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UMNS Weekly Digest - September 23, 2016


Top viewed stories from Sept. 16 - Sept. 23. See all United Methodist News Service stories at


United Methodist clergy retiring later

DALLAS (UMNS) — The average retirement age for United Methodist elders has gone from 64 to 66 in recent years, according to a new Clergy Age Trends Report by the Lewis Center for Church Leadership. Deacons and full-time licensed local pastors are retiring even later. Sam Hodges has the story.

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A bus ride out of segregation

WASHINGTON (UMNS) — When the new National Museum of African American History and Culture opens Sept. 24 on the National Mall in Washington, one of the permanent exhibits will include part of a 1968 Volkswagen bus owned by Esau Jenkins, a devout United Methodist and civil rights activist from Charleston. His children and other family members will take part in the opening festivities. Linda Bloom has the story.
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How a church fire sparked congregational growth

ATHENS, Ga. (UMNS) — After a fire gutted its building, small Oconee Street United Methodist Church resisted calls to merge with a larger neighbor. Instead, the congregation rebuilt and has seen its worship attendance grow. Heather Hahn reports on how the church’s experience might help other congregations dealing with disaster.
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Church becomes safe place from floodwaters

WATSON, La. (UMNS) — Live Oak United Methodist Church became a refuge for more than 400 people fleeing for their lives after historic flooding. Kathy L. Gilbert reports.
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Church families rescuing, rebuilding after floods

BATON ROUGE, La. (UMNS) — Six trillion gallons of rainwater fell in just three days in southern Louisiana. The recovery, though, will take years. United Methodists from around the globe who see themselves as “family” will be there to help. Kathy L. Gilbert has the story. Joey Butler and Mike DuBose have the video and photos.
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Bishop: Churches should consider acts of mercy

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (UMNS) — Western North Carolina Bishop Paul Leeland called on churches to consider “acts of mercy within our own communities right now.” Leeland issued a statement in the wake of protests over the police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, an African-American. The North Carolina governor declared a state of emergency after protests turned violent for two nights.
Read Bishop Leeland’s statement


Raining blessings on drought-ravaged community

GOKWE, Zimbabwe (UMNS) — The United Methodist Church has created an oasis in this small community vulnerable to perennial drought, quenching the Gokwe people’s thirst for water and education. The church continues to help expand a secondary school it established more than two decades ago. Last year, the focus turned to providing clean water for the mission school. Eveline Chikwanah with the Zimbabwe East Annual Conference reports.
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Farmers who sowed Methodism in America

NEW WINDSOR, Md. ( — What looks like a modest collection of old farm buildings in New Windsor is actually an important landmark for United Methodists. Curious visitors can see the home of Elizabeth and Robert Strawbridge, who was the first Methodist lay preacher in America. A video celebrates this part of church history.

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Church history wall unites generations

TOPEKA, Kan. ( — First United Methodist Church of Topeka was established before Kansas was a state. The church has installed a permanent history wall to help share its story with newcomers and experienced members alike. “We hope the history wall not just reminds us of who we were, but paints that picture for who we might be,” the lead pastor says.
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Commentary: Global migration demands action

NEW YORK (UMNS) — On the eve of a high-level Summit for Refugees and Migrants, which was held Sept. 19 at the U.N. Headquarters in New York, the Rev. Levi Bautista wrote that the “enormity” of the current global movement of peoples, “especially the involuntary and forced movement of peoples,” calls for action. Bautista, a staff executive with the Board of Church and Society, was among the United Methodists who attended the summit.

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Church and Society statement


Bishop recalls Texas farm workers march

SAN ANTONIO (UMNS) — Retired United Methodist Bishop Joel N. Martínez reflects in a Rio Texas Conference video on the 50th anniversary of a strike by farm workers along the Texas-Mexico border. Martínez marched with the protesters then and spoke at a recent remembrance event.

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Read essay by Martínez​


UMW mourns deaconess coordinator

NEW YORK (UMNS) — United Methodist Women mourns the passing of Becky Dodson Louter, 46, executive secretary for the Deaconess and Home Missioner Office, which oversees the lay order of the church dedicated to workers in vocations that alleviate suffering. She was a member of Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church in Johnson City, Tennessee.
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Bishops, cabinets focus on vital congregations

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (UMNS) — U.S. bishops and their extended cabinets will gather Nov. 2-4 to focus on building strong and vital congregations. Similar gatherings will be held in Europe, the Philippines and Africa.
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Congregation aids in resettling Syrian refugees

BIRMINGHAM, Mich. (UMNS) — During Advent 2015, former Michigan Area Bishop Deborah Kiesey urged churches to “welcome the stranger” by helping to resettle Syrian refugees. One of the first to accept the challenge was First United Methodist Church of Birmingham. John E. Harnish of the West Michigan Conference reports.

