Bias nominee for GBOD General Secretary

published 9/23/2013
NASHVILLE, Tenn.  –  Rev. Dr. Timothy L. Bias, former pastor of Peoria First UMC, has been selected as the nominee for General Secretary of the General Board of Discipleship. Bishop Elaine J.W. Stanovsky of the Denver episcopal area and president of The General Board of Discipleship (GBOD), notified the board of directors that the Search Committee will present the Bias as their selection at the Oct. 10-12 board meeting. The election would be effective Jan. 1, 2014, as current General Secretary ...

United Methodist Children's Home celebrates a rich tradition of caring

published 9/19/2013
MT. VERNON – Joe Bob Pierce knows firsthand the legacy of hope, help and healing of the United Methodist Children’s Home. On Nov. 22, 1930, as an infant Pierce was left on the doorstep of Home 300, which was historically known as the Tanner House. “Someone had come up to the old house and left a blanket with me in it, rang the doorbell, and then disappeared,” Pierce said. “The director at that time came out, looked around and couldn’t find anybody, so they took me in.” After only a few days, ...

IGRC youth address poverty, hunger during D.C. trip

published 8/21/2013
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the words, “United Methodists: Finding Our Voices – Shaping the Future,” 15 high school youth from the Illinois Great Rivers Conference gathered around a table in the Washington, D.C., office of U.S. Senator Dick Durbin on July 3 to share their concerns about homelessness, hunger, and health care for the poor, and to ask how the senator was addressing them.  The youth were prepared for the congressional visit by three days of seminars with ...

An Alternative to Member Directories

published 7/24/2013
A church directory that is always with you is now available as a cellphone application on iPhone and Android platforms through meaNEXUS. meaNEXUS uses an integrated website, enabling a church to upload a directory of names, addresses and other information to a website and feed it privately to iPhones or Android devices. Members get access to the directory the church uploads only through an invitation from the church. Now you and your members can have all the details of your group handy on your ...

An Alternative to Phone Trees

published 7/24/2013
A congregation can put into place a communication system that can keep members in touch with the life of the church fast and easy in a partnership with United Methodist Communications. United Methodist Communications has negotiated with One Call Tell All Communications for a voice and/or text messaging system. A special web page for UMC members with prices and directions to have a system setup has been created. The link is only for UMC congregations. The system enables a congregation to send ...

Telling Your Story Through Technology

published 7/24/2013
Legendary documentarian Ken Burns says that the best stories are about "One plus one equals three." A good story is more than simply the sum of its parts. There is something beyond the words and the data and the images.  And it is more than a lot of technology which is not an end unto itself but a means to an end. In truth, there is not just one way — one formula if you will — for describing what good story and good storytelling is. It's complicated and professional storytellers will give you ...

The United Methodist Reporter Ends Its Long History

published 7/24/2013
 When Paul Black asked me to write a personal reflection on the demise of The United Methodist Reporter (UMR) headquartered in Dallas, Texas, I was flooded with memories from my association with UMR through the former Central Illinois Conference. It was inconceivable to me that the parent foundation of our conference newspaper from 1977 to 1996 had crumbled. It ceased publication May 31. Central was one of the first conferences outside Texas to form a partnership with UMR for a weekly edition ...

United Methodist Reporter to Continue Digitally

published 7/24/2013
 NASHVILLE, Tenn. --  CircuitWriter Media LLC announced June 8 that it has entered into an agreement with UMR Communications Inc. to purchase the rights and digital assets of the United Methodist Reporter (UMR) with the intention of continuing the work of UMR on the Internet and through other digital means. This will allow the website to continue into the future, with the hope of continuing to have independent source for United Methodist-oriented news and commentary....

