News from around the connection - 3/17/2014


UMNS Weekly Digest

March 14, 2014

NOTE: This is a digest of news features provided by United Methodist Communications for March 10 - March 14. 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

The church and homosexuality

 New York Conference resolves Ogletree case 

WHITE PLAINS,N.Y. (UMNS) – The announcement of a "just resolution" by the United Methodist New York Annual (regional) Conference completes the complaint against the Rev. Thomas Ogletree for performing the same-sex wedding ceremony of his son and served as a call by Bishop Martin D. McLee to end trials for such complaints.
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Assessing the Ogletree decision
WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (UMNS) – The New York Conference trial court's resolution of the complaint against the Rev. Thomas Ogletree for officiating at a same-sex wedding evoked strong reactions within the church, ranging from hope to dismay. The pastors who filed the complaint warned that chances for denominational schism were increased by the decision. Ogletree himself welcomed New York Area Bishop Martin McLee's call for dialogue rather than church trials and said he's hopeful the church is on the way to changing its position on homosexuality.
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Same-sex wedding complaints against Talbert
DENVER (UMNS) – The formal complaint process against retired Bishop Melvin G. Talbert, who officiated at a same-sex union last year, is under way in the Western Jurisdiction. A March 13 news release from the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops announced the action.
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Methodism's late hour
HOUSTON (UMNS) – In an editorial, the Rev. Rob Renfroe – president and publisher of Good News – says, "if our bishops do not act swiftly and decisively to uphold our process of holy conferencing and enforce our Book of Discipline, The United Methodist Church will be lost." Good News is an advocacy group and magazine that supports maintaining the church's current teaching on sexuality.
Read commentary

Biblical obedience and same-gender unions
OAKLAND, Calif. (UMNS) – As a growing number of United Methodist clergy officiate at same-gender unions in violation of church law, retired Bishop Roy I. Sano reflects on what guidance the Bible offers. "Those who are violating United Methodist prohibitions are supported by what Jesus said about another ordering in God's creation," he writes.
Read commentary

Resources and educational opportunities

5 ways to reclaim Wesleyan evangelism
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (UMNS) – For many United Methodists, evangelism is an uneasy concept. In a workshop, the Rev. Heather Heinzman Lear of the United Methodist Board of Discipleship aimed to clear up misconceptions and offered ways "to reclaim the centrality of evangelism in the life of our churches."
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Leaders of large churches to meet in Georgia
JOHNS CREEK, Ga. (UMNS) – Pastors, staff and congregational leaders from some of the largest United Methodist churches will gather in April to exchange thoughts, learn new leadership skills and develop new ideas. The 2014 Large Church Initiative conference, "Continuum: Engaging All Generations," will be April 28-30. Discounted registration is available until March 15.
To learn more and register

Religion and Race awarding ministry grants
WASHINGTON (UMNS) –The United Methodist Church's Commission on Religion and Race is seeking to fund "innovative, bold, high-impact initiatives" that will increase intercultural competency or support vital conversations about race, cultural diversity and systemic equity.
To learn more

Adrian College to host Hispanic youth event
ADRIAN, Mich. (UMNS) – The chaplain's office at United Methodist-related Adrian College plans to help host a leadership academy June 25-28 for Hispanic United Methodist youth and young adults in eighth through 12th grades. Youth will need to write a short essay and obtain a recommendation letter from someone in their congregation and a sponsor to help with the $50 registration fee. Registration forms are due April 1.
Click here for a pdf of the registration form

History of Hymns: 'Take Time to be Holy'
DALLAS (UMNS) – This hymn's author, William D. Longstaff, was a friend and patron of many of the noted evangelists of his day, including William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, and Dwight L. Moody, a famed American preacher. C. Michael Hawn of Southern Methodist University's Perkins School of Theology, shares the story of this hymn's evangelistic roots.
Read story

News around the connection

Prayers asked as Crimea referendum nears
NEW YORK (UMNS) – As the March 16 date for a referendum on whether the Crimean Peninsula should become part of Russia nears, Thomas Kemper, top executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, asks for continued prayers for the people of the Ukraine and the missionaries there. "Let us pray for a non-violent solution to this political crisis," Kemper said. The mission agency continues to monitor the political standoff.
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Long recovery from Japan's triple disaster
NEW YORK (UMNS) – This week marks the third anniversary of the triple disaster – earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown – that struck Japan in 2011. To address the remaining psychological needs of survivors, the United Methodist Committee on Relief has approved $6 million in grants to partner organizations, David Tereshchuk reports.
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United Methodist Men give devotional books to firefighters
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) – Conference presidents of United Methodist Men and prayer advocates took time out from their Feb. 27-March 2 meeting to engage in three service projects, including distributing devotions to a Nashville fire station. Rich Peck of United Methodist Men has the story.
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United Methodist Men gives Susanna Wesley Award
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) – The National Association of Conference Presidents of United Methodist Men gave its newly created Susanna Wesley Award to Martha Davis, operations manager of the Commission on United Methodist Men. Read story

