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2009 Illinois Great River Annual Conference

Illinois Great River Annul Conference
June 3-6, 2009, Peoria, Ill.

Christine Pohl, professor of social ethics at Asbury Theological Seminary and theologian in residence for the Illinois Annual Conference led two learning sessions on radical hospitality during the annual gathering. Concluding the two sessions were video stories produced by the conference's communications team concerning hospitality ministries at Bloomington Grace United Methodist Church and Quest United Methodist Church in Champaign, Ill.

The conference was honored with the presence of Bishop John G. Innis of Liberia, who participated in the conference's Liberia Project Report. During the past two years, more than $1.8 million in support has been sent to Liberia centering around four priorities: educational scholarships, pastoral salary support, reconstruction of churches and hospitals and bed nets to combat malaria. The conference also received Jim Salley, associate vice chancellor for institutional development for Africa University, and David Malloy, annual conference liaison for the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. Malloy presented the conference with a certificate noting it was the leading conference in the North Central Jurisdiction in providing support for United Methodist Board of Global Ministries missionaries. Malloy also recognized the Illinois Great Rivers Conference as one of 17 annual conferences to have paid 100 percent of apportioned church funds for 2008.

The conference was filled with celebration and inspiring worship. Bishop Gregory V. Palmer presided over his first annual conference as bishop of the Illinois area and preached the three morning devotional times called Morning Manna with Bishop Palmer. He used the occasion to punctuate the conference theme of radical hospitality.

Special offerings were received for the following: $6,398 for the Global HIV/AIDS Fund; $10,422 for Liberia, which will be used to finance a student's education at Africa University; $4,306 for a mission trip for newly-ordained clergy to Liberia; $5,605 for the Tom Brown Scholarship at Wiley College, one of the church's historically black colleges; and $6391 for Africa University. Conference members also brought three tons of rice to the conference to be shipped to Liberia to assist with the economic hardship in the West African country.

Legislatively, conference members narrowly approved a proposal for full direct billing of pension payments beginning in 2010. Currently, part of the benefit is funded through apportionments and part is direct-billed. To assist in this transition, an additional $100,000 was added to the conference budget to assist churches in right sizing the type of pastoral leadership needed for a particular church or charge. All churches will see an 18.78 percent reduction in apportionments. However, churches will be assessed $6,720 for each full-time pastor under appointment with proportional direct bills for pastors under appointment serving three-fourths, one-half and one-fourth time.

Conference members also considered the 32 constitutional amendments submitted for ratification by the 2008 General Conference. Only six received affirmative votes: Amendment XIX regarding extending voting rights for General and Jurisdictional Conference to associate members, certain provisional members and certain local pastors; Amendment VIII, adding gender as a protected class against discrimination in global foundations documents; Amendment IX, which would require a minimum basis of support for the election of bishops; Amendment XV, allowing General Conference the ability to define laity and clergy membership without amending the constitution; Amendment XVII, which would allow lay persons on the Committee on Investigation the right to vote on matters of ordination, character and conference relations of clergy; and Amendment XXII, adding Bermuda to the list of conferences in the Northeastern Jurisdiction.

Bishop Palmer ordained five elders and recognized the orders of a sixth with full membership rights. He commissioned 10 provisional members (eight on elder's track, two on deacon's track). A total of 16 pastors, celebrating 467 and three-fourths years, retired.

Attendance stands at 68,642, down 2 percent from the previous year. Membership is at 142,812, down 1.5 percent from 2007. Sunday school attendance stands at 25,443, an increase of 5.3 percent from 2007.

-Paul E. Black