by Bishop David Roller
Mexico is a big country. Even situated next to Texas, it’s big! And, as the host country of this hemisphere’s most advanced pre-Colombian civilizations, it has a rich, proud tradition. Memories of the Olmec and Toltec peoples flow in the veins of all Mexicans. Memories run deep of a time before the invasion of disease-bearing Conquistadors who didn’t respect the traditions of the ancestors.
So, it was with appropriate pride that four Mexican superintendents sat with me for two days in a hotel conference room in August, envisioning the future of their four conferences if they were to join together as a General Conference. It wasn’t a desire to somehow revert to a reality of 500 years ago. It was a desire to take full organizational responsibility for incarnating the essence of the good news of Jesus in their country today.
For approximately 95 years, Free Methodists have been worshipping in Mexico, planting churches, spreading across the continent. Tony Gomez, a converted migrant worker planted some of the first churches in the eastern states of Mexico. Other Free Methodists from California ventured into Mexico’s western states. Even after the Cristero rebellion in 1927 forced out all the foreign church workers, the church in Mexico continued to spread, albeit slowly at times.
There are great bonds of friendship between Free Methodists in Mexico and the United States. Because of decades of interchange, cross-border trips, Rancho Betania campgrounds and pastoral transfers, there are deep friendships that span the often problematic political divide between the two countries.
Yet, the opportunities presented in Mexico are tremendous. The population of 123 million is tender toward things of the Spirit. Loyal to the Mexican expressions of the Roman Catholic Church but hungering for a personal experience with God, Mexicans are uniquely positioned to respond to the good news of Jesus when presented by fellow Mexicans. With quick wits and probing minds, Mexican Christians appreciate the Free Methodist commitment to thoughtful engagement with the Scriptures.
During the summer of 2015 all four of the Mexican conferences voted, overwhelmingly, to join together as the Mexican Provisional General Conference. So in that hotel room in August, we agreed their first Provisional General Conference will be September 23 to 25, 2016, at Rancho Betania, Sonora. These will be great days of celebration and strategic planning for the future. Planning that, for the first time, won’t be led by an American bishop but by a Mexican bishop, proud to hoist their flag, sing their songs, and tell the story of Jesus in ways that best allow Mexicans of today to respond. God Bless Mexico!