Vital Congregations: NCJ's Adaptive Challenge

published 7/24/2012
AKRON, Ohio – If The United Methodist Church is to become a movement again, it must redirect the flow of attention, energy and resources to increasing the number of vital congregations effective in the disciple-making process and the episcopal leadership in the North Central Jurisdiction is committed to leading in that direction. Bishops Bruce Ough of the West Ohio Conference and Bishop Gregory V. Palmer of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference shared the stage for the Episcopal Address and ...

Keaton assigned to Illinois Area

published 7/19/2012

Greetings to Bishop Keaton

Persons wishing to send greetings or welcome to Bishop Jonathan Keaton may do so by emailing between now and Sept. 1. After Sept. 1, persons may email Those who have already sent email messages, they have been forwarded to Bishop Keaton per his request.

United Voices for Children contest winners honored at breakfast

published 7/10/2012
UVC met the winners of the Karleen Dude Youth Essay Contest and the Mary Renfro Child Advocate Lifetime Achievement Award at Friday's breakfast during the 2012 Annual Conference. Zachary Stroup from Prospect UMC in Dunlap, a soon to be seventh grader at Dunlap Valley Middle School and active young person in the local church, received the Karleen Dude Child Advocacy Youth Essay Contest. He highlighted Bonnie Mankle an active member of the church.  He wrote, “One person that is always focused on ...

Church and Society hosts 'Repairing the Ruined Cities'

published 6/20/2012
The IGRC Board of Church and Society invites your church to participate in a discussion of ministry tactics and policy as this vision of restoration and hope is applied on a local level. How can our church serve those within our community? How can we best help those who come to the church with a material need? You are invited to consider these questions and more in the upcoming “Repairing the Ruined Cities” conferences this fall. Guest speaker Kathleen Finkle (executive director and founder of ...

2012 Annual Conference explores, celebrates risk-taking mission

published 6/11/2012
PEORIA -- The Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference was held in Peoria, Ill., June 6-9, under the theme of Risk-Taking Mission. Conference speaker was Rev. Jorge Acevedo, pastor of Grace Church, Cape Coral, Fla., who led sessions on utilizing teams for effective ministry and Turbo-Charging the Wesleyan Tradition for the 21st Century.   Bishop Gregory V. Palmer, in his episcopal address, reported on several front, including a report that the Imagine No Malaria campaign has surpassed the $1.9 ...

Risk-Taking Mission: Peacemaking

published 6/9/2012
PEORIA – In his final Morning Manna devotional, Bishop Gregory Palmer used the reunion story of Jacob and Esau as a backdrop to illustrate the risk of peacemaking. “All experiences of restoring broken relationships come with a nudging that says, ‘make things right,” Palmer said. “You ought to do something about this or say something about this.”   Palmer said that disagreement and estrangement brings distance, which in the short term, may be self-preserving.   “But over time, the chasm gets ...

Cabinet Address: Purpose, Practice, Perseverance

published 6/8/2012
PEORIA -- Utilizing a metaphor of running, members of the Cabinet offered a perspective on life in the Illinois Great Rivers Conference. Connecting the Hebrews 12 scripture, Cabinet co-chairs In-Sook Hwang and Cindy Jones offered four things the Christians life have in common with running a race. Purpose -- Athletes and Christians don't runs the race just for fun. "They are willing to sacrifice everything for one purpose, that is to maximize their potential, perform their best and hopefully ...

Fulfilling the mission requires turbo charging the tradition

published 6/8/2012
PEORIA – Rev. Jorge Acevedo makes a disclaimer: Don’t expect that doing what his church has done will result in another Grace church. “It is much more than just doing,” Acevedo said in his second presentation. “It is about turbo-charging the tradition given to us by John Wesley who took it off the pages of Scripture and made it practical for the 18th century. Our task is to look for ways to move that mark 350 years forward to the 21st century.”   The four steps necessary to accomplish the task ...

