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Weekly Digest - May 15, 2015


NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for May 11-15. 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

U.S. tornado losses include two from Texas church

VAN, Texas (UMNS) — A church council chair and his wife, a former secretary of the church, died in likely tornadoes that roared through Van, Texas, May 10. The Rev. Mark McClanahan, pastor of Van United Methodist Church, confirmed the deaths of David and Brenda Tapley. Over the past week, tornadoes also have wreaked havoc elsewhere in Texas and in Colorado, Kansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Arkansas and South Dakota. Sam Hodges and Linda Bloom report.
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UMCOR continues aid for U.S. tornado damage

U.S. Christians lose ground in latest Pew survey

WASHINGTON (RNS) — The United States is a significantly less Christian country than it was seven years ago. That’s the top finding — one that will ricochet through American faith, culture and politics — in the Pew Research Center’s newest report, “America’s Changing Religious Landscape,” released May 12. Cathy Lynn Grossman reports for Religion News Service.
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Pew Research Center study

More United Methodist landmarks to see

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — United Methodist church members can take pride in the people and places that connect the church across the globe. In 2014, a virtual pilgrimage showed seven sites every United Methodist should see. readers followed up with their favorite Wesleyan wonders of the world. Lilla Marigza reports on those sites.
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United Methodist annual conferences underway

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — United Methodists in Africa, Europe, the Philippines and the United States are preparing for — or have already attended — annual conference meetings. During these regional legislative meetings, clergy and laity elected by local churches will establish 2015 budgets, consider resolutions regarding social justice issues and recognize retiring clergy. The ordination service for clergy is a highlight of every session. UMNS posts reports from communicators in each conference.
Read conference reports
See conference schedule

United Methodist Communications leader dies at 87

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Roger L. Burgess, a layman who had a distinguished career as leader in several international agencies of The United Methodist Church over nearly 50 years, including United Methodist Communications, died May 10. He was 87. Thomas McAnally has the story.
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Central conference retirees: From destitution to hope

MAPUTO, Mozambique (UMNS) — The pension Felicidade Manguele gets as a United Methodist pastor’s widow provides the necessities of life for the orphaned 8-year-old granddaughter she is raising. Lifting retired United Methodist pastors in the central conferences out of poverty has taken nearly 15 years, but the denomination’s pension board is now celebrating that every pastor throughout the worldwide denomination has a pension. A group of church agencies, led by the board, collaborated to make that a reality. Sandra Long Weaver reports.
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Seeking children’s prayers for Peace with Justice Sunday

WASHINGTON (UMNS) — Children are invited to submit original prayers for peace to the United Methodist Board of Church and Society as part of the denomination’s Peace with Justice Sunday observance. The multi-faceted initiative, “Hate Hurts, Peace Heals,” includes a reading list on peace for children and Sunday school classes and an opportunity to gather offerings for peace. Wayne Rhodes reports.
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Former House Speaker Wright was faithful United Methodist

FORT WORTH, Texas (UMNS) — The May 6 death of Jim Wright, former U.S. Speaker of the House, yielded many news stories about his political career. But United Methodists are remembering him as a faithful member of First United Methodist Church of Fort Worth, and a leader in the Central Texas Conference. Vance Morton, director of communications for the conference, reports.
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Denzel Washington: ‘Put God first’

NEW ORLEANS — Actor Denzel Washington gave Dillard University graduates four life goals, starting with “Put God first.” Washington gave the commencement address on May 9, receiving an honorary doctorate before leaving to give another commencement address at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas. Dillard and Wiley are two of the historically black colleges supported by The United Methodist Church’s Black College Fund. Washington’s 2007 film “The Great Debaters” tells the story of a Wiley College debate team. Sue Strachan reported for and The Times-Picayune.
Read The Times-Picayune story
Support the Black College Fund

United Methodists pitch in to feed children, distribute medications

BALTIMORE — Metropolitan United Methodist Church’s fellowship hall became a cafeteria and gathering space for children after school closures in the wake of riots. Volunteers and friends from surrounding cities sent food, clothing, toiletries and medical supplies to the church. The Rev. Eric King talks about distributing meals and creating care packages for community members who have been without medication since a nearby pharmacy went up in flames. Think Progress reports.
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Liberia gives thanks for freedom from Ebola

MONROVIA, Liberia (UMNS) — United Methodist leaders joined in as Liberia gave thanks for the declaration that the country is free of Ebola. But church leaders also recalled the many lives lost and counseled continued vigilance in public health. Julu Swen reports.
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Christian Unity gathering draws 200-plus in D.C.

