Bishop, Cabinet announce first steps in reorganization


IGRC District Map -- 5 DistrictsBy Paul Black
SPRINGFIELD – Bishop Frank J. Beard and members of the Illinois Great Rivers Cabinet announced the composition of the five districts, beginning July 1, 2023, as the first step toward reorganizing the conference for its mission.
The beginning steps were hammered out at a recent Cabinet retreat focused on meeting the needs of individual districts, pastors and churches. The Oct. 6 announcement was shared via a live webcast from the Conference Center and streamed online.

A Call to Prayer

The Bishop and Cabinet are calling upon congregations, pastors and laity to engage in a 28-day journey of Breakthrough Praying during the months of October and November.
“This reorganization process began and continues with prayer,” Bishop Beard said. “We are asking each of you to join us as we work to make refinements to our overall plan.
Believing the Psalmist who wrote, “Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted,”  the Bishop, Extended Cabinet, and IGRC Committees are working on how to “build our [IGRC] house.”  They are inviting the entire Annual Conference to join with us in calling upon God to breakthrough and guide our plans.
Throughout October, they are covenanting together to pray for ONE MINUTE each day asking God to breakthrough and reveal God’s will.  You are welcome to utilize the following prayer provided or your own prayer.  Opportunities will be provided throughout the IGRC to receive what you are hearing from God during this prayer time during October and November.
Gracious and Merciful God, we come before You acknowledging that Your ways are higher than ours and Your wisdom is greater than ours.  While we love and care deeply for our communities and congregations, Your Love for the people of and in IGRC is greater than ours.  We also know that You do nothing except in believing prayer.  So, we are calling out to You and asking for You to breakthrough in new and fresh ways.  Reveal to us and our leaders Your will, Your guidance, Your direction.  Bring Your wisdom as we seek to restructure in ways that will allow us to be more faithful and fruitful in making disciples of Jesus the Christ that will lead to our world being transformed in God-glorifying ways.  Thank You, in advance, for working in and through us to accomplish Your plans and purposes.  Please speak for Your servant is listening….   Amen.
As you journey during this Breakthrough Prayer time, please share your reflections by visiting:  Your feedback will be a valuable part of guiding the process with its future decisions and refinements. 

District alignments

Beginning July 1, 2023, the Illinois Great Rivers Conference will go from 10 districts to five in accordance with a Cabinet recommendation that was approved by the 2022 Annual Conference.
Two existing districts will merge into a single district with some minor reassignments of churches that may be announced at a later date. With the yoking of the districts, the number of churches in each new district range from 131 to 169 churches. For the time being, both district names will be used in a hyphenated fashion to orient persons to the new alignment:
  • Cache and Kaskaskia River districts
  • Sangamon and Mississippi River districts
  • Iroquois and Embarras River districts
  • Vermilion and Illinois River districts
  • LaMoine and Spoon River districts
Assignment of district superintendents to the five districts, location of district offices as well as an announcement on administrative assistants will be announced in the near future.

What will stay the same

“Recognizing that our mission does not change, even as the world around us constantly changes, our adaptative challenge is to ensure that our work assists people in experiencing and embracing the love and grace of Jesus Christ, through the clergy and laity of the IGRC, as we deal with challenges that are often vague and unique, during this season of liminality,” Bishop Beard said. “The district structure aims to reduce duplication of effort and micro-managing.”
Despite these adaptive changes much about the district operations will remain the same. Each district will be guided by a shared, clergy and lay leadership team, focused on the following:
  • Spiritual care and support of clergy
  • Building relationships
  • Building healthy churches
  • A focus on mission and ministry
  • Making disciples that make disciples
The new structure focuses on spiritual care and support of clergy; is flexible enough that leadership can be reorganized as district needs change; focuses on communication between district leadership and clergy/local churches and interprets Annual Conference priorities.
District superintendents will relate to the following district committees and ministries:
  • District Committee on Ministry
  • Lay Servant Ministries
  • Committee on Building and Church Location
  • United Women in Faith (formerly United Methodist Women)
  • United Methodist Men (in districts where an organized UMM exists) 
Each district will have a Nominating Committee that will assist with developing conference leadership.
Additional details that will undergird and support these tasks will be announced in the future.

Next steps

Work on the reorganization plan will be part of two upcoming meetings – the Oct. 15 Board of Laity meeting and the Oct. 22 meeting of the Connectional Table.
Each of the five regions comprising the new districts will be invited to attend Listening Sessions during the month of November aimed at hearing concerns and feedback to the proposed reorganization plan. The sessions are designed at providing additional explanation and clarify details to the plan.

Bishop Beard said he is inviting United Methodists to consider these three questions during the Listening Session:
  • “What if anything, is unique about this district, that we do not want to lose?”
  • “How do we assist two districts in coming together to form a new district?”
  • “How do we assist our district laity and clergy in being better connected?”
After the listening sessions are completed, each district’s leadership team will be formed and will begin functioning to ensure a smooth transition.

Dates will be announced as they are scheduled.
Bishop Beard and the Cabinet will also be inviting everyone to a season of prayer during Advent and Lent as the plan is refined and developed to a final plan.