Genesis Center closes after 2 years; plans for Hispanic Methodist church in the works

Jennifer Lee Preyss By Jennifer Lee Preyss

July 7, 2013 at 2:07 a.m.

When the Genesis Center opened two years ago, a modest congregation of about eight people had high hopes for its survival.

St. Mark's Church, a dying Methodist congregation struggling to keep the lights on, rebranded itself as the Genesis Center and launched as a Christian community center.

Geoffrey Schrimsher, a St. Mark's member and then later the Genesis' Center's administrative head, helped organize a handful of people to stay loyal to the center's new mission of providing a space for in-between or growing churches to mature. Other organizations, such as Narcotics Anonymous, also used the space, Schrimscher said.

But with less than a dozen people regularly using the space, the Genesis Center, just like its predecessor, could not stay afloat.

On June 7, the Genesis Center officially closed. Celebration Church, which already was renting the center during the week, will rent the building exclusively for six months until the next plans for the building are finalized.

"We're going in a different direction. Initially, we really did believe in the ministry that was going on," said the Rev. Terrence Hayes, United Methodist Church Southwest Texas Annual Conference district superintendent. "It was my recommendation to the conference that it be closed. It wasn't achieving the goals it set out to do."

The Genesis Center property and any funds leftover in existing bank accounts will be turned over to the conference trustees and settled under the aegis of Bishop Jim Dorff.

Hayes said a new plan calls for relaunching the building once again as a Hispanic Methodist church.

"With our growing population and demographics, we're going with our strengths. We think there may be a strong need we can fill," he said.

But Schrimsher is less than thrilled with the conference delegate's decision to close the Genesis Center. He desires the building to remain open, and he claims the money in the Genesis Center's bank account should be doled out to a ministry of his choice rather than given to the United Methodist Church.

"It's our money. It came from us. The conference doesn't have anything to do with it," said Schrimsher, of the near-$30,000 that will be turned over to the United Methodist Church. "What I've seen with us is that they aren't fair in decision-making."

Hayes said the Genesis Center and any money donated or tithed to the facility falls under the jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church.

"It is not his money to dictate. ... He can't designate its use. Once you drop it in the plate, it belongs to the church, and you don't get it back," Hayes said.

Hayes also said conference delegates are never quick or enthusiastic when recommending Methodist churches to close. But in the current economic climate those recommendations are becoming more common at the annual conference, especially when the United Methodist Church's national membership is declining.

"We want everything to flourish so we can make disciples of Jesus Christ. That's our national and international motto," said Hayes, who oversees 38 pastors in 50 churches. "One or two churches are recommended to be closed at the conference every year for various reasons."

Hayes said he is excited, however, to launch a new Hispanic ministry in the Crossroads and hopes this will finally be the Methodist ministry to sustain the property at 3310 N. Ben Jordan St.

"The Victoria area has been so kind in so many ways, and our ministries are very strong here," Hayes said. "They allow great things to happen."



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