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Weekly Digest - November 7, 2014

NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for Nov. 3-7. 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

Top Stories

How does The United Methodist Church live with integrity amid sexuality debate?
OKLAHOMA CITY (UMNS) — A video submitted by a mother whose gay son committed suicide after facing condemnation in the church was one of four personal stories viewed and discussed by a panel on sexuality in The United Methodist Church. The mother’s video sparked the most vehement reaction from the panel of six bishops and the head of the denomination’s publishing house during the Nov. 1 live webcast. Heather Hahn has the story.

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Bishops called to be more accountable to each other
OKLAHOMA CITY (UMNS) — United Methodist bishops must be accountable to both United Methodists in their areas and the full Council of Bishops, asserted the council’s new president. Bishop Warner Brown Jr. takes the helm as the denomination is struggling with declining U.S. membership, deep divisions regarding homosexuality and questions of what it means for church leaders to be accountable. Heather Hahn reports.

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Bishops called to be more accountable to each other

Health expert: United Methodists saving millions of lives

Constitutional amendments ratified

Bishops told holy conferencing key to revival

What United Methodists need to know about voting
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Sporting an “I voted” sticker yet? On Tuesday, Nov. 4, many citizens across the United States went to the polls. Others stayed at home, arguing, “My vote won’t make a difference.” Two young United Methodist pastors say voting can make a difference and that people of faith have a moral responsibility to cast their ballot. Barbara Dunlap-Berg reports.

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Being a Christian during an election cycle

A `Faith'-based look at urban ministry
DALLAS (UMNS) — A new book by the Rev. Faith Fowler, "This Far By Faith," recounts her 20 years in leading Cass Community United Methodist Church in Detroit and a related nonprofit, Cass Community Social Services. The story-laden memoir shares her ups-and-downs in urban ministry, as well as creative approaches to helping people on the margins with food, shelter and jobs. Sam Hodges has the story.

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Louisiana church baptizes 17 in one service
JENNINGS, La. (UMNS) — It was a banner day for baptisms at Mallalieu United Methodist Church when 17 children and adults received the sacrament by immersion. The Louisiana Conference shares a photo feature.

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Is church planting only for those under 35?
PORTLAND, Ore. (UMNS) — The Rev. Jeremy Smith, in his blog “Hacking Christianity,” ponders the question of whether you have to be under 35 years old to start a church that reaches young people.

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Rare for racial-ethnic pastors to lead large, mostly white churches
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Racial-ethnic pastors who lead large, predominantly white United Methodist churches in the United States are open-minded and spiritual, but rare, according to a new survey by The United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry. The survey found that of the 1,070 churches with more than 1,000 members in the U.S. in 2011, just 20 had lead racial-ethnic, or non-white, pastors serving majority white congregations.

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Tucson church provides sanctuary
TUCSON, Ariz. (UMNS) — Francisco Perez Cordova, an undocumented husband and father, spends time with his wife and five U.S.-born children. He works hard and pays taxes. He does all this while living in sanctuary at St. Francis of the Foothills United Methodist Church in Tucson, Arizona. Kate Strohmeyer, writer for the United Methodist Desert Southwest Conference, has the story.

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Theology school struggles with pollution, housing
HARARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS) — A thin film of gray powder covers the scattered vegetable patches, hiding the green leaves. A gust of wind brings more of the toxic dust from the nearby factory that manufactures fertilizer. Pollution is just one of the daily struggles at United Theological College, where students face difficulty getting enough clean water or adequate housing. Eveline Chikwanah, communicator for the Zimbabwe East Annual Conference, reports.

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Alaska native goes from pews to pulpit
NOME, Alaska (UMNS) — Charley Brower is a rarity as a native Alaskan serving as pastor of a congregation in the state. He talks about his connection to the community, about how he came to lead Nome’s Community United Methodist Church, and about God’s presence as seen in the natural beauty of Alaska.

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Pastor’s debut album penned during husband’s cancer struggle
SPARTANBURG, S.C. (UMNS) — When her husband was diagnosed with cancer, the Rev. Elise Erikson Barrett put aside everything to care for him through a failed course of chemotherapy and a successful bone marrow transplant. Now, her debut album explores profound questions of faith, love and loss that surfaced during her husband’s ordeal.

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Four Advent outreach ideas
MOBILE, Ala. (UMNS) — During Advent many Christians seek to get beyond the usual routine of shopping and parties, in order to share God's love. The Rev. Jeremy Steele, for United Methodist Communications, provides ideas he has gathered from across the denomination that can help congregations and individuals reach out in new ways.

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40-day climate walk ends on typhoon anniversary
BASEY, Philippines (UMNS) — A 40-day march from Manila to Tacloban City – now proceeding through areas devastated by Typhoon Haiyan – is aimed at encouraging both grassroots and world leaders to confront the crisis of global climate change by highlighting its effect on vulnerable countries like the Philippines. Gladys P. Mangiduyos has the story.

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Recovery continues a year after Philippines typhoon

More on Typhoon Haiyan response

Communications response to typhoon

Pastor used cell phone for graveyard connections
MOBILE, Ala. (UMNS) — The Rev. Chip Hale recalls the laughter and tears that went with caring for his elderly parents, especially a certain odd request from his mother that had him lingering in the graveyard after funerals he performed.

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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.

Sunday, Nov. 9
International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church — News of Islamic State's persecution of Christians in Iraq and Syria has drawn extra attention this year to the places where Christians risk their lives for their faith. United Methodist Discipleship Ministries offers prayers for churches to use on this or any day. How UMCOR is helping people displaced in Iraq.

Sunday-Monday, Nov. 9-10
Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton speaks at Fiser-Christie Endowed Lectureship — Bickerton, who leads the Western Pennsylvania Conference and is the spokesperson for the denomination's Imagine No Malaria initiative, will speak at the 8:30, 9:30 and 10:55 a.m. CT Nov. 9 worship services at St. James United Methodist Church, 321 Pleasant Valley Drive in Little Rock, Ark. That night, he also will speak from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Imagine No Malaria Youth Rally. On Monday, Nov.10, he will speak at a $10 lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and an evening lecture at 6 p.m. All events are at the church. A special offering for Imagine No Malaria will be taken at each event. Registration is required for the rally and the luncheon. Details.

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