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2013 Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference

May 29-31, Baltimore

More than 1,700 United Methodists from 637 area churches in the Baltimore-Washington Conference gathered May 29-31 to sow seeds of worship, learning, mission, stewardship and holy conferencing in their continuing efforts to grow disciples for the transformation of the world.

The 229th Session of the Baltimore-Washington Conference, which was held at the Marriott Waterfront Hotel in Baltimore, was led by Bishop Marcus Matthews, who once served as a pastor, district superintendent and Council of Ministries director in the conference and returned last September as its episcopal leader. The theme of the session was "Sowing the Seed / Be Light."

During the sermon of the opening worship service, Bishop Matthews asked churches to do three things in the coming year: become prayer stations, bring at least one person to Christ and adopt a public school in its ZIP code. "Let us say, 'yes,' to being a Conference that is cultivated on fertile ground," he declared. "And let us say, 'yes,' to producing the rich soil in which disciples will be made who will turn the world right side up for Jesus Christ; today, tomorrow, and always."

As part of producing this rich soil, conference members learned about seven new faith communities being created and consecrated the leadership teams starting these new churches.

The new faith communities represent the diversity of the conference. Five are multi-cultural in vision and mission, two seek to serve the growing Korean population, two grow out of largely African-American congregations, two spring from Anglo congregations and one is multicultural from the outset.

Members also celebrated additions to God's Kingdom during the opening worship service, when, as an offering, the names of 2,341 people who members brought to Christ during the last year, were written on colorful cards and brought forward to the altar.

During the session, the members, with no debate and in an unprecedented unanimous vote, adopted a $16.8 million budget for 2014.

In addition, members voted on five resolutions related to the rules. Among the outcomes, they created a conference personnel committee, which will take over the task of equipping the human resources department from the episcopacy committee; and voted not to elect delegates to the 2016 General Conference a year earlier than usual, as they were given permission by the denomination to do.

Members also considered a number of social justice related resolutions. Members voted to support advocacy efforts to end gun violence, endorse efforts to provide earned sick leave to all workers, and to work to end bullying.

Following a significant debate, the conference also voted on a resolution on scientific thinking. Opponents of the resolution, like the Rev. George Harpold, questioned "if science and evolution is trying to make a lie out of creation." Proponents, like the resolution's presenter, the Rev. Maynard Moore, celebrated the possibilities that arise in an ongoing conversation between faith and science. In a 447 to 286 vote, the resolution passed.

Members also honored 19 retirees, who together represent 565 years of ministry.

At an ordination service, Bishop Matthews, West Virginia Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball and retired bishops Joseph H. Yeakel and Violet Fisher commissioned 17 Provisional Elders and ordained eight Elders in Full Connection. They were joined in the session by Bishop Forrest Stith (retired) who led conference members in prayer.

During the three-day event, members heard from a variety of speakers. Bishop Steiner Ball preached at the Memorial and Ordination services. The Rev. Dr. Albert Mosley, president of Gammon Theological Seminary in Atlanta, led a morning Bible study May 30 and 31 on the Parable of the Sower in Mark 4:1-9. At the conclusion of the study, he distributed fortune cookies to the members containing messages encouraging them to sow seeds of hope, peace, love and joy.

Conference members also heard from Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who thanked them for their continued presence and social justice ministries in the city and for their care and prayers following the recent murder of her cousin, Joseph Haskins, the son of the Rev. Bruce and Deborah Haskins.

General Secretary of the General Commission on Finance and Administration Moses Kumar thanked the Baltimore-Washington Conference for paying 100 percent of its apportionments for more than 15 years. "You are a living example of giving so that others may prosper," he said.

In other action, the conference:

  • Received an award from the General Board of Global Ministries for contributing the most in the Northeastern Jurisdiction for designated giving to mission and missionary support.

  • Raised $7,803 in an offering at ordination to benefit the scholarship fund at Africa University.

  • Received greetings from Bishop Thomas L. Hoyt Jr. of the CME Church.

During the session, the conference recognized the Rev. Paul Jones, 95, who was attending his 74th consecutive annual conference session. His presence emphasized the continuing traditions of and heritage of the Baltimore-Washington Conference, the oldest in the denomination.

The conference was streamed live via the Internet and members took the opportunity to celebrate the 99th birthday of Eunice Mathews, the widow of Bishop James Mathews and the daughter of E. Stanley Jones. They sang to her as Mathews watched from her home.

During the ordination service, the kneeler that was used by the ordinands was from the altar rail of Memorial Methodist Church. It was at this rail that Mathew's father, renowned missionary E. Stanley Jones experienced his conversion to the Christian faith.

During the Memorial Service, the saints of the church were remembered with the tolling of the Cokesbury bell. This bell was from Cokesbury College, which was established at the denomination's founding Christmas Conference in 1784.

Membership in the Baltimore-Washington Conference stands at 177,160, down 4,335 (2.39 percent) from the previous year.

Worship attendance stands at 64,542, down 1,165 (1.77 percent) from the previous year.

Church school attendance stands at 19,289, down 290 (1.48 percent) from the previous year.

- Melissa Lauber, Director of Communications