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News In Brief - May 25, 2012

News in Brief May 25, 2012
Brief items for use in local church newsletters
Prepared by United Methodist News Service

The townspeople of Joplin, Mo., paid homage to the 161 lives lost a year ago when a tornado of historic proportions ravaged their community. More than 8,000 structures were damaged or destroyed. One year later, recovery efforts are ahead of schedule - thanks, in part, to more than $1 million donated by United Methodists and hundreds of church volunteers who showed up to help put Joplin back together.

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The financially troubled Lon Morris College, a two-year, United Methodist-affiliated school in Jacksonville, Texas, has furloughed most of its employees and its president has resigned. A United Methodist Reporter story says that among other problems, the school was unable to meet three recent payrolls. Bishop Janice Riggle Huie of the Texas Annual (regional) Conference has asked congregations in the conference to take up a one-time special offering to try to meet one of those payrolls (about $250,000).

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A new $300,000 library to replace the building looted during Liberia's civil war is under construction on the campus of the Gbarnga School of Theology in Monrovia. The school trains United Methodist, Episcopal, Lutheran and Pentecostal clergy and Christian educators.

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John Wesley was walking on Aldersgate Street in London, returning from a Moravian society meeting where Martin Luther's preface to the Romans was read. As he walked, he felt his heart "strangely warmed" by the Holy Spirit. Forever changed, Wesley created a movement called Methodism, which now includes more than 12 million United Methodists. We remembered that day this week as we do each May 24.

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Picture a town the size of Shreveport, La. or Modest, Ca., or Richmond, Va. That's about how many lives are being saved each year because of malaria eradication efforts like The United Methodist Church's Imagine No Malaria campaign. In a recent videotaped address to General Conference 2012, Rear Adm. Tim Ziemer, the U.S. government's global malaria coordinator, said about 200,000 lives are being saved each year. He called The United Methodist Church a "critical partner in the fight against malaria," adding that the denomination has set the standard for faith-based participation.

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After serving for less than a year, the Rev. Neil Blair has resigned as president of the Foundation for Evangelism, a United Methodist organization that awards grants for the development and training of leaders. Blair began in August 2011; his resignation is effective June 15.

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The National Council of Churches governing board elected a business consultant and active Congregational laywoman May 21 as its transitional top executive. Peg Birk, president and CEO of Interim Solutions, Minneapolis, was recommended to the board by a 15-person search committee chaired by Bishop Mark S. Hanson, the presiding prelate of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

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A new study released by the United Methodist Board of Pension and Health Benefits has found that stress contributes greatly to health risks facing clergy. Add to that too many church potlucks, pizza-delivery nights and meals on the run, and the outcome is not good. While the survey found that United Methodist clergy in the U.S. engaged in more physical activity than their peers, they also reported a higher incidence of health problems. Specifically, those who responded experience obesity, high cholesterol, borderline hypertension, borderline diabetes, asthma and depression at significantly higher rates than do other demographically comparable U.S. adults.

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United Methodists in more than 1,500 locations around the world participated in the annual Change the World Weekend on May 19-20, reaching out into their communities with activities ranging from sprucing up parks to hosting fun runs to raise money for mission projects. Mark your calendars for next year's Change the World: May 18-19.

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This Sunday, May 27, churches around the world will display red banners and pastors will don red stoles to celebrate the flames of the Holy Spirit that marked the Christian church's beginning. Jesus' apostles were in Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish festival of Shavuot (called Pentecost in Greek) when they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different languages. Jews continue to observe Shavuot, which commemorates Moses receiving the Ten Commandments and falls this year on May 26-28.

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A service celebrating the life of theologian Walter Wink is planned June 16 at Union Seminary in New York. Wink, 76, who died May 10 at his home in Sandisfield, Mass., was ordained a Methodist minister in 1961 and taught at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York until his retirement in 2005. His arguments on biblical interpretation and writings on issues such as homosexuality and nonviolent confrontation provoked controversy but also made him "a major contributor to progressive Christian thinking on current political and cultural issues," according to a tribute from Auburn Seminary.

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