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Weekly Digest: November 01, 2013


UMNS Weekly Digest

November 1, 2013

NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for Oct.28 - Nov. 1. 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 and the Sandy recovery

Hurricane Sandy: Anatomy of a disaster response

NEW YORK (UMNS) - It has been a year since Hurricane Sandy left its mark from Cuba to the upper east coast of the United States. In a report on the unceasing work of United Methodist disaster response and recovery teams, UMNS reporter Linda Bloom and photographer Mike DuBose explain why the recovery has been slow. For those who have been helped, there is gratitude, perhaps best summarized in the words of Nancy Werner, 61, of Seaford, Long Island. One day, the Rev. Jeffry Wells, pastor of Community United Methodist Church in Massapequa, stopped by and changed the lives of Werner andfamily. "He was standing there, but what I saw was God standing there in the midst of the destruction. The outreach of The United Methodist Church has overwhelmed me. It was our lifeline." Read the special report

Year 1: Sandy recovery - The work of many hands

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (UMNS) - Everywhere in Sandy's path, the people known as United Methodists have been there to help survivors.

Read and watch some of the survivors' stories
See more of the UMNS special report on Sandy recovery

Greater New Jersey Conference marks Sandy anniversary

OCEAN, N.J. (UMNS) - A letter from New Jersey Area Bishop John Schol marks the first anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, which "changed lives and the landscape forever." The bishop thanked "all of our volunteers, donors, churches and staff who have provided healing and hope for thousands of people." In the letter, he also wrote about the work to come. Read letter

Sandy recovery: Rick's story

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (UMNS) - After enduring a leaky roof for months, Sandy survivor Rick Hall and his mother were thankful to United Methodists for volunteer assistance through the initiative A Future with Hope. Watch his story in a video produced by the United Methodist Greater New Jersey Annual (regional) Conference.

Watch video
Anatomy of a United Methodist disaster response

United Methodists and saints

What St. Francis can teach United Methodists

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - The man Christians around the world celebrate today as St. Francis of Assisi is likely the most popular saint outside the Bible. Francis' popularity extends to The United Methodist Church as well. Heather Hahn tells the story of this young rebel who became a saint. Read story and post a comment

Church's animal blessing doesn't miss a bleat

GIG HARBOR, Wash. (UMNS) - Cats, dogs, pigs, horses and people gathered at Gig Harbor United Methodist Church for the congregation's first blessing of the animals. Similar events at other venues usually take place around Oct. 4, St. Francis of Assisi's feast day, to honor the Catholic saint's love for all creatures. The News Tribune reports on the barks and bleats. Read story

Do United Methodists believe in saints?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - United Methodists recognize and celebrate All Saints' Day (Nov. 1) and "all the saints who from their labors rest." All Saints' Day is a time to remember Christians of every time and place, honoring those who lived faithfully and shared their faith with us. However, our denomination does not have any system whereby people are elected to sainthood.

Read more
Colorful banners honor church saints
Everyday 'saints' transform lives, faith

The church and sexuality

Bishop Talbert performs Alabama wedding for two men

CENTER POINT, Ala. (UMNS) - Retired Bishop Melvin G. Talbert followed through on his promise to go against church law by performing a wedding ceremony here for a United Methodist same-sex couple, Joe Openshaw and Bobby Prince. Read full story and comment

Good News calls for accountability following same-sex union

THE WOODLANDS, Texas (UMNS) - Calling retired Bishop Melvin Talbert's officiating of a same-sex wedding Oct. 26 "an egregious act of defiance" of United Methodist law, the Good News group has urged the church's Council of Bishops to hold Talbert accountable. Good News is an unofficial United Methodist group that advocates maintaining the denomination's current definition of marriage as between a man and a woman. The organization issued a statement Oct. 28 calling on the Council of Bishops to hold Talbert accountable for performing a ceremony uniting two men, Joe Openshaw and Bobby Prince, in Center Point, Ala. Read story

Upper New York pastor expects to face church trial

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. (UMNS) - The Rev. Stephen Heiss, a pastor in the Upper New York Annual (regional) Conference, said he expects to face a church trial on charges that he has violated the denomination's ban on clergy officiating at same-sex unions. Bishop Mark J. Webb, who leads the Upper New York Conference, announced that he has referred a complaint against Heiss to the counsel of the church, the equivalent of a prosecutor. The counsel then will determine whether enough evidence supports that Heiss has committed a chargeable offense or recommend to the bishop that the matter be dismissed. Read story and post a comment

