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Weekly Digest - February 26, 2016


This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for Feb. 15-19. 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

Praying for GC2016: What will happen?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — When the 864 delegates arrive for the 2016 United Methodist General Conference, each one comes blanketed in prayer. The Rev. Tom Albin, director of the church’s Upper Room, invites all United Methodists to blanket the entire proceeding with intentional prayer. Kathy Gilbert reports.
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60 Days of Prayer website
Free course on General Conference

Harper Lee was United Methodist in word, deed

DALLAS (UMNS) — Harper Lee’s death at age 89 brought expressions of sadness from fellow United Methodists, as well as gratitude for her writing. The Alabamian’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which includes references to Methodism, is regarded as a classic coming-of-age tale that also grapples with racism in the Depression-era South. Sam Hodges reports.
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Harper Lee letters in SMU collection 

East Congo district building churches, schools

KISANGANI, Democratic Republic of Congo (UMNS) — United Methodist churches are growing and schools are overflowing in this large district. The churches face many challenges, but evangelism is not one, said the Rev. Litalema Bogega, superintendent of Kisangani 1. Kathy Gilbert and Mike DuBose report.
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Give us this day our daily fish

KISANGANI, Democratic Republic of Congo (UMNS) — The Wagenia village is part of the Kisangani district. For more than 200 years, fishermen have fished in the rapids at Stanley Falls in the Congo River. United Methodist pastors make a pastoral call on the small village. Mike DuBose has the story in pictures.
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Mass shooting victim was lifelong United Methodist

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (UMNS) — At least one of the eight victims of the tragic mass shooting on Feb. 20 was a lifelong active member and leader in The United Methodist Church. Mark Doyal reports on the death of Mary Jo “MJ” Nye.
Read Michigan Conference story 
Read how United Methodists can fight gun violence 

UMCOR typhoon project yields new homes, school

SAN JOSE, Philippines (UMNS) —Two years after a deadly typhoon hit the Leyte province, a United Methodist Committee on Relief project completed its fifth public evacuation shelter and 134 new homes. The shelter, which also will serve as an elementary school and multipurpose hall, was formally handed over to the community in a Feb. 8 ceremony. David Tereshchuk has the story for UMCOR.
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Liberia divorce rule and connectionalism

LANCASTER, Pa. (UMNS) — What does Liberia’s ban on divorced candidates for bishop mean for the worldwide nature of The United Methodist Church? The Rev. Darryl W. Stephens, director of United Methodist studies at Lancaster Theological Seminary, considers this question.
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Conference, UMCOR provide water

DALLAS (UMNS) — The North Texas Conference, with a grant from the United Methodist Committee on Relief, has been providing emergency water supplies to a low-income area that has no running water. Dallas County commissioners have expressed appreciation to the conference while pledging a long-term solution for residents of the Sandbranch community. The Rev. Sheron C. Patterson reports.
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Alabama-West Florida raises over $1 million to fight malaria

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (UMNS) — The Alabama-West Florida Conference has raised more than $1 million for Imagine No Malaria. “It was humbling to see United Methodists of all ages participate in this challenge of saving 100,000 lives,” said Bishop Paul L. Leeland. 
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Learn more about Imagine No Malaria

Water is a human right

NEW YORK (UMNS) — At any given moment across the world, more than 663 million people are drinking water that could be contaminated because they lack any other real option. That is why WASH — the water, sanitation and hygiene work of the United Methodist Committee on Relief — is helping more communities than ever before gain access to clean water. Susan Kim reports for UMCOR.
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Covenant group sees pastors through challenges

CHICAGO (UMNS) — What do five pastors in five different conferences and four different jurisdictions have in common? Besides the fact that they are all United Methodist elders and graduates of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, they have shared a unique bond for more than 10 years as part of a covenant group. Anne Marie Gerhardt reports for the Northern Illinois Conference.
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1996 book became Lenten blockbuster

