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2011 Northern Illinois Annual Conference

Northern Illinois Annual Conference
June 8-11, 2011, St. Charles, Ill.

United Methodists of Northern Illinois recommitted to making disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world stating, "Together We Serve - United by Love" at the 172nd annual conference.

The conference announced plans to kick off a three-year Harvest 2020 capital campaign to build new faith communities and renew existing ones. The extended cabinet made an initial pledge of a combined $155,000 over three years.

"The work Harvest 2020 has done is changing lives and is phenomenal," said committee lay member Al Longtin. "There's no easy solution, but we have to grasp on and take action."

Bishop Hee-Soo Jung said the Harvest 2020 movement is interwoven with the denomination's Four Areas of Focus. The conference continues to create new places for new people, equip laity and clergy for healthy discipleship, minister "with" the poor and work on preventing malaria and improving global health.

"The embers of Harvest 2020 have been kindled into a small flame as our work is emulated and celebrated beyond our conference," said Jung.

In 2012, the conference hopes to launch a Chinese-language church and a Hmong congregation as well as Laotian, Polish, French African and more Hispanic/Latino new faith communities.

"We are on the leading edge of change in the church," said Arnold Rivera, conference lay leader.

Lay delegates elected to General Conference include Lonnie Chafin (vice chair), Roger Curless, Rachel Birkhahn-Rommelfanger and Irma Clark. Clergy delegates to General Conference are Tracy Smith Malone (chair), James Preston, Gregory Gross and Alka Lyall.

Lay delegates elected to North Central Jurisdictional Conference include Rita Smith, Jack Ryder, Elisa Gatz and Harriet McCabe (secretary). Lay Alternates are Daniel Viana and Charla Antrobus. Clergy delegates elected to jurisdictional conference include Ouk-Yean Kim Jueng, Luis Reyes, Chris Pierson and Daniel Diss. Clergy alternates are Martin Lee and Melissa Meyers.

Guest speakers challenged members to open their hearts and minds to the global world. Bishop Javier Rojas of the Evangelical Methodist Church in Bolivia thanked the conference for its continued support and partnership with the church in his country.

"You allow us to continue to work in mission for our Creator," said Rojas. Bible study leader Ray Buckley moved the members to tears with sacred stories of his Native American heritage while raising awareness of the atrocities against his people.

"Give your best and worst to God as a gift," said Buckley. "We are called to be real people."

In legislative action, the conference voted to:

  • Petition General Conference to remove all discriminatory language about homosexuality from The Book of Discipline and to offer equal rights for all;

  • Join the Hyatt Hotels boycott until just settlements of labor disputes are achieved;

  • Petition General Conference to divest conference investments from companies that profit from the occupation of the Palestinian territories; and

  • Petition General Conference to oppose categorically any form of adult, youth and child bullying.

Three offerings were collected: $5,250 for UMCOR, $3,674 for the Ministerial Education Fund and $2,880 for Bolivia. Members also donated 2,655 pounds of health-kit and flood-bucket supplies to the Midwest Distribution Center, which will help tornado- and flood-relief efforts.

Members of the conference voted to approve the 2012 budget of $9.2 million, including apportionments of $6.6 million, down slightly from 2011 after cuts. Conference treasurer Lonnie Chafin reported on a new insurance vendor for retirees, Extend Health, which will reduce the conference liabilities for retiree health benefits by $19 million. In 2010, the conference paid its full share of apportionments, 100 percent, one of only 15 annual conferences to do so.

Jung ordained two deacons in full connection and 14 elders in full connection, with an average age of 37. Three elders received recognition of orders, two candidates preparing for deacons orders and seven candidates headed for elder orders were commissioned.

Membership stands at 97,814, down 2,314 (-2.4 percent) from the previous year. Average weekly worship attendance stands at 38,123, down 1,184 (-3 percent). Church school attendance stands at 33,800 up 14.

For more information about the Northern Illinois Conference, visit www.umcnic.org.

-- Anne Marie Gerhardt, director of communications