Did you hear about what happened at the recent clergy session of the Northern Illinois United Methodist Conference?
The clergy of the Northern Illinois Annual Conference met virtually on Monday, June 28th.
The clergy of a United Methodist annual conference meet each year as a group to receive reports, to hear from the Bishop, to recognize those who are retiring and – often experienced as the highlight of the session – to vote approval of, celebrate, and welcome those who are recommended to be newly ordained as Elders or Deacons.
Many of us have had these kinds of experiences when welcoming the “the newbies”, whether they are the pledge class of a fraternity or sorority, the new hire to help with the lunch rush at the restaurant, the “best and brightest” recruited to our company or firm, the son or nephew who wants to work the family farm, the student teacher who is offered a contract to become part of the faculty, or even – maybe especially – the arrival of a child or grandchild within a family.
All of these are experiences of JOY which recognize that this enterprise of which we are part will go on! This thing – work, project, organization, mission, business, farm, profession, family — is important enough, meaningful enough, worthwhile enough, that the people of a new generation are giving themselves and their futures to carry it forward. This is true in all human endeavors. It is most certainly true in Christian mission when it comes to the leaders available for developing and serving Christian congregations and their related ministries.
Okay, but what happened this year at the clergy session of the Northern Illinois Annual Conference?
|4 Elders were approved for ordination
|That’s a + 4
|14 Elders and local pastors retired
|That’s a – 14
|7 Elders moved to other conferences*
|That’s a – 7
That’s a net -17 in our pool of available pastors.
You might conclude this is of little concern, but when it comes to the health, vitality, and fruitful ministry of congregations, one of the most determinative factors is a called, engaged, faithful, well-equipped, and effective pastor. There is really little debate about that.
The reports from the clergy session in Northern Illinois this year suggest that we are unable to attract and retain enough pastors to replace those who are retiring or relocating.
There are several ways to understand this decline of available pastors in Northern Illinois, but maybe one of them is simply this:
As long as United Methodism delays a decision about our inevitable denominational division and as long as the Northern Illinois Conference refuses to prepare for the impending separation on our near horizon, it makes sense that called and equipped pastoral leaders would have second thoughts about investing themselves and their futures here. We don’t seem to know where we are going; why would anyone want to join our circular wandering?
Maybe you, whether clergy or laity, want something different. If you’d like to be part of a more vibrant, global, and mission-focused future as a Christ-follower right here in northern Illinois, check out the Wesleyan Covenant Association and make sure to sign up and join our newsletter here at the Northern Illinois Wesleyan Covenant Association.