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Weekly Digest - October 31, 2014


NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for Oct. 27-31. 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

Top court affirms Schaefer’s reinstatement as clergy
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (UMNS) — The Rev. Frank Schaefer will remain a clergyman in The United Methodist Church, the denomination’s top court has ruled. The Judicial Council decision affirmed a June decision by a regional appeals committee to reinstate Schaefer’s ministerial credentials, modifying the penalty imposed upon the Pennsylvania pastor after he was found guilty last November of violating church law by performing a same-sex wedding for his son in 2007. In its decision, the Judicial Council also recognized the fact that “some within the church do not support this outcome today.” Linda Bloom reports.

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Read full text of decision

Decision won’t end United Methodist same-sex debate
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — After a year of frocking, defrocking and refrocking, The United Methodist Church’s top court has upheld an appellate committee’s earlier ruling to reinstate the Rev. Frank Schaefer’s clergy credentials. The series of church rulings was prompted by a complaint filed against him for violating church law when he officiated at his son’s same-sex wedding. Kathy Gilbert has the story.

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Judicial Council looks at ‘aspirational’ declarations
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (UMNS) — When is language about The United Methodist Church’s positions on issues of sexuality considered “aspirational” and when could it condone a violation of church law? Rulings by bishops on several statements by conferences were among the 21 docket items considered by the United Methodist Judicial Council during its Oct. 22-25 meeting in Memphis, Tennessee.

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Mission executive attends White House Ebola meeting
NEW YORK (UMNS) — Thomas Kemper, top executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, joined representatives of 15 faith-based organizations visiting the White House Oct. 29 to discuss the U.S. response to Ebola at a meeting with senior White House officials. He also attended a larger meeting in the East Room where President Barack Obama honored U.S. health care workers fighting the disease. Linda Unger reports.

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Take the rice bucket challenge for Ebola

Bishops meet in Oklahoma City
OKLAHOMA CITY (UMNS) — United Methodist bishops from Africa, Europe, Asia and the United States will gather in Oklahoma City for the Council of Bishops meeting, Nov. 2-7. The meeting will include an address by Bishop Warner H. Brown Jr., council president, that will be streamed live online at 10:45 a.m. CT Monday, Nov. 3.

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Read Q&A with Bishop Brown

Bishops return to Oklahoma City after 36 years

Pastors: Keep those jokes coming
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — When it comes to what makes a pastor beloved, being funny ranks right up there with not judging others as the most appreciated traits. More than 650 people recently answered the question “What do you appreciate most about your pastor?” on the United Methodist Church’s official Facebook page.

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Churches can help youth fight cyberbullies
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — It’s bad enough that people call each other names on Internet message boards — the private, yet public, nature of the online community can lead to far more dangerous behavior. But the church can help address the problem of online harassment, writes Joey Butler of United Methodist Communications.

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Advent resources already available
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The season of Advent begins this year on Nov. 30. Various United Methodist-related groups are offering free resources to celebrate the start of the Christian year and prepare for Christ’s birth. They include:

African communicators take top honors
SAVANNAH, Ga. (UMNS) — Two African writers were named 2014 United Methodist Communicators of the Year for their coverage of the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history. The United Methodist Association of Communicators gave the association’s top award to Phileas Jusu, communicator for The United Methodist Church in Sierra Leone, and Julu Swen, editor and publisher of West African Writers, an online publication about United Methodist happenings in West Africa.

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See list of 2014 winners

Hope chain commemorates second Sandy anniversary
ATLANTIC CITY (UMNS) — Hope was delivered to Atlantic City through a human chain that linked the Venice Park United Methodist Church to a family’s home being rebuilt by A Future With Hope. About 150 participants stood side-by-side and passed items symbolizing recovery from Hurricane Sandy in a visible demonstration of how it takes partners from all walks of life to aid in recovery.

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View video

After two years, ‘hidden’ Sandy survivors

Churches respond to rise in cremations
PHILADELPHIA (UMNS) — Steve Morton read a few years ago that changing religious views, convenience, and the recession were leading more people to choose cremation. As the senior pastor of Hopewell United Methodist Church in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, he knew he had to respond. So the church opened a memorial garden and two columbaria last year. Michaelle Bond reports for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

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Church camp offers burial for ashes from cremation
CRESCO, Pa. (UMNS) — A camp and retreat site for churches of all denominations also provides an alternative to a traditional cemetery for burying ashes from cremation. Ashes are buried at the roots of a tree in the EcoEternity Forest at Pocono Plateau.

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Assisting families fleeing Syrian conflict
NEW YORK (UMNS) — The United Methodist Committee on Relief is supporting the work of the International Blue Crescent Foundation, a partner agency, in providing basic food packages and hygiene kits for 1,000 families displaced by heavy fighting in Kobani, a Kurdish City in Syria near the Turkish border. An offensive against Kobani by the Islamic State has driven tens of thousands of refugees to Suruc, Turkey.

Donate to UMCOR’s International Disaster Response

New (old) look for Scripture
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The Common English Bible’s intent is to make plain what Scriptures say, so it made common sense for Nashville-based Abingdon Press, part of the United Methodist Publishing House, to turn to Nashville-based Hatch Show Print to create three new Bible covers using 1 John 4:7; Ephesians 5:19 and Malachi 4:2. The Tennessean has the story.

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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, Nov. 1
Live-streamed United Methodist panel on human sexuality — 8 to 10 a.m. CT. View here on the day of the event. The public event will include bishops who contributed to a book on human sexuality and church unity, “Finding Our Way: Love and Law in The United Methodist Church,” released by United Methodist Publishing House’s Abingdon Press. Participants also can ask questions on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #cttalks. Details.

All Saints Day — United Methodist Discipleship Ministries offers prayers and a family litany for this day when Christians celebrate the people who have joined the Church Triumphant.

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