ATLANTA (UMNS) — Candler School of Theology’s Luke Timothy Johnson was in the right place at the right time in 1996. His book, "The Real Jesus," became a blockbuster of the Lenten season. Johnson, the Robert W. Woodruff Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at Emory's Candler School of Theology, recently talked about the book that made him a leading figure opposing the research and scholarship of the widely publicized Jesus Seminar. The seminar was a group of some 200 biblical scholars who sought to verify or disprove sayings and actions attributed to Jesus through historical review and analysis.
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Congolese pastor will travel 9,000 miles for GC2016

PORTLAND, Ore. ( — The Rev. Mujinga Kashala will travel 9,000 miles to add her voice to those shaping the future of The United Methodist Church. Kashala, a pastor in the North Katanga Conference of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is pleased to serve as a delegate to the denomination’s top legislative body.
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Quick tips for greeting visitors this Easter

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — How prepared is your church to welcome visitors this Easter? Laurens Glass of United Methodist Communications offers a welcoming checklist for congregations to use as part of their preparations to celebrate Christ’s Resurrection.
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New resources for One Great Hour of Sharing

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — An updated pastor and leaders kit offers new resources for observing One Great Hour of Sharing. It includes images for Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as other downloadable resources. The United Methodist Committee on Relief uses offerings from this Special Sunday to respond to disasters around the world.
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Bishop visits Kenyan district

MOHETO, Kenya (UMNS) — The South Nyanza District in west Kenya recently had its first visit by an episcopal leader, some 16 years after the district’s creation. Bishop Daniel Wandabula came for the installation of the Rev. Kennedy Thomas Mwita as superintendent. The Rev. Wilton T.A. Odango reports.
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Slain United Methodist teen seen as national hero

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Zaevion Dobson, age 15, died when he used his body to shield three girls from gang-related gunfire. His sacrifice has received recognition from President Barack Obama and CBS, which featured Dobson’s heroism in a video during the Super Bowl. Annette Spence of the Holston Conference reports on what his congregation says should be done in Dobson’s memory.
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Methodists in Fiji respond to cyclone

GENEVA (WCC) — Methodists in Fiji are sharing relief information and organizing volunteers in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Winston, which killed at least 29 people and left more than 13,000 in shelters. The Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, top executive of the World Council of Churches, sent letters of support to both the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma and the Fiji Council of Churches.
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Bishop Carcaño to preach at National Cathedral

WASHINGTON (UMNS) — Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño, who leads the California-Pacific Conference, will be the guest preacher Feb. 28 at the Washington National Cathedral for its Holy Eucharist Service. The service is expected to be shown live online.
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Clergy, leaders protest immigration legislation

MADISON, Wis. (UMNS) — United Methodist leaders, pastors and members from across the state participated in the “Dia Sin Latinos/A Day without Latinos” rally at the Wisconsin Capitol, protesting several proposed bills that would affect immigrants living in the state.
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Ecumenical AIDS/HIV partnership to fight discrimination

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (UMNS) — The United Methodist Global AIDS Fund and The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s HIV and AIDS Ministry have forged a partnership to collaborate on strategy and projects intended to reduce discrimination of people infected and affected by HIV and AIDS.
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General Conference exceeds goal for sponsors

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — The sponsorship department of the General Council on Finance and Administration has exceeded its goal of raising $600,000 through the General Conference sponsorship and exhibitors program. As of this month, the program has raised $637,600 to help defray the costs of the denomination's top legislative assembly, which will be May 10-20 in Portland, Oregon. Altogether, the 2016 General Conference will have 130 exhibit booths.
Learn more about the 2016 General Conference

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.

Sunday, Feb. 28

Day 1 — The Rev. Beth LaRocca-Pitts, senior pastor of St. Mark United Methodist Church in Atlanta, is the featured preacher on “Day 1,” the nationally broadcast ecumenical radio program also accessible online at Details


The month of March — Women’s History Month. The United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women offers worship resources.

More upcoming United Methodist events