Pearce appointed Illinois River District Superintendent

published 7/7/2013
SPRINGFIELD – Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton has announced the appointment of the Rev. Mary Kathryn Pearce, pastor of Dunlap Prospect UMC, as the new Illinois River District Superintendent, effective Aug. 1. Rev. Pearce will succeed Rev. Dan Harry as the superintendent based in Peoria.  Rev. Harry requested and was granted a leave of absence, effective July 1. The request was approved by the Board of Ordained Ministry’s Executive Committee, the Cabinet and Bishop Keaton. Rev. Pearce brings a wealth ...

Disciple Bible prison outreach, Christian response to violence among approved legislation

published 6/11/2013
PEORIA –The theme of “Extravagant Generosity” permeated throughout the 2013 Annual Conference session as the Illinois Great Rivers Conference raised its sights for a new outreach ministry in the state prison system as well as approving “A Christian Response to Violence,” primarily authored by two IGRC retired pastors. In addition to more than $25,000 collected in special offerings and approval of a $1 million campaign for Africa University scholarships, a last-minute motion from the floor put a ...

Closing Generation Gap Should Be Priority for the Church

published 6/10/2013
PEORIA – Conference Lay Leader Ken Miller offered some advice to the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference on how to bridge a growing generation gap in The United Methodist Church during his laity address June 7. “I think the most glaring reality is that while the median age of United Methodists is approaching 60 the median age of our culture is 35,” Miller said. “That’s an age gap of nearly two generations between the average United States United Methodist and the local mission field.”   ...

Laity, clergy experience extravagant generosity

published 6/10/2013
PEORIA --The Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference was held in Peoria, Ill., June 5-8, under the theme of “Extravagant Generosity.” The 2013 session completed a five-year journey through the five practices of fruitful congregations. The theme was apparent throughout as the conference celebrated reaching its $2.3 million goal for Imagine No Malaria. Bishop Thomas Bickerton of the Pittsburgh Area was a special guest for the celebration and told how the Illinois Great Rivers Conference had ...

Special Offering Report -- 2013 Annual Conference

published 6/10/2013
Laity Session: John Kofi Asmah School -- $6,013.04 Wednesday evening offering: New Hope Church, Liberia -- $9,555.22   Thursday afternoon offering: Africa University -- $7,933.08   Friday evening offering: Bishop’s trip for Ordinands -- $4,718.60   Saturday morning offering: Tom Brown Scholarship -- $6,210.52

The Church: It's All About Relationships

published 6/10/2013
PEORIA – The church is composed of imperfect pastors and imperfect members and yet there is a desire for “The Perfect Church” and “The Perfect Pastor.” The IGRC Cabinet, in its address June 7, noted that often what would make the church “perfect” for one makes it “imperfect” for another.    “Each church is unique as each church's setting is unique. We experience churches that are growing numerically in areas whose population are growing numerically, and they should,” said Embarras River District...

Virgin Health Miles Challenge -- 2013 Annual Conference

published 6/10/2013
Top 10 walkers in “Don’t Table That Motion” Challenge: John Hauck -- 109,681 steps Paul Dinges -- 100,302 steps Eric Swanson  -- 83,505 steps Donald Shane -- 83,358 steps Ronald Dickinson -- 78,944 steps Casey Taylor -- 76,867 steps Roger Perry -- 72,466 steps Charles Graul -- 69,161 steps Chuck Trent  -- 67,231 steps Janet King -- 65,792 steps   Honorable Mention (All over 50,000 steps): James Peak, Paul Wier, Shane Bishop, Regina Rhoades, Bob Swickard, Teri Shane, Keith Zimmerman, Jonathan ...

Connectional Ministries: Helping Leaders 'Find Their Voice'

published 6/9/2013
PEORIA – A new report on connectional ministries was added to this year’s agenda. Often times working behind the scenes, the conference’s Equipping and Connecting Team is focused on local church revitalization through leadership development and providing top-notch programming. “Our mission is to resource and equip the local church in making disciples of Jesus Christ, who transforms individuals, communities and the world,” said IGRC Director of Connectional Ministries Kent Lolling. “Since its ...

