EDITOR'S NOTE: Several resolutions coming to the Annual Conference Session were revised at the Connectional Table meeting on May 11, 2019. The article, below, and that which appears in the newspaper, were accurate at the time of publication.
This year, the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference Session will be exercising its electronic voting devices by not only electing General and Jurisdictional Conference delegates, but also by voting on numerous resolutions.
This year, 20 resolutions were submitted. This does not include recommendations that come as a part of reports from the Conference Finance and Administration area, or the various ministries of the BWC.
Each resolution has a note from Conference Secretary, Cynthia Taylor, whether the resolution is consistent or inconsistent with the "current Book of Discipline." Authority is given to the Conference Secretary for this review in the BWC's rules, para. 3006.2.c.
Several resolutions appear to be in response to the recent Special Session of General Conference. Seven resolutions have been ruled "inconsistent with the current Book of Discipline." Those resolutions are:
- Conservation of Conference Ministry Funding;
- Do No Harm through Ordination Process;
- Do No Harm through Marriage Prohibition;
- Do No Harm Across the Northeast Jurisdiction;
- Use of Conference Funds to Support LGBTQIA+ Faithful and their Allies;
- Affiliate with the Western Jurisdiction;
- Constitutionality of Discipline Paragraph 304.3.
Of those seven, six were sent in by the Rev. Debbie Scott, pastor at Lovely Lane UMC in Baltimore, and the Rev. Angela Flanagan, pastor of Silver Spring UMC, on behalf of the Baltimore-Washington Area Reconciling United Methodists (BWARM), a group not officially connected with the BWC that seeks full inclusion and participation of LGBTQIA+ people in the life of the church.
The other 13 resolutions were found to be “consistent with the current Book of Discipline,” Taylor wrote. Among them are:
- The Rev. Rudy Bropleh, lead pastor at Asbury Church in Shepherdstown, W.Va., along with co-sponsors, Pastor Bill Rowley, Chestnut Hill and Shenandoah Memorial Charge; the Rev. Jerry Lowans, Washington Square UMC in Hagerstown; Matthew Sichel, Lay Member to Annual Conference, Wesley UMC in Hampstead; and the Rev. Frankie Revell, LaVale UMC, are calling the Conference Sessions Committee to research the viability of finding other locations for holding Annual Conference Sessions.
- Part of the rationale for this move, they write, is the hardships placed on pastors who must travel long distances to Baltimore or Washington, D.C., and the expenses incurred by their local churches. The last time a regular Annual Conference Session met somewhere other than the Baltimore or Washington, D.C., area was in 1992, when it met at Western Maryland College in Westminster. By Discipline, Annual Conference Sessions “shall be held in places that are accessible to people with disabilities.” (¶603.4) One of the reasons cited by conference leaders for meeting in Baltimore and/or Washington, D.C., is because they are the only locations with hotels large enough to host us.
- Also related to Annual Conference Sessions, a resolution calling for a “one day special session of the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference no later than Nov. 16, 2019 (preferably a Saturday to facilitate attendance for as many as possible)” was submitted by the Rev. Debbie Scott, Phil Potter, president of the Conference Finance and Administration, and John Strawbridge, president of the Conference Trustees. The reason, they write, is “to fully understand options available to us and decisions we might make as an annual conference and individual churches in response to the January 1, 2020, anticipated implementation of policy established in St. Louis Feb. 2019 at the Special General Conference.”
- Scott and Flanagan, Co-Chairs of the Advocacy Committee for BWARM, in a separate resolution, seek to have "LGBTQIA+ persons" added to a list of people/groups in our conference rules that have "special attention... given for inclusion" on BWC agencies.
- Another resolution, coming from the BWC’s Board of Trustees, seeks approval to sell the current Episcopal Residence and buy a new one using proceeds from that sale. The Episcopal Residence was remediated in March and April 2019 from a black mold incident that was very disruptive to the Episcopal family, the resolution notes, and the Episcopal Residence Committee and Conference Trustees approved relocating the Episcopal family to a 6-month short-term rental home on April 17.
- One of the resolutions calls for every district or conferencewide event that includes the sacrament of Communion to offer only “gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free, nut-free” bread. The resolution, brought forth by the Rev. Julie Wilson, a Deacon serving Calvary UMC in Frederick, notes that between five and 10 percent of Americans suffer from some form of “gluten sensitivity or worse, celiac disease, and 2 percent of adults are allergic to milk, 1 to 2 percent are allergic to tree nuts or peanuts, and 0.4 percent are allergic to egg.”
- One resolution, if adopted, would place the BWC on record as supporting “the ongoing deliberations between various leaders within our United Methodist Church to explore new expressions of Methodism, wherein all can find a home with like-minded members, without compromise of their core beliefs or encumbered by strained organizational relationships, to worship and minister as they feel led by the Holy Spirit.”
- This resolution, brought forth by John C. Hines, Jr., a Lay Member to Annual Conference from Mt. Zion UMC in Lothian and co-sponsored by Greg Witte, Lay Member to Annual Conference from Cedar Grove UMC in Deale, is an effort to end the “in-fighting,” the resolution states, “and to see all of our members pursue the mission of the church in the manner that they feel led by the Holy Spirit.”
- One resolution deals with the duties and responsibilities of the BWC’s Rules Committee. Submitted by the Rev. Mark Gorman, pastor at Centre UMC in Forest Hill and chair of the Rules Committee, this proposal would mandate that the Rules Committee “shall review all proposed changes to the structure of the Annual Conference and shall report its concurrence or non-concurrence to the Annual Conference.”
- Another resolution from the Rules Committee would require the Discipleship Council and the Nominations Committee to hold votes of concurrence or non-concurrence on restructuring plans before being considered by the Annual Conference.
Resolutions to be voted on by the Annual Conference Session can be found online at https://www.bwcumc.org/events/annual-conference/ac-2019-resolutions/ .
In addition, a printed version of the resolutions will be available at the Pre-Conference Briefings May 18.