May 29-June 1, in Baltimore, Maryland
A Facebook post from the Rev. Stephanie Vader may sum it up best: “The Holy Spirit blew through our annual conference. She can be such a show-off.”
The Baltimore-Washington Conference is one of the most diverse in the denomination and its 235th session, May 29-June 1 in Baltimore, held meaningful moments that illuminated the BWC’s new vision statement: “Transformed Lives, Transform Lives.”
The week was packed with Holy Spirit moments.
One of the most notable of these moments centered around the clergy session endorsing and Bishop LaTrelle Easterling commissioning TC Morrow and ordaining Joey Heath-Mason. Both are in same-gender marriages.
This act of sacred resistance stands in opposition to the Traditional Plan, adopted at the 2019 Special Session of General Conference, which reinforced and strengthened the church’s stance on homosexuality. It goes into effect across the denomination in January.
“Christ is the ultimate alchemist. Christ is ultimately the one who brings us to transformation. But I also know, transformed lives transform lives,” the bishop preached. “When they see us walk different, they take notice. When they see us talk different, they take notice. When they see people abuse us and we smile and bless them anyway, they take notice. When they threaten to file charges on you, but you follow God anyway, they take notice.”
She told those present, “We can’t serve in fear. Fear and love cannot inhabit the same dwelling. And perfect love casts out all fear.”
She applauded those being commissioned and ordained in the tumultuous aftermath of the 2019 General Conference. “You felt the tectonic plates shift under The United Methodist Church’s foundation and you have continued to say, ‘yes,’ anyhow,” the bishop said. “We may not know what tomorrow holds, but we know who holds tomorrow.”
Another notable highlight was the entire day on June 1 being devoted to Young People’s Ministries. Members celebrated the contributions of youth and young adults and set a course for a new future for these ministries in the Conference.
The focus on young people included a dance presentation of “He Lives in Me,” from the Lion King; a spirit-filled moment as the young people prayed over the bishop; presentations on young adult “Change-Maker” ministries that are already transforming lives and communities; a key-note address by Mark DeVries of Ministry Architects that set the stage for a new strategic plan for young adult ministries; workshops to equip local churches and a confirmation rally that included glow-sticks and a blessing of all confirmands and young people in the BWC involved in significant ministry.
“You are not the church of the future,” Easterling told the young people. “You are the church of now. You are the light. You are the light of Christ.” She encouraged them to shine so that the church and the world might know hope, healing, and the reconciliation that leads other to Jesus the Christ.
In other actions, members of the Baltimore-Washington Conference:
+ Traveled on “a road to love” in the opening worship, created and choreographed by Marcia McFee. Easterling preached, illuminating the conference theme: “We are One: United to Love.”
+ Ordained one deacon and 11 elders; recognized the orders of the Rev. Ronald Fleming-Triplett; and commissioned two deacons and nine elders. With great emotion, Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi, a daughter of the BWC, commissioned her husband, the Rev. Raphael Koikoi.
+ Remembered and honored 60 United Methodists who died in the previous year. Rev. Ianther Mills preached on not putting a period where God places a comma and how those who died now live on in their loved ones.
+ Listened to seven people in a “Samoan Circle” intently share their hurts, hopes and a variety of personal perspectives about how the church will move forward after the 2019 Special Session of General Conference.
+ Studied Luke 16:19-22 with the Rev. Marvin McMickle, who taught about our proximity to the poor and how the church too often stands as an island of prosperity in a sea of poverty.
+ Adopted a new ministries structure that streamlines and promotes engagement in five key areas: leadership, new faith expressions, advocacy and action, Abundant Health and young people’s ministries.
+ Referred seven aspirational reports from Baltimore Washington Area Reconciling Methodists about justice and inclusion for LGBTQIA people to a variety of conference agencies and offices.
+ Tabled a motion on Supporting Deliberations for New Expressions of Methodism.
