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Weekly Digest - February 13, 2015

NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for Feb. 9-13. 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

Church body proposes more open stance on homosexuality
MAPUTO, Mozambique (UMNS) — The United Methodist Church could have openly gay clergy and clergy could officiate at same-sex marriages if a proposal affirmed by a denomination-wide leadership body prevails. The Connectional Table plans to draft legislation that members hope can be “a third way” in the church’s long debate over homosexuality. Heather Hahn has the story.

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Sexuality panel displays church’s global variation
MAPUTO, Mozambique (UMNS) — A panel discussion offered a rare glimpse of the wide spectrum of thought on homosexuality among United Methodists from outside the United States. The Connectional Table held its third and final panel on human sexuality at its Mozambique meeting — this time with the focus on voices from United Methodists in Africa, Europe and the Philippines. Heather Hahn has the story.

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Religious leaders from Ukraine, Russia make peace effort
MOSCOW (UMNS) — World leaders aren’t the only ones trying to stop the fighting in eastern Ukraine. Representatives of church and religious organizations in Ukraine and Russia, including a United Methodist bishop, have gathered twice to pursue dialogue and strengthen the relationships between faith groups in the two countries. Linda Bloom reports.

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Church responds to devastating Mozambique floods
MAPUTO, Mozambique (UMNS) — United Methodists are responding to deadly floods in the northern part of Mozambique with much-needed food and prayer, Bishop Joaquina Filipe Nhanala told church leaders meeting in her country this week. Heather Hahn reports.

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WHO reports ‘dramatic’ decrease in malaria deaths
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The number of people dying from malaria has fallen dramatically since 2000 and malaria cases also are steadily declining, according to the World Health Organization’s “World Malaria Report 2014.” The use of insecticide-treated bed nets is one important reason for the drop, the report said. Between 2000 and 2013, access to bed nets increased substantially. Joey Butler reports.

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Filipino bishops call for accountability in killings
MANILA, Philippines (UMNS) — United Methodist bishops called for justice and urged all United Methodists to push for an impartial probe into the killing of 44 police commandos who died in a clash with Muslim rebels. Gladys Mangiduyos reports.

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United Methodist doctor gets trial Ebola vaccine
MONROVIA, Liberia (UMNS) — A United Methodist doctor took the trial Ebola vaccine because he wanted to encourage others to volunteer. Dr. Francis Kateh, a former administrator of the Ganta United Methodist Hospital, was among 12 volunteers who took the vaccine as the first large-scale trials of two experimental vaccines against the deadly virus began in Liberia. Julu Swen reports.

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Five new bishops proposed for Africa
MAPUTO, Mozambique (UMNS) — Africa will have five new bishops in 2021 if General Conference approves. The Standing Committee on Central Conference Matters recommended the change after a team evaluating three episcopal areas — in North Katanga, South Congo and Zimbabwe — reported that the overall need in Africa reaches far beyond what was anticipated.

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Black church pastors told to `take real risks’ for God
ATLANTA, Ga. (UMNS) — More than 450 pastors of black churches were urged to “take real risks for the reign of God” at the Convocation for Pastors of Black Churches.

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Africana Hymnal Project documentary wins Emmy
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — A film tracing the history of black sacred music, produced by Discipleship Ministries as part of The Africana Hymnal Project, has received a regional Emmy for best documentary. The film, “Reflect, Reclaim, Rejoice: Preserving the Gift of Black Sacred Music,” captures songs that blacks who were enslaved in America four centuries ago created for solace even during the most inhumane conditions.

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Report looks at children raised ‘without church or God’
LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. (UMNS) — In a report for the World Methodist Council, Sarah Friswel of the Methodist Church in Britain touches upon the notion of a "missing generation" of children brought up without church or God in their lives. The report is titled "Nurturing Children of Unchurched Parents."

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The why and wherefore of Ash Wednesday
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The imposition of ashes on the first day of Lent reminds us of our mortality but also that we are "God's good creation," writes Joe Iovino in a UMC.org feature. He notes that observance of Ash Wednesday is growing, with some United Methodist pastors administering ashes outside the church walls.

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Snowfall brings windfall for Maine church
CARIBOU, Maine (UMNS) — It’s fair to say that all the snow that’s fallen on New England this winter has not been warmly received by many folks. But all the plowing had an upside for Gray Memorial United Methodist Church. When their regular snowplow driver hit one of the pillars in front of the church a few weeks ago, he unearthed a 1913 time capsule the congregation had been seeking for nearly two years.

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Fight to save historic tabernacle
DOWAGIAC, Mich. — A tabernacle constructed in 1890 once held thousands of worshippers who came by train and horse-drawn wagon to attend revivals at Crystal Springs, Michigan's oldest religious camp. The Stella Cooper Memorial Tabernacle at the United Methodist camp is still used for summer camps, weddings and other events. But major repairs are needed to save the 12,000-square-foot building. John Matuszak of the Herald-Palladium reports on efforts to save an important piece of the denomination’s history.

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Pastor Education Fund reaches $3 million goal
OKLAHOMA CITY (UMNS) — Jay Smith, a student at Asbury Theological Seminary and an associate pastor, is the first recipient of the Oklahoma United Methodist Pastor Education Fund scholarship. The scholarship made his dream of a seminary education a reality. In amounts from $10 to $100,000, gifts added up to $3 million to provide seminary scholarships for Oklahoma United Methodist clergy. Holly McCray, editor and Oklahoma Conference communications director, has the story.

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SMU professor shares in Grammy
DALLAS (UMNS) — Paula Elrod Huffman, an associate professor of music at Southern Methodist University, is part of a professional choir that won a Grammy Award earlier this week for best choral performance. Huffman sings with Austin, Texas-based Conspirare, which won for its recording "The Sacred Spirit of Russia." Huffman is a featured soloist on one of the tracks.
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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.

Sunday, Feb. 15
Transfiguration Sunday — Worship resources from United Methodist Discipleship Ministries.

Wednesday, Feb. 18
Ash Wednesday — Mark the start of Lent with worship resources and a denominational perspective on the "imposition of ashes" from United Methodist Discipleship Ministries. Ministry Matters, part of the United Methodist Publishing House, also has resources and tips for pastors.

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