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UMNS Weekly Digest - March 23, 2016


NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for March 21-23. 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

United Methodists safe after Brussels airport attack

BRUSSELS (UMNS) — Two United Methodist leaders and a mission team from the East Ohio Conference are safe after being in the Brussels International Airport during the terrorist attacks that left more than 30 people dead. Faith leaders are calling on the world to offer prayers for those killed, their families and the people risking their lives to help. Kathy L. Gilbert reports on United Methodist reaction.
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Easter lessons on walking with Christ

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The familiar Bible story of Christ's walk to Emmaus remains cherished Easter reading and, in fact, is one of the possible lectionary passages for this Sunday. The account also has given its name to United Methodist-initiated retreats. Heather Hahn reports on why the story still resonates.
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United discontinues Course of Study program

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Students and faculty at United Theological Seminary in Ohio are expressing disappointment with a decision by the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry to discontinue a hybrid Course of Study, a blend of online and traditional class time, at the United Methodist seminary. Kathy L. Gilbert reports.
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Addressing immigration issues at GC2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Keeping families together has long been at the heart of the church’s mission with refugees and immigrants. Legislation before the denomination’s top lawmaking body supports immigration reform, but United Methodists are already tackling the issue in the courts and by helping individuals. Kathy L. Gilbert reports.
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Seoul office will help church connect with Asia

NEW YORK (UMNS) — A new regional office in Seoul, Korea, will help coordinate the mission outreach of The United Methodist Church. Directors of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries approved the recommendation of Seoul over Singapore or Hong Kong — cities also considered for the joint office of the Global Ministries and The Upper Room — during the board’s March 17-18 spring meeting. Linda Bloom has the story.
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Louisiana pastors evacuate during flooding

MONROE, La. (UMNS) — What is it like when the rain is so heavy that cars start to drift off the road? United Methodist pastors share their harrowing experiences in Louisiana’s recent flooding and tell how their faith carried them through. Betty Backstrom reports for the Louisiana Conference.
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Bolivian Methodist bishop killed in auto accident

LA PAZ, Bolivia (UMNS) — The Rev. Javier Rojas Terán, emeritus bishop of the Evangelical Methodist Church in Bolivia, died in an auto accident, Bishop Modesto Mamati Achata announced. Rojas Terán, 53, left an important legacy in developing and strengthening the Evangelical Methodist Church in Bolivia during his 2009-14 tenure. The Rev. Gustavo Vasquez has the story.
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Congressman addresses BMCR

BALTIMORE (UMNS) — U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, was among the speakers at the 2016 meeting of Black Methodists for Church Renewal. "So often, out of our pain comes our passion to do our purpose,” the congressman told the United Methodists. Larry R. Hygh Jr. of Black Methodists for Church Renewal has the story.
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Sierra Leone Conference begins with street celebration

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (UMNS) — The first sessions of the Sierra Leone Annual Conference since the Ebola outbreak began with marching brass bands that brought together about 2,000 United Methodists. But the shadow of the deadly disease was still present in the memorial service honoring those who died. Phileas Jusu and E. Julu Swen report.
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2014 Vitality Report offers mixed news

OCEAN, N.J. (UMNS) — New Jersey Area Bishop John Schol has released the 2014 Vitality Report on U.S. United Methodist churches. Between 2013 and 2014, the report said, a higher percentage of United Methodists became involved in small groups and engaged in mission. The report also shows congregations giving more to mission. However, it shows a decrease in the percentage of U.S. churches growing in worship attendance.
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Liberian bishop signs construction contact

MONROVIA, Liberia (UMNS) — Bishop John G. Innis signed a construction contract for nearly $2 million for a three-story commercial building expected to generate income to support the ministries of The United Methodist Church in Liberia. E. Julu Swen reports.
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Every day can be Easter

NASHVILLE, Tenn. ( — God brings renewal at all times, even amid crisis and upheaval. Joe Iovino writes about United Methodists who have found resurrection in tough times.
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Commentary: Losing the home-court advantage

DURHAM, N.C. — Florida Area Bishop Ken Carter, a proud alumnus of Duke Divinity School, reflects on the importance of home-court advantage for Duke basketball and why Christians might be losing their own home-court advantage. Huffington Post has his commentary.
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Three historic congregations launch new church

SAVANNAH, Ga. (UMNS) — In the South Georgia Conference, one plus one plus one equals one. Three historic Savannah congregations — one predominantly African-American, one predominantly Caucasian and a third that has become multiracial in recent years — are blending their ministries to launch ConneXion Church. Kara Witherow of the South Georgia Conference has the story.
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History of Hymns: 'Were You There'

CHICAGO (UMNS) — "Were You There" is one of the most prominent and popular African-American spirituals. Yet, like most spirituals, the origins of "Were You There" are impossible to trace, borne not from the pen of an individual but out of the communal slave experience. David Bjorlin, a minister of the Evangelical Covenant Church, writes about this beloved hymn.
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Resources for honoring Asbury

MADISON, N.J. (UMNS) — The 200th anniversary of the death of Methodism pioneer Francis Asbury occurs March 31. For churches wishing to honor the occasion, The United Methodist Commission on Archives and History has a webpage with resources.
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Why those who are forgiven should forgive

NASHVILLE, Tenn. ( — In Christ, we receive forgiveness of our sins. Yet when someone hurts us, we find the process of forgiving others difficult and painful, writes Joe Iovino.
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Higher Education and Ministry appoints publisher

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Kathryn Armistead will join the staff of the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry as a publisher on March 21. She will manage all aspects of academic publishing, including working with the agency’s global constituencies for academic publishing.
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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.

Wednesday, March 30 to Saturday, April 2 and Monday, May 2 to Thursday, May 5

Native American Course of Study   ─ This is a national school for Native American local pastors who work in Native American ministries. Every U.S. jurisdiction has students and/or instructors in the school, which will be held at Oneida United Methodist Church, Oneida, Wisconsin, about 10 miles southwest of the Green Bay airport. Parishioners will provide housing. Details

More upcoming United Methodist events