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Annual Conference meets for fall session

Posted: October 3 2021 at 05:39 PM
Author: Anne Marie Gerhardt, Dir. of Communications


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Rev. Katie Voigt, Chair of Daily Proceedings, opens the fall session of the 182nd Annual Conference.

In a continuation of the 182nd Northern Illinois Annual Conference with the theme "Jesus Makes a Way," more than 600 members gathered for a half-day fall session held virtually through Zoom on October 2 to vote on the budget, a nominations slate, Board of Pension proposals and other business. 

The Annual Conference approved a $4.3 million budget for 2022 annual conference expenses, which is a $70,029 decrease from 2021 based on lower apportionment projections and other cost savings. CCFA said the Conference saved money through one fewer District Superintendent’s salary and office expenses as a result of reducing the number of districts from 6 to 5 this year as well as through fewer in-person meetings and events.


“In the Conference Council on Finance and Administration (CCFA) discussion of the budget, we tried to balance the faithful apportionment receipts we received during the pandemic from our local churches with the concern about the financial strain that may be caused by the prolonged pandemic,” said CCFA Chair Stephanie Uhl. “We also wanted to make sure that our budget continued to allow us to do valuable ministry as a conference and provide support to local churches during a difficult time.”

To get a better understanding of where churches stand financially, CCFA held several focus group discussions with about 40 total churches in September. Church leaders were asked, “How are you approaching 2022? Do you expect things to be much the same as 2021? Are you expecting further decreases/reductions?”

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CCFA's Rev. Tammy Scott (Vice-Chair) and Stephanie Uhl (Chair) present the 2022 budget to the Annual Conference.

CCFA Vice-Chair Rev. Tammy Scott said that many churches are planning for 2022 to be similar to 2021 with some increased programming and others with decreased staffing or other areas of reduction to meet anticipated revenue. Some people also shared that it’s still hard to make a plan since they are still in a time of ambiguity with rules and guidelines around COVID-19 keep shifting, Scott added. While many churches reported that their finances have been relatively stable during the pandemic, a number of local churches reported experiencing significant challenges. A poll presented to Annual Conference members during the Zoom session resulted in similar responses indicating a majority of churches are working toward restoring to pre-pandemic church life or holding steady.

“Our experiences may vary from church to church, but there is comfort in knowing that we are not alone,” said Rev. Scott.

CCFA Poll Question Results

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CCFA says the apportionment formula calculates apportionments based on local church expenses, so as local churches contract (or expand), the apportionment does as well, understanding that there’s a lag in data since it’s based on the previous year's numbers. Look for a video explanation of the apportionment formula as well as a new apportionments appeal form posted on the conference website in the coming months.

“Because They Cared” Initiative

The Annual Conference also approved the Board of Pensions two pieces of legislation; one addressing eligibility for coverage in the conference pension and health benefits program and a second that establishes the “Because They Cared” fund. Individuals and churches may make contributions in honor of clergy who have served meaningfully through the years through this conference-wide appeal. The Conference Board of Pensions says this fund will be a way to affirm and celebrate the service of clergy who have made an impact in our lives and churches as well as honor their legacy through our commitment to support future clergy in retirement.  

“The Conference Board of Pensions secured estimates from Wespath upon the amount of funding required to continue our retiree benefit programs over the next 20 years,” said Chair Rev. Katherine Paisley. “While there are funds to make current payments, we want to be sure we have sufficient funds to meet future payments – even if the investment market performs poorly.”

Paisley said the “Because They Cared" Initiative began with prayerful consideration of a potential funding gap and an awareness of the many ways that clergy have touched her own life through the years as well as a way to assure the conference that there is sufficient funding for future benefit needs.

“I am the daughter of a United Methodist pastor who served in this conference. My family has many generations of ministers on both sides,” said Rev. Paisley. “I was raised in the church – but besides my parents, other pastors made a significant impact in my life and although many of them are gone, I would like to honor them in some way.”

Paisley said this initiative is an opportunity to recognize pastors who have blessed many of us through the years by making contributions in their honor to help provide support for future generations of pastors. 

The Conference will maintain a list online of clergy (active and retired) that donors wish to honor with a gift to this initiative. For a donation of $100, each of the saints will be listed on a website page. All of the funds raised will be used to continue the benefit programs for retirees when required in the future. 

“We all have our stories. Giving is a way to show our gratitude to them,” said Paisley. “Giving a gift of $100 in honor of those who cared for us to a fund that will care for future generations of clergy is another way to celebrate them, and pass their legacy forward. May we cherish the memories of past clergy, who ‘Because They Cared’, enriched our lives.”

Other Business

The Annual Conference also approved the Annual Conference Shepherding Team's historical report, which was inadvertently left out of the July submitted reports and the nomination slate (Doc. 100). If you would still like to nominate someone or volunteer for a Conference committee, click here.

Bishop encourages Conference to “Keep Moving”

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Bishop John L. Hopkins says he's willing to stay on past December 31, 2021, as interim bishop in the Northern Illinois Conference. It is up to the Council of Bishops to make any final decisions on episcopal assignments.

Interim Bishop John L. Hopkins recalled while watching the November 2020 Northern Illinois Annual Conference session online before he came on board, he imagined by this time we would be together in person singing and praying together, telling stories of our ministries, making new friends, and celebrating worship and Holy Communion together. But as the pandemic kept its hold on the country, that was not to be. 

“Our imagination about what the future will hold is often not correct. Instead, we are surprised with unimaginable joys and challenges that we did not anticipate,” Bishop Hopkins said during his reflections at the fall 2021 session. “I stand here amazed and deeply grateful for how you have not only survived this past year but have kept the ministry of Jesus and his Church strong. Over this past year, you have ‘kept moving’ despite many challenges. Praise be to God we have come this far. Surely, the God who has brought us through this year will direct our path in the coming year. ‘Jesus finds a Way’ beyond our imagination.”

Hopkins said it’s time to focus on what brings us together rather than what tears us apart. 
“Let me repeat what I said in July. I would regret having any pastor or church leave our conference. We would be less inclusive and diverse without that pastor or congregation,” said Bishop Hopkins. “I would say to any of you who are being encouraged to leave, there will always be a place for you in the Northern Illinois Conference and The United Methodist Church!”   

Keep Moving into 2022
 
In September, Bishop Hopkins traveled to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for his annual checkup and scans as a kidney cancer survivor. He’s grateful to report he is still clear of any metastasis.
 
“Consequently, I have agreed to make myself available to continue as you Interim Bishop in Northern Illinois (past December 31, 2021) if my colleagues in the Council of Bishops believe I can be helpful, said Bishop Hopkins. “Their decision should be made soon.”

Any decisions on Episcopal assignments will be posted in our Conference communications. 

Meantime, save the date for the 183rd Annual Conference planned for an in-person meeting at the Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel and Convention Center June 8- 10, 2022.  Stay informed by signing up for the Conference e-newsletter by clicking here.

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