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Weekly Digest - March 6, 2015

NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for March 2-6. 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 umc.org/news.

Top Stories

Candler students join call to stop Georgia execution

ATLANTA (UMNS) — Students, former graduates and faculty at United Methodist Candler School of Theology are rallying to support "one of their own" who sits on death row in Georgia. Kelly Renee Gissendaner was convicted of the murder of her husband and sentenced to death in 1998. In 2011, she graduated from the Certificate for Theological Studies program at Lee Arrendale State Prison, a program that is sponsored in part by Candler. Kathy L. Gilbert has the story.
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United Methodist school still a beacon on border

EL PASO, Texas (UMNS) — Youth from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, journey by bus and foot each day to Lydia Patterson Institute, a United Methodist school in El Paso, Texas. Students at the school, founded in 1913, get a faith-based, English language education and 98 percent go on to college. Retired United Methodist Bishop Joel Martinez calls the school “a community where miracles are expected and celebrated every day.” Sam Hodges reports.
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View slideshow
View Boston Avenue United Methodist Church’s video

Ebola changes Côte d’Ivoire without crossing border

ABIDJAN, Côte d’Ivoire (UMNS) — Ebola has not crossed the border into Côte d’Ivoire, but the deadly virus has changed the country forever. Church visitors are still greeted with exuberance and joy. But those joyful notes are tinged with a new ritual of hand-washing, a constant reminder of the seriousness and sadness of Ebola. Kathy L. Gilbert reports.
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View photo essay

Côte d’Ivoire faith leaders join fight to keep Ebola out

ABIDJAN, Côte d’Ivoire (UMNS) — Pastors, priests, rabbis and imams are joining hands with government and health care officials to beat Ebola back from the doors of Côte d’Ivoire. The faith community has an important role to play. More than 80 percent of the population in Côte d’Ivoire attends a place of worship. Read Kathy L. Gilbert’s story and see Côte d’Ivoire through the lens of United Methodist Communications photographer Mike DuBose.
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Assessing key women’s conference, 20 years later

NEW YORK (UMNS) — Twenty years ago, a landmark document on women’s rights emerged from a U.N. conference in China. In March, United Methodists will be among those assessing the progress of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action during the 59th session of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women. Linda Bloom reports.
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African summit brings together evangelists

MUTARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS) — African countries have their own cultures and their own way of worship. To respond to the changing needs of the African church, the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries brought together evangelists from 28 countries for a summit on evangelism at Africa University. Sandra Brands reports.
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An update on imprisoned United Methodist in Congo

DES MOINES, Iowa (UMNS) — "My brother has turned something very, very dark into something beautiful," the Rev. Kiboko Kiboko told the Rev. Arthur McClanahan, director of communications for the Iowa Conference. His brother, Vano Kiboko, has been imprisoned in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since Dec. 29, for speaking out for human rights. McClanahan shares an interview and update.
Listen to interview
Background on Vano Kiboko’s imprisonment

$1 million in theological education grants awarded in central conferences

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Seventy-three grants totaling $1 million were awarded for theological education in 22 countries in Africa, Asia and Europe. The money will be used for training local pastors, faculty development, e-readers, curriculum, development of libraries, and more. The United Methodist Board of Higher Education’s Nicole Burdakin reports.
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Free weddings show church’s love

ELKHART, Ind. (UMNS) — Trinity United Methodist Church offered free weddings on Valentine’s Day for couples who wanted to celebrate in style but couldn’t afford a big wedding. “We remind them that we want their wedding to be a day to remember. But the most important thing for us as a church is their marriage,” says the Rev. Mark Dicken, senior pastor.
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5 things churches should stop for Lent

SAVANNAH, Ga. (UMNS) — Lent is the time of year where we look at our lives and do the hard work of being honest about things that might be keeping us from growing deeper in our relationship with God. The Rev. Ben Gosden, pastor of Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Savannah, Georgia, suggests things churches should give up for Lent that would help people in their discipleship.
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UMCOR remembers its birth state: New Jersey

