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UMNS Weekly Digest - December 16, 2016


Top viewed stories from Dec. 9 - Dec. 15. See all United Methodist News Service stories at


Filipino bishop honored for sheltering poor

KIDAPAWAN CITY, Philippines (UMNS) — United Methodist Bishop Ciriaco Q. Francisco gave sanctuary to thousands of poor and starving farmers when a peaceful demonstration turned deadly outside the gates of the Spottswood Methodist Mission Center. United Methodist News Service is honoring him as United Methodist of the Year. Kathy L. Gilbert reports.
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2016: Remembering notable United Methodists

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The church this past year marked the passing of a Bible study innovator, a birthday ambassador and the Pulitzer-winning author of a beloved novel. Heather Hahn has brief remembrances of 21 United Methodists who put their faith into action.
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Emphasizing unity in Christ over divisiveness

WICHITA, Kan. (UMNS) — A Kansas church is charting a middle course amid theological divides, disagreements about homosexuality and the possibility of schism. Tim Tanton reports on Aldersgate United Methodist Church, a thriving suburban congregation.
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Traditionalist pastor finds way in challenging time

PARKER, Colo. (UMNS) — The Rev. Randy Jessen is a self-described Wesleyan Orthodox Methodist. He leads a church with diverse views on homosexuality in the progressive Rocky Mountain Conference, which now has a lesbian bishop. Sam Hodges reports that Jessen is finding his way in a challenging time.

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Scholar found 'home' in early church writings

OKLAHOMA CITY (UMNS) — Prodded by a Jewish colleague, United Methodist scholar Thomas C. Oden made a shift in midlife, changing his focus of study from modern theology to ancient Christian writings. Oden, who died last week at age 85, described the experience as “like coming home.” He would write and edit many books on the early church, and become a hero to conservative evangelical church leaders. Sam Hodges reports.
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Lessons from baby Jesus

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Like Ricky Bobby in “Talladega Nights,” Christians sometimes prefer “baby Jesus” to “grown-up Jesus.” Beyond the cuddly Christmas imagery, the Jesus of the nativity challenges conventional ideas about power and justice. Heather Hahn reports.

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Communications agency shares church's story

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The denomination’s communications agency continued its focus on partnerships with other general agencies, conferences and local churches while maintaining its support of the denomination’s mission of making disciples. Part of a series of reports on the work each general agency accomplished in 2016.

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Agency report: Higher Education and Ministry

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry wants to make a seminary education more affordable for those called to ministry and increase availability of quality theological education worldwide. Part of a series of reports on the work each general agency accomplished in 2016.
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Agency report: United Methodist Men

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — To achieve its goal to help develop principled Christian leaders, United Methodist Men helped to train almost 500 men’s ministry and scouting specialists, as well as enroll more than 8,000 young people in religious classes. Part of a series of reports on the work each general agency accomplished this year.
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Christmas greetings from bishops

MINNEAPOLIS (UMNS) — In a Christmas message to United Methodists on behalf of the Council of Bishops, Bishop Bruce Ough — council president — reminds churchgoers that disruptions are sometimes God’s call for people to make room for him in their hearts and their lives.
Read and watch statement


Hearing familiar hymns with new ears

NASHVILLE, Tenn. ( — Charles Wesley wrote more than 6,000 hymns used by the early Methodists. Among them are hymns still used today to teach about the preparations of Advent. Throughout this season of waiting, Joe Iovino has devotions based on Wesley’s hymns.
Born to set thy people free
And God himself is born
Glory to the newborn King


Precious Bibles lost, found at camp

HAZLEHURST, Miss. (UMNS) — In November 2012, Rebecca Teasley lost her three small children and her grandmother in a car accident. The tragedy weighs on her, but Connie Crosby lifted her spirits when she found a Bible Teasley’s grandmother gave her. Bibles left behind at Camp Wesley Pines — some from as far back as 30 years — are being returned to their rightful owners thanks to Crosby, food coordinator at the United Methodist camp. Tamica Smith Jeuitt reports.

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Publishing House seeks to aid refugees

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The book “Refuge” by Anne Booth and Sam Usher asks readers to consider the story of the nativity in light of the modern-day refugees forced to flee their home country. Until Dec. 31, Cokesbury — the retail arm of the United Methodist Publishing House — will donate $3 from the sale of each book on to the United Methodist Committee on Relief, and publisher Little, Brown Books for Young Readers will donate $1 to the United Nations refugee agency.
Read press release

To order book


Seminary grant to help churches reach youth

EVANSTON, Ill. (UMNS) — United Methodist Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary recently received $1.5 million from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help churches launch new ministries that will attract young adults — a population that congregations today are struggling to reach.

