Rev. Dr. Eduardo 'Eddie' Rivera

2022 Episcopal Candidate

Educational Background:

  • Doctor of Ministry Degree (D.Min.) – 1992-1997
    Candler School of Theology, Atlanta, Georgia
  • Master of Theology Degree (Th.M.) – 1991-1992
    Candler School of Theology, Atlanta, Georgia
  • Bachelor of Theology Degree – 1981-1985
    Seminario Metodista Juan Wesley, Monterrey, México
  • English as a Second Language (ESL) & Sophomore Year – 1979-1981
    Lydia Patterson Institute, El Paso, Texas
  • High School Diploma
    Preparatoria Remington, Ciudad Juárez, México – 1977-1979

Clergy Orders

  • Recognition of Elder Orders and transfer as Full Member – 5/1998
    New Mexico Conference of the United Methodist Church
  • Ordained Elder and received as Full Member – 7/1988
    Conferencia Anual Fronteriza, Iglesia Metodista de México

Appointment History:

  • New Mexico Annual Conference – 2021 – Present
    Provost/Director of Congregational Vitality
  • El Paso District of the New Mexico Conference – 2016 to Present
    District Superintendent
  • St. Paul’s UMC, Las Cruces, New Mexico – 2013-2016
    Senior Pastor
  • St. Paul UMC, Abilene, Texas – 2009-2013
    Senior Pastor
  • St. Paul’s UMC, El Paso, Texas –  2004-2009
    Senior Pastor
  • Trinity-First UMC, El Paso, Texas – 3/1996-2004
    Associate Pastor of Mission and Outreach
  • Center for Ecumenical Aid to Transients (C.E.A.T), El Paso, Texas – 1/1995-2/1996
    Executive Director
  • Southern Illinois Hispanic Ministry, Carbondale, Illinois – 1988-1991
    Missionary/Executive Director
  • Iglesia Metodista El Buen Pastor, Monclova, Coahuila, México – 1986-1988
    Senior Pastor
  • Iglesia Metodista Jerusalem, Monterrey, Nuevo León, México – 1984-1986
    Senior Pastor
  • Iglesia Metodista Bethel, Hidalgo, Nuevo León, México – 1983-1984
    Senior Pastor

General And Jurisdictional Conferences Participation:

  • 2020 –  Reserve Delegate to the General and Jurisdictional Conferences
    New Mexico Conference Delegation
  • 2019 – Head of the Delegation to the Special Session of the General Conference
    New Mexico Conference Delegation
  • 2016 – Head of the Delegation to the General and Jurisdictional Conferences
    New Mexico Conference Delegation
  • 2012 – Reserve Delegate to the General and Jurisdictional Conferences
    Northwest Texas Conference Delegation
  • 2008 – Reserve Delegate to the General and Jurisdictional Conferences
    New Mexico Conference Delegation

Family Information:

My wife Hilda Rivera is a retired professional educator who is now venturing into a custom jewelry business as the maker and designer of her own products. We are in our 39th year of shared journey as husband and wife. Our daughter Lizet Dickinson and son-in-law Derek Dickinson are both attorneys and they live in Nashville, Tennessee. Lizet is the Dean of Operations of Intrepid College Prep and Derek is the Director of Advanced Planning at Jackson National. Our 4-year old granddaughter Olivia is now busy growing up and having fun in the process.

Special Interest and Hobbies

My hobbies are making musical arrangements for piano and watch soccer games especially the Mexican National Team. I do cardio workouts whenever I can visit the gym and enjoy traveling. Hilda’s hobbies are arts and crafts, shopping, listening to podcasts and Broadway shows. We enjoy going to the movies together, listening to investigative podcasts, binging, now and then, on a good Netflix series and we love visiting our grandbaby Olivia whenever possible.

Leadership Positions:

  • 2021 to Present – Chair of the Conference Ministry Team, Envisioning Team and Annual Conference Planning Team. New Mexico Conference.
  • 2021 to Present – Member of the Board of Trustees. McMurry University, Abilene, Texas.
  • 2018 to Present – Member of the Board of Directors. Wesleyan Investive (formerly UMDF).
  • 2017 to Present – Member of the Board of Directors. TMF.
  • 2016 to Present – Member of the Committee on Episcopacy. South Central Jurisdiction (SCJ).
  • 2016 to Present – Chair of the Conference Committee on Episcopacy. New Mexico Conference.
  • 2016 to Present – Vice-Chair and Member of the Board of Trustees. Lydia Patterson Institute, El Paso, Texas.
  • 2016 to Present – Member of the Board of Advisors for Regional Course of Study Perkins School of Theology (SMU), Dallas, Texas.
  • 2014 to Present – Member of the Advisory Council. Center for Evangelism and Missional Church Studies. Perkins School of Theology (SMU), Dallas, Texas.
  • 2018 to 2021 – Dean of the Cabinet, New Mexico Conference.
  • 2016 to 2021 – Member of the SCJ District Superintendents Cohort Led by the TMF.
  • 2016 to 2020 – Delegate to the World Methodist Council. Representing the New Mexico Conference of the UMC.
    2015-2016 – Member of the Lead Pastors Network of Cross-Racial and Cross-Cultural Congregations (sponsored by GBHEM).
  • 2014-2016 – Chaplain of Conference Council on Youth Ministries (CCYM). New Mexico Conference.
  • 2012-2013 – Chair of the Board of Ordained Ministry. Northwest Texas Conference.
  •  2009-2013 – Member of the Board of Ordained Ministry. Northwest Texas Conference.
    2006-2009 – Representative of the New Mexico Conference at the Methodist Border Mission Network (MBMN) with Bishop Whitfield.
  • 2001-2009 – Member of the Board of Ordained Ministry. New Mexico Conference.
  • 2008-2009 – Member of the Mission Council. South Central Jurisdiction.
  • 2008-2009 – Member of the Executive Committee. South Central Jurisdiction Mission Council.
  • 2008-2009 – Chair of the Ethnic Ministries Committee. South Central Jurisdiction Mission Council
  • 2000-2008 – Member of the Conference Team on Making Disciples (CTMD). New Mexico Conference.
  • 2000-2006 – Chair of the Conference Committee on Hispanic Ministries. New Mexico Conference.
  • Multiple Dates – Interpreter and liaison for various Volunteers in Missions (VIM).
    From Illinois, Georgia and Texas traveling to Mexico.
  • 1/1993 – Participant in the World Methodist Evangelism Institute. Cliff College, Sheffield, England.
  • 1988-1991 – Founder of the Southern Illinois Hispanic Ministry. Southern Illinois Conference (now Illinois Great Rivers).
  • 1978-1981 – Member of the National Legislative Committee on Youth Ministries.
    Iglesia Metodista de México (IMM).
  • 1978-1981 – Vice-President of the Conference Youth Ministries Council. Conferencia Anual Fronteriza (IMM).
  • 1976-1978 – President of the District Youth Ministries Council. Distrito Occidental, Conferencia Annual Fronteriza (IMM)

1) Why are you willing to be considered for the episcopacy?

