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Weekly Digest - April 11, 2014


NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for April 7 - April 11. 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

Lent, Holy Week and Easter

Will a Wesley win Lent Madness?
BOSTON (UMNS)   In 2010, the Rev. Tim Schenck, an Episcopal priest, decided to play off of the popular practice of creating brackets to predict the winner of the NCAA college basketball championship, a tradition called March Madness. In Lent Madness, saints, both ancient and modern, compete against each other for the coveted Golden Halo.  People can read the Lent Madness blog and vote for their favorites. 

Listen to NPR report and post comment

A short film about death and resurrection
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — What does it mean, in a world full of death and cynicism, to live as Easter people? The United Methodist Board of Discipleship series “Chuck Knows Church” offers a special for Holy Week meditation on that question.

Watch film
See more Holy Week resources

WCC: Respond to climate change during Lent
GENEVA (UMNS)  The World Council of Churches is encouraging member churches to use Lent as an opportunity to respond to climate change, an issue which deeply affects the communities they serve.

Read story

Desktop Meditation: Easter Joy
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) -- “He is risen!”  As part of the Easter season, watch a reflection that includes joyful photos of United Methodists around the world, set to an upbeat rendition of the song “Marching in the Light of God” performed by the Africa University Choir.


News around the connection

United Methodists join weekend action to stop deportations
WASHINGTON (UMNS) — During the weekend of April 5-6, many prayers were said for immigrant families torn apart by deportations. United Methodists joined with other faith groups and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network in a weekend of action to ask President Obama for temporary suspension of deportations, which will soon reach 2 million.

Read story and post comment

Black caucus commits to increase advocacy
ST. LOUIS (UMNS) — Expect to hear more in the next three years from The United Methodist Church’s black caucus on issues that affect the denomination and the U.S. society. Black Methodists for Church Renewal adopted a plan to increase the group’s advocacy on issues such as criminal justice and voting.

Read story and post a comment

United Methodists raise 80 percent of malaria goal
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Imagine No Malaria announced today that United Methodists are 80 percent of the way toward reaching their goal of raising $75 million for the campaign by 2015.

Read story

United Methodist missionary dies from injuries
NEW YORK (UMNS) — The United Methodist Board of Global Ministries is mourning the loss of Tshala Mwengo, a United Methodist missionary, who died April 9 from injuries sustained in a bus accident.

Read story

‘Seven Levers’ guides conference lay leaders
KANSAS CITY (UMNS) — When the United Methodist Association of Annual Conference Lay Leaders gathered March 20-23, participants weren’t there to reminisce or celebrate but to seek ways to help heir conferences change for the better. Missouri Bishop Robert Schnase provided some direction through his new book, “Seven Levers.” Fred Koenig of the Missouri Annual (regional) Conference reports.

Read story

Q&A with Bishop Robert Schnase

Scouting group loses United Methodist affiliation
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — After years of disagreements, a scouting organization, the National Association of United Methodist Scouters, has lost its affiliation with the Commission on United Methodist Men and other United Methodist organizations.

Read story and post a comment

Church stands with gay scout leader
SEATTLE (UMNS) - Rainier Beach United Methodist Church celebrated Scout Sunday April 6, days after news broke that the Boy Scouts of America said it was banning a volunteer Scout leader and church member because he is gay. The Rev. Monica Corsaro, pastor of Rainier Beach, said the church will continue to have Geoffrey McGrath as leader of the scouting program.

Read story and post a comment

Updated April 7: Church agency sues over UMCmarket
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Geir Thomas Kristiansen, the executive director of Foundation Automation, disagrees with many of the allegations leveled at his company in a lawsuit filed by the General Council on Finance and Administration in federal court. He contacted UMNS after the story initially ran last week.

Read story and post a comment

United Methodists doing amazing work in Zimbabwe
MUTARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS)  Schools, pastoral counseling, hospitals and children’s homes are all part of the outreach United Methodists are doing in Zimbabwe, as staff and directors of the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry learned during a recent visit to Africa University.

Read story

View slideshow

Senators consider crime penalties
WASHINGTON (UMNS) — The Rev. Susan-Henry Crowe, top executive, United Methodist Board of Church and Society, participated in a recent discussion convened by U.S. Senate Democrats on the need for drug-sentencing reform.

Read story

Social justice agency sets legislative priorities
WASHINGTON (UMNS) — Immigration reform, health security, combating human trafficking and fully funded international family planning are some of the 2014 legislative priorities set by the United Methodist Board of Church and Society for the U.S. Congress. The priorities support social justice positions approved by The United Methodist Church’s top policy-making body, General Conference.

Read more

Church administrative assistants discuss ministry challenges
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (UMNS) — Administrative assistants often play an essential role in keeping United Methodist ministries on track. They shared ideas and learned from various ministry leaders when they gathered for the annual meeting of the Professional Association of United Methodist Church Secretaries. The Rev. Michael Rich of the Western North Carolina Annual (regional) Conference covered the gathering.

