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UMNS Weekly Digest - March 2, 2012


UMNS Weekly Digest

March2, 2012

NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for February 27 March 2. It includes summaries of stories, UMTV video reports and additional briefs from United Methodist News Service. Full versions of the stories with photographs and related features can be found at

Stories this week:



March 2 is World Day of Prayer

NEW YORK (UMNS) - Prepared by the women of Malaysia, where about 7 percent of the population is Christian, the World Day of Prayer will be observed March 2 under the theme, "Let Justice Prevail." The World Day of Prayer is a worldwide movement of Christian women of many traditions who come together to observe a common day of prayer each year, and who, in many countries, have a continuing relationship in prayer and service

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Sex-abuse suit names pastor, Texas conference

HOUSTON (UMNS) - A woman who alleges she was sexually abused by a pastor in the United Methodist Texas Annual (regional) Conference filed a lawsuit Feb. 23. The conference as well as the pastor, Kendall Graham, and three districts are named in the suit. Graham has surrendered his credentials. Read full story and post a comment»

Clergy band plays to fight malaria

DALLAS (UMNS) - Connections, a band made up of clergy and laity from the North Texas Annual (regional) Conference, performs at churches in the area to raise money for two United Methodist causes, Imagine No Malaria and the United Methodist Committee on Relief. At its most recent show, the band surpassed an impressive milestone: It has now raised more than $100,000 for Imagine No Malaria.

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Women face long road to change in church

CHICAGO (UMNS) - Women have made major inroads in The United Methodist Church, but many of the issues the first Commission on the Status and Role of Women tackled in the 1970s remain on the radar today.

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8th generation in ordained ministry

CHICAGO (UMNS) - Choosing a career path, the Rev. Carol Hill intended to go into international politics and work in Washington. She was unaware that watching her United Methodist mother and grandmother serve as clergywomen was influencing and shaping her until a Washington church called her to be a youth director. Ordained an elder during the 2011 Northern Illinois Annual (Regional) Conference, Hill is the eighth-generation Methodist pastor on her maternal grandmother's side of the family and the fifth-generation one on her grandfather's side. Interpreter OnLine tells the story of this family's service.

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'We had tofind a way to feed them'

NEWBURGH, N.Y. (UMNS) - Grace United Methodist Church in Newburgh, a city of about 28,000, organizes Abraham's Table, an ecumenical children's food ministry, which began in summer 2010. Started after the city eliminated its federal feeding program because of budget concerns, Abraham's Table served 12,500 lunches to children younger than 18 during its six weeks of operation in 2011. Interpreter OnLine looks at the ways in which churches keep kids fed after school.

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Better child nutrition brings economic gain

NEW YORK (UMNS) - Four years ago, a British medical journal presented concrete proof that nations that don't invest in proper nutrition for pregnant and lactating women and their infants will suffer economically as a result. An outgrowth of that research is "1000 Days," a joint effort among relief agencies, advocacy groups and faith groups, including United Methodists.

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Churches respond after winter twisters

HARRISBURG, Ill. (UMNS) - Late-winter tornadoes and high winds roared across several Midwestern states early Wednesday morning, leaving death and destruction in their wake. But even as United Methodist congregations and congregants assessed damage, they sought ways to be Christ in their community.

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Churches comfort after Ohio school tragedy

CHARDON, Ohio (UMNS) - The mood was somber and reflective as the community of Chardon, Ohio, gathered for prayer vigils after shootings at the town high school that killed three students and wounded two others. When dusk settled on the town 30 miles east of Cleveland, the community turned to prayer.

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Pastor's civil rights work still matters

MONROE, La. (UMNS) - "My dad always said it was the Methodist pastors who helped bring about civil rights in Louisiana through their brave stances and bold witnesses, supported by many good Methodist lay folk," writes Mary Brooke Casad, executive secretary of the Connectional Table, in a commentary. Casad's father, better known as Bishop Ben Oliphint, was one of those Methodist pastors who took a brave stance.

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Call to prayer for General Conference

TAMPA, Fla. (UMNS) - The beauty of being a part of a connectional church is that we can call on one another to pray and support each other in prayer, reminds the Rev. Tom Albin in a commentary. As the 2012 General Conference approaches, he writes, it is important to know our prayer foundation is firm and we are connected in a global prayer network. Find out how to be part of "50 Days of Prayer for the General Conference."

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New studies available for Lent 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - New studies from popular authors - including Adam Hamilton, Shane Stanford, Derek Maul, Bishop Reuben Job, John Indermark, Robert V. Dodd, John Gooch and Nan Duerling - will be available for Lent 2012.