Read press release


Ferrum College mourns death of former president

FERRUM, Va. (UMNS) — Joseph Tate Hart, eighth president of United Methodist-related Ferrum College, died Dec. 9. He was president from 1971 to 1986.

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Church, conference refute Muslim sanctuary story

BOSQUEVILLE, Texas — A website article reporting that Bosqueville United Methodist Church had prepared to offer sanctuary to "a deluge of Muslim refugees," including possible terrorists, has been refuted by the pastor and the Central Texas Conference. Vance Morton, conference communications director, said there’s “absolutely no truth” to the assertion, which was based on an anonymous source.

Read and watch a KWTX report


New financial aid for seminarians

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — A new scholarship option for students enrolled in United Methodist seminaries launches Jan. 3, 2017. The denomination’s Board of Higher Education and Ministry said the Excellence in Clergy Leadership Scholarship, ranging from $2,500 to $12,500, would help entering United Methodist clergy avoid excessive educational loan debt.

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Hot cocoa and a warm welcome

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — This Christmas, in heavy-traffic areas of nine major U.S. cities, The United Methodist Church will have teams handing out hot cocoa. The drinks will come in paper goblets that say “Rethink Church” and share a website address with local church information. “We want to carry a message of hospitality out into our communities and welcome everyone to attend a United Methodist place of worship as Christmas nears,” said Dan Krause, top executive of United Methodist Communications.

Read press release​


New purpose after church closing in Ohio

STEUBENVILLE, Ohio — Although the congregation at Simpson United Methodist Church will mark the end of its 143-year presence on Dec. 11, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Steubenville plans to buy the building to house a soup kitchen and trauma counseling center. Simpson is the only African-American congregation in the denomination’s Ohio Valley District, reports Janice Kiaski of The Herald-Star.
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Grant to address clergy finances

EVANSTON, Ill. (UMNS) — Lilly Endowment Inc. recently awarded Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary a $750,000 grant to help pastors obtain the education and business skills they need to be financially literate and address the economic challenges facing congregations today.
Read press release


Can we 'command' God to action?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The latest question for Ask the UMC was: “Does the church believe we can ‘command’ God to perform acts?” InfoServ, a ministry of United Methodist Communications, responds to this and other church-related questions.
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Ask the UMC


Quiz: Fruitcake, hymns and Christmas 1914

NASHVILLE, Tenn. ( — What happened during Christmas of 1914? How old is the recipe for fruitcake? These and other questions can be found in the Advent and Christmas quiz.
Take the quiz


#GivingTuesday donations set record

ATLANTA (UMNS) — More than 2,550 persons in 19 countries contributed a total of $853,909.78 to United Methodist mission projects and missionary support through the 2016 UMC #GivingTuesday campaign. That result was almost twice that of any single day’s non-Giving Tuesday receipts of the past, reports Elliott Wright for the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.
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Africa University gets boost from partnerships

MUTARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS) — Africa University’s influence is spreading across the continent and around the world through about 50 partnerships with government agencies, nonprofits and corporations — nearly 25 years after The United Methodist Church founded the university in Zimbabwe. Jeff Wolfe reports.
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Philippines revival draws 10,000

MANILA, Philippines (UMNS) — Ten thousand United Methodists came together on Nov. 26 to participate in “Revive 2” at the Ultra-Philippines Sports Complex in the Pasig City section of Manila. This year’s event, with a 1,200-voice choir and the theme, "Go in Faith, Go in Power, Go in Unity,” showcased the church’s legacies and contributions to the Filipino nation. Gladys Mangiduyos has the story.
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Status and Role of Women

CHICAGO (UMNS) — The United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women introduced two new resources in 2016 for local churches and annual conferences and continued its charge to ensure the full inclusion of women in the life of the church. This is the first of a series of reports on the work each general agency accomplished in 2016.
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Archives and History

MADISON, N.J. (UMNS) — The United Methodist Commission on Archives and History made its presence known at General Conference 2016 and also helped many students through grants and scholarships.

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Religion and Race

WASHINGTON (UMNS) — The United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race worked to increase understanding of cultural differences in 2016, by providing more than 1,000 hours of training to church leaders and creating new resources for healthier cross-racial/cross-cultural appointments.

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Wespath Benefits and Investments

GLENVIEW, Ill.  (UMNS) — While continuing to manage around $21 billion in church assets in a manner that honors the principles of United Methodism, the newly named Wespath Benefits and Investments also “does good” through programs like microfinancing in developing nations.

