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Weekly Digest - October 23, 2015


NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for Oct. 19–Oct. 23. 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 a church shares faith where faith is suspect

PORTLAND, Oregon (UMNS) — First United Methodist Church in Portland is defying its city’s religious trends, with growing worship attendance and Sunday school classes filled to bursting. Heather Hahn reports on how the United Methodist church closest to the 2016 General Conference site is cultivating disciples where many residents claim no religious affiliation.
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Pastor-scholar connected with ‘Stages of Faith’

ATLANTA (UMNS) — The Rev. James W. Fowler, a United Methodist scholar and elder, has died at age 75. His book "Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning" has gone through more than 50 printings and influenced many pastors and others. An elder in the Western North Carolina Conference, Fowler taught for many years at Emory University's Candler School of Theology and was the first full-time director of Emory's Center for Ethics. Sam Hodges reports.
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Africa University leader reflects on first year

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Africa University Vice Chancellor Munashe Furusa sat down with United Methodist News Service for a question-and-answer session about his first year at the United Methodist university in Zimbabwe. He talked about efforts to get more professors with doctorates, changes in awarding scholarships and the university’s potential.
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Same-sex wedding complaint moves forward

LANSING, Mich. (UMNS) — A complaint against the Rev. Michael Tupper for helping to officiate at a same-sex wedding is moving forward in a process the clergyman hopes will culminate in a church trial. After an impasse in attempts to reach a resolution, Michigan Area Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey announced Oct. 19 that she had referred the complaint against Tupper to a counsel for the church. Heather Hahn reports.
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Son’s death plunges couple into abyss of grief

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Words intended to bring comfort or encouragement can create additional pain in times of loss. Writing for Interpreter magazine, Tafadzwa Mudambanuki recounts how the comments of parishioners and colleagues both helped and hurt him and his wife, the Rev. Ever Mudambanuki.
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Fractured families seek strength, support

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — One pastor told a domestic violence survivor that she and her husband could work through their problems. A second provided empathy and concern for her, her children — and her parents — as she weathered a divorce and custody battle. Barbara Dunlap-Berg draws on Stephanie Greiner’s story for an Interpreter magazine article on how congregations can respond to the domestic violence survivors in their midst.
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Council of Churches helps Sierra Leone flood survivors

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (UMNS) — The Council of Churches in Sierra Leone has distributed relief supplies ranging from containers of food to health kits to about 5,000 flood survivors who — three weeks after devastating floods — are living in the National Stadium in western Freetown and Braima Attouga Stadium in eastern Freetown. The donations came mainly from Christian World Service and The United Methodist Church through the Sierra Leone Conference. Phileas Jusu reports.
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United Methodists mobilize Philippines typhoon relief

CABNATUAN, Philippines (UMNS) — United Methodists began assessing damage and providing emergency relief after Typhoon Koppu dumped heavy rains that triggered mudslides and flooding. More than 50 people died and thousands were forced to flee their homes. Gladys Mangiduyos reports.
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Why does God allow suffering?

SACREMENTO, Calif. (UMNS) — Tragedy strikes. A loved one dies unexpectedly. Mental illness steals a family’s hope. In the midst of the pain, the question arises: “Why?” Emily Snell offers several perspectives for the “Faithful Questions” series in Interpreter magazine.
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New voices in planning General Conference

NASHVILLE, Tenn. ( — A 29-year-old Norwegian said one of his goals as a member of the commission planning General Conference is to give voice to the central conferences of The United Methodist Church. He also hopes he can “bring the voices of the young people into the work that has to be done in planning the General Conference.” Audun Westad talks about the upcoming meeting of the church’s top legislative body in a United Methodist Communications video.
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Pension board releases sustainability report

GLENVIEW, Ill. (UMNS) — The United Methodist Board of Pension and Health Benefits has released its annual sustainable investment report. The “Global Investor, Global Impact” report summarizes United Methodist investment philosophy, which is designed to abide by church social teachings and protect the future financial security of 91,000 plan participants and institutional investors.
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Building capacity for mission

