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Weekly Digest: March 21, 2014


NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for March 17 - March 21. 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

Bishop Morgan, ‘leader of leaders,’ dies

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (UMNS) — Retired United Methodist Bishop Robert “Bob” C. Morgan, who twice oversaw the merger of annual conferences and who guided a number of active bishops, passed away March 16, 2014. He was 80.

Read obituary and post a comment

Remembering how Bishop Morgan opened doors

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (UMNS) — Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett, leader of the North Alabama Annual (regional) Conference and president of the United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women, reflects on how the late Bishop Robert C. Morgan opened doors to her and other women in the church. Morgan passed away March 16 and his funeral was March 19.

Read Wallace-Padgett’s remembrance

Longtime Africa U. supporter Kennedy dies

BENNETTSVILLE, S.C. (UMNS) — Jonas T. Kennedy, who with his wife provided the first major gift to start Africa University, died March 14, 2014, in Bennettsville, S.C. In 1991, Kennedy and his wife, the late Odette Miller Kennedy, began contributing to Africa University.

Read story and post a comment

More women pastors but still obstacles

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — A recent survey showed women pastors in The United Methodist Church finding more acceptance and more reasons to stay in local church ministry. But, Garlinda Burton explains, women - especially racial-ethnic women - are more likely to move to ministries beyond congregations, citing lack of support by bishops and cabinets and underuse of their gifts for ministry.

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Chicago bishop to join immigration rally

CHICAGO (UMNS) — A third United Methodist bishop is stepping out to protest the Obama administration’s deportation of immigrants. Bishop Sally Dyck of the Northern Illinois Annual (regional) Conference said she will join a March 27 rally in Chicago and is prepared to be arrested in an act of civil disobedience. On Feb. 17, Bishops Minerva Carcaño and Julius Trimble were among those placed in custody by police during a protest near the White House.

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Call to stop deportations

Appeal granted in Schaefer defrocking case

WASHINGTON (UMNS) — The Committee on Appeals of the Northeastern Jurisdiction has agreed to hear the case in which a Pennsylvania pastor, Frank Schaefer, saw his clergy credentials removed after officiating at a same-sex wedding ceremony for his son. Schaefer was convicted of violating the United Methodist Book of Discipline, the law book of the denomination.

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The right rockin’ Rev. Sherry Cothran

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — She's gone from a rock star featured in Rolling Stone as part of indie band The Evinrudes to being a United Methodist pastor who sings about the "untamed women" of the Old Testament. She will perform March 21 at the United Methodist Women’s Scarritt-Bennett Center.

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Discipleship installs Bias as new top exec

HERNDON, Va. (UMNS) — The board of directors of The United Methodist Board of Discipleship officially installed the Rev. Timothy L. Bias as the agency’s new top executive during its March board meeting.

Read about the board meeting

‘Witnessing Wednesdays’ for restored voting rights

LEXINGTON, Ky. (UMNS) — Nia Community of Faith of the United Methodist Kentucky Annual (regional) Conference is asking others to join its “Witnessing Wednesdays” prayer vigils for the Kentucky Senate to recognize that former felons should have voting rights restored. The United Methodist Board of Church and Society has joined an ecumenical group in writing a letter to key Kentucky Senate leaders urging their support.

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Seeking solidarity with people on margins

CHENNAI, India (UMNS) — A March consultation attended by some 50 church leaders, theologians and activists from India, Singapore and the United States called for more attention to people on the margins. The Rev. Donald E. Messer, executive director of the Center for the Church and Global AIDS, was one of the speakers.

Read story

Not yet 30, this pastor has big mission

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (UMNS) — Under 30 and out of seminary, the Rev. Tiffany Thomas is thriving where God has planted her. "The community has a lot to teach about who God is and about how God loves and how God provides in the midst of suffering, in the midst of need,” Thomas said of her inner-city congregation.

