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Weekly Digest - July 31, 2015


NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for July 27-31. 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

Fast-growing church leaves with property

QUARRYTOWN, Pa. (UMNS) — The fastest-growing church in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference recently left the denomination and kept its property. Conference leaders said it made financial sense to negotiate a settlement with Wesley United Methodist Church of Quarrytown, Pennsylvania, rather than to claim the property under the "trust clause" of church law. Sam Hodges and Heather Hahn have the story.

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Protest, complaint follow gay pastor’s removal

LANSING, Mich. (UMNS) — The fallout continues from the forced resignation of an openly gay African Methodist Episcopal pastor who was serving a growing United Methodist congregation in rural Michigan. Heather Hahn reports on a demonstration at the bishop’s office and the progress of complaints against nine clergy who helped officiate at the pastor’s wedding in defiance of church law.

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Churches can have gay Boy Scout leaders

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The Boy Scouts of America decision on July 27 to lift its national ban on openly gay adult leaders has the support of United Methodists of varied theological perspectives. But no church will be required to accept any volunteer as a Scout leader simply because of the new policy, says Gil Hanke, top executive of United Methodist Men. Heather Hahn reports.

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UMW members connect with Chicago organizers

CHICAGO (UMNS) — Some 200 members of United Methodist Women are in Chicago this week to learn from local community organizers and social activists. National Seminar 2015, which continues through Aug. 2, will include two public events on mass incarceration and police accountability. Linda Bloom reports.

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Family of slain Marine turns to church

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UMNS) — Hixson United Methodist Church mobilized church members and the community to host the high-profile funeral for Staff Sgt. David Wyatt, one of five U.S. military killed in the shooting rampage July 16. Annette Spence, communicator for the Holston Conference, tells the story.

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Judicial Council sets docket for October meeting

ST. LOUIS (UMNS) — The United Methodist Judicial Council has released the docket for its Oct. 20-24 meeting in St. Louis. Briefs are due Aug. 20, with decisions about possible oral hearings to be decided after that date.

See docket

Liberia honors churches for service during Ebola outbreak

MONROVIA, Liberia (UMNS) — Prayers and action undertaken by the Liberian Council of Churches during the Ebola outbreak of 2014-2015 have been honored by the Liberian government with the distinction of “Commander, Order of the Star of Africa.” Julu Swen, Liberia Conference communicator, has the story.

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Make a school kit to help kids

NEW YORK (UMNS) — In some countries, children do not have books or school supplies. School kits may be their only educational resources. The United Methodist Committee on Relief offers directions for how you can help.

How to assemble a school kit

5 tips for effective school ministry

MOBILE, Ala. (UMNS) — The "back-to-school" season offers abundant ministry opportunities. In an article for United Methodist Communications, Jeremy Steele shares five tips churches can use to do effective outreach throughout the school year.

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How Texas churches work to be vibrant

HOUSTON (UMNS) — In three years, 29 churches have enrolled in the Texas Conference's Vibrant Church Initiative. Marshall (Texas) First United Methodist Church is among the churches reporting success so far. "VCI has helped our members catch the same vision at the same time," says one church leader. The Texas Conference has the story.

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United Methodist named chaplain of the year

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (UMNS) — The U.S. Air Force has honored the Rev. Keith Manry, an elder in the Upper New York Conference and U.S. Air Force chaplain, as its 2014 Chaplain of the Year. He was recognized for his work at both Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Montana, and Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. Kathleen Rubino of the Upper New York Conference reports on how he went above the call of duty.

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Street Pastors minister at night

BANGOR, Me. (UMNS) — They are volunteer clergy and laity who are on the streets at night, walking and talking with people, whether those people are homeless, bar-hopping, curious or talking about their lives and their faith or loss of faith. Beth DiCocco, New England Conference communications director, tells the story of the Street Pastors.

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20 faith communities by 2020

JACKSON, Miss. (UMNS) — During the 2015 Mississippi Conference annual meeting, the Rev. Timothy Thompson revealed a conference-wide focus on creating 20 new churches by 2020 and overall church revitalization. He stressed that faith communities do not necessarily refer to structures but to building the kingdom of God. Tamica Smith-Jeuitt of the Mississippi Conference reports.

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Timeline of telling the church’s story

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — In 1940, the first national communications office of the Methodist Church opened its doors, developing over the decades into what is known today as United Methodist Communications. Now celebrating the 75th year of telling the church's story, the agency is looking back at its history in a series of features and a timeline detailing the ministry.

