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Weekly Digest - January 29, 2016

NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for Jan. 25-29. 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

Briefing offers look at General Conference debates

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — In a gathering that repeatedly stressed church unity despite passionately held differences, United Methodists received a preview of some of the issues General Conference will debate when the denomination's top lawmaking body meets this spring. The staff of United Methodist News Service reports.
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Preview to debate on sexuality

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — Many United Methodists expect the most intense debates at General Conference to be around how the denomination includes people of different sexual orientations. Participants at the recent pre-General Conference news briefing got a preview to the debate and a proposed alternative process for considering legislation. Heather Hahn and Kathy Gilbert report.
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Will Christian conferencing imbue General Conference?

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — As delegates from around the globe prepare for The United Methodist Church's next top assembly, leaders pray the time will be washed in grace through Christian conferencing. Kathy Gilbert has the story.
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Judicial Council releases May docket

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — The United Methodist Judicial Council will hold its spring meeting May 6-9 at the Oregon Convention Center, just before the 2016 General Conference, the denomination's top legislative body. A docket for the May meeting is available online. Briefs are due March 6.
See May 2016 docket

Awards honor United Methodist communicators

PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — The United Methodist Association of Communicators named Mark Doyal as "Communicator of the Year" and inducted the Rev. Joan G. La Barr into its Hall of Fame. The two longtime United Methodist communicators were among more than 80 honored Jan. 20 during the organization's meeting.
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Seminar sparks care for disabled children

HARARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS) — Dorcas Muranda started the Chengaose Day Care Relief Centre to help families with disabled children. She was inspired by training she received from the United Methodist Board of Church and Society. Priscilla Muzerengwa reports.
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Michigan pastor pitches protest tent in Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS (UMNS) — Pitching his tent at the entrance of the Indiana United Methodist Conference Center, a West Michigan pastor has taken his plea for the equality of those with different sexual orientations within The United Methodist Church beyond Michigan. Daniel R. Gangler reports for the Indiana Conference.
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Bishop appeals for help in Flint water crisis

FLINT, Michigan (UMNS) — Michigan Area Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey has appealed to all United Methodists in the state to respond to the Flint water crisis. Church efforts already underway include the hiring of a district emergency water crisis coordinator and $100,000 from the United Methodist Committee on Relief to help fund water resource centers started by eight churches. But Kiesey said more is needed and she asked for prayer, donations and hands-on assistance.
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Water crisis coordinator: Filtration is priority

Core values report: Bishops

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Members of a United Methodist Council of Bishops Task Force on Human Sexuality, Gender and Race are committing themselves to a list of seven core values and encouraging their colleagues to join them.
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Kabongo dies in North Katanga

KAMINA, Democratic Republic of Congo (UMNS) — The Rev. Boniface Kabongo, legal representative and assistant to North Katanga Episcopal Area Bishop Ntambo Nkulu Ntanda, died unexpectedly on Jan. 21 in Lubumbashi. United Methodists around the globe recalled his work and ministry. Betty Kazadi reports.
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Veteran denominational writer dies

DALLAS (UMNS) — Denise Johnson Stovall, a longtime writer about The United Methodist Church, died Jan. 19, the Metro District of the North Texas Conference reported. Stovall, wife of the Rev. Charles Stovall, had considerable experience in secular media before joining the staff of The United Methodist Reporter. She also wrote for United Methodist News Service and United Methodist Women, and co-wrote church-related books. A memorial service will be held Jan. 29 at 11 a.m. CST at St. Luke Community United Methodist Church in Dallas.
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Church helping to equip African school with e-readers

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Mount Harmony/Lower Marlboro United Methodist Church in Owings, Maryland, will be taking 75 e-readers, each loaded with 100 books, to the Methodist Mission School in Murewa, Zimbabwe. The church has raised $13,000 for the project, and is collaborating with the group Worldreader. Joey Butler reports.
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California pastor cast in ‘Chuck Knows Church’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The Rev. Sarah Heath, an elder in the California-Pacific Conference, has been chosen from hundreds of entries to be in the final episode of United Methodist Discipleship Ministries’ web series “Chuck Knows Church.” The video Heath submitted “touched us deeply,” said Steve Horswill-Johnston, executive director of communications and brand strategy at Discipleship Ministries and “Chuck Knows Church” creator and senior producer.
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Initiative generating new energy for churches

DENVER (UMNS) — When the Rev. Jeremy Scott launched the Whole Church Initiative in the Rocky Mountain and Yellowstone conferences, he sought to help churches honestly address their vitality and how they are living out their faith. Charmaine Robledo of the Mountain Sky Area offers an update of how the initiative has evolved over two years and its impact on churches.
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Society of St. Andrew Lenten devotions

BIG ISLAND, Va. (UMNS) — Lent begins this year with Ash Wednesday on Feb. 10. The United Methodist partner the Society of St. Andrew offers Lenten daily devotions, written by pastors and lay people from all walks of life. The booklets are titled “While Still Far Off.”
To order

Super Bowl challenge seeks victory over hunger

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (UMNS) — Once the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers were headed for the Super Bowl, a pastor from Denver laid down a challenge to Charlotte churches. "Denver United Methodists are formally inviting you to a food drive challenge between now and the end of the big game," wrote the Rev. Brad Laurvick. But, he added, no one loses when fighting hunger. Michael Rich reports for the Western North Carolina Conference.
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Read CBS Denver coverage

Embrace Church tops growth list

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (UMNS) — Embrace Church, a multi-site church in the Dakotas Conference, tops the list of the 25 fastest-growing large United Methodist churches as determined by ministry consultant Len Wilson. Embrace averaged 137 in worship in 2009, and now averages 4,000 at its four campuses and online.
Read Dakotas Conference story
View the fastest-growing large UMC's

Open umbrellas to intercept traffickers

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (UMNS) — United Methodist Women members ask church members to join the Intercept the Traffickers photo campaign and open their umbrellas to raise awareness of human trafficking around sporting events. The goal of "Opening an Umbrella" is to form a virtual line of defense around Levi's Stadium, where the Super Bowl will take place Feb. 7.
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The Ten Commandments of food

GENEVA (WCC) — The Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit believes every plate of food can remind us of challenges and opportunities for justice. The top executive of the World Council of Churches presented the “Ten Commandments” of food recently to business and political leaders at a World Economic Forum session.
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Promoting food security in Ghana

ACCRA, Ghana (UMNS) — Nearly 60 women and men from three communities near Accra, the capital of Ghana, participated in trainings last fall, sponsored by the United Methodist Committee on Relief, to build their capacities for sustainable agriculture and nutrition awareness. Alice Mar, UMCOR executive secretary for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security, has the story.
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Church shooting survivor to speak at Duke

DURHAM, N.C. (UMNS) — Jennifer Pinckney, widow of the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, who was among nine killed last year in the shooting at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, will take part in a roundtable conversation Tuesday, Feb. 9, at United Methodist-related Duke University. The free event, “Reflections on Charleston: A Conversation on Faith and Race,” takes place at 7 p.m. EST at Page Auditorium.
Read press release
To watch live stream

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.

The month of February
Black History Month — United Methodist Discipleship Ministries offers worship resources. The United Methodist Commission on Archives and History offers resources for African-American history.

Sunday, Feb. 7
Transfiguration Sunday — United Methodist Discipleship Ministries has worship resources.

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