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Weekly Digest - April 2, 2015

NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for March 30-April 2. 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 umc.org/news.

Top Stories

Reaction continues on Indiana religious freedom law

INDIANAPOLIS (UMNS) — As Indiana Gov. Mike Pence held a press conference to announce plans for new legislation clarifying the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, some United Methodists reflected on the law and intense national reaction it has generated. Many claim the law allows businesses to deny services to gays and lesbians. Linda Bloom has the story.
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What can Christians learn from Judas?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Christians still struggle today with how to view Jesus’ most notorious disciple. But Judas, even in his sinfulness, has something to teach Christians, say New Testament scholars. Heather Hahn shares what is known about Judas.
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United Methodist Women helping women in Cote d’Ivoire

ABIDJAN, Côte d’Ivoire (UMNS) — Eugenie Sowan Erse N’Ghessan is one of 48 women who received a micro-loan from United Methodist Women in the Côte d’Ivoire Conference. That loan started her business. N’Ghessan’s success is exactly what Dorcas Adou was praying for when she approached the international UMW office in New York three years ago and asked for $20,000 U.S. to start a program to help women become independent business owners. Kathy L. Gilbert has the story.
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United Methodists train teachers for reopening of schools

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (UMNS) — Primary and secondary school teachers at United Methodist schools in Sierra Leone were in a classroom learning how to keep students safe amid the continuing threat of Ebola. The country is preparing for an April reopening of schools closed since June 2014 because of the deadly virus. Phileas Jusu has the story.
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Sharing Passover seders, like a good neighbor

NEW YORK (UMNS) — Passover is one of the places where Judaism and Christianity intersect. According to three Gospels, Jesus and his disciples were celebrating the Exodus from Egypt when Jesus instituted Holy Communion. This year, Jews begin the eight-day commemoration on the evening of April 3. If Christians participate in a Passover seder, how can they do so in a way that honors their Jewish neighbors? Barbara Dunlap-Berg in Interpreter magazine offers ideas.
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Clark Atlanta University names new president

ATLANTA (UMNS) — Ronald A. Johnson has been named the fourth president of Clark Atlanta University, one of The United Methodist Church’s historically black colleges. Johnson, currently dean of Texas Southern University’s Jesse H. Jones School of Business, will assume his new role July 1. He succeeds Carlton E. Brown, who will retire June 30.
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#BringChange this World Malaria Day

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Be part of a world-changing moment in history by participating in World Malaria Day on April 25. Help The United Methodist Church reach its goal of $75 million to help end needless death and suffering from malaria.
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Volunteers needed for General Conference 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Volunteers are needed for a variety of roles during the 2016 General Conference, The United Methodist Church’s top legislative assembly, which will meet in Portland, Oregon, from May 10 to 20, 2016. All volunteers are responsible for their own travel and expenses. Those interested can apply now through July 1, 2015.
Read press release
Apply now

Newscope to cease publication

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The United Methodist Publishing House announced that its “Newscope” publication will cease distribution as of the April 1 issue, after 43 years of serving the denomination’s leaders with weekly news and information.
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History of Hymns: ‘Beneath the Cross of Jesus’

DALLAS (UMNS) — “Beneath the cross of Jesus, I fain would take my stand” is how this hymn so frequently sung during Holy Week begins. C. Michael Hawn in his column for United Methodist Discipleship Ministries discusses the hymn’s Scottish author, Elizabeth C. Clephane, and compares her creation to that other famous Holy Week hymn, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.”
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Brock and Kim honored as retiring Women of Color mentors

EVANSTON, Ill. (UMNS) — Rita Nakashima Brock and Jung Ha Kim were honored as retiring mentors of the Women of Color scholarship program at the Pacific, Asian and North American Asian Women in Theology and Ministry Conference earlier this month at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. Nicole Burdakin has the story for the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
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Churches offer free formal wear, God’s love, to teens

LEE’S CHAPEL, Mo. (UMNS) — Several United Methodist churches want to ensure that every girl has the opportunity to feel like a prom queen. No crowns or sashes are necessary — just the knowledge that someone cares about you. Susan Passi-Klaus has the story on how churches are turning prom preparations into a ministry.
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3 new church starts succeed in multiplying ministry

