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Weekly Digest - June 20, 2014


NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for June 16-20. 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

News around the connection
Reassessment prompts sale of pension stock
GLENVIEW, Ill. (UMNS) — After an investment in G4S, a London-based security corporation, prompted concerns about human rights and prison-related issues, the United Methodist Board of Pension and Health Benefits reassessed the purchase this spring and recently sold the stock.

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History is connecting factor for Bob Williams
MADISON, N.J. (UMNS) — For as long as he can remember, the Rev. Robert Williams has been passionate about God, history, and the Jersey Shore. Now, the New Jersey pastor is retiring — effective Aug. 1 — after nine years as the top executive of the United Methodist Commission on Archives and History.

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UMC Giving launches new website
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — United Methodist Communications has launched a redesigned website,, that helps local churches see the impact of United Methodist generosity. The new site offers a biblical perspective to help United Methodists across the globe align their giving practices with their personal faith. The site also includes a section dedicated specifically for church leaders and pastors that offers tools and downloadable resources to help inspire giving within local churches.

Visit site

Read news release

Six young adults working as ethnic minority interns
WASHINGTON (UMNS) — Six people, ages 19 to 21, began two months of work in June in the Ethnic Minority Young Adult Summer Internship Program of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society. However, three young adults outside the U.S. who had been accepted into the program were denied visas, said the Rev. Neal Christie, program director. Wayne Rhodes has the story.

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Breeding a better goat in Haiti
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (UMNS) — Two years ago, the United Methodist Committee on Relief and the Methodist Church of Haiti launched a pilot goat-raising program they hoped would strengthen local farmer incomes. In July, a team will return to provide training based on the needs reported in an assessment last month.

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News around conferences
Church reaches out after Nebraska tornadoes
PILGER, Neb. (UMNS) — The Great Plains Annual (regional) Conference is asking for United Methodists' prayers following twin tornadoes that devastated much of Stanton County in northeast Nebraska on Monday, June 16. At least two people, including a 5-year-old girl, died in the storm. Linda Stewart, Great Plains United Methodist Conference disaster response coordinator, is working with other groups in Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster to help meet the needs of those affected by the deadly twisters. Greg Forrester, who leads U.S. disaster response for the United Methodist Committee on Relief, is in contact with the conference.

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To donate to UMCOR U.S. Disaster Response

Video: 20 things churches should do
PEACHTREE CORNERS, Ga. (UMNS) — The North Georgia Annual (regional) Conference has consistently reported membership growth for more than 40 years. For annual conference, its Office of Congregational Development recently put together a seven-minute video that shows the “20 Things Churches Can Do More Often.” Tips include being willing to try new things, putting aside competition and knowing your community.

Watch video

Northern Illinois near $1 million malaria goal
ST. CHARLES, Ill. (UMNS) - The Northern Illinois Annual (regional) Conference is close to reaching a $1 million fundraising goal for Imagine No Malaria just one year after the campaign began. During the June 8-10 annual conference session, a bishop's appeal offering of more than $42,000, a $10,000 donation from the Seoul South Annual Conference of the Korean Methodist Church and other donations helped boost the $811,000 already raised to $868,000.

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Pedal Project gives wheels to those in need
BRUNSWICK, Ga. (UMNS) — Last fall, Shon Jones had a hard time finding a full-time job because there was no public transportation. In December, Faithworks and Brunswick First United Methodist Church’s Pedal Project ministry presented Jones with a bike. That simple gift changed his life. He now bikes 18 miles a day to a full-time job. The South Georgia Annual (regional) Conference has the story of this ministry.

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Small church baptizes nine on one Sunday
COLLIERVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Before a congregation of 83, nine teens and young adults stepped forward on Palm Sunday to be baptized at Piperton United Methodist Church in the Memphis Annual (regional) Conference. “All were first timers,” said the Rev. Cynthia Davis, McKendree District superintendent, “First time joining church and being baptized! Glory to God!” The Rev. Roger Joseph, the church’s pastor, shares the ministries that are drawing people to the congregation.

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Simpsonwood center in Georgia to close
ATHENS, Ga. (UMNS) — North Georgia Conference members have voted to close operations of the Simpsonwood Conference and Retreat Center, a ministry of the conference that was opened in the 1980s, due to ongoing financial losses. Conference offices will remain open on the property.

Read North Georgia report

Feeling the call? Don't try hiding from God’
SYRACUSE, N.Y. (UMNS) — The Upper New York Annual (regional) Conference has the distinction of having two United Methodist seminary presidents among its clergy members. The Rev. Wendy Deichmann, president at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, and the Rev. Thomas Wolfe, president of Iliff School of Theology in Denver, were both at the conference’s annual meeting and shared their insights. Christian Vischi of the Upper New York Conference has the story.

