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UMNS Weekly Digest - March 11, 2016


NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for March 7-11. 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


General Conference 2016 news

Fairness of delegate allotment questioned

DALLAS (UMNS) — Critics of how delegates are allotted to General Conference say the Philippines and Europe enjoy an unfair advantage, having many small conferences that get a mandatory-minimum of two delegates under church law. Others say geographical and cultural factors must be taken into account when looking at numerical disparities in representation. Tension over the issue is up, due to a reduction in the overall number of delegates. Sam Hodges reports.
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GC2016: Should the general church budget go up?

PORTLAND, Oregon (UMNS) — A proposed modest increase to the general church budget is heading to the 2016 General Conference when the lawmaking assembly meets May 10-20 in Portland. However, a number of United Methodists say that in the wake of continuing declines in U.S. worship attendance the general church needs to tighten its belt. Heather Hahn reports.
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Bishops urged to adopt accountability covenant

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — A bishops’ task force has recommended that the full Council of Bishops adopt a covenant of accountability. The proposed covenant, based largely on the bishops’ consecration vows, comes at a time when the denomination is struggling with declining U.S. worship attendance, deep divisions regarding homosexuality and questions of what it means for church leaders to be accountable. General Conference 2016 delegates will consider multiple proposals aimed at holding bishops’ feet to the fire. Heather Hahn reports.
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African delegates to gather before GC2016

LUBUMBASHI, Democratic Republic of Congo (UMNS) — Some African leaders want to add bishops, create a fund to support theological education in Africa and maintain the church’s current ordination rules and definition of marriage. The United Methodist Church Africa Initiative will host a gathering for delegates from the 30 annual and provisional conferences in Africa on May 4-6 at Canby Retreat Center in Portland, Oregon. Vicki Brown reports.
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News from around the connection

Pastor brings tent witness to Iowa

DES MOINES, Iowa (UMNS) — The Rev. Mike Tupper, a West Michigan Conference pastor, pitched a tent overnight on the lawn of the Iowa Conference office. Tupper is bringing his tent witness around the country. Tupper is sleeping outside these winter months as a sign of solidarity with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals he sees as kept outside of church ministry. The Rev. Arthur McClanahan reports for the Iowa Conference.
Read story 

E-readers enhance theological education

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (UMNS) — In Sierra Leone, where core theological and academic resources are costly and often inaccessible, e-readers are opening new doors, offering affordable, easy access to learning materials for students and staff. Theology faculty lecturers at the United Methodist-related College of Theology and Management and Church Training Centre received e-readers through a partnership with a program of United Methodist Discipleship Ministries and the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry. Phileas Jusu reports.
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Teaching children about Holy Week

NASHVILLE, Tenn. ( — The Holy Week story is not exactly family-friendly, but that doesn’t mean we can skip the part about Jesus’ journey to the cross when sharing our faith with our children. Joe Iovino reports.
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‘Chuck Knows’ this California pastor

RANCHO SANTA MARGARITA, Calif. —  The Rev. Sarah Heath, a Southern California United Methodist pastor, will appear March 14 in the final episode of the successful Chuck Knows Church web series, “The Committee.” Rancho Santa Margarita Patch reports on the series and Heath’s ministry.
Read story 
Watch “The Committee”

Historic Missouri sanctuary burns

SEDALIA, Mo. (UMNS) — The historic downtown sanctuary of First United Methodist Church in Sedalia, Missouri, was destroyed by fire on the evening of March 2. Authorities are investigating. The church is the 16th largest in the Missouri Conference and has a second, newer campus. The Missouri Conference reports.
Read story 

Young adult missionaries sought

NEW YORK (UMNS) — The United Methodist Board of Global Ministries is looking for candidates to serve as young adult missionaries for the 2016–2018 term. The application deadline for Global Mission Fellows is March 31, 2016.
To apply

Bishop Carcaño: ‘The question is how to live’

WASHINGTON (UMNS) — Bishop Minerva Carcaño, in her sermon at the National Cathedral, said we all question untimely deaths of those who are killed by mass shooters, or those who die in tornadoes. “The bigger picture and the real question is not why did death come to them, but rather how do we live before death comes for us?” asks the Los Angeles area bishop in her Feb. 28 sermon.
Watch or read the sermon

