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Weekly Digest - May 22, 2015


NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for May 18-22. 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

After Ebola: A devastated country picks up the pieces

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (UMNS) — Liberia recently was declared Ebola-free, but the virus, while retreating, is proving to be an unshakable foe in Sierra Leone. More than 12,000 have contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone and nearly 4,000 have died. In “Ebola: The Struggle to Recover,” a four-part special report with stories and video, Jan Snider examines Ebola’s impact on that West African nation.
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Who can put Sierra Leone together again?
Ebola survivors and orphans can be pariahs
A generation lost to Ebola
See more UMNS Ebola coverage

A little-known big influence on John Wesley

HERRNHUT, Germany (UMNS) — John Wesley's spiritual awakening on May 24, 1738, was a turning point in his ministry, and it arguably would not have happened without the Moravians. Who are the Moravians? A group of bishops and their ecumenical staff recently visited the Protestant denomination's home base in southeastern Germany to learn more about the Wesleyan-Moravian connection. Heather Hahn reports.
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Church body seeks greater openness on human sexuality

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — United Methodist clergy could perform same-gender weddings and conferences could ordain openly gay clergy if legislation by a denominationwide leadership body wins General Conference approval. Heather Hahn reports.
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Economist: Church in crisis but hope remains

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The United Methodist Church has only 15 years to reverse its decline in the United States if it is to have a sustainable future, an economist warned church leaders. At the same gathering, the church leaders discussed possible missional goals to address that decline and enhance the global denomination’s ministries around the world. Heather Hahn reports.
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Connectional Table wants to model worldwide church

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The Connectional Table of The United Methodist Church currently has only 10 percent of its members from outside the United States. Members want to change that, to reflect better the worldwide nature of the church.
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Reflecting on the Boston bomber death penalty

BOSTON (UMNS) — In a commentary, New England Area Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar reflects on a jury's decision to sentence Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death.
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Clergywomen explore women's issues on Cuba visit

HAVANA (UMNS) — As official relations between the U.S. and Cuba continue to change this spring, a diverse group of 16 United Methodist clergywomen traveled to the island to explore Cuban women's social, political and religious issues and the unique evolution of the Cuban Christian church. The seminar was sponsored by the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry and Boston University School of Theology. Mary Buckner has the story.
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Reaching out with a bilingual service

ROCKAWAY, N.J. (UMNS) — When Lysette Perez became the senior pastor at the United Methodist Church of The Rockaways, she noticed the area had a growing Hispanic community. Jeff Wolfe of the Greater New Jersey Conference reports how the church is reaching new people.
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Blessing bestowed on new missionaries

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Following three weeks of intensive training, new missionaries with the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries received a blessing as they prepared to live out their calling. The missionaries will be commissioned during annual conferences sessions. Laura K. Wise reports.
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Try to humanize, not demonize

WASHINGTON (UMNS) — A gracious response by Mo'ne Davis — who impressed many with her 80 mile-an-hour fastball in the Little League World Series — to an offensive comment reminds us that people are not beyond redemption or restoration, even those who have committed crimes, writes Bill Mefford, United Methodist Board of Church and Society, in a commentary.
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Quiz yourself: United Methodist history

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The United Methodist Church has existed in various forms for more than 200 years. Test your knowledge of its history with this quiz, a partnership between United Methodist Communications and the United Methodist Commission on Archives and History. A new question will be added each day through John Wesley's birthday, June 17.
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Lessons for church from the 'spiritual but not religious'

DELAWARE, Ohio (UMNS) — Pew Research Center's recent survey showed a steep rise in the religiously unaffiliated. Here is what Linda Mercadante, a professor of theology at Methodist Theological School in Ohio, has learned about reaching the "spiritual but not religious." Joe Iovino reports for
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United Methodist's journey shows how to 'live while dying'

HOPKINS, Minn. (UMNS) — When Bruce Kramer learned in 2010 that he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, he decided to share his journey publically. The United Methodist and former dean at the University of St. Thomas did a series of interviews with Minnesota Public Radio News and collaborated with MPR reporter Cathy Wurzer on a book of reflections on the disease, vocation, faith and relationships. Kramer, 59, died March 23, just days after publication of "We Know How This Ends."
Listen to the show

