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Weekly Digest - May 16, 2014


NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for May 12 - 16. 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

University and seminary news

Curran found a home at SMU
DALLAS (UMNS)  The Rev. Charles Curran, a priest and Christian ethics professor, found a happy, if unlikely, home at Southern Methodist University after years of academic wandering and controversy over his challenge of Catholic Church teachings on contraception and other social issues. At 80, he’s retiring from full-time teaching, but will stay in Dallas, and plans to teach part-time and continue writing.

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First lady urges Dillard graduates to ‘think big’
NEW ORLEANS (UMNS) –– First lady Michelle Obama addressed the 2014 graduating class of Dillard University, one of the denomination’s historically black colleges. She received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters during the May 10 commencement ceremony.

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Torah scroll owned by SMU on exhibit at Vatican
DALLAS (UMNS) –– A rare Torah scroll owned by Bridwell Library of Southern Methodist University is on exhibit at the Vatican. The scroll, the first Bridwell item to be on display at the Vatican, dates to the mid-17th century, and was prepared by Jews living in Kaifeng, China.

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Five tips for grads in a tight job market
WESTERVILLE, Ohio (UMNS) — It can be tough out there for a recent college grad. But Ryan Brechbill of United Methodist-related Otterbein University has five tips that can help graduates in a competitive job market.

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Agency names 77 exemplary teachers
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry selected 77 professors and instructors at United Methodist-related schools, colleges, universities and theological schools to receive Exemplary Teacher Awards.

Read the news release

Beijing pastors provide glimpse into Christian China
WASHINGTON (UMNS) — A typical Sunday for the Rev. Wang Xuan includes preaching to more than 10,000 people, leading a choir practice, visiting home-bound parishioners, handling administrative tasks, and preparing for her next sermon. She is one of five leading Christian pastors from Beijing, China, spending the semester at United Methodist-related Wesley Theological Seminary to complete an intensive study. Amy Shelton and Erik Alsgaard have the story.

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News around conferences

Board blocks lesbian candidate for ordination
KERRVILLE, TEXAS (UMNS) — Mary Ann Barclay got her long-delayed interview with the Board of Ordained Ministry of the Southwest Texas Annual (Regional) Conference. But the board voted to remove Barclay, a lesbian, from the ordination process. Church law prohibits the ordination of "self-avowed, practicing homosexuals," but Barclay said the reasons she was given for the board's Tuesday decision did not include her sexuality.

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Recovery network reaches hundreds with gospel
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Church vans full of people arrive from all over town at Cokesbury United Methodist Church on Thursday nights. And now the Recovery of Cokesbury has expanded beyond its home base establishing a franchise-like network of worship- and small-group programs. Annette Spence of the Holston Annual (regional) Conference tells about the impact of this ministry.

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Goal: 1 million books for ecumenical educational project
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (UMNS)–– South Carolina United Methodists have collected nearly a million books to help combat what they see as a “direct connection between illiteracy and poverty in our state,” participants at a recent United Methodist Ecumenical and Interreligious Training event learned.

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Mozambique trio bringing ‘passionate worship’ to conference
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (UMNS) — The M’punzu Trio, an African jazz group from Mozambique, will help the Missouri Annual (regional) Conference bring “passionate worship” to the June 5-6 annual gathering. The trio will then go on a tour of United Methodist churches in Missouri through the end of June.

Listen to one of their songs

More about Mozambique/Missouri connection

United Methodist Men, Scouts package meals
WOODWORTH, La. (UMNS) — United Methodist Men meeting at the Wesley Center packaged 10,300 dehydrated meals for Stop Hunger Now. Boy Scouts attending a nearby camporee joined in the packaging process. Men also participated in a golf tournament, skeet shooting, worship and workshops. The Louisiana Conference has the story.

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Pastor calls for conflict-resolution training
CHICAGO (UMNS) — The Rev. P. Devon Brown, pastor of St. Mark United Methodist Church, calls for conflict resolution training from preschool through high school. He issued the call on Facebook following the shooting and killing of Leonore Draper, 32, a member of St. Mark.

