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Weekly Digest - March 7, 2014


NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for March 3 - March 7. 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
Hillary Clinton to address UMW Assembly
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (UMNS) — Hillary Clinton, a lifelong United Methodist and former U.S. secretary of state, will be keynote speaker for the 2014 United Methodist Women Assembly April 25-27 in Louisville, Ky.

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Giving keeps pace with denomination’s budget
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Many United Methodist conference treasurers have reason to sleep easier these days with giving substantially better than during the deep 2009 recession. See which conferences paid full apportionments, and find out how your offering is distributed.

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Celebrating women’s contributions to church
CHICAGO (UMNS) — “Women of Character, Courage and Commitment” is the 2014 theme for the United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women as it celebrates Women’s History Month. The commission is highlighting a different woman each day on its website, offering worship elements and sharing voices of today’s United Methodists on the agency blog.

Read story

United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women

Worship resources

Read the blog

United Methodist Men increase giving for food ministry
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — In 2013, donations from United Methodist Men enabled 8.9 million servings of food to be given by Meals for Millions, a program of the Society of St. Andrew. It was the fourth consecutive year of increased giving.

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About the Society of St. Andrew

Literacy education: That’s church
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Rethink Church is showing its support for literacy and wants to help everyone else do the same. It is providing videos for use on websites or in services to help promote awareness of the importance of literacy.

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Colorado wildfires leave lingering needs
FORT COLLINS, Colo. (UMNS) — It will be two years in June since the wildfires forced almost 35,000 Coloradoans to flee their homes but some people are just making decisions about what to do. United Methodists are still there helping, even though the fires are long gone from the headlines. Susan Kim explains.

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Ukraine missionary reports calm in communities
KIEV, Ukraine (UMNS) — A missionary serving in partnership with The United Methodist Church in Ukraine wrote March 3 in an email to UMNS that across the district of eastern Ukraine, which includes Crimea, pastors report their immediate communities are calm. “Yesterday worship services and prayer meetings were held in UMC congregations across the country,” wrote John Calhoun, who is with the Board of Global Ministries. “Church leaders and members in all regions are praying for peace. However, there is a great divergence of opinion… . As there is divided opinion in the country about the movement of Russian troops into Crimea, so too is there division within the UMC on this grave issue.”

Lois Josephine Yeakel, bishop’s wife, dies at 86
WAYNESBORO, Pa. (UMNS) — Lois Josephine Yeakel, the wife of retired Bishop Joseph H. Yeakel, died Wednesday, March 5, at Colestock Nursing Home, Quincy Village, in Waynesboro. She was 86. She and the bishop were married 65 years. A service of Faith and Memories will be held at 10:30 a.m. ET Saturday, March 22, at Otterbein United Methodist Church, 108 E. Franklin St., in Hagerstown, Md. Memorials can be sent to Camp Casowasco Gift Fund at 158 Casowasco Dr., Moravia, NY 13118, Attention: Mike Huber. Condolences can be sent to Bishop Yeakel at 201 Quincy Court, Unit D, Waynesboro, PA 17268.

The church and homosexuality
Leaders of 2 agencies decry laws targeting gays
NEW YORK (UMNS) — Leaders of the United Methodist Boards of Global Ministries and of Church and Society have issued a statement critical of new, tough anti-homosexuality laws in Uganda and other countries.

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Dallas pastor performs same-sex wedding
DALLAS (UMNS) — More than 200 attended the service March 1 uniting George Harris, 80, and Jack Evans, 84, in marriage. The Rev. William McElvaney, 85, a retired pastor and seminary president, defied United Methodist Church law by presiding at the same-sex union.

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News around conferences
Remembering Harry Hosier: Methodist pioneer
ORLANDO, Fla. (UMNS) — A colleague of Francis Asbury, Harry Hosier delivered the first documented sermon by an African-American preacher in 1781, and was one of two African Americans at the famed 1784 Christmas Conference. Kathy Steele for the Florida Annual (regional) Conference shares how the Florida campus of Asbury Theological Seminary is working to get Hosier some long-overdue recognition.

