News In Brief - February 3, 2012

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News in Brief February 3, 2012
Brief items for use in local church newsletters
Prepared by United Methodist News Service

Before it was ever determined that the New York Giants would face the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl this weekend, members of United Methodist Women decided on their game plan. UMW worked with local groups and law enforcement to find teachable moments about human trafficking during the pre-Super Bowl festivities. The United Nations defines human trafficking as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of people - by threat, abduction, deception or abuse of power - for the purpose of sexual or labor-related exploitation. Eighty percent of those trafficked are women and girls, and half of all trafficking victims are younger than 13. Through its "Intercept the Traffickers 2012" project, the UMW human trafficking team is addressing both an opportunity and a concern.

Food, prayer and football are on tap at Indianapolis-area United Methodist churches this Super Bowl weekend. Roberts Park United Methodist Church, in the heart of downtown, is welcoming homeless for a free meal through the regular Sunday "Soup's On" ministry, in collaboration with Carmel United Methodist Church, which is providing the food. Guests are invited to stay to watch the game on big-screen TVs. The pastor and members of Barnes United Methodist Church will be walking the streets downtown in prayer on Friday and Saturday nights. North United Methodist Church will be the host for the NFL-sanctioned Super Bowl breakfast sponsored by Athletes in Action, a national evangelical Christian organization that reaches out to athletes, on Saturday morning. The breakfast will be at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.

The Souper Bowl of Caring will be out across the United States again on Super Bowl Sunday. The effort, an idea sparked by senior high youth at a Presbyterian church in Columbia, S.C., in 1990 has generated $81 million for soup kitchens, food banks and other charities. For more information, go to

Ending hunger in five years is 'doable' if we make the effort, says the Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, an international hunger-relief organization. Hunger projects around the world are doing their best to make that happen. The growing project of Fairfax United Methodist Church in Missouri is one of more than 200 nationwide that collaborate with Foods Resource Bank, a Christian non-profit agency that helps farmers dedicate a share of their harvest to funding sustainable agriculture programs around the world. Farmers - supported by their churches - commit a small portion of their crop or livestock to Foods Resource Bank, which channels funds from the harvest sale to some 62 overseas programs run by partner agencies, such as the United Methodist Committee on Relief. In downtown Indianapolis, North United Methodist Church operates a farmers' market that sells goods to all including families with food-subsidy programs. A few blocks away, Broadway United Methodist has developed a flourishing group of growers who have found a sustainable way to help themselves as they provide more fresh produce for the community. From the hard soil of Tucson, Ariz., Youth Farm Project interns help the community to develop a flourishing garden and gathering place along the Santa Cruz River.

A small group of young people inquisitive, well educated and diverse will carefully watch the proceedings during the 2012 United Methodist General Conference to learn how The United Methodist Church really works. During a pre-conference briefing Jan. 19-21 in Tampa, Fla., the Bishop Melvin G. Talbert Leadership Institute Fellows got a taste of what to expect when General Conference convenes in that city in April. The fellows are participating in a two-year tutorial that started in January 2011. The program honors one of the church's most prophetic leaders, retired Bishop Melvin G. Talbert. He and his wife, Marilyn, are part of the team of leaders and coaches advising the young people.

Some of the choirs and ensembles who will lead worship April 25-27 and April 29-May 3 at the 2012 General Conference have been announced. The services will be streamed at along with all other conference sessions. The groups from around the globe include Innovators Music from Zimbabwe; the Silangan Christian Dance Troupe from Cote d'Ivoire; the Candler Singers from the Candler School of Theology; the Foundry United Methodist Church Choir from Washington; the Agape Singers from Clark Memorial United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tenn.; the Nuevo Nacimient Praise Band from Iglesia Methodista Nuevo Nacimient in Lebanon, Pa., and the Lake Junaluska Singers from the Lake Junaluska Conference and Retreat Center in North Carolina.

The Rev. Ronnie Miller-Yow's style of preaching resonates with all ages but especially young people. As chaplain of Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Yow has many opportunities to help young people become leaders in their church and community. He also leads by example in his role as national president of Black Methodists for Church Renewal.

