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UMNS Weekly Digest - June 10, 2016


NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for June 6-10. 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


Conferences react to ‘Way Forward’ on sexuality

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — “An Offering for a Way Forward,” approved by the 2016 General Conference, put the debate on human sexuality on hold. However, some United Methodist clergy are still facing charges and others who recently came out as gay are vulnerable. Conferences, advocates supporting LGBTQ people and those who support current church law are now grappling with the in-between stage. Kathy L. Gilbert reports.
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NY Conference approves LGBTQ clergy candidates

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Four candidates who came out as gay in an open letter to The United Methodist Church before the 2016 General Conference were among 28 people approved for ministry by the New York Conference. Kathy L. Gilbert reports.

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Top Religion and Race exec resigns

WASHINGTON (UMNS) — Erin Hawkins, the top executive of the United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race, plans to depart Sept. 30 and become the California-Pacific Conference’s executive director of connectional ministries. She has led Religion and Race as it has extended its work to Africa. She also has dealt with efforts to eliminate the agency as an independent body. Heather Hahn reports.

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Read California-Pacific Conference release


Ukulele choir strikes chord

DALLAS (UMNS) — Watch out, all you hand bell choirs. There's a ukulele choir at Grace Avenue United Methodist Church, in Frisco, Texas, and it’s growing fast. The unusual ensemble, which has doubled in membership, performs in worship services and even got to play at General Conference. Sam Hodges has the story.

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See video


Following the vision at Bethlehem Bible College

NEW YORK (UMNS) — The Rev. Alex and Brenda Awad spent years at Bethlehem Bible College preparing Palestinian-Christian leaders before their recent retirement as United Methodist missionaries. Now, the denomination’s Board of Global Ministries has assigned Michael Arteen, raised as a Christian in Egypt, to carry on that connection. Linda Bloom reports.

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GC2016 commentary: We cannot legislate church

LANCASTER, Pa. (UMNS) — General Conference has given The United Methodist Church a chance to be made new, but that “will require an unequivocal commitment from each and every annual conference during the next two years,” writes the Rev. Darryl W. Stephens in a commentary.
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Panelists explore faith in the public square

WASHINGTON (UMNS) — How do you move faith from being something intensely personal to being part of the public discourse? That topic was explored by a panel that included David Gregory, former “Meet the Press” host; Mike McCurry, former White House press secretary; and the Rev. Ginger Gaines-Cirelli, pastor at Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington. Erik Alsgaard of the Baltimore-Washington Conference reports.

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Argentine Methodist bishop dies

BUENOS AIRES (WCC) — Bishop Emeritus Federico José Pagura, a champion of human rights in Latin America, died June 6 in Argentina. In 1977, he was elected bishop of the Evangelical Methodist Church of Argentina. Even as a pastor, he worked to welcome Chilean refugees from Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship. The Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit of the World Council of Churches offers this remembrance.

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Upper Room offers new program for young adults

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The Upper Room is introducing a new ministry of spiritual formation for young adults, Journey to the Table. Registration is now open for the first such gathering July 8-10 at the headquarters of The Upper Room in Nashville.

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Interfaith call to end AIDS threat by 2030

NEW YORK (WCC) — Faith leaders issued a call to action to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030. The call came during a June 7 interfaith prayer service at the United Methodist-owned Church Center for the United Nations, sponsored by the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance. The service preceded the June 8-10 U.N. High Level Meeting on AIDS.

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A small church with big ideas for evangelism

QUITMAN, Texas (UMNS) — Liberty United Methodist Church is a small congregation, but it’s acting large and in charge as it builds relationships with the community. The Texas Conference reports how the church is reaching neighbors and seeing record-breaking attendance while keeping to a budget.

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Commentary: How to build church attendance

WASHINGTON (UMNS) — Many growing churches share the common practice of having Sundays during the year with a special focus. The Revs. Lovett H. Weems Jr. and Tom Berlin, both United Methodists, point to such Sundays as a way of sustaining energy and boosting attendance. In a commentary adapted from their book “Overflow,” the two give examples of such “Special Focus Sundays” and explain how they can contribute to growth.

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New World Outlook looks at care for creation

NEW YORK — Climate change is altering the landscape of the Arctic region and threatening indigenous coastal villages in Alaska, writes Christie House, editor of New World Outlook. Her story is among reports on “Care for Creation and Climate Justice” in the May/June edition of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries’ mission magazine.
Alaska’s disappearing coast communities
Lessons from Fiji
A Call to creation care ministry


Leadership means ‘pushing people to purpose’

AUSTIN, Texas (UMNS) — The Rev. Gil Rendle, a longtime consultant with United Methodist churches, talks about his changing understanding of leadership in a Q&A with Duke Divinity School’s Faith & Leadership.
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Commentary: The absent church

DENVER (UMNS) — “Where the church is clearly called by Jesus Christ to be, there instead exists a sucking vacuum,” laments Logan Robertson of the Rocky Mountain Conference. In a commentary for Ministry Matters, Robertson writes about where society needs the church’s presence.
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First woman president for Emory

ATLANTA (UMNS) — Claire E. Sterk has been named president of Emory University, effective Sept. 1. Sterk, current provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Emory, will be the first female president of the United Methodist-affiliated school.
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Intercessory prayer: How words and actions serve

NASHVILLE, Tenn. ( — United Methodists attest that intercessory prayer makes a difference for others and in our own spiritual journeys. For John Wesley, acts of both piety and mercy are part of a life of prayer. Joe Iovino has the story.
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Bishops reorganizing ecumenical staff

WASHINGTON (UMNS) — The United Methodist Council of Bishops is reorganizing its staffing structure related to ecumenical and interfaith relations. The plan includes eliminating all of the eight current staff positions in New York to make way for a new staffing model based at the United Methodist Building in Washington.
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How to have a vacation when you cannot leave town

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMCom) — Ministry burnout is a real danger, and vacations are a real necessity. Tricia Brown, writing for United Methodist Communications, offers tips for church leaders looking for a way to relax even when they cannot get away.
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Comments on UMNS stories to end July 1

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — United Methodist News Service will stop accepting comments on stories beginning July 1. Those who would like to comment on UMNS stories after that date may do so on the UMNS Facebook page or Twitter. UMNS has concluded that with other avenues available for discussion, we can no longer justify the use of scarce staff time to monitor website comments.


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.


Wednesday, June 15

Early bird deadline for HopeFest 2016: Building Hope for Humanity — Christian music fest to benefit Habitat for Humanity on Saturday-Sunday, Aug. 27-28. Milford United Methodist Church, 327 North River Road, Milford, New Hampshire, is the host. Overnight wooded camping sites are available. Performers include Mark Schultz, Jonas Woods, Epic Season, Ryan Stevenson and Rock My Soul. $25 for adults until June 15. Children under 12 are free. Details


Friday, July 15

Deadline for School of Congregational Development 2016Wednesday-Saturday, Aug. 17-20.The workshops for United Methodist clergy and lay leaders will be in Evanston, Illinois, outside Chicago. United Methodist Discipleship Ministries and Global Ministries sponsor the gathering. $425. Details




More upcoming United Methodist events