NCJ gathers in Peoria to elect four bishops

published 7/7/2016
When delegates from the 11 annual conferences of the North Central Jurisdiction gather in Peoria, Ill., July 13-16, they become part of a 76-year tradition. In the United States, The United Methodist Church is divided into five areas known as jurisdictions -- Northeastern, Southeastern, North Central, South Central and Western. In some jurisdictions, program and leadership training events to support the annual conferences are present. Every four years the jurisdictional conferences meet simultaneously to elect new bishops and select members of general boards and agencies.

Welcome to NCJ2016!

published 7/7/2016
Welcome to the 2016 North Central Jurisdictional Conference. Our 2016 Conference theme is Living Together: In Unity…Amid Diversity…for Ministry, based upon Ephesians 4: 1-16. Conference communicators from the NCJ are working collaboratively to provide news and information about the quadrennial gathering, which will get underway on at 10 a.m. July 13, with Opening Worship and is tentatively scheduled to adjourn at 6 p.m. July 16. A Consecration Service for the four newly-elected bishops will be at 10 a.m. July 16 at Peoria First UMC, 116 NE Perry Ave.

Bishop Keaton with IGRC UMW

published 6/26/2016
Pictured are those from the IGRC United Methodist Women who attended the North Central Jurisdictional meeting in Grand Rapids, Mich., June 23-26.

Bishops at NCJ UMW gathering

published 6/26/2016
Six bishops from the North Central Jurisdiction share a moment of levity during the NCJ United Methodist Women’s Gathering June 23-26 in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Crowded field vies for four College of Bishop vacancies

published 6/13/2016
A field of 17 candidates will be offered for election to jurisdictional delegates when the North Central Jurisdiction gathers July 13-16 at the Peoria Civic Center.

Annual Conference focuses on The Harvest

published 6/12/2016
By Paul Black PEORIA -- The Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference gathered around the theme, The Fields are Ripe for the Harvest June 8-11, 2016 at the Peoria Civic Center. This year’s conference celebrated the 46 years of ministry of Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton, who will be retiring Aug. 31 after 20 years as bishop in the North Central Jurisdiction. IGRC Communications produced five video vignettes entitled, Bishop Keaton: In His Own Words, as he shared about his life and ministry. As part of...

Ettinger receives Scouting's Torch Award

published 6/11/2016
Bill Ettinger, a member of Springfield Laurel UMC received the Torch Award recently during a Court of Honor at the church. He has been involved in the Scouting ministries of his church for most of his life. He was a Cub Scout and Boy Scout at his home church in Taylorville, attaining the rank of Eagle Scout. After college, Bill became involved with the BSA in the Abraham Lincoln Council by serving as an adult advisor to the Order of the Arrow, and began serving as an Assistant Scoutmaster.

Rivers of Life donation to AU

published 6/11/2016
The Rivers of Life Clergy Band presented Bishop Jonathan Keaton a $2,647 check for Africa University’s Making Dreams Possible campaign prior to the band leading worship at Annual Conference.

Churches can become involved in disability outreach

published 6/10/2016
The Rev. H. Russell Ewell gave a challenge to the churches of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference in becoming more aware of people with disabilities – Get Started!

“When you consider that about 20 percent of the U.S. population are persons with disabilities, that is a large audience that many are writing off,” Ewell said. “A larger share of persons with disabilities do not participate in weekly worship because the message is they are not invited.”

Congregational development video shows creative edge in reaping harvest

published 6/10/2016
When it comes to church development, the possibilities are endless and IGRC Coordinator of Congregational Development pushed that creative thinking with a humorous video entitled Dreaming New Places for New Faces. “Not every dream of new places is the right idea for a new church, but many can be great ideas of new places to connect with people in small groups or other new ministries,” Crawford said in his part of the Connectional Ministries report. “So keep dreaming!”

Crawford, Harrison, Fox win Denman, Keaton honored with Cartwright Award

published 6/10/2016
IGRC Coordinator of Congregational Development Mike Crawford was selected as the Denman Evangelism Award for clergy, while young adult Madeline Harrison of Canton Wesley UMC and Ean Fox of Kinmundy UMC were selected as the laity and youth recipients of the evangelism awards. Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton was awarded the Peter Cartwright Lifetime Achievement Award and all four were recognized on Friday as part of the Connectional Ministries report.