Watch UMTV video

United Methodists and St. Patrick

Who was the real St. Patrick?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — He was a saint, but much of what we celebrate about the man called Patrick is legend. Heather Hahn separates fact from legend in a look at the ministry of St. Patrick, who was committed to spreading Christianity.

Read story

St. Patrick: A patron saint for PKs

HOUSTON (UMNS) — You never know how those preacher’s kids will turn out, especially when their father is not only a deacon in the church, but also a respected judge in the community. St. Patrick offers a model for Christians today and preacher's kids today, writes the Rev. C. Chappell Temple, presiding pastor of Lakewood United Methodist Church.

Read commentary

Examples of creative local church ministry

UMTV: Mardi Gras jazz mass

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Since 1999, West End United Methodist Church has celebrated the day before Lent begins with a Mardi Gras jazz mass. Congregants and community members feast at the church’s Shrove Tuesday pancake supper, then head to the sanctuary for a lively New Orleans-style jazz worship service.

Watch video

Early example of Change the World

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (UMNS) — It was “Change the World” weekend in in this seaport city and members of Mandarin United Methodist Church stepped out in force to make a difference. Nancy Winckler-Zuniga explains that before the sun had set, children, the hungry, disaster victims and many others would be the recipients of the church’s effort to change the world.

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Easter eggs keep church running all year

SHICKSHINNY, Pa. (UMNS) — Since its beginning in Civil War times, the First United Methodist Church has served the community through many needs. More than 25 years ago, it took a family recipe to make Easter eggs to sell, an enterprise that now helps pay bills and enables continued service. reports that the church expects to sell 16,000 eggs this year.

Read story

Resources and educational opportunities

Change the World reaches five-year milestone

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — On May 17-18, United Methodists around the world plan to pull together events to help “Change the World.” For the fifth year, local churches will take on service projects that improve the circumstances of others and spark public interest in volunteer activities. Register your project now at Churches that register their projects early can receive a free promotional kit while supplies last.

Read news release

One Great Hour of Sharing Devotional available

NEW YORK (UMNS) — The One Great Hour of Sharing Devotional eBook produced by the United Methodist Committee on Relief offers daily devotionals as it shares why UMCOR does what it does. The One Great Hour of Sharing offering will be on the fourth Sunday of Lent, March 30 this year.

Read devotional

Small disciples raise money for Imagine No Malaria

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (UMNS) — Children in the Alabama-West Florida Annual (regional) Conference set up a lemonade stand, advertised by their mothers on Instagram, to raise money for Imagine No Malaria. They raised $61 — enough to pay for six insecticide-treated bed nets.

Ideas to raise money for Imagine No Malaria

Bishop proposes ‘Seven Levers’ of positive change

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (UMNS) — Missouri Area Bishop Robert Schnase, author of “Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations,” has just published a new book with Abingdon Press, “Seven Levers: Missional Strategies for Conferences.” The book’s ideas are topics of discussion at the Annual Association Conference Lay Leaders event Thursday-Sunday, March 20-23, in Kansas City.

To learn more and order the book

United Methodist baptismal ritual at 25 years

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — In a three-part series, the Rev. Taylor Burton-Edwards, director of worship resources for the United Methodist Board of Discipleship, looks at three developments in the last 25 years that have reshaped baptismal theology and refocused the sacrament of baptism.

Part 1: The background

Part 2: How vows are taught

Part 3: Closing the last mile

Agency releases paper on technology for social good

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - United Methodist Communications is calling on church members to learn how the increasing availability of low-cost communication technologies can be used for community and economic development around the world. The agency today is releasing a discussion paper, "Using Technology for Social Good," in preparation for its Game Changers Summit, Sept. 3-5, in Nashville.

Read the announcement

Read the discussion paper

History of Hymns: ‘Take Up Thy Cross’

DALLAS (UMNS) — This hymn by Charles W. Everest remains one of the great hymns of Christian discipleship. As is the case with many hymns from the 18th and 19th centuries, the message is about faithfulness and even suffering in this life leading to heaven. C. Michael Hawn of Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology, tells the story of "Take Up Thy Cross."

