2022 Northern Illinois Annual Conference

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After two years of meeting virtually, nearly 700 clergy, lay members and guests came back together in person for the 183rd Northern Illinois Annual Conference held June 8-10 at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center.

This year’s theme was “Connected in Christ: Come to the Water.” It was a time to reconnect and reunite with colleagues and friends while also being reminded of what connects us as United Methodists.

While the annual conference committee kept health and safety guidelines in check, the energy and excitement of being together again could be felt throughout the halls of the convention center from registration to people stopping by the information display tables to learn more about the many NIC ministries and organizations.

The annual conference began with a standing-room-only Laity Session, which included updates from each district lay leader and worship with communion.

Bishop John L. Hopkins opened the 2022 Annual Conference session with the Memorial Service to honor and remember clergy, spouses and lay members who have passed away since our last gathering. Hopkins asked all to come to the water and remember your baptism.

“Don’t say you don’t remember your baptism because you were only an infant or young child at the time,” said Hopkins while displaying a photo of his baptismal certificate on the screen. “Your baptism is bigger than your experience. Like Jesus, I received my Christian identity at my baptism and so did you. We ‘Come to the Water’ to be washed clean from our sin, to die to self and be raised to new life in Jesus Christ.”

The Rev. Jane Eesley delivered a two-part Bible study focusing on the story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8: 26-40. 

“What does the story of the Eunuch tell us?” Eesley asked. “Expect surprises, open ourselves up, and never be too sure how and where things will end up. The Holy Spirit encourages us to come to the water.”

The Retirement Service opened the second day by celebrating 16 retirees with a combined 364 years of service.

Hopkins then delivered his Episcopal Address, asking if we are ready for a “spiritual awakening.”

He said, “Can we let the Holy Spirit of Pentecost weave us together and join with others to spread scriptural holiness across the nation? Are you ready to go? Let’s do it!”

NIC Co-Leader Eugene Williams delivered the Laity Address and called on us to re-dedicate ourselves to the work of Christ.

“Sisters and brothers, even without the pandemic, these have been some of the most challenging times we’ve faced in many years,” Williams said. “Uncertainty continues to abound as we deal with talks of splits, restructuring and cancellations. But our core as United Methodists is we are connectional, and I know without a doubt, we have much more in common that connects us than separates us.”

Exploring #BeUMC
Annual Conference Shepherding Team (ACST) Co-Chairs Rev. Myron McCoy and Liz Gracie led table talks encouraging Annual Conference members to get to know each other better. 

Wearing #BeUMC T-shirts, they posed questions to help each table group reflect on questions around what makes them United Methodist. Participants engaged in conversations around: “What experiences in your faith journey bring you joy?” and “Who are you and what brought you to the UMC?” 

After legislation passed in 2021 calling for legislative sections to provide more opportunities for conversation, they were brought back this year after more than a decade without them. Annual conference members were randomly selected to participate in one of five sections to consider legislation to put on the consent calendar. The final votes included 17 items of concurrence and one non-concurrence that was around disaffiliation processes.

Day two included a vote on the consent calendar, which passed. One piece of legislation was lifted from the consent calendar — 700.12 to hold elections in 2023 for General Conference delegates. After a substitute amendment to include the phrase: “unless Judicial Council requires the 2020 delegation to be seated in 2024,” the legislation passed.

Annual conference members also approved the 2023 budget for mission and ministry totaling $6,073,45, a decrease of $82,036 from 2022. The Conference Council on Finance and Administration celebrated NIC churches for abundantly giving despite the challenges of the pandemic and helping the conference pay 100% general church apportionments in 2021. NIC's expected 2022 payment for general church apportionments decreased by nearly $180,000.

The equitable compensation legislation also passed that outlines the minimum salaries for full-time clergy and includes an increase of $500 for accountable reimbursements to $5,500. CCFA says this will help with rising gas prices and cover costs related to travel, continuing education, and other expenses incurred while providing pastoral ministry.

Other approved legislation included a narrative for continuing The United Methodist Church and another that affirms “A Call to Grace,” which was approved at the North Central Jurisdiction Special Session in November 2021. It calls on support, space and resources for local churches and individuals since the “continued delay in making decisions about the future of The United Methodist Church hurts our mission and is especially harmful to our Central Conference and LGBTQIA+ siblings who are caught up in this conflict.”

Also, the annual conference prayed and celebrated the years of ministry of two closed churches, Flowing Forth (Prairie Central District) and Cortland (Prairie South District).

To read the legislation and find the amended Consent Calendar, visit umcnic.org/AC2022docs.

This year’s Bishop’s Appeal offering brought in a record $275,000 to help alleviate human suffering in Ukraine and for refugee relief through Global Ministries. The total includes $2,370 from on-site T-shirt sales.

“We extend our gratitude to the generous people in the Northern Illinois Conference for their fantastic support to the 2022 Bishop’s Appeal,” said the Rev. Shirley Pulgar-Hughes, conference global ministries secretary.

The Ministerial Education Fund offering, which supports the ongoing work of the NIC Board of Ordained Ministry for recruitment and education, raised $2,400.

Dozens of churches also donated more than 4,500 pounds of most-needed items for the Midwest Mission Distribution Center to help in disaster relief for the Annual Conference Mission Challenge.

Commissioning and Ordination
The annual conference closed with the Ordination and Commissioning Service welcoming Bishop Jonathan Keaton back to the NIC to preach. He began and closed his message by singing, “Take Me to The Water.” He reflected on the hundreds of pilgrims who come to the Jordan River in the holy land to be baptized and went deeper into the story of the Ethiopian eunuch who desired baptism.

“Never forget we can always be taken to the water to remember our baptism,” Keaton preached. 

The ecumenical guest was Bishop Yehiel Curry of the Chicago Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Other guests included Dawn Wiggins Hare, general secretary of the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women, and NIC missionary Young Seon (Christina) Kim, who shared an update on the opening of the Global Mission Secondary School in Tanzania. 

During the service, Hopkins commissioned four candidates toward elders orders and ordained seven (six elders and one deacon). He recognized one person for the office of deaconess.

Membership stands at 70,554, down from the previous year of 74,030. Worship attendance stands at 14,512, down from 17,412. Online attendance is down to 14,191. Church school attendance stands at 3,103, down from 3,642. The number of professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2021 is at 756, up from 605. The number of adults and young adults in small groups for 2021 was 15,267, coming off a year when most churches couldn’t hold small groups in person. The number of worshippers engaged in mission for 2021 was 8,778, down from 10,103.

184th Northern Illinois Annual Conference
The 2023 Annual Conference is scheduled for June 6-8  and returns to the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center with the theme “Connected in Christ: Come to the Table.”

By Anne Marie Gerhardt, NIC director of communications

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