Texas Conference of Churches

By: Harold C. Kilpatrick

Type: General Entry

Published: November 1, 1995

The Texas Conference of Churches is an association of the largest judicatories in the state of twelve Protestant denominations, fourteen dioceses of the Catholic Church, and the Eastern Orthodox churches, forty-nine groups in all, with a total of over three million members. The conference was constituted at an assembly held in Austin on February 24, 1969, following the dissolution of the Texas Council of Churches to make way for the more inclusive organization. The council had been formed fifteen years previously when representatives of eleven mainline Protestant denominations met in Dallas on May 4, 1953, after two years of preparation. All Christian denominations in the state were invited to ratify a proposed constitution and become members. The elected representatives of those who did ratify brought the council into being. The preparatory work was done by a committee headed by Methodist bishop William G. Martin and staffed by Harry C. Munro of Brite Divinity School, Texas Christian University. McGruder E. Sadler, chancellor of TCU, was elected first president, and Harold C. Kilpatrick was called from the San Antonio Council of Churches to open the state office of the Texas Council in Austin.

From the beginning the council advocated elimination of all forms of discrimination based upon race, color, national origin, or sex. A major program was to mobilize member churches in world relief efforts. Other activities included volunteer councils and chaplaincies in state hospitals, ministries to migrant farm workers, aid to dependent children, and efforts toward a redemptive system of criminal justice. Participating in the council's Faith and Order conferences and sending observers to the assemblies involved the ten existing Catholic dioceses in ecumenical discussions, which resulted in the organization of the Texas Conference of Churches. Callan Graham, lay churchman, former legislator, and director of the Texas Catholic Conference, played a prominent role in the formation of the unprecedented church unity movement. The Texas Conference of Churches continued previous ecumenical programs and increased the unity of church organizations in the state. Roy T. Cates was elected first executive director of the conference. He was succeeded by the Rev. James C. Suggs. The Rev. Frank H. Dietz became executive director in 1982. Associate executive Lin Team staffs an interagency organization, Texas Impact, which serves legislative concerns of church and humanitarian agencies. Member churches subscribe to no doctrinal statements other than belief in Jesus Christ as divine Lord and Savior and in the unity of all Christian believers. The conference does not speak for member churches on public issues but serves as a means of their speaking and acting together, particularly on moral and social issues. The conference is governed by an annual assembly of representatives and by a board of directors composed of the head of each member judicatory plus ten lay church men and women elected by the assembly.

Harold C. Kilpatrick, The Last That Became First: A History of the Texas Council of Churches, 1953–1969 (MS, Texas Conference of Churches, Austin).
  • Religion
  • Nondenominational and Interdenominational
  • Organizations

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Harold C. Kilpatrick, “Texas Conference of Churches,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 15, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/texas-conference-of-churches.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

November 1, 1995