Read story

News around conferences

Church, college respond to violent deaths

GLADE SPRING, Va. (UMNS) — When four family members died in a domestic-violence tragedy in Glade Spring, Va., people at United Methodist-related Emory & Henry College and State Street United Methodist Church responded to help the community grieve and find hope. Annette Spence of the Holston Annual (regional) Conference shares the story.

Read story

United Methodists in the news

Woman donates kidney to ‘brother in faith’

BIRMINGHAM, Mich. (UMNS) — Sid Thomas found the gift he was praying for through his congregation, Birmingham First United Methodist Church in the Detroit Annual (regional) Conference. The Detroit News has the story.

Read story

Watch church’s video

Florida church paves way for homeless shelter

OCALA, Fla. (UMNS) — St. Mark’s United Methodist Church has entered into a partnership to establish a shelter for homeless men and women in a building on its property. The church’s action opens the way after a first plan for a tent city on another site met with neighborhood opposition. “We have just been looking for a mission,” the Rev. Susan Gray of St. Mark’s told

Read story

Ministry with the Poor

Florida toymakers build children’s smiles

EAST LAKE, Fla. (UMNS) — East Lake United Methodist Church has become home to the toymakers of East Lake, volunteers who build toys for children in distress. tells how the 100 volunteers create a beehive of activity as they carry out their mission.

Read story

Area rallies to help Ohio pastor with ALS

POWELL, Ohio (UMNS) — The Rev. William E. Croy, formerly the pastor at Maple Grove United Methodist Church, is in the advanced stages of ALS, commonly called Lou Gehrig’s disease. tells how a community has rallied to help him.

Read story

Congregation works to ensure building serves

ROBSTON, Texas (UMNS) — The congregation of First United Methodist Church realized it no longer could support its church property, but it was determined to try to make sure the facility continues to bless the community. tells how these parishioners came to a difficult decision and what they hope the future holds.

Read story

One couple’s inspiration now feeds hungry

PUEBLO, Colo. (UMNS) — Breakfast for the homeless and hungry started as a once-a-month mission in 2011. Steve and Carrie Worley of First United Methodist Church were inspired one day while reading their Bible. With the help of their congregation, the breakfast ministry was born. They tell The Pueblo Chieftain that their souls have been nourished as much as the bodies of those they serve in what is now a once-a-week ministry.

Read story

University and seminary news

Africa University selects new top executive

MUTARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS) — Munashe Furusa, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities at California State University in Dominguez Hills, was elected unanimously as the new chief executive of United Methodist-related Africa University during the school’s board meeting March 18.

Read story and post a comment

Africa University dedicates Ubuntu Center

MUTARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS) — A delegation from the West Michigan Annual (regional) Conference, led by Bishop Deborah Kiesey, watched March 19 as the ribbon was cut to open a guest center on the campus of Africa University. The $1 million, 46-bed Ubuntu Retreat Center will host visiting faculty, conferences and mission teams from around the world. Mark Doyal, Michigan Area communications director, has the story.

Read story

How to make financing college easier

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Financing college can be a daunting challenge, but administrators at United Methodist colleges and universities can provide some advice to make the task much easier. Natalie Bannon explains how to get started.

Read story

Education conference invites pastors

HIROSHIMA, Japan (UMNS) —The International Association of Methodist-related Schools, Colleges and Universities invites United Methodist pastors to attend the 2014 conference May 24-28 in Hiroshima. The event’s theme is “Peace, Reconciliation and Human Rights.” Established in 1991 during the World Methodist Conference, IAMSCU is affiliated with more than 800 Methodist educational institutions around the world.

To learn more and register

Philippines seminary holds commencement

MALAYBALAY, Philippines (UMNS) — Ten United Methodist graduates received Master of Divinity degrees from the Bishop Han Theological Seminary during a March 18 ceremony. The seminary’s president and founder is the Rev. Sang Ho Han, senior pastor of Jooan Methodist Church in Inchon, Korea.

