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Weekly Digest - December 4, 2015

NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for Nov. 30–Dec. 4. 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

Top Stories

Rio Texas bishop resigns after admitting wrongdoing

SAN ANTONIO (UMNS) — United Methodist Bishop James E. Dorff admitted to violating his marriage and ordination vows and has voluntarily resigned as leader of the Rio Texas Conference, effective Jan. 1, 2016 .Dorff is also surrendering his credentials. Kathy Gilbert reports.
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A Wesleyan response to mass shootings

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (UMNS) — As news spread of yet another mass shooting, politically charged debates broke out among Americans. The dispute: Should we be calling for prayer or action in response to rampant gun violence? Many United Methodists say we should do both, and they point to John Wesley as leading the way. Heather Hahn reports.
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Reflections on mass shootings by Art McClanahan
Read Bishop Carcaño’s statement
Resources for responding to violence

Prayer, advocacy are daily tasks at climate summit

PARIS (UMNS) — A team sponsored by the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries arrived here Dec. 2 to join a Board of Church and Society delegation and other faith groups providing support and advocacy during the U.N. climate conference. United Methodists can follow the activities of faith-based participants through video messages, social media and other online postings. Linda Bloom reports.
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‘Speaking like preachers’ at Paris summit
Faith petitions delivered at Paris summit
Watch United Methodist Board of Church and Society video reports
Calling for ‘an ambitious agreement’ on climate change
Seeking climate justice in Paris

For churchgoers, treasures from the ‘family album’

MADISON, N.J. (UMNS) — Like any good family album, the United Methodist Commission on Archives and History provides a tangible connection to previous generations, a reminder of some great vacation spots and a source of comfort in changing times. Heather Hahn reports on how the agency helps church members.
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Bishop DeWitt, workers’ advocate, dies at 96

DEXTER, Mich. (UMNS) — As a young man, Bishop Jesse R. DeWitt worked in a plant that built Packard automobiles. He moved on to a long, fruitful United Methodist ministerial career, but never forgot the working class. DeWitt died Nov. 26, just nine days short of his 97th birthday. He had been under hospice care in Dexter, Michigan, near Ann Arbor. Sam Hodges reports.
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Pastor camps out to force church trial

MARQUETTE, Mich. (UMNS) — A Michigan pastor, under complaint for officiating at a same-sex wedding, said he plans to camp outside a district superintendent’s office until the complaint against him moves a step closer to a church trial. The Rev. Michael Tupper wants the Rev. Elbert P. Dulworth, the appointed counsel for the church in the case, to move the complaint to a committee on investigation. The Book of Discipline has no specific timeline for the work of a counsel, who acts as a sort of church prosecutor.
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Churches working to recover from Typhoon Lando

BONGABON, Philippines (UMNS) — A month after Typhoon Lando, United Methodist churches are still reeling from the devastation caused by flooding. Two local churches are under rocks and mud. Gladys Mangiduyos reports on the recovery efforts.
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New Jersey church welcomes Syrian refugees

MAPLEWOOD, N.J. (CBS) — Morrow Memorial United Methodist Church welcomed a Syrian refugee family of five, despite New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s opposition to accepting Syrian refugees in the state. Bishop John Schol said he was proud of the church. “While we are aware that our governor is opposed to welcoming Syrian refugees, we recognize it is our calling to welcome the immigrant and to share radical hospitality,” Schol said in an email to UMNS. Steve Langford reported the story for a CBS station.
View the CBS New York report
Bishop: Lessons from parents regarding refugees
Responding to refugees with care, not fear
British church calls for peace after Syria vote
Commentary: Do you even know any Syrians?

Bishop calls for independent police auditor

CHICAGO (UMNS) — Bishop Sally Dyck and other faith leaders rallied outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office to demand more action to protect the public from abusive police officers. The Dec. 1 rally was a week after the city released a dash-cam video showing a police officer fatally shooting a 17-year-old 16 times. “The system is broken. It’s dysfunctional and cannot discipline itself,” the Chicago Area bishop said in calling for an independent police auditor.
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Mother of 5 gives wages to fight malaria

OTTAWA, Ohio (UMNS) — During Advent, Monica Kleman stocks shelves and unloads trucks all day at an Ohio department store. The extra cash would come in handy for household, school and other expenses for her family of seven — but she said God has another purpose for that money. With her family's blessing, Kleman donated all $650 of her first paycheck to the Imagine No Malaria campaign. Lisa Streight reports for the West Ohio Conference.
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Parents accept award honoring daughter’s aid work

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (UMNS) — The Desert Southwest Conference awarded its 2015 Francis Asbury Award posthumously to Kayla Mueller. Mueller died in ISIS captivity while working for humanitarian aid groups on the Turkey-Syria border. The United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry reports.
Read press release
Read UMNS coverage of Mueller’s death