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9 Chicago churches ‘safe havens’ for spring break
CHICAGO (UMNS) — Nine United Methodist churches have been selected safe havens for young people during spring break this year as part of the Safe Haven Program, the Rev. Robert E. Biekman of the Northern Illinois Annual (regional) Conference reports. The program provides safe places and healthy activities for Chicago Public School students during summer/spring break and after school by connecting churches with their neighborhood schools.

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Giving up a meal to help end poverty
PLANO, Texas (UMNS) — It’s a challenge to give up a small thing and to think big about what could be done with the sacrifice. Bishop Michael McKee of the North Texas Annual (regional) Conference wants conference members to join him in giving up one meal a week for Lent and donating the money to a project to eradicate poverty in two ZIP codes.

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Hoosiers active in homeless ministries
INDIANAPOLIS (UMNS) — The United Methodist Church in Indiana is the faith group with the largest number of churches involved in a network of congregations that take in homeless families for a week at a time. The congregations provide safety, shelter, meals and transportation to social service agencies for the parents or grandparents and to school for the children. Ed Metzler of the Indiana Annual (regional) Conference tells the story.

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Resources and educational opportunities
Lenten resources for 2014
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — May you have a meaningful Ash Wednesday and Lenten season. Below are Lenten resources to help you throughout this season of reflection on Christ’s sacrifice and redemptive love and to help you celebrate Christ’s Resurrection on Easter, April 20 this year.

  • “His Resurrection, Our Life,” a collection of lectionary helps, worship resources, meditations, music downloads, videos, bulletin covers and art from the United Methodist Board of Discipleship.

To see overview

  • Lent and Easter devotional resources, videos and articles from United Methodist Communications.

To view and download

  • United Methodist Committee on Relief, the denomination’s humanitarian relief and development agency, offers 40 days of Lenten devotionals that also highlight the March 30 One Great Hour of Sharing offering, which supports UMCOR.

To download PDF

  • The Society of St. Andrew, a United Methodist partner that leads feeding ministries, offers the “Create in Me a Clean Heart” Lenten devotions program for churches and individuals.

To sign up

To download devotional booklet

  • Abingdon Press, part of the United Methodist Publishing House, offers several choices for devotional and group study during Lent including:

The Way: Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus;

He Set His Face to Jerusalem;

God’s Gift of Life;

The Sanctuary for Lent 2014;

Voices for Good Friday.

To browse and order

Nominations sought for Culture of the Call awards
LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. (UMNS) — Does your church have a good track record of cultivating clergy? The Foundation for Evangelism is seeking nominations for the 2014 Culture of the Call Church Award. This annual award recognizes one local United Methodist congregation that encourages the next generation of leaders to enter full-time Christian service.

Nomination form

Learn more

History of Hymns: ‘There’s a Sweet, Sweet Spirit in this Place’
DALLAS (UMNS) — One of the most notable “Spirit Songs” of the 20th century is “There’s a Sweet, Sweet Spirit in this Place” by African American gospel songwriter Doris Mae Akers (1923-1995). It expresses in simple, heartfelt language the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church, writes C. Michael Hawn in his weekly column for the United Methodist Board of Discipleship.

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United Methodists in the news
United Methodist-Rotary solar ministry heading to Africa
LOS GATOS, Calif. (UMNS) — Lighting for Literacy, which started as a joint youth program of Los Gatos United Methodist Church and Los Gatos Morning Rotary, provides solar-powered LED lights for families without electricity. It now has expanded to partner with a local middle school and is serving needs in Zambia, Kenya and Ghana, the San Jose Mercury News reports.

Read story

Read United Methodist News Service on how the ministry got started

Historic church finding its place once more
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (UMNS) — Christ United Methodist Church is finding new ways to reach different people as it continues to serve its neighborhood in the middle of downtown St. Petersburg. The Tampa Bay Times reports on the 123-year-old church that refuses to quit.

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Mother honors son with home for special needs men
FLORENCE S.C. (UMNS) — Four special needs men will find a new home, thanks to the generosity of a mother who wanted to honor her son. Construction began March 3 on Rick’s House on the campus of Methodist Manor of the Pee Dee. has the story.

