An open letter to the Illinois Great Rivers Conference


(Adapted from the Open Letter to the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church - October 3, 2022)
Dear Siblings in Christ,
We write to you as leaders and delegates of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference of The United Methodist Church. We are praying for the future of our church and are committed to a thriving Wesleyan witness in Central and Southern Illinois. At the beginning of every session of the Annual Conference, we join our voices together to sing the Charles Wesley hymn, And Are We Yet Alive?
And are we yet alive
And see each other’s face?
Glory and praise to Jesus give
For His redeeming grace.
The signatures below are a resounding YES to that question. We are alive.
These signatures represent leaders across the Illinois Great Rivers Conference. We are lay and clergy.
We are traditional, centrist, progressive, and everything in between. We are connected. We are following Jesus. We are committed to transformation of the world. We are grieving the loss of so many churches and clergy, and yet we are excited for how the Holy Spirit will use this opportunity for renewal, reformation, and revival.

  • We renew our commitment to the faith entrusted to us.
  • We are unashamed to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, who is the only Son of God, fully God and fully human, born of the Virgin Mary, raised from the dead.
  • We rely on the Scriptures, which are inspired by God and contain all things necessary for salvation. We affirm the faith of God’s church as found in the historic creeds, including the Apostle’s Creed and Nicene Creed.
  • We uphold the doctrine of The United Methodist Church as found in our Articles of Religion, the Confession of Faith, the General Rules, Wesley’s Sermons and Notes, and Our Theological Task.
  • We believe the Holy Spirit is leading the Illinois Great Rivers Conference into a season of reform.
To that end, we commit to the following work in our life together over the coming months:
  • Revitalizing every church in the Illinois Great Rivers Conference.
  • Strengthening the connection between churches, in districts, and across the conference for missional effectiveness.
  • Working for structural reform, accountability, and increased impact in our denomination.
  • Rebuilding trust in our leaders and one another.
  • Continuing strong connections with institutions such as Africa University and our health and welfare agency ministries.
  • Supporting our campus ministries at colleges and universities throughout the conference.
  • Planting new churches to share the love of Christ, transform mission fields, and grow our annual conference.
  • Equipping churches and pastors to engage with their communities and identify their gifts.
  • Continuing to support United Methodist national missions, international missions, and our missioners.
  • Measuring our ministries by Wesley's General Rules, "Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God."
  • Loving God and loving neighbor.
We embrace the revival that is just beginning. The world will taste and see what God can do when God sends a United Methodist.
  • We will show the world how to embody unity without uniformity, how to disagree without adding to the distance between us, how to resolve our differences by setting a bigger table… because God sent a United Methodist.
  • We will extend God's Kingdom as we baptize more people into the body of Christ and add to the number of Jesus' faithful disciples... because God sent a United Methodist.
  • We will start churches where anyone may ask hard questions about faith without guilt or shame… because God sent a United Methodist.
  • We will disciple the next generation of Christians by helping them fall in love, like we have, with the life-changing love of Jesus Christ … because God sent a United Methodist.
  • We will grow our churches, not just in number of people, but also in praising God, studying the Bible, visiting the sick, burying loved ones, raising up children and students, giving our lives away in service… because God sent a United Methodist.
  • We will love all God’s children, feed them, clothe them, teach them, visit them in prisons and hospitals, welcome them as friends and not strangers, raise them to love God and neighbor… because God sent a United Methodist.
  • We will start new schools, health clinics, shelters, community centers, recovery groups…. because God sent a United Methodist.
  • We will proclaim the reign of Christ, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the dead, and the life everlasting.….because God sent a United Methodist.
  • The Illinois Great Rivers Conference will grow as a vibrant connection of passionate Christians in healthy churches…. because God sent a United Methodist.
2 Corinthians 4:1 says, “Since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.” The undersigned leaders of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference recognize there are people to disciple, churches to start, children to love, a Christ to follow, a God to worship… ministry yet to be done.
We will encourage one another. We will spur one another on. We will keep the gospel in circulation. We will not lose heart. We are alive. Thanks be to God!
Paul E. Black, co-chair, IGRC Delegation
Anna Fender
Rev. Dr. Beverly Wilkes-Null
Rev. Eric Swanson
Anish Hermon
Rev. Dr. Beth Fender
Rev. Dr. Jennifer Edwards Bertrand
Christina Krost
Rev. Nicole Cox
Erik Slingerland

Additional signatories:
Rev. Kyle Armentrout-Steward
Rev. James Bortell
Rev. Jane Bradford
Rev. Becky Butterfield
Rev. Terry Clark
Rev. Jim Crozier
Rev. Howard Daughenbaugh
Rev. Ted A. Hartley
Rev. David L. Huff
Rev. Sandi Hire
Rev. Darla J. Holden
Rev. Justin Iverson
Rev. Kevin D. Kriesel
Carol Martin
Valerie M. Moehle
Christopher A. Nichols
Rev. Sheryl Palmer
Rev. Bill Pyatt
Rev. Alberto Ramirez Salazar
Judith McCaffrey Unger
Rev. E. Paul Unger
Ricky Whitecotton
Nancy Zander

Additional persons may add their names as signatories by sending their request to Paul Black, Director of Communication Ministries,