Cabinet Changes Announced Effective August 1

  • Rev. Beverly Connelly appointed as South/Central District Area Superintendent
  • Dr. Leah Hidde-Gregory named as Executive Director of the Lamar Smith Center for Evangelism, Mission and Church Growth, New Church Start District Superintendent
  • Rev. Mike Ramsdell appointed as Senior Pastor of First UMC Grapevine
  • Rev. Louis Carr to assume role as Dean of the Cabinet        
June 13, 2021
Bishop Mike Lowry announces several changes to CTC Cabinet effective Aug. 1, 2021

Bishop Mike Lowry, episcopal leader of the Central Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church has announced that Rev. Mike Ramsdell will step away from his role as Executive Director of the Smith Center for Evangelism, Mission and Church Growth / District Superintendent of the New Church Start District so that he may serve as the senior pastor of First United Methodist Church of Grapevine. Rev. Ramsdell’s appointment begins Aug. 1. The current senior pastor of First UMC Grapevine, Rev. Travis Franklin has decided to go on Medical Disability leave so that he may focus all his energies on his health and his family following a recent serious medical diagnosis.


“I thank God for the faithfulness of Rev. Travis Franklin and his ongoing ministry,” proclaimed Bishop Lowry. “We all will miss his leadership and grace during this time. I ask that you keep Travis, his wife Rev. Lara Whitley Franklin and his whole family in your prayers.


“While I lament the reason that necessitated this change of senior pastors at First Grapevine, I am grateful and pleased to announce that Rev. Mike Ramsdell will be taking over for Travis as Senior Pastor,” Bishop Lowry continued. “Mike Ramsdell has given stellar sacrificial service to Christ and the Central Texas Conference for more than 40 years. His outstanding track record and experiences as the senior pastor of First Methodist Mansfield – a congregation that grew to be the second largest church in our conference under his leadership – have provided him with a remarkably strong and unique skillset that will benefit First Grapevine as that church moves forward to a new future.”


Rev. Mike Ramsdell returns to local church ministry after a very successful time of leading the Smith Center for Evangelism, Mission & Church Growth and the New Church Start District

“I have loved being able to help pastors, churches and communities reach people they have not already been reaching in my role with the Smith Center. My hope is that we have served the CTC well in the last few years,” reflected Rev. Ramsdell. “However, I am wired to be a pastor. Returning to ministry in the local church will be like going home. First Grapevine has been such a great church for so many years and serves one of the most vital areas of the CTC. I look forward to living out my calling as a pastor in such an exciting church and am excited to partner with the pastors, leadership and church family in what is next – not only for the Grapevine Church, but the community it is called to influence.”


Rev. Ramsdell’s appointment to First UMC Grapevine meant that Bishop Lowry had a sizeable seat to fill in the leadership of the Smith Center for Evangelism, Mission and Church Growth (CEMCG). “Mike has elevated the role of Executive Director of [CEMCG] beyond all lofty expectations,” asserted Bishop Lowry.


Bishop Lowry did not have to look far to find who Rev. Ramsdell considers an excellent choice to lead the center going forward. “There is no better choice for the position than Dr. Leah Hidde-Gregory,” he stated. “Her heart to reach new people with the Good News of Jesus Christ in new and dynamic ways, supporting and resourcing pastors and churches of all sizes is already well known and will now more easily extend to the entire Central Texas Conference.”


Citing her “outstanding, innovative and faithful” leadership as the South/Central District Superintendent along with her “winsome spirit and glad heart” in her service as Dean of the Cabinet as attributes he believes will make for a smooth transition, it is Leah’s “special emphasis on evangelistic growth for the Kingdom of God” that has him most enthusiastic about what is to come for the CTC’s local churches, especially its small- to medium-sized congregations.


Dr. Leah Hidde-Gregory will move from her role as DS of the South/Central District Area into Executive Director of CEMCG and the DS of the New Church Start District on Aug. 1

“Three out of four churches in the CTC worship less than 150 people,” stated Dr. Hidde-Gregory. “One of my planned areas of focus is in helping our small- and medium-size churches expand their capabilities of reaching their communities with the Good News. That being said, I am passionate about making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world and am excited to partner with all the congregations of the CTC to accomplish our mission/WIG!


“Mike has done amazingly innovative work in the Smith Center. He has brought about new funding, coaching, the GROW initiative, the development of new faith community grants and spearheaded the New Church for a New World webinar series, just to name a few. I want to continue the excellent work that he has done and build from there.” 


“Leadership in helping our churches find new ways to reach new people in this new post-pandemic world will be in good hands as we continue to move forward to our new spring,” declared Bishop Lowry.


To fill Leah’s role as Superintendent of the South/Central District Area, Bishop Lowry has appointed Rev. Beverly Connelly. Rev. Connelly currently serves as the senior pastor of One Fellowship United Methodist Church – a new church start located in Waco – but comes to the role of DS with a resume that spans a wide variety of church types.


“Her experiences as a local church pastor across various locations, settings, situations and ethnic lines positions her well to provide fresh insights and understandings to the Cabinet and the South/Central District Area,” said Bishop Lowry. “I’m excited about Beverly Connelly coming on to the Cabinet and thank God for her sacrificial willingness to serve on the Cabinet and in the South/Central District Area.”


Rev. Beverly Connelly to join the CTC Cabinet as District Superintendent of the South/Central District Area

Rev. Connelly, recalling how surprised and humbled she was to learn that she’d be joining the Cabinet and be appointed as DS to the South/Central District Area, remarked that one of the things to which she is looking forward most is getting to know and collaborate with the other Cabinet members. “We often think of our District Superintendents and other conference leaders as either having halos or horns. (Yes, I really did say that!) However, we know that isn’t true and I am eager to know them better as people.


“I am also excited about serving pastors and walking with them through their joys, trials, and sorrows,” Beverly continued. “I say this because I know how thankful I have been supported by the bishop and cabinet members during some difficult times in the past. I cannot recount the many ways I have been supported by my former District Superintendents here in the Central Texas Conference – Clifton Howard, Brad Brittain, Randy Wild, Mike Ramsdell and Leah Hidde-Gregory – as well as those with whom I served in the Louisiana Conference, Carol Cotton-Winn, Freddie Henderson, Doug Cain and Donald Avery.”


“Beverly is a woman after God’s heart,” claimed Dr. Hidde-Gregory. “She is incredibly bright, loving, and has the Spirit of God with her. She will serve the congregations and the mission field very faithfully and be a complete blessing to the South/Central District area. I am excited to see how God uses her ministry as a District Superintendent.”


“There are not many positions I have not held in serving the local church,” recalled Rev. Connelly. “These experiences have helped me develop a deep passion for our Wildly Important Goal, our WIG of making disciples of Jesus Christ. I KNOW the difference Christ makes in the life of the believer. I shudder to think of where I would be without Jesus. and believe the responsibility of every believer is to make Him known.”


Rev. Louis Carr

Bishop Lowry also announced that Rev. Louis Carr, North/West District Area Superintendent, will move into the role as Dean of the Cabinet. “I want to express my gratitude to Rev. Louis Carr for his willingness to step into the role of Dean of the Cabinet,” observed Bishop Lowry. “Louis brings a deep commitment to the local churches of our conference as well as to our mission. He will be a blessing to the conference and the cabinet in this role.”

All of these announced changes to the Central Texas Conference Cabinet take effect on Aug. 1, 2021.