Bishop issues several invitations in Episcopal Address


PEORIA – Bishop Gregory V. Palmer invited members of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference to enter into open, honest and heartfelt conversations about difficult issues without discounting those to whom one disagrees.

Near the end of a 40-minute Episcopal Address, Palmer announced a change to the Annual Conference agenda in which a 45-minute period of time would be set aside to begin the “difficult work” of entering into holy conferencing.
“What if your greatest hope is also your greatest fear?” Palmer asked. “Our relationships are so at the surface. Risk-taking mission and service is more than activity; it is not less than a lifestyle.”
Palmer identified just a few of the issues which provide a wide spectrum of viewpoints within the Christian community. These include:
  • Human sexuality
  • Who we are called to be in addressing violence and peacemaking in the world
  • The removal of security of guaranteed appointments
Pointing to the failure of such dialogue sessions which were attempted at this year’s General Conference, Palmer held up the IGRC delegation as a model for leadership. After the dialogue sessions broke down, many members of the conference delegation met together well into the night and reported “a greater understanding and unity” even in the midst of differences.
“Avoidance of issues is beneath the cross of Jesus Christ,” Palmer said. He urged that Friday’s session could model conversations that could take place throughout the conference in local congregations.

Palmer used the rest of his address to report on several items of concern.  Reflecting on his involvement in the work of the Call to Action report, which sought to bring fundamental change to the church, Palmer noted the General Conference's rejection of a major restructuring proposal that would have streamlined processes and shrunk the size of the general church.

"A lot of light was thrown on the legislation (on restructuring), but it was just a small part to what we were inviting the church," Palmer said. "Until we pay attention to relationship we will continue to have outcomes different than we desire."

Palmer also reported that the IGRC campaign for Imagine No Malaria, now in its second year, has surpassed the $1.9 million mark -- just $400,000 short of the goal.

"All of the lemonade stands and car washes have saturated the conference with the confidence of knowing we can make a difference in the world by eliminating malaria by 2015," Palmer said.

The bishop also reported of a number of initiatives which have begun and funded through a $100,000 line-item in the conference budget identified as "Bishops' Initiatives." Palmer said the funds have centered on leadership development and have included an incubator group of young pastors from the conference; multi-cultural training and work on cross-cultural and cross-racial appointments.

"It's not how do we invest in risk-taking mission and service, but more a question of how are we able to create conditions where we see risk-taking mission bubble up within our conference," Palmer said.

Palmer invited every congregation to be involved in a Change the World project on one of two Saturdays in September -- Sept. 22 or Sept. 29.

"This is not a top-down type of initiative, but asking each church to find within its community the places where they can take a risk in mission and service," Palmer said, noting that districts may choose to structure the event district-wide or in sub-district areas. More information will be shared as plans develop.