Honduras Partnership Begins Second Year of Ministry

published 6/9/2013
PEORIA – The focus on the first year of the Honduras Partnership has been marked with working with them rather than doing mission for them and the results have been significant.   “It is our belief that this strategy will take us a long way toward development and sustainability, rather than relief and unhealthy dependency,” reported Honduras Partnership chair Greg Gelzennis.   Three churches – Fairview Heights Christ UMC , Sullivan First UMC and Alton Main Street UMC have pioneered the mission ...

Liberia Partnership Continues Strong

published 6/9/2013
PEORIA – The seven-year-old Liberia Partnership, which started as a partnership aimed at assisting a country coming out of a 14-year civil war, has grown into a partnership that includes multiple conferences throughout the United States and Europe. In November, the first-ever Liberia Summit was held at Alton Main Street UMC, where persons from 14 states joined together in looking at priorities for working together.   The list of accomplishments is impressive in the first seven years of the ...

Pastors' Challenge Issued for Liberia Clergy Support

published 6/9/2013
An IGRC pastor has issued a challenge to fellow clergy to assist with Liberia pastor salary support. On Saturday morning of Annual Conference, a pastor who serves in a small community found me at the Liberia Display and handed me a personal check made out to IGRC for the Liberia Pastor Salary Support Advance 15124A for the amount of $1,000. This IGRC pastor, who wishes to remain anonymous, said to me, "If only 5 more pastors will match this amount, we will be able to support 25 pastors in ...

The Gathering of the Saints Celebrated at Memorial Service

published 6/9/2013
PEORIA – For retired Bishop William B. Lewis, the memorial service at the 2013 Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference was a homecoming. Elected in 1988 to the episcopacy from the former Southern Illinois Conference, Lewis, as a general superintendent of the church has his membership in the Council of Bishops. And so a return to where his ministry began was especially meaningful.   “I would like to thank Bishop Keaton for this invitation,” Lewis said. “As I looked down the list of persons, I ...

Gene Simon awarded Cramer-Heuerman Award for Social Justice

published 6/7/2013
PEORIA -- Retired pastor Gene Simon, who served for 31 years as chief executive officer of Chaddock, has been named the 2013 Cramer-Heuerman Award for social justice. The award was announced at the Social Justice Dinner during annual conference. Prior to his work at Chaddock, Simon worked as a therapist and later, as executive director at the Moultrie County Mental Health Center.  From 1959 to1971, Simon served as a United Methodist minister in the Illinois communities of Iroquois, Pontiac, ...

Georges Messan writes winning essay in Dude Essay Contest

published 6/7/2013
(Editor’s note: The following essay was written by Georges Messan, the winner of the Karleen Dude Child Advocacy Youth Essay Contest, sponsored by United Voices for Children. The topic of the essay is An Adult Who Is My Special Advocate.) Hello, my name is Georges Messan. I’m here to tell you about the amazing things God has led Tony to do in my life. It all started when I was in Togo (Africa). I was seven years old on the day my dad went to America. He left and it was only me and my mom who ...

Giving is a matter of communicating the mission

published 6/7/2013
PEORIA – Annual Conference speaker J. Clif Christopher must feel like the 1967 movie, Cool Hand Luke when discussing financial stewardship in churches – a failure to communicate. And judging from the comments on the conference Facebook pages and buzz on the annual conference floor – both positive and negative – Christopher certainly gave lay and clergy alike much to ponder when challenging ways in which they communicate their mission and conduct financial campaigns.   Borrowing from an old ...

Imitating Christ key to doing greater things

published 6/7/2013
PEORIA – Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton told this year’s class of ordinands that they have the capacity to serve God beyond anything they can “imagine or think” by developing the mindset of Christ, loving God and neighbor and being a servant leader. Seven were ordained elders in full connection, while three were commissioned as provisional member deacons and seven were commission as provisional member elders.   Using as his text Philippians 2: 1-11, Keaton acknowledged that the mindset of Christ in ...

