News In Brief - April 13, 2012

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News in Brief -- April 13, 2012
Brief items for use in local church newsletters
Prepared by United Methodist News Service

The United Methodist News Service is reporting on activities related to General Conference 2012, the denomination's top lawmaking body, which will meet April 24-May 4 in Tampa, Fla. UMNS reports appear as they occur on and also can be found on General Conference 2012 at Commentaries are at Among the stories this week:

Visitors to General Conference 2012, The United Methodist Church's top legislative assembly, may now preregister. General Conference will meet April 24-May 4 in the convention center in Tampa, Fla. Registration is $10 per person and may be paid online by credit card or by cash in person at General Conference. Visitor registration is not required to attend General Conference sessions. However, registered visitors will receive a name badge. Go to

A petition before the 2012 United Methodist General Conference would require the denomination to back its opposition to the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories by dropping investments in selected companies whose products are used in the occupation. What the legislation does not do, according to its supporters, is call for a boycott against those companies or for divestment from Israel itself.

Will small, rural churches have a voice in a reconfigured United Methodist Church? In its "values" statement for General Conference, the United Methodist Rural Fellowship declares that the health, vitality, and sustainability of each local congregation should be held as the primary value of the denominational structure. While the fellowship has not taken a formal position on the "Call to Action" report and its recommendations, its president, the Rev. Roger Grace, said the focus of these ventures "is almost always on the fast-growing areas where there are lots of people," leaving town and country congregations overlooked.

On behalf of the Western Jurisdiction College of Bishops, Phoenix Area Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño sent a memo relaying the bishops' concerns and suggested changes for the proposed consolidation of general agencies. The Western Jurisdiction is not drafting any legislation. "Our hope has been to contribute to a much-needed conversation about mission and ministry of The United Methodist Church," Carcaño said. "We have shared our proposals with the delegates of the Western Jurisdiction so that they are aware of our hopes and our concerns. We give our work over to the General Conference delegates trusting that the Holy Spirit will guide them to do that which God has envisioned for The United Methodist Church."

Historically, the treatment of indigenous people by Christian churches - including United Methodists - has been good, bad and ugly. As The United Methodist Church gathers in Tampa, it will recognize that history and take steps toward healing with Native Americans and other indigenous people around the world. An Act of Repentance Service for the Healing of Relationships with Indigenous Persons will take place on the evening of April 27.

You don't have to be in Tampa, Fla., or anywhere near there, to watch the proceedings of General Conference 2012. There will be live streaming of worship and conference sessions as well as news stories, photos and videos - to your mobile devices. If you're planning on being at General Conference, there will be hands-on information, including maps of the convention center, locations of restaurants and local points of interest. You can download an app by going to

The Native American International Caucus of The United Methodist Church has joined a coalition advocating for the inclusion of all people - regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation. "It is time to join our brothers and sisters who continue to seek a place in The United Methodist Church and provide that space as we should for all people of God," said caucus chair Anne Marshall. The Native American group is the sixth caucus to join the Common Witness Coalition.

In other News:

Bishop Eben K. Nhiwatiwa of Zimbabwe has offered his "sincere condolences" to the people of Malawi over the recent death of President Bingu wa Mutharika, The 78-year-old Mutharika, who had governed Malawi for eight years, died of cardiac arrest April 5. "This is a loss to the nation of Malawi and to the whole of the continent of Africa," said Nhiwatiwa, whose Zimbabwe Episcopal Area includes the Malawi Missionary Conference. "We who have churches ministering in Malawi experienced all the support we needed from the government of Malawi and it is our hope that this cordial relationship will continue. May his soul rest in peace." Malawi Vice President Joyce Banda was sworn in April 7 as the country's first woman president.

The United Methodist Board of Church and Society is among the 13 national interfaith organizations that sent a letter to President Obama, asking him not to go to war with Iran. The letter supports the Obama administration's efforts to employ diplomacy to resolve the issue of Iran's nuclear program and resulting tensions among Iran, Israel and the United States. "War would be a disaster of global proportions," the letter reads. "Military repercussions would directly affect many countries, and soaring worldwide energy costs would impose a crippling tax on the poorest nations."

Spark12, a young-adult justice-ministry project of The United Methodist Church, is looking for innovative projects that push the boundaries of ministry to transform the world. Spark12 is open to young adults, ages 18-35, and project ideas must be submitted by June 29. More information is at

When the Titanic sank on April 15, 1912, it took with it the ship's famed band members - including two Methodists, band leader and violinist Wallace Hartley and cellist John Wesley Woodward. A book by music journalist Steve Turner, "The Band That Played On," suggests how the faith of the musicians may have influenced them to play until the end. "One of the most convincing accounts I read, by one of the sailors, was that at the end, there was a lone violinist playing 'Nearer, My God, to Thee,'" Turner says. "I suspect that was Wallace Hartley."

Former First Lady Laura Bush will deliver the commencement address at High Point University on May 5. A champion of women's health care, education and human rights, Bush also is a longtime United Methodist. University officials said a limited number of free tickets are available to the public; call (336) 841-9209 or send an email to [email protected].High Point University, located in High Point, N.C., is a private, liberal arts school affiliated with The United Methodist Church.

Nearly every part of the moringa tree is edible - making it nothing short of a miracle for the impoverished people of Malawi. The Malawi United Methodist Church and the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., have teamed up to produce a nursery of these trees, hoping to inspire whole forests in this east African country. "If people add the moringa leaf powder to porridge or stir it into any other meal, they can prevent malnutrition," writes Mercy Chikhosi, health coordinator of the Malawi church.

The final film in a five-part series about the need to share resources around the world is now available for downloading. "Making Growth Sustainable: Providing Needed Resources in Central Conferences," raises several questions that can be conversation starters for church groups. The film is part of the Dreaming of Vital Congregations series, produced by the United Methodist Board of Discipleship. Go to

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