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UMNS Weekly Digest - September 16, 2016


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Ministry latecomer finds himself a bishop

ARLINGTON, Texas (UMNS) — Ruben Saenz Jr. was a successful jewelry store owner when he answered the call to ministry. Two decades later, the bilingual native of Texas’ Rio Grande Valley is a new United Methodist bishop, assigned to the Great Plains Conference. Sam Hodges offers the fourth in a series of profiles on the first-elected bishops in each U.S. jurisdiction.

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To read rest of the series


New bishop heard call to ministry at 13

CHICAGO (UMNS) — Raised and molded in the United Methodist faith, Bishop Tracy S. Malone was destined to lead in critical times, according to those who know her well. Her journey began when she heard the call to ministry at age 13. She now leads the East Ohio Conference. Anne Marie Gerhardt of the Northern Illinois Conference offers the final piece in a series of profiles on the first-elected bishops in each U.S. jurisdiction.

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Bishops overrule nonconformity resolutions

BOSTON (UMNS) —​ Two bishops, in separate rulings, have voided two resolutions in the Northeastern U.S. that called for defying church restrictions on gay and lesbian individuals. The rulings come after a summer that saw multiple conferences say they would defy the denomination prohibitions related to homosexuality. Heather Hahn reports.

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No church trial for pastor who sought one

LANSING, Mich. (UMNS) — A Michigan pastor who pushed for a church trial for his role in performing a same-sex wedding will not be getting a day in court. The complaint against the Rev. Mike Tupper, a now-retired elder in the West Michigan Conference, has reached a resolution that will avoid a trial, Michigan Area Bishop David Bard announced. Heather Hahn reports.

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Complaint dropped against Iowa clergywoman

DES MOINES, Iowa (UMNS) — A complaint filed against the Rev. Anna Blaedel by three fellow clergy members of the Iowa Conference has been dismissed. Blaedel said publicly in June that she was a “self-avowed practicing homosexual.” The Rev. Art McClanahan reports.
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Unrest, economic problems take toll on Africa University

CLEVELAND (UMNS) — Africa University is open and operating smoothly despite political unrest in Zimbabwe, but about 170 students have been unable to register for financial reasons resulting from widespread economic difficulties in southern Africa, the vice chancellor reported. Vicki Brown has the story.
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Pastor chastises Trump, also his hecklers

FLINT, Mich. — A United Methodist pastor cut off Donald Trump when he attacked Hillary Clinton during what was supposed to be a speech on helping where the government had failed Flint, Michigan. Later, the Rev. Faith Green Timmons of Bethel United Methodist Church admonished hecklers, saying Trump was “our guest.” A spokesperson for The United Methodist Church’s Michigan Area told UMNS that the Trump campaign contacted Bethel on Sept. 13 asking that Trump be allowed to visit and thank volunteers for providing safe drinking water and filters during Flint's water crisis.
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Campaign for Africa University launched

CLEVELAND (UMNS) — A campaign to increase Africa University’s endowment fund to $100 million, as well as raise additional funds for capital development, entered its public phase Sept. 12. The Campaign for Africa University, a four-year effort to raise $50 million, was unveiled at a banquet celebrating the work of longtime supporter and board member Maggie Jackson, who is retiring from the board. Vicki Brown and Rick Wolcott have the story.
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Support for Africa University equals hope

CLEVELAND (UMNS) — “The work that your church and your conference is doing at Africa University gives hope and is helping to break the cycle of poverty,” Vice Chancellor Munashe Furusa told the congregation at Westlake United Methodist Church. He was one of 20 speakers at East Ohio Conference churches and district rallies raising awareness of the impact The United Methodist Church makes by supporting Africa University. Rick Wolcott, director of communications for the East Ohio Conference, reports.
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Hickman led the way in worship

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The revision of The United Methodist Hymnal into a more richly liturgical book was, in no small measure, the work of the Rev. Hoyt Hickman. Colleagues say Hickman helped shape the entire direction of United Methodist worship and served as mentor to other worship specialists. He died Sept. 5 at age 89. Sam Hodges has an obituary.

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Louisiana churches join hands, look for blessings

LAFAYETTE, La. (UMNS) — After the deluge come the blessings. And four United Methodist pastors in Lafayette are standing ready to pour those blessings back into communities recovering from August flooding. Kathy L. Gilbert has the story, with photos by Mike DuBose.

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Prayer room spot reveals God’s presence

BATON ROUGE, La. (UMNS) — When the Rev. Clifton Conrad and his wife, Kathleen, returned to their home after days of flooding in Baton Rouge, they found an assurance of God’s grace in the spot where Kathleen kneeled every day to pray. “Sacred space” is how she described it. Kathy L. Gilbert has the story.
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View the Louisiana Conference video


United Methodists stand with Standing Rock

STANDING ROCK, N.D. (UMNS) — United Methodists from North and South Dakota and beyond have visited the camps near the Missouri River as the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe tries to stop construction of a crude oil pipeline that would run from North Dakota to Illinois. Doreen Gosmire reports for the Dakotas Conference.
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Wilke leaves Discipleship Ministries

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Sarah Wilke is no longer employed as an executive of United Methodist Discipleship Ministries and publisher/world editor of The Upper Room, effective immediately. The Rev. Junius Dotson, Discipleship Ministries’ top executive, announced Wilke’s departure following a human resources review of a complaint against her. Wilke, a laywoman, does not face accusations of criminal misconduct or complaints under church law.

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Nyadire Connection project empowers girls

MUTOKO, Zimbabwe (UMNS) — At The United Methodist Church’s Nyadire Primary School, some female students miss classes each month when they have their periods because they can’t afford sanitary protection. But this pattern of absences may soon become history thanks to reusable sanitary napkins provided by The Nyadire Connection, a nonprofit organization founded by a group of United Methodists in Pittsburgh. Eveline Chikwanah of Zimbabwe East Conference reports.

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Wesleyan small groups offer connections

NASHVILLE, Tenn. ( — Wesleyan small groups can be used to bring people together across different cultures, languages and countries. Joe Iovino writes about the small groups in the final story of a four-part series.
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Read full series


Wespath board organizes for four years

GLENVIEW, Ill. (UMNS) — Wespath Benefits and Investments, the denomination’s pension board, elected its board officers at its organizing meeting Sept. 7-9. The newly organized board elected Bishop Robert Schnase of the Rio Texas Conference as chairperson. Barbara A. Boigegrain, who has served as top executive since 1994, was re-elected.
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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.


Monday, Sept. 19 to Saturday, Oct. 1

Online course “Come to the Table” for lay servants from — Deepen your congregation’s understanding and practice of Holy Communion, or begin a Eucharistic ministry, through this wide-ranging study of “This Holy Mystery,” a class on Scripture, church history and United Methodist theology and practice of the sacrament. 1 CEU will be awarded. $65. Details


Monday, Sept. 19 to Saturday, Nov. 12

Online course “Creation Care: Biblical Basics” from — This course is designed to help both those new to creation care and longtime practitioners. The course will use two books: Introducing Evangelical Ecotheology and Serving God, Saving the Planet. $65. Details


Tuesday, Sept. 20

Webinar “The Necessary Nine” — 7 to 8 p.m. EDT. This course deals with nine things effective pastors do differently and the two traits effective congregations do differently to bear kingdom fruit. Kay Kotan, a United Methodist church coach with the Healthy Church Initiative, leads this webinar. Details


More upcoming United Methodist events