My willingness to be considered for the episcopacy is the result of my life’s spiritual journey. I was born and raised in a Methodist church environment in a clergy family in Mexico. At the age of 10, I had my personal experience of knowing full well that my sins were forgiven, and I found in Jesus a friend and a savior. At the age of 15, I received my call into ordained ministry. At the age of 17, God revealed through a dream that I would be preaching to English-speaking people. These experiences were formative in my development as a young leader in the local church, and at the district, conference, and national levels within our denomination. In those younger years, I believed I fit in perfectly with the leadership expectations that ran high in my family.

As I started my ministerial career, I began to fulfill my Call to ministry. At the same time, I felt as though I had to live up to personal and family expectations of becoming a strong leader in our denomination (Methodist Church of Mexico). At this point in my spiritual journey, I was developing an internal unease and asking myself would my soul honor my personal ambitions and the expectations of others, or would my soul honor God’s perfect plan? Sadly, by choosing the wrong path, my relationship with God, as well as my relationships with family and friends were affected.

It was through a personal experience of brokenness in my thirties that I realized I no longer needed to pursue the “manifest destiny” of being the kind of leader others wanted me to be. I became aware of how much power I had relinquished to erroneous motivations and ambitions in my life. During that season of personal renewal and family restoration, I came to experience the greater reservoir of God’s love and grace. My journey began to be guided by Paul’s phrase: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect” (1Corinthians 15:10). It was that journey back into God’s amazing grace that led me to discern the seasons of ministry in my life and thus offer myself to the various ministries I have held thus far. And, if elected, it will then include the episcopacy.

While the belief in God’s grace has found a high place in our Methodist doctrinal bookshelf, I fear that the actual experience of grace may be absent in the lives of many Methodist people. I believe that for this reason, as a bishop, I can help in leading our denomination into the places where grace is fully engaged in the lives and ministries of clergy and laity; where grace is abundantly shared in the mission fields entrusted to our Methodist congregations, and where grace clearly manages the business of our denomination. And even though we cannot legislate grace, I believe it can still inspire the policies of our church.

Clearly, I am not the producer of God’s grace, but I am a strong witness to its work in my life, family, and ministry. Developing the character of a child of God has taken center stage as I grow as a leader who follows Christ and seeks to depend entirely on God’s amazing grace. This is how my spiritual journey has led me to be considered for the episcopacy.

2) How should The United Methodist Church go forward into the future? What are the most critical issues? How would you respond as a bishop of the church to these issues?

For the United Methodist Church (UMC) to move forward, we need to experience transformation at the core of what we believe and what we do. I believe that there are two critical issues which are based on a distorted view of our theology and practice. One affects the other, and the combination of both have kept us from moving forward.

  • The first critical issue: This issue is theological in nature. In my view, our denomination tends to value ecclesiology over missiology: our institution has taken precedent over Christ’s mission. Our ecclesiological plans, structures and systems have become a competing value to the Great Commission. What illustrates this issue is our tendency to create plans like the “The Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation” (which was expected to produce an amicable branching out of our denomination in a General Conference that has not yet occurred), and the plans developed by the Commission on the Way Forward (presented at the special called General Conference in 2019). We all remember (or maybe have tried to forget) the Restructuring Plan approved by the 2012 General Conference which was deemed unconstitutional by the Judicial Council at the very last session of the General Conference. Haven’t we learned anything? Every time we have made the church the center of our deliberations (its structure, its worldwide nature, its degree of inclusiveness, etc.) we have arrived at dead ends and increased polarization. In my view, General Conferences have become mostly an ecclesiological endeavor (all about the church and survival of the Institution). Indeed, no ecclesiological attempts supported by church plans or protocols have the power to move the church forward.In my view, what moves the church forward is the Mission of Christ carried out by people empowered with the Holy Spirit. I am convinced that the church was created to advance the Mission of Christ and that the church takes second place to the Mission of Christ. Therefore, as an episcopal leader, I will lead the life and ministry of the Conference in embracing above all things, the Mission of Christ by unapologetically seeking, the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. This reorientation is not easy and requires a willingness to learn and adapt to the challenges of the 21st Century World while experiencing afresh 1st Century Church spiritual vitality.
  • The second critical issue: This issue is a derivative of the first one and it is best illustrated by our current reality. Our denomination is no longer branching out into new expressions of Methodism, instead, it is experiencing a painful process of separation through the application of Methodist polity (Paragraph 2553 and Paragraph 1504), and in some cases through legal battles in court over disaffiliation of local churches.In recent months, these actions toward disaffiliation have created a crescendo of criticism, judgment, name-calling, political games and misinformation between those supporting the UMC and those supporting the Global Methodist Church (GMC). Moreover, a competitive spirit has permeated news pieces, opinion articles and social media advertising which denomination offers the best promises so people will stay in the UMC or will join the GMC. These info wars are often accompanied by reasons why people shouldn’t stay in the UMC or shouldn’t join the GMC. It has been difficult to witness this level of polarization across our denomination. There has been nothing gracious, conciliatory, or amicable, about this reality.

    This critical issue raises an important question: Can this kind of negative environment amid this separation help our denomination move forward? My answer to this question is “no”. I am convinced that the way we choose to manage this separation will determine the kind of denomination we will become moving forward. If those in the UMC and the GMC decide to separate from each other using antagonistic approaches and try to harm each other in the process, then the future ministry of both denominations will face some challenges. What we sow is what we reap (Deuteronomy 30:19, and Galatians 6:7-8).

    As an episcopal leader (and even now), I will urge my brothers and sisters from all sides of this critical issue to choose to follow the way of Christ in dealing with our separation. Jesus knew that his way of love, grace and compassion was more powerful than any other way in responding to broken relationships (John 17:20-23).

    If we try His way, we might stop considering the UMC and the GMC as competitors, but as true partners in the fulfilment of the Great Commission of making disciples of all nations for Christ. Future opportunities of shared ministry will open in communities where both denominations are present. Clergy and laity from congregations belonging to the UMC and the GMC will be able to share resources to transform their communities with the message of the Gospel. Joint events will be planned where churches from both denominations can celebrate together God’s grace and their true friendship as a witness of love to the world. And maybe, this elusive experience of unity, might become a reality in spite of our differences.

    It is true that this separation deals with multi-million-dollar decisions based on property assets, withdrawal pension liabilities, apportionments, disaffiliation costs, arrearages etc. However, a future ministerial partnership between the UMC and the GMC deals with something far more valuable than money: the spiritual and transforming impact in the world of two spirit-filled, Christ-like denominations; and that future is worth pursuing.

    Moving forward will require a humble and courageous willingness to embrace the belief that the Church is not about us, but rather about Christ and His mission. Humility and courage will be also required to embrace, bless, respect and honor people across the theological and ideological spectrum even if their future leads them to a different place.

3) Where do you see God at work on the margins of the world? How would you embrace and encourage new, emerging forms of the church among new people? 

In today’s societies the margins of the world can be found next door to our churches. Life at the edge is now a part of the very fabric of today’s society. The sad editorial here is that many in the Church have been oblivious to those at the margins, missing the opportunity to see that God is already at work there.