NEW YORK (UMNS) — More than $1 million was allocated recently by directors of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries through an international program called Nationals in Mission that supports mission partners as they build capacity to undertake their own mission efforts. Elliott Wright reports for the Board of Global Ministries.
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Gathering addresses sexual ethics

CHICAGO (UMNS) — “A church that is healthy has healthy boundaries,” said Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett. “Do No Harm,” a United Methodist sexual ethics summit in Chicago on Oct. 15-17, explored what healthy boundaries look like and what to do when people violate those boundaries. Jenn Meadows of the United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women has the story.
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Video series aims to spark dialogue on racism

WASHINGTON (UMNS) — The United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race announced, "Vital Conversations: An Interactive Video Series on Today's Realities of Race and Racism." The series, available online beginning Oct. 28, features educators, theologians, pastors, and community activists hosting discussions on race and racism.
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Preserving our African-American Methodist Heritage

MADISON, N.J. (UMNS) — The African American Methodist Heritage Center seeks to be “more than a museum of musty old records,” said Barbara Ricks Thompson, president of the center. “The ministry of memory celebrates the recovery, preservation and sharing of the history of African Americans in Methodism.” Collections of memorabilia and writings are gathered, preserved and archived at the United Methodist Commission on Archives and History.
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Visiting refugees near the Greek, Syrian borders

GENEVA (WCC) — Representatives of the World Council of Churches visited a refugee camp near the borders of Greece and Syria during an Oct. 14-18 visit to strengthen efforts in support of refugees in Europe and the Middle East. Nearly 530,000 refugees and migrants have crossed the Mediterranean this year.
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3 ways churches are using text messaging

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Congregations can have good reason to encourage texting both inside and outside of church, writes Tricia Brown for United Methodist Communications. She lists three ways texting can contribute to Christian discipleship.
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Missouri Conference sells camps

COLUMBIA, Mo. (UMNS) — Three camps owned by the Missouri Conference were sold at auction Oct. 21. The Blue Mountain Camp, Wilderness Retreat and Camp Galilee went for a combined $1.75 million.
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Pilot project helps churches with disciple-making

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — A pilot project by United Methodist Discipleship Ministries will help United Methodist churches in the United States engage in dedicated disciple-making as they become vital congregations. “The Building H.O.P.E. Project is a life-giving process for a local church to engage in to say, ‘We can make disciples and live into our mission,’” said the Rev. Sara Thomas, chief strategist for Vital Congregations.
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Wesley letters illuminate conflicts

DURHAM, N.C. (UMNS) — The Wesley Works Editorial Project has published another volume of John Wesley’s letters, covering 1756 to 1765. The Rev. Ted Campbell, a professor at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology, edited the book. The letters offer insight into conflicts within the Methodist movement and the rift between Wesley and his brother Charles.
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Garrett-Evangelical hosts young Hispanic/Latino leaders

EVANSTON, Ill. (UMNS) — The Young Clergy Initiative at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary hosted a fellowship and mentoring session with Hispanic-Latino high school students, pastors and Garrett-Evangelical seminarians. With support from the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry, the YCI at the seminary seeks to help Hispanic-Latino youth and young adults explore their call to ministry.
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Commentary: Speak out about persecuted church

WASHINGTON (UMNS) — The first two Sundays in November are set aside as a time to speak out and pray for Christians who face persecution for their faith. “Remembering our persecuted sisters and brothers is always important and necessary,” writes Bill Mefford of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society.
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Worship resources from Discipleship Ministries

Playboy, pornography and the gospel

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — Bishop Scott Jones and his son, the Rev. Arthur Jones, note that Playboy magazine’s recent decision to stop running nude photos came only because pornography is so readily available on the Internet. The church must speak more candidly about the “lies” of pornography and the hope offered by the gospel, they argue in an essay for Ministry Matters.
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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.

The month of November
Native American Heritage Month United Methodist Discipleship Ministries offers worship resources, including a Native American interpretation of Psalm 23. The United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race offers resources to highlight the history, gifts and struggles of the First Americans, including resources for the Act of Repentance.

Sunday, Nov. 1
All Saints Day — This is a day of remembrance for the saints, meaning all Christian people of every time and place. United Methodist Discipleship Ministries offers prayers and litanies for the day. Worship resources.

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