+ Heard the Rev. Bob Barnes request a ruling of law from the bishop about the actions of the clergy session and the approval of two candidates married to same-gender spouses. The bishop has 30 days to formally respond.
+ Adopted “Keeping our Sacred Trust,” a policy on sexual ethics.
+ Approved, by unanimous vote, an $18,641,514 budget for 2020; kept the benevolence factor the same at 17.6 percent; and dropped the collection rate from 92 to 91 percent.
+ Voted to give the $25,000 legacy of the closed Centre Street UMC to ministries in Allegany County, and to place money received from the sale of Mt. Zion UMC in Ellicott City and Grace UMC in Fairmount Heights into savings until after General Conference 2020 so that they might be used by other African-American churches.
+ Voted to create a station for nursing mothers so that they can participate fully in annual conference, and to serve gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free and nut-free bread at all conference, regional and district gatherings.
+ Provided the Trustees permission to purchase a new episcopal residence after the current parsonage had to undergo mold remediation, and asked Conference leaders to research a centralized location for future annual conferences along with the possibility of providing free accommodations to those who can demonstrate need.
+ Honored the ministry and history of 10 churches that closed this year.
+ Was inspired by James Cogman, an ambassador of the Black College Fund.
+ Fixed the appointments of the pastors of the 623 churches of the Baltimore-Washington Conference, including 78 new pastoral appointments.
Awards and Celebrations:
+ Honored Melissa Lauber and the BWC Communications staff with the Epikoinonia Award from United Methodist Communications, recognizing that “community is not possible without communications.”
+ Applauded 20 clergy retirees who collectively served 545 years in ministry at a luncheon, where the Rev. Edwin Ankeny spoke on God’s continuing call.
+ Presented the Harry Denman award for Evangelism to Linda Worthington, a writer from Chevy Chase UMC who has worked more than 20 years with the UMConnection, and Pastor Alexis Peña Vazquez of Brook Hill UMC.
+ Awarded the Youth Worker of the Year award to Brad Grable of Melville Chapel in Elkridge.
+ Awarded Moral Courage medals to David Boney of Smithfield UMC for his work with young people in Zimbabwe and Ghana, and to J’TA Freeman of Ebenezer UMC in Washington, for her work in combatting gun violence as the youth mayor of Washington, D.C.; and to Bishop Minerva Carcaño, for her prophetic work on immigration and other justice issues.
+ Celebrated those who completed the BWC’s first Hispanic Lay Leadership School.
+ Welcomed the Rev. Johnsie Cogman as the new superintendent of the Washington East District, and the Rev. John Wunderlich as the new superintendent of the Cumberland-Hagerstown District.
Mission and Ministry
+ Packed 60,000 meals for Rise Against Hunger.
+ Contributed, in special offerings, $9,858 for scholarships to summer camps, $10,189 for Seeds for Security to provide shelter to victims of domestic violence and $1,947 for young people’s ministries.
+ Heard the witness of Janay Parker, who shared how after struggling with her mother’s addiction and death, she found a place of healing and hope at West River Camp.
The delegates elected to the 2020 General and Northeast Jurisdictional Conference are:
C. Anthony Hunt
Letebula Danny Pembamoto
Of the General Conference delegates, two delegates are young adults: Megan Blizzard and Daniel Colbert. In the Jurisdictional Delegation, there are three young adults: Sharon Milton, Nathan Jones and Chet Jechura.
In the Baltimore-Washington Conference:
Membership stands at 151,816, down 3,964 from the previous year.
Worship attendance stands at 51,383, down 3,055 from the previous year.
Church school attendance stands at 14,722, down 962 from the previous year.
Professions or reaffirmations of faith for 2018 stand at 2,401, down 199 from 2017.
Adults and young adults in small groups for 2018 totaled 52,696, down 2,578 form 2017.
Worshippers engaged in mission for 2018 totaled 57,291, down 7,619 from 2017.
— Submitted by Melissa Lauber, director of communications