WASHINGTON (UMNS) — More than 200 Christian leaders, scholars, activists and ecumenists, including United Methodists, were part of the second annual Christian Unity Gathering held by the National Council of Churches May 7-9. Participants also were among the more than 2,500 people at the Washington National Cathedral for a worship service commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
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Walking to Emmaus in Holy Land, Sweden

GENEVA (WCC) — In a feature for the World Council of Churches, Peter Kenny shares how the biblical story of Emmaus motivated 60 young people from Palestine, South Africa, Germany and Sweden to make a two-stage peace pilgrimage in the Holy Land and Sweden.
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United one of 12 seminaries to double enrollment

DAYTON, Ohio (UMNS) — A report from the Association of Theological Schools listed United Theological Seminary as one of only 12 seminaries to have doubled enrollment over the past five years. United President Wendy Deichmann credits much of the United Methodist school’s recent success to its online education programs. “We have a really compelling, relevant program, and because of that, we’ve been able to connect with a whole new population of students,” she said.
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U.S. should finalize tobacco rules, health agencies say

WASHINGTON (UMNS) — The United Methodist Board of Church and Society has joined public health and medical organizations in urging President Obama quickly to finalize long-overdue U.S. rules covering all tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, cigars and hookah.
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Ministry guide available in Spanish

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — An updated, Spanish-language version of “The Christian as Minister: An Exploration into the Meaning of God’s Call” is now available. The book, published by the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry, is required reading for ministry candidates in The United Methodist Church.
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Remembering Del Ketcham

HENDERSONVILLE, N.C. (UMNS) — Delbert “Del” Ketcham, a former staff member of the Commission on United Methodist Men, died recently after a battle with lung cancer. He was passionate about gardening and improving food security.
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Church’s pension fund ranked 10th on climate change

GLENVIEW, Ill. (UMNS) — The United Methodist Church’s pension fund ranked 10th out of 500 international investors in management of climate risk and opportunities. The United Methodist Board of Pension and Health Benefits and its Wespath Investment Management division got the top-10 ranking from the Asset Owners Disclosure Project. The pension board instituted a specific climate-change investment policy guideline in 2015.
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Read climate change policy

Pastor seeks stronger link between Native Americans, church

LANCASTER, Pa. (UMNS) — Does Christianity end at the church door? Is it a religion in which people of different backgrounds come together to pray, but separate as they leave? That has long been what Native Americans have found it to be, said the Rev. Calvin Hill. A full-blooded Navajo and United Methodist minister in Montana, he and countless other Native Americans were taught to be good Christians while in church, but were left at the curb by society and the church once the religious services ended. Earle Cornelius reports for Lancaster Online.
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Leaving a preaching legacy at Candler

ATLANTA (UMNS) — As a passionate Atlanta Braves fan, the Rev. Thomas G. Long probably wouldn’t object to his career being described as a “grand slam.” The widely respected preacher, professor, author and mentor retires this spring as the Bandy Professor of Preaching at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. But he’s not quite finished there. Valerie Loner has the story for Candler, one of 13 United Methodist seminaries.
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Bias joins Foundation for Evangelism trustees

LAKE JUNALUSAKA, N.C. (UMNS) — The Rev. Tim Bias, top executive of United Methodist Discipleship Ministries, is a new trustee for The Foundation for Evangelism.
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Mothers are vital to food security in Congo

KAMINA, Congo (UMNS) — Working with the United Methodist Committee on Relief and Foods Resource Bank, about 500 people in the rural communities surrounding Kamina have been able to pull themselves out of malnutrition. Educating and training parents, especially mothers, has been a key strategy, writes Susan Kim for UMCOR.
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Machel joins call for accountability of U.N. peacekeepers

NEW YORK (UMNS) — Graça Machel, a United Methodist from Mozambique and the widow of Nelson Mandela, was among those joining AIDS-Free World, an international advocacy organization, May 13 to launch Code Blue, a U.N. peacekeepers campaign to end immunity for sexual exploitation and abuse.
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Coming next week: The struggle to recover from Ebola

The United Methodist Church in West Africa has been on the frontlines of the fight against Ebola since the outbreak began in May 2014. As the deadly virus shows signs of retreating, United Methodist News Service visited Sierra Leone to chronicle the many challenges that lie ahead for the church and the country in overcoming the devastation of the outbreak. Jan Snider’s four-part special report begins May 18 with stories and video.