Skip Navigation

Weekly Digest - November 21, 2014


NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for Nov. 17-21. 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

Church mourns Ebola death of Sierra Leone surgeon
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The United Methodist Sierra Leone Conference is in shock over the death of Dr. Martin Salia from Ebola. Salia, who was the chief medical officer and only surgeon at United Methodist Kissy Hospital in Sierra Leone, died after he was airlifted to the United States for treatment. Kathy Gilbert has the story for UMNS.

Read story

United Methodist pastors feeding Ebola orphans

World owes gratitude to doctors like Salia

New churches rise; overall vitality dips
MOUNT JULIET, Tenn. (UMNS) — Providence United Methodist Church had 140 people at its first worship service. Six years later, the church has a weekly worship attendance of about 1,000 — enough to fill a middle school gym from floor to bleachers twice each Sunday. Providence is among the successful new church starts highlighted in a report presented to the Council of Bishops. Church starts are up, but the percentage of United Methodist churches considered highly vital has dipped. Heather Hahn reports.

Read story and post a comment

Tax break for clergy housing allowance stands
CHICAGO (UMNS) — A longstanding tax exemption for clergy housing allowances will stand, thanks to a 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling. United Methodist leaders welcomed the decision but warned the issue of constitutionality likely will resurface. Heather Hahn and Sam Hodges report.

Read story and post a comment

Kassig family remembers hostage son’s desire to help
INDIANAPOLIS (UMNS) — The United Methodist parents of the latest hostage executed by the Islamic State group are remembering his dedication to assisting those who have suffered during Syria’s civil war. “We are heartbroken to learn that our son, Abdul-Rahman Peter Kassig, has lost his life as a result of his love for the Syrian people and his desire to ease their suffering,” said Ed and Paula Kassig, members of Epworth United Methodist Church. Linda Bloom reports.

Read story and post a comment

Campus ministry offers support, prayers after FSU shootings
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (UMNS) – The shootings at a Florida State University library early on Nov. 20 had United Methodists on that campus gathering for prayer and mutual support. “Everyone’s pretty emotionally shaken,” said the Rev. Mike Toluba, pastor of the Wesley Foundation at FSU. Sam Hodges reports.

Read story and post a comment

Iowa clergyman faces complaint for same-sex wedding
DES MOINES, Iowa (UMNS) — The Iowa Conference cabinet filed a formal complaint against the Rev. Larry Sonner for officiating at a same-sex wedding. "I invite you to a season of prayer as the supervisory response to Rev. Sonner's action is directed toward a just resolution," Bishop Julius Calvin Trimble wrote in a pastoral letter to the conference.

Read letter

Light and Life Church rises from typhoon wreckage
TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines (UMNS) – Life is moving on for members of a United Methodist church destroyed by Typhoon Yolanda, also known as Typhoon Haiyan. Many have returned to work, but others are still living in bunkhouses built for disaster victims. Gladys P. Mangiduyos reports.

Read story and post a comment

‘Jesus wept’: Finding God’s comfort when times are bad
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The shortest verse in the Bible, in the King James Version at least, is just two words, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). Though only 10 characters, that verse has tremendous significance, especially when we are struggling to find hope in the midst of tragedies such as Ebola. Joe Iovino of United Methodist Communications shares a reflection.

Read story and post a comment

Confess sin of U.S. institutional racism, agency says
WASHINGTON (UMNS) — As the citizens of Ferguson, Missouri, awaited a grand jury decision on the shooting death of Michael Brown, the United Methodist Board of Church and Society issued a statement calling for prayer and the need “to confess the ways our systems of government, law and education perpetuate the sin of institutional racism in the United States.”

Read statement

There’s an atheist in the house
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — So what are parents to do when a son or daughter is an atheist? Susan Passi-Klaus writes about how she and her husband debated her daughter, preached to her and reasoned with her. “In the end, if there is an end, we simply decided to love her and support her life journey into herself,” Passi-Klaus writes.

Read story and post a comment

Exemplary United Methodist laywoman Alice Lee dies
MONROEVILLE, Ala. (UMNS) — Though known to the broader world as the older sister of Harper Lee, author of "To Kill a Mockingbird," Alice Lee earned recognition and deep respect in United Methodist circles for decades of service at the local church, conference and general church level. Alice Lee, also a female legal pioneer in south Alabama, died Monday at age 103. Sam Hodges writes about Lee.

Read story and post a comment

Imagine No Malaria offers 2014 Advent resources
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The Advent season can be enhanced with Imagine No Malaria 2014 worship resources. The downloadable materials include a short video, sermon starters, hymn suggestions and children’s messages. The five weeks of materials are centered on the themes of “Imagine Hope,” “Imagine Peace,” “Imagine Joy, “Imagine Love,” all highlighted by the African hymn, “I’ve Got The Light Of God In Me,” from Cameroon.

View video

Get resources

The parable of the unwanted classic car
TACOMA, Wash. (UMNS) — The church is like a classic car that a father labors over for years in his garage, but may lack appeal or even seem like a gas-guzzling burden to his driving-age children. Patrick Scriven of the Pacific Northwest Conference offers this analogy as a way of explaining why young people leave the church.

Read blog

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.

Native American Heritage Month — United Methodist Discipleship Ministries and Native American Comprehensive Plan offer prayer and worship resources.

Sunday, Nov. 30
United Methodist Student Day — This special offering supports scholarships for United Methodist young people. To order free envelopes and posters. Details.

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