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Crunching numbers for church ‘best job ever’
CHARLESTON, W. Va.(UMNS) — He thinks of himself as a guy who does “all the numbers stuff” and looks at his life as a faith journey. Jim Berner, treasurer/director of administrative services and executive secretary of pension funds for the West Virginia Annual (regional) Conference, tells the Gazette-Mail how he ended up in the “best job ever.”

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Pastors don bulletproof vests for mission
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (UMNS) — A bulletproof vest isn’t the usual attire for a pastor, but a group of clergy, including the Rev. Ray Ake of Colburg United Methodist Church, have donned the uniform for the City Transformation Team. explains how this mission helps police and people in crisis.

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Volunteers make food a reality for Indiana city
NEW ALBANY, Ind. (UMNS) — On Sundays and Thursdays at Centenary United Methodist Church, the Christ’s Kitchen is buzzing with meal preparation for the hungry in the community. The Jeffersonville News and Tribune tells how more than 25 churches of different denominations have come together to feed those in need.

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University and seminary news
Black college support began in Civil War era
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — United Methodists support the largest number of historically black colleges and universities of any church body in the United States. The tradition began during the Civil War era and through the Black College Fund today helps support about 16,000 students. Tom Gillem tells the story of this ministry.

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$250,000 grant to Perkins at SMU
DALLAS (UMNS) — The Lilly Endowment has awarded Perkins School of Theology at United Methodist-related Southern Methodist University a grant of almost $250,000. Perkins was one of 67 theology schools to receive the grant to address financial issues facing future pastors.

Read news release

Garrett-Evangelical inaugurates president
EVANSTON, Ill. (UMNS) — Lallene Rector was inaugurated March 1 as the first female and the first lay president in the 160-year history of United Methodist-related Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. Rector previously was the seminary's vice president for academic affairs, its academic dean and an associate professor of psychology of religion and pastoral psychotherapy. The Daily Northwestern has the story.

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Emory names Laney Chair in Moral Leadership
ATLANTA (UMNS) — United Methodist-related Candler School of Theology at Emory University has named Robert M. Franklin Jr., one of the nation’s foremost public theologians, to the James T. and Berta R. Laney Chair in Moral Leadership. As the inaugural holder of this endowed professorship, Franklin will shape a program in moral leadership that honors the legacy of Emory President Emeritus Laney and his wife.

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Blogs and commentaries
Should United Methodists have a bigger Bible?
WAVERLY, Ohio (UMNS) — The Rev. A.W. “Bill” Martin, a retired United Methodist elder, argues in a commentary that United Methodists should consider including texts today used by Catholic and Orthodox Christians but generally left out of Protestants’ Bibles. He notes it would require changing the Articles of Religion, part of the denomination’s doctrinal statements.

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Legacy of service to deaf ministry
NORRISTOWN, Pa. (UMNS) — “We never know how the seeds we plant may grow into something much bigger when they mature and bear fruit,” notes Bishop Peggy Johnson of the Philadelphia Episcopal Area. She reflects on her brief interaction with Andrew Foster, who lost his hearing at 11 and went on to establish schools for the deaf throughout Africa.

Read commentary

Immigration is a matter of the heart
PHOENIX (UMNS) — The Rev. Dottie Escobedo-Frank, along with other United Methodist pastors and faith leaders, led a prayer vigil for families on a hunger strike outside the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement offices Feb. 27. She writes about the heartbreak suffered by families separated by deportations.


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Florida bishop asks repeal of ‘Stand Your Ground’
LAKELAND, Fla. (UMNS) — In a Feb. 19 letter, Bishop Kenneth H. Carter Jr. of the Florida Annual (regional) Conference asked Gov. Rick Scott to use his influence to repeal or revise the state’s Stand Your Ground Law. “It may seem to be a political impossibility,” Carter wrote, “and yet the gospel reminds me that what is impossible for us is possible for God.”

Read letter

Read story

OK, Mama, I just got arrested
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Jan Snider, a United Methodist and special projects producer at United Methodist Communications, shares why she traveled to Washington, D.C., to participate in a nonviolent protest against U.S. deportations of unauthorized immigrants. “Sometimes even a good girl has to raise a ruckus to be heard,” she writes.

