2014 Northern Illinois Annual Conference
June 8-10, 2014 in St. Charles, Ill.
The 2014 Northern Illinois Annual Conference celebrated its 175th session in St. Charles, Ill., June 8-10, continuing the quadrennial theme “Who is My Neighbor?” The first organizing session of the then Rock River Conference was held August 1840 in Mount Morris, Ill., in a small log cabin. While we celebrated the past this year, Resident Bishop Sally Dyck looked forward in her Episcopal Address. “I am calling us to continue to grow in awareness, understanding and love for our neighbors,” said Bishop Dyck.
Bishop Dyck draws our focus on being vital Christians in vital congregations to change communities. She set goals for the next year which include: starting nine new faith communities, strengthening at least 12 existing congregations, growing in our capacity as multicultural congregations, participating in Native American Acts of Repentance, advocating for children, continuing Spanish as a Second Language in 100 churches, reaching our Imagine No Malaria goal of $1 million in pledges, transforming Chicago’s communities and beyond with the Urban Strategy and growing in our ability to reach out to LGBTQ people and families.
Children remain a top concern for Bishop Dyck and the Northern Illinois Conference; she wants every United Methodist in the Northern Illinois Conference to make the children in their communities a priority. She asked that every church have a Child Advocate and every congregation talk to the principal of the local school to find out what they need. “For instance, Chicago Public Schools need mentors for all its students; mentors, not mittens,” said Bishop Dyck. “Don’t bring mittens, bring mentors! Partner with the school according to their needs.”
Author and speaker Diana Butler Bass talked about the vitality of today’s churches during her keynote presentations. Like the two disciples on the walk to Emmaus with Jesus, Bass said we don’t always see what’s immediately in front of us. She outlined a framework using a Tinker Toy model to demonstrate the multi-dimensions of 21st-century worldviews from pre-modernism to modernism.
She said we can no longer debate that it’s not 1957. “We have to figure out what it means to be church now. We can’t even debate what it means to be the church then or even in the future,” said Bass. “Seeing the world as it is now and being faithful in the now is going to open up some extraordinary paths for the future.”
Looking ahead to 2016, the Annual Conference elected the General and Jurisdictional delegation so it can have two years instead of only one year to work together as a group. The following were elected: Clergy Delegates for General Conference: the Revs. Tracy Smith Malone, Alka Lyall, Gregory Gross. Laity Delegates for General Conference: Lonnie Chafin, Irma Clark, Elisa Gatz. Clergy for Jurisdictional: The Revs. Chris Pierson, Carol Hill, Luis Reyes. Clergy Reserves for Jurisdictional: The Revs. David Lagos-Fonseca, Chris Winkler. Laity for Jurisdictional: Jack Ryder, Marta Rodriguez, Rita L. Smith. Laity Reserves for Jurisdictional: Nancy Pendegrass and Joyce Carrasco.
Legislative action included changes to the mandatory clergy health insurance plan giving those who qualify the option to participate in the Affordable Care Act exchange marketplace under a one-year pilot program. Other action included changes to streamline the standing rules, the formation of a Restorative and Transformative Justice committee, support of Marriage Equality and Pastors who minister to them (which was challenged from the floor requiring Bishop Dyck to issue a written ruling on it), and the recognition of Marcy Newberry Association’s 130 years of ministry and service on Chicago’s west side.
Bishop Dyck ordained six elders and one deacon. There was one recognition of orders into full membership and one recognition of orders of a provisional member. Two deaconesses who were consecrated at the United Methodist Women Assembly were commissioned. Bishop Dyck also commissioned four deacons and 17 for the work of an elder.
Bishop Dyck delivered the ordination service sermon. “I believe people in our churches are suffering,” she said to the ordinands. “It’s our responsibility as clergy to love them. You gotta love ‘em!” she exclaimed.
Hundreds of baby items were donated to the Midwest Mission Distribution center for layette kits. The generosity of the conference continued with two special offerings. The second annual Bishop’s Appeal raised $47,328 for Imagine No Malaria and the offering during the Ordination Service went toward the Ministerial Education Fund (MEF) totaling $6,347.
Membership stands at 93,961, down 235 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 33,970, down by 1,860. Church school attendance stands at 11,674, down slightly by 20. Professions of faith stand at 1,797, up by 51. Baptisms stand at 1,220, up by 15.
— Anne Marie Gerhardt, director of communications