Steinhoff named Renfro Child Advocate Award winner

published 6/7/2013
PEORIA – Retired diaconal minister Conrad Steinhoff has been named the 2013 recipient of the Mary Renfro Child Advocate Lifetime Achievement Award. The announcement was made at Friday United Voices for Children’s Breakfast during annual conference. Steinhoff, who has been deeply involved in many ministries in the metro east St. Louis area, particularly ministries related to Lebanon First UMC, has worked for the welfare of children and families, first as part of the staff at Hoyleton Ministries ...

Eugene Black named Cartwright Award winner

published 6/6/2013
PEORIA – At age 88, Rev. Eugene Black says his one wish would be that he was just starting out in the ministry. “I regret that I only have one life to preach for the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said. “I would like to just be beginning (the ministry) again and see what we (God and I) could do.”   For 49 years, Black faithfully served congregations in the former Southern Illinois Conference until mandatory retirement at age 70 in 1995. Then a year later, he embarked on a 14-year second career as ...

Lisa Guilliams awarded Denman Evangelism Award

published 6/6/2013
PEORIA – For Rev. Lisa Guilliams, evangelism is about connecting people to Jesus Christ. But she acknowledges that often times words are not the best medium for it. “What we have learned over the past several years at (Granite City) Trinity is that the spoken word often has to take a back seat,” she said. “As St. Francis of Assisi often said, ‘Preach the Gospel…use words only necessary.’ It is that quote that represents the building block upon which we have begun to revitalize Trinity UMC.”   ...

Extravagant generosity: it all begins with God

published 6/5/2013
PEORIA – Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton opened the 2013 Annual Conference with the retelling of the story of the prophet Elisha and the Shunammite woman to weave a tapestry of extravagant generosity in his first sermon and episcopal address since being assigned to the Illinois Area in September. “If there is one Old Testament prophet who embodies extravagant generosity, it’s Elisha,” Keaton said.   A wealthy woman, the Shunammite woman gifts others with the resources God places in her hands and ...

Clergy Health Survey report shows mixed results

published 5/30/2013
GLENVIEW—The Center for Health of the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits released the 2013 Clergy Health Survey Report on May 16 with results of its annual United Methodist Church clergy questionnaire identifying clergy health trends. For this second annual survey, the Center for Health reached out to 4,000 UMC clergy—1,602 clergy responded (40 percent return) to the 100-question online survey, representing a cross-section of active UMC clergy by jurisdiction, gender, race/ethnicity, ...

Daugher of IGRC retired pastor grateful to be safe following tornado

published 5/30/2013
(Editor’s note: Beth Groh is the daughter of IGRC retired pastor Earl and Sandra Renshaw of Murphysboro). MOORE, Okla. — A day after a deadly EF-5 tornado tore through Moore, Okla., Beth Groh wearily kept an eye on a stormy sky, grateful her family was safe.   Groh and her husband Jeff are Southern Illinois natives; both graduated from Murphysboro High School and have family in the Carbondale and Murphysboro area. The couple’s careers took them to Oklahoma City, and they decided to settle there....

Disaster response teams deployed during April flooding

published 5/30/2013
While levees along the Illinois held in Beardstown, Havana and Meredosia, residents of London Mills and Spring Bay were evacuated during flooding conditions in April. Rev. Judy Doyle, who serves as Illinois River District Disaster Response Team leader, contacted clergy and city officials in the affected areas to see what assistance could be given.   Two early response teams were mobilized by IGRC ERT Trainer Steve Schoeffel to assist with cleanup efforts in London Mills. The Midwest Mission ...

Farewell planned for Sharma

published 5/30/2013
JACKSONVILLE -- The United Methodist Deaf Faith Congregation, the Brooklyn UMC, and the Tuesday Morning Clergy Covenant Group (all of Jacksonville) are combining efforts to hold a farewell reception for the Rev. Elke Sharma. Rev. Sharma is transferring back to her home conference – Oregon-Idaho – this summer. She has served as the pastor of the Jacksonville UM Deaf Faith congregation for several years while also offering leadership to IGRC’s deaf and hard-of-hearing ministries. In addition, Rev....

