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UMNS Weekly Digest - March 9, 2012


UMNS Weekly Digest

March9, 2012

NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for March 59. It includes summaries of stories, UMTV video reports and additional briefs from United Methodist News Service. Full versions of the stories with photographs and related features can be found at

Stories this week:



Why no meat on Friday during Lent?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - Since it is the day of Jesus' death on the cross, a traditional fast during the Lenten season is to give up meat on Friday. Read more»

Japan's Christians active in quake relief

NEW YORK (UMNS) - When Noriko Lao left her elderly mother's home in Tokyo after a visit last March, she was unaware of the devastating earthquake that would strike her native country just a day later. Nearly 20,000 people died or were missing in the wake of what some called "the triple disaster" in Japan. In the year since, Lao, a disaster response veteran, has returned to Japan numerous times as a volunteer consultant for the United Methodist Committee on Relief. Read more and post a comment»

UM pastors write Hunger Games Bible study

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - Two North Carolina pastors are using a teenage pop culture phenomenon to illustrate biblical principles and promote Christian discussion.
In response to growing popularity of"The Hunger Games" and the upcoming release of the book's corresponding movie, the Rev. Andy Langford and his daughter, the Rev. Ann Duncan, have written a study for pastors and church members called "The Gospel According to "The Hunger Games" Trilogy." Read more»

Women still pioneers as senior pastors

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - Women who lead large United Methodist churches are still pioneers, a survey has found. Nine out of 10 lead women pastors at churches with more than 1,000 members are the first woman to lead those churches, according to a survey of 94 women and 300 men who are senior pastors of large congregations. The study, part of the Lead Women Pastors Project of the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry, also found that women have to work harder for acceptance and appear less likely than men to pursue appointments at large churches.

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Connectional Table splits on petition

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - The 2012 United Methodist General Conference will take up legislation this spring that would allow the redistribution of up to $60 million in general church funds. However, discussion at the Connectional Table's March 4-6 meeting showed the body that proposed the measure is divided about whether the petition will fulfill its aim or even if it passes muster under the denomination's constitution. Read full story and post a comment»

Our Social Principles alive in 1965 march

ASBURY PARK, N.J. (UMNS) - As people remember and re-enact the Selma-to-Montgomery march of 1965, the Rev. Gil Caldwell reflects on how the United Methodist Social Principles came alive in that 1965 march."As I've watched the preparations via television," he writes. "I have thought of these words: The rights and privileges a society bestows or withholds from those who comprise it indicate the relative esteem in which that society holds particular persons and groups of persons. We affirm all persons as equally valid in the 'sight of God.'" Read full story and post a comment»

UMW reps outline rural women's struggles

NEW YORK (UMNS) - When she was growing up in the Philippines, Estrelita Mariano watched her parents struggle to earn a living as tenant farmers. Seventy percent of their crops in central Luzon went to the property owner, she explained, and then, as now, Filipino farmers were always in debt. Today, as a founding member and head of advocacy for Amihan, National Federation of Peasant Women, Mariano fights on behalf of agrarian reform and land rights for rural women.

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What church says about fasting

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - Fasting has been a part of Methodism from its early beginnings. John Wesley considered fasting an important part of a Christian's life and he fasted weekly. To Wesley, fasting was an important way to express sorrow for sin and penitence for overindulgence in eating and drinking. He believed it allowed more time for prayer and was more meaningful if combined with giving to the poor.

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UN explores needs of ruralwomen

NEW YORK (UMNS) - Both the challenges and solutions to problems faced by rural women around the globe seem to boil down to a single word: "access." As the Women's Division, United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, explained in a recent statement to the 56th session of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women: "Rural women in all regions cite lack of access to critical resources including health, education, transportation, rural economic development, personal security and other concerns."

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Churches reach out after swath of storms

WEST LIBERTY, Ky. (UMNS) - The twisters that ripped through the Midwest Feb. 28 and 29 ushered in another barrage of severe weather March 2 that killed at least 39 people in five states. But even as United Methodists mourned losses, they continued to reach out. Donate funds toU.S. Disaster Response and assemble cleaning buckets.

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African's path from Islam to Christianity

MAKENI, Sierra Leone (UMNS) - For the Fulani tribe in West Africa, a child is born Muslim and observes Islamic tradition from the day it is born to its death. For United Methodist pastor, the Rev Mariama Bockari, who was born into the Fulani tribe, the path to Christianity was more than rigorous. It was many times life-threatening.

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MethoBlog releases Version 3.0

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - Publishers at the website "The MethoBlog" announced today that they have upgraded the site to what they are calling version 3.0. The "MethoBlog" is an aggregation website that collects posts from more than 250 Methodist-related blogs and republishes them in one location. Read more»

Special seminary scholarships help 450

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - The United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry's Office of Loans and Scholarships endowed a $2.25 million Special Seminary Scholarship Fund for United Methodist seminarians under age 30 attending one of the 13 United Methodist seminaries. Since 2005, the board has awarded $900,000 in scholarships to 450 young seminarians, said Allyson Collinsworth, director of the Office of Loans and Scholarships. Read more»

2012-13 Dempster Scholars named

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - Eight students have been selected by the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry as the next class of Dempster Scholars. The Dempster Graduate Fellowship supports doctoral students committed to serving the church by becoming professors who will educate the next generation of United Methodist pastors. Read more»

Methodism in Cuba continues to grow

NEW YORK (UMNS) - The Methodist Church in Cuba has grown from 8,000 to 36,000 members since 1999 as Bishop Ricardo Pereira encourages congregations to live out their Wesleyan theology in uniquely Cuban ways. "The Methodist Church in Cuba uses Caribbean liturgy because it allows people to express themselves with authenticity and freedom," the bishop said recently.Click here to view video. Read more»

