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UMNS Weekly Digest - March 4, 2016


This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for Feb. 29-March 4. 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

Remembering the deaths of Wesley and Asbury

NEW YORK (UMNS) — After John Wesley died – 225 years ago this week – Francis Asbury noted in his journal that he probably would never read the works of the founder of Methodism again “without reflecting on the loss which the Church of God and the world has sustained by his death.” Asbury himself died 200 years ago at the end of March. Linda Bloom has the story.
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New York board welcomes gay clergy candidates

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (UMNS) — The New York Conference’s board of ordained ministry announced March 1 that it would not consider sexual orientation in evaluating a clergy candidate, even if that individual is married to someone of the same gender. The announcement comes just weeks after the Baltimore-Washington Conference’s board of ordained ministry announced it was recommending a married lesbian as a provisional deacon. Heather Hahn reports.
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Read New York announcement

GC2016: Where is the zeal for agency reform?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — A determined group of United Methodists is bringing back a slightly revised version of the agency restructuring that General Conference passed but the denomination’s top court overturned. However, they are doing so without the advocacy of some major players in denominational leadership. Heather Hahn reports on what has changed.
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East Congo Conference teaching, preaching, growing

KINDU, Democratic Republic of Congo (UMNS) — In the family of the worldwide United Methodist Church, the East Congo Conference is the infant. General Conference created the denomination’s newest episcopal area in 2012, but the history of the church in the area is much longer. Kathy L. Gilbert and Mike DuBose report.
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Eunice Jones Mathews dies at age 101

WASHINGTON (UMNS) — Eunice Jones Mathews, “wife, mother, author and noble soul,” died Feb. 27 at 101. She was the wife of the late United Methodist Bishop James K. Mathews and the only daughter of E. Stanley and Mabel Lossing Jones, renowned Methodist missionaries. But she left her own mark on the denomination. Kathy Gilbert reports.
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Julia Wilke, Bible study co-author, dies at 83

WINFIELD, Kan. (UMNS) — Julia Wilke, who with her husband, United Methodist Bishop Richard Wilke, wrote the popular Disciple Bible Study Series, died Feb. 25 at age 83. She had suffered a stroke during major surgery.
Read Great Plains Conference obituary

Recycled X-rays = cloth for sale

CHITUNGWIZA, Zimbabwe (UMNS) — United Methodist women in Zimbabwe are using expired and discarded X-ray films to create cloth used in products they can sell to generate income. Eveline Chikwanah reports.
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Chapel at Gulfside honors Bishop Kelly

WAVELAND, Miss. (UMNS) — The Bishop Leontine T.C. Kelly Open Air Chapel, honoring the first African-American female bishop of The United Methodist Church, was consecrated here at historic Gulfside Assembly on Feb. 27. It’s the first structure built at Gulfside since Hurricane Katrina washed away the denominational retreat center’s buildings in 2005. Tamica Smith Jeuitt reports for the Mississippi Conference.
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Stepping up after mass shooting

HESSTON, Kan. (UMNS) — The Rev. Keith Schadel was already planning on a sermon about fear on Feb. 28 at Hesston United Methodist Church. The sermon topic gained more urgency following a workplace shooting at the nearby Excel plant, which left four dead (including the gunman) and 14 injured. David Burke of the Great Plains Conference reports on how United Methodists are stepping up in the wake of tragedy.
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Harry Denman nominations sought

LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. (UMNS) — Nominations are open for the Harry Denman Evangelism Awards. The awards honor United Methodists in each conference whose exceptional evangelism brings people into a life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ. Each year, annual conferences join the Foundation for Evangelism in recognizing one youth, one clergy member and one layperson in their conference.
Learn more

UMCOR prepares Fiji response

NEW YORK (UMNS) — The United Methodist Committee on Relief is reaching out to its partners, including the Methodist Church in Fiji, in response to the severe cyclone that struck the island nation. A United Methodist missionary couple, Wesley and Jerusha Neal, who both teach at the Davuilevu Theological College, said the storm destroyed homes, downed power lines, and interrupted the water supply. Linda Unger reports for UMCOR.
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Congressional briefing includes Palestinian villagers

WASHINGTON (UMNS) — The Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe, top executive of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, joined a Palestinian delegation from the village of Wadi Foquin participating in a Feb. 23 Capitol Hill congressional briefing. The village illustrates the continuing violence waged in Palestinian-held lands in the Bethlehem district of the West Bank.
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Historic images now available online

MADISON, N.J. (UMNS) — The United Methodist Commission on Archives and History announced it has finished posting online its photo albums focused on the denomination's ministry outside the U.S. between 1900 and 1950. The final total is 33,675 pages from 178 albums now accessible to the public.
See online catalog
Read UMNS story on the images

