Bishop Mike Lowry, episcopal leader of the Central Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church, has announced that Rev. Philip Rhodes will be appointed as the Superintendent of the East District Area of the Central Texas Conference effective July 1. Dr. Randy Wild, the East District Area’s current superintendent, will (again) retire from active ministry on July 1.
On Jan. 1, changes brought about by the Forward to a New Spring initiative approved by the 2020 Annual Conference began to take shape. One of the changes designed to allow the conference and districts to reimagine how to best energize and equip the local churches of the conference called for the creation of District Areas and the reduction of District Superintendents from 6 to 4* (*3 geographic District Areas and the New Church Start District). After prayerful discernment, Bishop Lowry became convinced that he wanted a team-first leader, who is committed to the conference’s mission/WIG and has experience in leading a large/very large church to serve on the Cabinet.
|Bishop Mike Lowry|
“As I thought and prayed about it, I knew that we [the Cabinet] needed a senior pastor who had served well at the large to very large church level,” explained Bishop Lowry. “Besides being an outstanding and effective preacher and pastor, Rev. Philip Rhodes brings an expertise to the Cabinet regarding what it takes to be fruitful and faithful as a leader of a very large congregation.”
“Philip is a wonderful team player and has served the conference on several vital committees and task forces over the years,” Bishop Lowry continued. “Most importantly, Rev. Rhodes is deeply committed to our mission and Wildly Important Goal of making disciples of Jesus Christ of the transformation of the world. The Cabinet and the East District Area will be quite blessed by having him as part of the team.”
Philip has pastored at the First United Methodist Church of Hurst since 2005 and has served as the church’s Senior Pastor since 2012 – a time that brought about many vital and vibrant ministries and even more treasured relationships. So, when Bishop Lowry called with the opportunity to join the Cabinet, the decision was not easy.
“This appointment to the role of DS for the East District Area is the definition of bittersweet,” said Philip. “One question that a church asks of a senior pastor is ‘will you love us?’ First Hurst raised me in my career/my calling for over 22 years. They raised our kids. Yes, I love them! I have loved them I will continue to love them. To say that the people of First Hurst have been good to us is beyond an understatement. Leaving local church ministry – and especially our ministry at First Hurst – is going to be tough.”
|Rev. Philip Rhodes.|
Beyond all that COVID-19 has wrought on the ministries of Central Texas Conference churches, and the uncertainty that lies ahead in how to effectively emerge from the pandemic, Rev. Rhodes realizes that there are many changes and challenges facing the conference and The UMC.
“When Bishop Lowry presented the opportunity to join the Cabinet, I had to think about it, pray about it long and hard,” recalled Philip. “As much as I love all that we have going at First Hurst, all that is in front of us in our disciple making efforts, the opportunity to help the churches and clergy and lay leadership of the East District move beyond all that is facing the church right now, to move beyond all that we’ve been through since the 2019 Called Special General Conference – and really since the 2016 General Conference – was just too great.
“I am committed to staying in the United Methodist Church – whatever that looks like following the postponed 2020 General Conference – and helping the Central Texas Conference stay together and stay focused and committed to our mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”
Though he has already begun the onboarding process of joining the Cabinet and participating in their meetings and activities, Philip will not officially assume his East District Area duties until July 1, when Dr. Randy Wild passes the DS mantle and tries his hand at retirement again. (View Randy's classic retirement video from 2018 here)
|Dr. Randy Wild will give "the retirement thing" another chance staring July 1.|
For Randy and his wife Katy’s sake, I hope that Randy can pass ‘Retirement 101’ this time,” remarked Bishop Lowry. “Seriously, Randy has been an incredible blessing both to me, the East District and the entire CTC since accepting the call to come out of retirement. He brings intelligence, humor, the highest integrity, dedication and commitment that goes above and beyond to our team. I cannot thank him enough.”
While there were several factors that motivated Randy to put his retirement on hold, it was ultimately his “deep and abiding love for The United Methodist Church and the East District in particular” that made the decision easy. With the announcement of Philip Rhodes as the next District Superintendent of the East District Area, his decision to reboot his retirement is equally as straight-forward.
“Philip is a fantastic choice. He knows the district and has wonderful relationships throughout,” said Randy. “His insights and care for the East District, the conference, the UMC and our mission/WIG are evident to all. I very much look forward to how the East advances our mission of making disciples under his leadership.”
Philip is a graduate of Perkins School of Theology at SMU and currently serves on several Central Texas Conference and East District committees. Philip was born in England and moved to the United States with his family when he was 10 years old. He has been married to Lynne since 1990. Philip and Lynne share a love for ministry – Lynne is the Executive Director for Project Transformation Central Texas. They have two children, Nicolas and Brenna, and welcomed their first grandchild, Olivia, to the clan in December 2020.