Harrison garners Christian Service Award

published 5/30/2013
BELLEVILLE – Rev. Dr. Tim Harrison, chaplain, director of church relations and campus ministries at McKendree University, is one of three recipients of the 2013 Christian Service Award give by Christian Social Services of Illinois. The annual award, now in its 23rd year, recognizes outstanding individuals who reflect the mission and spirit of CSS. Joining Harrison as this year’s honorees are Pete Schumacher of Trenton and Judge Milton Wharton of Belleville. The trio was honored at an April 26 ...

How Disaster Giving Works

published 5/30/2013
When both the United Methodist Committee on Relief and an annual conference ask for funds, United Methodists who want to help in a disaster might be uncertain where to send donations. Conferences may set up their own funds to help with the immediate needs of housing, food, shelter and transportation. Conference fundraising is intended for raising money within the conference to meet immediate needs. The IGRC Disaster Response Fund is Advance 6800 or online.   If you desire to help at this time, ...

Oklahoma tornado impacts IGRC training event

published 5/30/2013
SPRINGFIELD – Participants in a May 22 Spiritual and Emotional Care training got a first-hand glimpse at the Oklahoma tornado from their trainer. Rev. Mary Hughes Gaudreau, a consultant with United Methodist Committee on Relief's Emergency Services office, lives in Oklahoma and due to the tornado, was unable to catch her flight out of Oklahoma City to be present for the May 22-23 training. In cooperation with IGRC Communications, Gaudreau conducted the basic training via the conference’s Adobe ...

Spiritual, emotional support for flood victims

published 5/30/2013
A program of the General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits is offering emotional and spiritual support for flood victims. Optum has a help line that will provide affected residents access to specially trained mental health specialists. The company’s public toll-free help line number, 866-342-6892, is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for as long as necessary. The service is free of charge and open to anyone. Specially trained Optum mental health specialists help people manage their ...

Who May Vote at Annual Conference?

published 5/30/2013
Because of Constitutional amendments being considered at this Annual Conference session, the rules of who may or may not vote are a little more complicated. Here’s a quick reference to assist you: Only the lay members and the clergy in full connection may vote on constitutional amendments. Provisional members, associate and affiliate members, and local pastors may not vote on constitutional amendments. (¶602.1b, c, & d) Clergy on honorable location are no longer members of the annual conference...

EF-2 tornado hits Mt. Olive

published 5/21/2013
MT. OLIVE -- The National Weather Service confirmed an EF2 tornado ripped through Mount Olive, about 10 p.m. May 20, damaging homes and businesses and downing trees and power lines. The EF-2 tornado struck the city center, traveling east for four blocks bringing winds of 120 to 125 mph. More than 40 homes and businesses were damaged in a four block area.   While there is extensive damage in downtown Mount Olive, no serious injuries were reported.

Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now...

published 5/10/2013
PEORIA – The Illinois Great Rivers Conference honored 21 pastors who are entering retired relationship Thursday morning. Utilizing the song made famous by the gospel group, the Happy Goodman Family, Wouldn’t Take Nothin’ for My Journey Now, Rev. Lou Zuck, one of the retirees from the Class of 2013, used video segments from 17 of his colleagues to amplify the song’s key messages: I started out traveling for the Lord many years ago I've had a lot of heartaches, had a lot of griefs and woes. ...

Bishop to lead Holy Land Trip

published 5/9/2013
Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton will lead a 10-day trip to the Holy Land Feb. 11-20, 2014. All inclusive packages starting from $3,196 with departures from St. Louis, Chicago or Indianapolis are available. Information on the trip and a downloadable brochure is available by visiting: It also includes a link to complete registration for the trip.   Discounts are available for early registration based upon when a $300 deposit to hold your place is paid. The full itinerary ...

Constitutional amendments now before the annual conference

published 5/9/2013
The 130 annual conferences in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Philippines and the United States are being asked to ratify four proposed amendments to the United Methodist Constitution. General Conference 2012 approved the amendments (which appear at Legislative Item 116 a-d, pages 36-29, in the Blue Legislative Section of the Pre-Conference Workbook). To be ratified, a proposed amendment must be passed by at least two-thirds of the General Conference delegates, followed by a two-thirds affirmative ...

