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2011 Illinois Great River Annual Conference

Illinois Great Rivers Annual Conference
June 1-4, Peoria, Ill.

Theologians in residence for the conference were Paul Chilcote, professor of historical theology and Wesleyan studies and director of the Center for Applied Wesleyan Studies at Ashland (Ohio) Theological Seminary, and Kenda Creasy Dean, professor of youth, church and culture at Princeton (N.J.) Theological Seminary. Each focused on the conference theme: "Intentional Faith Development: Growing Up to the Full Measure of Jesus Christ."

Bishop Gregory V. Palmer, in his episcopal address, reported on the progress of the four initiatives proposed in last year's address. One initiative a $2.3 million to $3.5 million campaign for Imagine No Malaria has resulted in $1.5 million in secured pledges, nearly $900,000 in actual receipts and 45 percent participation among congregations in the first six months of the campaign. United Methodist layman Mike McCurry was the keynote speaker at the all-conference dinner and Imagine No Malaria celebration, encouraging the conference to "finish strong," in reaching its campaign goal. Offerings collected during the conference for Imagine No Malaria totaled $27,312.

The conference cabinet also reported on its First Thursday initiative a day of prayer and fasting, which will continue in the next year, along with a challenge to read the Bible in a year.
The conference also was honored with the presence of UMCOR executive the Rev. Cynthia Harvey, who represented the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries and The Advance. Harvey reported that the conference gave $1.4 million to Advance Specials in 2010, including $900,000 for Haiti earthquake relief. The conference also has 79 percent of its churches participating in designated giving, gave $200,000in missionary support. The conference was commended for both its Five-Star Mission program that encourages balanced support for missions and the partnership with the Liberia Annual Conference that has provided more than $3 million in support since its inception six years ago.

The Illinois Great Rivers Conference was also recognized as one of 15 annual conferences to have paid 100 percent of apportioned general funds for 2010. Seven of the 14 conferences were in the North Central Jurisdiction.

The conference was also a homecoming celebration for Bishop Woodie W. White and his wife Kim. Bishop White served as the area's episcopal leader from 1984 to 1992. He preached at both the opening memorial service and the ordination service, and the conference joined in celerating the Whites' 50th wedding anniversary and the 50th anniversary of Bishop White's ordination as a United Methodist pastor.

Bishop Palmer preached during the three morning devotional times called "Morning Manna." He used the occasion to punctuate the conference theme of Intentional Faith Development as acts of Word, Sign and Deed. The Rev. Mike Rayson served as conference worship leader.

Special offerings were received for the following: the John Kofi Asmah School in Monrovia, Liberia, $9,543; Africa University, providing scholarship assistance for two students, $7,445; the Tom Brown Scholarship at Wiley College, one of the church's historically black colleges, $5,588; and funds for a mission trip experience for newly ordained clergy, $5,200.

The conference also collected 12,454 hand towels in a challenge from the Iowa Annual Conference to supply UMCOR cleaning buckets for the Midwest Mission Distribution Center.

The conference elected the following delegation to the 2012 General Conference: the Rev. Randy Robinson, LaMoine River District superintendent and incoming pastor, St. James UMC, Danville; the Rev. Sara Isbell, Chatham UMC; the Rev. Sylvester Weatherall, Grace-Kumler UMCs, Springfield; the Rev. Andrew Adams, Quest UMC, Champaign; the Rev. Janice Griffith, Spoon River District superintendent, Galesburg; and the Rev. J. Keith Zimmerman, retiring Vermilion River District superintendent, Mackinaw.

Laypersons also elected to the General Conference delegation were: Rhonda Whitaker, conference lay leader, Grace UMC, Neoga; Paul Black, conference director of communication ministries, Jerome UMC, Springfield; Mike Potts, New Horizon UMC, Champaign; Bunny Wolfe, conference director of outreach and missions, Chatham; Ryan Davis, First UMC, Havana; and Marian McCray, Mississippi River District lay leader, Park UMC, Cahokia.

Those serving as the Jurisdictional Conference delegation are: the Rev. Shane Bishop, Christ UMC, Fairview Heights; the Rev. Rose Booker-Jones, Bethel UMC, Peoria; the Rev. Roger Ross, First UMC, Springfield; the Rev. Kelligay King Crede, chaplain, Cunningham Home, Urbana; the Rev. Jason Woolever, Bethel UMC, Mascoutah; the Rev. Dennis Price, Troy UMC;and alternates the Rev. Jeremiah Thompson, associate pastor, Mahomet UMC, Mahomet, and the Rev. Carol Lakota Eastin, Rantoul UMC.

Laypersons serving in the jurisdictional delegation are: Melissa Calvillo, Carthage UMC; Robin Williams, Wesley UMC, Vergennes; Fred Iutzi, Carthage UMC; Steve Schonert, First UMC, Olney; Carolyn Yockey, First UMC, Normal; J. LaVon Wilson, Grace UMC, Springfield; and alternates John Kauerauf, First UMC, Springfield, and Alan Prass, Christ UMC, Fairview Heights.

Palmer ordained nine elders and one deacon in full connection and commissioned eight provisional elders. Twenty-four pastors, celebrating 664.75 years, retired.
Attendance stands at 65,462, down 1.9 percent from the previous year. Membership is at 138,732, down 1.3 percent from 2009. Sunday school attendance stands at 23,559, a decrease of5.6 percent from 2009.

--Paul E. Black, IGRC Director of Communication Ministries