Rio Grande Conference

Valley Metanoia Network:

Inviting the Church from seated to “Vayamos”

Pastor Edwin Ortiz wants the church to be less institutional and more missional. From a church that tries to get people in the existing door, to congregations that say “vayamos,” let’s go out into the world, sent by the Spirit.  

As a Mission Developer for the Southwestern Texas Synod, he started Valley Metanoia Network last year in the Rio Grande Valley. His goal is to seed new, alternative ministries and train the leadership required for such a missional church. 

Pastor Edwin Ortiz preaching, 2022

But what does it mean to be a missionary today? 

“Some people don't like to use the word ‘missionary’ for its historic use, misuse, which is still happening today when people do proselytizing and cultural violence,” Edwin said. 

For Edwin, the aim is to meet people where they are. “That’s what Jesus does,” he explains.

He uses Philippians 2:4-8 as inspiration, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,” where Paul writes about self-emptying. 

“Being a missionary is not about conversion, it’s about a transformation of the heart and the Spirit, to embody Jesus in the midst of the people.”

Edwin exemplifies the ELCA value of accompaniment, a way to be with or accompany people in their context, to demonstrate the Word and the good works.

“It’s a two way path,” Edwin asserts. “What one carries and what one receives. You’re going to teach and be taught.” 

Pastor Edwin has a peaceful demeanor and warm, Puerto Rican accent in both Spanish and English. He often smiles when he talks, as if he’s letting you in on the secret to joy. 

He and his wife, Maribel, sold everything they owned in Puerto Rico and moved to South Texas last year to be closer to family. After intense study with the Synod and local congregations, it became clear to Edwin that the Rio Grande Valley could use more culturally relevant, modern, and inclusive ministries. 

“We are living in a missional age,” he wrote in his proposal for Valley Metanoia Network. “No longer is the culture consistently sending dedicated, church-going, monocultural Lutherans into buildings. Of the Rio Grande Valley’s 1.4 million people, 94% identify as Latino. Yet, within our ELCA congregations in the area less than 10% of members identify as Latino.”

Edwin and Maribel Ortiz, 2022

Few would be better prepared to answer the call of a “missional age” than Edwin, who has worked in missions in Spain and North Africa, as a preacher in Puerto Rico, and as of October 2022, an ordained ELCA pastor. 

Valley Metanoia Network is a Synodically Authorized Worshiping Community, synod-speak for a greenhouse or nursery for future ministries. 

“Metanoia is a Greek word that means transformation,” Edwin explains of the ministry’s name. “Some use conversion for the translation, or better yet to change a way of thinking.”

“One of the biggest problems of the church, perhaps the biggest, is the problem of identity,” Edwin adds. “The church has forgotten fundamentally who it is, and why it exists.” He sees that transformation or metanoia, as necessary for the age of change we are living through. 

It’s clear from Edwin’s welcoming demeanor that he values inclusivity in this vision for a church transformed. “I love to serve a Lord who loves diversity, who calls this diversity in all its expressions.” He even serves as the Multiethnic Coordinator for the Synod, supporting congregations where distinct cultures meet and extra intentionality is needed.

In 2023, he has two primary goals for the nascent Valley Metanoia Network. First, expanding the leadership team beyond its current three leaders. Second, to create a learning community and study the leadership required for the church to move from institutional to missional, to be “sent by the Spirit to do the work of God.” 

Edwin weaves together theology, ecclesiology, and inclusive organizing with the zeal of what you’d expect from, well, a missionary. And through all of it runs his clear reliance on prayer and the Spirit to guide the church closer to God’s will. 

“I want with all my heart for the people who read this story to write in some place, a little piece of paper, a sticky note on the fridge, ‘Pray for Valley Metanoia Network,’” Edwin asked. “We need a lot of prayer.”

Your generous Mission Support makes it possible for the work of the synod to strengthen our congregations and ministries. Thank you for your continued generosity to this ministry we all share. We invite you to consider additional gifts here at

Southwestern Texas Synod

Facebook  Twitter