Top court says Texas bishop must rule on process question for lesbian clergy candidate

BALTIMORE (UMNS) - Among the decisions reached during the Judicial Council's Oct. 22-26 fall meeting was that a United Methodist bishop in southwest Texas must rule within 60 days "on the merits" of a process-related question regarding the elimination of a lesbian clergy candidate, Mary Ann Kaiser, from the ordination track. The denomination's top court also declared that a petition adopted by the 2012 Western Jurisdictional Conference suggesting a light penalty for bishops convicted of ordaining self-avowed practicing homosexuals is "null, void, and of no effect." Read full story and comment

Many weigh in as church sees escalating struggle over homosexuality

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - The United Methodist Church's long controversy over homosexuality has intensified of late because of a retired bishop's decision to perform a same-sex wedding; a pastor's imminent church trial for having performed such a ceremony and a planned protest from clergy colleagues sympathetic to that pastor; and the General Council on Finance and Administration's decision to extend benefits to same-sex spouses and domestic partners who work for general church agencies. With news of these developments have come statements and commentary from across the church, reflecting a range of views. Read full story and comment

News around the connection

With needs on rise, religious leaders warn against food stamp cuts

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (UMNS) - United Methodists were among the Southeast religious leaders speaking out Oct. 30 against proposed cuts in Congress to the food stamp program. "As the SNAP (food stamp) benefits are decreasing, we're seeing an increase in individual needs in our area," said Alabama-West Florida Bishop Paul Leeland. "The majority of these people are children and older adults." Read story

General Conference 2016 worship/music leader named

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - The Rev. Laura Jaquith Bartlett of Eagle Creek, Ore., has been named worship and music director for the 2016 United Methodist General Conference by the Commission on the General Conference. Bartlett is president-elect of the Fellowship of United Methodists in Music & Worship Arts and program director at the Alton L. Collins Retreat Center, as well as worship coach for several United Methodist churches. Read news release

Publishing House head to retire in 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - Neil Alexander, president and publisher of the United Methodist Publishing House, has announced plans to retire by or just after the April 2016 General Conference. His agency's board has initiated a process that will lead to a search for a new publisher in 2015 and provide for overlap with Alexander's tenure early in 2016. Alexander started as president and publisher in February 1996.

News around conferences

Retired pastor starts house church in nursing home

ONEIDA, N.Y. (UMNS) - The Rev. Fred Jackson, 89, has started a house church at Oneida Healthcare's Extended Care Facility, where he's lived for about a year. Beth DiCocco of the Upper New York Annual (regional) Conference shares his story. Read full story

Wisconsin church offers cattle auction food stand

ITHACA, Wis. (UMNS) - Many members of this small farming community spend every Wednesday afternoon at the weekly cattle auction. The only problem? There was nowhere nearby to eat lunch. That's where Willow Valley United Methodist Church comes in, writes Amanda Rehrauer of the Wisconsin Annual (regional) Conference.

To read story
To see photos

The pumpkin patch gospel

CLARKSTON, Wash. (UMNS) - Clarkston United Methodist Church and its large garden produce more than 2,000 pounds of fresh food each summer for the local food bank. Last May, kindergartners and first-graders were invited to plant pumpkin seeds. Now the children are enjoying the harvest, and as the Pacific Northwest Annual (regional) Conference reports, the church is sharing its message with the wider community. Read story

Resources for churches

Make sure to change your clocks Nov. 3

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - In most of the United States, daylight saving time will end at 2 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 3. That means, you'll likely have to turn back the clock an hour to make sure you don't arrive for Sunday worship an hour early. For churches and homeowners, it's also a good time to check the batteries on fire and security alarms.

Local church racial/ethnic ministries grants available

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) Applications for grants up to $10,000 to help local United Methodist churches build ministries that strengthen and support racial and ethnic church concerns are due on Jan. 15. To learn more

History of Hymns: 'When Our Confidence is Shaken'

DALLAS (UMNS) - Fred Pratt Green (1903-2000) offers an explicit hymn that addresses the crisis of faith experienced by many in this time. Written in the years immediately following the publication of Anglican Bishop John A. T. Robinson's controversial 1963 book "Honest to God," Green labels existential doubts and offers hope, writes C. Michael Hawn.

