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Weekly Digest - April 24, 2015

April 24, 2015

NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for April 20-24. 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

How should General Conference discuss sexuality?

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — Can The United Methodist Church's top lawmaking body debate the church's stance on homosexuality in a way that is not hurtful? The Commission on General Conference is seeking a new way to handle this emotional dispute and met behind closed doors with representatives from five advocacy groups that have a stake in the debate. Heather Hahn reports.
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United Methodist Church donates $9.6 million to Global Fund

WASHINGTON (UMNS) — A $9.6 million check presented April 22 by the people of The United Methodist Church is the largest contribution from a faith-based organization ever received by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Crystal Caviness reports.
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Ripple effects from Imagine No Malaria

Top court: Deleting investigative group ‘unconstitutional’

COLUMBUS, Ohio (UMNS) — Eliminating the committee on investigation for clergy members in an annual conference from the denomination’s law book in 2012 was unconstitutional, The United Methodist Church’s top court has ruled. During its April 15-18 meeting, the Judicial Council also ordered the full restoration — including back pay — of the salary of an African bishop whose income had been reduced. Linda Bloom reports.
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Finance agency responds to court decision

United Methodists help bring healing water to Kentucky

BEVERLY, Ky. (UMNS) — A communal water kiosk will soon open on the campus of United Methodist Red Bird Mission to provide safe water at “pennies for a gallon” for 6,000 people living in remote Appalachia. Kathy L. Gilbert, Mike DuBose and Kathleen Barry have the story.
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Pennsylvania bishops support anti-discrimination law

HARRISBURG, Pa. (UMNS) — Pennsylvania’s three bishops are calling on state lawmakers to extend protection against discrimination to all, including gay and transgender people. Kathy L. Gilbert reports.
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Divorced clergy barred from nomination as bishop in Liberia

GARDNERSVILLE, Liberia (UMNS) — Efforts to overturn a long-standing provision barring divorced clergy from nomination for bishop in The United Methodist Church in Liberia were rejected by conference delegates on April 18. United Methodists who wanted the ban lifted picketed with homemade signs and sang, halting one afternoon session of the conference. Julu Swen reports.
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Glorious worship in Côte d’Ivoire

ABIDJAN, Côte d’Ivoire (UMNS) — Worship in United Methodist churches here could start with a brass band circling the community. Inside might be two or three choirs wearing robes and mortarboards held on by sparkling hair pins. Or it could be three or four young people with a drum fashioned out of a piece of wood and shakers made of rusty biscuit tins. God is present. God is worshipped. Read, see and hear the story by Kathy L. Gilbert and Mike DuBose.
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Students trickling back after Sierra Leone Ebola scare

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (UMNS) — Schools in Sierra Leone have seen low numbers of students since re-opening April 14. The country’s schools had been closed since June 2014 due to the Ebola crisis. Phileas Jusu has the story.
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Christians and Earth Day: ‘You can’t love God and ignore the Earth’

CASPER, Wyo. (UMNS) — The Rev. Rebekah Simon-Peter began to understand that, for her, taking care of the world is not just an ecological issue, but a moral and spiritual issue. The United Methodist elder has written books to help churches be greener. Susan Passi-Klaus shares Simon-Peter’s ideas to help churches with creation care.
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Bible verses on Creation care: A discussion starter

15 ministries get Peace with Justice grants

WASHINGTON (UMNS) — The United Methodist Board of Church and Society has awarded $41,400 to 15 Peace with Justice ministries around the world. The grants are in conjunction with the denomination’s Peace with Justice Sunday, which promotes programs that advocate peace and justice at home and around the world. Observed on May 31 this year, Peace with Justice Sunday is one of the denomination’s six United Methodist Special Sundays with an offering.
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Prison ministries helped ex-offender find grace

BLYTHEWOOD, S.C. (UMNS) — The only child of an absent alcoholic father and a co-dependent mother, Erin Wagner spent her youth navigating a broken home and layers of guilt and abuse. She was eventually incarcerated, and the ministry she experienced as a prisoner led her to turn her life around. In a story for Interpreter magazine, Jessica Brodie reports Wagner finds grace and liberation as a minister to prisoners.
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BMCR chairman calls for partnerships to fight racism

ORLANDO, Fla. (UMNS) — The chairman of Black Methodists for Church Renewal challenged members to work alongside others to fight and ultimately eliminate covert and overt racism in The United Methodist Church and the nation. Larry R. Hygh Jr. reports.
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Video series: ‘I, too, am United Methodist’

