Bishop Woodie White said he had a list of questions for God when he gets to heaven.
"That's one of the reasons I want to go to heaven," White said during the Memorial Sermon that opened the 2011 Annual Conference. "I think of all those different tragedies ... accidents, Alzheimer's cancer... and I say, 'God is that the best you can do?'"
And then, White said, "God says, 'Woodie, I anticipated your question and I thought I would answer before you asked: In my Father's House are many rooms...That's the best I can do!"
White noted that every Christian has an internal struggle between life and life after death. "We hold to the promise that we will be with Christ," he said. "For we Christians have this peculiar notion that death is not God's final act."
White, who was the episcopal leader of the Illinois Area and presiding bishop of both the former Central and Southern Illinois conferences from 1984 to 1992, said the homecoming was a joyous one. During the Annual Conference, Bishop White and his wife Kim will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.
In addressing Bishop Palmer, White said, "You don't know the gift you have given me this week."
And to the Conference, White took a few minutes to reminisce. "You were my first episcopal area," he noted. "Of course, your first assignment is kind of like your first kiss; you don't really know what you are doing, but you learn rather quickly!"
In all, 48 clergy and spouses and 11 lay members to annual conference were remembered in the Service of Remembrance and Resurrection Hope.