PEORIA –The theme of “Extravagant Generosity” permeated throughout the 2013 Annual Conference session as the Illinois Great Rivers Conference raised its sights for a new outreach ministry in the state prison system as well as approving “A Christian Response to Violence,” primarily authored by two IGRC retired pastors.
In addition to more than $25,000 collected in special offerings and approval of a $1 million campaign for Africa University scholarships, a last-minute motion from the floor put a punctuation mark on the four-day gathering. The resolution, approved by a vote of 697-50, raised the goal for the conference’s Imagine No Malaria campaign from $2.3 million to $2.5 million.
The motion, made by Rev. Kim Dancey,followed just a day after Pittsburgh Area Bishop Thomas Bickerton spoke to the IGRC gathering and told how the conference’s efforts had encouraged the Western Pennsylvania Conference to increase their goal from $1.8 to $2.3 million. In speaking for her motion, she said, “if the people of Western Pennsyvlania want to join us, they are going to have to dig a little deeper.”
As of May 31, the IGRC has collected $2,038,373 of its $2.3 million goal. There are sufficient pledges to cover the remaining amount of the $2.3 million goal, but with the increased goal, an additional $200,000 will need to be raised. The Minnesota Conference recently completed a $2.6 million campaign and joins the IGRC as the only two conferences to have raised $2 million for the effort.
Bickerton noted in his remarks that the campaign is ahead of schedule in its goal to raise $75 million by 2015 to end the deaths and suffering from malaria in Africa. The church initiative reached a June benchmark goal of $40 million ahead of schedule with $20 million received in gifts and pledges over the past year.
Both the Illinois Great Rivers and Northern Illinois conferences approved an agreement with Disciple Bible Outreach Ministries of Illinois, Inc., an independent 501(c)3 corporation, aimed at assisting congregations in providing Disciple Bible Studies as a prison ministry within institutions of the Illinois Department of Corrections.
The two conferences will provide encouragement, support, funding and to identify itself as related by faith to the conferences. DBOM-IL will relate to the structure of the conferences through the respective Offices of Connectional Ministries.
DBOM-IL was born as a result of a March 2012 Deeper Still event in Decatur hosted by the conference’s New Streams Team which examined ways to develop and strengthen Bible study ministries in prisons. Because the statewide prison system encompasses two annual conferences, DBOM-IL will relate to both conferences in its ministry. (Legislative Item 125)
A resolution, authored by retired pastors Miley Palmer and Howard Daughenbaugh, which called for enforcement of current gun laws, universal background checks on all gun purchases, required reporting into a statewide database of excluded gun purchasers and calling on churches to be places for conversation on the issue, was approved, 510-312.
“This resolution is not about gun control. It does not seek to take guns away from law-abiding, responsible citizens. It does not recommend changes in the Second Amendment or our nation’s time-honored Constitution,” Daughenbaugh said. “The resolution does address the matters of regulation surrounding gun ownership, strict enforcement of present laws and urges dialogue in our local churches about what a Christian response to violence in our culture should be.”
During the debate, an amendment was offered by Howard Bell that would have stripped the word “gun” out of the resolution. The proposed amendment was rejected, 336-476. (Legislative Item 201)
Conference members also approved a $1 million campaign for scholarships for Africa University that if successful, will endow an additional eight scholarships.
Currently, the conference has endowed four undergraduate scholarships and two direct scholarships. If the campaign meets its goal, the two direct scholarships will be endowed and six additional undergraduate scholarships will be added for a total of 10 undergraduate scholarships.
The conference heard from AU Committee Chair Rich Straub of Orion UMC and Joyce Francis of Peoria Bethel UMC, who were part of a four-person delegation to the school’s 20th anniversary celebration in March, and Dr. Paul Kasambira, a professor at Bradley University, member of Peoria First UMC and a native Zimbabwean. (Legislative Item 129)