HOUSTON (UMNS) — In the last two years, the Texas Conference has launched 11 new churches by multiplying existing ministries in new locations. The conference provides an update on these new faith communities that stretch from Galveston to the Woodlands.
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Former staffer agrees to repay church agency

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — A former United Methodist staff member at the Board of Discipleship, now Discipleship Ministries, has agreed to repay $37,000 in a case of misused funds. The Davidson County District Attorney General’s office recommended restitution. Sungnam Choi, former director of Korean, Asian-American and Pacific-Islander Ministries, acknowledged misusing funds destined for grants for ministry projects during his employment from 2006-2010. A UMNS call to Choi was not returned.
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Details about case

Interim top executive named at communications agency

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The Rev. Larry Hollon, United Methodist Communications’ top executive since 2000, left the agency April 1. A search had been under way for a replacement since last fall, when Hollon announced that the Book of Discipline required him to leave since he had reached the mandatory retirement age of 70. Sherri Thiel, chief operating officer, will serve as interim general secretary. Bishop Sally Dyck, president of the agency, said the search committee has completed interviews and expects to make an announcement soon.
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About 200 join in Côte d’ Ivoire Palm Sunday procession

PORT-BOUET, Côte d’ Ivoire (UMNS) — About 200 people processed to Emmanuel United Methodist Church on Palm Sunday, including a man who portrayed Jesus riding on a donkey. Isaac Broune has a photo essay.
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Indiana presents $1 million endowed chair to Africa University

MUTARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS) — The Indiana Conference presented $1 million for an endowed chair of agriculture and natural resources for Africa University, continuing a long conference tradition of major support for the United Methodist institution. Skyler Nimmons and Vicki Brown report.
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What people can do with doubt

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — “My God, my God, why have you left me?” Jesus’ cry from the cross resonates with all people whenever they feel alone, afraid or full of doubt. Joe Iovino shares spiritual advice for those moments when our hearts are troubled.
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WCC’s Philip Potter dies at 93

GENEVA (UMNS) — The Rev. Philip Potter, a Methodist from Dominica, West Indies who served as the top executive of the World Council of Churches from 1972 to 1984, died March 31 at the age of 93 in Lübeck, Germany. “Phillip Potter was fearless in faith, wise in knowledge, and determined to bring the Christian community to unity in Christ for the sake of showing the world that generosity, peace, and justice are possible in the real world,” said Thomas Kemper, top executive, United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.
Read WCC story
Read reflection from Thomas Kemper

Washing feet: A dream for a servant

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (UMNS) — While in a medically induced coma, Sam Murillo had a dream in which he saw Jesus washing the feet of countless people. Asked why he would engage in such humble work, Jesus responded: “There is nothing on heaven or earth more important than washing feet.” In Interpreter, Murillo explains the importance of this ministry.
Read personal reflection
Read why United Methodists include foot washing

Lent quiz continues through Easter Sunday

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The Lent quiz will have new questions throughout the rest of Holy Week about Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. A new question will be posted each day, and all previous questions are still available.
Take today's quiz

Looking ahead

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

Tuesday-Thursday, April 7-9
"Vision to Victory: Religion, Race and Revival," celebration of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. — United Theological Seminary will hold revival services calling for accountability and reconciliation at 7 p.m. EDT April 7,8 and 9 at Omega Baptist Church, 1821 Emerson Ave., Dayton, Ohio. Guest speakers include Bishop Gregory V. Palmer of the West Ohio Conference; the Rev. Frank Thomas, professor of homiletics at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, and the Rev. Vanessa Ward, co-pastor of Omega and lecturer at United. Details.

Saturday, April 11
Deacon Day @ Drew — 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. EDT at Drew Theological School, Seminary Hall, 36 Madison Ave., Madison, New Jersey. This workshop is an opportunity to explore the identity and call of the deacon. In the morning, participants will take advantage of Drew's Seminary Saturday offerings. In the afternoon, the Rev. Victoria Rebeck, director of deacon ministry development and provisional membership at the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry, will moderate a panel of deacons serving in diverse appointments. Free. Details.

You can see more educational opportunities and other upcoming events in the life of the church here.