The Northern Illinois Annual Conference Session (both the July 16-17 and the October 1-2 meetings) were held virtually again this year. Most of us are used to virtual meetings by now and have found, at least in my experience, that it is pretty easy to let our attention drift when we’re not actually in the room with others. Maybe you can relate.
So, it is understandable that many of us might have missed the “remarks” presented by our Interim Bishop John Hopkins. Personally, I appreciated his candor. And I appreciate the fact that our Annual Conference has made a pdf version of his comments available on the conference website.
Still, I must admit my surprise that our Interim Bishop said it out loud.
He was reflecting on the fact that one of the most asked questions he receives is whether a local church will have to make a choice about which denomination to join when a denominational split is approved at the 2022 General Conference. Besides providing the usual qualifiers that we can’t predict the exact action of the General Conference or any relevant rulings by the Judicial Council, he said this:
As I have studied the churches of our Conference, I think it is unlikely that a split in the denomination would affect us in Northern Illinois very much. The 2019 Annual Conference vote on full inclusion had 85% support. Using this percentage, only about 50-60 churches or pastors would want to go to another denomination. And some of those churches do not have the financial strength to meet the requirements for leaving. The membership of “purple” churches might be reduced and that could weaken our numerical and financial strength. Conference finances could be adjusted with some reduction of ministries. I personally, would regret having any pastor or church leave our conference. We would be less inclusive and diverse without that pastor or congregation. (Emphasis mine).pdf link: NIC Annual Conference Episcopal Address
See what I mean?
He said it out loud.
It was an ecclesiastically nice way of saying, “Don’t Let the Door Hit You on The Way Out.” If you aren’t familiar with the phrase, it is a colloquial and often sarcastic way of saying, “Go ahead and leave. The sooner the better.” And, by the way, related to the Northern Illinois Conference, my paraphrase would be: “We might lose some members and some money, but we’ll manage through just fine without you.”
To be fair, Bishop Hopkins goes on to say that personally he would regret having any churches or clergy leave the conference because the NIC would be less inclusive. But that, with apologies for stating the obvious, is just the point: Traditional Christians should get out and stay out. We aren’t included in the “inclusion.”
Message received, Bishop. We’ve been dismissed.
But let’s be grateful for his candid words. In the most basic way, our Interim Bishop is only identifying the gospel truth:
“A house divided against itself cannot stand” ( Mark 3:5/Matthew 12:25 )
So, let’s bring on the Protocol for Reconciliation and Grace through Separation. Let’s fins a way for the General Conference to meet as early as possible to work with the legislation and approve a process for separation. Let the Northern Illinois Annual Conference affirm and support the wisdom of the Protocol.
An Encouraging Word:
This open acknowledgement by our Interim Bishop could be very discouraging. But let me share the encouraging word that the people of those 50-60 congregations in Northern Illinois our bishop alluded to are becoming aware, informed, connected, and prepared for a new chapter. They long to be part of a focused, vibrant, vital, and global Christ-centered mission.
If you’d like to be included rather than dismissed, browse our website and plan to attend our Annual Meeting on Sunday, November 14th. (Yes, it will be a boring business meeting, but you will have an opportunity to get some great information for going forward – and it will be just 90 minutes long).
You’re Invited !
ANNUAL BUSINESS MEETING OF THE NORTHERN ILLINOIS WESLEYAN COVENANT ASSOCIATION
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 2021
3:00 – 4:30 pm
St. Charles Public Library / Huntley Community Room
1 South 6th Ave.
St. Charles, Illinois
Rev. Dr. Scott Field
NIC Clergy (Ret.)