Risk-Taking Mission: Truth Telling

published 6/8/2012
PEORIA -- What one says and what one doesn't say speaks volumes observed Bishop Gregory V. Palmer in the second Morning Manna Friday morning of the 2012 Annual Conference. "Speech -- what you say -- is a big deal, but what you don't say can also be a big deal," Palmer noted. "The Bible seems to be concerned about what we say about God and about each other." Using a text from Ephesians 4,  Palmer said Paul's interest was concerned about forming community. "How one speaks or whether we speak to ...

The challenge of answering the call to "go"

published 6/8/2012
PEORIA -- Bishop Janice Riggle Huie remembers fondly the family kitchen table. The table which Huie said today would range from "retro antique to junk," was the center of her family's activity. The table with a formica table, chrome legs and vinyl seat covers was where the worldviews were expanded as guests came and went. "The table is the most social piece of furniture," she said. "It is ready to welcome anyone." Huie said the table was where whoever showed up they were fed. "My mother would ...

Whitaker offers list of what she has learned in swan song

published 6/8/2012
PEORIA -- IGRC Lay Leader Rhonda Whitaker offered a list of things she has learned at Annual Conference in her eight and final Laity Address. "Everything I know about life I learned at Annual Conference," Whitaker said. "I’m going to miss being your Lay Leader. I’ll even miss all those meetings – ok, maybe not. I’ll miss answering the phone to hear 'Sister Rhonda, this is your humble servant Gregory Vaughn Palmer.' I have grown so much over the last eight years, and I’ve learned so much." ...

Bealmear, Emmaus group garner Denman Awards, Batz honored for lifetime achievement

published 6/7/2012
PEORIA – A pastor who has grown worship attendance by more than 50 percent in three years and a group of leaders who use Walk to Emmaus as an evangelistic tool are the 2012 recipients of the IGRC Harry Denman evangelism award. Jeff Bealmear, pastor of Aledo UMC, is the clergy Denman recipient, while the leaders of 4th Day ministry at Highland Hope UMC is this year’s laity Denman winner. Retired pastor Don Batz is also honored as a recipient of the Peter Cartwright Lifetime Achievement Award. All...

Bishop issues several invitations in Episcopal Address

published 6/7/2012
PEORIA – Bishop Gregory V. Palmer invited members of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference to enter into open, honest and heartfelt conversations about difficult issues without discounting those to whom one disagrees. Near the end of a 40-minute Episcopal Address, Palmer announced a change to the Annual Conference agenda in which a 45-minute period of time would be set aside to begin the “difficult work” of entering into holy conferencing.   “What if your greatest hope is also your greatest fear?...

Most effective ministry is done in teams

published 6/7/2012
PEORIA – Rev. Jorge Acevedo remembers the wakeup call he received from his wife 18 years ago. As a United Methodist pastor, Acevedo was very busy in ministry. But the busy-ness came at a great personal price and a high cost to his family.  Finally, Acevedo said his wife confronted him one day and said, "We need to talk. It’s hard to be mad at your mistress when your mistress is the church." That moment became a turning point in seeing ministry shift from a solo act to a team effort.   Acevedo, ...

Risk-taking mission encourages the call

published 6/7/2012
PEORIA -- Rev. John Hartleroad noted that in 1972, when he entered the ministry, the former Central Illinois Conference ordained 15 deacons and the former Southern Illinois Conference ordained 17 deacons. "Of course, we were in the midst of the Vietnam War and there was a draft," he said. "But for those of us who have stuck it out -- Terry Edele, John Sims and Bill Minor, the war is over. We can quit anytime." Using the refrain, "I love the church, don't you?" with the conference responding, "...

Risk-Taking Mission: Poverty

published 6/7/2012
PEORIA -- Bishop Gregory V. Palmer challenged the Illinois Great Rivers Conference to answer the question of the Rich Young Ruler, "What one thing I lack?" in the first of three Morning Manna devotionals during Annual Conference. "Every moment we breathe, we get to answer that question," Palmer said. "If Jesus says to The United Methodist Church, to westernized Christians, 'you will find your life by connecting with the margins among the poor...or you can have your life as it is.' What would you...

