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UMNS Weekly Digest - April 22, 2016

NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for April 18-22. It includes summaries of United Methodist News Service stories and additional briefs from around the United Methodist connection. Full versions of the stories with photographs and related features can be found at

GC2016: Impact of climate change

NEW YORK (UMNS) — For many United Methodists, taking care of the planet is not just a matter of “going green.” As reflected in petitions to General Conference, the church is moving beyond the still-needed practices of recycling and household energy conservation to larger public policy issues related to global climate change. Linda Bloom reports.
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GC2016: The debate about how to debate sexuality

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — Organizers of General Conference are proposing a new way to consider contentious issues, including the church’s stance on homosexuality. The plan is getting significant pushback, including questions of whether it could withstand a challenge before the denomination’s top court. Heather Hahn reports.
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GC2016: Turning page on new, high-tech hymnal

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Delegates to General Conference 2016 will be asked to approve the first steps to develop a new hymnal for The United Methodist Church. Church leaders want it to be Internet cloud-based and print on demand, with the contents customizable by congregations. Sam Hodges reports.
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Church providing shelter, food for quake survivors

QUITO, Ecuador (UMNS) — The church is responding with aid and prayers in the wake of a 7.8-magnitude earthquake here. Sara Flores, a United Methodist missionary appointed to Quito, reports that a warehouse used for worship services is providing shelter for those displaced by the quake. Members of another church will donate their crops to help. Michelle Maldonado and Joey Butler have the story.
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Trying to avert famine in Africa

NEW YORK (UMNS) — In a normal year, this would be harvest time in Malawi. But the effects of the El Niño weather pattern — bringing floods and then drought — disrupted the 2016 planting season, says Daniel Mhone, United Methodist superintendent for the Malawi Missionary Conference. Assisted by the United Methodist Committee on Relief, United Methodists are responding to food shortages in Malawi and Zimbabwe. Linda Bloom reports.
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Flooding continues in southeast Texas

DALLAS (UMNS) — United Methodists in Houston and elsewhere in southeast Texas are joining fellow residents in coping with still more rain. Eight flood-related deaths in the greater Houston area have been reported in recent days, and many homes and other buildings, including some churches, have sustained damage. The Texas Conference has created a relief fund and is preparing for more long-haul relief work. Sam Hodges reports.
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Read Texas Conference story on flood response

Nyadire hospital offers healing touch

NYADIRE, Zimbabwe (UMNS) — United Methodist Nyadire Mission Hospital changed an abandoned baby’s name from “Problems” to “Joy.” Forty-one years later, the hospital still gives daily care to Farai “Joy” Kanyemba, who has limited movement because of cerebral palsy. Eveline Chikwanah reports how Farai’s care is just one example of the hospital’s impact.
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Church leads health celebration in Liberia

MONROVIA, Liberia (UMNS) — The United Methodist Church’s Ministry to the Aging led a group of caregiver organizations and advocates for the elderly in observing World Health Day by emphasizing care for diabetics. E. Julu Swen has the story.
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Recruiting “earthkeepers” for creation care

MINNEAPOLIS (UMNS) — Almost every time the Rev. Pat Watkins introduces himself as a missionary for the care of God’s creation — an official designation through the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries — it piques people’s interest. Now Watkins, the Rev. Susan Mullin, a Minnesota Conference deacon, and Dan Joranko, a professor at Vanderbilt Divinity School, have conceived a program called “Earthkeepers” that aims to commission 500 people for creation care work within the next seven years.  Christa Meland of the Minnesota Conference has the story.
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UMW offers climate justice study

NEW YORK — Earth Day is a time to reflect on how to become better stewards of God's earth and people. United Methodist Women collaborated with environmental advocates to create three resource books, part of the 2016 Mission Studies lineup.
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Harriet Tubman’s Methodist connection

AUBURN, N.Y. (UMNS) — The U.S. Treasury Department announced April 20 that Harriet Tubman — known as the Moses of her people — will replace President Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. Most American schoolchildren know Tubman as the African-American abolitionist who led thousands of slaves to freedom. But did you know she had deep ties to the African Methodist Episcopal Church Zion? To this day, the AME Zion Church — a full-communion partner of The United Methodist Church — owns and maintains her home in Auburn, New York.
Read about Tubman’s AME Zion ties

Jackie Robinson’s Methodist beginnings

NEW YORK — Tony Carnes, editor and publisher of “A Journey through NYC Religions,” takes a look at baseball great Jackie Robinson’s long faith journey, which began when a Methodist pastor, the Rev. Karl Everitt Downs, reached out to the young Robinson.
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Survey: United Methodist church starts stand out

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — United Methodist new church starts outpaced other Protestant church starts in three of five key benchmarks — average worship attendance, new decisions for Christ and reaching previously unchurched people. LifeWay Research, part of the Southern Baptist Convention, offered these findings based on a survey of 17 U.S. evangelical denominations and church-planting networks. United Methodist Discipleship Ministries, which includes Path1 New Church Starts, has the report.
Read press release

