News In Brief - January 27, 2012

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News in Brief January 27, 2012
Brief items for use in local church newsletters
Prepared by United Methodist News Service

The United Methodist Church is taking a page from the tech startup world, and the resulting initiative enables young adults to be leaders in ministry. Spark12 is an incubator for social justice ministries developed and implemented by young adults. It is one way the denomination is working to develop principled Christian leaders, one of four areas of focus adopted by the 2008 General Conference, the church's top legislative body.The project allows young adults to take the lead in ministry, rather than fitting into existing projects or ministry models. More information is at

Diverse issues presented at a recent three-day briefing signaled the workload ahead for the lawmaking body of The United Methodist Church, which meets this spring. More than 300 delegates, communicators and others who will be part of the 2012 General Conference met Jan. 19-21 at the Tampa Convention Center, site of the legislative assembly, for a preview of some of the issues they will face April 24-May 4. United Methodist Communications sponsored the event, with involvement and support from other agencies and ministries of the church. To see an overview of issues, visit and click on "Briefing previews General Conference issues." To watch videos of the gathering, visit

Delegates to the 2012 General Conference got a hint of the debate to come regarding restructuring the denomination at the Pre-General Conference News Briefing in Tampa, Fla.Briefing participants heard an overview of restructuring legislation and concerns that the plan would damage the denomination's connectionalism, give too much power to the bishops and eliminate the denomination's historic "separation of powers" between bishops and General Conference. To read more, visit and click on "Preview to church restructuring debate."

The Advance Edition of the Daily Christian Advocate, the official journal of General Conference, is now online and available for download at The advance edition contains alllegislation submitted for consideration by the delegates. The edition is available in English, French and Portuguese.

A landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision this month establishes that The United Methodist Church and other religious groups are free to set their own rules for choosing and dismissing leaders without government interference. The high court on Jan. 11 for the first time recognized a "ministerial exception" to U.S. employment anti-discrimination laws. One likely result is that church leaders will face fewer lawsuits related to employment. However, the ruling also puts more responsibility on The United Methodist Church to prevent discrimination within its own structure, say denominational leaders.

Hannah Moran, the 9-year-old granddaughter of United Methodist Dallas Area Bishop W. Earl Bledsoe, died Jan. 23 at Cooks Children's Hospital after an accident at her home in Fort Worth, Texas. A service is planned at 2:30 p.m. Jan. 28 at First United Methodist Church in Fort Worth. Cards and notes may be sent to the North Texas Conference episcopal office at P.O. Box 866188, Plano, TX 75086-6188, or emailed to [email protected]

The usually shy Juan "Junior" Arias Jr. surprised his fellow youth group members when he took the stage in a singing contest at Youth 2011, a national United Methodist event in Sacramento, Calif. The 16-year-old went on to take the contest's top prize, and inspired by the event, he is using his $500 to help impoverished youngsters at an elementary school near his congregation, University United Methodist Church in Las Vegas.

Emory University's Candler School of Theology, a United Methodist-related seminary, has received a $15 million gift from the O. Wayne Rollins Foundation of Atlanta that makes possible the construction of the second phase of the school's new building program.

Christians in Nigeria needprayer, writes Thomas Kemper, top executive, United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, in a letter on the board's website. "In recent weeks, Christians have been targeted and killed by Boko Haram, a religious extremist group in northern Nigeria demanding that Christians leave the region," he said. "Societal, religious and economic imbalance is creating a volatile climate, despite calls for peaceful resolutions."

The National Plan for Hispanic/Latino Ministry, in partnership with Global Praise, announced the launch of is abilingual website, an online community, a liturgical and musical resource for churches and a global ecumenical resource to provide bilingual resources about Latin American cultures. For more information on, contact Jorge Lockward at [email protected] or [email protected].

The Society of St. Andrew's free 2012 Lenten devotion and giving program, "Living Proof," provides a program of spiritual reflection, prayer and giving for congregations, challenging church members to take seriously the Scriptural injunctions to care for the poor, while also providing an opportunity to feed hungry neighbors. Learn more at

A ruling by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - ensuring that all new insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act include contraceptive coverage without patient cost-sharing, except in very narrow circumstances - was applauded by the United Methodist Board of Church and Society. "This is a great day for women in the United States," said Jim Winkler, the agency's top executive. "This ruling ensures the availability of contraception for all women. It will result in millions having the services to be able to plan their families and prevent unplanned pregnancies regardless of the woman's economic security." Because of the ruling, hospitals, universities and other institutions affiliated with a particular faith group cannot deny their employees access to contraceptive care.

The Clay community sustained heavy damage during the early-morning storms on Jan. 23. According to the Alabama Red Cross, a tornado destroyed at least 211 homes and damaged an additional 218 in the central part of the state. The North Alabama Annual (regional) Conference is sendingresponse teams to Clay to remove debris and tarp roofs.

The Rev. Tyrone Gordonsurrendered his ordination credentials and resigned as senior pastor of St. Luke "Community" United Methodist Church of Dallas, effective Feb. 15, according to a statement released by Bishop Earl Bledsoe of the denomination's North Texas Annual (regional) Conference. Bledsoe said Gordon was the subject of complaints from individuals in and outside of the congregation, the United Methodist Reporter stated. The complaints were of "both an administrative and judicial nature," the bishop said, but did not provide details. The Reporter saidits call to Gordon's office was not returned. St. Luke is one of the largest predominantly African-American churches in the North Texas Conference and one of the largest in the denomination.

Bishop Ernest Lyght recently retired from serving the West Virginia Annual (regional) Conference because of health concerns. In an interview in the style of National Public Radio's "Storycorps," he shared the lessonslearned in United Methodist ministry. You can hear his reflections and watch a slideshow at

Former President Jimmy Carter will bring video greetings to the fourth Lighten the Burden AIDS conference April 23 at Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Tampa, Fla. The conference will be the day before the opening of the 2012 United Methodist General Conference, the denomination's top lawmaking body. Sponsored by the United Methodist Global AIDS Fund Committee, the conference will address how faith-based organizations are tackling HIV and AIDS with an emphasis on eradicating stigma. The registration deadline is April 15, and the $10 fee includes lunch.

The Northern Illinois Annual (regional) Conference United Methodist Women will stand in silent vigil Monday, Jan. 30, during the noon hour to support people imprisoned by human trafficking, the second largest criminal industry in the world. The vigil will take place at the Daley Center Plaza. Illinois passed one of the strictest trafficking laws in 2005 and has passed updates, which became law in 2010 and 2012. For more information, contact [email protected] or call 708-798-1274.

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