Annual Conference to Focus on Risk-Taking Mission


PEORIA – The Illinois Great Rivers Conference of The United Methodist Church will be meeting in Peoria for the 11th consecutive year June 6-9. The Peoria Civic Center will serve as the conference’s central location for the more than 2,400 expected to attend.

The theme of the conference is Risk-Taking Mission.
Rev. Jorge Acevedo, pastor of Grace Church, a multi-site United Methodist congregation in Cape Coral, Fla., will be the conference speaker on both Thursday and Friday mornings. When he began his ministry at Grace Church, 400 people attended weekly services. Now more than 2,600 attend each week and the congregation is busily growing the North Fort Myers campus and a new storefront location. Inner transformation, which led to an outer transformation, is cited as the catalyst for growth at Grace Church. Rev. Acevedo states, “There are thousands of people whose lives have been radically transformed by the grace of Jesus through the ministry of Grace Church.” He credits the people of the church with the turnaround saying that they listened to what God asked them to do and then just did it.”
Bishop Janice Riggle Huie, bishop of the Texas Annual Conference, will be preaching Friday’s Ordination service in which one elder and two deacons will be ordained and one provisional member will be commissioned.
The conference has planned an all-conference dinner Thursday evening which will be a celebration of the conference’s risk-taking ministry through its health and welfare ministries as well as a celebration of its partnership in a global health initiative, Imagine No Malaria, in which The United Methodist Church and its partners have pledged to eradicate malaria deaths from the globe by the year 2015. Within the Illinois Great Rivers Conference, Bishop Gregory V. Palmer has announced that nearly $1.9 million, or 80 percent of a $2.3 million goal set in 2010 has been raised as part of the conference’s three-year campaign. Shannon Trilli, director of global health initiatives for Imagine No Malaria, will be the banquet keynote speaker.
The 2012 conference will be the fourth for Palmer as presiding bishop of the Illinois Area. Palmer was assigned to the Illinois Area in September 2008 and is former president of the church’s executive branch – the Council of Bishops. Bishop Palmer will open each morning of the conference with a short devotional time called Morning Manna.
Special guests will include Moses Kumar, general secretary of the General Council on Finance and Administration, who will recognize the Illinois Great Rivers Conference as only one of 14 of the denomination’s 62 annual conferences to have paid their general church apportionments at 100 percent. James Salley, associate vice chancellor for institutional advancement for Africa University, will join conferees in a 20th anniversary celebration of the institution. Tom Hazelwood, director of U.S. disaster response, for the United Methodist Committee on Relief, will also address the conference on disaster response efforts within the United States, particularly in the aftermath of a Feb. 29 tornado in Harrisburg, Ill.
Conferees will be collecting special offerings will include funding for construction of the New Hope Church in Liberia; an offering for Africa University scholarships; the Tom Brown Scholarship at Wiley College, one of the denomination’s Black Colleges; and one for this year’s class of ordinands who will be going as a group to engage in mission work. The conference laity, who just recently saw the completion of the John Kofi Asmah School in Monrovia, Liberia, will take a special offering during its opening session for furnishing the newly-completed school.
In addition to legislative sessions, United Methodists will also be sharing in special collections which include items for school kits assembled by the Midwest Mission Distribution Center in Chatham and sent worldwide as part of the denomination’s disaster response ministry.
Conference attendees will celebrate opening worship on Wednesday evening with a memorial service, as pastors, pastors’ spouses and lay members to annual conference who have died in the last year are remembered. Rev. Melva Graham England, pastor of Galesburg First UMC, will preach the opening service.
A service of recognition of retiring pastors will be held on Thursday afternoon with Rev. John Hartleroad, Jr., executive assistant to Bishop Palmer, preaching. Hartleroad is one of 25 retirees totaling 612.75 years of service who will be recognized in the service of recognition.
The annual conference will be streamed live over the internet at: Persons may also join in the virtual conversation on Twitter with the hashtag, #IGRC2012.