Oriental Annual Conference 2016
Rev. Rebekah Clapp
The Oriental Annual Conference of the Mexico Methodist Church gathered in Nuevo Laredo this June for a time of worship, fellowship, and holy conferencing. I had the opportunity to join them as a representative from the West Ohio Conference because of the partnership we have with them. Each year the annual conference is hosted by a different local church in the conference. This year's conference was held at El Divino Salvador. In preparation for the annual conference, the local church funded the construction of a new fellowship hall to facilitate serving meals to the conference. During the event the members of El Divino Salvador provided food and refreshments, resources, worship leading, and many servants. In addition the church covered registration and provided housing for a large number of the participants.
Everyone was welcomed to the conference with a spirit of genuine hospitality. In addition to the pastors and lay members, there were a few of us who were invited to participate in the conference as voting delegates because we represented the annual conferences in the United Methodist Church with which Oriental has a relationship. The visiting representatives from the Memphis and Tennessee conferences, along with myself, were invited to be a part of the entire annual conference, including voting in the election of district superintendents. This was an unfamiliar experience, because superintendents in the U.S. are appointed by the Bishop and not elected by the conference. As the elections took place, I turned in blank ballot after blank ballot, feeling unqualified to have a say in their leadership. While I felt I shouldn't cast a vote, I was honored to be present with them through their process of spiritual discernment. Through this process the Holy Spirit led the annual conference to elect Pastor Mary Gonzalez to the superintendency. This was a cause for celebration and a historic occasion as she is the first female to ever hold this role in the Oriental Annual Conference.
Apart from electing district superintendents, the annual conference shared many similarities with our own in regard to the structure, business, and reporting. There were many opportunities for worship, networking, meeting new people, holding holy conversations, and praying together. What stood out rather significantly to me was the testimony of the movement of the Holy Spirit within the churches of the Oriental Conference. The growth rate over the last year is astronomical as more and more people are being discipled and joining local churches. Mary Carmen Padilla, the VIM Coordinator of Oriental shared with me that this movement of the Holy Spirit and astounding growth began with a commitment to pray. The Oriental Annual Conference came together in prayer in response to the violence, drug trafficking, poverty, and destruction of families that was ripping their communities apart. Their geographic region in Mexico has undergone a transformation as they have witnessed healing in their cities and communities. The Holy Spirit did not stop with restoring peace, but also began filling their churches with new disciples.
Throughout the conference, I had many opportunities to meet with the Bishop and the cabinet to further solidify our partnership and hear from them about the ways in which we could continue to journey together. They were so pleased to receive me on behalf of West Ohio as they were anticipating sending four seminary interns who are currently serving with us. They hope to continue to receive mission teams from West Ohio and also hope to send mission teams from Mexico to West Ohio to support us in our ministries.
Please be in prayer for our sisters and brothers in the Oriental Annual Conference in Mexico and think about the ways you or your church could be involved in this partnership.