DCM urges change to include more of the family

published 6/10/2016
Our churches are full of broken people – old gray mares and stallions who “ain’t what they used to be” but are filled with passion, gifts, skills for ministry honed over a lifetime that they can still use to build up the body of Christ. Some of them have handicapping conditions they were born with or developed through age, accident, or illness.

They and I are children of God and can and should be contributing members to the Body of Christ, but are often overlooked because we lack the vision to see them.

Discipleship opportunities for churches, individuals abound

published 6/10/2016
There are a number of ways in which persons can develop their discipleship and leading others on their discipleship journey. Here’s a small sampling of opportunities:

Five Star Mission Churches for 2015

published 6/10/2016
The following churches were recognized as Five Star Churches for 2015. To become a Five Star church, follow the guidelines that are given in the 2016 Five Star Challenge booklet. Certificates are given at Annual Conference to all Five Star churches. If you have any questions, contact Bunny Wolfe.

Hispanic ministries: Another field waiting to be harvested

published 6/10/2016
Ministry with a growing Hispanic population represents one of the largest fields awaiting a discipleship harvest. IGRC Associate Coordinator for Hispanic Ministries Adrian Garcia believes that with planning and strategy, Hispanic ministries could be a bountiful harvest.

Hopp puts on her boots by answering God’s call

published 6/10/2016
For Kristi Hopp, the journey to fully answering her call was a steady progression of being available and being faithful. Using her pair of boots as a centerpiece of her story, Hopp recounted how when putting on the boots she knew that it wasn’t going to be easy.

Seven years ago, Hopp said her mentor set her down at lunch and said, “Kristi, you are so passionate about trauma-related injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder, why don’t you consider a career in the military?”

IGRC mission partnerships now on four continents

published 6/10/2016
What began 10 years ago as a single mission partnership with a west African country has now blossomed into four mission partnerships on four different continents. And there are plenty of opportunities to be involved with them.

Kreeb, Strassheim, Crede honored

published 6/10/2016
Former Lessie Bates Davis Neighborhood House CEO Bill Kreeb was honored for his 35 years of service as he and Cunningham Home Chaplain Gay Crede were named the winners of the Social Justice Awards at Friday’s social justice dinner during Annual Conference. Kreeb was named this year’s Cramer-Tolly Award, while Crede, as clergy, was honored as Cramer-Heuerman Award recipient by the IGRC Chapter of the Methodist Federation for Social Action. And Kreeb and former Baby Fold CEO Dale Strassheim were honored during the Golden Cross Ministries segment of the conference agenda.

The many stories of the Coal City tornado

published 6/10/2016
I would like to share the rest of the story with you. It’s a story that amidst the chaos has a happy ending. It’s a story about a community that refused to allow adversity to defeat it. A community that reached out in a time of need and joined together to make itself stronger and about a church that was right in the middle of it all.

We have this ministry...all of us

published 6/10/2016
Bishop B. Michael Watson reminded those gathered for the Service of Ordination and Commissioning that all are called to be God’s ambassadors.
“Ministry is the calling of the baptized. Ministry is for us all,” Watson said. With selected verses of II Corinthians 4 and 5, Watson explained that baptism marks the beginning of being a minister of Jesus Christ.

'Get up': a part of developing one's faith

published 6/9/2016
Using the stories of the woman with an issue of blood and the death of Jairus’ daughter, Christ demonstrated a commitment to work on the nature and depth of our faith.

“We’re not just marching to Zion.  We’re not just joining William Cullen Bryant’s ‘innumerable caravan of death.’ We’re not just singing It is well,” said Bishop Jonathan Keaton in the annual conference memorial sermon. “We’re on our way to that Great Getting Up Morning.  On that day, Christ will call us to ‘Get Up.’  He will wipe every tear from our eyes… ‘mourning, crying and death will be no more’ for the former things will have passed away.  Get up, there will be no more night (in the city of God) … no need for light of lamp or sun … for the Lord God will be our light, and we shall reign forever and ever.  Hallelujah. Amen.”

