Ministry of the Laity celebrated at the 2014 Annual Conference
By Paul Black, IGRC Director of Communication Ministries
PEORIA – The Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference was held in Peoria, June 4-7, under the theme of Ministry of the Laity. The 2014 session is the first of a three-year celebration focused on ministry.
The theme was apparent throughout the conference as the conference opened with a nearly $40,000 offering for Imagine No Malaria that pushed the conference’s campaign past its $2.5 million goal. Rev. Larry Hollon, general secretary for United Methodist Communications and a visionary leader in the denomination’s global health initiative was present to receive a 2 ½ by 5 foot replica check for the $2.5 million raised.
"Because of Imagine No Malaria, the United Methodist Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Global Fund, The United Methodist Church is the only faith-based organization sitting around the table with governments of the world working on this problem of malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis," Hollon said. "(Because of your efforts), there are children, pregnant mothers and seniors who are alive this night because you cared. Lives have been saved and given health and hope for the future."
During the conference, special offerings were held for a variety of causes. Laity of the conference collected $7,314 for the Conference Disaster Relief Fund which will assist early response efforts within the IGRC. The conference, in addition to $39,413 for Imagine No Malaria, collected $7,705 for a $1 million campaign to endow eight Africa University scholarships; $4,710 to assist in funding a pilgrimage to the Holy Land for the conference’s newly-ordained pastors; and $6,025 for the Tom Brown Scholarship at Wiley College, one of the denomination’s 11 historical Black Colleges.
Speakers for the Conference were Barbara Boigegrain, executive for the General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits Fund and Dr. Colleen Hester, president of MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Ill. Both spoke of their faith journeys and how as laity they have found their respective callings in a general church agency and in church-related higher education. Devotional speakers each morning were IGRC clergy member Chaplain Col. John Read of the U.S. Army; Jessica Davenport, a seminary student who was influenced through campus ministry and Dr. Roberta Robbins, a certified lay minister.
The conference was also recognized for its 100 percent payment of general church apportionments for the 11th consecutive years. The IGRC was one of 20 of the 59 U.S. annual conferences to pay 100 percent in general church apportionments.
Legislatively, the body approved changes to the clergy health insurance program, whereby the current self-fund insurance plan will end Dec. 31, with clergy purchasing their insurance through government exchanges under the Affordable Care Act. The plan calls for local congregations to pay an additional $12,000 as a health care allowance to assist the pastor with the purchase of health insurance. Currently, local congregations served by full-time pastors pay $17,520 as the employer’s share for insurance, meaning a savings of more than $5,000 for the churches.
The conference also approved the formation of a streamlined, 21-member Connectional Table which will replace the current organizational structure that has been in place for the past six years. The new model provide better clarity of purpose and objectives, aligns with The Book of Discipline and is more understandable in that resembles a local church Administrative Board. Proponents also pointed out that the new formation places mission, ministry and finances at the same table.
Bishop Jonathan D. Keaton, ordained three elders and commissioned five provisional elders. A total of 30 pastors, celebrating 788.75 years, retired.
Attendance stands at 61,007, down 4.25 percent from 2012. Membership is at 132,023, down 1.29 percent. Sunday School attendance stands at 20,008, a decrease of 7.33 percent from 2012.
Download the 2014 Annual Conference Wrap-Up (Microsoft Word)