Wow, where did the time go?
Three years ago, I was elected as a Bishop in the United Methodist Church and assigned to the Illinois Great Rivers Conference (IGRC). After my first three years, I am still excited and proud to be your Bishop!
We are in the midst of turbulent times within the life of our denomination. Only the good Lord knows exactly where we are headed. I remain committed to serving the Lord, Jesus Christ, upholding my baptismal vows, my ordination vows, and my consecration vows as a Bishop. I remain committed to the IGRC, loving and serving everyone while sharing the life-changing good news of Jesus Christ. I am trying to provide strong, Christ-centered leadership that will enable this Annual Conference to achieve its mission and goals.
The IGRC has a tremendous track record of supporting many mission ministries beyond our conference boundary lines. We have been successful in outreach ministries that have focused on No More Malaria, Africa University, Liberia, Guatemala, Honduras, and many other vital ministries outside of the IGRC.
The 2016 Annual Conference, prior to my election and assignment, voted to accept the challenge of “doing something at home to help our conference and our kids.” One idea that emerged and gained support was creating a fund that would financially endow the Spiritual Life Ministries at The Baby Fold, Chaddock, Cunningham Children's Home, Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House, and Spero Family Services. The purpose of this endowment is to ensure the continued inclusion of Christ-centered spiritual care in these ministries that are a vital part of the IGRC family, hence the name, “Our Conference Our Kids.”
As of Aug. 1, we have had more than 397 churches make a financial commitment to this conference-wide project. Three churches have given over $20,000 each (Springfield First, Peoria First, and Normal First). Three additional churches have given over $15,000 each (Springfield Laurel, Savoy, and Fairbury First). Ten more churches have each given $10,000 or more (Decatur Grace, Nashville Grace, Troy, Macomb Wesley, Canton Wesley, Kinmundy First, Pekin First, Peoria University, Vandalia First, and Belleville Union).
Churches of all sizes and in all locations have been supportive of this project. Alma UMC, a congregation of 22 members, gives 10 percent of its weekly offering to OCOK and has done so for about three years. Their donations at the end of June totaled $4,488. This is about $200 per member so far and growing every week! They rank 37th in giving to OCOK! These churches lay leaders and pastors are demonstrating the extravagant generosity that we are known for as an Annual Conference.
It has been my honor to support and encourage others to support this exciting project. My wife, Melissa, and I are financially committed to this campaign. I have heard that some of our clergy have been waiting to hear directly from me regarding my expectations for their involvement in the OCOK campaign. That would help give some explanation for the more than 400 churches that have not yet made a financial commitment to the OCOK ministry. OF COURSE, I EXPECT ALL OF OUR APPOINTED PASTORS TO BE INVOLVED IN THIS CONFERENCE MINISTRY. I expect each pastor to make a personal contribution and to encourage the churches to which they are appointed to do the same. This is a Conference-wide campaign that requires the support of laity and clergy working together.
Two years ago, my wife joined me in giving a gift in celebration of our IGRC Anniversary. This gift was given in appreciation for each congregation in the IGRC. In celebration of our third anniversary, I pledge to give an additional $10 for every active pastor that sends in a personal contribution to OCOK, no matter the size, between Sept. 1 through Nov. 1. This has the potential of being a gift of more than $4,000! No matter what you think about the current state of our beloved denomination, we still have much work to do together as an Annual Conference. The five ministries that belong to the IGRC need our help, and I can think of no better way of demonstrating our unity in Jesus Christ, as an Annual Conference, than by pooling our resources to ensure a spiritual legacy that provides ongoing spiritual care for children and families.
Happy Anniversary IGRC family! Let’s pull together and support both Our Conference and Our Kids.