Church urged to take actions on deportations
WASHINGTON (UMNS) – United Methodists are urged to join the National Day Labor Organizing Network in sending a message to President Obama, through prayer vigils and other actions, to stop the policy of mass deportations. The U.S. is nearing 2 million deportations since the Obama administration took office. Bill Mefford, executive with the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, says the more congregations that take part, the more the President will realize there is public support to end "this barbaric practice" that separates families. To learn more about the United Methodist action, email
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Social action agency urges SodaStream boycott
CHEVY CHASE, Md. (UMNS) – The United Methodist Board of Church and Society has issued a call to boycott SodaStream, a countertop carbonation device produced in the occupied West Bank of the Palestinian Territories. The boycott decision was overwhelmingly endorsed by the agency's board during its spring meeting here this month.
Read news release 

United Methodist Church Foundation is 15
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) – The United Methodist Church Foundation at a meeting earlier this month celebrated its 15th year of operations and growth for ministry organizations of all sizes and types within The United Methodist Church. The foundation manages more than $108 million in long-term investments and endowment funds of United Methodist general agencies, organizations and foundations.
Read news release

News around conferences

Appalachian Trail chaplain begins journey
SPINGER MOUNTAIN, Ga. (UMNS) - David Smith, the Holston Annual (regional) Conference Appalachian Trail chaplain, headed to Georgia on Ash Wednesday to begin his 2,200-mile hike through the mountains to Maine. It just worked out that his trek coincides with the Lenten spiritual journey of Christians around the globe, but Smith is giving up more than Facebook or chocolate, writes Annette Spence of The Call. Follow Chaplain David Smith's progress at or on the " Appalachian Trail Chaplain" page on Facebook.
Read story

Church defeats 'thundersleet' to help motorists
ENNIS, Texas (UMNS) – When a storm and rapidly falling temperatures created a wintry mix meteorologists labeled “thundersleet,” the congregation of Ennis First United Methodist Church decided it was time to dole out some good old-fashioned radical hospitality. Vance Morton of the Central Texas Annual (regional) Conference and the Ennis Daily News reports.
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Bishop Palmer challenges churches to 'reclaim children'
WORTHINGTON, Ohio (UMNS) – Ohio West Area Bishop Gregory V. Palmer of the West Ohio Area has challenged churches to double the number of Children's Defense Fund Freedom Schools to 26 by 2016. The schools provide a six-week summer experience that helps children learn to love reading, increase self-esteem and generates positive attitudes toward learning. 
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UMCOR responds to West Ohio flooding
WORTHINGTON, Ohio (UMNS) – The United Methodist Committee on Relief has approved a $50,000 grant to assist with recovery needs from the December 2013 Marion County Flood that affected the communities of LaRue, Prospect and Greencamp in West Ohio. In addition to the UMCOR grant, the West Ohio Annual (regional) Conference is providing $15,000 in relief support, the conference reports.
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How church raises money to fight malaria
SALEM, Ore. (UMNS) – In under four months, Salem First United Methodist Church has raised more than $4,000 for Imagine No Malaria, the denomination-wide effort to eradicate preventable deaths from the disease in Africa. Jennifer Lewallen, a volunteer at the church, shares how her congregation has done it.
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Zimbabwe church moves against domestic violence
MUTARE, Zimbabwe (UMNS) – Zimbabwe Area Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa at the 13th session of the Zimbabwe East Annual conference called on the church to engage in programs to end all forms of domestic violence. Priscilla Muzerengwa reports on how the problem has grown in the country.
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United Methodists in the news

For runner with M.S., no feeling at finish
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (UMNS) – Despite a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis three years ago, Kayla Montgomery, 18, has gone on to become one of the fastest young distance runners in the country. She's also United Methodist. The New York Times has the story.
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How a church grew a farmers market
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (UMNS) – Stately Oakley United Methodist Church has transformed some of its land into a community garden and turned part of its parking lot into a farmers market. The result is building neighborhood relationships and celebrating locally grown food in a low-income, urban community once known as a food desert, reports the Mountain Xpress.
Read story