Read story

Blogs and commentaries

Bishop Khegay offers prayer for Ukraine

ZAKARPATIE, Ukraine (UMNS) — “In this politically conflicting time, the church continues to share the gospel way — the way of active ministry to people, preaching of hope and faith, proclamation of God’s power and providence in the history of humankind,” writes Bishop Eduard Khegay of The United Methodist Church in Eurasia. BBC News reported that Ukraine plans to withdraw troops from Crimea after Crimean leaders signed a treaty allowing the peninsula to be absorbed into Russia.

Read full commentary

Ukraine 'preparing withdrawal of troops from Crimea'

Jesus and the poor: A Lenten reflection

WASHINGTON (UMNS) — “The mission of salvation started with an outreach to the poor,” writes Rose Farhata, a clergy candidate from Liberia and intern at the United Methodist Board of Church and Society. She says the way Jesus treated those in poverty verified God’s love beyond physical appearance.

Read commentary

Sometimes, mission lands at your front door

FORT WORTH, Texas (UMNS) — Julian Hobdy, digital media coordinator for the Central Texas Annual (regional) Conference, reflects on what happened when a “pretty ugly” car accident happened just outside the conference center. “In a time of great chaos and turmoil, decay and destruction, Christ injects himself into our situations.”

Read commentary

Tech enables health care in remote areas

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — “Mobile phones seem to be everywhere in Africa, and they’re keeping people in touch with health, education, banking, and community empowerment,” writes Neelley Hicks, director of information and communications technology for development at United Methodist Communications. She explains how “mHealth” is changing lives.

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.

Free webinar “Media: What’s Trending in Elementary School,” Tuesday, March 25 — 10 a.m. CT, a discussion of how we can extend community for children through healthy media use. To register.

Free webinar “What is Recovery? Understanding Addictions and Supporting Recovery Strategies,” Tuesday, March 25 — 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. ET, offered by the National Association for Children of Alcoholics and the American Association of Pastoral Counselors. Details.

Free webinar “No More Volunteers! Reclaiming Christian Servanthood,” Tuesday, March 25 — 5 p.m. CT, a discussion of a different approach for finding, recruiting and motivating people to serve the church. To register.

Webinar “Company’s Coming! Training for the Experience,” Tuesday, March 25 — 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. ET, how to welcome guests at your local church. The Rev. Mark Waltz of United Methodist congregation Granger Community Church in Indiana will lead. $10. Details.

Window on Wesley Theological Seminary, Tuesday, March 25; Saturday, April 26; and Tuesday, June 17 — 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. ET, full-day events for prospective students include a campus tour, discussion of degree programs and the chance to attend a class. Details.

Alonzo L. McDonald Distinguished Faculty Lectures on Christianity and Human Rights, Wednesday, March 26 — 12:15 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. ET, Tull Auditorium, Emory Law School, a 50th anniversary celebration of key civil rights documents. Details.

“Spirituality of the Labyrinth” workshop, Saturday, March 29 — 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. CT at the Scarritt-Bennett Center in Nashville, Tenn. $42. Details.

Bishop’s Convocation of Prayer, Saturday, March 29 — 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET, Trinity United Methodist Church, 903 Forest Ave., Richmond, Va. The Rev. Tom Albin, dean of the Upper Room Ministries and Ecumenical Relations, will be the speaker. $10. Details.

Increase Generosity in Your Church Conference, Saturday, March 29 — 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET, Myers Park United Methodist Church, Charlotte, N.C. The Rev. Lovett H. Weems Jr., director of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership, will speak. $35 to $45. Details.

Preaching and lunch with retired Bishop William H. Willimon, Sunday, March 30 — Willimon, who formerly led the North Alabama Annual (regional) Conference and teaches at Duke Divinity School, will preach at 8:30 a.m., 9:45 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. ET at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Alexandria, Va. At 12:30 p.m., he will speak during “Lunch with the Bishop” about the future of mainline denominations. $10 for lunch; reservations required. Details.

