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2016 Northern Illinois Conference

As this quadrennium comes to a close and a new one begins, changes, challenges, uncertainties opportunities, possibilities and hope face the Northern Illinois Annual Conference. More than 1,000 clergy and laity gathered at the 177th session from June 5-7, 2016 in St. Charles, Illinois to celebrate, worship and conduct business, each step guided by God and the Scripture verse: 2 Corinthians 5: 6-7 with the theme Walk by Faith.

The two-and-a-half day conference opened on Sunday afternoon with the laity and clergy sessions. The board of laity thanked outgoing Conference Lay Leader Arnold Rivera for his eight years of service as well as four years as a district lay leader, blessing him for his next journey ahead. He will be succeeded in the new quadrennium by three co-lay leaders — Jessie Cunningham, Elisa Gatz and Mark Manzi.

During the clergy session, the Rev. Scott Field asked for a ruling of law on a failed motion that he made addressing the Northern Illinois Conference Board of Ordained Ministry’s recent statement on its policy giving LGBTQ candidates equal consideration and protection in the candidacy process. Bishop Sally Dyck has 30 days to respond. Her response is then sent to the Judicial Council, which is expected to make a final ruling this fall.

Ordination was moved to the beginning of annual conference this year and if you missed it, you missed Bishop Dyck doing the Hokey Pokey. She demonstrated how she jumped at the chance for a voucher for a future flight taking on the airline’s challenge to “... put your right hand out, put your right hand in and shake it all about...” in the Nashville, Tennessee airport. But she says the Hokey Pokey is not a dance, yet a game, and nothing like ministry.

“Ministry requires some basics, but there’s nothing that can tell us exactly what to do in each and every context,” she said. “We have to bring ourselves to it, listen to each other and God, step in and step back in leadership using our gifts and skills in leading in dancing to the music of the mission together.”

The bishop ordained 15 elders, two deacons, commissioned one person for the work of a deacon and six for the work of an elder. There was one recognition of orders.

Mark Miller, assistant professor of church music at United Methodist Drew Theological School, shared his musical talents, gifts and hymns throughout the worship services as well as the opening and closing of plenaries.

During the episcopal address, Bishop Dyck outlined the mission and vision of the annual conference following the results of the Landscape survey conducted last summer, to do things differently for the purpose of supporting local churches. Much of the change and aspirations outlined such as structure, programming, committee work and budgeting will require a lot of change on the part of everyone, the bishop said.

“The purpose of the annual conference isn’t to serve the annual conference, but to serve the local church in its mission which is to make disciples,” she added.

A task force, which was developed following a conference survey of 600 clergy and laity on the purpose of the annual conference, introduced two pieces of legislation (which were approved). These include: A conference task force to explore an alternative organizational structure that fosters collaboration between administration and program areas of the conference, and the creation of a Northern Illinois Ministry and Building Assessment Team to assist local churches in accessing their building and mission priorities and resources.

As the outgoing dean of the cabinet, the Rev. Tracy Smith Malone delivered the cabinet report outlining some of the goals for the next quadrennium which include: designing church conferences to be relational, interactive and mission focused; experimenting with an all-clergy retreat and mission day; and expanding the idea of a “mobile” district superintendent model to bring the superintendent closer to the local church. The Rev. Young-Mee Park will serve as the next Dean of the Cabinet.

During the memorial service, the annual conference remembered Bishop Jesse DeWitt, 13 retired clergy, 10 spouses of deacons or elders, four lay employees, and six lay members of the conference. The Rev. Cerna Rand delivered the message personally sharing her battle with ovarian cancer and offering hope, “My God is bigger than my cancer,” she said. “In life and in death, God is with me.”

Drs. Jack Seymour and Margaret Ann Crain led Bible study Monday and Tuesday, teaching and encouraging everyone to become Bible study leaders of their own. They outlined a three-step process by first seeing and listening to the text, second judging or asking what does the text help you see about your world, and third by acting or as a follower of Jesus — name what will you do.

“Faith is not a magic pill,” said Crain. “Bible study is not easy, but it is possible.”

We honored and thanked 16 retirees with more than 485 combined years of service at the Retirement service. A special thanks went to Northern Illinois Conference Media Resource Director Susan Gieseler, who will officially retire July 1, after eight-and-a-half years on the job. We are grateful for all her work behind the scenes at annual conference as well as in the program office.

A 2017 budget of $6,626,961 was approved, which is about a $121,000 decrease from 2016. The total was adjusted to reflect General Conference changes to the general church apportionments.

Other legislation approved included: the discontinuation of First United Methodist Church in Westmont; support of a FAIR COPS Ordinance, which calls for the implementation of an Independent Police Auditor’s office in Chicago; and mandatory participation in a conference-wide insurance program (CWIP).

The Northern Illinois Conference Foundation thanked outgoing president the Rev. John Peterson, who is returning to Florida, and announced the Rev. Chris Walters will be the next president.

The bishop’s appeal special offering, which included the sale and auction of this year’s artwork by the Rev. Kristine Marshall, raised $58,648 for Rosecrance and its Launch to Life campaign to support the construction of a new counseling center and recovery residence under Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. The Rockford District raised the most money per capita earning the coveted traveling trophy. The Ministerial Education Fund received $4,533 in offerings. Districts also met the mission challenge donating tens of thousands of school supplies for UMCOR school kits.

Membership in the Northern Illinois Conference stands at 84,803, down 1,373 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 31,486, or down 579. Sunday school attendance stands at 8,397, down 281. Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2015 1,939, up 13 from 2014. The number of adults and young adults in small groups for 2015 was 17,188, up 443 from 2014. The number of worshippers engaged in mission for 2015 was 19,742, up 3,159 from 2014.

The 2017 Northern Illinois Annual Conference will be held June 4-7 returning to St. Charles, Illinois. For more info and photos visit: www.umcnic.org/AC2016.

Source: Anne Marie Gerhardt, director of communications