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Churchesreach out after Ohio shootings

CHARDON, Ohio (UMNS) - School violence came to a United Methodist church's neighborhood on Monday morning. As the school day began Feb. 27, a young man opened fire in the Chardon High School cafeteria near Chardon United Methodist Church. Five students were shot, and one later died.

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Pastor's death sentence in Iran 'heinous'

WASHINGTON (UMNS) - The United Methodist Board of Church and Society has issued a statement calling the sentencing to death in Iran of Christian Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani "especially heinous." Nadarkhani, now 34, was arrested in 2009 for questioning the compulsory Islamic education of his children. He was also accused of seeking to register a home-based church. He was sentenced to death in 2010. According to news reports, an order has been issued in Iran to carry out the sentence, which has led to a worldwide protest. "Sentencing someone to death for religious expression is especially heinous," said Jim Winkler, the board's chief executive.

Roundtable looks at missionaries' roles

MADISON, N.J. (UMNS) - The face of missionaries has changed, with nearly 50 percent of United Methodist missionaries coming from places outside the United States and patterns of service are vastlydifferent in the 21st century than in the 19th or 20th centuries, particularly as the center of Christian gravity has shifted to Africa. A Feb. 27-28 mission roundtable at Drew University, organized by the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, considered changes in the mission field. Read full story»

Countdown to GC 2012: Legislation

TAMPA, Fla. (UMNS) - Now that theAdvance Daily Christian Advocate is available, readers can view legislation submitted for consideration by the delegates. As in the U.S. Congress, much of General Conference business is conducted in legislative committees. Each committee receives petitions and proposals, debates them and determines whether to approve, amend, combine or reject them for recommendation to the full body of General Conference. Read more»

To help after tornadoes

ATHENS, Ala. (UMNS) - As much of the midwestern and southeastern United States braces for another round of violent storms, the United Methodist Committee on Relief is already on the case ready to offer help where needed. The relief agency provides grants to annual (regional) conferences affected by 2012 tornadoes. The Advance number for 2012 tornado relief is No. 901670. Give»

Macedonia plane crash reinvestigated

SKOPJE, Macedonia (UMNS) - Macedonia is calling for a new investigation into the 2004 plane crashthat killed President Boris Trajkovski and eight others, the Associated Press reported Feb. 29. Trajkovski, an active United Methodist, received the 2002 World Methodist Peace Award and promoted interreligious and intercultural peace in his region until his untimely death. Read about Trajkovski's efforts for peace»

Publishing House sales exceed projections

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - Neil Alexander, president and publisher of the United Methodist Publishing House, reported on Feb. 23 that sales totaled $44.8 million for the first six months of the fiscal year. That exceeds the prior year by $2.2 million and surpassed the budget by $260,000. The positive revenue performance is due in part to brisk sales of the Common English Bible, Worship & Song, and Sunday school resources for children and adults, among other works, the publishing house reports. Cokesbury also has benefited from a new partnership with (Episcopal) Church Publishing Inc.

Delegation affirms Call to Action letter

COLUMBIA, Mo. (UMNS) - The General Conference delegation from the Missouri Annual (regional) Conference has affirmed a letter from the Council of Bishops, "For the Sake of a New World, We See a New Church." "This is our way of saying that we recognize the dire need for change, and we are encouraged by the work that has gone into preparation of the Call to Action," said the Rev. Cody Collier, head of the Missouri delegation. "While specific aspects of the proposal from the Interim Operations Team may be modified at General Conference, we believe the overall aim of forming a new church &ellipsis; is a positive change." Fred Koenighas the story. Read full story»

Bishop outlines disaster relief

CHICAGO (UMNS) - Illinois Area Bishop Gregory V. Palmer outlined yesterday steps that can be taken to help those affected by the Feb. 29 storms that hit areas in the Illinois Great Rivers Conferenceand surrounding Midwestern states. "It is in these times that the people called United Methodists are at their best, providing a ministry of presence and offering care and compassion for those in need," Palmer said. Read full statement»

Malaria's death toll nearly cut in half

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - Every 60 seconds, malaria claims a life in Africa. Does that sound a little different from what you've heard before? It should because it is different - the rate of death has slowed from every 45 seconds to a minute. But a little different to us is a huge difference to families in Africa. Imagine No Malaria announces the change based on the recent 2011 World Malaria Report, issued by the World Health Organization, citing a declining death rate. Malaria's toll has been reduced to an estimated 655,000 deaths annually - down from 1 million just three years ago. Read full story»

Bishop Whitfield to serve at Perkins

DALLAS (UMNS) - D. Max Whitfield, bishop of the New Mexico and Northwest Texas annual (regional) conferences, has accepted an invitation to serve as bishop-in-residence at United Methodist-related Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, effective Sept. 1. Whitfield earned his B.S.A. from Arkansas State University, M.Div. from Perkins School of Theology, and D. Min. from Princeton Theological Seminary.