  • God at work on the margins. There is nothing like being surprised by God’s presence in places and situations where we least expect it. This has happened, curiously enough, at the northwestern edge and at the southern edge of our Conference’s boundaries.
    • In my current ministry as Provost, I have had the opportunity to accompany and resource our Four Corners Ministries (located in Northwest New Mexico). This is a ministry our Conference leads with the support of two other Annual Conferences in service with the Navajo Nation. Our Conference is the fiscal agent of this ministry, and I serve as the supervisor of the Executive Director, a Navajo clergy woman. 

      My initial and on-going posture is that of learning, listening, and walking alongside those who we are in ministry with so as to begin to understand the culture and develop a sense of trust. While trust continues to be developed (trust is a premium value when in ministry with Native Americans brothers and sisters), we have started conversations on strategic planning that have produced a more effective operation of the Board of Directors, a stronger financial support system, and new expressions of ministries with our brothers and sisters of the Navajo Nation.

      My discoveries this year include the resiliency of the Navajo people, their love for God’s Creation, the human connection they have amongst themselves, all of which has taught me that God has been already at work with the Navajo Nation.

    • At the Southern edge of our Conference, I witnessed how God had been working in the lives of the unaccompanied minors who had faced hardships and tragic experiences in their journey into the United States. This happened when I was the El Paso District Superintendent and a group of lay and clergy from my district joined me in leading worship services every Sunday for a few months for hundreds of teenagers from Central America in the Tornillo detention center.At some level, I thought that we (the teams) were there to bring God’s comfort and guidance into their situation, only to be surprised by their worshipful spirit, strong dependence on prayer, and their faith that God would come through for them. Some Sundays, I preached, other Sundays I played with the band, sometimes I prayed individually with some of the teenagers, and we offered them Holy Communion as well. But every Sunday I was touched by their inner fortitude and how they fully immersed themselves in a worshipful attitude to praise the God of their lives despite their painful past and uncertain future!
  • Encouraging new forms. To be in ministry with the marginalized requires a willingness to step into new and unfamiliar experiences. It also requires a disposition to listen to the voices from the margin and learn from them. Going beyond listening, the church must be open to create partnerships with people in the margins as well.Episcopal leadership for a world like today’s needs flexibility, intuition, and adaptability to see what is not obvious, coupled with a courageous attitude to go into uncharted territories. Finding a way forward where there seems to be no clear path is one of the innate characteristics God has developed in my ministry. Frankly, this question has led me to believe that one of the best ways an episcopal leader can embrace and encourage new emerging forms of church among new people is doing what God does: Episcopal leaders must SHOW UP Where God is already at work!

4) How would you lead the church in reaching its mission field across divisions of age, economics, ethnicity, and culture? Share how you have done this in your current ministry setting?? 

I would lead the church by declaring that “the mission field is the customer of the bishop.” We must then enter a period of learning so we can adapt to our new realities of our mission field. In this process of transformative learning, the conference, its agencies, districts, and local churches must come to the realization that the world has dramatically changed and that matters of age, economics, ethnicity, and culture are more complex than in the past. We must then align the conference ministries, structures, and resources to create the kind of missional communities that can effectively reach their mission fields. This process will require a transformation of identity and purpose of what the conference does, and a change of missional intention of what the local church does. Moreover, this process calls for letting go of what is no longer working. As a bishop, I can lead the church through this journey as I have done in my current ministry as a Provost and my previous ministry as a District Superintendent. Here are some examples:

  • in July of 2021 I started my ministry as the Provost/Director of Congregational Vitality of the New Mexico Conference. While I brought some gifts and graces to this position, this ministry has provided me with learning experiences and growth opportunities.The main challenge I have encountered in this ministry position is keeping my focus on the Conference’s vision while also being attentive to the multiplicity of matters that come to my office. Even so, a few months into my new ministry, with the help of my Assistant Director of Congregational Vitality, we began aligning resources to equip lay and clergy in the development of Fresh Expression across the Conference. We created training opportunities and started developing a more sustainable infrastructure that will ensure the presence and growth of Fresh Expressions throughout the Conference. This sustainability will depend on a continued engagement by churches in this movement through webinars and other on-line venues. In this way, we have started to align resources around the New Mexico Conference vision of creating Relevant, Passionate and Life-changing Congregations.
  • In 2016, I started my ministry as a District Superintendent in the El Paso District of the New Mexico Conference with one focus in mind: the Mission Field. As the Chief Missional Strategist of the District, I developed a missional strategy that I rolled out in 2017. These are the actions I enacted in my missional strategy: I offered a vision to the District, formed and trained the District Leadership Team, created Missional Areas, hired a Director of Missional Ministries, assisted in the creation of the District Board of Laity as the equipping arm of the District, held training events and charge conferences by Missional Areas, and developed Missional Areas Teams.The fruitfulness of all these strategies was evident in the following ways: at the height of my tenure, right before the pandemic lockdown, we started seeing more participation of local congregations in their missional areas. Clergy got together more often through exchanging pulpits as well as creating opportunities for fellowship. Some of the Missional Areas implemented their missional ministries while some others did not fully develop their ministries. A stronger sense of connection permeated the churches across the District.

In my current position as Provost, I have seen how the time, attention and energy of our episcopal leaders are continually required to meet the institutional demands rather than missional investments. I pray for spiritual inner strength that can guide me as a bishop in making missional priorities so that I can lead the church in reaching its mission field.


5) What risks have you taken in ministry? How do you leverage what you learn from failure and success?

To address this question, I will use the DiSC Profile which measures an individual’s personality, behavioral style in various situations, adherence (or not) to rules and procedures, the individual’s responses to challenges, the influence of that person with others and the preferred pace in advancing projects and initiatives. The DiSC Profile has been helpful in making me aware of the areas I have grown in my leadership style, and the ones I need to pay attention to strengthen my ministry.

According to “My Everything Disc Report,” my profile is iD (Influence-Dominance). As such, I am not afraid of the unexpected, and may enjoy the excitement of being spontaneous. Because of being adventurous, I tend to seize new opportunities, even if it means changing directions. This comes with an openness to taking risks and making decisions based, at times, on gut instinct and on limited systemic, calculated analysis. As an iD I value collaboration and use my influence to promote new projects and bring people together around new initiatives.

  • Taking risks. In my current position I have been the point person for our Conference’s response to a series of legal steps related to the Boys Scouts of America Bankruptcy case. My goal has been to ensure that churches that had filed a Proof of Claim and churches that have been named in a lawsuit were properly resourced and legally covered. Because of the confidential nature of many of the information sent to our Conference office, I signed an NDA and then decided to use a collaborative approach to complete all required tasks. The risk in this approach was to bring in others who would also be privy to confidential and potentially harmful (to the soul) information. As my two collaborators (my Administrative Assistant and the Conference’s Chancellor) signed their respective NDAs, I prayed that God would guard their hearts as they would have access to information about abuse cases with names and specific situations. We also enlisted the help of our District Superintendents and a couple of leaders in our Conference. The collaborative contributions of all those helping in this complex process allowed us to respond on time and comprehensively to all that was required of our conference including our portion of the settlement. 
  • Leverage from learnings. In Robert Schnase’s Seven Levers: Missional Strategies for Conferences he describes the extreme complexity of the work of the conference (pp.1-5), which makes any attempt to introduce change in a conference a challenging task. My DiSC Profile would indicate that I prefer to move at a faster pace rather than work steadily in introducing changes to a conference. In the past, I would promote new initiatives to create forward momentum in the district or church. My energy and enthusiasm would preclude me, at times, from hearing those who were more analytical and were challenging some aspects of my plans that I had left unaddressed. Eventually, some of those initiatives would fail and/or had little or no consequence to the ministerial and spiritual progress of the church.This perhaps is my greatest challenge and where I have learned to surround myself with people who can build processes and design systemic approaches for the sake of Christ’s mission. Their attention to details brings balance to my big-picture, risk-taking and collaborative ministry. I feel comfortable in delegating work in the areas where I am least gifted. In turn, I offer support to those laboring with me with accountability but without micromanagement. The work of others alongside me creates a sense of progress towards the fulfilment of a goal. Forming teams and groups of people who are passionate about new initiatives is the way I have learned to deal with a steady pace rather than a fast pace. This is certainly the case now as a Provost and it was the same way when I was a District Superintendent.


