Conference elects delegates, generous in giving

By Paul Black

PEORIA – The Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference gathered June 6-8, around the theme, Let’s Get Fired Up: Hearts Strangely Warmed by the Blaze of the Holy Spirit, at the Peoria Civic Center.

The elections of lay and clergy delegates in concurrent lay and clergy sessions dominated the early business of the annual conference.

Elected to represent the conference at the 2020 General Conference in Minneapolis, Minn are:

Laity: Paul Black, Springfield, Anna Fender, Decatur, Pamela Hammond-McDavid, Springfield, Kimberly Woods, Industry and Steven Schonert, Olney.

Clergy: Sara Isbell, Bloomington, Randy Robinson, Danville, Janice Griffith, Chatham, Beverly Wilkes-Null, Highland and Eric Swanson, Leroy.

In addition to the General Conference delegates, the following delegates were elected to complete the conference delegation to the North Central Jurisdictional Conference in Fort Wayne, Ind.:

Laity: Anish Hermon, Bloomington, Julie Boesen Higgins, Bloomington, John Cooper, Hillsboro, Christina Krost, Carrier Mills and Larry Weber, Fairview Heights.

Clergy: Beth Fender, Decatur, Mike Crawford, Quincy, Jennie Edwards Bertrand, Bloomington, Andy Adams, Troy and Nicole Cox, Springfield.

Lay jurisdictional alternates elected were Erik Slingerland, Bloomington, Clarke Barnes, Geneseo, and Andrea Stuby, Alton.

Clergy jurisdictional alternates elected were Sylvester Weatherall, Springfield, Gay Crede, Urbana, and Vince Rohn, Galesburg.

Presiding Bishop Frank J. Beard gave an outline of the process of local churches disaffiliating with the conference. Conference leaders are working toward finalizing the process by Sept. 1, but Beard noted that the plan passed by the 2019 General Conference and upheld by the Judicial Council is “narrow in focus, for a specific period of time, for a specific issue” and that the process includes annual conference and conference trustees’ participation.

An offering of $96,735 was collected during Friday’s Morning Manna for the Our Conference, Our Kids campaign, pushing the campaign to $904,954 of its $2.5 million goal. The campaign, which will be used to endow the spiritual life programs at five conference children and youth welfare agencies was approved by the 2016 Annual Conference and launched at the 2017 session.

Other special offerings included $6,704.52 by conference laity for the maintenance fund of the John Kofi Asmah School in West Point, Liberia; $7,605.58 for the Tom Brown Scholarship at Wiley College and $8,589.24 for the Bishop’s Ordinand Trip to the Holy Land in February 2020.

Legislatively, the conference announced that the health insurance allowance paid to full-time pastors will remain at $17,500 for 2020. The conference also approved a 2.25 percent increase to its minimum salaries. In 2020, the salaries will go to $44,358 for clergy in full connection, associate members and provisional elders; and $40,705 for full-time local pastors.

It was reported that all three conference pension funds are fully funded and no increase was needed in the Clergy Retirement Security Program (CRSP) contribution for 2020. No change was needed for the defined benefits portion of the CRSP plan, which stands at $5,700 per year for full-time pastors; $4,275 for ¾ time pastors; and $2,850 for ½ time pastors. Pastors at ¼ time or less are not eligible.

Retirees under the pre-1982 pension plan will see a 2 percent increase to $794 per active service year in 2020.

It was also announced that the closing of Living Springs Camp was consummated just days before the start of the Conference session. In 2015, the annual conference authorized the sale of three of five conference camps – Living Springs, Epworth and Jensen Woods – to consolidate and invest in the other two campsites – East Bay and Little Grassy. The sale of Living Springs was the final sale of campsites and conference attendees saw a report of the improvements that have been made with the sale proceeds at East Bay and Little Grassy.

The conference also approved an initiative by congregational development, Reach 1,000 lending its support to local congregations reaching 1,000 new people from new ministries and reaching 1,000 additional new people through existing ministries. Congregational development is putting systems in place to provide training, coaching and assistance in the endeavor.

The 2020 budget of $12,099,908 was approved – a decrease of $7,408 or 0.06 percent. This is the seventh year of a relatively flat budget with the 2020 total less than the 2013 budget.

The conference approved the discontinuance of 14 churches –Big Prairie UMC; Blue Mound Bethel UMC; Bonnie UMC; Bryant UMC; Charleston Otterbein UMC; Colp UMC; Decatur Central UMC; Garrison Temple UMC; Irvington UMC; Prairieton UMC; Providence Chapel UMC; St. Jacob UMC; Twoer Hill UMC; and Vandalia Luster Chapel UMC – with a combined 2,120 years of ministry.

Seven elders were ordained. Three provisional elders and four provisional deacons were commissioned.

A total of 30 pastors with a combined 769.5 years of service retired.

Membership stands at 118,681 in 2018, down 3,841 from 2017. Average worship attendance is 51,696, down 1,599.  Church school attendance stands at 17,046, up 12.

The 2020 Annual Conference will be June 4-6, 2020, at the Peoria Civic Center in Peoria.