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Oil rush ministry still meeting needs

WATFORD CITY, S.D. (UMNS) — The Bakken Oil Rush Ministry, started in 2013 through offerings by the Dakotas Conference, continues to serve workers and the community. The oil boom has subsided, but the Bakken region still produces more than 1 million barrels a day. Doreen Gosmire, communications director for the Dakotas Conference, reports.    

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Agency: Zika virus is a social justice issue

WASHINGTON (UMNS) — The United Methodist Board of Church and Society, the agency charged with advocating the denomination’s social teachings, offers a list of steps governments and individuals can take to respond to the Zika virus. The agency notes that many people do not have the financial means to deal with the virus’ spread.

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Clergywoman supports police and Black Lives Matter

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (UMNS) — The Rev. Sheron Patterson is a United Methodist elder and the proud daughter of one of Charlotte’s first black police officers. She writes about supporting both the police and Black Lives Matter in a column for The Charlotte Observer.

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Reflections on the separation of church and state

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (UMNS) — In this U.S. election season, the Rev. James Howell of Myers Park United Methodist Church has advice for Christians seeking to respect the traditional separation of church and state while also having a voice on the day’s political issues.

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UMCOR executive to head national disaster organization

NEW YORK (UMNS) — Gregory A. Forrester, director of U.S. disaster relief for the United Methodist Committee on Relief, is leaving that agency, effective Nov. 11, to become chief executive of an association of relief organizations, National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster.
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United Methodist youth wins national contest

ALLENDALE, N.J. (UMNS) — Grace VanderWaal, 12-year-old member of Archer United Methodist Church, won NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” on Sept. 14. VanderWaal, who sings solos at her church during the summer, has been supported by her congregation. Josh Kinney, editorial manager for the Greater New Jersey Conference, has the story.
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Epworth: A different housing project

DALLAS (UMNS) — The Epworth Project, named for John Wesley’s birthplace, creates living spaces where residents commit to prayer, community and hospitality. Founded by the Rev. Elaine Heath, formerly of Perkins School of Theology and now dean of Duke Divinity School, the project has eight houses across Texas. The Dallas Morning News has a report.

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Paine College accreditation restored

AUGUSTA, Ga. (UMNS) — A federal judge issued a preliminary injunction restoring Paine College’s accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Paine, one of 11 historically black colleges supported by The United Methodist Church through its Black College Fund, filed a lawsuit after the association denied its appeal of the accreditation loss. Last summer, SACSCOC removed Paine for failing to meet standards for financial resources and stability and control of sponsored research and external funds.
Read press release
Read Atlanta-Journal Constitution story


Growing Hispanic congregation celebrates new home

SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The congregation of Ministerio del Espiritu Santo, which began with 18 people in 2010, held a celebratory worship service with 269 people and Holston Conference Bishop Dindy Taylor in a new, larger home near the Dollywood theme park. Annette Spence reports for the conference.

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6 Methodist historical figures to help with lessons

MOBILE, Ala. (UMCom) — The United Methodist Church is filled with deeply spiritual people like John Wesley. The Rev. Jeremy Steele, writing for United Methodist Communications, offers stories of six other Methodists to use as examples in lessons.
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United Methodist seminaries honored

CHICAGO (UMNS) — Seven United Methodist seminaries were named by the Center for Faith and Service to the fourth-annual Seminaries that Change the World list.
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Higher Education and Ministry board organizes

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The directors of the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry organized its work for the next four years. The board elected Nashville (Tennessee) Area Bishop William T. McAlilly as president. The board also approved a $48.8 million budget for the agency’s work in 2017.
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Church packs Disciple Fast Track group

AUGUSTA, Ga. (UMNS) — Quest United Methodist Church has more than 90 members currently participating in Disciple Fast Track. Fast Track is an adaptation of the original Disciple Bible Study that takes 24 weeks rather than 9 or 10 months. The North Georgia Conference published an interview with Shauna Kenney, wife of church pastor the Rev. John Kenney, to find out why the study program has been so popular.
Read interview


Ministry idea: Teaching dolls for young patients

WICKES, Ark. (UMNS) — During the past year, the people of Wickes United Methodist Church worked to make 88 teaching dolls to be used by patients at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. The Arkansas Conference has the story on how this small, rural church is giving a boost to children’s health.
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