico and Northwest Texas Conferences. New Mexico and Northwest Texas are two very different conferences, theologically and politically. However, you have demonstrated a love for one another through Jesus Christ without denigrating or humiliating the other for their differences. Thanks to Bishop Max Whitfield, I inherited a cabinet that meets and works together in the assigning of pastors to local churches. I witnessed firsthand the respect and love they both have for their various mission fields and the pastors and churches that serve them. My prayer is that the general church would learn this lesson of how to get along despite our differences as fellow followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

What are the next steps? There are several petitions that require a judicial council decision on the Traditional Plan. This should be decided by April of this year. The actions of the 2019 GC will not become effective until January 1, 2020. We will have a report of the delegations at this year’s annual conference session and will provide an opportunity for each conference member to ask questions and voice concerns going forward. I plan to itinerate again this Fall across all the areas of each conference to hear any concerns as well as share an update on our ministry together as a conference. As promised, I will “go where invited, eat what you eat and sleep where you sleep.” I also promised, I will walk with you through this journey after the special session and will continue to pray and seek the unity of the Church through the power of the Holy Spirit. I thank God for your Christian witness!!

In Christ’s Name,
Bishop W. Earl Bledsoe