Q&A from PreCon Session

On May 6, members of the Annual Conference met on a webinar to learn about issues coming before the session. The following questions were asked of the presenters.

 Nominations Committee

Q: Can you please share a link to the Leadership Interest Form?
A: The form can be found at https://arenaweb.bwcumc.org/default.aspx?page=3660

 Discipleship Council

 Q: How do we access information about electronic vehicle charging stations?
A:  In November 2022, the Conference Board of Trustees entered an agreement with Charge Enterprises, Inc., an installer and operator of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. That agreement provided a path by which the EV charging station industry can systematically evaluate and prioritize the prospects of EV charging stations at our various church locations within the Baltimore-Washington Conference. The BWC’s work in this area is also supported by Steeplecom, a vendor who has supported BWC churches for many years in the negotiation and management of cell tower agreements with the telecom industry.  Recently, eight United Methodist churches were identified that will host charging stations for electric vehicles as part of a pilot program. See a story.

Council on Finance and Administration

 Q: How is the alignment with Pen-Del going? I know the hope was to decrease the total budget of the two conferences, but I'd love to hear how things are working for conference staff and nominations/leadership teams.
A: The affiliation between the two conferences is exceeding all expectations. Increasingly, resources and staff are being shared in meaningful ways. The Appointive and Extended Cabinets meet together regularly, trainings and resourcing opportunities have been conducted jointly and appointments are being made between the two conferences. Teams of clergy and laity are also meeting together. This facilitates the sharing of best practices, the development of new and innovative cohorts and increases creativity.

Through these shared endeavors, the conferences can also leverage finances. For instance, Paul Eichelberger will become the chief financial officer of both conferences. That position will now be supported across the affiliation. The collaboration is strengthening the mission and ministry in both conferences and deepening relationships that will bear fruit well into the future.

 Q: Why are we using the old term "Apportionments" for "Mission Shares"? It can be confusing to use both terms.
The preferred term is “mission shares.” However, the term “apportionment” is the official term used by the General Conference, and in the Book of Discipline. Sometimes we will celebrate the connectional giving through the “apportionment” as we are awarded certificates from the General Council on Finance and Administration for 100% Apportionments paid, even though our internal communications will reference “mission shares” as this more accurately reflects our understanding of how and why we share our resources in the connection.

Q: Is there guidance offered to local churches in financial operations?  If yes, who do we contact for that information?
A: Yes, conference staff does offer guidance for churches with specific stewardship issues. See the Finance/Operations listing on the BWC Staff Directory.  Two Training Tuesday webinars also offer good guidance. See them at: Finance – November 19, 2019 and Finance – November 16, 2021

 Pensions and Health Benefits

 Q: What percentage of our pension liabilities are currently funded?
A: The funding ratio for Pre-1982 is 121%; Ministerial Pension Plan (MPP) is 124% and Clergy Retirement Security Program (CRSP) Is 130%.

 Q: In moving from defined benefit to 401K – is matching compensation mandatory or a choice for those currently in the defined benefit plan? 
A: At General Conference in 2024, Wespath will recommend a new clergy retirement plan called Compass which would replace the current Clergy Retirement Security Program on January 1, 2026. If approved, clergy who have earned a pension in the defined benefit plans will retain those benefits. Compass is an account-based plan with three types of employer contributions: $150 per month flat-dollar contribution; 3% contribution of pay; and $1 for $1 match on up to 4% of pay. Clergy will be automatically enrolled for at least 4% in personal contributions. The Conference Board of Pensions will distribute additional details about Compass after General Conference’s approval.

Equitable Compensation

Q: Why are the yearly increments not increasing when we increase the minimum compensation?
A: The $250 yearly increment is 0.5% of the base cash salary. This continues to compare well to the original yearly increment of 0.6% that was first adopted by the Annual Conference in 2012.

Q: Does this Committee recommend that the $4,100 minimum for expenses include the pastor's Annual Conference expenses? Or should the local church budget an additional portion for Annual Conference registration and lodging?
A: That is a decision that the congregation’s leadership will need to make. The Conference strongly recommends that the church pay for the Annual Conference Session expenses for the pastor and the lay member.

Q: Housing is the one of the biggest drivers of inflation, and many areas in the BWC do not have rent stabilization laws to limit rent increases, which have been double digits in some areas. Why is the housing allowance increase percentage (3 percent) lower than the 4 percent increase in the Clergy Salary Table instead of a matching or higher percentage increase.
A: The Commission monitors housing trends throughout the Conference to develop the housing allowance recommendation.  There is no doubt that the housing trends vary greatly within the Conference. Unlike the minimum clergy salary table that establishes the defined minimum cash salary based on a pastor’s years of service, the housing allowance is developed as a recommendation that does not constitute a defined minimum or maximum allowance. 