Despite closures, Cokesbury will be at annual conference

published 5/9/2013
While the Cokesbury display at Annual Conference has been a fixture for years, much has changed behind the scenes during the past year in an effort to provide more services to annual conferences. The United Methodist Publishing House, which oversees operations at Cokesbury, announced in November that it was shuttering all 57 of its brick and mortar stores, including those at United Methodist seminaries and moving to employing 50 community-based resource consultants (CRCs). One of the closed ...

Get connected at Annual Conference

published 5/9/2013
A variety of communication options are available to lay and clergy members as well as folks back home that wish to keep in touch during the 2013 Annual Conference. During the Annual Conference session, a live webstream will be broadcasting at The webstream will on during all plenary and worship services.   Twitter users may tweet during Annual Conference with the hashtag #IGRC2013. Tweets with that hashtag will be aggregated on the 2013 Annual Conference Sessions page on...

Health insurance changes among issues to discuss, act upon

published 5/9/2013
Lay and clergy members who have attended for several years know there are certain reports that are received and considered at annual conference each year, many of these with financial implications. This year’s reports include proposed changes to the conference’s health insurance program, the setting of pension rates for retirees; proposed changes to standing rules involving clergy housing, the closing of churches that have completed their mission; a resolution on employment security for local ...

Resolutions to be considered at annual conference

published 5/9/2013
A plethora of legislative items awaits clergy and lay members to the 2013 Annual Conference when they meet in Peoria. In addition to the usual reports, the annual conference will consider a proposed capital campaign for Living Springs Camp, a modification to the Making Dreams Possible Scholarship initiative for Africa University and various social justice issues including a Christian response to violence spurred by the Newtown, Conn. Shooting; environmental issues such as coal miner protection, ...

Changes in Pastoral Care and Counseling

published 4/30/2013
SPRINGFIELD – The Committee for Pastoral Care and Counseling is conducting a survey as they consider the next steps for the ministry. “For the past two years, Karen Blank-Ewell has been the Director of Pastoral Care and Counseling for our conference. Karen’s time as Director is now coming to a close. For the past few months, we have been asking the question, “What is the best way to serve our IGRC family in this day and time?”   We welcome your ideas and feedback,” said the committee in an April...

Dixon Lodge Dedicated at Jensen Woods

published 4/15/2013
MT. STERLING -- A time of celebration and reflection was a part of the April 13 dedication of Dixon Lodge at Jensen Woods Camp. The dedication service marks the completion of the new Jensen Chapel, a fully equipped commercial kitchen, and a basement that doubles as a storm shelter. Many years of dreaming and about 18 months of construction went in to making this occasion possible.   The addition doubles the floor space of the existing Dixon Lodge, which has served as a meeting place, dining ...

Illinois Area Takes Africa University to Heart

published 4/1/2013
On Saturday of the first week of the 1988 General Conference, the plenary session opened debate on establishing a university on the African continent. The air was electric with excitement and anticipation as if the contagious enthusiasm of Richard Reeves had spread throughout the throng of 1,000 delegates and 2,000 visitors. When the overwhelming approval came, plus $20 million for its 1988-1992 budget, spontaneously everyone rose as one body and applauded what we had done until our hands were ...

It All Began with a Bishop's Dream

published 4/1/2013
On March 24, as people gathered for the 20th anniversary celebration of Africa University in Old Mutare, Zimbabwe, few, if any, knew that 115 years earlier (on March 24), an event occurred in London that would ultimately determine the location of the school.   On that day, Cecil Rhodes – of Rhodes Scholarship fame – deeded 16,000 acres of land to Joseph C. Hartzell for Methodist mission work in Southern Rhodesia, which Rhodes was trying to develop through immigration of white people from South ...

