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Weekly Digest - July 24, 2015


UMNS Weekly Digest

July 24, 2015

NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for July 20-July 24. 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

Duke dean stepping down Aug. 1

DURHAM, N.C. (UMNS) - The Rev. Richard B. Hays will leave his post as dean of Duke Divinity School on Aug. 1 to begin treatment for pancreatic cancer. Hays had planned to step down at the end of the 2015-16 academic year.  He has been dean since 2010, and has taught New Testament at the United Methodist seminary for 24 years. Ellen Davis, a professor of Bible and practical theology at Duke Divinity, will serve as interim dean.
Read news release

United Methodist uses peace skills as D.C. intern

WASHINGTON (UMNS) - Erika Yun does not know exactly what the rest of her post-collegiate life will hold. She does know she has the chance of a lifetime this summer. A member of Grace Korean United Methodist Church in Westwood, New Jersey, she is one of 10 participants in the Ethnic Minority Young Adult Internship Program, organized by the United Methodist Board of Church and Society. Jeff Wolfe of the Greater New Jersey Conference reports on her experiences.
Read story

Hearing female preacher, pastor finds calling

CLEVELAND, Miss. (UMNS) - The Rev. Darian Duckworth’s earliest memory of seeing a woman in a pulpit was watching Lisa Osteen, daughter of Lakewood Church founder John Osteen. Lisa Osteen inspired Duckworth to preach to her stuffed animals and eventually discern a calling to ordained United Methodist ministry. Duckworth shares the story of how the televised ministry helped her in unexpected ways.
Read commentary

Ecumenical training for Middle East Christians

BEIRUT, Lebanon (WCC) - A new initiative, “Ecumenical Institute for the Middle East,” is “promising and inspiring” in its attempt to train young Christians in ecumenical thought and history, says the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, top executive of the World Council of Churches. Some 40 students participating in the World Student Christian Federation program this year come from Lebanon, Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, Syria, Palestine and Iraq, representing diverse Christian traditions and denominations.
Read story

Chuck Knows Church: Ark of the Covenant

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - The Bible describes it and, as movie fans know, Indiana Jones hunted for it. But what really made the Ark of the Covenant so important? This episode of “Chuck Knows Church,” produced by United Methodist Discipleship Ministries, explains. No snakes were used in the making of this video.
Watch video

Follow action at annual conferences

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - New reports this week from conference gatherings include California-Pacific, West Ohio and Wisconsin. United Methodist News Service is posting the coverage.
See reports

Bishop leads peace trip to Japan, 70 years after bombings

NEW YORK (UMNS) — In early August, United Methodist Bishop Mary Ann Swenson will lead a World Council of Churches delegation to Japan for 70th anniversary commemorations of the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. Group members also plan to encourage their governments to ban nuclear weapons. Linda Bloom reports.
Read story and post a comment

United Methodists respond to Chattanooga attack

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UMNS) – Hixson United Methodist Church was in charge of funeral services July 24 for Sgt. David Wyatt, one of the Marines killed in the attack on the Navy and Marine operations center. Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor, whose area includes Chattanooga, released a statement in the wake of the tragedy, as did the conference's Muslim Outreach Team.
Read funeral details
Read bishop’s statement
Read Muslim Outreach Team statement

Gay pastor’s removal brings sadness, defiance

CASSOPOLIS, Mich. (UMNS) — The Rev. Benjamin David Hutchison, an African Methodist Episcopal pastor, was forced to resign last week from his supportive United Methodist congregation after his district superintendent received a complaint that Hutchison was openly gay and in a relationship. Hutchison later married his longtime partner, with nearly 30 United Methodist pastors in attendance. Nine of those pastors are now facing a complaint for officiating at the wedding in defiance of church law, said one of the pastors facing a complaint. Heather Hahn reports.
Read story and post a comment

Annual meetings stir human sexuality debates

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — United Methodists talked of many things at their annual regional meetings but some of the most passionate discussions revolved around what Scripture and the denomination’s lawbook say about human sexuality. The conferences are preparing legislation they will take to the 2016 General Conference. Kathy L. Gilbert has the story.
Read story and post a comment

Pastor gets 90-day suspension for gay wedding

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The Rev. Pam Hawkins, associate pastor at Belmont United Methodist Church in Nashville, is under a 90-day suspension after officiating at the same-sex wedding of two Belmont members in March. The complaint against Hawkins reached a resolution on July 16. Officiating at a same-sex union is a chargeable offense under the Book of Discipline, the denomination’s law book. Belmont offers a statement and details on the resolution.
Read statement

