By Bonnie McCubbin
A friendly group of approximately 75 attendees gathered after the disaffiliation vote for the annual BWARM/MFSA dinner on Thursday, June 1. The mood was subdued after the heaviness of the afternoon voting, but it soon shifted as the program began.
The program included preaching from Rev. Dr. Louis Shockley, who transferred from the West Ohio Conference in 1977. Rev. Shockley preached on 1 Corinthians 13 and what it means to love one another after summarizing several points from Bishop Easterling’s sermon during Opening Worship on May 31; including that love and abuse cannot co-exist.
The highlight of the meal and accompanying program, however, was the presentation of the annual “God’s Foolish One” Award. Rev. Maynard Moore introduced this segment with an explanation. This award began in 1999 as a way to honor clergy and laity annually for those who are “going a little bit beyond the call of duty,” in their focus on social justice. The criteria for the award include the number of years of service, witnessing to faith in Christ, discipleship, and a commitment to social justice. Previous awardees make the recommendations and the Steering Committee for the organization makes the final selection. The title of the award comes from 1 Corinthians 4:10, “We are fools for the sake of Christ, but you are wise in Christ.”
Rev. Ken Hawes was called up to announce the clergy recipient, Bishop LaTrelle Miller Easterling. Bishop Easterling was unable to attend, but Rev. Erica Robinson-Johnson, the Chief Administrative Officer for the Baltimore-Washington and Peninsula-Delaware Conferences accepted the award on the Bishop’s behalf after recording the pronouncement. Bishop Easterling was selected based on her pioneering leadership for Seeds of Security, her outspoken advocacy for women’s rights, LGBTQIA+ rights, and her support of prophetic preaching. Additionally, Bishop Easterling works against gun violence. Despite “pushback from critics,” Rev. Hawes stated, Bishop Easterling continues to persevere, and therefore, “we declare you to be a fool for Christ.”
After a standing ovation and acceptance speech from Rev. Robinson-Johnson, the laity award for “God’s Foolish One” was declared to be jointly awarded to Ellen and Ned Bachman. Between them, they have served at both Foundry and Metropolitan Churches in Washington, D.C. in Sunday School, UMW, and as a lay delegate to Annual Conference. Ned is passionate about the Appalachian Service Project (ASP), and one of his participants was Chelsea Clinton, daughter of former United States President, Bill Clinton.
Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA) is “an intersectional social justice non-profit that mobilizes Justice-Seeking People of Faith to take action on issues of peace, poverty, and people’s rights within the church, the nation, and the world.”
Baltimore-Washington Area Reconciling Ministries (B-WARM) “seeks to affirm lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people and ensure the full participation of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities in the ministry and life of The United Methodist Church, particularly in the Baltimore-Washington Conference.” The group announced at the dinner that the Annual Meeting would be held on Saturday, July 8 at Covenant United Methodist Church, 20301 Pleasant Ridge Drive, Montgomery Village, MD, starting with a social gathering at 9:30 a.m. and a program at 10 a.m.