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Church unity, accountability and homosexuality debate
‘Local option' draws support, pushback
DALLAS (UMNS) – The Rev. Adam Hamilton's proposal to give churches and annual conferences leeway to depart from church law regarding homosexuality is drawing support as well as heated opposition. The website for the proposal has added about 2,100 names of endorsees, but a group of clergy, theologians and laity has published an open letter, saying the idea would merely shift conflict to the local level, while also eroding Methodist connectionalism.

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Unity comes from a Christ-centered life, says bishop
LAKELAND, Fla. (UMNS) — “Unity is not our goal,” said Bishop Ken Carter in an address to the Florida Annual (regional) Conference. “Unity is a byproduct experienced by those who are devoted to the mission of being faithful and fruitful disciples in the vineyard. … At a time when division, schism and unity are common topics, I invite us to pray for a transformation that is beyond our human capacity or imagination — that our lives would be more Christ-centered — that our unity would be rooted in him and not in our natural sympathies, political convictions or tribal affiliations.”

Read the entire meditation

Schaefer appeal to be heard this week
LINTHICUM HEIGHTS, Md. (UMNS) — The United Methodist Northeastern Jurisdiction committee on appeals will convene on June 20 to hear an appeal from Frank Schaefer, who lost his ministerial credentials as the result of a church trial held Nov. 18-19, 2013. Schaefer was found guilty of violating church law by performing a same-sex wedding ceremony for his son.

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University and seminary news
United Methodists host theology and disability summit
DALLAS (UMNS) — The 2014 Summer Institute on Theology and Disability this week is drawing people from around the world to United Methodist-affiliated Perkins School of Theology and neighboring Highland Park United Methodist Church. Those gathered include scholars, people with disabilities, parents of disabled children, clergy and other church workers.

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Ohio Wesleyan hunger campaign recognized 
DELAWARE, Ohio (UMNS) — Ohio Wesleyan University’s 2013-2014 “OWU Better Together” campaign was selected from among 162 applicants nationwide to receive the Interfaith Youth Core’s “Best Overall Campaign” Better Together Award. The United Methodist-related university’s initiative, overseen by its Office of the Chaplain and Community Service Learning, focused on food supply and hunger issues. “In food-justice specific efforts, (the student body) served 1,225 meals, built two community gardens and recycled 5,670 bags of garbage and 87,264 bottles and cans,” the judges noted.

Read news release

Retelling the King Saul story
DALLAS (UMNS) — John C. Holbert, professor emeritus at United Methodist-affiliated Perkins School of Theology, is the author of a just-published novel, “King Saul,” about the Old Testament figure. “Holbert has raised not just Samuel from the dead, but Saul and all the hosts of Israel as well,” said Roy Heller, associate professor of Old Testament at Perkins, in an endorsement.

Read publisher’s description

Resources for churches
Faith community nurses help heal body and soul
APOPKA, Fla. (UMNS) — Faith community nurses offer educational principles as well as spiritual care and nurturing. This story about their ministry originally was published in Interpreter Magazine.

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Cokesbury offers VBS kit
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) –– Churches looking for vacation Bible school material for the summer of 2015, might consider Cokesbury’s “G-Force VBS Puts God’s Love into Action.” Based on Acts 17:28a (“In God we live, move and exist”), participants learn that a life with God is one of movement. Each of the five sessions is based on an action word (Move! Act! Care! Follow! Share!). Sessions include kid-friendly transportation such as skateboards, running shoes and inline skates.

An interactive G-Force website is available

History of Hymns: 'Our Parent, by Whose Name'
DALLAS (UMNS) — The Rev. F. Bland Tucker, this hymn's author, was the son of an Episcopal bishop who declined to become a bishop himself when elected in 1945. He said he was not finished with his ministry at Christ Church in Savannah, Ga. — the same church where missionary John Wesley once served as priest. C. Michael Hawn shares Tucker's story and how the hymn became No. 447 in the United Methodist hymnal.

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United Methodists recognized
UMTV: Kung Fu Grandmaster Pastor
LOS ANGELES (UMNS) — Once a star of martial arts movies, the Rev. Leo Fong — now 86 — still spars with people half his age and teaches seven fitness classes a week. This retired United Methodist pastor now sees his calling as helping other seniors stay fit.

Watch video and post a comment

Two United Methodist pastors recognized
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (UMNS) — Two United Methodist pastors have each received a $10,000 fellowship from the Beatitudes Society. The Beatitudes Fellowship seeks to equip a select group of young entrepreneurial Christian leaders with resources and relationships. The eight recipients include the Rev. Gerald “Jay” Williams, lead pastor of Union United Methodist Church in Boston, and the Rev. Emily McGinley, pastor of Urban Village Church in Hyde Park, part of a multi-campus congregation in Chicago.