Church conference behind bars

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (UMNS) — Church charge conferences typically take place in sanctuaries and fellowship halls, but the Rev. Tim Carpenter presided over one inside a prison. A charge conference is the key gathering of a congregation’s top leaders, led by a district superintendent. Lane Gardner Camp of the Memphis Conference reports on the first charge conference at Grace Place United Methodist Church, located inside a women’s prison.
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Read Interpreter magazine story on Grace Place

Working in Armenia’s ‘valley of honey’

SALLI, Armenia (UMNS) — High on a mountaintop in Armenia lies Meghradzor, known locally as “the valley of honey,” where the United Methodist Committee on Relief is engaged with residents of the village of Salli in critical agricultural development work. Nicholas Jaeger, who oversees UMCOR’s development work in Armenia, explains.
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‘Chuck’ needs a real pastor

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The fictional Park Grove Community Church, of the “Chuck Knows Church” series “The Committee,” has lost its pastor and its way. It will soon close its doors unless it reinvents itself. Can your pastor help save Park Grove? The production staff and cast of the online series produced by United Methodist Discipleship Ministries are looking for a real pastor to make a cameo appearance on the final episode of the series.
Read press release

‘Pulpit Fiction’ podcast takes off

DAVENPORT, Iowa — “Pulpit Fiction,” a popular podcast recorded by the Rev. Robb McCoy of Two Rivers United Methodist Church, Rock Island, Illinois, and the Rev. Eric Fistler, a seminary friend, is a source of inspiration and information. Deirdre Baker reports for the Quad-City Times.
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Pulpit Fiction podcast

National forum energizes children’s ministers

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (UMNS) — “Are we equipped and excited about having children involved in the life and ministry of our churches, not as window dressings?” The Rev. Telley Gadson of South Carolina posed this challenge to participants in the three-day Children’s Ministry Forum, sponsored by multiple United Methodist bodies. Amy Forbus of the Arkansas Conference has the story.
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Huie to join Texas Methodist Foundation staff

AUSTIN, Texas (UMNS) — The Texas Methodist Foundation announced plans to expand its Leadership Ministry for clergy and laity in 2017 when Bishop Janice Riggle Huie joins the staff. Huie will join the foundation staff at the conclusion of her tenure as bishop of the Texas Conference.
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New support for theological education

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (UMNS) — The goal of a new endowment fund is sustainable, long-term support for theological education for United Methodist clergy outside the United States. Membership of The United Methodist Church outside the U.S. is 5.5 million-plus and growing and the need for educated clergy is growing, too. “It will continue for generations of future clergy,” said Bishop Patrick Streiff of the Endowment Fund for Theological Education in Central Conferences. “We hope to raise $25 million from supporters across the world.”
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Online forum on Vital Congregations, Four Areas of Focus

CHICAGO (UMNS) — The Connectional Table began a monthlong series in December on Vital Congregations and the Four Areas of Focus as part of the #CTTalks online forum. Beginning Dec. 1, a video will be posted each week that explores how vital congregations are aligning their ministry in ways that bear fruit in the Four Areas of Focus.
Read press release
Watch the videos

Goodpaster next Candler bishop-in-residence

ATLANTA (UMNS) — Bishop Larry M. Goodpaster of the Western North Carolina Conference will join Emory University's Candler School of Theology in the fall of 2016 as the school's next bishop-in-residence. Goodpaster will teach courses, preach and preside at chapel worship and ceremonial occasions, and offer counsel to students, particularly those seeking ordination in The United Methodist Church.
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Multi-site church goes multi-state

LAKELAND, Minn. (UMNS) — Embrace Church, one of the fastest-growing congregations in the United States, launched a Twin Cities campus this month with two worship services attended by 438 people. Christa Meland of the Minnesota Conference has the story of the United Methodist congregation that started in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
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Quiz: Do you know Christmas hymns?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — From a list of four Christmas hymns, can you pick the one written by Charles Wesley?
Take the quiz

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.

Saturday, Dec. 5
“The Sounds of CHRISTmas” — 5 p.m. CST, United Methodist Publishing House auditorium, 2222 Rosa Parks Blvd., Nashville, Tennessee. This production of music, drama and dance will take the audience from the rush of shopping to the real reason for Christmas. The presentation is a joint production of Strengthening the Black Church and several African-American United Methodist congregations — Braden, Brooks, Dixon Memorial, Gordon Memorial, Clark Memorial, Seay-Hubbard, Patterson — and the Tennessee State Wesley Foundation. Special guests for the performance will be children of incarcerated parents who were invited through The Matthew 25 Project, which aims to meet the needs of children whose parents are in prison. Admission is free and the worship offering will be donated to Matthew 25. For more information, contact the Rev. Fred Allen at or 615-521-5600, or Michele Morton at

Through Thursday, Dec. 24
Advent Resources

One stop for United Methodist Advent resources, including devotions, sermon starters and books from Cokesbury, Upper Room, Discipleship Ministries, Rethink Church and Imagine No Malaria.

United Methodist Communications offers a way to take Advent to Facebook and other social media with free downloadable images to celebrate each Sunday of the season.

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