See the timeline
United Methodist Communications celebrates 75 years

United Methodists take to the tube

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Even before NBC’s colorful peacock logo debuted in 1956, the Methodist Television, Radio and Film Commission — a predecessor of United Methodist Communications — was producing TV shows. Susan Passi-Klaus has the story as part of United Methodist Communications’ 75th anniversary celebration.

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Publishing House dedicates new campus

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — A new campus for the United Methodist Publishing House was dedicated July 28 in a ceremony that included Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, Nashville Area Bishop William McAlilly and several former chairs of the publishing house’s board.

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Drew displays 16th century common prayer books

MADISON, N.J. (UMNS) — “Til death do us part.” “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” These are just two common phrases that originated in the 16th century Book of Common Prayer authored by Thomas Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury under Kings Henry VIII and Edward VI of England. United Methodist-related Drew University is displaying several original editions of the book through Oct. 23.

Read news release

Cleaver part of Obama’s Africa trip

WASHINGTON (UMNS) The Rev. Emanuel Cleaver II, the U.S. representative from Missouri’s Fifth Congressional District, left with President Barack Obama and other members of Congress July 23 on a five-day trip to Kenya and Ethiopia, the first trip by any sitting U.S. president to Ethiopia. Cleaver, a United Methodist elder, is in his sixth term in Congress.

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Elders honored for contributions to faith and health

MEMPHIS (UMNS) — Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare will honor the Revs. Elvernice "Sonny" and Cynthia Davis for their outstanding work in the realm of faith and health during the annual Living Awards benefit on Aug. 13. Sonny Davis is an elder of the Mississippi Conference and the former senior vice president of faith and health division at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare. His wife, Cynthia, is an elder in the Memphis Conference and the current district superintendent of Metro McKendree District.

To attend

Discipleship Ministries board denounces hate crimes

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The United Methodist Discipleship Ministries board has issued a statement opposing hate crimes in light of recent “acts of violence, destruction and murder based upon hatred, racism, fear, bigotry and prejudice.”

Read the full statement

Commentary: Toward a theology of barbecue

DENVER (UMNS) — “Barbecue, theologically speaking, is about bringing people together, creating a space where we can recognize the divine in each other,” writes Adrian Miller, a certified barbecue judge and lifelong member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. In a commentary for Duke Divinity School's Faith and Leadership, he writes about barbecue's historic role in church culture, especially the African-American church.

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Happy 25th birthday, ADA

VALLEY FORGE, Pa. (UMNS) — On the 25th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act, Bishop Peggy Johnson of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference urges churches to “find new ways every year to improve your church’s accessibility — be it physical or attitudinal. Your church can sign onto the new Faith Community Proclamation in honor of the 25th anniversary of the signing of the ADA law.”

Read commentary
ADA anniversary toolkit

Commentary: Why churches are poor

CASPER, Wyo. (UMNS) — “We need a new consciousness around money — one that allows us to be honest about our needs and the unlimited God we serve. Money is not in short supply. But if we believe it is, we will act, and ask, accordingly,” writes Rebekah Simon-Peter, director of Bridgeworks, an extension ministry of the Rocky Mountain Conference. Simon-Peter offers five reasons why people do not contribute to the offering.

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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.

Friday, Aug. 14

MountainTalk, a ministry conversation at United Methodist-related Henderson Settlement in Frakes, Kentucky — The theme is “Preaching and Storytelling,” and the settlement is  bringing in folks who have spent some serious time thinking about storytelling and preaching in Appalachia. Speakers include authors the Rev. Michael Williams, senior pastor at West End United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee; Loyal Jones, director of Appalachian Studies at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky; and the Rev. Charles Maynard, Maryville District superintendent in Holston Conference. $35 (including meals); an additional $25 if you stay overnight. Details

Wednesday, Aug. 19 

Alzheimer's Talks Teleconference — 3 to 4 p.m. EDT. Dr. Scott Mackin, associate professor of Psychiatry at University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, will speak about his work trying to understand mental illness and late-life depression and how that relates to cognitive decline. Alzheimer’s Talks is a monthly teleconference series produced by USAgainstAlzheimer's to raise awareness about issues. The United Methodist Board of Church and Society is helping with the talks. Details of how to register

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