by Vance Morton*
After much thought and even more prayer, hours of conversations with conference leadership, thought leaders and candidates and with a steadfast focus on the CTCSC’s mission to energize and equip the local churches of the Central Texas Conference so that they can make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, Bishop Lowry has announced the following Cabinet, District and Conference Executive Team changes effective July 1:
Rev. Brad Brittain has been appointed as the South District Superintendent.
Dr. Clifton Howard will assume the position of Assistant to the Bishop from the retiring Dr. Georgia Adamson.
Rev. Ben Disney has been appointed as the East District Superintendent. Ben takes over this position from the retiring Dr. Bob Holloway.
Rev. Travis Franklin has been appointed as the North District Superintendent.
Rev. Mike Ramsdell has been named as the Executive Director of Evangelism & Church Growth, succeeding Rev. Gary Lindley following his July 1 retirement.
All of the above will actively continue to serve in their current appointments until July 1. Those appointed to succeed Ben, Brad and Travis are still to be prayerfully determined and will be announced at a later date.
The retirements of Dr. Georgia Adamson, CTC Assistant to the Bishop, Dr. Bob Holloway, East District Superintendent and Dean of the Cabinet, and Rev. Gary Lindley, Executive Director of the Smith Center for Evangelism & Church Growth were the main impetus for these changes, and filling their seats at the Cabinet table and the myriad ways they serve the conference was no easy task for Bishop Lowy. “There is no replacing all that Georgia, Bob and Gary have meant to the conference, the Cabinet and to me. They will be sorely missed,” said Bishop Lowry. “At the same time, I am excited by the gifts, talent and experiences that Clifton, Mike, Ben, Brad and Travis bring to their new roles. I very much look forward to continuing and advancing our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ with them in the districts, at the service center and in the Cabinet.”
While each of the three new Cabinet members bring varied skills, experiences and gifts to their roles, they all possess the same core attributes Bishop Lowry seems to highly value of his cabinet – excellent pastoral leadership, creative, outwardly focused ideas and a deep commitment to and focus on the local church and our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ.
“Brad Brittain has been a strong leader at each of the churches he has served. He has done outstanding work at Central UMC in Waco and prior to that gave Mexia UMC superb leadership in a changing environment,” stated Bishop Lowry. “He is particularly poised to guide the South District – a district with a high number of new congregations and a growing suburban/urban edge in the North Austin/Round Rock area along with a significant number of small town and rural congregations. Furthermore, his relatively young age will help the Cabinet better understand the emerging generations of our conference.”
“Rev. Ben Disney brings a wealth of experience to the position of East District Superintendent,” Bishop Lowry expressed. “It is the district that contains the most of the conference’s “very large” congregations - something Ben knows a lot about. His work merging the Overton Park and Westcliff congregations into Arborlawn UMC and his leadership of that large, growing congregation, demonstrates a superior ability to and understanding of how to pastor a very large church. This ability comes out of a lifetime of pastoring churches from small to large; including being a successful pastor of a new church start. He will bring a depth of pastoral excellence and wisdom to the cabinet table.”
“Throughout his ministry and especially for the last decade-plus, Travis Franklin has demonstrated excellence in pastoral leadership at local churches across the CTC, including Austin Avenue, Waco (Central), Brock UMC (North), Salado UMC (South) and currently St. John’s Georgetown (South).” recalled Bishop Lowry. “He has also provided outstanding leadership as the Director at Glen Lake Camp as well as demonstrating a compassionate heart for the work of Christ during his many years as chaplain at the Texas Methodist Home in Waco. He brings a caring heart and a compassionate eye and a deep commitment to the collective work of the North District and the cabinet as a whole.”
Besides adding new blood the Cabinet, Bishop Lowry leveraged some of the existing experience of the Cabinet to fill important and emerging roles in the Conference Support Center. The Assistant to the Bishop role will continue to do all that it is doing today, but is also is evolving to incorporate aspects associated with a chief of staff, while the Executive Director of the Smith Center for Evangelism & Church Growth is an area of focus that Bishop Lowry considers to be “among the most important, if not the most important areas of focus if the United Methodist Church is going to continue to be a vital global denomination.”
"An interpersonal style that is able to work with a wide variety of people and personalities, and help pull together a common consensus is critical as we transition some of the responsibilities of the Assistant to the Bishop into a position more akin to a Chief of Staff,” explained Bishop Lowry. “Clifton Howard possess and displays these abilities at an uncommonly high level. He has demonstrated pastoral excellence at St. Andrew’s (Arlington), McMillian (Fort Worth) and Mt. Zion (Belton) and has provided - and continues to provide - proven excellence in leadership during two stints on the Cabinet as a District Superintendent for three districts (Brownwood District 2001-03, Waco District 2003-09 and the South District 2013-preseent). It is a particular joy to have him play a key leadership role in the Conference Support Center.”
"In the last year, Mike Ramsdell has served with distinction as North District Superintendent and has a phenomenal track record of building vital congregations – both evangelistically and missionally,” Bishop Lowry said. “This experience will be invaluable in his transition to the role of Executive Director of Evangelism and New Church Growth. He will bring outstanding leadership to the position.”
“At the time he became senior pastor of First Methodist Mansfield in 1995, the average attendance was 487, “Bishop Lowry continued. “In 2016, his final year as co-senior pastor, those numbers had grown to more than 2,500 each Sunday. He had also developed his successor and built a strong staff and church with an outwardly focused vison and mission. He has demonstrated his commitment to new church development and welded it to the cutting edge of shifting new faith community development.”
To read more about the new Cabinet and Conference Service Center Executive Staff members, including brief bios, photos and comments. please click on the name(s) below. And watch for more on the retiring Cabinet members as we get closer to Annual Conference (June 11-14 at First Methodist Mansfield).
*Vance is the director of Communications & IT for the Central Texas Conference. firstname.lastname@example.org