Speakers announced for Annual Conference

published 3/15/2013
PEORIA – Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton has announced the speakers for the 2013 Annual Conference which will be June 5-8, at the Peoria Civic Center. Bishop William B. Lewis will be preaching the Memorial Service on Thursday and Rev. Louie F. Zuck, pastor of Geneseo Grace UMC and one of the Class of 2013 retirees, will be preaching the Retirees Recognition service – also on Thursday.   Bishop Keaton will be preaching the opening worship Wednesday night around the annual conference’s theme Extravagant...

IGRC Embarks on New Scholarships Fund

published 3/7/2013
The Illinois Great Rivers Conference (IGRC) is expanding it support for Africa University by raising an additional $250,000 for scholarships. The conference's plan is to provide immediate support and help at least 10 students to complete four years of study. Each of the conference's 10 districts is being asked to raise $25,000, which would support one student from freshman year to graduation day. The IGRC's Africa University Committee announced the effort at the 2012 Annual Conference. Richard ...

Chaplaincy: Part of the Team Providing a Faithful Witness

published 3/6/2013
The mission of the Naval Academy is "to develop Midshipmen morally, mentally and physically and to imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, honor and loyalty in order to graduate leaders who are dedicated to a career of naval service and have potential for future development in mind and character to assume the highest responsibilities of command, citizenship and government." As a battalion chaplain, my ministry includes serving more than 800 midshipmen and staff members from various ...

Extravagant Generosity: My Itineracy as an Army Chaplain

published 3/6/2013
It’s been a little less than 29 years when I answered the specific and nuanced call to serve as a military Chaplain. It has always been and remains a “grace work”. Short the period of time that I was treated for leukemia from May 1992 with retirement in August 1992, and then my subsequent return to active duty in November 1994, it has been continual service. I am at 26 ½ years of service to our God, our Church and our Nation and still feel that this is what God is calling me to. It has been such...

Ministry to Military Members (Where There Are None in Town)

published 3/6/2013
Given the location of most United Methodist churches and the average age of most members, ministry to those in the military is a stretch for most of our congregations. Scott Air Force Base in Belleville is the only military installation of any size within the conference. Many churches that have a long and yellowed “Roll of Honor” list of dozens who served in World War II posted in the fellowship hall (or stashed in a closet off the hall) could not match that output today because of the few young...

Three Insights from Chaplaincy to Parish

published 3/6/2013
In 1977 I entered active duty as a Navy chaplain, retiring in 2005 to return to local church ministry. Now that I am eight years into that transition, I offer three insights that ministry as a military chaplain offered me that have transferred with rich benefit to ministry in the local church. I chose three in honor of the Trinity and because Augustine said that a good sermon, like a good stool, needs three legs.   First, get out of the office. “Chapel-dweller” chaplains were viewed by the young...

NIU: Five Years Later

published 2/13/2013


Five Years Later: A Search for Common Ground on Gun Violence

published 2/8/2013
DECATUR – For IGRC retired pastor Miley Palmer, the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School causes he and his family to relive a five-year-old nightmare all over again. It was on Feb. 14, 2008, that a shooter entered a lecture hall of 160 students in Cole Hall on the campus of Northern Illinois University, killing five students, including 19-year-old Ryanne Mace. Mace was the granddaughter of Palmer and his wife Janet, as well as the granddaughter of fellow retired IGRC pastor ...

Faith, Courage and Selflessness: The Story of the Four Chaplains

published 2/3/2013

Methodist Army Chaplain Lt. George Fox has Illinois connection

Gilbert new Higher Education consultant

published 1/23/2013
SPRINGFIELD – The conference Equipping and Connecting Team has announced the hiring of Teresa Gilbert as consultant to higher education. Gilbert is the founder and owner of Pathways to Excellence, which provides training, speaking and coaching services in leadership and organizational communication. She has more than 20 years experience in administrative leadership as well as having served with her husband as director of the Wesley Foundation at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.   “Campus...

