Bishop outlines four major initiatives


Bishop Gregory V. Palmer during the Episcopal Address

Listen to the Episcopal Address

PEORIABishop Gregory V. Palmer called on United Methodists in southern and central Illinois to join in a revival movement that involves four major initiatives – a means of getting back to the Why while paying attention to the What and How.

“Will you join me? Let’s get in the revival,” Palmer urged at the conclusion of his 45- minute episcopal address, which was greeted with a standing ovation by the nearly 2,000 in attendance.
Palmer noted that in each of the past two years, IGRC congregations have shown a combined drop of 2 percent each year in worship attendance. “However, during the same time, we have seen an increase in professions of faith,” Palmer said. “I am hunching that something is afoot and we need to be a part of it. I want to throw myself in the middle of it.”
The four major initiatives include:
·         Revival
·         Conflict transformation
·         A conference dashboard
·         Participating in the Imagine No Malaria campaign
Recalling the story told by Bishop C. P. Minnick from his days as a parish pastor in Virginia, Palmer said Minnick had a woman named Olive that had one persistent question that was asked at every gathering of the church, “What does this have to do with John 3:16?” Before long, that question, which began as a minor irritation allowed Minnick to return to the Why?
“We have become more dull to the mission of Why than it deserves,” Palmer said. “We might as well get out of business because we already are if we can’t answer that question. Are you in business? If so, for what? What business are you in?”

Palmer said that on an annual basis the Conference will engage in a conference-wide study, similar to the Acts Bible Study which was conducted this year between Easter and Pentecost. “It is absolutely essential for us to keep the main thing and the main thing,” he said.
Utilizing modern technology, Palmer also issued an invitation to join in a simultaneous revival where there would be “multiple services, but one spoken word” throughout the conference.
Conflict transformation
In examining the role of superintending, Palmer said that too much time is spent on conflicted situations “without the ongoing resources of moving toward reconciliation.”
Palmer announced the formation of a conference-wide ministry of conflict transformation and reconciliation. A cadre of lay and clergy volunteers will be trained to serve as conflict interventionists.
“We need to assist congregations that are off-mission, off-script, off-point and off-focus because of unaddressed unresolved conflict,” Palmer said. “But the approach has to be truth and mission-based not shame and guilt.”
Conference Dashboard
Utilizing the capacity of the new IGRC website, Palmer announced that churches would be invited beginning in September to enter weekly statistical data into a Conference dashboard module. The information is data “you are already collecting,” Palmer noted and will focus on discipleship markers, including evangelistic and missional tasks.
“Telling a bit of our story through the dashboard can provoke questions that can help us,” Palmer said. “We can begin to see our potential for strength and rather than bemoaning our situation ask the question, ‘what do we want more of, and how do we get it?’”
More information about the Conference dashboard will be announced over the summer months as well as training on the new technology.
Participation in Imagine No Malaria
Palmer also called on United Methodists to join in the greater Imagine No Malaria campaign.
“We need to immerse ourselves in the vision of a world without malaria; dream dreams so big that without working together they cannot be done and absent God’s help we will surely fail,” Palmer said. “We need to attempt great things for God and expect great things from God.”
Palmer set a minimum goal of $2.1 million and a challenge goal of $3.5 million. The figure is derived by taking the total average attendance in IGRC churches, assume a participation level of between 30 and 50 percent with an average contribution of $100 per person.
When addressing the size of the goal, Palmer believes the goal is attainable.
“Not only are you on point week in and week out in mission delivery, but your response to tragedy and disaster is extraordinary,” he said. He cited the following examples of combined conference giving:
  • $587,212 in giving for Southeast Asia tsunami relief
  • $938,160 in Hurricane Katrina relief
  • $776,824 in Haiti earthquake relief
“In addition, the percentage of apportionments paid at the end of May is 1.5 percent ahead of last year and the highest since the Illinois Great Rivers Conference was formed 14 years ago,” Palmer said. “If we work up to or over our capacity, we can tie our efforts in this campaign to Liberia, our partner Annual Conference. Can you imagine with me 210,000 bed nets or 350,000 bed nets and the lives saved?”
Following the adjournment of annual conference, Palmer said he would form the appropriate leadership team and work with the established leadership structures of the conference to launch the campaign before the end of 2010.