Read story

Religion Communicators Council honors United Methodists
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — United Methodists were among the members of the Religion Communicators Council recognized for their achievements April 3 at the annual DeRose-HinkHouse Awards.

Read story

See full list of winners

News around conferences

Bishop asks prayers for stabbing survivors
PITTSBURGH (UMNS) — Bishop Thomas Bickerton of the Western Pennsylvania Annual (regional) Conference has asked for prayers for survivors of a mass stabbing at a Murrysville, Pa., high school. One of the wounded students is a member of Murrysville United Methodist Church.

Read Statement

Navy chaplain serves in mudslide disaster
OSLO, Wash. (UMNS) — United Methodist Navy Chaplain Jennifer Bowden has worked non-stop helping two Navy families cope with terrible loss from the tragic mudslide. The North Georgia Annual (regional) Conference has the story.

Read more

Resources and educational opportunities

Heifer International redesigns ‘Animal Crackers’ resource
LITTLE ROCK, Ark­. (UMNS) – Animal Crackers, a popular Heifer International congregational resource for more than 20 years, has been released in a new and improved edition. The resource offers a new section for youth and young adults. Local churches use Animal Crackers to engage children, youth and adults in an effort to end hunger and poverty.

To order resource and for more information

History of Hymns: ‘Jesus, Tempted in the Desert’
DALLAS (UMNS) — This hymn, linking the temptations Jesus endured in the wilderness to the temptations humans now confront, is the work of the late Herman G. Stuempfle, who was a seminary dean in what today is the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. C. Michael Hawn of Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology shares the story of the Lenten hymn found in the United Methodist songbook, “The Faith We Sing.”

Read story

United Methodists in the news

United Methodist church comforts Fort Hood families
KILLEEN, Texas (UMNS) — After more fatal shootings on the U.S. Army base, First United Methodist Church in Killeen is helping the community cope. KXAN has the story.

Read and watch story

CBS-TV examines ‘Spiritual Second Careers’
WASHINGTON (UMNS) — Two United Methodists, the Rev. Cathy Abbott, a former Enron executive, and Mike McCurry, who served as press secretary for President Bill Clinton, are among those featured in “A New Calling: Spiritual Second Careers,” a CBS Interfaith Special that explores the phenomenon of mature adults moving from successful secular careers into the world of religion. The program will be broadcast Sunday, April 13, on the CBS Television Network.

Read more

Check local listings

University and seminary news

Mission is in Pfeiffer’s DNA
NEW YORK (UMNS) - Encouraged by the school's emphasis on mission, seven graduates of Pfeiffer University in Misenheimer, N.C., are serving with young adult mission programs of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.

Read story and post a comment

Letters from U.S. Presidents
DALLAS (UMNS) - An exhibit featuring letters and White House invitations sent to Methodists from men who were or once would be president of the United States continues through May 9 at Bridwell Library, part of Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. The dates of the documents range from 1854 to 1957.

To see images from the exhibit

IAMSCU scholarships available
NASHVILLE (UMNS) - With the International Association of Methodist Schools, Colleges and Universities meeting in Hiroshima, Japan, next month, the Conference Planning Task Force is offering limited travel scholarships. The partial assistance is available to participants from IAMSCU institutions who otherwise could not afford to attend the May 24-28 event.

For details

News of interest

Two women take positions with World Methodist Council
LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. (UMNS) - Two women have recently stepped into new roles with the World Methodist Council. Gillian Kingston, Methodist Church in Ireland, is interim vice president, and Sara Beth Lee is the new director of the World Methodist Museum.

Read more

Councils congratulate new Syrian patriarch
WASHINGTON (UMNS) - Both the U.S. National and World council of churches have offered congratulations to the U.S. archbishop who has become the new patriarch of the Syrian Orthodox Church, Mor Ignatius Aphrem II. "Aphrem II has been a committed member of the (national) council's governing board and a clear voice of concern on important matters such as our Muslim-Christian dialogue," said Jim Winkler, a United Methodist serving as the NCC's top staff executive. "He has shown a wisdom and compassion that serves as a model for all church leaders."

Read NCC news release

Read WCC news release

Blogs and commentaries

USAID and ZunZuneo
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - The news that the United States Agency for International Development surreptitiously sponsored a text-messaging service in Cuba created a storm of criticism. The fallout has implications for other humanitarian organizations as well. The Rev. Larry Hollon, top staff executive of United Methodist Communications, explains.

Read the blog and post comment

Leading as Moses led
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (UMNS) - The Rev. Emanuel Cleaver III, senior pastor of St. James United Methodist Church in Kansas City, shares lessons Moses offers for pastors today including the difference between a boss and a leader. The Lewis Center for Church Leadership shares an excerpt of Cleaver's new book 

"Pastor on Track: Reclaiming Our New Role."

Read Commentary

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.
Holy Week, Monday-Saturday, April 14-19. - The United Methodist Board of Discipleship offers worship resources.

Deadline to register for "Church Communication: 10 Things," Tuesday, April 15. - A clinic sponsored by the Memphis Conference Communications Action Team from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. CT, Thursday, April 24. First United Methodist Church, Jackson, Tenn. $25 per person, $20 each for groups of three or more. Details.

