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UMNS Weekly Digest - October 7, 2016


Top viewed stories from Sept. 30 - Oct. 7. See all United Methodist News Service stories at


New overtime rule means church changes

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — A new U.S. federal regulation makes more workers eligible for overtime pay, and churches are among the employers affected. Heather Hahn reports.
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Way Forward Commission makeup challenged

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — United Methodists unhappy with the number of laity on the Commission on the Way Forward circulated an online petition asking the Council of Bishops to rethink the panel's makeup. The Council’s executive committee announced Oct. 5 that eight bishops, 13 clergy and eight laity have been nominated to serve on the panel that will address issues around homosexuality and church unity. Kathy L. Gilbert and Sam Hodges report.
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Read Council of Bishops press release


Dallas police detective also is a pastor

TERRELL, Texas (UMNS) — The Rev. Doris Smith works full time as a Dallas police detective but also serves as a part-time licensed local pastor, leading Warren Chapel United Methodist Church in Terrell, Texas. Smith felt the support of the North Texas Conference after a July 7 ambush claimed the lives of four Dallas police officers and a transit officer, including one of her former patrol partners. Sam Hodges reports.
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Deacons: Bridging the church and the world

CHICAGO (UMNS) — Today, 44 percent of United Methodist deacons report that their primary appointment is beyond the local church. They serve as teachers, lawyers and in many other professions. Susan Keaton reports on how 20 years after their order was established, deacons are serving their distinctive call.
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Religion and Race top executive to stay on

WASHINGTON (UMNS) — Erin Hawkins will remain top executive of the United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race, reversing her earlier plans to take on a new role in the California-Pacific Conference. Heather Hahn reports on the change.

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Shadow of Ebola lingers for Sierra Leone hospitals

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (UMNS) — The shadow of the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history lingers over United Methodist and government hospitals, where staff even now prepare for the possibility of another outbreak. Phileas Jusu reports on the aftermath of the epidemic.
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Texas church opens doors to refugees

SAN ANTONIO (UMNS) — The Rev. John Feagins and his parishioners at La Trinidad United Methodist Church have, with help from the United Methodist Committee on Relief, become deeply engaged with refugees and other immigrants coming across the Texas-Mexico border. Feagins writes about the experience for the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.  

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Pew: U.S. views on liberty and nondiscrimination

WASHINGTON (UMNS) — Two-thirds of U.S. adults say employers should provide birth control in insurance plans, but the public splits over same-sex wedding services and use of public bathrooms by transgender people. The Pew Research Center reported these results of a survey, which explores controversies that pit claims of religious liberty against policies aimed at nondiscrimination.
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Movie portrays professor’s fight with Holocaust denier

ATLANTA — The movie “Denial” is based on Deborah Lipstadt’s experiences during a libel lawsuit brought by David Irving, whom she identified as a Holocaust denier in a 1993 book. The professor at Emory, a United Methodist-related university, chronicled the legal battle in her 2005 book, “History on Trial: My Day in Court With a Holocaust Denier.” A website founded by Lipstadt has been redesigned and relaunched.

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Listen to NPR coverage

Visit website


Summit addresses technology barriers for African women

ACCRA, Ghana (UMNS) — The United Methodist Church participated in the inaugural African Summit on Women and Girls in Technology, held Sept. 13-14. Nearly 150 digital equality advocates from across Africa and the world discussed solutions that will enable millions of African women and girls to access technology and use those skills to build a better Africa for all. Priscilla Muzerengwa reports.
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Pastoral training now offered in Portuguese

BOSTON (UMNS) — Two United Methodist seminaries are collaborating to offer a new program for pastoral training in Portuguese. The initiative, promoted by the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry and the National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry, enhances the church’s Brazilian outreach. Communicator Bruna Moraes reports.
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Taylor Swift donates to conference flood relief

BATON ROUGE, La. (UMNS) — Part of Taylor Swift’s $1 million pledge to help flood relief victims will go to the Louisiana Conference. The singer-songwriter’s gift will be used for recovery and rebuilding after last month’s historic flood. “Taylor is a wonderful model for humanitarian aid as she reaches out to communities across the country and the world,” said Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey.
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United Methodist teen on ‘Survivor’

HACKETTSTOWN, N.J. (UMNS) — A teenager from Trinity United Methodist who hopes to be a pastor is the youngest contestant ever on the CBS reality TV show ‘Survivor.’ Will Wahl, 18, debuted in the show’s season premiere on Sept. 21. Josh Kinney has the story for the Greater New Jersey Conference.
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Church pizza oven feeds community

ST. PAUL, Minn. ( — Hamline Church United Methodist’s outdoor pizza oven has resulted in days of fellowship that culminate in a community pizza and movie night several times a year. “The bread oven has enabled us to take our altar from inside the church to our front lawn,” said the Rev. Mariah Furness Tollgaard, pastor.
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How to fix 3 common communication mistakes

WASHINGTON (UMNS) — Ryan Holck, an expert on church communication, says that leaders tend to throw so much information at their congregants that nothing sticks. Writing for the Lewis Center for Church Leadership, he shares some simple fixes for these common communication challenges.
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On holiday in Wesleyan archives

DALLAS (UMNS) — Priscilla Pope-Levison traveled to Manchester, England, to spend her summer vacation immersing herself in Methodist archives. She learned a lot, especially about the role of women in Britain’s Wesleyan/Holiness movement. Pope-Levison, associate dean for external programs at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology, reflects on her unusual vacation.

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Pearl River church celebrates landmark status

MADISON COUNTY, Miss. (UMNS) — General Conference, the denomination’s top legislative assembly, in May designated the historic Pearl River Methodist Church as a Heritage Landmark. The church and school, founded in 1833, served as a launching point for missionaries and ministers. United Methodists will celebrate Pearl River’s landmark status on Oct. 6, the Mississippi Conference reports.

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Read about other Heritage Landmarks



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.


Tuesday, Oct. 11

Webinar “Seeking God via Google” — 7 to 8 p.m. EDT. “Let me Google that” is today’s common response to most questions, from recipes to fact-checking politicians’ claims. It’s also where individuals ask spiritual questions such as “Does God love me?” This webinar will show you how your church or ministry can connect with people through Google. Details


Sunday, Oct. 16

Laity Sunday — This year’s theme for Laity Sunday, “Disciples Called to Action: Living Vital Worship,” calls United Methodists to see worship not as passive spectators, but as active participants. Discipleship Ministries offers resources to celebrate the day. See resources


More upcoming United Methodist events