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Weekly Digest - February 6, 2015

NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for Feb. 2-6. 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

Duke Chapel flap occurs in context of openness
DURHAM, N.C. (UMNS) — Duke University saw major controversy after first deciding to allow Muslim students to offer the call to prayer from the Duke Chapel bell tower, then reversing the decision. But the clear trend at Duke and other schools with historic United Methodist ties is to support non-Christian religious groups, including in use of the chapel. Sam Hodges reports.

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Looking toward change in relations with Cuba
NEW YORK (UMNS) — U.S. religious leaders played an unofficial but significant role in the negotiations that led to the Obama Administration’s restoration of full diplomatic relations with Cuba, says the Rev. John McCullough, a United Methodist pastor and top executive of Church World Service. Linda Bloom has the story.

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Mission agency deeply interested in improving U.S.-Cuba relations

Pastor seeks help freeing brother in Congo
DES MOINES, Iowa (UMNS) — A United Methodist pastor in Iowa is trying to save the life of his brother, who is imprisoned in the Democratic Republic of Congo. And the pastor wants help from the church and the Obama administration.

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`New' Harper Lee book has biblical title
DALLAS (UMNS) — The recent news that Harper Lee has a second book coming out — 55 years after publication of "To Kill a Mockingbird" — stunned the literary world. She chose a biblical title in "Go Set the Watchman." The 88-year-old Lee is a United Methodist, and members of the denomination are among the many eager to read this second Lee novel. Sam Hodges reports.

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Want a better life? Try a bucket list
LEIPER’S FORK, Tenn. (UMNS) — Shirley Bachelder’s bucket list has ballooned into a lifetime of adventures and celebrations for the 93-year-old — most recently a hot-air balloon ride. “God was there,” she said. “I felt so close to him and felt him saying, 'Well, what do you think, Shirley?'” Susan Passi-Klaus reports on how United Methodists with a bucket list say it helps them live more fully.

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Church featured in USA Today’s Black History Month edition
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The United Methodist Church will be featured in USA Today’s special edition for Black History Month, available Feb. 2. Two separate ads will look at the critical role the denomination has played throughout groundbreaking moments in U.S. history. One ad features the Black College Fund; the other urges readers to “Rethink Church” by “encouraging conversations that build understanding and inspire reconciliation.”

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Bishop Carter: Measuring what matters
LAKELAND, Fla. (UMNS) — The church conversation about numbers and metrics is often dominated by “two extreme and less-than-helpful perspectives,” writes Florida Area Bishop Kenneth H. Carter Jr. for the Lewis Center for Church Leadership.

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Namesake church honors ‘founding father’ of gospel music
PHILADELPHIA (UMNS) — Did you know the anthem “We Shall Overcome” has roots in Methodism? This video showcases the Rev. Charles Albert Tindley, a Methodist preacher known as one of the founding fathers of gospel music, and the United Methodist church he brought to prominence.

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‘Vowing’ to play cupid on Valentine’s Day
WEST LAYFAYETTE, Ohio (UMNS) — The congregation at West Lafayette United Methodist Church is playing cupid this Valentine’s Day by holding a group wedding for those who want a big church wedding but can’t afford one. Leonard Hayhurst reports for the Coshocton Tribune.

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New staff appointed in campus ministry, endorsing agency
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry announced the appointment of three new staffers. The Rev. Matthew Charlton was appointed as a staff executive for collegiate ministry; Col. Gerald “Scott” Henry Jr. is the new director of extension ministry and pastoral care for the board’s United Methodist Endorsing Agency; and Shelia Bates is director of faith and leadership formation for collegiate ministry. Nicole Burdakin reports.

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Modeling sacred worth, human dignity
WASHINGTON (UMNS) — Troubling behavior in athletics is greater than any one sport or athletic program, writes Susan Greer Burton of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society. The church needs to work collectively with society “to change the culture of violence against women, children and people who are vulnerable that permeates our communities and world.”

