Annual Conference Summary
The Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference was held in Peoria, Ill., June 1-4, under the theme of Intentional Faith Development: Growing Up to the Full Measure of Jesus Christ.
Theologians in Residence for the conference were Dr. Paul Chilcote, Professor of Historical Theology and Wesleyan Studies, and Director of the Center for Applied Wesleyan Studies at Ashland Theological Seminary in Ohio, and Dr. Kenda Creasy Dean, Professor of Youth, Church and Culture at Princeton Theological Seminary. Each made presentations during the Conference around the conference theme.
Bishop Gregory V. Palmer, in his episcopal address, reported on the progress of the four initiatives proposed in last year’s address. One of those initiatives – a $2.3 to $3.5 million campaign for Imagine No Malaria has resulted in $1.5 million in secured pledges, nearly $900,000 in actual receipts and 45 percent participation among IGRC congregations in the first six months of the campaign. United Methodist layman Mike McCurry was the keynote speaker at the All-Conference Dinner Imagine No Malaria celebration, encouraging the conference to “finish strong,” in reaching its campaign goal. Offerings collected during the conference for Imagine No Malaria totaled $27,312.
The IGRC Cabinet also reported on its First Thursday initiative – a day of prayer and fasting, which will continue in the next year, along with a challenge to read through the Bible in a year’s time. Resources will soon be posted on the IGRC website.
The conference also was honored with the presence of UMCOR executive Rev. Cynthia Harvey, who represented the General Board of Global Ministries and the Advance. Harvey reported that the IGRC gave $1.4 million to Advance Special giving in 2010, including $900,000 for Haiti earthquake relief. The conference also has 79 percent of its churches participating in designated giving, gave $200,000 in missionary support and commended the conference on both its Five-Star Mission program that encourages balanced support for missions and the partnership with the Liberia Annual Conference that has provided more than $3 million in support since its inception six years ago. The Illinois Great Rivers Conference was also recognized as one of 15 annual conferences to have paid 100 percent of apportioned general funds for 2010. Seven of the 15 conferences were in the North Central Jurisdiction.
The conference was also a homecoming celebration for Bishop Woodie W. White and wife Kim, who served as the Area’s Episcopal leader from 1984 to 1992. White preached both the opening Memorial Service and the Ordination service and the conference joined in celebrating the Whites’ 50th wedding anniversary and the 50th anniversary of Bishop White’s ordination as a United Methodist pastor. Bishop Palmer preached the three morning devotional times called Morning Manna. Palmer used the occasion to punctuate the conference theme of Intentional Faith Development as acts of Word, Sign and Deed. Rev. Mike Rayson served as conference worship leader.
Special offerings were received for the following: the John Kofi Asmah School in Monrovia, Liberia, $9,543; Africa University, providing scholarship assistance for two students, $7,445; the Tom Brown Scholarship at Wiley College, one of the church’s historic Black Colleges, $5,588; and funds for a mission trip experience for newly ordained clergy, $5,200. The conference also collected 12,454 hand towels in a challenge from the Iowa Annual Conference to supply UMCOR cleaning buckets for the Midwest Mission Distribution Center.
The conference elected the following as its delegation to the 2012 General Conference: Rev. Randy Robinson, LaMoine River District Superintendent and incoming pastor, Danville St. James UMC, Danville, Ill.; Rev. Sara Isbell, Pastor, Chatham UMC, Chatham, Ill.; Rev. Sylvester Weatherall, Pastor, Grace-Kumler UMC’s, Springfield, Ill.; Rev. Andrew Adams, Pastor, Quest UMC, Champaign, Ill.; Rev. Janice Griffith, Spoon River District Superintendent, Galesburg, Ill.; Rev. J. Keith Zimmerman, retiring Vermilion River District Superintendent, Mackinaw, Ill.
Laypersons also elected to the General Conference delegation were: Rhonda Whitaker, IGRC Lay Leader, Grace UMC, Neoga, Ill.; Paul Black, IGRC Director of Communication Ministries, Jerome UMC, Springfield, Ill.; Mike Potts, New Horizon UMC, Champaign, Ill.; Bunny Wolfe, IGRC Director of Outreach and Missions, Chatham, Ill.; Ryan Davis, Havana First UMC, Havana, Ill.; and Marian McCray, Mississippi River District Lay Leader, Park UMC, Cahokia, Ill.
In addition to the General Conference delegation, those serving as the Jurisdictional Conference delegation are: Rev. Shane Bishop, Pastor, Christ UMC, Fairview Heights, Ill.; Rev. Rose Booker-Jones, pastor, Peoria Bethel UMC, Peoria, Ill.; Rev. Roger Ross, pastor, First UMC, Springfield, Ill.; Rev. Kelligay King Crede, chaplain, Cunningham Home, Urbana, Ill.; Rev. Jason Woolever, pastor, Bethel UMC, Mascoutah, Ill.; Rev. Dennis Price, pastor, Troy UMC, Troy, Ill.; and alternates Rev. Jeremiah Thompson, associate pastor, Mahomet UMC, Mahomet, Ill., and Rev. Carol Lakota Eastin, pastor, Rantoul UMC, Rantoul, Ill.
