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Weekly Digest - January 8, 2016

NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for Jan. 4-8. 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

Kansas pastor comes out during sermon

EDGERTON, Kan. (UMNS) — The Rev. Cynthia Meyer came out to her Kansas congregation during her Jan. 3 sermon in this year’s first public action aimed at influencing the 2016 General Conference. Her announcement that she’s gay comes as United Methodists across the theological spectrum gear up for the denomination’s top lawmaking assembly, where the church’s stance on sexuality usually sparks debate. Heather Hahn reports.
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Bias, board agreed he should leave church agency

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The reasons for the abrupt departure of the Rev. Timothy Bias as top executive of Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church remain unclear. But he and the agency’s board president clarified on Wednesday, Jan. 6, that no misconduct was involved. Sam Hodges and Vicki Brown report.
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No gift from Christmas weather

DALLAS (UMNS) — Catastrophic tornadoes and flooding that occurred in multiple states over the Christmas holidays directly affected some United Methodists, and many others joined relief efforts. A tornado destroyed a United Methodist church in Lutts, Tennessee, and members of a handful of United Methodist churches in Texas lost homes. Sam Hodges and Heather Hahn report.
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Liberian church sets up climate task force

BUCHANAN, Liberia (UMNS) — On the heels of the Paris climate treaty, The United Methodist Church in Liberia has set up a task force to monitor the environmental impact of international companies operating in Liberia. Julu Swen has the story.
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‘Baby-friendly’ Zimbabwe hospital wins awards, gratitude

MUTAMBARA, Zimbabwe (UMNS) — United Methodist Mutambara Mission Hospital offers a shelter for expectant mothers in need. The hospital’s “baby-friendly” policy has won an award and is now being used as a role model for the whole country. Eveline Chikwanah has the story.
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Churches give clean water for Africa

COLUMBIA, Mo. ( — Through the Missouri Conference's Mozambique Initiative, churches and schools have been built and more than 100 wells have brought far more than clean water to some 100,000 people.
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Filipinos, North Georgians team up in evangelism

MANILA, Philippines (UMNS) — A partnership between United Methodists in the Philippines and the North Georgia Conference is resulting in more baptisms and new churches. Gladys P. Mangiduyos reports.
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‘Chicks Know Church’ connects women in ministry

BILLINGS, Mont. (UMNS) — In response to the popular Discipleship Ministries series “Chuck Knows Church,” four clergywomen in the Yellowstone Conference have come together to offer “Chicks Know Church,” an online forum to share inspiration and insight on ministry from a female perspective. Charmaine Robledo of the Mountain Sky Area reports.
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See Chicks Know Church website
See the group’s Facebook page

Bishop decries immigration raids

WASHINGTON (CWS) — United Methodist Bishop Minerva Carcaño is decrying planned federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids against Central Americans who have crossed into the United States. Current immigration laws “discourage us from living out our faith imperative to love and help our neighbor,” she said.
Read Church World Service release

Former Arkansas governor, senator remembered

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (UMNS) — Dale Bumpers, former Arkansas governor and U.S. senator, and a lifelong United Methodist, died Jan. 1 at the age of 90. In his early days as a lawyer in 1950s Charleston, Arkansas, he taught Sunday school and led the choir at First Methodist Church. He led the desegregation of the town’s school system in 1954, making Charleston the first town in the former Confederacy to desegregate its schools, and he later played a key role in desegregating his congregation. First United Methodist Church in Little Rock, where he was a member, will hold his funeral at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 10.
Read Arkansas Online obituary

Pastor’s other calling at General Conference

PARIS, Ky. ( — In May of 2016, 864 delegates from around the world will meet to consider legislation that will shape the direction of The United Methodist Church. The Rev. Gary Graves is the man behind the scenes who is in charge of compiling the approximately 1,000 petitions submitted. This video highlights his ministry.
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Search continues for higher education executive

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry is continuing the search for an associate general secretary of the Division of Higher Education. Last year, the agency announced that the Rev. Edward Roslof, senior director of the MIT-Skoltech Initiative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Russia, would take the post. However, after a period of prayer and discernment, Roslof and his family decided to remain in Russia, according to Ebony Lincoln, the agency’s director of communications.
View job posting

Contest seeks submissions on men’s ministries

NASHVILLE. Tenn. (UMNS) — The Commission on United Methodist Men is inviting submissions to the second annual U.S. contest for the most outstanding local church, district and conference ministries to men. The deadline is Feb. 1.
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Living into a new reality

NEW YORK (UMNS) — Throughout the last half of 2015, United Methodists in Austria and Germany provided an array of services to refugees and asylum-seekers arriving from Syria, Afghanistan, North Africa and elsewhere. Linda Unger has the story for the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.
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Photo essay: Journey of Hope

United Methodists boost South Carolina recovery

COLUMBIA, S.C. (UMNS) — As South Carolina United Methodists continue their long-term effort to rebuild and repair homes and churches damaged after the October floods, Christian brothers and sisters outside the state are pitching in with hammer, nail — and checkbook. Jessica Brodie of the South Carolina Advocate has the story.
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Japanese treat links church families

MERCED, Calif. — Each year, a reunion of sorts occurs at Livingston United Methodist Church, where generations of families gather ahead of New Year’s to make a Japanese treat called mochi. Brianna Calix reports for the Merced Sun-Star.
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Forum on church’s worldwide nature

CHICAGO (UMNS) — The Connectional Table, a coordinating body in The United Methodist Church, is launching the newest topic in the #CTTalks online forum. The forum is a series of videos and social media conversations around key topics related to the 2016 General Conference. January features a month-long series on the worldwide nature of The United Methodist Church.
Read press release
Join forum

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.

Saturday, Jan. 9

Deadline to register for Young Clergy Leadership Forum — The United Methodist Board of Church and Society will host the gathering 8 a.m. EST Monday, Jan. 25 to 4 p.m. EST Wednesday, Jan. 27 in Washington. New Monasticism pioneer Shane Claiborne will be among the speakers.  Space is limited to 70 ordained elders or deacons age 35 and younger who have not previously attended. Costs range from $80 to $200, depending on accommodations. Details

Monday, Jan. 11

Human Trafficking Awareness Day — United Methodist Women offers both information and resources to take action against modern-day slavery. Details

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