Reflections on the 179th Session of the

Northern Illinois Conference Annual Conference

June 3-5, 2018, Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, Illinois

Your Community UMC lay members, consisting of Mark Overstreet, Susan Keaton, Sarah Hollander, Oliver Taylor, and David Hollander (also George Groves as the Aurora District UMM president), Rev Tom Rawlinson, Deacon Nick Nickolas, along with new CUMC pastors Hannah Chong and Jeremiah Lee, return from Annual Conference ready to “navigate uncharted waters” in the work of ministries in and around CUMC.

The most compelling issue before the NIC Annual Conference is the status of the Commission on the Way Forward (COTWF), which was formed after the 2016 General Conference due to conflict around the issue of human sexuality. The COTWF has been meeting over the past 18 months and will issue its report and recommendations by July 8 of this year. This report will form the basis of legislation being brought to a special 2019 General Conference being held February 23-26, 2019, in St. Louis, MO. There will be an Aurora District listening session held by the NIC General Conference delegation on Saturday, November 10, starting at 1:00 PM, at Plainfield UMC. The following summary was presented to the Annual Conference by Bishop Sally Dyck during her Episcopal Address:

  1. We no longer live in a convergent culture, defined as a culture where the concerns and questions are the same for all people, and so are the answers or solutions.
  2. We now live in a divergent culture, defined as a culture where the concerns and questions are the same for all people, but the answers or solutions are very different.
  3. The COTWF acknowledges that we interpret human sexuality differently, historically and culturally.
  4. The COTWF believes that ignoring this situation will lead to a fracturing of the church, but also that a preference-driven solution will be doomed to failure.
  5. In the end, according to Bishop Dyck, we seek unity on something greater than agreement.
  6. The bishop urged us to avoid too much of an inward focus as we struggle with our organizational issues, remembering that the mission of the UMC is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. She said, “This is not the worst thing that has happened to the church, and we will get through it.”
  7. Three plans have emerged, which will be described in more detail in the COTWF report due later this summer.
    1. One Church Plan (“the big tent”)
      1. This is the plan backed by the Council of Bishops (COB).
      2. This plan would remove the restrictive language around human sexuality written into the Book of Discipline, but this does not ensure acceptance of LGBTQI+ individuals, clergy or laity.
      3. Rules restricting apportionment funds being used in the support of LGBTQI+ causes remain.
      4. No one will be asked to act contrary to their principles. Local churches and clergy may “do church” as they see fit, without the threat of church discipline.
      5. Individual churches could even request reassignment to another Annual Conference, if desired.
      6. Message: Unity of mission does not demand uniformity of practice.
    2. Traditionalist Plan (“status quo”)
      1. There is little COB support for this, but there are bishops who support this.
      2. In this plan, things would carry on as usual.
      3. Message: This matter is not sufficient for a reorganization effort.
    3. Connectional Conference Plan (“The three branches of UMC”)
      1. Church would be reorganized into three bodies, based on preference:
        1. Traditionalist
        2. Unity
        3. Progressive
      2. This reorganization would potentially create some unusual Annual Conferences (think: gerrymandering)
      3. Message: We can work within our camps/silos in the church.
  8. It should be noted that the One Church Plan received significant treatment during the Bishop’s address, and the other two were shared, but it was clear the Bishop was not motivated to defend either of them.
  9. Legislation was introduced (700.04) to affirm the One Church Plan recommendation of the COB and urge the NIC General Conference delegation to support this recommendation. It faced stiff debate and the vote ultimately went in favor of supporting the legislation.

We bring this list of joys from the conference:

  1. Greetings were offered to CUMC from the following people: Rev. Tom Babler, Rev. Sarah Casey, Rev. Emery Purcell, Rev. Melissa Hood, Rev. Jeremiah Lee, and Rev. Hannah Chong.
  2. Former CUMC staff member Lauren Rheingans was commissioned as a deacon in the Northern Illinois Conference of the UMC. The annual ordination service was held on Sunday, June 3, and was attended by more than 1,000 people from around the conference.
  3. The conference recognized CUMC as a Rainbow Covenant church for participation in all the mission bands of the Northern Illinois Conference. Barrington UMC earned BOTH the Philip Otterbein Award for “highest amount given” and the John Wesley Award for “highest per capita giving” in the conference.
  4. The conference recognized CUMC for paying our 2017 apportionment in FULL. We are on pace to meet that important connectional goal again in 2018.
  5. The Bishop’s Appeal for the Global Migration Fund ministry raised over $73,000 from all the member churches in the conference. The Elgin District accepted recognition for the largest total district donation to the Bishop’s Appeal. Thank you for your individual contributions to that wonderful total.
  6. The Annual Conference was blessed by the reflections of the Rev. John McCullough, President and CEO of Church World Service, who brought a biblical frame to the global refugee and migration crisis; the Rev. Alfred Day, General Secretary of the UMC General Commission on Archives and History and editor of Methodist History, who offered a historical church outline as a way to mark the 50th anniversary of the merger that created the United Methodist Church; and the Rev. Tim Casey (father of Pastor Sarah!), who preached at the memorial service and reminded us that we are surrounded by mentors and others who can be sources of great strength.
  7. Formerly active participants of the Northern Illinois Conference were celebrated at the memorial service held during Annual Conference. Among those names read at the service was the Rev. Eugene Winkler.
  8. Conference UMM President George Groves, a CUMC member, spoke to the conference on the tragedy of domestic violence and the need to combat it. George spoke straight to the males in attendance, saying: “This is on us.”

We also recognize the following challenges identified at the Northern Illinois Annual Conference:

  1. The Northern Illinois Conference is not currently able to pay its General Conference apportionment in full. The NIC paid 90% of its apportionment to GC in 2017, and plans to return to 100% apportionment giving to General Conference by 2020.
  2. The NIC Board of Pensions reported that member churches are over $500,000 in arrears in the payments of the benefits due for our pastors’ health care. CUMC is not individually culpable for this difficulty, but may be asked to participate to support member churches who cannot meet their obligations.
  3. Marcy Newberry Association (1883-2013) officially ceased all operations. This year’s NIC Annual Conference marked the opportunity for the association to offer its thanks, particularly to the UMW, and say goodbye.

We welcome future opportunities for you to interact with the CUMC members of the 2018 Northern Illinois Conference Annual Conference.

Respectfully submitted,
The 2018 CUMC Northern Illinois Conference Annual Conference Lay Members