Festival of Quilts raise $48,000 for Cunningham youth

published 5/30/2013
URBANA -- The 9th Annual Festival of Quilts, held at Cunningham Children's Home April 12-13, raised more than $48,000 to benefit Cunningham youth, surpassing last year’s total by $8,000. The Festival, which included a quilt show, silent auction, bake sale, quilt boutique and gift shop, added two popular features this year. In the Patchwork Cafe, guests were able to have lunch in the Spalding Hall cafeteria, just like Cunningham youth. Guests were also able to enjoy walking tours of Cunningham's ...

Garrett honors Spitzer with Service Award

published 5/30/2013
EVANSTON – Alice Spitzer, a retiring trustee for Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and member of Peoria First UMC, was recently awarded the Eliza Garrett Distinguished Service Award. GETS President Philip Amerson made the surprise presentation for Spitzer’s years of service to the church and seminary April 21 in front of her home congregation.   Spitzer and husband, Kyle moved to Peoria in 1968. With the exception of the four years they lived in Wisconsin, they have worshiped at Peoria ...

Gulley to speak at Aug. 24 banquet

published 5/30/2013
MT. VERNON – Rev. James Gulley will be the keynote speaker at the Third Annual Living the Adventure Ministries banquet at Mt. Vernon West Salem Trinity UMC on Aug. 24. The banquet will begin at 5:30 p.m. Prior to the banquet, Gulley will be leading a three-hour mission development presentation, sharing about his experience in Haiti. There is no cost for either the presentation or the banquet, although there will be an opportunity to give to the ministry of Living the Adventure ministries, For ...

Harrison garners Christian Service Award

published 5/30/2013
BELLEVILLE – Rev. Dr. Tim Harrison, chaplain, director of church relations and campus ministries at McKendree University, is one of three recipients of the 2013 Christian Service Award give by Christian Social Services of Illinois. The annual award, now in its 23rd year, recognizes outstanding individuals who reflect the mission and spirit of CSS. Joining Harrison as this year’s honorees are Pete Schumacher of Trenton and Judge Milton Wharton of Belleville. The trio was honored at an April 26 ...

How Disaster Giving Works

published 5/30/2013
When both the United Methodist Committee on Relief and an annual conference ask for funds, United Methodists who want to help in a disaster might be uncertain where to send donations. Conferences may set up their own funds to help with the immediate needs of housing, food, shelter and transportation. Conference fundraising is intended for raising money within the conference to meet immediate needs. The IGRC Disaster Response Fund is Advance 6800 or online.   If you desire to help at this time, ...

Oklahoma tornado impacts IGRC training event

published 5/30/2013
SPRINGFIELD – Participants in a May 22 Spiritual and Emotional Care training got a first-hand glimpse at the Oklahoma tornado from their trainer. Rev. Mary Hughes Gaudreau, a consultant with United Methodist Committee on Relief's Emergency Services office, lives in Oklahoma and due to the tornado, was unable to catch her flight out of Oklahoma City to be present for the May 22-23 training. In cooperation with IGRC Communications, Gaudreau conducted the basic training via the conference’s Adobe ...

Spiritual, emotional support for flood victims

published 5/30/2013
A program of the General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits is offering emotional and spiritual support for flood victims. Optum has a help line that will provide affected residents access to specially trained mental health specialists. The company’s public toll-free help line number, 866-342-6892, is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for as long as necessary. The service is free of charge and open to anyone. Specially trained Optum mental health specialists help people manage their ...

