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UMNS Weekly Digest - May 13, 2016


NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for May 9-13. 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

General Conference 2016 officially begins

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — Joining in a cacophony of “alleluias” in many languages, 864 United Methodist delegates gathered May 10 at the Oregon Convention Center for the 2016 General Conference. In his opening sermon, San Francisco Area Bishop Warner H. Brown Jr. challenged the assembly to remember Paul’s words to the Romans to “build each other up.” Barbara Dunlap-Berg reports.
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Brown gives final address as bishops’ leader

GC2016 delegates say no to Rule 44

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — General Conference delegates decided their relationship status with Rule 44: They just aren’t that into it. The final tally on the much-debated proposed Group Discernment Process was 355 yes and 477 no. Even getting to a simple up-or-down vote had its own ups and downs that took most of the morning. Heather Hahn reports.
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Plan UMC Revised still partly unconstitutional

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — One of the proposed plans to realign the structure of The United Methodist Church will need yet another revision if the denomination’s top legislative body decides to adopt it. In a May 9 ruling, the United Methodist Judicial Council declared, “Plan UMC Revised contains components that fail the test of constitutionality and components that are, as stated, entirely constitutional.” The decision was one of eight issued after the top court’s May 6-9 spring meeting. Linda Bloom has the story.
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Plan UMC’s fate still up to GC2016

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — Petitions before the United Methodist top lawmaking body would eliminate three general commissions. The denomination’s top court ruled such changes as constitutional, so delegates must decide if those changes are desirable. Heather Hahn reports on the debate.
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Laity urged to share Jesus with the world

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — Lay members of The United Methodist Church admonished their peers who are delegates to General Conference to remember that they share in the responsibility of making disciples of Jesus Christ in the world. The May 13 laity address included lay leaders from the Upper New York, Virginia, Missouri, Tennessee, Zimbabwe and Great Plains conferences. Todd Seifert reports.
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Schaefer, son join campout for LGBTQ rights

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — The Rev. Frank Schaefer and his son will join the Rev. Mike Tupper in a tent outside the Oregon Convention Center to symbolize how they say LGBTQ people are kept outside the doors of The United Methodist Church. Their protest is on the doorstep of The United Methodist Church's top legislative assembly, which is considering sexuality legislation. Kathy L. Gilbert has the story.
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GC2016: What can churchgoers do together?

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) —Throughout the morning, the delegates heard news that might surprise some: United Methodists together are doing great things that bring God's reign into the world. Both the Connectional Table, which coordinates the work of church agencies, and the General Council on Finance and Administration, the denomination's finance agency, gave reports that highlighted the good United Methodists do as a global church. Heather Hahn reports.
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Palmer: Trust God’s promise and go forth

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — Bishop Gregory V. Palmer laid out a path for the 2016 United Methodist General Conference: humility, humility, humility. “Everyone here is a child of God. Any behavior to the contrary of that truth undermines the gospel and is a choice to live beneath our privilege,” Palmer said in the episcopal address on May 11. Kathy L. Gilbert reports.
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Alsted preaches unconditional reliance on Jesus

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — Bishop Christian Alsted, of the Nordic and Baltic Episcopal Area, challenged those attending General Conference 2016 to offer themselves humbly to Jesus' authority and "unconditionally depend on him for the healing of the church." Alsted, referencing the story of the Roman centurion whose faith Jesus praised, preached during the May 12 worship service. Sam Hodges reports.
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New program texts GC2016 news to Africans

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Citing a need to "bridge the gap" between those with and without Internet access, United Methodist Communications has launched a new program to transmit General Conference news to Africa via text messaging. Each episcopal area in Africa will receive news briefs via the Internet and email and relay that information via text. Joey Butler reports.
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Commentary: GC2016 will hear Lumad plight

NEW YORK (UMNS) — Lumads, indigenous people in the Philippines, will be sharing their hopes and struggles at United Methodist 2016 General Conference in Portland, Oregon. Lumads and other farmers are being driven from their homes due to development on their ancestral lands, writes the Rev. Liberato Bautista.
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111 clergy, clergy candidates come out as gay

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — On the eve of the 2016 General Conference, 111 United Methodist clergy and clergy candidates have come out as LGBTQ religious leaders. Among the signers are delegates at the denomination’s top lawmaking assembly. Heather Hahn reports.
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GC2016: African delegates poised to be a force

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — African delegates say they enter General Conference 2016 better prepared than at past legislative gatherings, and determined to gain more clout and resources for their continent’s part of The United Methodist Church. Most African delegates met for two days of briefings and strategy just before General Conference convened here. Sam Hodges reports.
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Vigil remembers 35 million who died from AIDS

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — In a response of love and prayer, the 35 million people who have died of AIDS were remembered in a vigil outside the Oregon Convention Center as the 2016 General Conference meets to decide church law for the next four years. “We live in a world with 38 million people who are living with AIDS and 35 million who have died,” said retired Bishop Albert Frederick Fritz Mutti. “Too much of the world ignores this pandemic.” Kathy L. Gilbert reports.
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How the church is responding to AIDS

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — Delegates and church leaders attending the 2016 General Conference gathered to discuss the realities of the fights against HIV and AIDS. The event, sponsored by the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund, highlighted new AIDS research and trends and examined how churches are responding. Kathy L. Gilbert reports.
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2016 GC to consider three sites for Heritage Landmarks

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — Gulfside Assembly, Pearl River United Methodist Church and The United Methodist Building are nominees for Heritage Landmarks. They represent more than 350 years of Methodist ministry. Maggie Hillery reports.
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Man takes evangelism on the road to GC2016