6) What types of strategies would you emphasize to accomplish the mission of the church in two areas: To strengthen annual conferences? To increase the number of healthy, vital congregations effectively making disciples of Jesus Christ?

To accomplish the mission of Christ in the conference and the local church I first need to follow a personal core value: Get to know the people I serve and their world. This learning posture allows for trust-building and gradually leads to credibility. This value is more relational in nature, but it is necessary if I want to have credibility as an episcopal leader. In my first weeks and months I intend to strategically create opportunities to get to know my closest partners in ministry, moving in concentric circles to reach the conference leadership and beyond. At the same time, I need to know and understand my new ministry setting (their world), learning from it, and adapting to it.

As trust and credibility are being developed and my knowledge and understanding of my conference context is increasing, I can begin then to invite the conference leadership and the congregations to consider the mission field as the main target of their ministry efforts. Below are some additional practices:

  • Conference: I believe the strategy for a conference should be missional at its core. The cabinet, various ministries, programs, committees, teams, agencies of the conference should, at the very least, articulate a missional purpose. At best, they should be aligned to the overall vision/mission of the conference, develop practices, and generate decision-making processes that reflect that alignment. Identifying today’s challenges and understanding new paradigms would be key to creating this strategy.
  • Congregations: The primary Call of congregations is to become missional communities that are fully engaged in transforming their mission fields. Therefore, their missional priority is not to fill the pews of their church buildings but to fill the hearts of the unchurched. Local churches need to stop asking the question ‘What can we do to bring more people to the church?’, but instead, ask the question ‘How can we bring more church to the people?’ The Apostle Paul asks this question in the following way: “But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?” (Romans 10:14 NRSV) Healthy and vital congregations are the ones that focus their ministry efforts on the mission field by equipping their laity to reach out in ministries of discipleship, mercy, and justice. Healthy congregations are not self-serving but are outwardly focused. Vitality is gained when congregants experience ministry that is beyond and greater than they are.

As a bishop, I can help create a missional culture in clergy and their congregations utilizing the conference’s programs, teams, agencies, resources, and events to develop missional communities and to increase their numbers but only for the sake of the Mission of Christ and not for the survival of the Institution.

7) One of the greatest struggles in appointment making is access to sufficient numbers of effective clergy. How would you work to recruit new, effective clergy? How would you address the issue of ineffective clergy?

A post-covid world has created labor shortages in most industries, and the Church has not been an exception. The massive resignation movement and the baby boomer retirement waves are also affecting the availability of clergy to supply the pastoral and ministry needs in the Church. To complicate things, many unqualified and ineffective pastors have been filling the gap left by those affected by the factors mentioned above (in all fairness, ineffective clergy have always been present in the Church). Here are my approaches to recruitment of new effective leadership and how to deal with ineffective clergy.

  • Recruitment. More than investing time, energy, and other resources on recruitment only, I believe we must invest in the leadership development of the younger generations. Much of my present leadership is due to my own development as a leader during my youth years in the Methodist Church of Mexico: From 1978 to 1981 I was a member of the National Legislative Committee on Youth Ministries. We designed the new Constitution of the Methodist Youth (which had not been revised since the 1950s) and presented this legislation to the 1982 General Conference of the Methodist Church of Mexico. I also served as Vice-President of the Conference Youth Ministries Council of the Northern Conference of the Methodist Church of Mexico and as President of the District Youth Ministries Council of the Western District of Northern Conference-Methodist Church of Mexico. These experiences during my youth years constituted a strong leadership foundation. More recently, from 2014-2016, I was the chaplain of the Conference Council of Youth ministries for two years and have been a speaker in some of their events as well. As bishop, I will make sure we begin developing leaders from our youth groups and our conference youth leadership. When we invest attention and resources on our youth, we will more likely develop more generations of leaders, some of whom will become clergy. Here is a blueprint of how to develop leadership starting with the youth of a local church:
    • Discourage congregations from making youth ministry a paid staff level program but rather a volunteer driven ministry.
    • Train volunteer adult coordinators of youth ministry in areas of safe sanctuary and leadership development of young people.
    • Create a cadre of leaders of the youth group through an election process and then offer conference-wide training events for all youth leadership local councils.
    • Let the youth groups govern themselves, make their own decisions and become accountable to their local church councils.


  • Ineffective clergy: In the past 20 years, when it comes to “producing” clergy for pastoral ministries, we have emphasized readiness and effectiveness. However, I believe that 21st Century ministry requires faithfulness above all else. We can have very skillful and effective clergy whose spiritual lives are in total chaos. I believe ineffectiveness in clergy is a result of a lack of faithfulness to The One who called them and a lack of faithfulness to the Call itself. Setting effectiveness as a criterion for ministry is more of a management approach to professional competence. In my view, it advances the corporate side of an institution. If faithfulness becomes the top criteria, then faithfulness can indeed produce a fruitful and effective ministry.
    • I concede that is easier to measure effectiveness than faithfulness and this is where episcopal leadership is necessary to create a collaborative process in the District Committee on Ordained Ministry (DCOM) and the conference Board of Ordained Ministry (BOM) to define faithfulness, create innovative ways to develop it in our candidates and provide a way to measure it for purposes of accountability.
    • In a more practical way, ineffectiveness can be addressed following some protocols established in the Book of Discipline such as ¶334 Ministry, Authority and Responsibilities of an Elder in Full Connection, ¶338.2.a).(3) Bishop-initiated less than full-time appointment, and ¶359 Administrative Location because of issues of effectiveness.

I also believe that good episcopal leadership affirms and celebrates what is being done well. Therefore, if in my new conference, recruitment and accountability are being practiced with a good degree of success, then I would continue supporting those practices.

8) What is your philosophy of appointment making?

Initially, I think it is important to mention here that, if elected, one of my most immediate priorities on January 1 of 2023 will be the appointment season (many cabinets start that season in the month of January). The complexity of the upcoming appointment season will be challenging because of a shortage of clergy, which was evident last conference year across the Connection.

