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News In Brief - April 20, 2012

News in Brief April 20, 2012
Brief items for use in local church newsletters
Prepared by United Methodist News Service

The United Methodist News Service is reporting on activities related to General Conference 2012, the denomination's top lawmaking body, which will meet April 24-May 4 in Tampa, Fla. UMNS reports appear as they occur on umc.org and also can be found on General Conference 2012 at gc2012.umc.org. Please note that from April 23 until May 8, the United Methodist denominational website, www.umc.org, will switch to full coverage of the 2012 General Conference. Audiences will be redirected to the GC site, gc2012.umc.org.

Among the stories this week:

  • United Methodist bishops on April 18 heard a challenge to embody the peace of Christ to the 2012 General Conference, to an anxious denomination and to the greater world. Charlotte (N.C.) Area Bishop Larry M. Goodpaster delivered that call in Tampa, Fla., during his final address to the Council of Bishops as that body's president. He said more anxiety precedes this General Conference than any in recent history.
  • The United Methodist Church's decades-long debate over sexuality issues will again take center stage when the General Conference begins April 24 in Tampa, Fla. Delegates to the 11-day global assembly will face more than 70 petitions on homosexuality, including efforts to change wording in the Discipline that calls the practice of homosexuality "incompatible with Christian teaching."
  • If Jesus didn't have a lot to say on the issue of marriage or sexual orientation, United Methodists have said volumes. Throughout church history, delegates to General Conference have always ended their quadrennial assembly leaving intact the statement "marriage is between one man and one woman." The 2012 global meeting will ask the question once again.
  • After all the hours of praying, planning and debating, the question remains: Will restructuring the denomination's general agencies save The United Methodist Church money? The answer is yes - but the reality is that it may not be enough to be felt by local churches. The wider reality is that the money involved is not a major portion of church spending.The General Conference will have the final say on a proposal to merge nine agencies.
  • Active United Methodist clergy in the United States could see their retirement benefits change in the near future. Two proposals heading to General Conference would change clergy pensions, shifting more of the risk in retirement preparation from annual conferences to individual clergy.
  • The demands on United Methodist bishops to travel, itinerate and speak require more time and energy than one can do in an already time-consuming job, says Bishop Larry M. Goodpaster. That is why he supports a proposal to create a position for a "set-aside" bishop who doesn't have to juggle both regional and denominational responsibilities.
  • A rally to protest the growing private prison industry in the United States, and especially the use of such facilities to incarcerate immigrants, will be April 28 at the Tampa Convention Center during the 2012 United Methodist General Conference. The rally is sponsored by the denomination's Task Force on Immigration and local and state groups opposed to the building of a 1,500-bed private immigrant detention center in Broward County, Fla.
  • The National Association of Korean United Methodist Churches has issued a statement expressing concern over General Conference legislation that would eliminate security of appointment for clergy. "We &ellipsis; have reservations and concerns that racial-ethnic clergy and women pastors might become vulnerable to arbitrary decisions on the part of bishops and cabinets due to their English accent, cultural differences and theological positions &ellipsis; . Furthermore, some of our bishops in the Church might not have the sensitivity or depth of knowledge to fully understand the cultural underpinnings of racial ethnic clergy, especially women in ministry."

Sacred Pathways congregation in Pembroke, N.C., offers vital ministry to the homeless, addicts and troubled youth. Gifts to the United Methodist Native American Ministries Sunday Offering on April 22 support congregations like Sacred Pathways.

World Malaria Day is Wednesday, April 25. United Methodist support for Imagine No Malaria has helped cut the impact of the disease in half. Now malaria claims a life in Africa every 60 seconds. While this is great progress, continued support is needed to beat this disease. To continue support for efforts to eradicate the disease, text SWAT to 27722.

Even though Thurman (Iowa) United Methodist Church is barely standing today, it likely saved the lives of a young mother, father and three children April 14 as they huddled in its basement while a tornado took out most of the Iowa town. The pastor credits, at least in part, a decision the church made some time ago: to not lock its doors. You can read more and listen to the pastor's interview at www.umc.org.

Due to lack of standard policies across the denomination, parsonages and parsonage living can be a point of tension between clergy and congregations. The need for such policies led the United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women to compile "Clergy Housing Handbook: Parsonages," which includes checklists, reports of 'best practices' and a sample parsonage agreement.

The United Methodist Board of Church and Society was one of 35 religious groups signing a congressional letter against religious profiling. "When law enforcement profiles individuals and communities based solely on their real or perceived religion, religious appearance, religious observance, or religious practices, it undermines Americans' trust in those sworn to protect them," said the letter, which was sent Tuesday to a Senate subcommittee holding a hearing on racial profiling.

Trinity United Methodist Church in Fowlerville, Mich., each year hosts a blessing of tractors for the area's farmers. The blessing of the farm equipment helps remind the rural community of its connection to God, the Rev. Bob Miller, the church's pastor, told the Daily Press and Argus. As for the results: "I haven't had any major breakdowns on any of the tractors that have been blessed," one farmer said.

Directors of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society this spring have awarded $130,728 in Ethnic Local Church grants, which strengthen congregations through education, advocacy or leadership development for social-justice engagement.

United Methodists and other members of the Interfaith Working Group on Global Hunger and Food Security have sent letters to congressional leaders, asking them to fundamentally change U.S. food aid policies to lower costs, deliver disaster aid faster and better help hungry people break out of poverty and aid dependence. "Food shipped from the United States takes longer to arrive than food purchased regionally," reads part of the letter. "For people facing a famine or other crisis, additional waiting time for a food delivery can be a matter of life or death."

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