Bethune-Cookman president to retire

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (UMNS) - Trudie Kibbe Reed, the president of United Methodist-related Bethune-Cookman University, describes college presidents as marathon runners. "We do our job to take the university to the next level and then we pass on the baton to the next leader and that leader's challenge then moves forward," she said March 7. After almost eight years, she and the executive board announced she will remain as president through spring commencement graduation on May 12 and retire on May 13. Read full story»

Young adult Call to Action feedback sought

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - A new blog,, has been created to facilitate discussion among young people about the pending Call To Action legislation to be voted on at General Conference 2012 in Tampa, Fla. Based on a recent Twitter conversation about the lack of young people's input and feedback in response to the legislation, the website was started as a "grassroots movement" by several young adults who are also General Conference delegates. The site is an open forum, and anyone is encouraged to submit a response. Read more and submit responses here»

Wisconsin delegation responds to legislation

SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. (UMNS) - The General Conference delegation from the Wisconsin Annual (regional) Conference has released its response to a number of proposals going before the denomination's top lawmaking body. The statement commended the work of the teams that produced the Call to Action, Study of Ministry, Interim Operations Team reports but conveyed the delegation's misgivings about some of the legislative proposals that resulted. "We acknowledge the need to make significant changes in a very short timeframe, but the current reports and recommendations create more questions than they answer," the delegation's statement said. Read full statement»

Florida delegation supports Call to Action

TAMPA, Fla. (UMNS) - The General Conference delegation from the Florida Annual (regional) Conference has announced its unanimous support of the "key principles of the Call to Action," according to Newscope. The delegation also called on The United Methodist Church to ensure 30 percent representation from people of color in any governing structure. "It is critical that we address significant general church change now," said the Rev. Debbie McLeod, a delegation member. "This cannot wait another four years."

Pension Board votes to retain securities

GLENVIEW, Ill. (UMNS) - The directors of the United Methodist Board of Pension and Health Benefits approved a resolution that explains why it believes it is important to retain investments in Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions. Six annual (regional) conferences, the Board of Church and Society and individual United Methodists have submitted petitions to the 2012 General Conference seeking divestment in these companies because of their products' use in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The pension board's resolution said it also plans to continue to urge these companies to protect and respect human rights, and to continue to seek a remedy for any human rights violations including, but not limited to, Palestine.

Read more»

States urged to reject private prison offer

WASHINGTON (UMNS) - The United Methodist Board of Church and Society is included in a coalition of 60 policy and religious groups that urged states to reject a recent offer by the nation's largest private prison company to buy and privatize state prisons. Three letters sent to governors in every state addressed a recent offer by Corrections Corp. of America to buy prisons now run by state officials. The three letters came from 32 groups, including the Board of Church and Society; the American Civil Liberties Union and the Presbyterian Criminal Justice Network. Read more»

General Conference app launched

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - Mobile device users will be able to track legislation, watch videos and follow news at the 2012 General Conference through a new, free mobile application from United Methodist Communications. This comes in preparation for the meeting of the denomination's top policy-making body in Tampa, Fla. April 24-May 4. Read more»

Immigration ministry now independent

NEW YORK (UMNS) -- Justice for Our Neighbors became separately incorporated in January from its parent organization, the United Methodist Committee on Relief of the denomination's Board of Global Ministries. The move ended two years of study, conversation with UMCOR's board of directors and other stakeholders and numerous modifications. "UMCOR remains committed to the amazing work that NJFON has been and will continue to do to serve the needs of vulnerable immigrants in our country," said the Rev. Cynthia Fierro Harvey, UMCOR deputy general secretary. "We are very excited for what this development will mean for the growth and sustainability of the JFON ministry." Read more»

Students join malaria fight on the Hill

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Forty-five students and their leaders representing 15 colleges and universities have joined for "Imagine No Malaria Student Days on the Hill." The College Connection is training them in how to be effective advocates to members of Congress. The group will then visit their elected officials to urge continued government support of efforts to eradicate poverty-related diseases, such as malaria. The event is co-sponsored by the United Methodist Board of Church and Society and the Imagine No Malaria College Connection. Read more»

Second suit names Texas pastor, conference

DALLAS (UMNS) - A second lawsuit has been filed alleging sexual misconduct by Tyrone Gordon, the former pastor of St. Luke "Community" United Methodist Church, and failure by the North Texas Conference in its supervision of him. In the new suit, the United Methodist Reporter says Jeffery Carson alleges being sexually harassed by Gordon, who last month resigned from the 5,000-member Dallas church and surrendered his credentials as a United Methodist pastor.

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Faith leaders affirm Mideast peace need

WASHINGTON (UMNS) - Thirty leaders of major Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious organizations in the United States "affirm with urgency that Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace is more vital than ever" and urge candidates in U.S. national elections not to use any rhetoric that could make prospects for peace more problematic. United Methodist signers of the letter from the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East include retired Bishop Neil Irons, executive secretary, United Methodist Council of Bishops, and Clare Chapman, interim top executive, National Council of Churches.

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UMTV: Church fosters adoption

BETHEL, Ohio (UMNS) - Mark and Denise Strimple have experienced the joy of becoming new parents more than 30 times over the last 23 years. The couple are foster parents and adoption advocates. In 2011, 46 children were placed with families through the adoption support program founded by the Strimples with the help of their congregation at Bethel United Methodist Church.

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