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2007 Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference

June 6-9, Peoria

The image of a woodworker constructing a table introduced each day's focus for the Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference's theme "Together at the Table."

Relational unity, resurrection hope, restorative justice and reconciliation shalom were the daily themes.

The Rev. Tom Porter, executive director of the JUSTPEACE Center for Mediation and Conflict in Washington, led two sessions on developing a relational covenant to assist the conference in discussions around issues of high conflict and anxiety. "Tom Porter will help us understand theologically and more deeply our vision as we set the table for all God's people," said Bishop Sharon Brown Christopher.

Rudolph Merab, conference lay leader from the Liberia Annual Conference, participated in the Liberian Partnership Report. Established in 2005, the conference has partnered with Liberia around four major initiatives: children scholarships, pastoral salary support, church reconstruction and bed nets to combat malaria.

The conference celebrated with a $22,708 offering for Liberia scholarships - an amount that will send 450 children to elementary schools for a year. In all, more than $500,000 flowed to Liberia in 2006, including major contributions from First United Methodist Church, Peoria, and Wesley United Methodist Church, Canton, in the building of Ganta Hospital. More than 20 conference mission teams have been sent to Liberia in the past two years with teams scheduled to depart in October and another team in February 2008.

The United Methodist Council on Finance and Administration recognized the Illinois Great Rivers Conference for payment of 100 percent of apportioned general funds for 2006.

The conference was filled with celebration and inspiring worship. The June 9 evening service of Restorative Justice included leadership from the African Methodist Episcopal and Christian Methodist Episcopal denominations. Bishop Paul A.G. Stewart, Jr. of the CME Third Episcopal District preached and a Pan-Methodist choir provided special music. Bishop Christopher led the conference in a service at the Table of Restorative Justice in which the conference "owned our history and proclaimed a new story" of repentance and reconciliation.

The Africa University Partnership Committee reached its $100,000 goal for the "Richard Reeves Africa University Building & Maintenance Endowment Fund" with a special offering of $7,740. The conference voted to give its $20,000 distribution from the United Methodist Publishing House to the Central Conference Pension Initiative with nearly $100,000 being given in the last five years.

Bishop Christopher ordained five elders and recognized the orders of a sixth with full membership rights; one deacon in full connection; two associate members. She commissioned 14 probationary members (13 on elder's track, one on deacon's track). Twenty-one pastors, celebrating 613 combined years of service, retired.

In conference action, delegates:

  • Approved a budget of $14,448,579, a 4.24 percent increase over 2007.
  • Approved the purchase or construction of a new episcopal residence with a cost cap of $425,000. Apportionments will not be impacted by the project as funds from the sale of two district parsonages will be used to finance the project.
  • Approved a model for pastoral care and counseling that includes counseling as well as assessment and referral to other care providers.

Conference members elected delegates to the 2008 General Conference and the North Central Jurisdictional Conference.

Lay delegates elected to the General Conference are Rhonda Whitaker of Neoga; Paul Black of Springfield; David Hood of Champaign; Bunny Wolfe of Springfield; Carolyn Yockey of Normal; L. Jerome Gibson of Belleville; and J. LaVon Wilson of Springfield.

Clergy delegates elected to the General Conference are Timothy L. Bias of Peoria; Shane Bishop of Fairview Heights; Roger S. Ross of Champaign; Robert Freeman of Geneseo; J. Keith Zimmerman of Pontiac; Sara Isbell of Decatur; and Cynthia Jones of Charleston.

Bias and Whitaker have been designated as co-chairs of the delegation.

Lay delegates elected to the North Central Jurisdictional Conference are Kim Reis of Champaign; Melissa Calvillo of Carthage; Pete Paulson of Mt. Zion; Keith Shelton of Moline; Elouise Hahs of Mt. Vernon; Kara Crawford of East Moline; and Pamela Hammond McDavid of Springfield. Lay alternates are Fred Iutzi of Burnside; Carol Rankin of West Point; and Jinny Gordon of Kankakee.

Clergy delegates elected to the North Central Jurisdictional Conference are Sylvester Weatherall of Springfield; Randall Robinson of Jacksonville; Rose Mary Booker-Jones of East St. Louis; Troy Benitone of Pawnee; Beverly Wilkes-Null of Lebanon; Melva Graham England of Peoria; Dennis Price of Troy, Ill. Clergy alternates are Deryck Sonaram of Murrayville; J. Michael Smith of Urbana; and William Pyatt of Carthage.

Membership is at 147,656, down 0.9 percent. Attendance stands at 73,881, down 0.5 percent from the previous year.

--Paul E. Black