See Brown’s posting

See article about shooting of Draper

News around the connection

Does Methodism have a usable past?
MADISON, N.J. (UMNS) — Our history comes into focus this month as United Methodists observe Heritage Sunday on May 18. The Rev. Robert J. Williams Jr., with the United Methodist Commission on Archives and History, explains how our history is intertwined with the present.

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Social action agency offers prayer for kidnapped girls
WASHINGTON (UMNS)—The United Methodist Board of Church and Society has posted a prayer written for the more than 250 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram.

Read the prayer

Commission compares church and secular parental leaves
CHICAGO (UMNS) –– The United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women finds that denominational parental leave standards are generous by U.S. standards but less than those offered by other nations.

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Faith leaders urge Congress to support smarter sentencing
WASHINGTON (UMNS) — United Methodists are among more than 720 faith leaders who have signed a letter to the U.S. Congress urging passage of the Smarter Sentencing Act to reduce mass incarceration. Wayne Rhodes of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society has the story.

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Nyadire school changes lives of hearing impaired
MUTOKO, Zimbabwe (UMNS) — Twenty-seven deaf or hearing impaired students at the Nyadire Primary School in Mutoko, Zimbabwe, have found more than an education at the United Methodist Church mission. The children and their parents have found hope.

Read news release

UMCOR rebuilds 200 homes in Philippines
EDIA, Philippines (UMNS) — Six months after Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines and left thousands of people homeless, UMCOR is rebuilding 200 homes in Calogcog, a devastated community in the town of Tanauan. The reconstruction is made possible by a $2.7 million grant approved by the UMCOR board of directors in April.

View video

Korean church members connect with mission staff
NEW YORK (UMNS) — An estimated 250 members of Korean United Methodist churches recently visited the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries headquarters in a relationship-building effort to help align their global outreach ministries both inside and outside the United States.

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Update: Agency wants bishop to account for use of funds
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The United Methodist General Council on Finance and Administration issued a press release noting that progress was made this week on the review of the use of theological education funds sent to the denomination’s West Angola Episcopal Area.

Read update and story

Publishing House move under negotiations
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The United Methodist Publishing House board approved the first phase of negotiations to move into a new home in the Metro Center area of the city, said Larry Wallace, chief financial officer. The publishing house divided its Nashville headquarters 7.06-acre site into four parcels in August 2013. One 0.92 acre parcel has sold and the sale of another is expected to close within a week. The Metro Center location is under consideration but a purchase contract has not been finalized, Wallace said. The publishing house has been in its current location since 1957.

More about the Publishing House

United Methodists cancel meeting in Atlanta
WASHINGTON (UMNS) –– A coalition of 10 progressive United Methodist caucus organizations cancelled plans for a 2015 Atlanta meeting due to “racially offensive practices of the Atlanta Braves organization toward Native Americans.” The Love Your Neighbor Coalition told Atlanta's mayor, the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and the Atlanta Braves, their city was at the top of the list for the meeting of 700 people, but the offensive caricature of “Chief Noc-A-Homa” on screen savers and Facebook pages along with the “tomahawk chop” provide “racist and demeaning images and stereotypes of our Native American citizens and friends.”

Read the news release

Resources for churches

Nominations sought for evangelist award
LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. (UMNS) — The Foundation for Evangelism is seeking nominations for the 2014 Distinguished Evangelist of the United Methodist Church Award. The deadline for nominations is June 4.

For information about the nomination process

Peace with Justice Sunday set June 15
WASHINGTON (UMNS) — The offering taken during Peace with Justice Sunday on June 15 will allow The United Methodist Church to advocate through a broad spectrum of global programs. One of six churchwide special Sundays, the initiative has funded an Ohio-based group that brings people of different faiths together and a partnership in Liberia that cares for former child soldiers. Printed resources are available.

