News and Views

Briefing informs members for Annual Conference session

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By Melissa Lauber

See the Q&A with members' questions

Standing, Transforming and Rising will be the themes that shape the Oct. 25-27 Baltimore-Washington Conference session, which because of COVID-19 precautions, will be held online again this year. The sessions will be live-streamed on the BWC website for visitors who wish to watch.

 Many of the members expected to attend the sessions met virtually for a PreConference Briefing, Sept. 25. Bishop LaTrelle Easterling revealed some of the agenda, noting that the clergy will meet in executive session at 9 a.m. on Oct. 25 and the laity will meet that evening at 7 p.m. A plenary session will be held that afternoon and opening worship will begin at 5 p.m.

 On Oct. 26, the proceedings begin at 8:30 a.m. Members will meet in plenary, conducting the business of the conference, during the day. At 5 p.m. a Memorial Service of Remembrance will begin with the Rev. HiRho Park preaching; and at 7 p.m. a service of celebration, honoring individuals and ministries will be held.

 Ordination will be on Oct. 27, beginning at 2 p.m. The Right. Rev. Mariann Budde, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington will preach. The service, which will be live-streamed and open to a limited number of in-person guests, will be held at Mt. Zion UMC in Highland.

 During the plenary sessions, members will, among other things, consider seven resolutions, hear reports from the Discipleship Council and the BWC’s delegation to General and Jurisdictional Conferences and vote on a proposed budget for 2022.

 The resolutions, submitted by ministry groups and individuals, reflect the broad interests of the Conference from administrative policies to social action declarations.

 The resolutions:

  1. Update the BWC’s rules so that General and Jurisdictional Conference delegates all need to receive a majority vote.
  2. Clarify deadlines for resolutions and reports for annual conference.
  3. Create a Cemetery Association so that the trustees can oversee funds for the upkeep of three of the BWC’s historic cemeteries: Mt. Auburn, Mt. Olivet and Mt. Hebron.
  4. Declare gun violence a public health crisis in the conference and encourage churches to be advocates and seek end this violence.
  5. Create a “green” Baltimore-Washington Conference by urging churches to study creation care, work to reverse global warming and organize to serve as faithful stewards of God’s creation.
  6. Support the addition of the Maryland Environmental Human Rights Amendment to the state constitution.
  7. Endorse the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation legislation that addresses human sexuality; expected to come before the postponed General Conference in 2022.

 Members at the PreConference Briefing also heard a report from Phil Potter, president of the Council of Finance and Administration. Potter shared information about the proposed $18,145,697 budget for 2022, which is $1 million less than the 2020 mission share budget, reflecting the ongoing effects of the pandemic.

 Churches throughout the BWC weathered the pandemic in vastly different ways in 2020, Potter reported. With federal payroll protection payments and other factors, some congregations maintained their stability, while others faced financial difficulties.

 After some study of the statistics submitted by local churches, “CFA decided that the 2020 expense statistics were so greatly influenced by the pandemic that they are, by themselves, an inadequate measure for fairly distributing the mission shares for the 2022 budget.”

 After some discernment about how to determine the mission share formula for what churches will contribute to shared ministries, CFA concluded that “the best solution is to use a three-year average of the expenses that include 2018, 2019, and 2020,” Potter said. “This averaging will provide a stabilizing element to the distribution so that the extremes involved with the 2020 expense changes do not create a list of ‘one-year winners’ and ‘one-year losers.’”

 This averaging would only be for the current year, Potter said.

 The current budget proposal keeps the current benevolence factor at 17.55 percent. The collection rate is planned for 89 percent for 2022, which is slightly up from the 2021 rate of 87.5 percent, but still a bit lower than the traditional budget assumption of 91 percent or higher in prior years.

 Members at the PreConference session also heard an update on the disaffiliation process, which has been developed to inform local churches that may wish to exit the denomination to join new streams of Methodism being created.

 In addition, the Rev. Jessica Hayden, chair of the BWC’s Discipleship Council, reported on various measures of discipleship reported by local churches within the Conference. The text of her report is online.

 As annual conference approaches, local churches are asked to pray for this time of holy conferencing. In addition, they may wish to collect money for offerings that are being taken for the United Methodist Committee on Relief and the Board of Child Care.

 More information on the 237th Session of the Baltimore-Washington Conference is online. Members are encouraged to review the Conference Booklet.