Who May Vote at Annual Conference?

published 5/30/2013
Because of Constitutional amendments being considered at this Annual Conference session, the rules of who may or may not vote are a little more complicated. Here’s a quick reference to assist you: Only the lay members and the clergy in full connection may vote on constitutional amendments. Provisional members, associate and affiliate members, and local pastors may not vote on constitutional amendments. (¶602.1b, c, & d) Clergy on honorable location are no longer members of the annual conference...

EF-2 tornado hits Mt. Olive

published 5/21/2013
MT. OLIVE -- The National Weather Service confirmed an EF2 tornado ripped through Mount Olive, about 10 p.m. May 20, damaging homes and businesses and downing trees and power lines. The EF-2 tornado struck the city center, traveling east for four blocks bringing winds of 120 to 125 mph. More than 40 homes and businesses were damaged in a four block area.   While there is extensive damage in downtown Mount Olive, no serious injuries were reported.

Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now...

published 5/10/2013
PEORIA – The Illinois Great Rivers Conference honored 21 pastors who are entering retired relationship Thursday morning. Utilizing the song made famous by the gospel group, the Happy Goodman Family, Wouldn’t Take Nothin’ for My Journey Now, Rev. Lou Zuck, one of the retirees from the Class of 2013, used video segments from 17 of his colleagues to amplify the song’s key messages: I started out traveling for the Lord many years ago I've had a lot of heartaches, had a lot of griefs and woes. ...

Bishop to lead Holy Land Trip

published 5/9/2013
Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton will lead a 10-day trip to the Holy Land Feb. 11-20, 2014. All inclusive packages starting from $3,196 with departures from St. Louis, Chicago or Indianapolis are available. Information on the trip and a downloadable brochure is available by visiting: It also includes a link to complete registration for the trip.   Discounts are available for early registration based upon when a $300 deposit to hold your place is paid. The full itinerary ...

Constitutional amendments now before the annual conference

published 5/9/2013
The 130 annual conferences in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Philippines and the United States are being asked to ratify four proposed amendments to the United Methodist Constitution. General Conference 2012 approved the amendments (which appear at Legislative Item 116 a-d, pages 36-29, in the Blue Legislative Section of the Pre-Conference Workbook). To be ratified, a proposed amendment must be passed by at least two-thirds of the General Conference delegates, followed by a two-thirds affirmative ...

Despite closures, Cokesbury will be at annual conference

published 5/9/2013
While the Cokesbury display at Annual Conference has been a fixture for years, much has changed behind the scenes during the past year in an effort to provide more services to annual conferences. The United Methodist Publishing House, which oversees operations at Cokesbury, announced in November that it was shuttering all 57 of its brick and mortar stores, including those at United Methodist seminaries and moving to employing 50 community-based resource consultants (CRCs). One of the closed ...

Get connected at Annual Conference

published 5/9/2013
A variety of communication options are available to lay and clergy members as well as folks back home that wish to keep in touch during the 2013 Annual Conference. During the Annual Conference session, a live webstream will be broadcasting at The webstream will on during all plenary and worship services.   Twitter users may tweet during Annual Conference with the hashtag #IGRC2013. Tweets with that hashtag will be aggregated on the 2013 Annual Conference Sessions page on...

Health insurance changes among issues to discuss, act upon

published 5/9/2013
Lay and clergy members who have attended for several years know there are certain reports that are received and considered at annual conference each year, many of these with financial implications. This year’s reports include proposed changes to the conference’s health insurance program, the setting of pension rates for retirees; proposed changes to standing rules involving clergy housing, the closing of churches that have completed their mission; a resolution on employment security for local ...

Resolutions to be considered at annual conference

published 5/9/2013
A plethora of legislative items awaits clergy and lay members to the 2013 Annual Conference when they meet in Peoria. In addition to the usual reports, the annual conference will consider a proposed capital campaign for Living Springs Camp, a modification to the Making Dreams Possible Scholarship initiative for Africa University and various social justice issues including a Christian response to violence spurred by the Newtown, Conn. Shooting; environmental issues such as coal miner protection, ...

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