Disability, the Church and the Harvest

published 6/9/2016
Ministry with persons with disabilities and not ministry to or for them represents one of the largest fields the church has not fully harvested.

Dr. Amos Yong of Fuller Theological Seminary, set a theological framework for the church’s ministry with persons with disabilities as part of the 2016 Annual Conference emphasis on disability awareness.

Fuller, who has written two books on the theology and disability became interested in the topic when his younger brother, Mark, was born with Down's Syndrome.

Focusing on the Light

published 6/9/2016
What is it that either captivates us or that holds our attention? This is no idle question for where we direct our time, talents and passion determines to a very large extent the people we become. Do we concentrate on either the light or the darkness?

Year after year we are bombarded with information. We receive each annual conference the statistics regarding the membership in our churches, the strength of financial giving and the current trends. I am neither suggesting that someone shouldn’t be assigned to assemble this data nor that we shouldn’t pay attention to it. I am saying it should not be our primary focus.

How my walk with God started to roll

published 6/9/2016
The day of June 13, 1999, started like any other day. I felt good. I talked on the phone, watched TV and visited with family. Then that afternoon I started getting a headache. This didn’t alarm me. I got headaches all the time. I took some Ibuprofen, but it didn’t even faze my pain. My mom rubbed my head. I laid on the bed with the lights off. I tried to distract myself with a phone call to my best friend. Nothing was helping! The pain as unbearable. I didn’t know what to think. I had never heard of meningococcal meningitis.

See you tomorrow: God's loud shout

published 6/9/2016
Leave it to the 2011 World Series, a seminary experience at St. Paul’s School of Theology and a 2002 fire at Belleville Union UMC to reinforce the message for retirement, “See you tomorrow.”

“See you tomorrow is God’s loud shout, ‘This world will not defeat God,’” Weston said. “God gives us tomorrow – either here on Earth or on the other side. Because tomorrow is where God lives, where God’s Kingdom is and it is God’s gift to us."

The fields are ripe for the harvest

published 6/8/2016
Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton reminded those gathered at the 2016 Annual Conference that God uses some of the most unlikely people to help with the harvest.

In the opening worship, Keaton wove a tapestry of images based upon the story of the Samaritan woman at the well as the backdrop to punctuate the conference’s theme, The Fields Are Ripe for the Harvest.

Harry Statham's coaching record

published 2/18/2016
Year-by-year record of Coach Harry Statham, men's basketball coach at McKendree University.

Integrity, character key to McKendree coach's successful run

published 2/18/2016
Over his 50 years at the helm of the Bearcats, 78-year-old Harry Statham has created a culture that doesn’t change. “We stress integrity and character as a priority here,” he explained. “Academics are second and basketball is third. In the long run, it wins out. You might lose some games, but you probably would lose them anyway when a player’s priorities aren’t straight.”
Some might cite the philosophy as “old school” in a day when college basketball has become a big money sport.

Statham part of 9 OT high school basketball game

published 2/18/2016
Although Harry Statham has made his mark in college basketball, he did coach five years of Illinois High School basketball and his name will always be associated with one of the longest high school basketball games in the state’s history. The game lasted two hours and 25 minutes and with nine overtimes, stands as the Illinois state record for the longest high school basketball game.

One million reasons to tee-it-up for Africa University

published 1/29/2016
The Fifth Annual Bishops' Open will be Friday, April 22, at the Edgewood Golf Club in Auburn, just minutes south of Springfield.

The Bishop’s Open offers you many ways to touch the lives that enter the corridors of Africa University:
Pray for Africa University
Bring a Foursome for an Awesome Day of Fun
Be a Recruiter. We need 144 golfers and you can pass the word around
Register early as an individual and we will help you to find three new friends
If you are not a golfer, volunteer for a shift or for the whole day
Donate gifts that can be auctioned off to benefit this endowment

The Year in Review: The challenge of loving one's neighbor

published 12/17/2015
The year 2015 provided many challenges for United Methodists in the Illinois Great Rivers Conference as changes on many fronts swept through and much of the challenge was how to respond. Jesus summed up the totality of the law by teaching we are to love God and to love neighbor. The second half of the Great Commandment seemed to be the struggle of 2015. The conference was not alone in those changes.