God asks, 'Why Are You Here?'

published 6/6/2012
PEORIA -- The question God asks each of us is, "Why are you here?"  Our answer is of eternal significance. Striking a jazzy, soulful mood with the story of the prophets Elijah and Elisha as a backdrop, the Rev. Melva Graham England, pastor of Galesburg First UMC, asked those in attendance, "Are we bold enough to pick up the mantle, ask for a double share and risk it all for Jesus Christ?" In recalling the Old Testament story, England observed, "Sometimes, it looks like the end of the road but ...

Annual Conference to Focus on Risk-Taking Mission

published 6/1/2012
PEORIA – The Illinois Great Rivers Conference of The United Methodist Church will be meeting in Peoria for the 11th consecutive year June 6-9. The Peoria Civic Center will serve as the conference’s central location for the more than 2,400 expected to attend. The theme of the conference is Risk-Taking Mission.   Rev. Jorge Acevedo, pastor of Grace Church, a multi-site United Methodist congregation in Cape Coral, Fla., will be the conference speaker on both Thursday and Friday mornings. When he ...

Barbara Gurtler: undaunted runner at age 77

published 6/1/2012
(Editor’s note: Barbara Gurtler will be a guest of the 2012 Annual Conference when she introduces a video segment celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Commission on the Status and Role of Women. Gurtler was one of the laypersons who served in the Central Illinois Conference on the predecessor body of COSROW before it was created by the 1972 General Conference. Photo courtesy of PBC Sports Photography) By Dave Bakke Springfield State Journal-Register SPRINGFIELD -- There she was, struggling to...

Bus shuttle service schedule

published 6/1/2012
New this year will be buses running between the motel and the Peoria Civic Center. Buses will depart from the various motels and the designated stops. Return trips to the motels will follow the evening session. There are two separate color routes based upon the hotel destination. Make sure to get on the correct colored coach – Red for East Peoria hotels or Blue – for Peoria hotels. Personnel from the Peoria Visitors and Convention Bureau will be on site at the various hotels to assist with any ...

Laity to celebrate completion of West Point School

published 6/1/2012
At the Laity Session of Annual Conference 2008 we started on an amazing journey to build a school for the West Point neighborhood of Monrovia, Liberia. For the first time in the history of Illinois Great Rivers, we took up an offering during Laity Session, and we received over $11,000. Churches and individuals continued to give throughout the following year, raising the total to over $20,000. Bunny Wolfe, Coordinator of Missions and Outreach, tenaciously sought other means of funding to reach a ...

Special offering for New Hope Church in Liberia

published 6/1/2012
The Wednesday evening offering, taken during the Memorial Service, will assist with the building of New Hope Church, also in Liberia. The congregation of New Hope UMC found themselves as refugees in the Monrovia area after fleeing their home areas for safety during the civil war. Because they wanted to worship in their own vernacular, the Bassa language, a small group of refugees began to meet regularly for worship services. The congregation soon outgrew the home in which they worshipped and ...

Thursday morning coffee includes complimentary mug

published 6/1/2012
Thursday’s morning coffee is sponsored by IGRC Communications, in cooperation with United Methodist Communications. Stop by the coffee station and pick up your free Imagine No Malaria coffee mug (whether you drink coffee or not; limit one per attendee). These mugs can be purchased in quantity for $2 each postpaid and churches will be able to place orders during the month of June as a fundraising effort for Imagine No Malaria.   Sell the mugs for $5 each and send the $3 profit to Imagine No ...

IGRC Prayer Vigil During General Conference

published 4/23/2012
The IGRC Cabinet is asking every United Methodist in the Illinois Great Rivers Conference to participate in a prayer vigil during General Conference, beginning on Tuesday, April 24. "It is our strong hope that every United Methodist will be praying for all those who are involved in the vision casting, decision making processes  of the 2012 General Conference," the Cabinet statement read. "To help us give focus and serve as a reminder of this time of prayer, we are asking each district of IGRC to...

