Bishop Sharon Brown Christopher articulated the challenge presented by current reality in 2005 to the Conference:
- We in the Illinois Great Rivers Conference are in the midst of a pruning process in our conference. It has been precipitated by several factors:
- Greater clarity of God’s vision and mission for The United Methodist Church and the Illinois Great Rivers Conference,
- Clearly defined strategies for movement toward vision and mission,
- A desire on the part of all of us to use most strategically our apportionment dollars,
- Nearly four decades of membership and worship decline,
- A need to re-invent ourselves in the light of the mission to which God calls us in these times,
- A need to right-size ourselves after having lived for eight years into a uniting of two conferences.
- We can count on agony and pain as decisions are made to align more tightly our conference resourcing, equipping, and programming with our vision and mission. As with any pruning process, what appears to be disastrous in the short scheme of things may be appropriate action for the long-term benefit to our conference vision and mission.
- We can count on excitement and joy as clergy and lay leaders discover new ability and joy in their leadership roles, as congregations become vibrant Christian communities in which people come to life in God’s love, and as congregations reach out in ever increasing ways to the spiritually and physically hungry of our world.
- In short, we are stoking the fires of the evangelical flow in our conference, and we are already on the way.
This is a very ambitious statement; the greater challenge will be to overcome resistance to change in the cultural system that is the Illinois Great Rivers Conference.
 The quote is a selection from David O. Kueker’s Fuller Seminary Doctor of Ministry project submitted in September, 2007, entitled Diagnosis, Dialogue, and Decision: A Threefold Process of Revitalization For the Illinois Great Rivers Conference.
It is shared here in recognition of its 12th Anniversary along with comments to update and provide perspective on the material. The original project was a Training Manual/Study Guide of three Seminars supported by three chapters of research and an Introduction. The material is available for download at www.disciplewalk.com/Resources.html. In 2009 it was provided for purchase as a softcover book entitled Designing Discipleship Systems: Christian Disciple Making For Any Size Church, Any Theology through CreateSpace.com.
   
All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Please review the page How and Why We Use Quotes.
Sharon Brown Christopher, “Pruning What Appears to Be Disastrous May Be Appropriate Action for the Long-term Benefit,” The Current: News of Illinois Great Rivers Conference of the United Methodist Church, April 1, 2005, 11. More resources on vision and mission are available at Illinois Great Rivers Conference, Cabinet Resources for Local Churches, http://www.igrc.org/conference/ cabinetresources.html (accessed June 18, 2007).