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United Methodist Women

NEW YORK (UMNS) — As it continued to celebrate its 150th anniversary, United Methodist Women focused this year on strengthening leadership development and seeking mission partnership opportunities throughout the church.
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Standing up after eastern Tennessee fires

ALCOA, Tenn. (UMNS) — Holston Conference leaders were grateful when the treasurer’s office announced the latest total of donations arriving for Sevier County wildfire relief: $31,485. The conference’s Annette Spence reports on how United Methodists are helping.

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Pastor aims to help poor with tiny homes

DETROIT (UMNS) — In Detroit’s urban core — ravaged by depopulation, unemployment and abandonment — the Rev. Faith Fowler is building something big with tiny homes. Duke Divinity School’s online magazine Faith and Leadership has the story on this new United Methodist endeavor.

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Ministry idea: Churches use 'Blessing Box'

DOVER, Ark. (UMNS) — United Methodists in Arkansas are using an idea from social media to help their communities: the Blessing Box. Amy Forbus of the Arkansas Conference explains how this simple concept multiplies blessings.

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ShareChurch offers sermon series, curriculum, tips

LEAWOOD, Kan. (UMNS) — The Church of the Resurrection has developed a website to share resources aimed at helping renew local churches and expand ministries. The Kansas church is the U.S. United Methodist church with the highest attendance, with more than 20,000 members worshipping on four campuses. Resources include sermon series, curriculum for small groups and Sunday school classes, tips for preparing for mission trips and more.
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Wisconsin group reacts to credentialing action

SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. — The executive committee of the Wisconsin Association of Confessing United Methodists expressed “sadness” over the conference’s board of ordained ministry’s credentialing statement that sexual orientation and gender identity will not be considered when evaluating candidates for ministry.
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Read board statement


$1 million grant addresses pastors' finances

MINNEAPOLIS (UMNS) — The Dakotas-Minnesota Area has received a $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. The funding will be used to help pastors develop stronger financial literacy skills, reduce or eliminate personal debt and become equipped to foster a theology of generosity within their congregations. Christa Meland and Doreen Gosmire report.

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Grandma's kindness inspires church volunteer

NEW YORK ( — The Church of the Village, a United Methodist congregation, is thankful for the volunteers who keep their weekly community meal and food pantry going. One of the most stalwart is member Sheila Washington. This video tells her story.

Watch video


Keeping churches safe and welcoming

BOISE, Idaho ( — How can churches be both a safe place and welcoming to strangers? Cathedral of the Rockies First United Methodist Church held a Safe Church Summit that offered tips for staying secure in a sinful, violent world.

Watch video


UMW sets assembly theme for 2018

NEW YORK (UMNS) — The 2018 Assembly of United Methodist Women will mark both the official celebration of the organization’s 150th anniversary and a return to the location of the first Assembly — Columbus, Ohio — in 1942. The theme of the May 18-20, 2018, event is “The Power of Bold.”

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Wesley's sermons published in Spanish

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Two compilations of John Wesley’s sermons translated into Spanish have been published by the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

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Earthkeepers answer call to care for God’s creation

ATLANTA (UMNS) — Hearing a vocational call to care for God’s creation, a group of United Methodist “Earthkeepers” were trained and commissioned last month through the Center for Mission Innovation of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.

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Agtarap to head New Church Starts

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The Rev. Bener Baysa Agtarap, superintendent for congregational vitality in the California-Nevada Conference, has been named associate general secretary of United Methodist Discipleship Ministries. He will lead New Church Starts, also known as Path 1.

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Wilson to head Leadership Ministries at Discipleship

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The Rev. Cynthia A. Wilson, assistant vice president of student life and dean of students at Garrett–Evangelical Theological Seminary, has been named associate general secretary of United Methodist Discipleship Ministries. She will head the agency’s Leadership Ministries.
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Take the Advent and Christmas quiz

NASHVILLE, Tenn. ( — So you think you know Advent? OK, is the season of Advent a fixed number of days like the 40 days of Lent or something else? Readers can test their knowledge of the season with this year’s quiz.

Take quiz



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.


Tuesday, Jan. 10

Webinar "Healthy Families Series: (Social Health) Tackling Challenges of Clergy Families"— 2 p.m. CST. This webinar looks at the unique stresses for clergy families, including sexism and racism, and how the church can be supportive and demonstrate God’s love for families across many experiences. Details


Sunday, Jan. 15

Human Relations Day — United Methodists will celebrate God's call to empower people who struggle and equip change agents to transform the world. Special offerings on this Sunday support ministries that help people reach their potential. Resources


More upcoming United Methodist events