Elaine Heath named Duke Divinity dean

DURHAM, N.C. (UMNS) — The Rev. Elaine A. Heath, a theologian, preacher, teacher and writer, will be the next dean of the United Methodist Duke Divinity School. At present, she is the McCreless Professor of Evangelism at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology in Dallas.
Read press release 

Commentary: Building a Claremont-Florida bridge

LAKELAND, Fla. (UMNS) — A graduate of progressive Claremont School of Theology in California serving an internship at a church in a conservative part of Florida? It happened, and Kim Edwards, the intern, and the Rev. David McEntire, pastor of First United Methodist in Lakeland, have written a joint essay about the bridge that was built.
Read Florida Conference commentary 

Walking, listening on the Appalachian Trail

MARYVILLE, Tenn. — Bert “Wildcat” Emmerson, a member of Maryville First United Methodist Church, didn’t let a hernia stop him from walking 400 miles from Pennsylvania into Virginia. As the 2015 Appalachian Trail chaplain for the Holston Conference, he was to walk all 2,190 miles from start to finish. Melanie Tucker has the story for The Daily Times.
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Meet the chair of General Conference planning

PORTLAND, Ore. ( — Judi Kenaston is a lifelong United Methodist who enjoys the worship and the fellowship as well as the process of General Conference. As a volunteer, she chairs the commission that plans the denomination’s top legislative body, which will meet May 10-20. “I have prayed for General Conference every day, from the moment I was asked to chair the commission.”
Watch video

Garrett-Evangelical seminary to offer Freedom Schools

EVANSTON, Ill. (UMNS) — Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, a United Methodist seminary, is now a partner with the Children’s Defense Fund Freedom School program that offers free summer reading schools for underserved children. The six-week program will be at Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Read press release 

Lawyer donates time to low-income community

DALLAS — A United Methodist layman and lawyer is giving pro bono legal help to a low-income community near Dallas that doesn’t have running water. Mark McPherson, a member of Christ United Methodist in Plano, Texas, said of the Sandbranch community’s situation: “If I can do something about it, I’m going to.” He talks about his work in a Q&A with The Dallas Morning News.
Read interview 

New Connectional Giving training course

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — United Methodist Communications has revised its free training course, “Creating a Culture of Generosity.” The course empowers training participants to become storytellers who can inspire others to give generously by sharing honest, compelling accounts of ministry. “Connectional giving is vital to the church’s work around the world,” said Dan Krause, chief executive of United Methodist Communications.
Take the course

Should I use an emoji in church communications?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Emoji are those small, cartoony icons used in texting and online communications to express emotions and ideas, among other things. When are they appropriate in a church context? Jon Watson of United Methodist Communications offers tips.
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Interns sought for Washington program

WASHINGTON (UMNS) — The United Methodist Board of Church and Society is seeking applications for the denomination’s Ethnic Young Adults summer internship program in the U.S. capital. Interns gain experience in advocacy, attend Friday leadership seminars and join in devotions. The deadline to apply is March 15.
To learn more 

New Vital Conversations series debuts

WASHINGTON (UMNS) — The United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race announced Vital Conversations 2 beginning on March 10. This new interactive video series features thought leaders, pastors, theologians, activists, authors and scholars from outside of the United States who will share their stories, insights and expertise on issues related to faith, culture and fighting oppression in the church and world today.
Read press release

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, March 15

Webinar “Congregational Hospitality: How to Really Welcome the Stranger”  —  As a visitor to a different congregation almost every Sunday since September 2002, Beth Lewis will offer ideas for how churches can practice hospitality. Lewis is president and chief executive officer of Augsburg Fortress, the publishing arm of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Practical Resources for Churches, an ecumenical group, presents this webinar. Details

Wednesday, March 16

Integrating Clinical Wisdom and Spirituality in Counseling and Psychotherapy — 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. EDT, Methodist Theological School in Ohio, 3081 Columbus Pike, Delaware, Ohio. Featured speakers are: Vergel Lattimore, president of Hood Theological Seminary, and Jill Snodgrass, assistant professor of pastoral counseling at Loyola University Maryland and co-editor of the recently published, highly acclaimed book “Understanding Pastoral Counseling.” Continuing education credits are available for a $35 fee. Advance registration is required. Register