News and Views

BWC set to meet beneath the cross

Posted by Erik Alsgaard on

By Erik Alsgaard
UMConnection Staff

BWC members gather at precon
More than 300 members of the Baltimore-Washington Conference attended
the Pre-Conference Briefings. Above, finance leaders sing at Jackson Chapel.

More than 300 United Methodists from throughout the Baltimore-Washington Conference did just that April 21, attending one of two Pre-Conference Briefings to prepare for the upcoming Annual Conference Session.

Meeting first at Jackson Chapel UMC in Frederick, and then at St. John United Church in Columbia, members learned about resolutions coming to the 234th Session, the proposed budget, special guests and speakers, and more. An opportunity for questions was also offered at both.

Bishop LaTrelle Easterling will preside over her second Annual Conference Session, which meets May 30-June 1, in Baltimore. The theme for this year: “We Are One: Beneath the Cross.”

“Beneath the cross, the ground is level,” said Bishop Easterling. She said her prayer for the Session was that we would remember United Methodists are “Easter people,” and she invited all to gather in Baltimore in that spirit.

“The time we come together is a time of holy conferencing,” the bishop said. “It’s a time not to do our work, but God’s work. This is not a prolonged and protracted business meeting, although we will do the church’s business. It’s out time of holy conferencing. We’re coming together as children of God to pray our way together into the future.”

Bishop Easterling noted that the Rev. Shively T.J. Smith will lead the Bible study on Thursday and Friday mornings. Smith is on the faculty at Wesley Theological Seminary as a professor of New Testament. Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey will speak at the Ordination Service, scheduled for Thursday night, May 31. Harvey is the episcopal leader of the Louisiana Area. The Rev. Craig McLaughlin will preach at the Memorial Service, June 1, at 10 a.m. He is the pastor at Mt. Zion UMC in Bel Air. And, Bishop Forrest Stith, retired, is scheduled to speak at the clergy retiree lunch, she said.

Delores Martin, BWC Lay Leader
Delores Martin, BWC Lay Leader, shares information about the Laity
Session for the upcoming Annual Conference Session later this month.

Delores Martin, Lay Leader for the BWC, said that the laity session this year will feature addresses from three district lay leaders: Ophelia Brown Carter, Baltimore Metropolitan; Kim Carr, Annapolis; and Rosalind Pinkney, Washington East. Barbara Lemmel will lead the session through a time on effective leadership, and Rick Vance, the national director of United Methodist Men’s ministry, will discuss domestic violence.

“Invite as many lay people from your church to come,” Martin said, adding that a person does not have to be an elected lay member to Annual Conference to attend the laity session. The laity session will be held May 30, starting at 2 p.m.

The BWC’s new Director of Connectional Ministries, Christie Latona, gave a preview of proposed changes for how the conference will be structured for effective disciple-making. After finding that most of the 17 Discipleship Agencies in the BWC were not meeting regularly or functioning at all, Latona sought to “connect the dots” for doing discipleship.

“We are moving to clarify our work into five areas: Leadership development; young people’s ministry; abundant health; advocacy and action; and new faith expressions,” Latona said. “Clarifying and simplifying will help people find their place in ministry.”

In money matters, Phil Potter, chair of the BWC’s Council on Finance and Administration (CFA), highlighted the proposed 2019 budget. However, he first thanked local churches for their strong stewardship and support in 2017.

“We’re celebrating the faithfulness and dedication of local churches and their efforts last year,” Potter said. “Last year was a record year for giving, with apportionment receipts coming in at 92.25 percent, an all-time record.”

Potter noted that total church income also grew significantly last year, showing that the BWC is, as he put it, “a financially healthy conference.”

For 2019, the proposed budget reflects a slight increase in apportionment income, from $14.26 million to $14.29 million. This would be the seventh year in a row that income expectations stayed flat, Potter said. Expenses would match income, Potter said. The benevolence factor – a percentage used by the conference to help determine apportionment amounts – would be reduced in 2019, from 17.725 percent to 17.600 percent.

Bishop LaTrelle Easterling prays
Bishop LaTrelle Easterling prays for the member of the BWC at the Pre-
Conference Briefing at Jackson Chapel UMC in Frederick.

The proposed budget also aligns with the five areas of Discipleship Ministries, outlined by Latona.

CFA is charged by the Book of Discipline to “develop, maintain, and administer a comprehensive and coordinated plan of fiscal and administrative policies, procedures, and management services for the annual conference.” (¶612.1) As such, Potter outlined potential risks CFA sees down the road. One of those risks is the change in current tax law and how that might affect charitable giving. Potter said that CFA doesn’t expect much difference because of this change, because “people give not to reduce taxes, but to support the ministry of the church.”

The other risk, Potter said, is in anticipation of what may happen at the 2019 Special Session of General Conference. Once that session is over, it is possible that some churches may leave the denomination. CFA is prepared, he said, if apportionment income drops 10, 15, or ever 25 percent. Contingency plans have been drawn up, including using reserves, reducing grants to local churches, reducing staff, and reducing amounts paid to the general church.

Presenters of each of the six resolutions coming to Annual Conference had five minutes to talk about their proposals. The resolutions are online at

All the slides shown at the Pre-Conference Briefings are available online, at