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Weekly Digest - February 5, 2016


UMNS Weekly Digest

Feb. 5, 2016

NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for Feb. 1-5. 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

Denial of GC2016 booth sparks protest

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — The Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based group that promotes intelligent design, says United Methodists are censoring it by denying the group a display at the 2016 General Conference. General Conference planners say the group is not in line with church social teachings. Heather Hahn reports.
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Pastor's 'My Muslim Problem' post connects

HEATH, Texas (UMNS) — The Rev. Omar Rikabi's recent blog post, slyly titled "My Muslim Problem," has had some 120,000 Facebook shares. In it, the United Methodist pastor tells of growing up in Texas as the son of a Muslim father and Christian mother, and shares his love and concern for his Muslim relatives in a time of heightened tensions. Sam Hodges reports. 
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Change coming to General Conference voting

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — United Methodist leaders are hoping a change coming to the 2016 General Conference will make voting easier for delegates. At the urging of the Commission on the Status and Role of Women, delegates will use voting machines in legislative committees. Heather Hahn reports the reason for the change. 
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Charting U.S. religious change in an election season

NEW YORK (UMNS) — This week’s Iowa caucuses demonstrated the political influence of a state’s white evangelical Protestants. While Iowa has bucked the trend of a U.S. Protestant decline, other parts of heartland America have not, says Robert P. Jones of the Public Religion Research Institute. He spoke during a Feb. 3 webinar sponsored by the Religion Communicators Council. Linda Bloom reports.
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United Methodists adopting new tech

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — United Methodist pastors and church leaders match or exceed the average U.S. adoption rates for eight of 15 emerging technology categories, according to new research from United Methodist Communications.
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Obama names Hamilton to advisory panel

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama plans to nominate the Rev. Adam Hamilton, pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, to the President's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. In 2013, Hamilton preached at a post-inaugural prayer service attended by Obama. 
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Río Texas embarks on unusual leadership plan

SAN ANTONIO (UMNS) — The Río Texas Conference is moving forward with a creative plan of using four interim bishops. It's a young conference that faces unique challenges. The Rev. Will Rice reports how the conference's interim leadership plan will work. 
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Historic Texas church burns

WHITEWRIGHT, Texas — The historic sanctuary of Marvin United Methodist Church, near the town of Whitewright in north central Texas, burned to the ground on Jan. 30. The small congregation gathered the next morning at the site to worship and share memories of the 1924 structure. The fire is under investigation. reports. 
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Prayer for peace in Syria

NEW YORK (UMNS) — The head of the denomination's mission agency is calling on all United Methodists and peace lovers to pray for the efforts to negotiate peace in Syria. Thomas Kemper said the war has resulted in thousands of deaths and millions of refugees.
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The importance of Disability Awareness Sunday

FULTON, Md. (UMNS) ─ United Methodists are asked to observe Disability Awareness Sunday at least once a year. The Rev. Leo Yates Jr. says the Sunday is an opportunity to look around to see who is not in worship. In his commentary, Yates shares resources for observances and tells how the church can welcome people with disabilities and their families. 
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Resources for One Great Hour of Sharing

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) ─ United Methodist Communications is providing new resources for pastors and lay leaders to use in promoting One Great Hour of Sharing, which will be Sunday, March 6, this year. Offerings on this Special Sunday support the administrative costs of the United Methodist Committee on Relief. 
See resources

Worldwide nature discussion continues  

CHICAGO (UMNS) — This month the Connectional Table continues a two-part conversation on the worldwide nature of The United Methodist Church, offering a series of videos and social media conversations. The second part focuses on General Conference 2016 legislation dealing with the structure and alignment of the denomination.
Read press release
Watch videos

General Conference guide available online

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The 2016 General Conference Guide contains helpful information about the denomination’s legislative assembly. Along with an overview, special events details and schedules, the 50-page guide explains the legislative process, highlights major issues and offers basics about United Methodism. Compiled by the Rev. Joan Gray La Barr of Dallas and edited by United Methodist Communications staff, the resource is available as a PDF. Digital versions in French and Portuguese will follow.
Get this resource

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.

Monday, Feb. 8, Thursday, Feb. 25 and Thursday, March 3
Online course "When Mercy and Justice Meet: Advocacy for Clergy and Congregations" — 1 to 2:30 p.m. EST. This three-session course offered by Drew University Theological School will guide clergy and laity who are interested in advocacy through each step of building a dynamic grassroots campaign that addresses a key issue or concern in their community in their community. Each session will provide the practical steps needed to develop and execute an action plan, including building partnerships, setting goals, engaging volunteers and working with policymakers. Katey Zeh will lead the sessions. Details

Tuesday. Feb. 9
Webinar “Crafting a Discipling Vision for Your Men's Ministry in 2016” ─  7-8 p.m. CST. This webinar aims to help United Methodists assess their men's ministry and discern what God is calling them to do this year. Jim Boesch, deployed staff member of the Commission on United Methodist Men, will lead. To register, email Martha Davis at

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