Moreover, because of the increasing number of churches disaffiliating, appointment-making will become an intense exercise especially for our District Superintendents who are now – and will be then – engaged in leading Discernment Sessions and Charge Conferences for Disaffiliation purposes. In addition, they will have to focus on appointment-making related work. For these reasons, from the very beginning of my tenure, I will need to invest time and attention to the spiritual, emotional, and physical well-being of my cabinet. Not surprisingly and clearly understandable, I would expect that some District Superintendents may request early retirement. In the event of that happening, I would have to name a new superintendent and bring her or him on board immediately. These actions must be considered due to the season our denomination is going through.

In terms of my philosophy of appointment making, I believe that the Mission of Christ must determine the decisions we make regarding clergy placement. This approach demands our primary focus to be on the mission field rather than on the church or the gifts and skills of clergy. The criteria that the Book of Discipline sets for appointments includes “the unique needs of a charge, the community context and the gifts … of a particular pastor” (¶427). While our polity includes the community context as a criterion, it does not make it the guiding principle. This philosophy will follow the best practices below:

  • Conference-wide practices:
    • Mission field appointment requires a recruitment and development of clergy by District Committees on Ordained ministry and Boards of Ordained Ministry with a mission field mindset rather than a church-centered mindset.
    • Statistical information should include more measurements of mission field engagement and transformation.
    • SPRC’s trainings that encourages the church to be less inwardly focused and more outwardly focused.
  • District Superintendents practices:
    • Consultations between District Superintendents and clergy need to include the missional skills of the clergy, the description of the mission field, how the church is progressing in becoming a missional community and how the church intends to engage/transform its mission field.
    • The District Superintendents as Chief Missional Strategists will recommend several preferred missional outcomes for their district. These missional outcomes will constitute the basis for measurement of impact of an appointment on a mission field.
    • District Superintendents may begin assessing the measurement data based on preferred missional outcomes on the second year of an appointment and thereafter.
  • Appointive Cabinet practices:
    • The guiding question to appointment making should be: How is the mission field going to benefit with this appointment?
    • The guiding questions to assess an appointment should be: Is the mission field “happy” with this appointment? How do we know that?
    • Given the cultural diversity found in the mission field, cross-cultural and cross-racial appointments should become the norm and not the exception.
    • Appointment assessments need to give at least two years to start showing some mission field engagement and initial transformation.
    • Inventory resources (declension lists, open churches list, watch lists, available clergy, district profiles, etc.) should include a better description of mission fields around the conference to bring a greater understanding of the communities around the churches.
    • Appointments of Deacon and Appointments to Extension Ministries both are, to a greater extent, outward in nature but there needs to be some measurement of progress as well.

As I start my episcopal leadership in appointment-making I will be incorporating this philosophy in collaboration and creative conversation with the appointive cabinet to create a stronger process of implementation.

9) Describe how you work in partnership with the laity in the planning and execution of ministry. How would the laity you work with describe your work in this partnership?

Since the inception of the church, the community of believers became central to the expansion and advancement of Christ’s Mission. The biblical narratives and subsequent records of the Christian Church are filled with examples of common folk filled with the Holy Spirit and led by a small group of leaders, changing their world. The movement of Reformation brought once again the “Priesthood of all believers” as a driving force for the expansion of the Church. In the 1800s John and Charles Wesley equipped and deployed lay people. This lay empowerment served as the key to the expansion of the Methodist movement in England and in the American colonies. Indeed, “unleashed lay ministers” have become a hallmark of our Wesleyan heritage.

  • One of my passions of ministry is laity empowerment. A permission giving environment is always necessary to empower laity. God has filled the Church with exceptional individuals, and it is the main task of the clergy to help our laity discover and rekindle their missional souls. To do that, clergy must realize that some of their leadership styles may preclude laity from taking ownership which can lead to a lack of corporate vision. I also believe that laity must take ownership of their dreams, actions, decisions, and ministries. The laity’s failure to take ownership of their ministries in the church, could lead to an unhealthy dependence on trained clergy and paid staff, thus rendering the church sterile.
  • In my current ministry I have made sure that resources from the conference level continue flowing to support the work of our laity around the conference. Funding, programmatic coordination, access to communication venues and more, are part of what comes from the staff I supervise. Most importantly for me, is the opportunity I have had in the past and during this Fall to be a trainer for the Certified Lay Ministry Modules. As one of the trainers, I am able to join with our laity in their journey as they have responded to the Call of serving God in their churches and their communities. I consider laity empowerment as one of my top priorities since our conference leads our denomination in trained and deployed Certified Lay Ministers.
  • In my first and second years as a District Superintendent, our District Lay Leader, Kathy Jewell, became fully involved in making sure the El Paso District Laity began rising to the challenges of our mutual ministries. During my third and fourth year, we created the El Paso District Board of Laity which became the equipping arm of the El Paso District Vision. As such, it was organized to fully develop a well-equipped laity throughout the district.

The partnership I have had with the laity in New Mexico is active and growing. As testament to that, Kathy Jewell, current District Lay Leader of the El Paso District, describes the partnership we shared in the past in the following way: “As the Lay Leader for the El Paso District, I have observed Rev. Rivera’s boldness with engaging and empowering Laity by, initiating and supporting laity training and involvement through the District Board of Laity. He has been the bridge that has connected the laity and clergy in team partnership in ministry in the local church and beyond. He has been purposeful in offering laity a voice in the district through committee involvement and open communication. Through Rev. Rivera’s leadership, the laity are now able to have access to open dialogue through technology and on-site gatherings. The Laity in the El Paso District are offered opportunity to grow, be in ministry, and participate in missional ministry because of Rev. Rivera’s vision and ability to bring laity together.”

10) Describe your understanding of the inclusive nature of the church. In what ways have you lived up to and fallen short of that understanding?

In my faith journey, I believe God has helped me develop emotional intelligence and cultural sensitivity thus helping me be comfortable in different cultural settings. In turn, this allows me to respond more effectively to the inclusive nature of the church. Below is both thought and praxis on this question.

  • My understanding. On the Day of Pentecost described in the Book of Acts chapter 2, the Church was born of the Holy Spirit and from the very first moments of its existence it was all about diversity. In his account, Luke gave a list of nations (ethnias) and then reported that the 120 followers of Jesus were given the spiritual ability to speak in the languages of those visiting from those nations. Through glossolalia the Holy Spirit included those who needed to hear the Good News. In subsequent scriptural accounts every time the Gospel broke through cultural and ethnic barriers, it was primarily to fulfill Christ’s Mission of making Disciples of all nations. Throughout history, the Gospel of Christ, shared by a Church empowered by the Holy Spirit, has found its way to nations and civilizations all around the world. The inclusive nature of the church is derived from the inclusive nature of Christ’s mission. The Mission precedes the Church, thus the Church’s main purpose is to fulfill that Mission. In short, the inclusive natur of the church is not for the church’s sake but for the sake of advancing the Mission of Christ.


