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Weekly Digest - October 10, 2014

NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for Oct. 6-10. 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

Why care about Ebola? Hint: Not because you will catch it
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Ebola is not a major threat in the U.S., but it is devastating to countries who had little health care infrastructure before the outbreak and have far less now, said Dr. Tim Jones, state epidemiologist for the Tennessee Department of Health, and a lifelong United Methodist. What weighs heavier on his mind is the awful price Ebola is extracting on our neighbors in West Africa. Kathy Gilbert, UMNS multimedia reporter, has the story.

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Ebola epidemic witness offers insight in Texas
PLANO, Texas (UMNS) — Beatrice Gbanga came to the Dallas area, where an Ebola patient died this week, to brief fellow United Methodists on the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Gbanga, medical coordinator for the church’s Sierra Leone Conference, said she couldn’t help but notice the abundance of resources being applied to the one case in Texas, compared to the scarcity of medical personnel and supplies coping with the deadly outbreak in West Africa. Sam Hodges reports for UMNS.

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Ebola crisis: Where does the church come in?

Humanitarians must be at forefront of technology

Mission agency to open 3 global offices, Atlanta HQ
NEW YORK (UMNS) — The Board of Global Ministries is permanently vacating its longtime headquarters at the Interchurch Center in New York. The mission agency will move to Atlanta by the end of 2016 and open regional offices in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Linda Bloom reports for UMNS.

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Agreement resolves same-sex union complaint
PHILADELPHIA (UMNS) — Philadelphia Area Bishop Peggy Johnson announced Oct. 3 that a complaint filed against 36 pastors who officiated at the Nov. 9, 2013, same-sex union of two men has been resolved in an agreement by the complainants and respondents. The plan calls for the pastors to acknowledge they violated rules of the United Methodist Book of Discipline and for the complainants to withdraw the complaint. Kathy Gilbert reports.

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Panel aims to spur conversation on sexuality
OKLAHOMA CITY (UMNS) — Bishops and other leaders of The United Methodist Church will hold the second of three live-streamed panel discussions on human sexuality from 8 to 10 a.m. CT on Nov. 1. The Connectional Table, leaders of the global church, is inviting United Methodists to contribute. The discussion comes when, because of the U.S. Supreme Court, more states are seeing legalized same-gender civil marriage. Heather Hahn reports.

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Recalling a groundbreaker in church communications
NEW YORK (UMNS) — It was a radical idea for a church communications agency in the 1960s, but the motivation was just as groundbreaking: getting whites and blacks to talk to each other — over the airwaves — during a period of incredible racial tension in the United States. Ben Logan, who died Sept. 19, was the producer of “Night Call.” Linda Bloom writes about Logan and his work.

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Average debt for seminary graduates tops $49,000
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The average educational debt for a United Methodist student graduating with a Master of Divinity has reached $49,303, according to new findings of a United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry task force. That level exceeds what is nationally considered manageable debt. Nicole Burdakin has the story.

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Mission agency will match $1 million on #GivingTuesday
NEW YORK (UMNS) — The United Methodist Board of Global Ministries announced that on Dec. 2, 2014, it will match up to $1 million in gifts made online to any project through The Advance as part of The United Methodist Church #GivingTuesday.

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Cathedral Church of American Methodism
PHILADELPHIA (UMNS) — St. George’s United Methodist Church, the oldest Methodist church building in continuous use in the U.S., was founded before the Revolutionary War. The onsite museum holds artifacts from John Wesley and Francis Asbury and the church offers a Time Traveler experience that gives visitors a chance to learn more about the denomination’s founding fathers.

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Learn more about the Time Traveler experience

Politics of a rural church in North Carolina
SELMA, N.C. (UMNS) — The nationally aired public radio show “Here & Now” featured Edgerton United Methodist Church in this town where 30 percent live below the federal poverty level. Reporter Jeremy Hobson spoke to the church’s pastor, the Rev. Josh Kurtz, and members of the congregation about what issues matter to them in the upcoming midterm elections.

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Planning for evangelism event in North America
ATLANTA (UMNS) — Council of Churches representatives met Sept. 28 to Oct. 1 to set the agenda for a consultation on evangelism in North America in 2015. “Without exception,” said Jim Winkler, a United Methodist and top executive of the U.S. National Council of Churches, “we all agreed this to be an urgent matter at a time when so many are falling away from their faith in Christ.”

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5 ways to take your church’s fall festival to the next level
MOBILE, Ala. (UMNS) — One of the most-anticipated yearly events for many churches is welcoming the community for the fall festival. Here are some ideas collected by the Rev. Jeremy Steele for United Methodist Communications.

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Blog: The real problem with kids and social media
MOBILE, Ala. (UMNS) — Social media can inhibit adolescents from learning needed social skills, writes the Rev. Jeremy Steele, a United Methodist writer and pastor in the Alabama-West Florida Conference. He writes about first steps parents and churches can take to help youngsters be socially and digitally savvy.

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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.

Thursday-Sunday, Oct. 16-19 
“Peg-leg Flamingos: Native American Youth Leadership Training" — The Native American International Caucus of The United Methodist Church will hold a gathering for seventh-graders through high school seniors at Gretna Glen Camp and Retreat Center in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. $70. Details on PDF.

Friday, Oct. 17
Deadline to submit videos for United Methodist panel on human sexualityFor the panel on Nov. 1, United Methodists can create YouTube video explaining a personal story that pertains to unity and/or human sexuality and pose a question about “Finding Our Way” to one of the bishops or the editor. Videos must be no longer than 2-3 minutes. Tag the video using #cttalks and email a link to Three videos will be selected and shown at the event. Details.

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