Mandatory sexual ethics training April 17-20

published 1/23/2013
SPRINGFIELD – The mandatory sexual ethics training for all pastors will be April 17-20 at four locations: April 17 – Mt. Vernon West Salem Trinity UMC April 18 – Washington Crossroads UMC April 19 – Champaign New Horizons UMC April 20 – Sugar Creek UMC, Chatham Persons may choose to attend any of the four training sessions, which will be from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with lunch served at noon. Registration will be $10 per person. Online registration is available through April 10. Michelle Foster, ...

Letter on Gun Violence

published 1/22/2013
As the new year dawns many items in the news triggers our sorrow--children blown up by U.S. drones in Afghanistan or Pakistan, Israeli families hit by rockets from the Gaza strip and Palestinian families destroyed by Israeli air attacks, African children forced to become soldiers by some mad warlord--the list goes on and on. We are not certain we have any better answers than anyone else.  However, we want to reflect and motivate reflection upon violence in this nation, especially the horrendous ...

Copies of books available

published 1/15/2013
The Illinois Area Office has 200 copies of Bishop Robert Schnase's book, Remember the Future: Praying for the Church and Change, available at a discounted price.   Cost of the books with shipping included in the price are as follows and will be handled on a first-come, first-served basis: 1 to 5 copies: $5 each 6 to 10 copies: $4.50 each 11 or more copies: $4 each Orders may be placed by emailing the quantity order and shipping address to Michelle Hammitt. Checks should be made payable to ...

IGRC zeroes in on INM fundraising goal

published 1/15/2013
SPRINGFIELD -- United Methodists in the Illinois Great Rivers Conference are closing in on its $2.3 million fundraising goal to Imagine No Malaria. As of Jan. 10, the IGRC was just over $24,000 of its goal with pledges and donations totalling $2,275,973.  This included nearly $1.5 million in one-time donations. A strong push in the month of December generated gifts of $103,000 that flowed through the Conference office and was remitted to the Imagine No Malaria office in Nashville. Total receipts...

No changes to Health Miles program for 2013

published 12/19/2012
HealthMiles – the IGRC Group Health Insurance department is announcing that there will be no changes to the HealthMiles program in 2013. The 2013 plan will run exactly the same as the 2012 plan. There will be a $50 reward for meeting your HealthMiles goal each quarter, for a potential reward of $200. If you meet your goal each quarter, there is a $100 bonus at the end of the year for a maximum reward of $300. Clergy and spouses who are in the IGRC health insurance plan (both active and retired) ...

11 IGRC Students Receive UM Scholarships, Loans

published 12/7/2012
NASHVILLE – A total of 11 seminary and university students from the Illinois Great Rivers Conference have been awarded a total of $13,900, to assist in their educational pursuits. Funding for the scholarships and United Methodist loans are derived from the United Methodist Student Day offering, which is one of six Special Sunday offerings. Although it can be celebrated at any time of the year, most United Methodist churches celebrate United Methodist Student Day on the Sunday following ...

Lebanon First continues work in Harrisburg

published 12/6/2012
HARRISBURG -- Since the Feb. 29 tornado tore through the southern Illinois town of Harrisburg, the members of Lebanon First UMC have been part of the recovery and rebuilding effort. Early after the storm, Lebanon First UMC pastor Rev. Peter J. Wehrly worked in the community as part of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference Spiritual & Emotional Care (SEC) Team, under the direction of Rev. Karen Blank-Ewell, Director of the IGRC office of Pastoral Care & Counseling. The SEC met with storm survivors...

Prayers sought for DS involved in accident

published 11/29/2012
My office learned last night that one of my District Superintendents, Rev. In-Sook Hwang, was involved in a car accident where a man lost his life. The Illinois State Police are conducting an investigation. It is not yet known when their report will be released. Please, please be in prayer for the family of the gentleman who lost his life. Also, pray for In-Sook Hwang and her family as they address the personal and public implications of this tragic accident.

Cody Sparks makes dream reality with Eagle Scout project

published 11/28/2012

Cross, garden new addition to Epworth Camp in memory of Omer Ulrich

A Missionary Who Doesn't Leave Home

published 11/27/2012
Bernice Stropes provides inspiration to her church and the children of Haiti through her sewing.