Read about resources and projects supported by the offering

Planning event in D.C. introduces seminar program
WASHINGTON (UMNS) — Youth group and young adult leaders are invited to attend a three-day “In Focus” familiarization event, July 23-25, to introduce the United Methodist Seminars on National and International Affairs. The event will explain how to organize and lead a group for these tailored study experiences in the nation’s capital.

Read story

Grants available for ethnic social justice ministries
WASHINGTON (UMNS) — The United Methodist Board of Church and Society is receiving grant requests to fund ethnic minority start-up ministries that address concerns such as housing, employment, health care, human rights, education, the environment and racism. There is no required minimum or maximum amount. Deadline is Aug. 10.

Read news release

Video explores painful subject of suicide
CHICAGO (UMNS) — A video on suicide prevention and ministry with those who may be considering suicide has been produced through a creative ministries grant from the United Methodist Northern Illinois Annual (regional) Conference. Retired chaplain and United Methodist pastor, the Rev. Kent Svendsen, draws from his 15 years of teaching suicide prevention for the U.S. Army in this video produced by Tim Frakes.

See video

History of Hymns: ‘By Grace We Have Been Saved’
DALLAS (UMNS) — “What's the big deal about grace?” asked a student. The teacher, the Rev. Rusty Edwards, took the question seriously. C. Michael Hawn of Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, tells the story of Edwards' hymn on grace, a work found in the United Methodist “Worship & Song” songbook. This is part of Hawn's ongoing series for the United Methodist Board of Discipleship.

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United Methodists in the news

Church turns parking lot woes into blessing
JACKSON, Tenn. (UMNS) — Instead of stopping traffic from cutting through its parking lot, Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Jackson installed a community prayer box for those passing through. The Jackson Sun shares the results.

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Church diaper donation drive leads to 'No Baby Wet Behind'
ABSECON, N.J. (UMNS) — United Methodist Women of the Absecon United Methodist Church declared May "diaper month" and chose Mother's Day weekend to kick off its participation in the "No Baby Wet Behind" program, spearheaded by the Family Service Association of South Jersey. Donations of disposable diapers will go to the children of low-income families in the community. has the story.

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N.C. pastor to ride 4,000 miles for human trafficking awareness
HICKORY, N.C. (UMNS) — The Rev. Mark Andrews, pastor of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, plans to ride 4,000 miles to create awareness and raise money to combat human trafficking, with the enthusiastic support of the church’s United Methodist Women unit. The has the story.

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Personnel news

Pension board names managing director
GLENVIEW, Ill. (UMNS) -The Wespath Investment Management Division of the United Methodist Board of Pension and Health Benefits announced the hiring of Kirsty Jenkinson in a new position as managing director of Corporate Relations and Sustainable Investment Strategy, effective May 27. Jenkinson, previously a program director at World Resources Institute (Washington), will lead an environmental, social and governance strategic oversight team to more broadly integrate ESG issues more broadly into Wespath’s investment selection and processes.

Read news release

Appalachian Ministry Network gets new coordinator
BUCKHANNON, W.Va. (UMNS) –– Michael Armbrister, executive director of the Mount Rogers Planning District Commission in Marion, Va., will become executive coordinator for the United Methodist Appalachian Ministry Network  June 2.

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New dean of chapel named at Emory University
ATLANTA (UMNS) — The Rev. Bridgette Young Ross will become the next dean of the chapel and spiritual life at United Methodist-related Emory University beginning July 1. For the past five years she has served as an executive at the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry in Nashville, Tenn.

Read news release

Mission Society installs new president
NORCROSS, Ga. (UMNS) –– The Rev. Max Wilkins was installed as the seventh president of The Mission Society May 6 in a ceremony at Simpsonwood United Methodist Church. Wilkins, who officially assumes his duties June 1, succeeds the Rev. Dick McClain, who is retiring after nearly three decades of ministry.

