by Melissa Lauber
The Rev. Sherri Wood-Powe, a member of the BWC’s worship team, assists with the Memorial Service May 30. Photo by Tony Richards.
A Facebook post from the Rev. Stephanie Vader may sum it up best: “The Holy Spirit blew through our annual conference. She can be such a show off.”
The Baltimore-Washington Conference is one of the most diverse in the denomination and its 235th session, May 29-June 1 in Baltimore, held meaningful moments that illuminated the BWC’s new vision statement: “Transformed Lives, Transform Lives.”
The week was packed with Holy Spirit moments.
One of the most notable of these moments centered around the clergy session endorsing and Bishop LaTrelle Easterling commissioning TC Morrow and ordaining Joey Heath-Mason. Both are in same-gender marriages.
This act of sacred resistance stands in opposition to the Traditional Plan, adopted at the 2019 Special Session of General Conference, that reinforced and strengthened the church’s stance on homosexuality. It goes into effect across the denomination in January.
“Christ is the ultimate alchemist. Christ is ultimately the one who brings us to transformation. But I also know, transformed lives transform lives,” the bishop preached. “When they see us walk different, they take notice. When they see us talk different, they take notice. When they see people abuse us and we smile and bless them anyway, they take notice. When they threaten to file charges on you, but you follow God anyway, they take notice.”
She told those present, “We can’t serve in fear. Fear and love cannot inhabit the same dwelling. And perfect love casts out all fear.”
She applauded those being commissioned and ordained in the tumultuous aftermath of the 2019 General Conference. “You felt the tectonic plates shift under The United Methodist Church’s foundation and you have continued to say, ‘yes,’ anyhow,” the bishop said. “We may not know what tomorrow holds, but we know who holds tomorrow.”
Another notable highlight was the entire day on June 1 being devoted to Young People’s Ministries. Members celebrated the contributions of youth and young adults and set a course for a new future for these ministries in the Conference.
The focus on young people included a dance presentation of “He Lives in Me,” from the Lion King; a spirit-filled moment as the young people prayed over the bishop; presentations on young adult Change-Maker ministries that are already transforming lives and communities; a key-note address by Mark DeVries of Ministry Architects that set the stage for a new strategic plan for Young People's Ministries; workshops to equip local churches; and a confirmation rally that included glow-sticks and a blessing of all confirmands and young people in the BWC involved in significant ministry.
“You are not the church of the future,” Bishop Easterling told the young people. “You are the church of now. You are the light. You are the light of Christ.” She encouraged them to shine so that the church and the world might know hope, healing, and the reconciliation that leads other to Jesus the Christ.
In other actions, members of the Baltimore-Washington Conference:
+ Traveled on “a road to love” in the opening worship, created and choreographed by Marcia McFee. Bishop Easterling preached, illuminating the conference theme: “We are One: United to Love.”
+ Stayed in session until after 1 a.m. May 31, electing delegates for General and Jurisdictional Conferences. The Rev. Ianther Mills and Cynthia Taylor will lead the delegation.
+ Adopted a new ministries structure that streamlines bureaucracy and promotes engagement in five key areas: Leadership, New Faith Expressions, Advocacy and Action, Abundant Health and Young People’s Ministries.
+ Adopted a comprehensive Leadership Report that names key servant leaders to each of these areas of ministry.
+ Ordained one Deacon and 11 Elders; recognized the orders of the Rev. Ronald Fleming-Triplett; and commissioned two Deacons and nine Elders. With great emotion, Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi, a daughter of the BWC, commissioned her husband, the Rev. Raphael Koikoi.
+ Remembered and honored 60 United Methodists who died in the previous year. Rev. Ianther Mills preached on not putting a period where God places a comma and how those who died now live on in their loved ones.
Participants in a Samoan Circle process speak at the 2019 Annual Conference Session. L-R: Rev. Rebeccal Iannicelli, Rev. Jessica Hayden, Michele Johns, Tom Price, Rev. Joe Daniels, Delores Martin, and Rev. Kevin Baker. Photo by Alison Burdett.
+ Listened to seven people in a “Samoan Circle” intently share their hurts, hopes and a variety of personal perspectives about how the church will move forward after the 2019 Special Session of General Conference.