Read story
Read more History of Hymns

United Methodists in the news

Houston clergy urge defeat of immigration bill

HOUSTON (UMNS) - Bishop Janice Riggle Huie of the Texas Annual (regional) Conference joined other faith leaders last week for a news conference to urge lawmakers to reject federal immigration legislation that would toughen penalties. The Houston Chronicle reports that leaders also urged those who oppose the SAFE Act to contact their representatives in Congress and ask for comprehensive immigration reform.

Read story
Read statement

Good news for children needing refuge

MADISON COUNTY, Fla. (UMNS) - Folks in Madison County enjoyed some good food and great music at the Good News Music Festival. They came out to support the Madison Youth Ranch, a children's refuge center being built by the Florida United Methodist Children's Home in Orlando. WCTV has the story on the home, which will have horses and other elements of ranch life. Read and watch story

University and seminary news

Historic first meeting of African Methodist school leaders occurs in Kenya

NAIROBI, Kenya (UMNS) - More than 45 participants from 10 countries and 15 institutions of higher education gathered on the Kenya Methodist University campus in Nairobi Sept. 18-21 for the First International Conference for Educational Leadership of Methodist Universities and Institutions of Higher Education in Africa. The meeting, organized by the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry, brought the leaders together to share information, discuss possible fundraising initiatives and explore partnership opportunities. Read full story and comment

Perkins seeks nominees for laity award

DALLAS (UMNS) - Perkins School of Theology at United Methodist-related Southern Methodist University is accepting nominations for the 2014 Woodrow B. Seals Laity Award. The Seals Award is presented annually to laypersons in the United States who embody the Christian faith and commitment of service to Christ in the church, community and world. The deadline is Dec. 2. Nominations must be submitted in writing either by U.S. Mail to the Office of Public Affairs and Alumni/ae Relations, Perkins School of Theology, P.O. Box 750133, Dallas, TX 75275-0133 or by email to Rev. Connie L. Nelson,

Learn more
List of all Seals Laity Award Recipients

Other news of interest

WCC 10th Assembly opens in Busan, Korea

BUSAN, Korea (UMNS) - United Methodists are among the 1,000 official delegates and also are present as visitors and staff at the Oct. 30-Nov. 8 World Council of Churches 10th Assembly. Learn more about the assembly and how to follow the action.

Read story
WCC assembly opens with prayers

WCC assembly hopes to break barriers in divided Korea

BUSAN, Korea (UMNS) - Thousands of participants, including United Methodists, attending the first assembly of the World Council of Churches to be held in northeast Asia, are putting a special focus on breaking down barriers on the divided Korean peninsula. Read story

Ecumenical community mourns Bishop Thomas L. Hoyt Jr.

WASHINGTON (UMNS) Friends and colleagues of Bishop Thomas L. Hoyt Jr. received word of his Oct. 27 death with "deep regret and sadness." Hoyt, Senior Bishop and Presiding Prelate of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, was president of the National Council of Churches from 2004 to 2005. He had a long history of involvement with United Methodists through the Pan-Methodist Commission and ecumenical organizations.

Read full story
Hoyt at 2012 General Conference

Obama's spiritual adviser releases book of devotions

WASHINGTON (UMNS) - In the midst of the 2008 presidential campaign, then Sen. Obama's director of religious outreach prayed privately for the future president and began emailing him daily devotions. Religion News Service writer Jonathan Merritt interviews the author of "The President's Devotional," Joshua Dubois, about the president's Christian faith. Dubois is a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, a full communion partner of The United Methodist Church. Read interview

Blogs and commentaries

All Hallows Eve hospitality

BUCKHANNON, W. Va. (UMNS) - "Halloween has always been connected to Christianity" and its focus on death is inseparable from its religious roots, writes Debra Dean Murphy, assistant professor of religious studies at United Methodist-related West Virginia Wesleyan College. She argues that the holiday also should be about neighborliness. Read commentary

Nailed it! (A word for Reformation Day)

HOUSTON (UMNS) - Martin Luther "did that which only a handful of people have ever done, changing the course of human history," writes the Rev. C. Chappell Temple, pastor of Lakewood United Methodist Church. He shares why United Methodists can find much to celebrate each Oct. 31. Read blog

Jesus Versus the Zombies

AUSTIN, Texas (UMNS) - The Rev. John Elford of University United Methodist Church in Austin uses a sermon series to look at the bad church ideas that just &ellipsis; won't &ellipsis; die. Read commentary and post a comment

Looking ahead

Looking ahead

Here are some of the activities ahead for United Methodists across the connection. If you have an item to share with others, email and put Digest in the subject line.