Board of Pensions continues healthcare conversation

published 11/26/2012
SPRINGFIELD -- The IGRC Board of Pensions met Nov. 13 to continue the conversation on health care for our active pastors. We are not actively contemplating health care changes for our Medicare participants. The Board reviewed the current costs of our plan as well as the continuing escalations of our costs. Our initial estimates put the local church cost of the continuing the current health care plan into 2014 at approximately $20,000 per pastor -- up from the current annual cost of $17,500. The ...

IRS releases 2013 mileage rate for business travel

published 11/26/2012
WASHINGTON -- The Internal Revenue Service has released mileage reimbursement rates for 2013. The standard mileage rate for transportation or travel expenses is 56.5 cents per mile for all miles of business use (business standard mileage rate).   The standard mileage rate is 14 cents per mile for use of an automobile in rendering gratuitous services to a charitable organization.   The standard mileage rate is 24 cents per mile for use of an automobile for medical care.

Liberia Partners Set Goals at Summit

published 11/17/2012
The Liberia Partnership Summit organized by the Illinois Great Rivers Conference of the United Methodist Church gathered at Alton Main Street UMC Nov. 15-17. Bishop John G. Innis of Liberia praised the partners for the tremendous work they are accomplishing for the people of Liberia through the United Methodist Church. His commendation was contained in an evening message delivered at the Alton Main Street UMC on Friday, November 16, 2012. The Liberian church leader named the construction of ...

'Give Yourself to the Task,' Bishop Keaton urges

published 11/16/2012
Bishop Jonathan Keaton called on participants attending the Liberia Partnership Summit to bring what they have to God in order to maximize the use of their resources in Liberia. Delivering the opening message at the Alton Main Street UMC, Bishop Keaton challenged partners of Liberia “to be moved with compassion just like Jesus Christ when he fed the five thousand with the five loaves and two fish.” The Resident Bishop of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference spoke Nov. 15 at Alton Main Street UMC...

J. Clif Christopher selected as 2013 Annual Conference speaker

published 10/19/2012
SPRINGFIELD – Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton has announced that financial stewardship expert, the Rev. J. Clif Christopher will be the 2013 Annual Conference speaker. The 2013 Annual Conference which will have the theme, Extravagant Generosity, will be held June 5-8 at the Peoria Civic Center.   Christopher is the founder and president of Horizons Stewardship Company. Prior to founding Horizons he was a pastor in four churches, relocating two, concluding six building campaigns and eight capital ...

Liberia Partners' Summit Nov. 15-17

published 10/19/2012
ALTON – A gathering of partners with Liberia aimed a coordinating and maximizing efforts of evangelization, education, health care and economic opportunity among various annual conferences will be held Nov. 15-17 at Alton Main Street UMC. Bishop Jonathan Keaton will preach the 7 p.m. opening worship service on Nov. 15 and Bishop John Innis, episcopal leader for the Liberia Annual Conference, will preach the Nov. 16 worship service. Both services are open to everyone, including those not ...

Health Care Update

published 10/9/2012
I am writing from DFW while waiting for my connecting flight home from New Orleans.  I am one of several conference leaders who attended the Quadrennial Benefits Conference 2012, (QBC) an event hosted by the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits. At Annual Conference I shared that changes regarding our health care plan were certain, but the changes were largely dependent upon factors external to the church.  Since Annual Conference the Supreme Court upheld almost all aspects of the Health...

Illinois Donor/Consent for Organ and Tissue Donation

published 9/26/2012
On Jan. 1, 2006, Illinois became the 43rd state to honor an individual’s legally binding decision to become an organ and tissue donor. This is known as first-person consent for organ and tissue donation, or donor consent. Today, an individual who registers in the state’s new donor consent registry is registering his or her legal decision to becoming an organ and tissue donor after death. Additional witnesses, signatures or decisions from the donor’s next-of-kin will not be required to honor ...

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