OCEAN, N.J. (UMNS) — The United Methodist Committee on Relief was born in New Jersey, so it is no surprise the agency has remembered its birth state in times of need, most recently Superstorm Sandy. Jeff Wolfe reports for the Greater New Jersey Conference on the occasion of UMCOR’s 75th anniversary.
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More on UMCOR’s 75th anniversary

United Methodists join student gathering in Colombia

BOGOTA, Colombia (WCC) — United Methodists are among those gathered through March 5 for the 35th General Assembly of the World Student Christian Federation. The federation has been invited by churches and ecumenical partners in Colombia “to play a key role in making visible the work for justice and peace in the country,” said Christine Housel, the group’s top executive. The World Council of Churches has the story.
Read WCC story
See assembly website

‘Why women preachers?’

ROWLETT, Texas (UMNS) — A local Church of Christ congregation used its sign to quote a verse in Corinthians and ask, “Why are there women preachers?” The Rev. Jan Davis, pastor of First United Methodist of Rowlett, chose to respond from the pulpit and in her blog.
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Watch sermon

Louisiana Conference recommits to 7th Ward

NEW ORLEANS (UMNS) — Since Hurricane Katrina’s devastation, there has been no United Methodist presence in New Orleans’ storied 7th Ward. But that’s changing, the Louisiana Conference announced. Effective July 1, the Rev. Hadley Edwards will be appointed to the ward.
Read about the conference’s plans

Take my hand: The Gospel and the blues

THE WOODLANDS, Texas — Steve Beard, the editor of Good News magazine, pays tribute to “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” and Mahalia Jackson, the singer who with good reason is often associated with the beloved gospel song. The song, Beard writes, “was both Good Friday heartbreak and Easter Sunday jubilation.”
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New practice can re-energize your prayer life

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Proficiency in prayer comes through practice. Spending a season like Lent invigorating your prayer life is time well spent. Experiment with some new-to-you ways of praying. You might be surprised to find what works best for you, writes Joe Iovino.
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Fund fights mother-to-child HIV transmission

KANSAS CITY (UMNS) — While the United States has seen a dramatic drop in mother-to-child transmissions of HIV, developing nations have a different story to tell. The United Methodist Global Aids Fund is working to change that through Just Save One, an initiative that is funding projects around the globe working to prevent mother-to-child transmission. Linda Bales Todd, co-chair of the fund, spoke about the project at a meeting with members of the Great Plains and Missouri Conferences.
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Discipleship Ministries is agency’s new identity

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Discipleship Ministries has officially become the new name of the general agency of The United Methodist Church known for years as the General Board of Discipleship, or GBOD. “The shift from General Board of Discipleship to Discipleship Ministries was an intentional decision to more clearly communicate the work we do,” said the Rev. Timothy L. Bias, the chief executive of Discipleship Ministries.
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Should churches have worship leaders?

HOUSTON (UMNS) — Jonathan Aigner, a United Methodist music minister, suggests retiring the title worship leader. “If we consider that all the things we do in a worship service are to be acts of worship, it’s a little ridiculous to give the soloist the title of worship leader,” he writes in his blog “Ponder Anew.”
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Wesleyan Philippines backs climate change movement

CABANATUAN CITY, Philippines (UMNS) — A recent forum at Wesleyan University-Philippines culminated in the launching of a "Climate Justice Now!" movement. Some 300 forum participants signed a statement calling for a commitment to addressing climate issues, as well as raising awareness about what needs to be done. Gladys Mangiduyos reports. 
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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 newsdesk@umcom.org and put Digest in the subject line.

March

Women's History Month — Find out about famous women hymn writers with resources from United Methodist Discipleship Ministries.

Tuesday, March 10

Webinar "Cross+Generational Engagement" — 7-8 p.m. EDT. This webinar from United Methodist partner Practical Resources for Churches will discuss how to do intergenerational ministry. Linda Staats of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is the instructor. Details

Thursday, March 12

2015 Willson Lecture: “Formation for Ministry: Twenty-first Century Opportunities” — 9 a.m. CDT. The United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry is hosting the 2015 Willson lecture, delivered by the Rev. Russell E. Richey at the Harambee Auditorium, Scarritt Bennett Center, in Nashville, Tennessee. Details 

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