Brief items for use in local church newsletters
Prepared by United Methodist News Service
Vanderbilt Divinity School students gathered on campus March 17 to write letters to their state representatives supporting two bills that would exclude mentally ill people from execution in Tennessee. “There is a big push across the country at this point to exclude those individuals—not from justice, not from punishment, not from jail time—but to exclude them from the penalty of death,” said the Rev. Brian Rossbert, pastor of Centenary and New Bethel United Methodist churches in Nashville.
Ten years ago, a heart surgeon sent the Rev. C. Ray Davis home with a bottle of pain pills and the gloomy news that he had two weeks to live. Now, some liken the 55-year-old United Methodist pastor to the “Energizer Bunny.” Davis preaches for five weekly worship services and coordinates 19 outreach ministries at his small, but spirited, 200-member church.
At the United Methodist Committee on Relief, every contribution designated for Japan or other disaster areas goes toward people there who need help. This is possible because of the One Great Hour of Sharing, an annual offering across The United Methodist Church that covers the overhead expenses of UMCOR, Brian Scheetz points out in a commentary. Sheetz is executive director of the East Ohio United Methodist Foundation, North Canton, Ohio.
United Methodist schools of theology that educate more students for ordained ministry in the denomination will get more church funding in 2012 under a new formula for distributing money from the Ministerial Education Fund. The Directors of The United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry had approved the changes last fall, but tweaked the formula at the spring 2011 meeting to include money for full-time United Methodist faculty and senior administrators at the seminaries.
In a UMNS commentary, the Rev. Constance Y. Pak, a former third-generation Presbyterian, talks about the joy of being part of “the beautiful mosaic faith community of The United Methodist Church,” but also acknowledges the continuing barriers faced by ethnic women pastors. “However, I think of this positively,” she writes. “Wherever we go, we are history makers: the first non-Caucasian and often the first female pastor in a congregation’s history.”
Both inside and outside Japan, church-related organizations are beginning to network together to respond to survivors of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Meanwhile, the radiation threat continues as workers try to repair damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. UMCOR has received $600,000 in donations for the emergency as of March 21.
A Facebook post questioning the existence of an eternal hell proved to be the breaking point for a United Methodist student pastor and his rural North Carolina congregation. Chad Holtz has been widely reported to have lost his pulpit at Marrow’s Chapel in Henderson, N.C., after stating his support of a new book by Rob Bell, an evangelical megachurch pastor, online.
Florida United Methodist Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker joined other religious leaders on March 11 in calling for the rejection of a proposed immigration reform bill in the Florida legislature. The religious leaders said the legislation would divide communities, separate families and prevent churches from ministering to those in need.
This week, Encounter Faith: Fearless, a Lenten online Bible study and webinar, will explore the recent demonstrations and violence in North Africa and Middle East, raising questions about how God works in the world and how people’s actions can matter. The United Methodist Bible study is available for free at RethinkChurch.org/encounterfaith.
Fourth-year Meharry Medical College students were matched with prestigious academic centers such as the Mayo Clinic, Baylor College of Medicine, and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in the traditional Match Day held at medical schools nationwide March 17.
The Rev. Jim Perdue, National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry missionary assigned to the Desert-Southwest Annual (regional) Conference, will present a free webinar on the intersection of the Christian faith and immigration. The seminar will be April 25-June 17 and is open to people who commit to leading at least one related study in their congregation, region or religious community. To register, please contact Perdue»
The Rev. Claudia Genung-Yamamoto, a missionary with the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries and a pastor at the West Tokyo Union Church, offers a Sunday snapshot of life in Tokyo in the wake of Japan’s devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami and continuing anxieties over radiation contamination. Read letter»
Gen. Charles “Chuck” C. Krulak, retired commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps and former member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was introduced March 21 as the 13th president of United Methodist-related Birmingham-Southern College. He immediately announced that he would forego his first year’s salary to demonstrate his allegiance to the college and its fiscal health.
A CBS religion special, “Unemployment: How Faith Communities Help Job Seekers,” will be broadcast April 10 on the CBS Television Network. Check with local stations for the exact broadcast times.
As Japan confronts a crisis with its water and food supplies, churches and individuals might feel compelled to send material aid. However, relief officials urge that donations be made instead. Sending supplies can actually hamper the relief effort, while monetary donations can be used most effectively by agencies on the ground to provide people with the help they need. Donations can be made to the United Methodist Committee on Relief. UMCOR will use 100 percent of the donation for Japan relief.
Despite extensive earthquake damage, a rural mission-training center in Japan plans to welcome its new class as soon as possible, perhaps only a month late. The Asian Rural Institute at Nasushiobara expected its 2011 term to open as usual in early April — until structural damage by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami was compounded by the threat of radiation. Now May 2 is the new start date. The ecumenical institute is a long-time United Methodist mission partner.
The United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women will be honored for its work on sexual ethics. The Religious Institute, a multifaith organization dedicated to advocating for sexual health, education and justice, will recognize the general agency at its 10th anniversary celebration March 31 at Union Theological Seminary in New York.
The National Council of Churches deplored the March 23 bombing of a crowded bus in Jerusalem that killed a woman and injured at least 24 persons. "In the 61 years of its existence, the National Council of Churches has consistently condemned violence as a tactic for advancing political ideology," said the Rev. Michael Kinnamon, NCC top executive. "The bomb that tore through this bus served no earthly cause but was a murderous assault on all that Christians, Muslims and Jews deem holy."