Weatherall appointed Spoon River District Superintendent

published 2/27/2012
SPRINGFIELD -- Bishop Gregory V. Palmer has announced the appointment of Rev. Sylvester Weatherall as conference superintendent assigned to the Spoon River District, effective July 1. The announcement was made Feb.26. Weatherall, 56, said he was humbled by the announcement combined with a "healthy fear of the unknown." "I am aware that the learning curve of the office of District Superintendent is steep," Weatherall said. "However, I am confident that my colleagues will be great teachers. They ...

How Congregations Can Reach the Hispanic Community

published 2/24/2012
Being missionaries in your own “back yard” may be not sound as fun and risky, but let me walk you through different suggestions with the hope you can feel called to partner in ministry by reaching your own Hispanics neighbors for Jesus. Get in a High Risk Mission by reaching the Hispanic Community. Buy a box a Spanish Bibles and prepare ready to hand them out to your “amigos,” in the restaurants or when they visit your church. Change both outdoor and inside signs. Go “Bilingual.” ...

The End of an Era: Holden Center closes at UM Village

published 2/24/2012
LAWRENCEVILLE – After 86 years, a landmark at the United Methodist Village closed its doors. The United Methodist Village Board of Directors and administration announced the closing of Holden Center, the oldest section of the Lawrenceville campus in late January.   Officials at the Village noted that changes in long-term care led to the closure. “As the government has become increasingly involved in the regulation of long-term care, more and more changes have been forced upon the industry,” the ...

Griffith appointed Assistant to the Bishop

published 1/31/2012
SPRINGFIELD – Bishop Gregory V. Palmer has announced the appointment of the Rev. Janice L. Griffith as Executive Assistant to the Bishop, effective July 1. Griffith, who is currently in her sixth year as Spoon River District Superintendent, will succeed the Rev. John Hartleroad, Jr., who is retiring after six years of service. Ironically, Griffith succeeded Hartleroad as Spoon River District Superintendent when Hartleroad was appointed Assistant to the Bishop in 2006. Hartleroad served as Spoon ...

Opportunities Abound for Prison Ministry Both Inside and Outside the Facility

published 1/27/2012
I am a United Methodist chaplain with more than 25 years’ experience in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. I was asked the question, “How can a congregation get involved in prison ministry?” My first thought was that they may already be involved and not know it. Prison ministry is much more than going into a facility and teaching a Bible study. Re-entry programs are now looked upon as the most important part of reducing recidivism and crime in the community. If there is an AA or NA group that meets ...

What's Involved in Becoming a Prison Ministry Volunteer

published 1/27/2012
Ministry in the prison system in Illinois is one that is not seen as a viable ministry by many people.  You work with men and women who are convicted felons. I worked in the Illinois Department of Corrections for more than 20 years and my chapel programs were enhanced by volunteers.  They provided various types of programs for the inmate populations at John A. Graham Correction Center in Hillsboro and the Vandalia Correctional Center that I served. We had Bible studies, prayer groups, A.A., ...

Briefing previews General Conference issues

published 1/26/2012
Editor’s note:This is look at issues explored at a recent Pre-General Conference News Briefing in Tampa, Fla. A separate story, which will be posted on, will focus on the proposal to restructure the church.   TAMPA, Fla. (UMNS) — Diverse issues presented at a recent three-day briefing signaled the workload ahead for the lawmaking body of The United Methodist Church, which meets this spring. More than 300 delegates, communicators and others who will be part of the 2012 General Conference ...

An Audience for Both Prisoner and President

published 1/25/2012
VANDALIA – Phyllis Rames recalls a 1992 meeting at Vandalia Correctional Center as a life-changing event. As one of several persons representing various churches in the community, Rames met with the chaplain of the facility as speakers talked about getting involved in prison ministry. “I didn’t want to go,” Rames recalled in a feeling reminiscent of John Wesley’s Aldersgate experience. “I reluctantly went and we listened to the speakers and then participated in breakout sessions. It was time to ...

At the Roots of Methodism: Wesley fought for Prison Reform

published 1/25/2012

“Restorative justice opens the opportunities for personal and community transformation. This transformation cannot be mapped, planned or put into a program or structure. Nevertheless, it can be encouraged and nurtured.