Religion in political campaigns

NEW YORK (UMNS) - The United Methodist Board of Church and Society is among 14 endorsers of an "Interfaith Statement of Principles" on religion in political campaigns. The statement says freedom of religion is one of the United States' "most cherished liberties" and sets forth four standards of ethical behavior by candidates. The diverse coalition of national religious organizations calls on all candidates for public office to honor the United States' traditions of religious liberty and avoid sowing religious discord. Read more»

Graham apologizes for Obama remarks

WASHINGTON (UMNS) - Just one day after NAACP faith leaders issued an open letter to the Rev. Franklin Graham regarding remarks about the faith of President Obama, the evangelist offered an apology, saying, "I regret any comments I have ever made which may have cast any doubt on the personal faith of our president, Mr. Obama. The president has said he is a Christian and I accept that (and have said so publicly on many occasions)." Faith leaders including the presidents of the National Baptist Convention USA, the National Baptist Convention of America and the Progressive National Baptist Convention published an open letter condemning recent comments by Graham.

To read the letter»
To read Graham's apology»

Piano accompaniments available online

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - The many churches - rural and urban, large and small - that have no musicians to accompany congregational singing can now download hundreds of piano recordings of familiar hymns from The United Methodist Hymnal. The free, growing resource is a joint project of the Board of Discipleship and United Methodist Communications. More than 200 songs are already available online, and more will be available soon. To download»

Putting Wesley in reforms

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - A group of United Methodist clergy and laity urge keeping the denomination's shared Wesleyan tradition in mind as church members discuss proposed reforms. The group has put together a Missional Manifesto declaring the shared beliefs and welcoming church members to sign. "We would suggest that the Missional Manifesto works in parallel with the work of the Call to Action task force and the recommendations of the Interim Operations Team," the group says on its website. "Part of the impetus for developing this manifesto was our own longing for a statement which more explicitly conveyed a missional identity for the United Methodist Church, something which the Call to Action material assumed, but never overtly communicated." To visit the website»

Young people respond to restructuring

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) -The Division on Ministries with Young People, part of the United Methodist Board of Discipleship, has issued a response to the proposed restructure by the Interim Operations Team and Connectional Table. "Change is necessary," the group's executive table said in a statement. "The work that has been done, both by the Interim Operations Team and the General Agencies, is a beginning; but we believe the church needs more time to discern and dialogue before a new structure can be implemented." The United Methodist News Service Daily Digest will publish statements from General Conference delegations and other groups as those statements are received and space is available. Read full statement»

BMCR webcast of episcopal candidates

LAS VEGAS (UMNS) - For the first time in Black Methodists for Church Renewal history, the majority of the endorsed episcopal candidates of The United Methodist Church assembled at the organization's annual meeting for a "let us get to know you" session during the March 1 plenary sessions. Nineteen candidates from the Northeastern, South Central and Southeastern jurisdictions had registered for the meeting and live webcast by midday Feb. 28. Visit the BMCR website»

Ex-students rerelease '69 choir album

OCEAN CITY, N.J. (UMNS) -- It was Christmas 1969, and the Ocean City High School Concert Choir, led by director Lewis Benzon, recorded in a United Methodist church nearly a dozen Christmas favorites, including Psalm 96, written by Benzon, reports The vinyl album was a big deal to choir members then, and now, nearly 43 years later, it is being re-released, this time as a CD, by a choir member. Read full story»

Gender issues at General Conference

ST. LOUIS (UMNS) - Eighty delegates to the 2012 United Methodist General Conference attended abriefing critically analyzing the impact of proposed legislation on women. The lawmaking body will meet in Tampa, Fla., from April 24 to May 4. The briefing, organized by the Women's Division, United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, and the United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women, assigned delegates to groups based on General Conference legislative committees, applying gender analysis to proposed legislation most likely to affect women and other marginalized groups. Read full story»

Devotions for delegates

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - To help 2012 delegates center themselves for the important work ahead, the Board of Discipleship provides devotionswritten by members of previous General Conference delegations. Countdown to General Conference offers multiple resources to prepare for the 2012 meeting of the lawmaking body of The United Methodist Church.

Blog: There is an answer to 'why,' right?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - "When you're from a small rural county, you don't expect to see CNN news trucks roll into town. Unless, of course, something bad has happened," writes Joey Butler, who grew up near storm-ravaged Harrisburg, Ill. Butler asks where God is in tragedy in the blog, "KnockHolesInTheDarkness." He is editor of young adult content at United Methodist Communications. Read blog and post a comment»