State of the Church Q&A
More than 800 people attended the BWC’s April 18 State of the Church webinar. Several people asked questions of Conference leaders who spoke on the church’s response to the coronavirus.
Q: The BWC has churches in Maryland, D.C. and West Virginia. Why is the Baltimore-Washington Conference using a “one-size fits all” approach in addressing restrictions on church closures?
A: Since mid-March, BWC leaders have been closely monitoring the directives of Governor Larry Hogan (Maryland), Governor Jim Justice (West Virginia), and Mayor Muriel Bowser (Washington, D.C.), to ensure that the context of each area within the conference is addressed in our decision-making. People’s health and well-being have been our primary concern. In light of recent government decisions, the BWC will extend restrictions on gathering together in houses of worship from April 26 to May 15. If the government extends restrictions, the Conference will adjust.
Peace with Justice Fund
Q: How do we give to the COVID-19 Peace with Justice Fund?
A: Every dollar given to the COVID-19 Peace with Justice Fund will receive matching funds from the Conference. So far, 28 grants totaling $14,000 have been awarded to local churches for their ministries of feeding and supporting the most vulnerable among us. We have received applications from more than 10% of our congregations. If half of our congregations apply for grants, we would need to raise $75,000 in order to say “yes” to each of them. Donate at https://www.bwcumc.org/news-and-views/donations-matched-for-covid-19-micro-grants/
Q: When will applications for technology grants be available?
A: Applications for grants to assist churches in reaching out to people in innovative ways using technology are expected to be available May 15.
Q: Can smaller congregations, or those with New Faith Expressions, apply?
Clergy Appointments and Status
Q: When will the churches that are expecting changes hear about their specific appointment?
A: Bishop Easterling and the Cabinet have made several appointments, which have been announced at https://www.bwcumc.org/news/2020-appointments. Appointment announcements are traditionally finalized in May; however, appointment-making continues throughout the year. Appointments made before June 30 take effect July 1.
Q: Can grace be given to allow pastors to return to their previous appointments for opportunities to celebrate ministry and offer transition support?
A: Yes. The Conference will work with clergy in a creative and affirming manner to ensure that pastors are appropriately honored and cared for during this season.
Q: If clergy cannot physically move from one parsonage to another, will churches need to compensate one another for housing?
A: The details of clergy moves will be worked out as needs are presented. District superintendents will provide guidance as needed.
Annual Conference Session
Q: Will the Memorial Service be held at the one-day Annual Conference session?
A: The one-day session, scheduled for Sept. 12, will include the clergy and laity sessions, adoption of a 2021 budget, adoption of the Nominations Report, other necessary Conference business, and ordination. The celebration of retirees, honoring of ministries, the service of remembrance, and other aspects of Annual Conference will be observed in a different setting at a different time and will be announced when plans are finalized.
Q: I understand that ordination will take place in conjunction with the Annual Conference Session on September 12, but what is the status of all of the ordinands in the meantime? Many are assuming they will become appointed/paid in June/July.
A: The bishop and Cabinet will set the appointments. It is anticipated that General Church agencies will retroactively adjust changes made in clergy status to July 1.
Q: Is it possible to have the clergy session via ZOOM? In the case of not being able to assemble together for Annual Conference, how will things be handled in the case of voting on resolutions?
A: Many possibilities are being explored, including options for holding a virtual Annual Conference Session. In consultation with other conference stakeholders, Bishop Easterling will make and announce any changes as conditions evolve.
Giving and Stewardship
Q: Can you clarify the terms of “mission share” vs. “apportionments”?
A: They are the same. The BWC is moving toward the use of mission shares to reflect our connectional giving.
Q: Have notifications been sent to all 252 churches who don’t pay clergy benefits regarding the explanation and date they will receive a relief check?
A: Yes. These notifications were sent on Thursday, April 9. If you have not received a notification, contact BWC treasurer Paul Eichelberger at .
Stewardship, Paycheck Protection Program, and State Grants
Q: More than 20 questions were submitted by people with information about, or questions on, receiving grants from the State of Maryland and the Small Business Administration.
A: Treasurer Paul Eichelberger stressed that these grants can be pivotal in assisting churches weather these challenging financial times. He encouraged clergy and other stewardship leaders to work through the frustrations of the application process and new reports about shortages in federal funds in anticipation of a second phase of funding.
He recommended that churches include the pastor’s housing allowances in their calculations and offered a number of resources to churches that are online, including and application template, at https://www.bwcumc.org/article/local-church-financial-relief-consultations
Those needing detailed information on specific questions may contact either Paul or Pier McPayten for a consultation at https://calendly.com/finance-operations/budget-consult?month=2020-04
Q: The State of Maryland is telling our church that we are not eligible for the Maryland Small Business COVID-19 Relief Grant because we are not participants in the State Unemployment Program. What is our next step?
A: After the webinar, Eichelberger said, they became aware of two churches in the Conference who received emails Friday, April 17, from the Maryland Department of Commerce that claimed the inability to provide an Unemployment Insurance Number made the church ineligible to receive any COVID-19 relief grants or loans from the State of Maryland. Please know that Conference leadership, including the chancellor, are investigating this matter with government officials to challenge this ruling. We will keep you posted.
Q: My bank has asked me for a corporate resolution that designates me as the person who will sign the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding documents for the church. Help?
A: Some banks have required a corporate resolution as the documents are being signed for the PPP funding. The Trustees are recognized as the legal entity for providing this resolution for the church. The sample resolution letter, linked below, will guide the Trustees to hold a vote to accept the PPP loan and then authorize one person to sign the funding documents. The resolution should be written on church letterhead and the Trustee secretary should sign the resolution. A Charge Conference is not required to support this resolution.
A sample resolution is online at https://www.bwcumc.org/article/local-church-financial-relief-consultations/. Scroll down and click on the button "Click to download the Resolution for the Paycheck Protection Program loan."
Q: My church is UNINCORPORATED, and we are being asked for our articles of incorporation as part of the PPP Funding process. Help?
A: Many of our churches are unincorporated and, as a result, do not have formal articles of incorporation filed in state records. However, the General Council on Finance and Administration has designated certain paragraphs within the Book of Discipline as the suitable documents for unincorporated churches to use when asked to supply their organizing documents and/or articles of incorporation. Unincorporated Church Organizing Documents are online.
Q: My church is INCORPORATED, and we are being asked for our articles of incorporation as part of the PPP Funding process. Help?
A: The Articles of Incorporation can be found at the following websites for churches who are incorporated. Older records may need to be ordered. Please request a Finance Team Consultation if you need help with this part of the PPP application.
West Virginia: https://startabusiness.org/wv/business-search/#Search_by_Organization
Q: What does Bishop Easterling recommend about Communion in these times of virtual worship?
A: Bishop Easterling has shared her thoughts on the sacred nature of Communion and the value of the Methodist tradition on love feasts in a letter to the people of the Baltimore-Washington Conference. It is included, along with supporting resources, here: https://www.bwcumc.org/article/celebrating-love-feasts/
Q: Is the Emotional Health Crisis Hot line (866-342-6892) available to pastors even if they are less than full time and their church does not participate in health care?
A: Yes. The emotional health crisis hotline is available to all United Methodists and can be shared with your congregation. More mental health resources are available here: https://www.bwcumc.org/article/mental-health-in-the-times-of-covid-19/