A Summary by Denny Roberts

From June 16-18, Anne Mason, Diane Roberts, and Denny Roberts attended the 185th session of the Northern Illinois Conference as lay members.  Pastor Brian Smith and Pastor Kelli Harrison are clergy members of the conference, and Deaconess Amy Reimer is a consecrated member.  The meeting was also attended by approximately 800 representatives from throughout Northern Illinois at the Renaissance Convention Center in Schaumburg.
The meeting was historic for two reasons – it was the first meeting following the UMC General Conference meeting, where the decision was made to be fully inclusive of LGBTQ+ members and clergy, and it was the first meeting after the decision to assign one bishop over the Northern Illinois Conference and the Wisconsin Conference. The move to a shared bishop was initiated to help contain budget expenses across both conferences. The general atmosphere of the meeting was upbeat, with lots of music and inspirational speakers. One of the highlights was the opening and plenary, in which Bishop Sally Dyck provided the sermon “In Season and Out.” The Opening also celebrated new clergy and lay leadership, including recognition of Kelli Harrison and commissioning of Abby Holcombe as an elder. Two other worship services took place, one a recognition of retirees and the other a memorial service for clergy and lay
leaders who passed during the last year.
Bishop Dan Schwerin was the chair of all plenary meetings and provided perspective in successive remarks. Bishop Schwerin’s Opening Plenary comments encouraged all churches in the NIC to embrace experimentation in difficult times, missional focus, embracing community over chaos, and expanding beyond cultural boundaries to reach new people. The Lay Leader address proposed that members consider whether they are “illuminators” or
“diminishers” in their contribution to their local church community.
Legislative matters were first considered in section discussions, allowing lay and clergy to consider proposals in small groups. All matters that received an 80% affirmative vote were placed on a consent agenda that did not require broader discussion in the full plenary meetings that followed. Legislative moLons presented, debated, and eventually adopted included clergy compensation and accommodations, the NIC annual budget, and moLons for United Methodists to be peacemakers in the world, seek a cease-fire and peace in the Middle East, and to condemn killing, deprivation, and apartheid against the residents of Gaza.
The conference exhibit area included helpful resources on youth programs, adult programs and services, support for immigrants to Chicago, and others. Numerous announcements and appeals throughout the conference demonstrated the activities of congregations and individuals actively making a difference for their churches and communities. In a time when many youth, adults, and families are seeking a place of welcome and encouragement, it was obvious that Illinois United Methodists are doing all they can to heal and nurture supportive communities.