"United Methodists have the will, the vision, the opportunity and the responsibility to be advocates for systemic change. We are called to minister with all parties affected by crime: the victim, the offender and the community.

Expectations are high for the faith community to lead the way in practicing restorative justice. We need to own and advocate a vision for restorative justice. We need to be supportive to members of the congregation who are victims, offenders, and their families, and especially those who work toward restoration in the criminal justice system.”

From Resolution 5034, Mission Plan for Restorative Justice Ministries, 2008 Book of Resolutions, revised and readopted by the 2008 General Conference

Fasting for Hunger luncheon

published 1/25/2012
A Bread and Water Fast, aimed at focusing attention on the issues of hunger, is being planned by the IGRC Board of Church and Society for this year’s Social Justice meal at the 2012 Annual Conference. The Fasting for Hunger lunch will be held on Thursday noon (June 7) at the Peoria Civic Center.   Kathleen Finkle of HELPS Ministry based in Jacksonville will share information about hunger in the state of Illinois and discuss specific ways for the whole church to help serve local people in need.  ...

Finding God in Prison

published 1/25/2012
By Sam Hodges and Nick Liao If a society’s approach to punishment reflects its understanding of God, the $68 billion U.S. prison system is a crucible for theology On a clear, brisk Sunday morning in January 2009, Ken Carder and his students arrived by appointment, in separate cars, at the Bureau of Prisons Federal Correctional Institution north of Durham, N.C. The class members, who had met only once before, had not formed a bond. Most of the students had never been inside a jail or prison. Even...

Henson elected NAUME vice president

published 1/25/2012
Rev. Matt Henson, general evangelist from the IGRC was elected vice president of the National Association of United Methodist Evangelists (NAUME) at its annual meeting Jan. 3-6. Bishop Gregory V. Palmer appointed Henson as a general evangelist July 1. He is available for revivals, retreats, conferences, evangelistic events, trainings, youth events, and mission trip and youth consultation. Henson also leads trips to Haiti where the United Methodist Church continues to work with the Methodist ...

Platform announced for Covenant Keepers 2012

published 1/17/2012
Singer, song writer and worship leader Keith Elder will be leading the worship and the Southern Gospel group, the Wanda Mountain Boys will perform an evening concert for Covenant Keepers 2012, which will be held Feb. 6-7, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Springfield. Online registration is underway... Child care will be provided free of charge to Covenant Keeper participants... Elder has spoken and performed for more than 30 years in a wide variety of church, conference, and community settings. ...

Bishops Endorse 20/20 AIDS-Free Initiative

published 1/11/2012
Bishop Gregory V. Palmer is one of 55 United Methodist bishops that has endorsed the 20/20: Visioning an AIDS-Free World initiative by lending their personal and financial support. This effort by the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund Committee seeks to mobilize the denomination to raise $5 million for HIV and AIDS education, prevention, care, and treatment around the world. Retired Bishop Fritz Mutti, Kansas City, Missouri, notes that “United Methodist episcopal leaders believe that global ...

Health Miles program announces changes, includes retirees, spouses

published 12/30/2011
For Active and Retired participants in the IGRC Group Health Insurance Plan: Changes are coming to the HealthMiles walking program: Retirees and Spouses who are in the IGRC health insurance plan can now join the program. Go to to sign up. Hint: choose "Other" for your department. The Preachers' Aid Society and Benefit Fund is paying for retirees' participation. For all members - the Rewards system is changing. It will be goal-based instead of total steps taken. ...

IRS keeps mileage rates the same for 2012

published 12/15/2011
WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service issued the 2012 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes Dec. 9. Beginning on Jan. 1, 2012, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be: 55.5 cents per mile for business miles driven 23 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable ...