Book urges stronger unity, faith ties

NAIROBI, Kenya (UMNS) — The Rev. Donald E. Messer has a message that will resonate with fans of the Rev. Al Green: “Let’s stay together.” He has edited a book, “Celebrating God’s Love,” that includes essays by bishops and other United Methodists arguing why the denomination should stay united despite debates over human sexuality and should also bolster its dialogue with other faith groups. Messer, traveling in Kenya, spoke to UMNS's Heather Hahn about the new book.
Read Q&A and post a comment
Bishop presents book to Pope Francis

Nichols answered call against odds

NITRO, W.Va. (UMNS) – The Rev. Shelly Nichols, who answered the call she felt to be a United Methodist pastor even as she battled colon cancer, died at home on July 9, at age 53. Nichols was featured in a United Methodist News Service story earlier this year.
Read obituary
Read earlier story

Filipino ‘ham’ radio operators train for disasters

DAVAO CITY, Philippines (UMNS) — The United Methodist Church is training clergy and laity disaster management teams on the use of amateur, or “ham” radios, as a vital communications tool during typhoons and landslides when the country experiences power outages. Gladys P. Mangiduyos has the story.
Read story and post a comment  

Slideshow 2: 2015 Annual Conferences

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Each year, clergy and lay members attend their conference's session for worship, fellowship and to conduct business. Kathleen Barry, with help from conference volunteers, assembled a slideshow with highlights from many of the 2015 meetings around the global United Methodist Church. This is the second of two slideshows.
Watch slideshow

Agency calls for response to police custody death

WASHINGTON (UMNS) — The United Methodist Board of Church and Society issued a statement July 21 calling for a public response to questions about the death of Sandra Bland while in police custody in Waller County, Texas. Bland was a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Read press release

Filipino bishop testifies at U.S. Congressional hearing

WASHINGTON — United Methodist Bishop Solito Toquero, former resident bishop of the Manila Episcopal Area, told a U.S. Congressional hearing that his daughter-in-law was harassed by the Philippine security forces for supporting workers’ rights and a national minimum wage. Jon Melegrito reports for the
Read story

UMCOR assists families caught in Afghan conflict

NEW YORK (UMNS) — Armed conflict between national security forces and Taliban combatants in Afghanistan has displaced or trapped more than 20,000 families in the Kunduz province, where the hardship was compounded by recent severe flooding. The United Methodist Committee on Relief is partnering with Community World Service to provide emergency food supplies to 365 of these families, a total of 2,555 individuals.
Give to UMCOR International Disaster Response  

Claflin University receives top honors

HAMPTON, Va. (UMNS) — United Methodist-related Claflin University was named the 2015 HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) of the Year at the annual AARP HBCU Awards presented by Hampton University, taking awards for best college and best alumni association. Claflin and other colleges in South Carolina were lauded for standing with their communities in the hours following the historic removal of the Confederate flag.
Read story

Gathering to look at future of worship

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) – “Fusion: The Future of Worship in the UMC” is scheduled  Feb. 4-6, 2016, in Raleigh, North Carolina, to bring together practitioners from vital congregations and recognized expert professors to delve into current worlds of worship resources and leadership in the areas of music, worship planning and design, preaching and sacraments. The $149 registration fee will be discounted to $129 for anyone who registers by Dec. 1. Registration for seminary and course of study students is $89.
Read press release

12-year-old’s faith helps homeless

MANTUA TOWNSHIP, N.J. (UMNS) — Savanna Schaekel didn’t mind sharing her soccer ball with a homeless child. What she did mind was seeing that the child had no other toys to play with. Jeff Wolfe of the Greater New Jersey Conference reports how Schaekel is helping children in the Family Promise Network.
Read story

Advice to help stop church vandalism

PADUCAH, Ky. — Recent church vandalisms in three counties has church leaders unsettled. The Rev. Sky McCracken of The United Methodist Church’s Purchase District met with church members recently to offer tips to help keep facilities safe. WPSD Local6 reports.
Read story

Fargo church has mother-daughter pastors

FARGO, N.D. — As church leaders developed the job description for the pastor of discipleship position at Fargo's First United Methodist Church, the Rev. Marilyn Spurrell, senior pastor, knew she had a match. But how would church leadership respond? Meredith Holt reports for the Jamestown Sun.
Read story

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.

Friday, July 31
Deadline to apply for Ethnic In-Service Training grants — The United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry is accepting grant applications to fund programs that recruit, train and retain racial-ethnic United Methodists for leadership positions. Details

Sunday, Aug. 2- Sunday, Aug. 9
'We Are All Ferguson' conference — Wellspring Church, a United Methodist congregation in Ferguson, Missouri, will bring together community and business leaders to address the racial and economic issues that became widely known in the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown. The Revs. F. Willis Johnson Jr. of Wellspring and Steve Lawler of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church are organizers of the event. Details

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