ATLANTA (UMNS) — The five ethnic caucuses of the United Methodist are releasing a video series called "I, Too, Am United Methodist."  The series was filmed during last year's historic gathering of the denomination’s five U.S.-based ethnic caucuses in St. Louis.
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Watch video

Quick facts about The United Methodist Church

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Looking for a snapshot of The United Methodist Church’s numbers around the globe? The data services department of the General Council on Finance and Administration has put together a chart of church membership, attendance, total active churches and total active clergy.
See chart

Council of Bishops to meet in Germany

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — United Methodist bishops will gather May 1-7 in Berlin to discuss developing vital congregations, the 2016 United Methodist General Conference and other issues.
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New award recognizes baptisms, professions of faith

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — United Methodist Discipleship Ministries aims to encourage conferences to renew their focus on discipleship by honoring churches with the new One Matters Discipleship Award. The agency urges each conference to use the award to recognize one church that is turning zeros in baptisms and professions of faith into positive numbers. The award provides $1,000 and a One Matters Discipleship Award plaque.
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Mission agency sharpens focus on global health

NEW YORK (UMNS) — A new global health unit for the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries will position the denomination for participation in major international health campaigns through the next few decades. Thomas Kemper, the board’s top executive, outlined expectations during his April 16 address to the mission agency’s board of directors.
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Methodist council condemns attacks in South Africa

DURBAN, South Africa (UMNS) — The World Methodist Council has condemned escalating violence against foreign nationals, refugees and asylum seekers in the Republic of South Africa and applauds Methodists who have stood up against these human rights violations.
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Help for rural churches to get broadband

MOBILE, Ala. (UMNS) — “It may seem trivial, but simply offering free Wi-Fi can change the lives of children in a community,” writes the Rev. Jeremy Steele in Interpreter magazine. He highlights the resources available to help churches — especially in rural communities — get connected to broadband.
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Global Ministries applauds Obama on Cuba

NEW YORK (UMNS) — Directors of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries applauded steps taken by President Obama to thaw relations between the United States and Cuba. Meeting April 16-18, the directors also called for an end to the 50-year-old U.S. embargo of Cuba.
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Emory to establish John Lewis Chair

ATLANTA (UMNS) — United Methodist-related Emory University has received a $1.5 million donation to establish a John Lewis Chair in Civil Rights and Social Justice in the university’s School of Law. U.S. Rep. Lewis has dedicated his life to protecting human rights and securing civil liberties. In 1965, he was beaten as he led protestors trying to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge in a voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.
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Newest episode of North Carolina show explores literacy

GARNER, N. C. (UMNS) — The April 26 episode of Every Day Grace TV explores literacy with people involved in the Fayetteville Urban Ministry and Read and Feed. EDGTV is a new television show produced by the North Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church. It airs the last Sunday of each month at 11:30 a.m. EDT, on WNCN Channel 17, an NBC affiliate in Raleigh.
View videos

Learning Spanish as church hospitality

CHICAGO (UMNS) — Nearly 545 students participated in 48 classes held in 42 churches across the Northern Illinois Conference in the last two years to learn some Spanish and explore ¿Quién es mi vecino? (Who is my neighbor?). The classes grew out of Bishop Sally Dyck’s 2013 vision of offering 100 Spanish-as-a-second language classes in the conference so United Methodist churches could be more welcoming to Hispanic/Latino neighbors. Anne Marie Gerhardt reports for the Northern Illinois Conference.
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Hays to step down as Duke dean in 2016

DURHAM, N.C. (UMNS) — The Rev. Richard Hays will end his tenure as Duke Divinity School dean in June 2016. Hays, who has led the school for five years, said he’s eager to return to writing and classroom teaching at Duke as a New Testament professor. The United Methodist seminary has launched three new degree programs under his leadership.
Read press release

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.

Saturday, April 25
World Malaria Day — For United Methodists, World Malaria Day is an opportunity to engage our communities in support of Imagine No Malaria, the denomination's effort to end death and suffering from malaria in Africa. Resources are available from Imagine No Malaria.

Tuesday, April 28
Webinar "Congregations Working Together: Finding the Dream and Living It" — 7 to 8 p.m. EDT. This discussion will focus on how your church might work together with other congregations to strengthen the ministry inside your church and out in the community. Joy Skjegstad, a consultant on nonprofit management and ministry development, will lead. Details.

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