Learn more about fellowship recipients

News of interest
July march to promote peace in Korea set for D.C.
WASHINGTON (UMNS) — United Methodists and other U.S. Christians will join the reconciliation and reunification committee of the National Council of Churches in Korea in a “Peace Rally and Prayer for Peace on the Korean Peninsula” July 25-26. Foundry United Methodist Church is the host site for the event, which takes place on the 61st anniversary of the Korean War Armistice.

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Water issues in West Bank, Gaza
JERUSALEM (UMNS) — The lack of clean water and adequate sanitation in the West Bank and Gaza is a critical problem for Palestinian residents and farmers, says the Ecumenical Water Network. Representatives of the network of churches and Christian organizations, which promotes people's access to water around the world, recently spent 10 days in the region.

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Syrian church leaders back humanitarian aid
ETCHMIADZIN, Armenia (UMNS) — Syrian church leaders and representatives have called for restrictions on funding humanitarian aid in Syria to be lifted, along with an end to the flow of arms and funding to all parties to the conflict. The group met June 11-12 in a consultation at the invitation of His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of all Armenians, in cooperation with the World Council of Churches.

Read WCC story

Presbyterians vote to allow gay marriage
DETROIT (UMNS) - The governing body of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), by a 76 to 24 percent vote, decided Thursday, June 19 to allow gay weddings within its churches wherever they are legal. Lauren Markoe of the Religion News Service has the story.

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Blogs and commentaries
Blog: Moving from associate to senior pastor
MACON, Ga. (UMNS) — The Rev. Ben Gosden of the South Georgia Annual (regional) Conference is now a full week into his new appointment as senior pastor. He shares some of what he’s learned in that brief time. His blog post “goes out to all of you fellow former associates who, like me, now find yourselves buried under a mountain of work ranging from renewing church insurance policies, to preaching plans that come every week now, to requests for handouts, to pastoral care calls that you can no longer share with other clergy on staff.”

Read blog

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.

Deadline to apply for CORR Action Fund grants, Monday, June 30 — The United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race will award grants of $20,000 to $80,000 to “innovative, bold, high-impact initiatives” that will increase intercultural competency or support vital conversations about race, cultural diversity and systemic equity. Details.

Deadline to register for five online courses from United Methodist Communications, Tuesday, July 8 — United Methodist Communications will offer the following courses July 9-Aug. 20. “Communicating Faith in the 21st Century,” “Connectional Giving,” “Moodle 200 — Advanced Training,” “Web Ministry 100: What is Web Ministry?” and “Welcoming Ministry 100.” Costs vary. Connectional Giving is free. Details.

Free webinar “Finding Treasure: The Story of our Newest Stewardship Resource,” Thursday, July 10 — 6:30 p.m. CT. Jacob Armstrong, pastor and church planter, will share how he helped his congregation discover “where our treasure goes, our hearts will follow.”  Details.

Deadline to register for Boards of Ordained Ministry Mid-Quadrennial Training, Friday, July 11 — Event for board officers and cabinet representatives will be Tuesday, Aug. 12 and ends by noon on Friday, Aug. 15 in Denver. The United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry is sponsoring. Details.

Free webinar “What’s the Job of Conference and District Lay Leaders?” Wednesday, July 16 — 6:30 p.m. CT. Jodi Cataldo of the United Methodist Board of Discipleship will facilitate a conversation on these ministries.  Details.

Free webinar “Creating a Culture of Innovation Part 1: Can My Leaders Innovate?” Thursday, July 17 — 6:30 p.m. CT. This 90-minute session led by Craig Kennet Miller of the United Methodist Board of Discipleship will introduce tools for implementing new ministry strategies in local churches. Details.

Deadline to register for School of Congregational Development 2014, Tuesday, July 15 — Gathering Thursday-Sunday, Aug.14-17 sponsored by the United Methodist boards of Discipleship and Global Ministries at Matthews United Methodist Church, Matthews, 801 S. Trade St., Matthews, N.C. $425. Details.

Free webinar “Congregations as Discipling Communities” Tuesday, July 22 — 6:30 p.m. CT. This webinar will focus on a model where congregations can create safe, open and relational spaces where disciples at all stages of their faith journey can share their experiences. Details.

Deadline for early-bird registration for “Make Worship More Creative” workshops in the Upper New York Conference, Friday, Aug. 1 — Day-long workshops featuring worship coach Jason Moore will be Monday, Sept. 8 through Thursday, Sept. 11 at different churches around the conference. Costs $25 per person, and $65 per church. Details.

United Methodist conference “Walking with Palestinian Christians,” Thursday-Friday, Aug. 7-8 — Sponsored by the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries and host Ginghamsburg Church, 6759 S. County Road 25A, Tipp City, Ohio. Details on PDF.

Christians Engaged in Faith Formation conference“CEF2014: May the Circle be Unbroken,” Friday-Monday, Oct. 17-20 — This is a conference for United Methodist Christian Educators and leaders in faith formation from other denominations at Millennium Maxwell House Hotel in Nashville, Tenn. Details.