Ruben Saenz Jr. is a native of south Texas and lifelong United Methodist. He was elected bishop in 2016 at the South Central Jurisdictional Conference and assigned to the Great Plains Conference, based in Topeka, Kansas.In his role as episcopal leader in Kansas and Nebraska, Bishop Saenz continues the work of unifying three former conferences that came together in 2014. The new conference is focused on the four pillars of a robust ministry and witness for Jesus Christ in the Wesleyan tradition: Love God; proclaim Christ; serve others, especially the poor; and seek justice. In 2022, he was additionally assigned as the Coverage Bishop of the Central Texas Conference of the UMC.
Bishop Saenz is a graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas, and a former high school teacher, high school football coach, and businessperson. He earned his master’s of divinity and doctorate of ministry degrees from Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. He served congregations in East Dallas, Oak Cliff Dallas, El Paso, and Edinburg, Texas. El Buen Pastor (The Good Shepherd) in Edinburg, Texas, was the largest Hispanic-American United Methodist Church in the country during his 10-year pastoral tenure. As a pastor, he focused his ministry on intentional spiritual practice and formation, developing a lay apostolate, and equipping people with tools and encouragement to move out of generational poverty.
In 2010, he was appointed to serve as the Southwest Texas director of congregational and new church development, and he helped start 11 new churches before being appointed to director of conference connectional ministries and executive director of the Rio Texas Conference’s Mission Vitality Center in January 2015. In that role, he oversaw the conference’s missional strategies and objectives for congregational vitality, starting new churches, clergy and lay leadership vitality, uniting people, and transforming communities.
He enjoys drawing and painting landscapes with various mediums, endurance cycling and hi-intensity interval training, fishing and golfing, aromatic and flavorful cups of coffee from different regions of the world, visiting new places, meeting new people, and watching NFL football. He has a growing interest in writing for publication, Meso/South American civilizations, Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, and faith that does justice.
Bishop Saenz is married to Mayé. They have four adult children, all active in the life of The United Methodist Church. Two of their sons, Aaron and Ruben III, serve as pastors of growing congregations in the Rio Texas Conference. He and Mayé have nine grandchildren.
Following the Uniting General Conference which brought together the Church of the United Brethren in Christ and the Evangelical Church in 1946, Ralph M. Holdeman was asked by Bishop George Edward Epp, the Secretary of the Board of Bishops, to develop a crest for them.
The chi rho made in the shape of a cross is one of the most ancient symbols found in the catacombs. The alpha and omega is then suspended from the cross arm. The staff not only points to the bishop as the chief shepherd of God's flock but also emphasizes the loving care that should motivate all administrative decisions. The staff is a baroque design because in the Baroque Period the Church expanded with missional/evangelistic zeal, often exhibited and led by the bishop. Frequently a bishop would go into the fields to preach, carrying a pointed staff to stab the ground as the Gospel of love and concern, of salvation and resurrection, was proclaimed. The bishop of today must serve Christ and the Church in a modern world setting and so modern lines are utilized in make the shield of the crest
From Ralph M. Holdeman, Sculptor October 23, 1972, Elkhart, Indiana