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Weekly Digest - June 26, 2015


NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for June 22-26. 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

Same-sex ruling adds to church debate

WASHINGTON (UMNS) — United Methodists had varied reactions to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that establishes same-sex civil marriage as a constitutional right. But many United Methodists agree on one point: The decision likely will escalate a longtime denominational debate on the church's position on homosexuality. Church law bans clergy from blessing same-sex marriages and forbids churches from hosting such ceremonies. Heather Hahn reports.
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United Methodists welcome health care ruling

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to uphold subsidies for health insurance bought on the federal exchange comes as a relief to many United Methodist clergy and lay church employees. The ruling also affects millions of other Americans. Heather Hahn reports.
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Mourning for Charleston, then praying for action

CHARLESTON, S.C. (UMNS) — Through Sunday sermons, prayer vigils and public statements, United Methodists are expressing feelings of sorrow, determination and hope over the racially motivated June 17 massacre of nine church members at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Linda Bloom reports.
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Alabama pastors offer perspective on Charleston tragedy

DALLAS (UMNS) — Two United Methodist pastors in Alabama drew on personal relationships and a commitment to stronger ties among denominations of Wesleyan heritage in commenting on the shooting deaths at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Sam Hodges reports.
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Commentary: Remembering God’s presence in the wake of tragedy

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — After the tragic shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, Christians seek to draw closer to God. The Rev. Joe Iovino writes about how we can remember God's presence and our call to be agents of healing to a broken world.
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United Methodists send message of healing
Wesley faculty recall pastor who died in church shooting
Emanuel AME is latest victim of violence against black churches
Rev. Lowery reflects on church shooting
Remembering Charleston pastor’s ‘passionate spirit’

No wedding gifts, just cash for Freedom School

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Eric Brown, 31, and Brittney Jackson, 27, asked friends and relatives to donate to Freedom School instead of giving them wedding gifts. They raised $7,000 for the free summer reading program for children in grades K-8. Kathy Gilbert has the story.
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In North Carolina, a 'green' view costs less

GARNER, N.C. (UMNS) — Direct sunlight, a wooded, natural setting, access to a patio with a view — staff at the United Methodist North Carolina Conference Center find a lot to like about their building. The conference’s environmental commitment to seek LEED certification also resulted in energy efficiency, financial savings and, potentially, more money for ministry. Linda Bloom reports.
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Mission agency head lauds climate change encyclical

NEW YORK (UMNS) — Thomas Kemper, top executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, urges church members and all people of faith to read and study the papal encyclical on climate change from Pope Francis. “It puts squarely on human shoulders the responsibility for the natural environment and its future,” he writes.
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Flotilla gets campers across floodwaters

KINGSTON, Okla. (UMNS) — The adventures of summer camp can include just getting there. Ask the teenagers who floated across floodwaters to attend an “island camp” at Cross Point United Methodist Camp. Sam Hodges reports.
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Follow action at annual conferences

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — New stories this week from conference gatherings include: California-Nevada, East Ohio, New England, Rocky Mountain and Northwest Texas. United Methodist News Service is posting reports at
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Why church membership matters

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Church membership isn’t about privileges like assigned pews or having a say in important church decisions. Rather it is a call to participate as part of a fellowship of followers of Jesus Christ who seek to make the world more like the Kingdom of God. The Rev. Joe Iovino writes about membership in The United Methodist Church.
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History of Hymns: “Tell Me the Stories of Jesus”

DALLAS (UMNS) — William Henry Parker (1845-1929), a devoted member of Chelsea Street Baptist Church in Nottingham, England, wrote “Tell Me the Stories of Jesus” when his Sunday school class asked him for a story. C. Michael Hawn, director of the sacred music program at Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University, writes about this hymn and Parker’s other work.
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Surf Shack: Cokesbury reveals 2016 VBS theme

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — As churches are in the midst of vacation Bible school activities this summer, the search for next year’s program begins. In 2016, Cokesbury’s “Surf Shack: Catch the Wave of God’s Amazing Love” program will offer a beach-themed getaway for kids to learn about God’s awesome power. Cokesbury is part of the United Methodist Publishing House.
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Cuba’s vibrant, growing Methodist Church

HAVANA (UMNS) — The Methodist Church in Cuba currently has more than 42,000 members and a worshiping community of 65,000 — a remarkably large number for a Protestant denomination in a country with a Roman Catholic culture (by tradition) and a communist government. Elliott Wright has the story for New World Outlook.
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Poll: We like our red-white-and-blue patriotism — mostly

WASHINGTON (RNS) — We’re gung-ho for the idea that the U.S. has a special status with God, and we’re almost always proud of our nation. But a new survey finds our flag-waving, All-American Fourth of July celebrations are also tempered by concerns that the nation isn’t the moral leader it once was, reports Cathy Lynn Grossman of Religion News Service.
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Commentary: Introverted Christian in loud church

ADRIAN, Mich. (UMNS) — Loud music, strobe lights and “the wave” can be overwhelming for introverted Christians. “Instead of meeting our spirituality in these ways, give us the time and the space that we need to recover after each day,” writes Carolyn Wirtz, a student minister on the staff of the Adrian College chaplain's office.
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E-Reader Project trainings held in Angola

MALANGE, Angola (UMNS) — Faculty at two theology schools in Angola have received training on how to use e-readers. The sessions were through the E-Reader Project to provide theology schools in remote areas access to current textbooks and reference books. The project is a collaboration of The United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministries and Discipleship Ministries. Nicole Burdakin reports.
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Starbucks, Communion and race conversations

WASHINGTON (UMNS) — The Rev. Douglas Powe Jr. notes the controversy that followed an initiative of Starbucks chief executive Howard Shultz to have the coffee shops serve as settings for conversations around race. Powe, a professor at United Methodist Wesley Theological Seminary, suggests Christians already have a holy meal to model such conversations: the Eucharist. The Lewis Center for Church Leadership shares his commentary.
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Church ballfield offers lessons in organ donation

COLLIERVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Ashley Blythe was a varsity softball player with dreams of playing in the Olympics when a car crash cut her life short. Her family honored her memory by donating her organs and a gift to Blythe’s church, CrossRoads United Methodist Church. The church in turn used that money to finish a community ballfield. The Memphis Conference reports on how players on the field are raising awareness about organ donation.
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We’re getting a new pastor! What can I do?

MONUMENT, Colo. (UMNS) — This time of year many United Methodist churches face big changes. A pastor who has been there shares tips to help parishioners through the transition. The Rev. Joe Iovino reports for
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Congregations asked to share disciple-making stories

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — United Methodist congregations are being invited to share stories about how they are making disciples for the transformation of the world as they offer the H.O.P.E of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life. United Methodist Discipleship Ministries, which developed the acronym H.O.P.E. to help remember steps in disciple-making, is posting the stories on a new website,
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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.

Wednesday, July 1
Deadline to apply to be a General Conference volunteer — Volunteers are needed for a variety of roles during the 2016 General Conference, including recorders, channel "B" identifiers and verbatim transcribers. The United Methodist Church’s top legislative assembly will meet in Portland, Oregon, from May 10-20, 2016. All volunteers are responsible for their own travel and expenses. Those interested can apply here.

Early bird registration for Game Changers Summit 2015 — The United Methodist Communications-sponsored conference on information and technology for development will be Sept. 17-19 at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee. Technology and communication leaders from around the globe will speak and train on developing communication strategy to aid the social good throughout the developing world. $275 by July 1. Details.

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