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News In Brief - March 9, 2012

 

News in Brief March 9, 2012
Brief items for use in local church newsletters
Prepared by United Methodist News Service

The twisters that ripped through the Midwest Feb. 28 and 29 ushered in another barrage of severe weather March 2 that killed at least 39 people in five states. Even as United Methodists mourned losses, they continued to reach out. The best immediate way to assist those affected by the recent tornados is by donating to UMCOR's fund for U.S. Disaster Response. Go to http://umc.org/USDisasterResponse/

Mobile device users will be able to track legislation, watch videos and follow news at the 2012 General Conference through a new, free mobile application from United Methodist Communications. This comes in preparation for the meeting of the denomination's top policy-making body in Tampa, Fla., April 24-May 4. For more information, go to http://gc2012.umc.org/app

The 2012 United Methodist General Conference will consider legislation this spring that would allow the redistribution of up to $60 million in general church funds. The money is intended for three efforts: providing more theological education outside the United States, developing more young church leaders and fostering more vital congregations.The legislation would consolidate nine of the denomination's 13 general agencies into a new United Methodist Center for Connectional Mission and Ministry. A 15-member board of directors would govern the center, and that board would answer to a proposed 45-member General Council for Strategy and Oversight, which would replace the Connectional Table. The restructuring plan originated with the Interim Operations Team, and the Connectional Table refined and endorsed the plan, including the redistribution of $60 million. The proposals come after more than four decades of declining U.S. membership and a number of reports saying the denomination's status quo is unsustainable. Conferences and caucuses have offered support and criticism of the plan. Discussion during the Connectional Table's March 4-6 meeting indicated the body that proposed the measure is divided about whether the petition would fulfill its aim or if it passes muster under the denomination's constitution.

The General Conference delegation from the Florida Annual (regional) Conference announced its unanimous support of the "key principles of the Call to Action." The delegation also called on The United Methodist Church to ensure 30 percent representation from people of color in any governing structure. "It is critical that we address significant general church change now," said the Rev. Debbie McLeod, a delegation member. "This cannot wait another four years."

The Wisconsin Annual (regional) Conference delegation, while affirming the need for changes in The United Methodist Church's structure, expressed reservations that a current proposal for change would not produce the intended results. In a statement that identified eight specific areas of concern, the group said, "Our delegation will actively seek alternatives to the current recommendations and encourage dialogue and discernment that will offer short-term relief while allowing us adequate time to discover or create long-lasting, sustainable solutions to our deepest problems."

A new blog, youngumspeak.blogspot.com, has been created to facilitate discussion among young people about the pending Call To Action legislation to be voted on at General Conference 2012 in Tampa, Fla. Based on a recent Twitter conversation about the lack of young people's input and feedback in response to the legislation, the website was started as a "grassroots movement" by several young adults who are also General Conference delegates. The site is an open forum, and anyone is encouraged to submit a response.

The directors of the United Methodist Board of Pension and Health Benefits approved a resolution that explains why it believes it is important to retain investments in Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions. Six annual (regional) conferences, the Board of Church and Society and individual United Methodists have submitted petitions to the 2012 General Conference seeking divestment in these companies because of their products' use in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The pension board's resolution said it also plans to continue to urge these companies to protect and respect human rights, and to continue to seek a remedy for any human rights violations including, but not limited to, Palestine.

Trudie Kibbe Reed. the president of United Methodist-related Bethune-Cookman University, describes college presidents as marathon runners. "We do our job to take the university to the next level, and then we pass on the baton to the next leader and that leader's challenge then moves forward," she said March 7. After almost eight years, she and the executive board announced she will remain as president through spring commencement graduation on May 12 and retire on May 13.

The Methodist Church in Cuba has grown from 8,000 to 36,000 members since 1999 as Bishop Ricardo Pereira encourages congregations to live out their Wesleyan theology in uniquely Cuban ways. "The Methodist Church in Cuba uses Caribbean liturgy because it allows people to express themselves with authenticity and freedom," the bishop said recently.

Publishers at the website "The MethoBlog" announced they have upgraded the site to what they are calling version 3.0. The "MethoBlog" is an aggregation website that collects posts from more than 250 Methodist-related blogs and republishes them in one location.

The Board of Higher Education and Ministry selected eight students as the next class of Dempster Scholars. The Dempster Graduate Fellowship supports doctoral students committed to serving the church by becoming professors who will educate the next generation of United Methodist pastors.

The Board of Higher Education and Ministry's Office of Loans and Scholarships endowed a $2.25 million Special Seminary Scholarship Fund for United Methodist seminarians younger than 30 attending one of the 13 United Methodist seminaries. Since 2005, $900,000 in scholarships to 450 young seminarians has been awarded, said Allyson Collinsworth, director of the Office of Loans and Scholarship.

Thirty leaders of major Jewish, Christian and Muslim national religious organizations "affirm with urgency that Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace is more vital than ever" and urge candidates in U.S. national elections not to use any rhetoric that could make prospects for peace more problematic. United Methodist signers of the letter from the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East include retired Bishop Neil Irons, executive secretary, United Methodist Council of Bishops, and Clare Chapman, interim top executive, National Council of Churches.

Forty-five students and their leaders representing 15 colleges and universities have joined for "Imagine No Malaria Student Days on the Hill." The College Connection is training them in how to be effective advocates to members of Congress. The group will then visit their elected officials to urge continued government support of efforts to eradicate poverty-related diseases, such as malaria. The event is co-sponsored by the United Methodist Board of Church and Society and the Imagine No Malaria College Connection.

Justice for Our Neighbors became separately incorporated in January from its parent organization, the United Methodist Committee on Relief of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. The move ended two years of study, conversation with UMCOR's board of directors and other stakeholders and numerous modifications. "UMCOR remains committed to the amazing work that NJFON has been (doing) and will continue to do to serve the needs of vulnerable immigrants in our country," said the Rev. Cynthia Fierro Harvey, UMCOR deputy general secretary. "We are very excited for what this development will mean for the growth and sustainability of the JFON ministry."

The United Methodist Board of Church and Society is included in a coalition of 60 policy and religious groups that urged states to reject a recent offer by the nation's largest private prison company to buy and privatize state prisons. Three letters sent to governors in every state addressed a recent offer by Corrections Corp. of America to buy prisons now run by state officials. The three letters came from 32 faith groups, including the Board of Church and Society, the American Civil Liberties Union, 26 other organizations and the Presbyterian Criminal Justice Network.

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