  • Living up to this understanding:
    • My Call to ministry and the subsequent confirmation was always a call to honor diversity: God revealed that I would be preaching to people of a different culture in a different language. God opened all doors necessary to fulfill His plan in my life and paved the way for me to grow in my understanding of the inclusive nature of Christ’s Mission.
    • As a Provost of the Conference and before that, a District Superintendent, I have led decision-making processes and have worked with teams, staffs, and committees from a foundation of trust that has allowed us to embrace our diversity and to discover ways to move forward together. Working and connecting with people and groups across the theological/ideological spectrum has been part of my bridge-building ministry and life-experience as well.
    • From 2011 to 2014 I was the Head Instructor of Language School, a program sponsored by the Northwest Texas Conference and supported in part by the New Mexico Conference. The main purpose of this school was to create an environment of learning where students acquired skills to develop linguistic abilities in both Spanish and English. We trained English-speaking and Spanish-speaking clergy and laity who were interested and passionate about reaching out across cultures mainly for ministry purposes.
    • In the fall of 1988, I started my ministry as a missionary in Southern Illinois (specifically, Cobden, Illinois) to establish a Hispanic/Latino ministry. During my tenure I promoted this ministry in more than 100 United Methodist congregations in that region. By visiting these churches, in a span of three years, I established a bridge of trust, knowledge and support that, even today, continues to flow in support of the Hispanic/Latino ministry in Cobden, Illinois.
    • Since 1981, I have served as interpreter, cultural translator, official liaison and, at times, “tour guide” for various Volunteers in Mission (VIM) groups and other church groups from Illinois, Georgia, New Mexico, Texas, and other parts of the United States, traveling to Mexico or visiting the US-Mexico border region.
  • Falling short of this understanding:
    • During my missionary times in Southern Illinois, I tried to “convert” the Migrant workers “the way we did it in Mexico,” not understanding that I was dealing with not just Mexicans but with a much more culturally diverse Hispanic/Latino population. The fact that some of them had lived in the United States for many years made it even more challenging due to the effects of immigration on people’s lives and identities. Differences in using the Spanish language also became a communication challenge and created some confusing moments.
    • For many years, I believed that United Methodists in the United States needed to experience Christianity the way I had experienced Christianity in the Methodist Church of Mexico (Charismatic, Evangelical, and less traditional). I judged those who were not raised to believe as I had been raised. Then I began understanding that Christianity is experienced in different ways (and not just one universal way) according to the cultural context. While I still believe that the Gospel of Christ is universal in nature, the Gospel still connects at a personal level within particular contexts and this creates a diversity of expressions in living out the Christian faith. I have come to accept that I have brothers and sisters who are genuine and committed Christians who are not Charismatic, Evangelical and less traditional.

11) What do you feel has been the most significant contribution or difference you have made toward fulfilling our mission as a church in the local churches you have served? In your annual conference? At the general church level?

  • Missionary ministry: My first appointment in the United States was as a result of a joint effort of the Northeastern Conference of the Methodist Church of Mexico and the Southern Illinois Conference (now Illinois Great Rivers Conference) of the UMC. We started a new ministry in the fall of 1988 and by the end of my tenure, in the summer of 1991, we had established a strong core group of 25 new believers in Cobden and Carbondale, most of whom became the initial members of the first Hispanic/Latino congregation of that conference under the name of Jesús es el Señor. This church is now become a strong congregation in the Illinois Great Rivers Conference. In addition, I developed other ministries that reached out to hundreds of Hispanic Latino immigrants (first and second generations), including evangelistic events, sports programs, a radio program and bible studies. My wife Hilda and I also provided advocacy in schools, translation services in public aid offices, hospitals, courthouse, and much more. During those three years, I developed the infrastructure known as the “Southern Illinois Hispanic Ministries” to be the umbrella that would sustain this ministry in the years to come.
  • Local church: As the Pastor of Mission and Outreach of Trinity-First UMC, I helped mobilize this downtown church in El Paso, Texas to rediscover its missional soul. In the 8 years I served there, this church became an active congregation in its mission field and was fully engaged in outreach ministries they had never experienced before including the starting of a Spanish-speaking worship service. Since then, in every church where I served as the Senior Pastor, I have introduced missional initiatives inviting those congregations to embrace their missional fields.
  • District: as a District Superintendent my most significant contribution was the development of the missional strategy implemented through the missional areas in the district under our brand of Belong, Believe and Be Useful. I have shared highlights of that work throughout this document.
  • Conference: In my current ministry as a Provost, I have begun the “activation” of the Boards, Agencies, Committees and Teams of our conference by sending a Call to Action to each of their chairs. Every month, I am providing a few specific steps for them to convene and lead their leadership groups by offering them a variety of support resources from our conference office. Most importantly, I have asked each Chair to guide their group’s work always keeping the Vision of the Conference front and center in their plans and efforts. To do that, they need to periodically ask their groups the following questions: Are our efforts creating Relevant, Passionate and Life-Changing Churches? And are our plans, decisions and actions impacting the mission field in our ministry area?Another contribution I made at the conference level happened when I served in the New Mexico Board of Ordained Ministry (2001-2009). During that time, I developed the Contextual Training Course (CTC) as one of the requirements for probationary members. The premise of the CTC was that the New Mexico Conference was (and continues to be) one of the most diverse mission fields within the United Methodist Church. The CTC provided a comprehensive introduction of the Conference’s diversity to prepare clergy for a cross-cultural experience and to give them tools to become bridge builders in their own ministry settings.
  • General church: On November 21-23, 2019, I was the Lead Organizer of the Immigration Summit called by Bishop Bledsoe. We hosted 41 people from across the United Methodist Connection and the Methodist Church of Mexico. A total of 41 guests went to El Paso, Texas representing various conferences, including five Bishops, Heads and Executive staff of General Agencies, Executives of National organizations (UMW, NJFON, MARCHA, UMITF, UMCOM), Jurisdictional ministries (TMF and LPI Board members) and regional leaders from New Mexico and Northwest Texas conferences. Our guest speakers included the El Paso Mayor, the representative of the Juarez Mayor, the two US Congress women of our regions (El Paso, TX Las Cruces, NM), Executive Directors of local non-profit organizations and a journalist. We also heard from the Associate Pastor of First UMC in Odessa, TX who shared about their ministry with the African refugees. The guest speakers provided a deeper understanding of the challenges around the influx of asylum seekers in our border region. We visited the El Calvario UMC shelter in Las Cruces, NM the El Buen Samaritano shelter in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico (a Methodist ministry) and the Center for Assistance to the Immigrants in Juarez. We were hosted by the President, staff, and students from the Lydia Patterson Institute, who offered us a positive perspective of immigration amid the chaotic complexity this issue often creates. Overall, we offered our guests a comprehensive view of our current reality as experienced in our region while giving them a vision of what our Districts and Conference were doing to respond proactively through the development of ministries like a JFON site in El Paso and ministries to refugees and asylum seekers in the borderland.
  • The internal and institutional need for Social Holiness has become more pressing due to the spiritual hypothermia afflicting the Church. This is a spiritual condition that creates the church’s gradual decline of vitality and witness due to its proclivity to ignore its Social Holiness. In spiritual hypothermia, the extremities of the church that keep its witness and presence in the world (we often speak of the church being the hands and feet of Jesus) are the first to go. What happens next is a church that redirects all of its remaining energy to its vital functions (mainly to keep its members “happy and comfortable”). The church enters then survival mode which only lasts for a reduced time.
  • Moreover, in witnessing to our Social Holiness, we must consider the sense of vulnerability we will be exposed to, given the cultural milieu of a post-Christian society. A church that has a strong Social Holiness is always at the forefront of the issues. Its leadership makes it, at the same time, vulnerable to become ignored, criticized, even rejected. However, a church that practices authentic Social Holiness also recognizes the power of God to sustain it amid adversity. I believe that given the intricacies and challenges which come from a secular environment, the credibility of the church will depend almost entirely upon the church’s practice of its Social Holiness.
    As a Christian Methodist I am deeply rooted to these essentials of the faith. As an episcopal leader, I will continue to depend on these to sustain my personal spiritual endeavors and to lead God’s people to both a deeper experience of Scriptural Holiness and a broader expression of Social Holiness.


