The Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference gathered around the theme, Let’s Get Fired Up: Hearts Strangely Warmed by the Blaze of the Holy Spirit, June 6-8 at the Peoria Civic Center.
After the testimonies, attendees gathered around the staff to pray. Together they prayed for their ministries that they might touch the hearts and minds of each person that they meet, but they also prayed for each volunteer individually. At each table in the room, agency staff sat while a group of United Methodists huddled around them and laid hands on them. The room echoed with prayers as roughly 15 were prayed over several times each.
The Spirit moved in the attendees that morning, and tears welled up in the eyes of persons prayed for as they felt each prayer.
Bishop Beard told several stories about how he and others had witnessed the Holy Spirit worked miracles through prayers. When he was stationed as a pastor in Indiana, Beard was a witness to two separate occasions of miraculous medical recoveries spurred by the power of prayer.
The disciples needed to get their spiritual clothes on, so they met together in that room to do both corporate and personal prayer. The Holy Spirit responds to prayer and it responded to them.
“They argued about who was gonna sit on the right and the left of Jesus before,” said Beard, “but they came together that day in unity and prayed, and they received the Spirit because they didn’t want to keep it to themselves. When the Spirit comes restoration follows and revival is the result. The wind came into the room and they were pushed out into the street. Lord, do it again.”
The Denman Evangelism Award is named for the late Dr. Harry Denman, distinguished lay evangelist, who the late Dr. Billy Graham called, "my mentor in evangelism." The award is made possible by the Foundation for Evangelism, which was founded in 1949 by Dr. Denman, who felt it was the business of every Christian to be an evangelist. Today, annual conferences honor United Methodist lay, youth and clergy persons who carry out the spirit of Harry Denman.
“When the harvest doesn’t look good. when you wonder if anything matters, when your reputation is damaged, when waiting on God seems endless, don’t give up! God will renew your strength! God’s grace will renew you every time you need it. Though we may have signed on the dotted line and changed from active to retired clergy; there is no retirement with God. We are called to speak the word of God to its fullest potential. We speak for tomorrow, and when we speak God heals. Jesus is still on the throne. He is our savior, and he is our shepherd.”
The children from Matthew could reach heaven without Jesus’ help, but he chose to let them come to him anyways. He didn’t just let them live their lives; he removed obstacles in order to allow them to come to him more easily. In the same way, (Amanda) Richards’s flower could grow without her help, but in order to thrive and reach its fullest potential all she had to do was put forth a little bit of effort. The programs supported by OCOK will provide love and service without the support of the IGRC, but removing obstacles by giving our time and money will help these programs to reach their fullest potential.
Now in its fifth year, the One Matters Discipleship Award is an effort for annual conferences to renew their focus on discipleship, especially at congregations in the United Methodist connection where annual baptisms and professions of faith too often are nonexistent, by honoring churches with the new One Matters Discipleship Award.
Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church is urging each conference to use the award to recognize one church that is turning zeros into positive numbers with a renewed focus on discipleship. The Illinois Great Rivers Conference has annually recognized two congregations.
Anything that you do that comes to you easy without struggle, be wary of it. Because sometimes, you have to have a struggle so big that only God can step in and intervene to solve the problem. The good news is this: when God is on your side, that's more than the whole world against you.
We may never ever see the Promised Land of a unified, uniform church, not in the Protestant Church, not in the Catholic Church, not in the Jewish church. But the good news is there is a place that we preach about every single Sunday. There is a place where God has promised where the servant will never end, where the wicked will cease from troubling. There is a place where the weary will find rest. There is a place where faith will become sight, where mansions are awaiting all of us, where you've got to robe, I've got a robe, and all of God's children will be under a big tent called Children of God.
It changed the lives of the disciples who were gathered there that day, and they went to every corner of the world to share the good news of Jesus Christ with every person they could find. Now, the early church had none of the things that we think are necessary for success today. They didn't have buildings, they didn't have money, they didn't have political influence, they didn't have social status, and yet the church, became multitudes through Christ in the Roman Empire, because they had the power of the Holy Spirit and it was energizing their ministry. The good news, brothers and sisters, is that we have that same spirit available to us today. We just have to step out in faith and use that power.
Now, it will take the power of God to hold our denomination together. I'm aware of that. My prayer continues to be for the Illinois Great Rivers, yea even in my personal life, my prayer is this. You've heard it many times. “Lord, send the gentle wind of Holy Spirit. Blow upon the embers of my heart and fan me into flames for Jesus once again.”
We can determine what type of annual conference we want to be. I don't know about you, but my hope is built on nothing less than Jesus' blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus' name, on Christ the solid rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.
When we stand for Christ and with Christ and we're motivated to move in Christ, I believe the old ship will turn around. God bless you.
Here are the results of delegate elections in the Illinois Great Rivers Conference for the 2020 General Conference and the 2020 North Central Jurisdictional Conference
The “morning” might not always be tomorrow, and your suffering may not disappear overnight, but joy will come. “There is no night so dark that morning fails to come,” Sims said.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego told King Nebuchhadnezzar had faith that God could save them from the furnace, but they told him that even if God didn’t, they would still never worship another God.
“This was not the hedging of a bet, but an incredible statement of faith,” Sims said. “Even when the vote doesn’t go our way or when someone that we love dies, we worship God anyway. We know that God can change these things, but we are called to love and worship Him regardless of whether we get what we want.
The Rev. Dr. Safiyah Fosua, assistant professor of spiritual formation at Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University noted that there can’t be a Pentecost without the crucifixion or the resurrection.
“Even before the stone was rolled away God was speaking to us,” Fosua said. “When Jesus told Mary and John to treat each other as mother and son following Jesus’ death, he was also telling us that the people around us aren’t strangers, they’re family. This family is one that can band together to get past our division and one that God can make a difference to people of every tribe, color, and nation.”
Annual Conference Secretary Alice Shirley has announced the assignment of voting numbers for additional clergy and the numbers for lay delegate candidates for the 2020 General Conference.
Due to an oversight, numbers were not assigned among clergy for deacons in full connection -- which are eligible for election as a General Conference delegate. The error was discovered last week and Shirley announced those numbers today. In addition, seven probationary elders have also been assigned number pending their election as full members at the 2019 Clergy Session. Upon election, they, too, are eligible to be elected as General Conference delegates.
Among laity, candidates were still completing the application process when printing deadline for the Pre-Conference workbook occurred. In all, 43 lay candidates which met the qualifications will be among the field in which lay members to annual conference will vote. Additional nominations may be made from the floor and upon certifying their eligibility, will be assigned a number for voting.
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Annual Conference Secretary Alice J. Shirley has announced that 51 clergy members and 43 laity have expressed interest in serving as delegates to General Conference.
In 2019, the Illinois Great Rivers Conference will elect five clergy and five lay delegates for General Conference to be held in Minneapolis, Minn. May 5-15, 2010. Five additional clergy and five additional lay delegates will be elected to serve with the General Conference delegates as delegates to the North Central Jurisdictional Conference in Fort Wayne, Ind., July 15-18, 2020. The first two elected Jurisdictional delegates will serve as General Conference alternates.
Following the election of both General and Jurisdictional Conference delegates, three jurisdictional alternates will be elected. Elections will occur on Thursday, June 6, during the respective clergy and lay sessions of Annual Conference. Those sessions will run concurrently from 1 to 4 p.m.