Commentary: Why clergy get kicked out

CASPER, Wyo. (UMNS) — Every year thousands of clergy across denominations are moved, removed or otherwise asked to retire from the pulpit. The Rev. Rebekah Simon-Peter, a United Methodist elder and church consultant, digs into data offering reasons why pastors may end up alienating a congregation.
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Candler students to visit South Korea

ATLANTA (UMNS) — Robert Franklin, the James T. and Berta R. Laney Professor in Moral Leadership at United Methodist Candler School of Theology, will lead students on a study trip to South Korea May 20-30. The Candler group will meet with leaders and discuss such issues as normalization of relations with North Korea.
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Perkins offers new degree

DALLAS (UMNS) — Perkins Sool of Theology, a United Methodist seminary at Southern Methodist University, will offer a Master of Theology (Th.M.) degree beginning this fall. The degree can be preparatory to Ph.D. studies, and students can focus in such areas as "The Biblical Witness" and "The Theology and Practice of Ministry."
For more information

University of Denver holds symposium on Sand Creek Massacre

DENVER (UMNS) — A daylong symposium May 22 will focus on acknowledgement and repair for the Sand Creek Massacre in which more than 160 Cheyenne and Arapaho women, children and elderly men were slaughtered on the orders of Col. John Chivington, a Methodist clergyman. The University of Denver has released a report which finds Chivington “culpable for the Sand Creek Massacre.”
See list of speakers and topics for the symposium
Read UMNS coverage of Sand Creek

Supplying basic needs to families in Syria and Iraq

NEW YORK (UMNS) — As civil war in Syria staggers into a fifth year, the United Methodist Committee on Relief is responding to basic, often-overlooked needs both in Syria and in neighboring Iraq, as both countries also face the challenge of persistent attacks by the Islamic State. David Tereshchuk reports for UMCOR.
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Haste makes waste in disaster response

FORT WORTH, Texas (UMNS) — An effective disaster response by church folks requires "patience and process," say the Rev. Laraine Waughtal, disaster response coordinator for the Central Texas Conference, and Vance Morton, the conference's communications director. They offer five tips, drawn from experience in a region beset by tornadoes.
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Northeastern region considers possible episcopal reduction

WASHINGTON (UMNS) — In a letter to United Methodists in the denomination's Northeastern Jurisdiction, the conference's College of Bishops said it is in "prayerful consideration" regarding possible solutions to address the potential reduction of an episcopal area in the jurisdiction.
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Watch now: How to pack a health kit

NEW YORK (UMNS) — In this video, the Rev. Brian Diggs, director of the United Methodist Committee on Relief's depot in Salt Lake City, takes viewers through the steps to assemble an UMCOR health kit, providing useful advice before items are shipped to any of the UMCOR Relief-Supply Network depots.
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A Wesleyan perspective on the Spirit

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — This Sunday, we celebrate the feast of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples. While most United Methodists can articulate what they believe about Jesus and are reasonably comfortable talking about God, our confidence might waver when talking about the Holy Spirit. A sermon credited to John Wesley and a hymn by Charles Wesley offer insights into the sometimes misunderstood third member of the Trinity, writes Joe Iovino.
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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 and put Digest in the subject line.

Saturday, May 23
Wesley Festival Gala Concert — The event at 8 p.m. EDT at the Kennedy Center in Washington will feature choirs and singers from across the country and benefit Imagine No Malaria. Tickets are on sale. Details.

Sunday, May 24
Heritage Sunday — United Methodists celebrate John Wesley's Aldersgate spiritual awakening on May 24, 1738, by also celebrating the history of the movement he started. This year's theme will focus on the Wesleyan movement's heritage of welcoming the stranger. The United Methodist Commission on Archives and History provides resources.

Thursday-Saturday, May 28-30
United Methodist Women’s History: Voices Lost & Found conference — In preparation for the 150th anniversary of the United Methodist Women in 2019, Methodist Theological School in Ohio will host a conference on campus, 3081 Columbus Pike in Delaware, Ohio. A $90 registration fee covers all conference activities, meals on Friday and breakfast on Saturday. One continuing education unit is available for an additional fee of $25. Details.

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