Read news release

Deaconess named seminary librarian
LANCASTER, Pa. (UMNS) — Lancaster Theological Seminary, an ecumenical school affiliated with the United Church of Christ, has appointed Myka Kennedy Stephens, a United Methodist deaconess, to become seminary librarian, beginning May 19. The seminary is approved by the University Senate to train United Methodist clergy.

Read news release

North Central College names new campus chaplain
NAPERVILLE, Ill. (UMNS) — The Rev. Eric Doolittle, interim Protestant chaplain at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington has been named chaplain at North Central College. He has served as a pastor in three United Methodist congregations in Tennessee and as chaplain at Hiwassee College in Madisonville, Tenn.

Read Northern Illinois Conference news release

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.

Webinar “A Church for Everyone — Messy Church,” Tuesday, May 20 — 7-8 p.m. ET, How to be a church for families based around hospitality, creativity and celebration, offered by Practical Church Resources and led by the Rev. Rich Hill, an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America pastor. $10. Details.


Free webinar “Sharing Our Faith,” Tuesday, May 20 — 6:30 p.m. CT, tips for sharing the Christian faith and discussing your faith journey without coming across as pushy from the United Methodist Board of Discipleship. Details.

Workshop “Transformation: Equipping Churches to Transform Lives,” Tuesday-Thursday, May 20-22 — United Methodist-related Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas, will host ecumenical event. $150. Details.

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

African American Summit, Tuesday-Wednesday, June 3-4 — Retired United Methodist Bishop Ernest S. Lyght will be the guest speaker for Peninsula-Delaware Conference event at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, 11868 Academic Oval, Princess Anne, Md. $25. Call the Rev. Sheila Hunley at 410-810-4612. Details.

Free webinar “Safe Sanctuaries for Camps and Retreats — Part Two,” Tuesday, May 27 — 11 a.m. CT, This training is for local church leaders who do camps and retreats as well as leaders serving at camp and retreat centers. Details.

Free webinar “Children’s Ministry: Created by God,” Thursday, May 29 — 10 a.m. CT, Advice for using the “Created by God” curriculum, which teaches  'tweens about bodies, growth and development, relationships, reproduction and God's role and desire for this process.  Details.

Ascension Day, Thursday, May 29 — “Ride on King Jesus” is among the litanies and meditations to celebrate Christ’s Ascension from the United Methodist Board of Discipleship.

Pentecost, Sunday, June 8 — Throw the church a Spirit-filled birthday party with resources from the United Methodist Board of Discipleship.

Day 1, Sunday, June 8 and Sunday, June 15 — The Rev.Charles Reeb, senior pastor of Pasadena Community Church (United Methodist) will be the featured speaker Pentecost and Trinity Sunday on the nationally syndicated radio program “Day 1.” To listen.

Free webinar “Sunday School Curriculum Review,” Thursday, June 12 — 7-8 p.m. ET, A discussion of the different types of curriculum available and factors to consider in selection, led by Debbie Kolacki, a certified Christian educator and United Methodist lay servant. Details.

Lake Junaluska Summer Youth Events, June 12 - July 20 —Lake Junaluska Youth Events will focus on being the Body of Christ through service, worship, and community with afternoons free for groups to customize their trip and explore the mountains of North Carolina. Leadership includes Shane Claiborne, Duffy Robbins, Andy Lambert and more. Register at

Aldersgate 2014 Conference, Thursday to Sunday, July 17-20 — The national conference of Aldersgate Renewal Ministries will be at the Prairie Capital Convention Center in Springfield, Ill. The theme is freedom. Details.

Prepare: A Training for New Leaders, Monday-Tuesday, June 23-24 & Summer Institute, Tuesday to Friday, June 24-27 — Both events at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology in Atlanta aim to address that need by training, equipping, and building a network for new, seasoned or prospective United Methodist collegiate ministers.. Combined cost of events is $100. Details.

Deadline to apply for CORR Action Fund grants, Monday, June 30 — The United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race will award grants of $20,000 to $80,000 to “innovative, bold, high-impact initiatives” that will increase intercultural competency or support vital conversations about race, cultural diversity and systemic equity. Details.