Laypersons serving on the jurisdictional delegation are: Melissa Calvillo, Carthage UMC, Carthage, Ill.; Robin Williams, Wesley UMC, Vergennes, Ill.; Fred Iutzi, Carthage UMC, Carthage, Ill.; Steve Schonert, First UMC, Olney, Ill.; Carolyn Yockey, First UMC, Normal, Ill.; J. LaVon Wilson, Grace UMC, Springfield, Ill.; and alternates John Kauerauf, First UMC, Springfield, Ill., and Alan Prass, Christ UMC, Fairview Heights, Ill.
Bishop Palmer ordained nine elders and one deacon in full connection. Palmer commissioned eight provisional elders. A total of 24 pastors, celebrating 664.75 years, retired.
Attendance stands at 65,462, down 1.9 percent from the previous year. Membership is at 138,732, down 1.3 percent from 2009. Sunday School attendance stands at 23,559, a decrease of 5.6 percent from 2009.
Although voting for clergy and laity delegates dominated much of the plenary session, the annual conference did take action on the following:
- 2012 budget (Legislative Item 103) -- up 2.34 percent over the 2011 budget. The budget included an 8 percent increase for conference benevolences which took a decrease in 2011. Many of the agencies who received financial support from this line-item have also been impacted by budgetary problems at the state and federal levels, since many of those services provided are paid for with government funds.
- Pastoral Care and Counseling (Legislative Item 112) -- The 2011 budget was amended to provide $62,500 for the Office of Pastoral Care and Counseling. In return, Pastoral Care and Counseling is returning $200,000 in reserve funds to the Conference and with the inclusion of $125,000 for the Office in the 2012 budget.
- Pension rates (Legislative Item 105) -- The rate for pre-1982 service years will be $674.16 -- an increase of 2 per cent.
- Moving to Medicare Part D (Legislative Item 107) -- beginning Jan. 1, 2012, all Medicare-eligible retirees will moved from the IGRC self-funded prescription drug plan to Medicare Part D. Premiums for retiree health insurance will be reduced from $65 per month to $35 and spousal coverage will be reduced from $100 per month to $70 per month. These savings can then be used to purchase Medicare Part D. Conference staff will assist in enrollment and Preachers' Aid Society has pledged to be a safety net in the transition.
- Health insurance rates (Legislative Item 105) -- Local church's direct bill for 2012 remains unchanged at $17,520 per year for each full-time pastor. Active clergy contribution for individual coverage and spousal coverage are also unchanged at $65 per month and $320 per month respectively.
- Minimum salaries (Legislative Item 111) -- For 2012, Minimum salary for clergy in full connection, associate members and provisional elders will be $36,255; for full-time local pastors, $33,180. Both figures represent a 5 percent increase over 2011.
- Provision of Internet (Legislative Item 108) -- A new standing rule was adopted that requires local churches to provide and pay for internet service, high speed if available, at the designated office or place where the pastor is expected to perform his or her pastoral duties.
- Wesley Foundation at University of Illinois (Legislative Item 113) -- The annual conference approved holding a special celebration for the first Wesley Foundation in United Methodism in conjunction with the ministry's 100th anniversary in 2013. The legislation also directed the annual conference secretary to forward this information for consideration by the 2012 General Conference.
- Location of Annual Conference (Legislative Item 115) -- The conference session approved by a vote of 87 percent affirmative, to remain in Peoria for annual conference through 2017. Dates for the annual conference are as follows: June 5-8, 2013; June 4-7, 2014; June 10-13, 2015; June 8-11, 2016; and June 7-10, 2017. The 2012 Annual Conference will be held June 6-9.
- Renewal of IGRC Covenants with Chaddock and Evenglow Lodge (Legislative Items 116, 130). Each agreeement spells out expectations and guidelines between the conference and the agencies.
- Establishment of Disability Awareness Sunday (Legislative Item 117) on the fourth Sunday of September each year with a recommendation for a special offering to be taken.
- Churches completing their mission (Legislative Items 120-127) : The following churches were recognized this year for completing their mission -- Annapolis UMC, Embarras River District; Flanagan UMC, Vermilion River District; Goodwine UMC, Iroquois River District; Johnstown UMC, Embarras River District; Ramsey UMC, Embarras River District; Decatur South Shores UMC, Sangamon River District; Westervelt UMC, Embarras River District.
- Other property issues -- the deed of the Tiskilwa UMC was transferred to its successor, the Tiskilwa Community Church (Legislative Item 127) and the sale of the LaMoine River District parsonage in Jacksonville was authorized (Legislative Item 129).
- Realignment of Conference Personnel Committee (Legislative Item 114): The action merely brings the guidelines into congruity with personnel changes that occurred in 2006, which elevated the Director of Communcations to a Cabinet level position.