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2007 Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference

May 24-26, 2007, Washington

Clergy and lay members from 689 churches continued to reclaim the enthusiasm, faith and accountability of the early Methodist Church, while tackling many of the challenging issues of the day, when they met for the 223rd session of the Baltimore-Washington Conference.

Bishop John R. Schol, in his state of the church report, encouraged those gathered by highlighting how they were furthering the conference vision/mission of "being like Christ as they call, equip, send and support spiritual leaders to make disciples and grow 600 Acts 2 congregations by 201."

The bishop reported that 135 churches had achieved all three fruits that the conference is measuring based on Acts 2:41-47: one profession of faith per 25 worshipers (414 churches achieved this fruit); 2 percent worship growth (256 churches achieved this fruit); engage in mission in the community and world including paying 100 percent apportionment payment (544 churches achieve this fruit).

"Looking at the numbers is important," the bishop said, "but not as important as the people the numbers represent - people whose lives are changed by the power of the Holy Spirit." Schol then presented Elizabeth Haung to the conference. She was one of the 5,316 people who joined the church through professions of faith and whose entire family was baptized in 2006.

Meeting for three days of holy conferencing in Washington, conference members worshiped and studied together, heard reports on the discipleship and stewardship efforts, and witnessed the ordination of eight elders and two deacons and the commissioning of 12 probationers.

Members also participated in lively morning Bible studies. One was led by Hot Metal Bridge, a congregation from Pennsylvania that was started in a tattoo parlor. Its pastor, the Rev. Jim Walker, urged members to put aside programmatic religion and express their faith in "authentic and intimate relationship." In keeping with the annual conference's theme of "In the Potter's Hands: Develop Your Faith," almost 1,000 Sunday school teachers and small group leaders from throughout the conference were also honored for their ministries.

Members also heard a statement from the Rev. Drew Phoenix, a transgender pastor, who was recently reappointed to St. John's United Methodist Church of Baltimore City. Schol indicated that there is no denominational policy on transgendered clergy and shared after consultation with the pastor and the congregation that Rev. Phoenix would be reappointed. Both the congregation and pastor asked for the reappointment and indicated the congregation has been growing.

Following Phoenix's statement, Schol told the annual conference members that "many people would say let's just sweep it under the carpet. In this conference, we're people of integrity and I give thanks to God for that." The bishop encouraged United Methodists to learn more about transgender issues and to be in conversation and prayer for all people and the church.

Members elected 16 General Conference and 16 Jurisdictional Conference delegates. Lay delegates elected to General Conference: Delores Oden, Sandra Ferguson, Mary Baldridge, Keya Belt, Sherman Harris, Ruth Dixon, Sharon Darlyn McCrae, and Michael McCurry; Clergy delegates: Laura Easto, Joan Carter-Rimbach, Joseph Daniels, Peggy Johnson, C. Anthony Hunt, Bruce Birch, Mark Derby, and Cynthia Belt.

In legislative actions, conference members:

  • Adopted Safe Sanctuaries procedures for the conference to protect youth and children in conference-sponsored programs and missions from sexual abuses and a requirement that all local churches also develop a comprehensive policy.
  • Voted down a proposal submitted by 11 conference churches that the Baltimore-Washington Conference petition the General Conference to delete the sentence in the Book of Discipline that "The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and considers this practice to be incompatible with Christian teaching."
  • Approved a petition to General Conference to officially make Bermuda part of the Northeastern Jurisdiction (the Baltimore-Washington Conference oversees two congregations in Bermuda).

The conference also welcomed Bishop Ki Bok Lee, his wife and 10 others visiting from The Methodist Church in South Korea, with which the conference has a partnership.

Members of the conference collected $169,427 for the Hope Fund, a two-year campaign to address crises in Zimbabwe, AIDS ministries, and the rebuilding of churches damaged by Hurricane Katrina. It was the largest one-day offering in the history of the Baltimore-Washington Conference.

Worship attendance stands at 74,008, down 746. Church school attendances stands at 25,932, up 147.

-Melissa Lauber