Resolution on Bereavement Leave 

Q: In light of this resolution, why are we not recognizing deceased clergy children at the Memorial Service at Annual Conference?
A: We will be recognizing this tragic loss. During the pandemic, we created time in the service for individuals to remember colleagues and loved ones in their own lives who have died throughout the year. This is a supplement to our standard practice of honoring bishops who served the BWC or had their membership previously in the BWC, clergy and their spouses, and current lay members to annual conference, who have died since the last session.

Q: Could we ask the Board of Pensions and Health Benefits to help fund the bereavement leave?
A: A request could be made of the Board of Pensions and Health Benefits, which would then conduct a cost analysis of such a proposal and report back to the Conference members.

Q: I assume the proposal is for a six- to eight-week bereavement leave of absence?
A: Yes, this would be a paid leave of absence. The resolution does not stipulate a time frame.

Resolution on Clergy Foster Parent Leave

Q: Is this leave a one-time event or are you asking that each time you receive a new placement you will be requesting another two weeks of leave? There are some families that have two or three short-term placements a year. Is there a limit on the number of placements that will be covered with this policy? If so, over what period of time?
A: It was imagined that this would be a limited event. However, the makers of the resolution hope it will start a conversation between pastors and their Staff-Parish Relations Committees to explore what is possible and what best suits the needs of clergy families and congregations.

Resolution on Opposing Apartheid

Q: Would the makers of this resolution comment on whether they believe the Palestinian Authority commits apartheid?
A: The legal definition of apartheid is: inhumane acts of a character similar to other crimes of humanity "committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime."  Multiple documented reports have recently described Israel as fitting this definition in their treatment of the Palestinian people. The Palestinian Authority maintains close relations with Israel, but has no power or control over what Israel is doing in taking over land for settlements and Jewish-only roads in the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority is the governing body in parts of the West Bank, but it is Israel, not the Palestinian Authority, that continues to attack and evict Palestinians and take land understood by the international community to be land that is set aside for a future Palestinian state.  

Resolution on Integrity in Leadership

Q: Why is a petition, which has been deemed inconsistent with the BOD by the conference secretary, still being presented?
A: The Connectional Table voted non-concurrence with this resolution and the Conference Secretary has noted it violates the Book of Resolutions. He wrote, “As per Baltimore-Washington Conference Rule Para. 3006.2.c., this resolution was reviewed by the Conference Secretary and found inconsistent with BOD paragraphs 251, 252.5, and 258 (specifically 258.2), in that the resolution adds requirements for participation in church leadership that is not part of the BOD and usurps the authority of the Committee on Nominations and Leadership Development. An Annual Conference cannot make such changes through its own rules; only the General Conference can make such changes.” The maker may withdraw the resolution or Bishop Easterling may choose to rule it out of order.

Resolution on Removing Discriminatory Language from the Book of Discipline

Q: The speaker talked about discriminatory practices in the Disciple, can he give one example?
A: The body of the resolution cites nine specific examples in the Book of Discipline in which there is discriminatory language and practices that focus on the church’s stance on homosexuality.

Miscellaneous Questions

Q: Have COVID protocols been determined yet for Annual Conference?
A: Since community transmission levels in Baltimore City continue to be low and in keeping with public health guidelines, there are no COVID protocols of mask wearing or physical distancing regulating the Annual Conference session.  Best practices are expected of handwashing, staying home if symptomatic or COVID-19 positive, and respecting personal space; masks are always optional. Attendees will be expected to follow CDC guidelines for quarantine and isolation when sick or in close contact with someone who has tested positive.

Let’s continue to live into our covenant to care for one another and show compassionate hospitality. People may choose to wear masks for a variety of excellent reasons. We want to honor them and their decision-making in every way that we are able. If you are sitting with someone who is wearing a mask and you are not, consider asking if they would be more comfortable if you also wore a mask.

Q: It appears that the clergy session and the laity session clash on Wednesday afternoon. As a lay member of BoOM, in the past I have attended both.  Any advice on which I should choose? 

A: Lay members of BOOM are expected to attend the clergy session as voting members. They are the only laity allowed in that session, which considers matters of clergy personnel status. The laity session is open to all, is live-streamed, and is available to view online at a later date if for any reason one is unable to attend in person.

Q: Can you please provide a translation for the song lyrics for the opening song at the PreConference Session?
A: Yes, a translation can be found at https://cf1.gatewaypeople.com/documents/worship/danzando.pdf