+ Contributed, in special offerings, $9,858 for scholarships to summer camps, $10,189 for Seeds for Security to provide shelter to victims of domestic violence, and $1,947 for young people’s ministries.
+ Honored 20 clergy retirees who collectively served 545 years in ministry at a luncheon, where the Rev. Edwin Ankeny spoke on God’s continuing call.
+ Heard the witness of Janay Parker, who shared how after struggling with her mother’s addiction and death, she found a place of healing and hope at West River Camp.
+ Learned about ways of worship with Marcia McFee, of Worship Design Studios in the laity session, led by Conference Lay Leader Delores Martin.
+ Voted to create a station for nursing mothers so that they can participate in annual conference, and to serve gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free and nut-free bread at all conference, regional and district gatherings.
+ Provided the Trustees permission to purchase a new episcopal residence after the current parsonage had to undergo mold remediation, and asked Conference leaders to research a centralized location for future annual conferences along with the possibility of providing free accommodations to those who can demonstrate need.
+ Tabled a motion on Supporting Deliberations for New Expressions of Methodism.
+ Honored the ministry and history of 10 churches that closed this year.
+ Voted to give the $25,000 legacy of the closed Centre Street UMC to ministries in Allegany County, and to place money received from the sale of Mt. Zion UMC in Ellicott City and Grace UMC in Fairmount Heights into savings until after General Conference 2020 so that they might be used by other African-American churches.
+ Studied Luke 16:19-22 with the Rev. Marvin McMickle, who taught about our proximity to the poor and how the church too often stands as an island of prosperity in a sea of poverty.
+ Applauded Melissa Lauber and the BWC Communications staff with the Epikoinonia Award from United Methodist Communications, recognizing that “community is not possible without communications.”
+ Packed 60,000 meals for Rise Against Hunger.
+ Browsed through the booths of 51 exhibitors, including Cokesbury, which is promoting “Amplify,” a new multi-media curriculum.
+ Was inspired by James Cogman, an ambassador of the Black College Fund
+ Presented the Harry Denman award for Evangelism to Linda Worthington, a writer from Chevy Chase UMC who has worked more than 20 years with the UMConnection, and Pastor Alexis Peña Vazquez of Brook Hill UMC.
+ Approved, by unanimous vote, an $18,641,514 budget for 2020; kept the benevolence factor the same at 17.6 percent; and dropped the collection rate from 92 to 91 percent.
+ Received the thanks of Africa University, a United Methodist school in Zimbabwe, for continuing to support its operations by pay 100 percent of apportionments.
+ Received an inspirational message about the unfolding story of The United Methodist Church from Scott Johnson during the Laity Report.
+ Referred seven aspirational reports from Baltimore Washington Area Reconciling Methodists about justice and inclusion for LGBTQIA people to a variety of conference agencies and offices.
+ Awarded the Youth Worker of the Year award to Brad Grable of Melville Chapel in Elkridge.
+ Adopted “Keeping our Sacred Trust,” a policy on sexual ethics.
+ Heard the Rev. Bob Barnes request a ruling of law from Bishop LaTrelle Easterling about the actions of the clergy session and the approval of two candidates married to same-gender spouses. The bishop has 30 days to formally respond.
+ Awarded Moral Courage medals to David Boney of Smithfield UMC for his work with young people in Zimbabwe and Ghana, and to J’TA Freeman of Ebenezer UMC in Washington, for her work in combatting gun violence as the youth mayor of Washington, D.C.; and to Bishop Minerva Carcaño, for her prophetic work on immigration and other justice issues.
+ Celebrated those who completed the BWC’s first Hispanic Lay Leadership School.
+ Welcomed the Rev. Johnsie Cogman as the new superintendent of the Washington East District, and the Rev. John Wunderlich as the new superintendent of the Cumberland-Hagerstown District.
+ Fixed the appointments of the pastors of the 623 churches of the Baltimore-Washington Conference, including 78 new pastoral appointments.
The next session of the Baltimore-Washington Conference will be held May 27-29, 2020, at the Waterfront Marriott Hotel in Baltimore.
The 2020 General Conference will be held May 5-15 in Minneapolis, Minn. The 2020 Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference will be held July 13-17 at Delta Hotels, in Hunt Valley, near Baltimore.