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Ganta hospital administrator steps down
GANTA, Liberia (UMNS) — As administrator of Ganta United Methodist Hospital, Victor Doolakeh Taryor oversaw the hospital’s response to health problems rarely seen in the United States — including fistula, often endured by women who have been raped multiple times, and the worst Ebola outbreak in history. Now, after eight years in that position, he is leaving the hospital, reports Julu Swen.

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Michigan pastor, civil rights leader, dies at 72
DETROIT (UMNS) — The Rev. Daniel Krichbaum, 72, a United Methodist minister and interfaith leader and former director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, died Feb. 4 of complications from a cerebral hemorrhage. He was president of a group that later became the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion. Krichbaum also helped lead interfaith efforts after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, bringing people together to promote peace and tolerance. Niraj Warikoo reports for the Detroit Free Press.

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United Methodist clergyman recalls 1965 Selma march
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The Rev. Kent Millard, who responded to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s call for clergy and seminarians to come to Selma after Bloody Sunday in 1965, answers questions about his experiences there. Rethink Church has the Q&A.

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Commentary: Compassion, not judgment
ACWORTH, Ga. (UMNS) — Mark Wiman of Acworth, Georgia, writes about his personal struggles in accepting his sister’s sexuality when she came out. “The real issue is relational and has to do with acceptance vs. rejection and compassion vs. judgment,” writes Wiman in a blog post for United Methodist Communications’ Sharing in Faith forum.

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5 things small churches can uniquely offer
SAVANNAH, Ga. (UMNS) — Christians, especially in the United States, have a tendency to promote the idea that the bigger the church, the better. But most churches around the world are small. What do small churches have to offer? Plenty, writes the Rev. Ben Gosden, pastor of Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Savannah.

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Go-to site for Lenten resources
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Lenten resources developed for, along with resources from around the denomination, have been collected on one go-to Web page. In addition to resources and stories developed by United Methodist Communications, the page has materials from United Methodist Discipleship Ministries, United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, the Society of St. Andrew and others.

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New Lent studies emphasize drawing nearer to God

Commentary: Jordanian pilot’s murder parallels lynchings
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The news of the burning of a Jordanian pilot by Islamic State militants prompted the Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell reluctantly to look again at the pictures of the lynchings and burning of blacks by the KKK and by others. An Internet search reveals that those pictures often appeared on postcards that were widely circulated, he writes in a UMNS commentary.

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NCC condemns horrific violence by ISIS

Pastor knows costs of heroin all too well
BEL AIR, Md. (UMNS) — The Maryland governor’s war on heroin comes too late for the Rev. Craig McLaughlin, pastor at Mt. Zion United Methodist Church. His 19-year old daughter overdosed on heroin last March. He and his wife, Lisa, are now sharing their story with anyone who will listen. WJZ-TV in Baltimore reports on the story.

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UMCOR offers disaster training by region
NEW YORK (UMNS) — All five U.S. jurisdictions of The United Methodist Church have scheduled volunteer disaster training during 2015.  “We are responding to God's call to care for our neighbors,” said Cathy Earl, executive secretary for U.S. Disaster Response for the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

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Letters campaign: reauthorize child-nutrition programs
WASHINGTON (UMNS) — Thousands of churches representing nearly 50 diverse U.S. Christian denominations, including The United Methodist Church, will participate in Bread for the World’s 2015 "Offering of Letters: Feed Our Children" campaign. This year’s campaign urges Congress to strengthen national child-nutrition programs when the law governing them comes up for reauthorization.

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History of Hymns: “Let Us Break Bread Together”
DALLAS (UMNS) — Perhaps the most frequent Communion hymn sung by United Methodists is an African American spiritual, “Let Us Break Bread Together.” C. Michael Hawn of Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology shares the story of this beloved spiritual in his weekly column for United Methodist Discipleship Ministries.

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Get updates on United Methodist news
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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 and put Digest in the subject line.

Tuesday-Friday, Feb. 10-13
Thought in Leaders Conference — This conference at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado, features practical workshops, theological education talks, faculty lectures, ministry panels, and special guest speakers. Details.

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

Connectional Table's last panel on human sexuality, Wesleyan identity and the life of the church — This panel, starting on this date, is available for online streaming at

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