Honoring first black congressman, a Methodist

WASHINGTON (RNS) — A Methodist minister, the Rev. Hiram Revels, was honored in a worship service in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol almost a century and a half after he was sworn in as the first African-American member of Congress. Adelle Banks has the story for Religion News Service.
Read RNS story

Jennifer Garner says film led her back to church

ATLANTA — Actress Jennifer Garner says filming “Miracles in Heaven” inspired her to start going to a United Methodist church again. reports on Garner's faith journey and the film, based on a memoir by Christy Beam.
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Forum offered on Scripture and sexuality

LIVERPOOL, N.Y. (UMNS) — The Upper New York Conference will host and livestream a forum titled “Human Sexuality and Biblical Interpretation” on Saturday, March 5, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. EST. The event, at Liverpool United Methodist Church, anticipates the General Conference debate on sexuality. The Rev. Althea Spencer-Miller, of Drew Theological School, and the Rev. Bill T. Arnold, of Asbury Theological Seminary, will be featured speakers.
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Watch the event live

5 things you can learn from a new church start

DECATUR, Ga. (UMNS) — Three pastors leading new church starts in the North Georgia Conference share what they have learned about being the church while starting a ministry from the ground up. Rachel Reiff Ellis reports for the conference.
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Religious leaders as agents of peace

WASHINGTON (WCC) — A consultation on peace building in the Americas, sponsored by the World Council of Churches in cooperation with the Office for Genocide Prevention and the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers, focused on the role of religious leaders in preventing incitements to violence and “atrocity crimes.”
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Podcast: 'Get your spirit in shape'

NASHVILLE, Tenn. ( — “Get Your Spirit in Shape” is a free, 30-minute, monthly podcast from United Methodist Communications featuring conversations with leaders, authors and others who offer spiritual nutrition and exercises for our everyday lives. In the second episode, authors Jenny Youngman and Kara Oliver share ideas about how we can celebrate our faith as a family — even a busy family.
Listen to the podcast 

UMW has new resources on climate, sexuality

NEW YORK (UMNS) — New resources on climate justice and human sexuality are available from United Methodist Women to help people of faith engage in discussion on complex issues.
Read press release

Higher Ed and Ministry board re-elects top exec

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The directors of the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry have re-elected the Rev. Kim Cape as the agency’s top executive, approved matching funds for a new scholarship and affirmed an internal publishing office.
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Easter Vigil brings city the story of salvation

WASHINGTON (UMNS) — The Rev. Kate Payton describes how the Metropolitan Church, a multisite United Methodist community, took its Easter Vigil on the road, making stops around Washington. “We came together to proclaim a story our whole city desperately needs,” she writes for the Lewis Center for Church Leadership.
Read commentary

UMW brings delegates to U.N. meeting

NEW YORK (UMNS) — United Methodist Women will bring in 20 delegates from the U.S. and 10 other countries to participate in the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women meeting March 14-24. UMW also will host workshops for CSW-60, which has a priority theme of “Women’s empowerment and its link to sustainable development.”
See more on UMW role at CSW-60

60 Days of Prayer begins March 31

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The Upper Room has created resources for 60 Days of Prayer to help every local congregation pray with the delegates and church leaders for the 2016 General Conference. The 60 days of prayer begin March 31 and extends through May 29. The denomination’s legislative assembly is May 10-20 in Portland, Oregon. The prayer guide is available online, as a PDF download and a daily email service. Prayer-bead kits with a commemorative medallion are also available.
Get resources

Fasting from unnecessary spending

TIPP CITY, Ohio (UMNS) — One of the Lenten practices the Rev. Mike Slaughter tries to undertake every year, no matter what other commitments he has made, is to fast from all unnecessary spending. The lead pastor of Ginghamsburg Church, a United Methodist congregation, writes about ways he and others can cut back for Ministry Matters.
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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.

Sunday, March 6
One Great Hour of Sharing — Offering on this Special Sunday supports the administrative costs of the United Methodist Committee on Relief, the denomination’s disaster-response organization. United Methodist Communications is providing new resources for pastors and lay leaders to use in promoting One Great Hour of Sharing.
Get resources

Thursday, March 10
Webinar on being a “Welcome Place” for refugees — 6 p.m. CST. The Great Plains Conference will offer this webinar for churches seeking to welcome refugees who settle in their communities. Speakers include Andrea Paret, Great Plains peace with justice coordinator; a staff attorney with Justice for Our Neighbors-Nebraska; and the Rev. Hollie Tapley, conference disaster response coordinator. To watch webinar