January mission trips to Liberia postponed

published 12/10/2015
Due to the U.S. State Department’s heightened international travel alert until late February 2016, and the recent three new cases of Ebola in the outlying area of the capital city of Monrovia, the January teams scheduled for travel to Liberia are being postponed. Although there have now been 21 days with no new cases of Ebola in Liberia, it will take 42 days for CDC to declare Liberia once again Ebola free.

Hoke appointed to new camping position

published 12/4/2015
In consultation with the IGRC Camping Commission and the Cabinet, Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton has announced the appointment of the Rev. Ed Hoke to a newly-created Minister of Mission Expansion, effective Jan. 1. Hoke, pastor of the Goreville and Creal Springs UMC’s in the Cache River District and chair of the IGRC Commission on Camping and Retreat Ministries for the past three years, will be leaving both assignments to accept the new, full-time position within camping.

Lawsuit against Ohio Chapel dismissed, IGRC to refile

published 11/12/2015
A Pulaski County Circuit Court judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Illinois Great Rivers Conference against a breakaway congregation that declared its independence in March, but the judge left open the possibility of the conference refiling its suit after “connecting the dots” in a case involving the denomination’s trust clause.

Weatherall endorsed for episcopacy by IGRC delegation

published 11/12/2015
The IGRC general and jurisdictional conference delegation has unanimously endorsed Spoon River District Superintendent, the Rev. Sylvester Weatherall as its candidate for bishop. Weatherall emerged from a field of four finalists Nov. 7 that capped a month-long period of prayer and discernment by the IGRC delegation as to whether to offer a candidate to the 2016 North Central Jurisdictional Conference, which will be held July 13-16, in Peoria

African bishops issue statement on global terrorism, marriage and sexuality, unity of church

published 11/4/2015
From September 7-11, 2015, we the Bishops of the Central Conferences of Africa gathered at the Elephant Hills Resort, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, as part of our Annual business meeting. Highlights of the meeting included worship, fellowship, and evaluation of ministries and responsibilities God has entrusted to our care as Shepherds of His flock.

Campus ministry: a place of authentic connection

published 10/29/2015
These moments have shown me how deeply college students have a desire to be known, a desire to find people to have authentic connection with in a world where that authenticity can be difficult to find. They are reminders that the role I play in this campus ministry is important to helping these students find that genuine connection. Most importantly, these moments have taught me that our campus ministry must always be a place where these authentic connections happen. These students have stories to tell and so much to teach the rest of us, and they are looking for a place to do just that.

Construction underway at Chaddock

published 10/29/2015
Construction crews are starting to erect structural steel on the new school at Chaddock. More than 15,000 cubic yards of dirt have been moved, 1,500 cubic yards of concrete poured and 4,000 tons of gravel laid. The plan is to have the building under roof before winter weather sets in so that work can start on the inside during the winter months. The project is still on its timeline for children to occupy the new school by the start of the 2016-17 school year.

Earl Dickey celebrates 100th birthday

published 10/29/2015
Retired pastor Rev. Earl Dickey gathered with family and friends to celebrate his 100th birthday Sept. 8. Earl wasn’t the only centenarian that week. Marie Mitchell, widow of Rev. Carl Mitchell, also celebrated her 108th birthday in September. Rev. Mary Erwin celebrated her 99th birthday Oct. 24.

Godly values: Qualities that transcend time

published 10/29/2015
(Editor’s note: The following is a transcript of the Peter Cartwright Memorial Sermon delivered by the Rev. Dr. John Sims on Oct. 11, 2015, at the Peter Cartwright UMC in Pleasant Plains. The scriptural text is John 2:18-22.)   By Rev. Dr. John Sims Retired IGRC clergy The title of my sermon this morning, Godly Values, is misleading. When I sent this title and Scripture to the pastor here at Peter Cartwright UMC, my thought was to focus upon the values Peter Cartwright lifted up during his life ...