One Great Hour of Sharing, Sunday, March 30 — Donations the United Methodist Committee on Relief receives through this offering, along with other undesignated gifts made throughout the year, cover the relief agency’s costs of doing business. To learn more.

Deadline to register for online course “United Methodism 101,” Monday, March 31— Course offered April 2 to May 14, an overview of the denomination’s history, structure, beliefs, ministries and challenges from United Methodist Communications $9.99. Details.

Community Organizing for Social Change & Church Development training, Monday-Friday, March 31 to April 4 — First Grace United Methodist Church, New Orleans. The training will teach how methods of community organizing can be a tool in congregational development, community transformation and engagement in justice ministries. Jointly offered by United Methodist Board of Church and Society and Path1 of the United Methodist Board of Discipleship. $295. Details.

Free Perkins “Lunch and Learn” with Susanne Johnson, Monday, March 31 — 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. CT, Perkins School of Theology’s Houston-Galveston Extension Program, 3501 W. Alabama, Suite 107, in Houston. Johnson, associate professor of Christian education, will speak on “Hidden in Plain Sight: Perspectives on Injustice.” Details.

Free webinar “Multiplying Disciples: Part 2,” Monday, March 31 — 6:30 p.m. CT, spiritual leaders learn together to build an intentional congregational plan for making disciples. To register.

Deadline to apply for Hispanic Youth Leadership Academy, Tuesday, April 1 —The chaplain’s office at United Methodist-related Adrian College will help host a leadership academy June 25 to 28 for Hispanic United Methodist youth and young adults in eighth through 12th grades. Click here for a pdf of the registration form.

Free webinar “Monitoring Reports: Increasing Participation through Gentle Mutual Accountability,” Tuesday, April 1 — 7:30 p.m. CT, part of a series of leadership webinars offered by the United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women. To see schedule and register.

Deadline to register for the 2014 United Methodist Women Assembly, Tuesday, April 1 — April 25 to 27, Louisville, Ky. Details.

Welcome Table at Wesley Theological Seminary, Thursday, April 3 — 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. ET, events for prospective students include a campus tour, networking opportunities and the chance to attend a class. Details.

Free webinar “Developing Your Ministry Plan 3: Discovering Your Discipleship Process,” Thursday, April 3 — 6:30 p.m. CT, this session focuses on three key areas of congregational life: values, small groups, and social outreach. To register.

Free webinar “Reaching out to children of unchurched parents,” Thursday, April 3 — 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. ET, offered by Practical Church Resources. Details.

The Professional Association of United Methodist Church Secretaries conference, Thursday through Sunday, April 3 to 6 — Asheville, N.C., continuing education for administrative assistants and any office workers in United Methodist churches. Details.

Free webinar “New Children’s Ministers,” Tuesday, April 8 — 10 a.m. CT, how to recruit people to serve as well as provide tangible tools online, print, and verbal for identifying and encouraging adults to connect with children’s ministry programs and continue serving. To register.

Free webinar “Teaching the Way of Jesus,” Tuesday, April 8 — 6:30 p.m. CT, What does it mean for us to educate “followers of Jesus” for faithful living in the world? A look at six key directions to focus our ministries in Christian education. To register.

Palm/ Passion Sunday, April 13 — The United Methodist Board of Discipleship offers worship resources.

Holy Week, Monday-Saturday, April 14 to 19 — The United Methodist Board of Discipleship offers worship resources.

Easter Sunday, April 20 — The United Methodist Board of Discipleship offers worship resources.

The 2014 conference of the International Association of Methodist-related Schools, Colleges and Universities, Saturday-Wednesday, May 24 to 28 — The event in Hiroshima, Japan is open to pastors as well as educators. The theme is “Peace, Reconciliation and Human Rights.” Details.