Much of the legislation that passed at the 2019 Northern Illinois Annual Conference reflected the disapproval of the Traditional Plan adopted at February's General Conference Special Session. The Traditional Plan, upheld by the Judicial Council, the denomination's top court, emphasizes the current policies around homosexuality in the Book of Discipline for ordination and same-sex marriages and strengthens enforcement of those rules.
The Annual Conference first approved the Consent Calendar which included 10 pieces of legislation to be sent to the General Conference in 2020 for consideration. Most of the legislation supports the Simple Plan and the removal of discriminatory language against LGBTQ in the Book of Discipline.
After some debate, the Annual Conference (AC) voted to suspend payments to the General Administration Fund until changes are made to the structure and practices of the General Conference. [The General Administration Fund, which underwrites the General Conference and Judicial Council, is one of several apportionment funds.] This legislation was amended to add that the decision to withhold funds will be reviewed at the 2019 NIC Special Session on Nov. 16 and whether to continue into 2020. The AC also approved legislation to "do no harm" by limiting complaints and trials, to call on the restructuring of The United Methodist Church to be more inclusive, and to form a *task force to explore a way forward for the NIC, including the possibility of a new Methodist expression.
A late motion by Anna Voinovich, associate pastor at First UMC in Downers Grove, called for a non-binding straw poll to gauge the annual conference on which direction it would choose for its future. The two choices included: 1) a conference whose policies allow for clergy to officiate at same-gender weddings, allow for consideration of ordained ministry people of varying sexual orientations and gender identities, and in which appointments are made with consideration given to the full range of contextual realities, or 2) according to the Book of Discipline as amended in 2019.
After debate late into Monday's plenary evening session, Bishop Dyck called on it to be considered as legislation in the morning. The annual conference approved the legislation in the final plenary and the straw poll was taken via the electronic voting pads. The result: 441 for option #1 and 79 for option #2.
The Annual Conference Shepherding Team (ACST) presented three top goals for the Conference which were approved with no debate. These strategic goals will be implemented over a two-year plan: To Grow and Reach New Disciples of Jesus Christ, To Live Out the Conviction that Racism is Incompatible with Christian Teaching, and To increase the Number of Highly Vital Congregations.
The closings of four churches, Elmwood Park, New Hope in Chicago, Pilgrimage Protestant Church in University Park, and Lindenhurst Trinity were also affirmed. We celebrate and bless the faithful ministries, witness, and legacies of these churches, pastors and members down through the years
*This task force will be meeting intensely over the next five months and be in conversation with clergy and laity cross the conference in various ways before giving a report at the NIC Special Session Nov. 16, 2019.