By Melissa Lauber
Amid mass shootings, wars abroad, two years of pandemic and isolation, oppression, depression, and anxiety, the Baltimore-Washington Conference met online in its Annual session June 1-3 for a time of prayer, holy conferencing, and to proclaim a spirt of perseverance and Spirit-led vitality.
We’re living through a time when “we cannot catch our breath, when the song will not form in our throat and the tears well up without provocation,” said Bishop LaTrelle Easterling. But, she said, the people of the BWC are still engaged in significant mission and ministry. “That is our reputation, that is our identity, that is our witness,” the bishop preached during the opening worship of the conference.
“United Methodists know to 'stop telling God about your problems and start telling your problems about God,'" Easterling said. “There is no quit in us, Baltimore-Washington Conference. We persevere in hope, faith and joy!”
“Persevere: in Hope, Faith and Joy” was the theme of the online conference as members explored how to faithfully pursue the goal of becoming vital churches. Conference members endorsed the Rev. Joseph Daniels as a candidate for the episcopacy, celebrated the ordination of nine Elders and three Deacons ,and adopted an $18.2 million budget.
Among the highlights of the 238th Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference:
- During an interactive presentation, The Discipleship Ministries team outlined the pillars of vitality, designed to help fulfill the conference’s vision of 100 percent of its churches becoming 100 percent vital.
- In anticipation of the Nov. 2-5 Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference, BWC members endorsed the Rev. Joseph Daniels of Emory UMC in Washington, D.C., as its candidate for the episcopacy.
- Online offerings were taken and $2,460 was collected to assist those in war-torn Ukraine, $1,170 was given to support Africa University on its 30th anniversary, and $1,110 was contributed to assist with resources for clergy wellbeing.
- The Laity Session focused on youth ministries and creating disciples with a presentation from Chris Wilterdink, director of the denomination’s Young People’s Ministries, and members heard inspirational messages from high school student Cayleigh Martin of Cokesbury UMC and Jamal Oakman, a leader of the University of Maryland’s Terp HUB.
- Bonnie Marden of the New England Conference delivered the laity address, speaking about the power of choice and the possibilities that come with being a United Methodist.
- Camps Manidokan, West River and Harmison announced plans to open fully this summer and encouraged volunteers to participate as leaders.
- Richard Church, of the Committee on Native American Ministries, joined Bishop Easterling in a litany to honor the land and our heritage.
- Members passed a $18.2 million budget and set the collection rate at 90 percent and the benevolence factor at 17.55 percent.
- In brave conversation, members shared ideas on creating an inclusive, diverse, equitable and anti-racist church and world.
- The Board of Ordained Ministry reported on an on-going study of gender, race and ministry; and shared revisions to the continuing education policy for clergy and the BWC’s sexual misconduct policies.
- Members passed five resolutions that give the Black United Methodists for Church Renewal caucus intentional input into decisions about the proceeds from the sale of Black churches in the BWC; endorsed the Christmas Covenant; made Salem Hispanic UMC in Baltimore a mission of the Conference; created a new position on the Action and Advocacy team to work in the area of ensuring housing for all; and called for increased and nuanced discussions about climate change.
- Conference members approved closing Cherry Run UMC in Hedgesville; while also approving Mountain View UMC in Damascus and New Beginnings Fellowship in Jarrettsville disaffiliating from the denomination. A report was presented by the BWC Trustees that clarified the disaffiliation process for churches wishing to leave The United Methodist Church.
- The equitable compensation rate for clergy was increased three percent, bring the base salary to $47, 990 and the recommended housing allowance to $21,394.
- A request was made for a report about a possible standardized reimbursement rate for pastors’ continuing education, travel and other expenses to be presented at next year’s session.
- Members affirmed the work of the Nominations Committee, which reported 73 changes in people serving on conference committees and agencies.
- Bishop Easterling ordained nine Elders and three Deacons, and she commissioned nine Elders and three Deacons as provisional members at a worship service, where the Rev. Antoine Love, preached on life, faith and the redeeming gift of relationship in a sermon called, “Say My Name, Say My Name.”
- The lives and ministries of clergy, clergy spouses and lay members were celebrated at a Service of Remembrance, where the Rev. Frankie Revell of LaVale UMC lifted up a message about sorrow, loss and the need to be patient and gentle with oneself and loving and forgiving of your neighbor, as Jesus stands always by our side.
- Rehoboth UMC was given the BWC’s Advocacy and Action Award; Oak Chapel UMC in Silver Spring was honored with the Wellness and Mission Award; and Emily St. Louis of Community UMC in Crofton was named the BWC’s Youth Worker of the Year.
- Six Certified Lay Ministers were recognized for completing their training.
- Two new EarthKeepers – the Rev. Stacey Cole Wilson and Thea Becton – were welcomed into the fold of the BWC’s 15 other EarthKeepers.
- District superintendents paid tribute to 22 clergy retirees at a Service of Celebration.
- Pisgah UMC in La Plata and Hughes UMC in Wheaton were presented with $1,000 and the One Matters Award for their discipleship.
- The Conference celebrated Lovely Lane UMC in Baltimore, the oldest church in the Conference, which celebrates its 250th anniversary this year, along with Dumbarton UMC in Georgetown and Melville Chapel UMC in Elkridge.
See additional stories about the 238th session of the Baltimore-Washington Conference.
The next Annual Conference Session is scheduled to be held in Baltimore May 31-June 3, 2023.