North Carolina pastor starts Wiki Worship
WILMINGTON, N.C. (UMNS) – Wiki Worship began yesterday at Hell's Kitchen. "I was wondering, are we as the church answering questions that no one has asked?" asked the Rev. Philip Chryst, pastor of a missional community called The Anchor. Chryst organized the informal religious sessions for six Sundays during Lent. The StarNews Online explains how the questions will edit the service at a local restaurant with a distinctive name.
Read story

Need for food aid in Delaware grows
REHEBOTH BEACH, Del. (UMNS) – You don't have to tell those involved in caring ministries at Epworth United Methodist Church that the need for food and other help has risen dramatically in the last year. They put into context's report on how food stamp reliance runs deep in this coastal community.
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South Sudan trip worth the toil
CHESTER, Va. (UMNS) – "We don't miss the heat and cold sponge baths but we do miss the people, especially the students," writes "Teacher Margaret," who with her fellow retired United Methodist pastor, "Teacher Beverly," at 65 and 70 set out to help the children of South Sudan. The Rev. Margaret Kutz writes in the Richmond Times-Dispatch what she and the Rev. Beverly Nelan found.
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Church bookkeeper guilty in $760,000 embezzlement
RICHMOND, Va. (UMNS) – The former finance administrator for Chester United Methodist Church pleaded guilty March 6 to five felony embezzlement counts for stealing more than $760,000 over four years. The Chesterfield County News has the story.
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University and seminary news

Sierra Leone launches United Methodist University
FREETOWN, Sierra Leone (UMNS) – The Sierra Leone Annual Conference publicly introduced its plans for a new United Methodist University as Bishop John K. Yambasu urged everyone to take an ownership in the future of nation's children. The $4.5 million undertaking is aimed at improving higher education in Sierra Leone as well as training future medical practitioners and church leaders.
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Grants for central conferences top $1 million
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) – Fifty-seven grants totaling more than $1 million were awarded for theological education in 11 countries in Africa, Asia and Europe. The money will be used for curriculum development, training of local pastors, continuing education for clergy, faculty development, e-readers and even $50,000 for the solar electrification of the Banyam Theological Seminary in Jalingo, Nigeria. Vicki Brown of the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry has the story.
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News of interest

Supreme Court won't hear appeal of Episcopal property dispute
WASHINGTON (UMNS) – Seven years after 15 conservative Virginia congregations made global news by breaking away from the Episcopal Church – and refusing to give up tens of millions of dollars in property – the U.S. Supreme Court on March 10 ended the complex legal dispute by declining to take up an appeal by the last remaining plaintiff, reports Michelle Boorstein of the Washington Post. The high court's action leaves the property in Episcopal Church hands.
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Survey finds growth in multisite churches
DALLAS (UMNS) – The vast majority of multisite churches are growing, reports a new study by Leadership Networks and Generis, and those multisite churches are seeing more involvement from lay people and newcomers after they open an additional location. Adelle Banks of the Religion News Service reports on a concept a number of United Methodists are embracing
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Methodist bishop head of South African council
GENEVA (UMNS) – The Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, top executive for the World Council of Churches, has offered congratulations to the new leaders of the South African Council of Churches, including its new president, Bishop Ziphozihle Siwa of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, who preached at former President Nelson Mandela's funeral in Qunu.
Read WCC story
Read UMNS story on Mandela funeral week

Blogs and commentaries

An open letter to Sports Illustrated
BIRMINGHAM, Mich. (UMNS) – The Rev. Laurie Haller shares her concerns about the magazine's annual swimsuit issue, which is now in its 50th year. She criticizes the magazine and American culture at large for tying women's empowerment to their level of physical beauty. Haller is a United Methodist pastor, mother of two daughters, and a subscriber to Sports Illustrated for 33 years.
Read commentary

Time to heal wounds of indigenous peoples
NEW YORK (UMNS) – "We must realize that we hold in our hands the potential to change the course of history," writes the Rev. Glen Chebon Kernell Jr., executive secretary of Native American and Indigenous Ministries, Board of Global Ministries. He offers resources to help as he urges churches and individuals to remember the Act of Repentance from the 2012 General Conference and begin the process to help heal the wounds of Native Americans and indigenous peoples.
Read commentary

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.

Women's History Month, March - Worship resources from the United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women.

 Free webinar "From Generation to Generation: Challenges in Forming Faith," Tuesday, March 18 - 6:30 p.m. CT, examining the role of congregations in forming faith. To register.

 "180 Turnaround Church Conference," Thursday, March 20 - 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. ET conference at Redeemer United Methodist Church in DeWitt, Mich. $59 per person and $20 for each additional person from the same church. Details.

Early registration deadline for United Theological Seminary's "Light the Fire!" Church Renewal Conference, Friday, March 21 - Event is May 8-9 at Ginghamsburg Church, 6759 S. County Road 25A, Tipp City, Ohio. Details.