Churches transform old school into ministry center

ROSEDALE, Va. (UMNS) — When Elk Garden School closed after nearly 100 years, United Methodists did not end their longstanding relationship with the school’s impoverished community. In fact, United Methodists across the Holston Conference, with help from a United Methodist of Global Ministries grant, have transformed the school building into a center to provide myriad ministries. Annette Spence reports for the Holston Conference.
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United Methodist celebrates years at National Cathedral

WASHINGTON (UMNS) — For the past eight years, the Rev. Gina Campbell, a United Methodist elder, has helped plan worship services at the Washington National Cathedral, an Episcopal church. She is departing to teach at United Methodist Wesley Theological Seminary, but not without recognition from faith leaders around the nation's capital. Erik Alsgaard reports for the Baltimore-Washington Conference.
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Watch GC2016 episcopal address

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — Ohio West Area Bishop Gregory V. Palmer, on behalf of the Council of Bishops, will deliver the episcopal address at the 2016 General Conference in Portland. The sermon will be livestreamed at 11:30 a.m. EDT May 11. Palmer formerly was president of the Council of Bishops, which elected him to give the address. The event will be streamed live on
To learn more about General Conference

What does GC2016 mean to my church?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. ( — What happens at General Conference and what does that mean to your local congregation? Joe Iovino reports on how action at the denomination’s top legislative body affects local churches.
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Pension agency reports on shareholder work

GLENVIEW, Ill. (UMNS) — Recent shareholder engagements have successfully influenced the increase of female directors on the corporate boards of Comcast and Simon Property Group and expanded the discussion on human rights policy with Caterpillar and other companies, the United Methodist Board of Pension and Health Benefits has announced.
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United Methodist schools featured at GC2016

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — United Methodist schools and students will be featured at the 2016 General Conference in Portland, Oregon, on May 16 at Higher Education Night. The United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry is sponsoring this event to “celebrate 150 years of supporting United Methodist higher education around the world,” said Ken Yamada, interim executive of the agency’s Division of Higher Education.
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10 fascinating facts about John Wesley

MOBILE, Ala. (UMCom) — Did you know Methodism’s founder wrote a best-selling medical primer? In an article for United Methodist Communications, Jeremy Steele offers this and other facts from the life of John Wesley.
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United Methodists launch French-language portal

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — United Methodist Communications has launched a French-language portal at, the denomination’s official website. The site provides resources, history, news and other information about The United Methodist Church, including details about General Conference 2016.
Read press release
View website

Commentary: Don’t forget United Methodist mission

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (UMNS) — Arkansas Area Bishop Gary Mueller and Mary Brooke Casad were among the United Methodists who first proposed that the church’s mission is to make disciples. In a commentary, the two reflect on the mission statement and the denomination’s holistic understanding of disciple making.
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Two viewpoints on sexuality and the church

Wesley chose people over policies

NEW YORK (UMNS) — John Wesley chose people over policies when he ordained bishops in America without church authority. The United Methodist Church in the 21st century needs to adopt that “profound emphasis on grace,” writes Dorothee Benz, a General Conference delegate who seeks full inclusion of LGBTQ people in the church. She contends that immense damage has been done to countless young people who are taught that their lives are “incompatible with Christian teaching,” as the denomination’s law book says. Benz said that makes a mockery of Wesley’s admonition to “do no harm.”
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Renewal agenda on sexuality, abortion

THE WOODLANDS, Texas (UMNS) — The first of three major legislative priorities for the Renewal and Reform Coalition is to uphold biblical teachings on life, marriage and human sexuality, writes the Rev. Tom Lambrecht, vice president and general manager of Good News. Lambrecht explains the proposals by the coalition, which represents evangelical concerns. He also writes about proposals the coalition opposes, including petitions that would make it a matter of conscience whether a pastor performs a same-sex wedding or a board approves a practicing homosexual as ordained clergy.
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Looking ahead

Here are some of the activities ahead for United Methodists across the connection. If you have an item to share, email and put Digest in the subject line.


Monday, April 25

World Malaria Day Imagine No Malaria is The United Methodist Church's campaign to fight this disease in Africa. The church's efforts include providing insecticide-treated bed nets and funding for United Methodist hospitals, clinics and health boards across Africa that work to prevent and treat the disease. To learn more about Imagine No Malaria


Saturday, April 30
Regular registration deadline for Music & Worship Arts Week 2016 at Lake Junaluska — Music & Worship Arts Week (Sunday-Friday, June 19-24, at Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center) is an event highlighting the arts, worship, education and renewal in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina at Lake Junaluska, presented by The Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts. The event is designed for all worship leaders, musicians, artists, dancers, actors and pastors, as well as children and youth. $344 adult; $179 children and youth. Beginning May 1, all registration rates increase by $30. Details


More upcoming United Methodist events