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Weekly Digest - September 18, 2015


Sept. 18, 2015

NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for Sept. 14-Sept. 18. It includes summaries of United Methodist News Service stories and additional briefs from around the United Methodist connection. Find full versions of the stories with photographs and related features at

Top Stories

Ministry Study Commission favors quicker ordination

DES MOINES, Wash. (UMNS) – Ordination of United Methodist elders and deacons would be faster and training of licensed local pastors more rigorous under proposals by the 2013-16 Ministry Study Commission. The commission’s just-released report does not address security of appointment for ordained elders. Sam Hodges reports.
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Poll: Small changes in church homosexuality views

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) – Have the views of U.S. United Methodists on same-sex nuptials changed since the Supreme Court legalized such marriages across the country? The short answer is some, but not much. Heather Hahn reports on the findings of surveys of United Methodists pastors and laity taken before and after the landmark ruling.
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Read full report on polls

Tech summit shows church’s importance

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) – Did Jesus want us to feed the hungry, heal the sick and shelter the poor, or give them the tools to provide for themselves? The Rev. Neelley Hicks says it is both. Hicks is the director of United Methodist Communications’ ICT4D (information and communications technology for development) Church Initiative. The denomination’s communication agency is hosting the 2015 Game Changers Summit, which is bringing in innovators who lead the field internationally. The summit included panels on technology and faith in the Ebola crisis and mobile phones in Africa. Kathy Gilbert and Joey Butler report.
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Welcoming refugees as ‘fellow pilgrims’ in Europe

RUSE, Bulgaria (UMNS) – As refugees continue to trek across Europe, Methodist leaders are recognizing that church members there may “experience and interpret” the effects of that migration in different ways. However, a pastoral letter from the European Methodist Council said that those who play on people’s fears must be challenged, encouraging support to those in need. Linda Bloom reports.
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Read statement by Thomas Kemper
Bishop on migrants: ‘Meet people, not problems
Asking U.S. to take more refugees
Read Magruder commentary

Project helps six Haiti schools go solar

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) – Six schools in Thomas, Haiti, have solar power plants, computers and water purifiers, thanks to a five-year effort by volunteer-in-mission teams led by Warren McGuffin and supported by the United Methodist California-Nevada Conference. United Methodist Communications’ ICT4D Church Initiatives commissioned research on the Thomas Food Project to measure its impact. Kathy Gilbert reports.
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Chicago pastor, foster mom lives into her call

CHICAGO (UMNS) – As she toured the four-bedroom parsonage of her first church appointment, the Rev. Julie K. Fleurinor felt God’s call in a new way. “God didn’t bring me this beautiful parsonage to live in it alone,” she said. Three years later, she is foster mother to four children ranging in age from 1 to 14. Susan Keaton has the story.
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Hispanic/Latino leaders from six denominations gather

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) – More than 100 clergy and lay leaders from six Christian denominations gathered Sept. 9-12 for the first ecumenical Hispanic/Latino training for church planters and missioners. The Rev. Gustavo Vasquez wrote the story and Michelle Maldonado translated and adapted it for United Methodist Communications.
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Video: What MARCHA means to the church

MADISON, Wis. (UMTV) – MARCHA is the Hispanic/Latino caucus within The United Methodist Church. At a recent gathering, members were asked to explain the mission and importance of MARCHA in 10 seconds or less.
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A message of grace leads to church growth

PALESTINE, Texas (Charisma) – Grace Church, a United Methodist congregation in rural east Texas, has managed in the past four years to grow at a rate of 48 percent. The church has outgrown its building and now shares space in a formerly defunct country club and golf course. The church’s message: “God allows Mulligans.” Steve Strang, founding editor and publisher of Charisma, featured the congregation’s story of grace and growth in his national magazine.
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Read Texas Conference story on the church

United Methodists help prepare for pope’s visit

WASHINGTON (UMNS) – United Methodists joined with Roman Catholic leaders as the two faith groups celebrated the upcoming visit of Pope Francis to the U.S. capital and recommitted to work together in ministries of justice. Part of this effort will be a focus on criminal justice reform. Melissa Lauber of the Baltimore-Washington Conference reports.
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‘Prayer bears’ spread God’s love

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (UMNS) – Visitors to Sunday services at Shores United Methodist Church will find seats filled by some unusual occupants. In each row of the worship hall, a teddy bear sits on a chair. B.C. Manion reports for the Florida Conference on these plush prayer buddies that aim to make people feel “beary” welcome.
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Former first family joins Foundry’s 200th celebration

WASHINGTON (UMNS) – If you count all the senior ministers who have served Foundry United Methodist Church in its 200-year history, the line begins with the Rev. Thomas Burch in 1817. They were all male until 2014, when the Rev. Ginger Gaines-Cirelli was appointed. Only women, including Chelsea Clinton and Hillary Clinton, spoke from the pulpit for the 200th anniversary. Former President Bill Clinton also attended the service. Erik Alsgaard of the Baltimore-Washington Conference has the story.
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Be a part of worship at General Conference

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) – The worship design team for General Conference 2016 is seeking volunteers to write liturgy, including prayers, calls to worship and litanies.
Read press release
Sponsorships welcome at General Conference

Rediscovering the European ‘Bible Women’

RUSE, Bulgaria (UMNS) – The United Methodist Commission on Archives and History joined with various Methodist historians to examine the role of women in establishing Methodism on the European continent. The conference highlighted research about the “Bible Women” of Italy and Bulgaria, who were the Methodist first wave into the Balkans and Eastern Europe.
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History of Hymns: ‘Lord of the Dance’

DALLAS (UMNS) – The lively 1960s hymn, “Lord of the Dance,” which recounts Christ’s life as a series of dances, was the Christian answer to Peter Seeger and Bob Dylan folk hits, says C. Michael Hawn in his column for Discipleship Ministries. The song – set to the same tune as the Shaker hymn “Simple Gifts” – remains a favorite of youth groups but has not been without controversy.
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New Upper Room website aims for global engagement

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) – Upper Room Ministries announces the launch of a new online initiative called Moyo to help users engage with important global issues like clean water, racial justice and disaster relief. Site visitors will follow a Guided Path (Encounter, Reflect and Act) to study, reflect and then physically engage with an issue through multiple offline opportunities.
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View website

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, Sept. 24
Lectures on the depiction of God and Jesus in film – The Rev. Lloyd Baugh, a visiting professor and Jesuit priest, will lecture on this subject on Sept. 24 at Candler School of Theology, a United Methodist seminary and part of Emory University in Atlanta. The lecture is from 4 to 6 p.m. EDT, in Room 360 at Candler. Registration is not required. The title of the lecture is “The ‘God Question’ in Contemporary Cinema I: A Courageous Break with Tradition.” A second lecture will be held Oct. 14. Details

Monday, Sept. 28
Alumni Day at Methodist Theological School in Ohio – 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. EDT. The United Methodist seminary will honor retired Bishop Judith Craig, its bishop-in-residence and visiting professor in the Dickhaut Chair of Church Leadership. Four pastors also will receive the John and Ruth Mount Alumni Awards for Distinguished Service. Details

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