"Prophets, Harlots, Witches, And Warriors: Untamed Women Of The Old Testament," Friday, March 21 -6-8:30 p.m. CT, The Rev. Sherry Cothran, United Methodist pastor and singer/songwriter, will share songs and stories about some of the Bible's most interesting women at the Scarritt-Bennett Center in Nashville, Tenn. $10. Details.

Engaging Local Schools Conference, Saturday, March 22- 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET, Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington. $20-65. Details.

Free webinar "Media: What's Trending in Elementary School," Tuesday, March 25 - 10 a.m. CT, a discussion of how we can extend community for children through healthy media use. To register.

Free webinar "No More Volunteers! Reclaiming Christian Servanthood," Tuesday, March 25 - 5 p.m. CT, a discussion of a different approach for finding, recruiting and motivating people to serve the church. To register.

Webinar "Company's Coming! Training for the Experience," Tuesday, March 25 - 7-8 p.m. ET, how to welcome guests at your local church. The Rev. Mark Waltz of United Methodist congregation Granger Community Church in Indiana will lead. $10. Details.

Window on Wesley Theological Seminary, Tuesday, March 25; Saturday, April 26; and Tuesday, June 17 - 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. ET, full-day events for prospective students include a campus tour, discussion of degree programs and the chance to attend a class. Details.

Alonzo L. McDonald Distinguished Faculty Lectures on Christianity and Human Rights, Wednesday, March 26 - 12:15-5:30 p.m. ET, Tull Auditorium, Emory Law School, Atlanta a 50th anniversary celebration of key civil rights documents. Details.

"Spirituality of the Labyrinth" workshop, Saturday, March 29 - 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. CT at the Scarritt-Bennett Center in Nashville, Tenn. $42. Details.

Bishop's Convocation of Prayer, Saturday, March 29 - 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m. ET, Trinity United Methodist Church, 903 Forest Ave., Richmond, Va. The Rev. Tom Albin, dean of the Upper Room Ministries and Ecumenical Relations, will be the speaker. $10. Details.

Increase Generosity in Your Church Conference, Saturday, March 29 - 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET, Myers Park United Methodist Church, Charlotte, N.C. The Rev. Lovett H. Weems Jr., director of the Lewis Center for Church Leadership, will speak. $35-45. Details.

Preaching and lunch with retired Bishop William H. Willimon, Sunday, March 30 - Willimon, who formerly led the North Alabama Annual (regional) Conference and teaches at Duke Divinity School, will preach at 8:30 a.m., 9:45 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. ET at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Alexandria, Va. At 12:30 p.m., he will speak during "Lunch with the bishop" about the future of mainline denominations. $10 for lunch; reservations required. Details.

One Great Hour of Sharing, Sunday, March 30 - Donations the United Methodist Committee on Relief receives through this offering, along with other undesignated gifts made throughout the year, cover the relief agency's costs of doing business. To learn more.

Deadline to register for online course "United Methodism 101," Monday, March 31-April 2 - May 14, an overview of the denomination's history, structure, beliefs, ministries and challenges, from United Methodist Communications $9.99. Details.

Community Organizing for Social Change & Church Development training, Monday-Friday, March 31-April 4 - First Grace United Methodist Church, New Orleans. The training will teach how methods of community organizing can be a tool in congregational development, community transformation and engagement in justice ministries. Jointly offered by United Methodist Board of Church and Society and Path1 of the United Methodist Board of Discipleship. $295. Details.

Free Perkins "Lunch and Learn" with Susanne Johnson, Monday, March 31 - 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. CT, Perkins School of Theology's Houston-Galveston Extension Program, 3501 W. Alabama, Suite 107, in Houston. Johnson, associate professor of Christian education, will speak on "Hidden in Plain Sight: Perspectives on Injustice." Details.

Free webinar "Multiplying Disciples: Part 2," Monday, March 31 - 6:30 p.m. CT, spiritual leaders learn together to build an intentional congregational plan for making disciples. To register.

Deadline to apply for Hispanic Youth Leadership Academy, Tuesday, April 1 - The chaplain's office at United Methodist-related Adrian College will help host a leadership academy June 25-28 for Hispanic United Methodist youth and young adults in eighth through 12th grades. Click here for a pdf of the registration form.

Free webinar "Monitoring Reports: Increasing Participation through Gentle Mutual Accountability," Tuesday, April 1 - 7:30 p.m. CT, part of a series of leadership webinars offered by the United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women. To see schedule and register.

Deadline to register for the 2014 United Methodist Women Assembly, Tuesday, April 1 - April 25-27, Louisville, Ky. Details