Read commentary

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.

Women’s History Month, March — Worship resources from the United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women.

Deadline to register for “The Wizard of ALZ: A Different Perspective on Dementia,” Monday, March 10 — Memphis Conference Older Adult Council event 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. CT Tuesday, March 18, First United Methodist Church, Jackson, Tenn. $15. Details.

Deadline to register for five online courses from United Methodist Communications, Monday, March 10 — March 12-April 23, choices include Communicating Faith in the 21st Century, Connectional Giving, Moodle 200: Basic Training, Web Ministry 100: What is Web Ministry? and Welcoming Ministry 100. Prices vary. Connectional Giving is free. Details.

Free webinar “Individual Faith Formation Planning for Children,” Tuesday, March 11 — 10 a.m. CT, The interactive webinar explores what an individual faith formation plan for a child would look like and how it could shape the way a child engages. To register.

Free webinar “Multiplying Disciples: Part 1,” Tuesday, March 11 — 6:30 p.m. CT, Explore the qualities needed to build a lay-clergy team that leads the congregation in disciple-making. To register.

Free webinar "Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife," Wednesday, March 12 – 10 a.m. CT, discussion of Dr. Eben Alexander’s best-seller. To register.

Free webinar “Freed Up Financial Living: Start This Ministry in Your Church!,” Thursday, March 13 — 6:30 p.m. CT, This course can help people in your church better understand their money, and how to control it so that it doesn't control them. To register.

Webinar “Community Survey: Why, What, Who and How to Do It!” Thursday, March 13 — 7-8 p.m. ET, how to do a community survey to help you build new relationships and gather key information about your community. Joy Skjegstad, who has worked at Park Avenue United Methodist Church in Minneapolis, will lead. $10. Details.

Evangelism Conference, Friday-Saturday, March 14-15 — Holston Conference event at Cokesbury Center in Knoxville, Tenn. The speaker will be the Rev. Jorge Acevedo, lead pastor of Grace Church, a multi-site United Methodist congregation in southwest Florida. $35. Details.

Free webinar “From Generation to Generation: Challenges in Forming Faith,” Tuesday, March 18 — 6:30 p.m. CT, examining the role of congregations in forming faith. To register.

“180 Turnaround Church Conference,” Thursday, March 20 — 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. ET conference at Redeemer United Methodist Church in DeWitt, Mich. $59 per person, and $20 for each additional person from the same church. Details.

Early registration deadline for United Theological Seminary’s “Light the Fire!” Church Renewal Conference, Friday, March 21 — May 8-9 at Ginghamsburg Church, 6759 S. County Road 25A, Tipp City, Ohio. Details.

Ecumenical Advocacy Days, Friday through Monday, March 21-24 — Assembly co-sponsored by United Methodist Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Women, and other United Methodist ministries in Washington. The theme is “Jesus Weeps: Resisting Violence, Building Peace.” Details.

“Prophets, Harlots, Witches, And Warriors: Untamed Women Of The Old Testament,” Friday, March 21 —6-8:30 p.m. CT, The Rev. Sherry Cothran, United Methodist pastor and singer/songwriter, will share songs and stories about some of the Bible’s most interesting women. Event is at the Scarritt-Bennett Center in Nashville, Tenn. $10. Details.

Engaging Local Schools Conference, Saturday, March 22 — 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET, Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington. $20-65. Details.

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.

Webinar “Company’s Coming! Training for the Experience,” Tuesday, March 25 — 7-8 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.-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.

White Privilege Conference, Wednesday-Saturday, March 26-29 — A conference that examines challenging concepts of privilege and oppression and offers solutions and team building strategies to work toward a more equitable world, co-hosted by the Wisconsin Conference Board of Church and Society and Wisconsin Council of Churches at Monona Terrace Convention Center and Concourse Hotel in Madison, Wis. 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.-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 speak. $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. $35-45. 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.

Community Organizing for Social Change & Church Development training, Monday-Friday, March 31-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.