Rev. Ben Disney appointed to be East District Superintendent

Dr. Bob Holloway’s July 1 retirement opens door for next step in Rev. Disney’s ministry journey.

by J. Vance Morton*
Rev. Ben Disney has been appointed to serve as the District Superintendent (DS) for the East District of the Central Texas Conference by Bishop Mike Lowry, effective July 1. The district’s current superintendent, Dr. Bob Holloway, will complete his cabinet rotation and has announced he will be retiring from active ministry as of July 1. Bob also serves as Dean of the Cabinet. There is no announcement as to who will fill that role at this time.
Rev. Disney began his ministry as a local church senior pastor at FUMC Dublin in 1987. He was appointed to Alliance UMC in 1990 where he served until making the move to Central UMC, Waco in 1997. In 2004, Ben was appointed to oversee and serve as the senior pastor for two merging congregations in Fort Worth that became Arborlawn UMC, a position he holds and very much enjoys to this day.
“My experience at Arborlawn has been nothing short of a long series of answered prayers,” Ben expressed when asked about his experiences there. “It is a remarkable congregation who decided a long time ago to follow where the Holy Spirit leads them. They’ve discovered and now embody what so many churches struggle to become. They look outward, not inward. They don’t talk about institutional survival. Instead they give themselves away in love and service to the community in the name of Jesus. They stepped out in faith and in doing so caught a vision of how much more they could do and be. In short they are fearless.”
Ben’s ministry has travelled through in a variety of settings - large urban, small rural and mid- size churches, new church plants, congregational mergers and at every turn. And each turn has served to cement his commitment to the work and ministry of the local church – a commitment he has met in the local church up to date, so this is move to serving a district is yet another turn in his ministry’s journey.
Ben admits, “It’s a new role for me,” but is confident that he’ll learn and adapt as quickly and be ready to help lead the East District through this next phase of the conference’s Exodus Project journey as well as what’s over the horizon for the UMC in general.
“There are enormous challenges but also remarkable opportunities,” said Ben. “Historically the church has flourished in the midst of adversity, uncertainty and even persecution. It’s in the most challenging times that the church once again musters its courage, finds its voice and reclaims its identity. I’m convinced that everything in my past and all my previous experience in ministry has somehow prepared and equipped me to assume this new and exciting role.”
“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.”
“I’m excited about the opportunity to be a part of the leadership team of the conference,” Rev. Disney stated. “Bishop Lowry has consistently emphasized the primary role of the conference, which is to equip and resource the local church for the task of making disciples for the transformation of the world. In its better moments, the local church is that rare place where God is fully present and Jesus is Lord; where lives are transformed and a gathering of imperfect people somehow becomes the body of Christ.”
Even though Ben has a proven track record as an effective pastor, coach. consultant, church planter, and has been quite successful working with church mergers, congregational and church transformation, he knows that there is no “magic formula or fool-proof blueprint for success” that can be applied to every church and is intimately familiar with the enormity of leading a local church – a task that Forbes magazine recently ranked has the fifth most difficult leadership position in the U.S.
“No two congregations are alike. The ability to lead a congregation in the midst of a changing culture, shifting values, coupled with fear and an uncertainty about the future is no easy task. Every setting requires different approaches to leadership and ministry,” Ben noted. “Programs don’t save churches, prayer does. There are no gimmicks, quick fixes or easy answers. Effective ministry requires clear missional alignment, non-negotiable core values and adaptive and creative leadership. Churches don’t need better managers as much as they need the courageous conviction of shepherds who heed a different voice and are willing to lead others on a different path.”
“Every pastor and every church leader has a sense of the changing landscape and shifting culture facing local congregations,” Ben continued. “My hope is to be able to help churches and pastors ask the right questions and focus on what is essential to our primary mission of making disciples “It’s time to muster our courage, find our voice and reclaim our identity.
“I appreciate the prayers and support as we all learn in this together.”
Rev. Disney received his undergraduate degree in Business Administration from Texas Tech University (1980) and has a Master of Divinity from Brite Divinity School (1984). Besides his service in the local churches of the CTC, Ben has served on myriad conference boards, committees, agencies and task forces, including Harris Southwest Hospital Board Member, Texas Wesleyan University Board Member, Wesley Foundation Board TCU, Chair of Wesley Foundation Board Baylor University, Chair of Committee on Counseling, Council on Finance and Administration, Mission Leadership Team, District Committee on Ministry, District Committee on Church Locations, Chair of Conference Evangelism, Clergy Mentor for Supervised Ministry Board of Ordained Ministry, Coach and Mentor to Woods UMC (North Texas Conference) and Life Point UMC (CTC), and the Conference Committee on Investigations.
In 1991, Ben was the co-clergy recipient of the Morris Delany Walker Award for distinguished and exemplary service to the conference and The UMC (shared with Rev. Gary Lindley). Last June, He was honored with the 2016 Bishops Award for Excellence in Preaching.
*Vance is the director of Communications & IT for the CTC.