HealthScope new conference health benefits administrator

published 12/1/2011
  Effective January 1, 2012, RightChoice Benefit Administrators will no longer be the third-party administrator (TPA) for the IGRC group health insurance plans.   The Conference Board of Pension and Health Benefits has approved HealthScope Benefits as our new Third Party Administrator. We are very hopeful that this change will result in a level of customer service that our participants expect and deserve.   HealthScope was chosen over several potential vendors. The main headquarters is located ...

Advanced lay speaking courses online

published 11/22/2011
The Richard and Julia Wilke Institute for Discipleship, in cooperation with the General Board of Discipleship is offering several online advanced lay speaking courses. These courses have been approved by the General Board of Discipleship as fulfillment of advanced lay speaking training. Topics for the early part of 2012 include: Multimedia Technology in Worship for the Church Volunteer 101, Growing Spiritually through Daily Discipline; Leading Worship 101 for Lay People; Bible Storytelling I, ...

IGRC launches partnership with Honduras

published 11/22/2011
Knowing that God continues to each of us to move out beyond our comfort zones and to walk our faith journey alongside Christian brothers and sisters in other cultures experience a faith journey, Illinois Great Rivers Conference will launch a partnership with the United Methodist Churches in Honduras in August 2012. The first IGRC mission trip to Honduras is scheduled Aug. 18-26, 2012. The trip brochure is posted on the IGRC website and is also available by contacting An initial ...

Liberia Election and Partnership Update

published 11/22/2011

IGRC Missions and Outreach Coordinator Bunny Wolfe and West Point pastor Sam Quarshie along with a future West Point student.






IGRC Missions and Outreach Coordinator Bunny Wolfe and West Point pastor Sam Quarshie along with a future West Point student.



Photo courtesy of Bunny Wolfe

Canteen Run offers help to some of Champaign-Urbana's neediest

published 10/27/2011

(Editor’s note: Since publication of this story, Canteen Run is now operating year-round three nights a week. Canteen Run is a five-year-old ministry of the Salvation Army and Savoy UMC is one of its partners and members volunteer regularly to staff the canteen as well as donate other items that are given away, such as blankets, underwear, socks, shirts, vitamins, toiletries, jackets, gloves, gifts, scarves, towels, backpacks, duffle bags, sleeping bags and baby food. Volunteers are also available to pray with persons they meet.)

Granite City Gains a Vision for Feeding the Hungry

published 10/27/2011
GRANITE CITY – A vision for caring for a community’s hunger during the summer by providing them a free lunch has become a partnership of church, the school district and several government entities that is growing and meeting the needs by taking ministry to them. Granite City Trinity UMC has embraced such a vision of feeding children during the summer. The congregation, which had been a student pastorate until returning to full-time status in 2009, the congregation began to see deep hunger in ...

Jacksonville Grace UMC addressing homeless problem

published 10/27/2011

Shelter Director Vanessa Tyus, a homeless advocate, discusses the ministry with Grace UMC pastor Mike Fender.


Shelter Director Vanessa Tyus, a homeless advocate, discusses the ministry with Jacksonville Grace UMC pastor Mike Fender.

Photo by Paul Black

Related story

View related story: Shelter Director a Tireless Advocate for Homeless




Society of St. Andrew offers Alternative Christmas

published 10/27/2011
While you and your family celebrate the joyous Christmas season, many Americans will experience first-hand the reality of hunger and poverty in our land of abundance. This Christmas, you can give them hope by the simple act of honoring your loved ones with a gift donation to feed the hungry. Each $12 gift donation to the Society of St. Andrew provides about 600 servings of fresh, nutritious food to America's hungry families. It's a sincere and loving way to feed the hungry and honor special ...

Springfield Woodside UMC gets vision for reaching poor, needy

published 10/27/2011

Jon Cross and Beth Brinkerhoff at Laketown Ministries


Jon Cross and Beth Brinkerhoff sort through a shopping cart full of clothes in preparation for the Grand Opening of Laketown Ministries Nov. 5. The thrift store is the newest ministry of Springfield Woodside UMC.


The storefront of Laketown Ministries is located at 2617 Stevenson Drive in Springfield, one of the busy thoroughfares in the capital city.


Photo by Paul Black

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