12) John Wesley is often quoted as saying “in essentials, unity, in non-essentials, diversity, in all things charity.” What constitutes the essentials for you?”

The two essentials for me are Scriptural Holiness and Social Holiness. While Scriptural Holiness speaks of the source that contributes to the perfecting of the believer and the church (the Scriptures), Social Holiness speaks of how the believer and the church live out their sanctified life for the betterment of others. These two essentials for me are rooted in my own missiological understanding where there is a convergence of inward transformation and outward service. The extent to which the church understands its own need to be transformed, will determine its effectiveness in transforming the world. One cannot operate without the other. The development of a godly character goes hand in hand with the expressions of loving actions.

  • Scriptural Holiness: This doctrinal stance was a hallmark in Wesley’s experiential religion and a distinctive force in the Wesleyan movement, but I am afraid that in contemporary times, scriptural holiness is no longer as relevant as it was in the beginning of the Methodist movement.I believe there are at least two obstacles that are keeping today’s church from fully experiencing Scriptural Holiness. The first obstacle comes from the misconception that Christian perfection is impossible in this world. Some have fallen prey to the assertion that it is futile to aim for such an idealistic and aspirational view of Christianity. The second obstacle comes from an incomplete notion of Creation. Many Christians subscribe to the belief that all humans were created good in the eyes of God, that God does not make mistakes or creates something that is defective. While this is true, the immediate conclusion that some arrive at is that, because of God’s good work there is no need to experience transformation.

    In my view, the experience of Scriptural Holiness is what we declare as “going on unto perfection.” It is the willingness to grow closer to God’s grace, to cultivate in our lives the knowledge of God, to develop in us the image of Christ and to mature our lives to conquer sinful tendencies. It is a journey of our total selves into the experience of spiritual wholeness rooted in scripture.
    I strongly believe that if Scriptural Holiness was a force that created a powerful movement, then, it can be a force now that can once again ignite our denomination. The recovery of our vitality does not come from the adoption of a church plan or a new structure, but it is found at the heart of the experience of Scriptural Holiness. The beauty of this experience is that, in the view of the Wesley brothers, we could share this experience and spread it throughout the land!

  • Social Holiness: It is my belief that a transformed church serves as the frame of reference for a transformative mission into the world. The unchurched and the “nones” will not believe in the church’s social witness, when the church’s holiness is completely absent.The internal and institutional need for Social Holiness has become more pressing due to the spiritual hypothermia afflicting the Church. This is a spiritual condition that creates the church’s gradual decline of vitality and witness due to its proclivity to ignore its Social Holiness. In spiritual hypothermia, the extremities of the church that keep its witness and presence in the world (we often speak of the church being the hands and feet of Jesus) are the first to go. What happens next is a church that redirects all of its remaining energy to its vital functions (mainly to keep its members “happy and comfortable”). The church enters then survival mode which only lasts for a reduced time.

    Moreover, in witnessing to our Social Holiness, we must consider the sense of vulnerability we will be exposed to, given the cultural milieu of a post-Christian society. A church that has a strong Social Holiness is always at the forefront of the issues. Its leadership makes it, at the same time, vulnerable to become ignored, criticized, even rejected. However, a church that practices authentic Social Holiness also recognizes the power of God to sustain it amid adversity. I believe that given the intricacies and challenges which come from a secular environment, the credibility of the church will depend almost entirely upon the church’s practice of its Social Holiness.

As a Christian Methodist I am deeply rooted to these essentials of the faith. As an episcopal leader, I will continue to depend on these to sustain my personal spiritual endeavors and to lead God’s people to both a deeper experience of Scriptural Holiness and a broader expression of Social Holiness.

13) How would being elected and assigned impact your family? What challenges might it
present and how will these be addressed? Are there health, financial, or other issues that
could possibly affect your ability to serve as a bishop?

I am blessed to be married to Hilda, my wife of 39 years. Together we have journeyed into uncharted territories of life and ministry in Mexico, Illinois, Georgia, Texas and New Mexico. We raised our daughter Lizet who is married to Derek Dickinson, our son-in-law. They are attorneys and live in Nashville, Tennessee raising their daughter (our beautiful granddaughter) Olivia, who is almost five years old now.

Leadership in ministry does not define who we are, but it is an intrinsic part of what we do in God’s Kingdom, and my family is a willing and enthusiastic participant of my ministry. I foresee no challenges for my family, only great opportunities to be in life and ministry together with God’s people wherever we are assigned.

We are not “in debt so as to embarrass ourselves” as we keep a monthly budget of our financial responsibilities. We have learned to be good stewards of what belongs to God and what has been given to us to be administered, so we distribute the tithe of our income every month among various Methodist ministries, causes and ministers.

In addition, for many years, I have paid attention to my health and have been even more intentional now, in preparation for our next season of ministry. Both my wife and I visit our doctors regularly, and we do not neglect our health. Throughout my ministry, I have also sought the help of licensed counselors and therapists who have kept my soul in check. If I am to lead spiritually as a bishop, I must keep myself spiritually and emotionally healthy.

We are still a work in progress as God continues to transform our lives. Indeed, God is not finished with us yet, but we press on to what God has in store for us.

14) Under the current rules, how many quadrennial terms would you be eligible to serve?

Two full quadrennial terms to end in 2032 and what is left of the current quadrennium.

15) How do you understand your obligation as a bishop to uphold the Book of Discipline?

First and foremost, I must say that I do not see upholding the Book of Discipline as an obligation, but I understand it to be both, a spiritual privilege and a corporate covenant. There are two main reasons for this personal conviction:

  • Spiritual privilege: I was born and raised in a Methodist home. I consider Methodism to be the cradle of my faith. Some of my earliest memories are seeing my father (a Methodist pastor from Mexico) intensely working on petitions to be submitted to the General Conference. Time has passed, and I still see my now 90-year-old father sitting in front of his computer submitting new petitions to his General Conference in Mexico. As I shared before, in my youth years I was a member of “The Committee of Five” which was entrusted with the development of the new Constitution for the Youth Ministries of the Methodist Church of Mexico. We were elected from all regions of Mexico for that task. Much of that work remains in today’s Youth Constitution.God intended for me to be born, raised, come to the knowledge of Christ, and be in ministry in a Methodist faith tradition. I strongly believe in its doctrinal tenets. I subscribe to the theological and practical work represented by the quadrilateral (Scripture, Tradition, Experience, Reason). I am a product of historical events (missionary movement) that shaped my own religious upbringing, education, and spiritual experiences. I prefer Methodist polity over the polity of any other faith tradition. Thus, upholding our “Methodist ways” is more a spiritual privilege than an obligation.
  • Corporate covenant: Upholding the Book of Discipline is also an expression of a corporate covenant. My ordination as an Elder of the church was a result of the covenant of several groups of people who accompanied me in the journey of preparation and ordination. Moreover, on the day I was ordained an Elder in the Methodist Church of Mexico and when my Clergy Orders were recognized in the New Mexico Conference, I pledged, in front of lay and clergy, to uphold the Book of Discipline and to the best of my ability and convictions to follow its policies and procedures. Those events did not happen in the vacuum or in total isolation but were part of the experience of Holy Conferencing and one is part of the whole and all are part of a covenant together.