Year after year, when students from the New York Annual (regional) Conference boarded buses to visit historically black colleges, they envisioned their future. They also saw history in the making as they walked the campuses. Forty years ago, when the 1972 General Conference established the Black College Fund apportionment, United Methodists made a commitment to justice ministries that began with the work of the Freedmen's Aid Society. Organized after the Civil War to educate people newly freed from slavery, the society helped establish more than 70 schools in the south and southwest regions of the United States. Eleven of those institutions remain, supported through the Black College Fund and the tithes, offerings and donations of United Methodists across the connection.

Plans to restructure The United Methodist Church's 13 general agencies could imperil ministries that local congregations need and value, say agency executives. The members of the United Methodist General Secretaries Table released a statement Jan. 26 to respond to proposals that would consolidate agencies, shrink their governing boards and potentially slash their funding. "We need vital congregations," said Gilbert C. Hanke, the top executive of United Methodist Men. "But we also need a vital general church at the same time to do what it is we as United Methodists are called to do." The group's statement urges 2012 General Conference delegates to "identify essential functions best provided by the general church system and support those functions through organizational structure, resource allocation, and churchwide action."

Emory University's Candler School of Theology delves into the issue of music in worship at "The Singing Church: Current Practices and Emerging Trends in Congregational Song" March 19-21. The school has assembled a roster of well-known church music professionals to address the so-called "worship wars," a topic that has divided churches for more than a decade. For more information, call. 404-727-8276.

To help congregations better track and improve worship attendance, the Lewis Center for Church Leadership of Wesley Theological Seminary has released the Congregational Attendance Profile. Users enter past attendance into a spreadsheet and add new figures weekly. The profile monitors attendance against a 52-week average, so churches know whether each Sunday's attendance is higher or lower than the year-to-date average. For more information, go to

The United Methodist Global AIDS Fund is asking all congregations to work to overcome attitudinal and behavioral barriers that create stigma and discrimination toward people with HIV/AIDS. It asks that National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on Feb. 7 be observed by sharing information, resources and testing with congregations and communities.

More than 90 church and ecumenical leaders attended a Jan. 28-31 consultation in Kigali, Rwanda, organized by the World Council of Churches' Commission of the Churches on International Affairs and the All Africa Conference of Churches, to discuss peace and security issues in Africa.

In less than three months, thousands of Americans have donated 150,000 anti-malaria bed nets in response to the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa. The people of The United Methodist Church made a lead gift of $100,000 on the day the appeal was announced by the UN Foundation's Nothing But Nets campaign.

The United Methodist Board of Pension and Health Benefits' Center for Health will conduct its annual clergy health survey in February. The survey continues the center's work after extensive clergy health research for the Church Systems Task Force. A sample of 5,000 clergy representing a cross section of active United Methodist clergy will receive a brief online survey.

A mission team from the Yellowstone Annual (regional) Conference is on a two-week visit to the East Angola Conference as part of its Angola Pastor's Salary Support Project. The Rev. Mark Calhoun of the Yellowstone Conference said the goal of the trip is to reconnect with Angola pastors and explore new ways the conferences can be in partnership together. The team arrived on Jan. 30. The Rev. Jeremy Scott is blogging about the trip at Calhoun also is blogging about the trip

U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, a United Methodist elder and a Democrat from Missouri, brought the parable of the Good Samaritan to life last week. CNN reported that Cleaver, while traveling from a meeting in his district on Jan. 27, noticed a hand waving above the weeds on the side of the road. He and a staff member stopped to find a woman going in and out of consciousness. They called 911 and stayed with her until paramedics arrived. "The heroes are the First Responders who rushed to save her," he told CNN.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation pledged $750 million to The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria while at the World Economic Forum last week. The contribution will go toward fighting diseases of poverty and serves as a vote of confidence for the Global Fund, an Imagine No Malaria partner in the fight against this killer disease. Imagine No Malaria is working to end preventable malaria deaths through improved health infrastructure, research and treatment, public policy advocacy and health education. The campaign, which is part of United Methodist Communications, has reached more than $19 million of its $75 million fundraising goal.

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