Hearing on Ohio Chapel set for Nov. 10

published 10/29/2015
A hearing has been set for Nov. 10 at 9 a.m., in Pulaski County Circuit Court on a lawsuit filed by the Illinois Great Rivers Conference against Ohio Chapel Church, a breakaway congregation that declared its independence from the denomination in March.

IGRC episcopal field narrowed to four

published 10/29/2015
The IGRC delegation to the 2016 General and Jurisdictional conferences will interview four candidates who have offered themselves for consideration to the episcopacy following a screening committee meeting that narrowed the field.

Six candidates reportedly completed the paperwork necessary to be considered with a maximum of four candidates being forwarded to the full delegation on Oct. 31. At that meeting, the delegation will interview each of the four candidates with the goal of naming an endorsed candidate on Nov. 7.

Illini Fighting Hunger honored by Foodbank

published 10/29/2015
Illini Fighting Hunger (IFH), a student program of the Wesley Foundation at the University of Illinois, was recognized in September by the Eastern Illinois Foodbank as Community Partner of the Year award for 2015 for its work in facilitating meal packaging events with various groups to assist local food banks and food pantries in the fight against hunger. IFH has led the packaging of over 1.4 million meals, many of which have been distributed through the Eastern Ilinois Foodbank.

In Cartwright's Shadow: The ministry of Braxton Parish

published 10/29/2015
Illinois’ Peter Cartwright (1785-1872) was known for his frontier hardiness, camp meetings, passion to spread the gospel and involvement in Illinois state politics. He cast a long shadow across early Illinois Methodist Episcopal Church history. But he was not alone. Braxton Parish (1795-1875) also migrated from a southern state, preached in Illinois from 1822-1875 and started scores of Methodist Episcopal churches in southern Illinois Counties (Franklin, Williamson, Saline, Gallatin, Hamilton and Jackson).

Medicare Part D open season underway

published 10/29/2015
Retired pastors and spouses are reminded that Medicare Part D, the portion of Medicare that covers prescription drug costs, is now conducting its Open Season for 2016. Persons have the ability to change your Part D Plan anytime between Oct. 15 and Dec. 7. If you choose to stay with your current coverage, it will continue without doing anything.

New President/CEO at United Methodist Children's Home

published 10/29/2015
John Shadowens has been selected to be the next President/CEO at the United Methodist Children's Home in Mt. Vernon. Shadowens will assume duties as President and CEO Nov. 1.

Philippines VIM trip slated for March 2016

published 10/29/2015
The Illinois Great Rivers Conference will send a Volunteers in Mission Team (VIM) to Palawan Island in the Philippines March 3-17, 2016. The VIM Team will partner with the churches in the Philippines to build an Activity Center in one of the expansion areas of The United Methodist Church in the Philippines. The team will also help establish relations with brothers and sisters there for future mission partnerships.

WIU speaker series discusses Faith on Campus

published 10/29/2015
The Wesley Foundation at Western Illinois University is always looking for ways to connect with the campus and the Macomb community. On three consecutive Monday evenings in September the campus ministry held a speaker series at the Foundation.

The Board of Directors and students brainstormed on ways to promote faith on campus. This collaboration led to the creation of the “Talking Faith On Campus” events, which greatly exceeded expectations. Over the summer, students invited seven campus administrators, faculty, staff, and community leaders to participate in these forums. The students of Wesley Foundation decided to use a question and answer format and then developed specific questions for each guest.

NCJ to retain same number of bishops, NEJ to lose one

published 10/28/2015
The General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA) announced Oct. 28 that it will not make any recommendation to the General Conference for a review of the number of bishops for the North Central Jurisdiction after the NCJ College of Bishops submitted revised figures in response to an announcement in September that the NCJ had fallen below the threshold for its current number of bishops.

Religion scholar boycotts BYU conference in protest

published 10/5/2015
An IGRC clergyman on honorable location is boycotting Brigham Young University's International Law and Religion symposium this week in protest over a college policy toward students who enter the school as Mormons but who then either lose or change their religion during their time there.

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