Upholding the Book of Discipline as a spiritual privilege and a corporate covenant leads to personal and corporate accountability. Episcopal leaders must respect the Book of Discipline, its values, concepts and legislation and be accountable to them (personal accountability). That creates a position of integrity in which an episcopal leader can also hold people accountable to the Book of Discipline’s rules and procedures (corporate accountability).

16) If you could change any section or provision in the Book of Discipline, what would you

As a former member of Boards of Ordained Ministry in New Mexico and NWTX conferences (and Chair of one of those boards), and during my time as a District Superintendent, in which I became the cabinet representative to the BOM as well as a leader in my DCOM, I witnessed the intricacies of the systems we have created around the task of credentialing clergy. While those systems have been helpful to ensure we credential top-quality individuals for the work of ministry, the same systems, however, have discouraged and challenged many others as they go through the processes we have set up for them. As a result of these complexities, we have lost many young people and second career adults who have decided not to start the process or step down from it. I do believe we must have high standards for those seeking to serve in the United Methodist Church in the roles of Local Pastor, Elders and Deacons. At the same time, we need to create a more accessible pathway for those seeking to serve in the ministry of the United Methodist Church. Here are my observations:

  • There are three sources of policies, procedures, and guidelines: a) the Book of Discipline (¶301 to ¶347). b) The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (¶1410 to ¶1413). c) The Conference’s requirements as supervised by the BOM (¶635) and DCOMs (¶666) In some instances, the policies, procedures, and guidelines from these three entities are not aligned, which contributes to the challenges and discouragement mentioned above.Added to this reality, is the subjectiveness that DCOMs and BOMs sometimes use in the interpretation and the application of the established rules (due to theological biases, racial discrimination and sometimes just plain ignorance).
  • Added to this “systemic cacophony” of processes is the participation of Schools of Theology at the levels of both Course of Study and Master of Divinity degrees. Most Seminaries will follow the guidelines from GBHEM, but that is not always the case. There are also variations of Course of Study depending on the status of local pastors (i.e., part-time, or full-time).
  • In my view, what has cluttered this process even more is the introduction of the UMCARES system (now Passage UMC) that was developed and is supported (technically speaking) by GBHEM. From a computer programing perspective, the original system needed several updates and was not, in my perspective, entirely user friendly. The newest version, Passage (UMC) may have solved the technical problems, but we still need to ask this broader question: does GBHEM need to participate in the actual process of district-level candidates through this online-based system? It is as though a national agency is part and parcel of the process of district candidates rather than just being a regulatory agency.

Perhaps two ways to address this complexity are the following: a) At the risk of continuing “to patch” the process by addition or deletion, we need to streamline the processes of certified candidacy, local pastor licensing and ordination as Elder and Deacon. b) A second option is to “hit the reset button” and start all over again with a fresh vision of what clergy need to become in the 21st Century guided by the question: What kind of clergy leader will be best fitted to connect to the new missional ecology? I believe that either approach must be guided by a goal of developing faithful servants that can be credentialed for effective and fruitful ministry (see question 7).

17) When is the last time you led an individual to a profession of faith? Tell us about it.

On July 30 of this year, I traveled from Albuquerque, NM to El Paso, TX by bus to meet up with my wife Hilda and visit my parents. The Bus line is a Mexican line operating in the United States and most, if not all, of the customers are Hispanic Latino people. The passenger seating next to me was wearing a face mask (not required at this time to travel by bus). I greeted her when she asked to occupy her window seat and then there was not a word shared for about 10 minutes. Then, when she called someone to let that person know she was on her way to El Paso, I thought that was the perfect time for me to put my earphones and start watching a movie and not have any contact or conversation with her. For some reason I hesitated and that was when she introduced herself to me, and then a 4-hour conversation began.

As with perfect strangers, the conversation first revolved around superficial content that included sharing pictures of grandchildren, among other things. Then at some point she asked me about my job: “I am a pastor and work for the United Methodist Church” I said. It seemed like disclosing my profession turned the conversation into a pastoral care session because she began opening about family-related challenges with her children and extended family. She also shared with me how her marriage was also entering a different stage of maturity now that her daughters were no longer at home and had become professionals in the health care industry working in the Albuquerque area.

For the most part, I listened to her as it seemed like she had been carrying heavy burdens for some time. When the time was right, I was able to share my faith story with her and how, in my life journey, I have been blessed and continue to be transformed by God’s grace.

About 45 minutes before our arrival to El Paso, I said to her: “Rosario, I don’t believe in coincidences, and I have to believe that God planned for this conversation to happen between us, so, what do you believe God is calling your attention to?” Her response included a need to get closer to God and to increase her prayer life. She also felt the need to find a church and try to convince her husband to attend a church somewhere in Albuquerque (she told me he had been hurt by the Church in his younger years, but he was a good man). I offered to pray for her and then, as we arrived to El Paso, I introduced her to my wife and made sure they exchanged contact information. I prayed that the seed of Christ’s love and grace was planted in her life so as to bring the changes she was seeking for her life and her family.

This experience taught me to be more sensitive to God’s intentions to use me so I can share about Him with others. I came very close to putting my personal choice of watching movies over Rosario’s personal and spiritual needs. By putting God’s intentions and Rosario’s needs before my wishes, Rosario gradually opened up to hear the good news of grace and love for her life.


If there is one thing that captures my spiritual imagination and creates a sense of excitement and hope, it is the longing of God to bring a new heart and spiritual vitality to the Church. Only a renewed Church can effectively fulfill Christ’s Mission in the world. I am also confident believing that God is not yet through with us, the People called Methodist! However, we still may have a long way to go.

I believe God has called me to participate in movements of church renewal, so I want to be part of a movement of the Holy Spirit that ignites the church once again. My call to come to the United States and learn English at the Lydia Patterson Institute in El Paso, Texas was strongly connected with my desire to share with the church in the United States so that Methodism can regain its life, presence, witness, and relevance through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Now, as an Elder of the United Methodist Church and, as an episcopal leader, if God so desires, I am committed to offer to the church the gifts, skills, and graces I shared with you in these pages and accompany God’s people in the fulfillment of Christ mission empowered by the Holy Spirit.

To that end, I pray for your spiritual discernment to be guided by God’s plans for our denomination at this point in time, as I reiterate my knowledge that my life’s journey is nothing but a product of God’s Grace to whom I give all glory and honor.