Free webinar “Media: What’s Trending in Elementary School,” Tuesday, April 15 — Noon CT. A discussion of how to extend community to children through the use of healthy media. To register.

Free webinar “Safe Sanctuaries for Camps and Retreats, Part 1,” Wednesday, April 16 — 11 a.m. CT. This is the first of a two- part series on implementing Safe Sanctuaries abuse prevention policies and procedures within camp and retreat experiences and settings. To register.

Deadline to register for "Wesley presents: A Faithful Action in Partnership: A Training to Respond to Human Trafficking," Friday, April 18. - This free workshop from 9:30 a.m. to  4 p.m. ET May 1 is designed to foster collaboration among local churches, social-service organizations and law enforcement agencies to respond to trafficking in the Washington-Baltimore metropolitan area. The event will be held at Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church, 900 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington. Details.

Easter Sunday, April 20. - The United Methodist Board of Discipleship offers worship resources

Free "Lunch and Learn" about Southern Methodist University's Perkins School of Theology, Monday, April 21 - 11: 45 a.m. to 1 p.m. CT. Thomas Spann, professor of supervised ministry at Perkins, will speak on "Internship: Doing Ministry and Theology in the Traffic at the Intersection" at Perkins' Houston-Galveston Extension Program, 3501 W. Alabama, Suite 107, Houston. Details.

Free webinar "Pastors: Making a Good Move," Tuesday, April 22 - 6:30 p.m. CT. Designed for pastors who are moving to a new appointment, this event will include ways to say good-bye to the current congregation and say hello to a new place and new people. To register.

Free webinar "SPRC: Your Role When the Pastor Changes," Thursday, April 24 - 6:30 p.m. CT. Training for staff-parish relations committees and other laity on handling a transition in pastors. To register.

"Turn Your Radio On" singles ministry weekend, Friday-Sunday, April 25-27. - A study of four of Jesus' parables through "old-time" radio episodes at Lakeshore Camp and Retreat Center, Eva, Tenn. Sponsored by the Memphis Conference's Single Adult Ministry. Details.

"How to Reach New People" workshop, Friday-Saturday, April 25-26. - Jim Griffith, a church planter and coach, will lead the workshop at First United Methodist Church in Independence, Mo. $25 per person or $75 for a team of up to five people. Details.

"Jazzin for Christ" luncheon, Saturday, April 26 - Noon to 3:30 p.m. CT. Masque performance, sponsored by Wesley United Methodist Church in Chicago at Georgios of Orland Park, 8800 W. 159th St., Orland Park, Ill. $60. Details.

Jubilation 2014, Sunday-Tuesday, April 27-29. — Worship and workshops at MeadowView Resort and Conference Center,1901 Meadowview Pkwy., Kingsport, Tenn., sponsored by the Holston Annual (regional) Conference Older Adult Ministries. Missy Buchanan, an expert on older adult ministries, will be the keynote speaker. Details.

Free webinar “Children’s Ministry: Choosing Curriculum,” Tuesday, April 29 — 10 a.m. CT. This interactive webinar will focus on some of the aspects to consider when selecting curriculum, including the theological perspective, the teaching perspective and the needs of the students. To register.

Free webinar “Claiming a Missionary Mindset!” Tuesday, April 29 — 6:30 p.m. CT. A look at what it takes to be a missionary to your community. To register.

2014 Large Church Initiative, Monday-Wednesday, April 28-30. - At Mount Pisgah United Methodist Church in Johns Creek, Ga., for United Methodist churches with 1,000 or more members and/or with an average attendance of 350 or more in worship. Details.

Early-bird registration deadline for Game Changers Summit, Wednesday, April 30. - United Methodist Communications invites local churches to attend a conference Wednesday-Friday, Sept. 3-5 at Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tenn. The event will focus on how congregations can use technology to strengthen international development. $215. Details.

Free webinar "Ordinary Time Doesn't Have to Be Ordinary," Thursday, May 1 - 7-8 p.m. ET. With no holiday on which to focus, here are ways to do something different in Sunday school. Details.

Beyond These Walls Mission Conference, Thursday-Saturday, May 1-3. - The event at McEachern Memorial United Methodist Church in Powder Springs, Ga., focuses on churches interested in or doing mission work. The Rev. Jorge Acevedo, pastor of Grace United Methodist Church in Fort Myers, Fla., and Brian Fikkert of the Chalmers Center will be keynote speakers. Details.

“Where Grace Meets Power — Standing for Each Others’ Greatness,” Monday through Wednesday, May 5-7. — A United Methodist clergywomen’s seminar, sponsored by the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Details.

“Elevation” continuing education and spiritual renewal retreat for worship leaders, Monday-Friday, May 5-9. — Lake Tahoe, with Marcia McFee, director of worship at two General Conferences. Details.

United Theological Seminary’s “Light the Fire!” Church Renewal Conference, Thursday-Friday, May 8-9. — Ginghamsburg Church, 6759 S. County Road 25A, Tipp City, Ohio. $149, Details.