Baltimore realignment offers opportunities
BY EUGENE MATTHEWS
As United Methodists we believe in connectionalism and the potential of congregations working together. We also believe that God's ministry unfolds in the local church.
This May at annual conference, members will be able to strengthen the ministry of the connection and the local church by approving a proposal to realign the conference's regions in a move from nine districts to eight.
This realignment would better resource local churches for ministry and increase the time and attention churches and pastors receive from their Adventure Guides. This additional resourcing is expected to enable an increasing number of congregations to become Acts 2 churches.
The idea for realignment surfaced several months ago as the result of a capacity study concerning the deployment of the conference Guide staff. It revealed that there were enormous inequities regarding the numbers of churches and pastors each Guide worked with.
In some areas there was a 49 to one ratio of churches to Guides; in others that ratio was 25 to one.
In subsequent discussions, conference leaders began to see that realignment was necessary and that it would have the additional benefit of improving the resourcing of churches for mission and ministry.
A study and design team was created and after much consideration, its members decided the conference should maintain its four regions (Baltimore, Western, Washington and Southern) but try to equalize the workload by having two districts in each region with a proportionate number of churches in each one.
This decision is significant, especially to Baltimore, because it calls for the three districts in the Baltimore region to become two. Making two districts in Baltimore will also cause changes in the boundaries of contiguous districts.
The move comes at an important time because there is a quadrennium change of leaders on district and conference committees this year. In addition, I am retiring this year, so a new district superintendent would not need to be brought on board.
While these factors are important, I think the most significant aspect of the timing of the realignment is related to the "Hope for the City" plan, a strategy for Baltimore City that is just beginning.
The purpose of the strategy is to move toward a transformational ministry within the United Methodist churches in the City of Baltimore. The 61 churches in the city all share in the vision and mission of the Baltimore-Washington Conference - to become like Christ in calling, equipping, sending and supporting spiritual leadership to make disciples for the transformation of the world and to grow 600 Acts 2 congregations.
Aligning them in one district, under one leader, will make that vision and its implementation more cohesive. This leader will be able to represent and speak for The United Methodist Church in Baltimore.
For strategic and practical reasons, realigning the districts makes sense, especially in Baltimore, as we work to configure ourselves for the future and effective meaningful ministry.
Rev. Eugene Matthews is superintendent of the Baltimore West District.