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — Inspired by the example of a famed Methodist evangelist, Randy Neal traveled from Crossville, Tennessee, to Portland, Oregon, by bus. His hope was to meet people and share Jesus. Heather Hahn reports on some of his experiences along the way.
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Grassroots group declares lesbian ordained

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — Susan Laurie, 21 years after answering God’s call to ministry, was unofficially ordained as a United Methodist pastor by a grassroots group of LGBTQ people and supporters inside the Oregon Convention Center. This ceremony is not officially recognized. The United Methodist Church does not allow “self-avowed practicing” homosexuals to be ordained. Kathy L. Gilbert has the story.
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African delegates worry about ‘digital divide’ at GC2016

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — At General Conference 2016, delegates wanting to be recognized to raise a parliamentary point or make a motion during a plenary session are supposed to ask for recognition by using a tablet computer. Some African delegates say their lack of experience with the technology could put them at a disadvantage. Sam Hodges reports.
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Committee backs plan for 5 new African bishops in 2020

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — Despite pressure to speed up the process, a standing legislative committee of The United Methodist Church on May 9 reconfirmed its plan to recommend five new bishops for Africa four years from now. Elliott Wright reports.
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Women delegates urged to make their voices heard

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — Women delegates were urged to make their voices heard at General Conference. The Commission on the Status and Role of Women and United Methodist Women held briefings before the denomination’s top legislative assembly began. Tara Barnes and Yvette Moore report for COSROW and UMW.
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Local pastors a presence at General Conference

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — Licensed local pastors cannot serve as delegates to General Conference. But they're a growing part of the United Methodist clergy corps, and leaders of their group are present at the denomination's top law-making assembly, trying to influence legislation. Sam Hodges has the story.
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Delegates focus on Christian conferencing

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — General Conference delegates spent two hours on May 11 on Christian Conferencing, the practice of engaging in respectful and honest conversations. Leaders expressed hope that today’s session would set the tone as legislative committees begin meeting. Crystal Caviness reports.
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Prayers, paper lanterns at climate vigil

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — An evening climate vigil May 12 featured lanterns lit by small LED lights, music and testimony from United Methodists around the world and a prayer space outside the General Conference legislative sessions. Linda Bloom has the story.
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Commentary: Heartbeat of faith

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — When you think about General Conference too long, almost everything can become a metaphor. Melissa Lauber explains in the Baltimore-Washington Conference’s blog feature, “Thus We Went.”
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Religion and Race sponsors briefing for delegates of color

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — About 200 delegates of color and friends gathered for a pre-General Conference orientation sponsored by the United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race in the Oregon Convention Center May 10. Participants included leaders of the ethnic caucuses and General Conference monitors as well as African, African-American, Asian and Pacific Islanders, Hispanic and Native American delegates. Yvette Moore reports.
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May 12 wrap-up: Rule 44 voted down

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — Over the past three days, the United Methodist General Conference has offered a live demonstration of just how difficult following its rules of order can be. Delegates ultimately decided against a proposed Group Discernment Process that has dominated proceedings. In other news, one bishop “passes the gavel” and another will have to go under the knife after a nasty fall on Day One. Joey Butler has the story.
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May 11 wrap-up: Episcopal address, more Rule 44 debate
May 10 wrap-up: Opening worship, rules debate

UMW Day: Water and witness

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — Nearly 150 years later, members of United Methodist Women “are living out the same commitments as our predecessors” for spiritual growth, service and advocacy for women, children and youth, says Harriett Olson, UMW’s top executive. On May 16, highlights of UMW Day will include a commissioning, a rally on water rights and a seven-minute presentation on the floor of General Conference. Linda Bloom reports.
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Bishop Carter to have surgery

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — Florida Conference Bishop Ken Carter was set to undergo surgery for a severed tendon. He fell May 10 on stairs in the plenary hall of the Oregon Convention Center, just before the official opening of General Conference. Delegates received updates on his condition and were asked to pray for him and the surgery team. Sam Hodges reports.
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Delegates welcome members of larger Methodist family

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — The United Methodist General Conference, meeting here at the Oregon Convention Center, greeted representatives of 23 churches in the larger Methodist family. The guests came from Asia, the Caribbean, Europe and Latin America. Elliott Wright of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries has the story.
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Around the connection

Another board removes LBGTQ clergy bar

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — The Pacific Northwest Conference’s board of ordained ministry voted May 5 to affirm that “people of all sexual orientations and gender identities” can meet the high standards for “fitness, readiness, and effectiveness in ministry.” They are joining with the Baltimore-Washington and the New York boards of ordained ministry in stating they will no longer inquire about the sexual orientation of their ministry candidates. Kathy L. Gilbert reports.
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Church celebrates Congo dissident’s release

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of Congo (UMNS) — A political dissident who led a prison revival is now free in his native Democratic Republic of Congo after 16 months behind bars — the past four in a military prison. Vano Kalembe Kiboko — a United Methodist lay evangelist, businessman and former congressman in Congo — was detained on what the watchdog group Human Rights Watch called “trumped-up charges.” Heather Hahn and Linda Bloom report.
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Global Ministries reorganizes

NEW YORK (UMNS) — Global Ministries announced that in addition to moving its headquarters to Atlanta and opening regional offices, the agency has been restructured to ensure greater effectiveness. Mary Andreolli reports.
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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, May 15

Pentecost  — Celebrate the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the birthday of Christ’s church with worship resources from United Methodist Discipleship Ministries.


Sunday, May 22

Heritage Sunday — The United Methodist Church celebrates Heritage Sunday on the Sunday before Aldersgate Day, May 24, when John Wesley had his spiritual rebirth. This year, United Methodists mark the 200th anniversaries of the death of Francis Asbury and the birth of sister denomination, the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The United Methodist Commission on Archives and History offers resources.

More upcoming United Methodist events