2008 Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference
May 22-24, 2008, Nation Harbor, Md.
Clergy, lay members and visitors from 682 churches, totaling more than 1,500 people, attended the 224th Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference under the theme "Poured Out. Serve Like Christ."
Bishop John R. Schol delivered a "state of the church" report that encouraged United Methodists to be extreme disciplespeople willing to take risks knowing that God is on their side.
"Extreme disciples are believers who are willing to risk it all for a Kingdom adventuredisciples who through the Holy Spirit are shaping the church to be the body of Christ," Schol said.
The annual conference members listened to and considered various reports and lifted up several milestones.
With a goal announced three years ago of having 600 Acts 2 congregations by 2012, Bishop Schol announced that the conference is nearly halfway to its goal, with 272 churches. The number represents a 200 percent increase since 2005.
Seventy-six percent of conference churches received at least one profession of faith in 2007, compared with the denomination's average of 58 percent.
In an initiative aimed at better allocating conference resources to help all churches become Acts 2 congregations, the members overwhelmingly passed a proposal to move from nine districts to eight. The plan will go into effect July 1. The shift is designed to allow a better allocation of the regional guide work.
The conference passed a motion without discussion for the United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women to determine what progress has been made since the 2003 study that researched women in ministry in the Baltimore-Washington conference, as well as determining what needs to be done going forward.
Members raised $74,379 in a special offering for the HOPE Fund, a conference initiative to raise $1 million to benefit ministries in Zimbabwe, the Global AIDS Fund and rebuilding churches along the Gulf Coast that were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
The Rev. Peggy Johnson of Christ United Methodist Church of the Deaf in Baltimore was overwhelmingly endorsed as the Baltimore-Washington conference candidate for bishop. Johnson was chosen from among five candidates and received more than 80 percent of the vote.
The conference honored and celebrated U.S. soldiers who died in battle. The Rev. Clark Carr of Grace United Methodist Church in Hagerstown presented Bishop Schol with a number of gifts from the front lines of the Iraq War, including a U.S. flag. Carr, a chaplain with the Maryland National Guard, recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq. The bishop led the conference attendees in a prayer for peace.
Members voted to continue to create and facilitate regional dialogue teams to explore issues related to the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people within the life of The United Methodist Church.
They voted to encourage local churches to pray for, give financial support to and lend assistance to the operation of area pregnancy centers that help pregnant women in the bearing and caring for their children.
An adjourned session of annual conference will be held later this year to discuss apportionment and stewardship issues. Members adopted the 2009 budget and also voted to decrease the benevolence.
During a memorial service, the Rev. Al Clipp, conference secretary, read the names of the 11 clergy, eight clergy widows and two spouses of retired clergy, and five lay members of conference who died since the last annual conference session.
Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton of the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference delivered the message to 18 women and men who were ordained as elders and one woman who was ordained a full member deacon. In addition, he commissioned 15 others as probationary members.
The next session of annual conference will be held June 4-6, 2009, at the Marriott Waterfront Hotel in Baltimore.