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2009 Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference

Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference
June 4-6, 2009, Baltimore, Md.

Clergy, lay members and visitors from 682 churches, totaling more than 1,400 people, attended the 225th Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference under the theme, "Extravagant Grace, Share Your Faith."

In his state of the church address, Bishop John Schol urged the conference churches to live a Pentecost mission by becoming an "unbound and outbound" church.

"We commit to walk with every church that wants to become a church of 1,000 doors, a church that is a verb, a church that is about Monday through Saturday," Schol said. "We have hundreds of congregations that are demonstrating this type of Pentecost mission. They are building up the body of Christ in the sanctuary and extending the body of Christ to the streets. They are a verb."

Schol added that the Baltimore-Washington Conference is also showing signs of growth. The Baltimore, Washington East and Cumberland-Hagerstown districts all had increases in worship in 2008. The Annapolis Southern District (the Washington East and Annapolis Districts) also had increases in worship attendance, professions of faith and in apportionment payments.

"I believe through the power of the Holy Spirit and your giftedness, we will see at least 600 of our congregations grow new disciples, increase worship attendance, engage worshippers in community mission and give 100-percent of their apportionments," he said. "This will be a sign and wonder of the movement of God throughout the Baltimore-Washington conference.

Amidst the praise and worship celebrations during the three-day session, the conference members voted on various motions and lifted up several milestones:

  • Seven new Communities of Shalom were started with five more to begin training later this year. Communities of Shalom engage the church and community in revitalizing communities.
  • As part of an ongoing partnership with the Baltimore-Washington Conference, Bishop Young Tai Park and nine pastors from the South Conference of the Korean Methodist Church attended this session of annual conference. The Korean Partnership began in 2002, and has gained momentum through cultural exchanges and meetings between pastors and laity. Park, leader of the Nambu (South) Conference, preached at the Service of Remembrance and the Korean church shared its culture at a reception.
  • Bishop John R. Schol ordained 12 women and men as elders and one woman as a deacon at the ordination service. Seven others were commissioned as provisional members.
  • The conference recognized 26 retirees, representing 638 years of service.
  • Members voted on, and passed by a two-thirds margin, 32 denominational Constitutional Amendments, one of which formalized two churches in Bermuda becoming official members of the Baltimore-Washington Conference. Many of the other amendments addressed the global nature of the church, changing the words "Central Conference" to "Regional Conference." Amendment 1, which would have change the constitution to read "we are in ministry to all," (without regard to race, color, national origin, status or economic condition) passed by 62 percent.
  • Conference members adopted recommendations from the Task Force on Appointment Policies, Compensation Expectations and Practices that outline policies and requirements for pastoral appointments. The Rev. Vivian McCarthy, chair of the task force, said the goal of the committee and their recommendations is to ensure clarity of conference policies toward building and sustaining healthy congregations and to be clear in compensation and appointment guidelines. It is not, she said, an attempt to target small churches. One of the notable recommendations brought forth by the task force that will help to decide whether a church receives a full-time or part-time pastor is that tithes and offerings must comprise at least 75 percent of the church's income.
  • Members also approved a 2010 conference budget of $17,733,032, which represents an increase of 3 percent over 2009, and adopted a benevolence factor of 19.5 percent.
  • During the stewardship report, members heard that as of Jan. 1, 2010, a church's share of the medical billing for a pastor's coverage will be identical regardless of the tier level, with single coverage costing the same as single and spouse or family coverage.
  • Members approved a statement on human sexuality, recognizing that "faithful, thoughtful people who have grappled with this issue deeply disagree with one another; yet all seek a faithful witness," and asking the church to "refrain from judgment regarding homosexual persons."
  • Thirteen conference Advance Specials were adopted for churches and individuals to support with "second-mile giving."
  • The conference explored the idea of "extravagant grace," with panel discussions featuring the Rev. Jessicah Duckworth of Wesley Theological Seminary who spoke on ministry to young adults; and Erin Hawkins, top executive of the Commission on Religion and Race, who talked about building a culture of meaningful inclusiveness.
  • Recognizing the participation of the Baltimore-Washington Conference during the inauguration weekend of President Barack Obama, Paul Monteiro -- religious liaison in the White House's Office of Public Liaison said the new administration appreciates the work done by United Methodists across the country. "We will count on you to be that prophetic voice and deal with the many moral issues facing us today," he said.
  • More than $87,657 was collected in a special offering for the HOPE Fund to benefit ministries in Zimbabwe.
  • Local pastors met together in their newly formed Fellowship of Local Pastors and Associate Members.
  • Marcel Jagne-Shaw, a member of Good Hope Union United Methodist Church, was introduced as the representative of the Black College Fund, which the conference supports with its apportionments.
  • The proceeds from the sale of the Annapolis District parsonage were designated for the development of a new faith community and to support Hispanic ministries in the district.
  • Conference members honored the lives of 32 clergy and their spouses and 11 lay members during a Service of Remembrance.
  • The conference also thanked the Rev. Albert Clipp, who as has served as conference secretary since July 2004, and welcomed the Rev. Mary Jo Sims as the new conference secretary.
  • William Isberg, the conference chief operating officer, was elected to be the conference treasurer.

Membership stands at 188,739, down 3,678 from the previous year. Worship attendance stands at 70,593, down 925. Church school attendance stands at 22,043, down 1,952.

-Shaun Lane