Free webinar "Exploring the Bible through Multiple Intelligences," Tuesday, Nov. 5 - 6:30 p.m. CT, applying work of Harvard University's Howard Gardner to Bible study. To register.

Free webinar "Children and Worship: The Conversation Continues," Thursday, Nov. 7 - 10 a.m. CT. How did Jesus address children in worship? How should we address that ongoing question of whether children should worship with the gathered body? To register.

Free webinar "Developing Your Ministry Plan 3: Discovering your Discipleship Process," Thursday, Nov. 7 - 6:30 p.m. CT. This session will focus on four key areas of congregational life: values, small groups, worship and preaching. To register.

In Mission Together, Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 7-9 - The United Methodist Board of Global Ministries will hold 50/50 Partnership Roundtable for United Methodists in the U.S., Eastern Europe and the Balkans. The gathering is at Cheviot United Methodist Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. Details.

Red Bird Mission Appalachian Craft Fair, Saturday, November 9 - 9 a.m.-2 p.m. ET, Bethel United Methodist Church-Chewsville, 21006 Twin Springs Dr., Smithsburg, Md. Details.

Spirituality of Advent Retreat, Saturday, Nov. 9 - 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. CT, Scarritt-Bennett Center, Nashville, Tenn. $25. Details.

International Day to Pray for the Persecuted Church, Sunday, Nov. 10 - Prayer resources from the United Methodist Board of Discipleship.

Veterans Day or Armistice Day, Monday, Nov.11 - Resources for honoring military veterans, from United Methodist Communicationsand from United Methodist Board of Discipleship.

Workshop on Advocacy, Tuesday-Thursday, Nov. 12-14 - Training for anyone asked to be an advocate for a pastor or lay person. To register and learn the cost and location, contact the Rev. Jerry Eckert of Associates in Advocacy at Registration limited.

Free webinar"Creating Sacred Spaces and Praying through Our Senses," Thursday, Nov. 14 -7 p.m. CT. The final offering in the "Teach Us to Pray" series will look at the value of creating set-aside space for prayer and devotional time. As Advent approaches, the webinar also will look at how icons and other visual images, music and incense can enrich Christians' experience of drawing nearer to God through prayer. Details.

Free webinar "How We Handle Money in the Church," Thursday, Nov. 14 - 6:30 p.m. CT. Every church that has had a crisis of financial impropriety thought what it was doing was fine until the day the impropriety was discovered. What's your church's policy for handing the gifts people entrust to you? To register.

"Day1," Sundays, Nov. 17 and 24 - The Rev. Amy L. Gearhart, senior pastor of Missouri United Methodist Church in Columbia, will be the featured speaker on the nationally syndicated radio program "Day1." To listen.

Free webinar "Using Children's Literature in Children's Ministry," Tuesday, Nov. 19 - 10 a.m. CT. Children's ministers from across the connection will discuss ways to incorporate children's literature in Sunday school, weekday ministries, small groups, nursery and other activities in the church. To register.

Free webinar "Maximizing the Mission Through Debt Reduction," Wednesday, Nov. 20 - 3 p.m. CT, covers specific steps taken by Ceta Canyon Camp leaders and stakeholders that turned around a $1.4 million debt. To register.

United Methodist Student Day, Sunday, Nov. 24 - Celebrate the United Methodist college and university students in your church. Offerings for this Special Sunday supports scholarships and loans for students attending United Methodist-related and other accredited colleges and universities. To learn more.

Thanksgiving, Thursday, Nov. 28 - Worship resources from the United Methodist Board of Discipleship.

Online course "Behold! Cultivating Attentiveness in the Season of Advent," Dec. 1-25 - eRetreat featuring Pamela Hawkins's Advent resource "Behold! Cultivating Attentiveness in the Season of Advent," presented by Upper Room eLearning and BeADisciple, $40. Details.

Online course "The Uncluttered Heart: Making Room for God during Advent and Christmas," Dec. 1 Jan. 5, 2014 - eRetreat offers guided reflection through the weeks of Advent on through Epiphany. Each day provides a quotation, scripture passage, reflection, prayer. This online retreat is presented by Upper Room eLearning and BeADisciple, $40. Details.

#GivingTuesday, Dec. 3 - United Methodists are invited to participate in #GivingTuesday, when every gift made online through the The Advance will be matched dollar for dollar up to $500,000 total and $50,000 for any one project. Visit

Category: Weekly Digest
Tags: News Summaries