News In Brief - March 16, 2012

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News In Brief - March 16, 2012

Brief items for use in local church newsletters
Prepared by United Methodist News Service

The One Great Hour of Sharing Sunday is March 18. It is one of six Special Sunday offerings to share beyond our regular gifts. Help the United Methodist Committee on Relief, the denomination's disaster-relief agency, bring hope and solidarity to communities both at home and abroad. One Great Hour of Sharing offering supports UMCOR, allowing it to do the relief work it does around the world from Armenia to Japan, Haiti, Minot, N.D., and Harrisburg, Ill. Go to to see more of what UMCOR does.

As the 2012 General Conference approaches, United Methodist News Service is offering information to help readers better understand how the church works. A number of proposals are aimed at restructuring the denomination and its general ministries, so UMNS asked the top executives of each agency to answer five questions about their agency's role in the church. The responses from the Commission on Archives and History, the Commission on Religion and Race, the Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, and the United Methodist Publishing House appeared last week. To read these responses, go to

Activity related to General Conference continues to accelerate. The United Methodist News Service is reporting on and providing information about the activities. UMNS reports appear as they occur on and also can be found later on General Conference 2012 at Among the stories this week:

  • A proposed consolidation of general agencies could put The United Methodist Church's assets at risk, says a statementapproved by the board of the denomination's finance agency, the General Council on Finance and Administration.
  • Two General Conference delegates from the Arkansas Annual (regional) Conference - the Rev. John P. Miles Jr. and the Rev. Rebekah "Beka" Miles - are siblings with sometimes widely divergent views. But they and other delegates are being encouraged to use holy conferencing, or holy conversation, to set "a tone for respectful dialogue and relationship building."
  • The Texas Annual (regional) Conference delegation to General Conference has released a statement that "affirms the hard work and visionary leadership of our Council of Bishops and others in issuing a 'Call to Action' to our denomination." The statement concurs that "creating vital congregations which make disciples of Jesus Christ is key to being a faithful church in a changing world" and calls upon the General Conference to "carefully consider and perfect the legislation associated with the Call, recognizing that some specific proposals need clarification and changes in order to lead us into the future which God has for us as a church."
  • The executive committee of the United Methodist Board of Discipleship has issued a statement in response to the proposed restructure of the Interim Operations Team. Under that proposal, nine general agencies - including the Board of Discipleship - would be consolidated into a new Center for Connectional Mission and Ministry under a 15-member board. "Of greatest concern is that it is not obvious how the pathway created by the IOT legislation is informed by the Call to Action research and leads to more vital congregations," the executive committee's statement said.
  • A growing number of United Methodist leaders say they fear proposed restructuring will put too much power in the hands of the bishops. Members of the Call to Action Interim Operations Team that developed the restructure proposal countered that the recommended changes will advance the bishops' work on mission - not their power.
  • In the blogosphere, commenters have called the proposed position everything from a United Methodist archbishop to the denomination's CEO. One thing is certain: The proposal to set aside a bishop to serve as full-time president of the Council of Bishops is sparking discussion.
  • Issues of leadership and management have been a part of our life from the beginning, says the Rev. Robert J. Williams in an excerpt from his remarks on the proposed "set-aside" bishop. The top executive of the United Methodist Commission on Archives and History offered a historical perspective on previous efforts to appoint a nonresidential bishop to provide greater church oversight.
  • Media representatives and church communicators must submit an application by April 13 to receive media credentials for General Conference. Applicants may pre-register online or by mail, and will be issued credentials on site at the Tampa Convention Center. Credentials must be requested for each representative of a media outlet, including photographers. After April 13, applicants must register on site. For more information, visit

Through March 31, all Cokesbury vacation Bible school kits are 10 percent off. Churches can order Operation Overboard or No Friend Like Jesus starter kits today. Go to

Recovery from last summer's massive flooding in Minot, N.D., has been painstaking, but hope for the future is rising. Beginning April 1, United Methodists heading to Minot to volunteer can count on Hope Village, located on the Our Savior Lutheran Church campus, for food and housing. Some observers view Hope Village, the first ecumenical, cooperative venture of this scope, as a possible model for future disaster response across the United States.

United Methodist-related Bennett College for Women plans to host its fourth annual Women's Leadership Conference on March 29. The event will focus on "Women Entrepreneurs in a Global Economy: A Driving Economic Force." The conference will bring together corporate, small business and community leaders with sessions on the issues and challenges women face as aspiring entrepreneurs. For more information, contact Wanda Mobley at 336-517-2267.

The status of Evangelical Seminary in Myerstown, Pa., as an approved seminary of the United Methodist Church has been extended through 2016. The University Senate, which decides whether colleges and universities meet the criteria for affiliation, had removed the seminary from its approved list in 2010 because of concerns over lack of ethnic inclusiveness of faculty and staff and the absence of full-time United Methodist faculty.The seminary last year won an appeal of the decision to remove it from the approved list and was granted a one-year extension that would have expired July 1.

As the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments March 26-28 on key issues and challenges to the health-care law passed two years ago, people of faith are planning to make "A Prayerful Witness for Health Care" at 11:30 a.m. March 26, in front of the Supreme Court building on the Capitol Hill. The witness "will be a compassionate commitment to the common good," organizers say.

A year after a devastating earthquake/tsunami crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Japanese Christians - in northern Japan and nationwide - are grappling with radiation concerns. "In our area, the government says it's not a problem, it's not dangerous at all," said Jonathan McCurley, a United Methodist missionary based at the Asian Rural Institute. "But a lot of people are very concerned that's not necessarily true."

Sandra Fluke, the young law student behind the controversy stirred when Rush Limbaugh called her derogatory names, is a lifelong United Methodist who says the church taught her to speak out for others in need, "even if that wasn't a popular thing to do." The Rev. Richard Fluke, Sandra's father, is a part-time licensed local pastor who shares the pulpit at Tatesville United Methodist Church in Everett, Pa., with two other pastors.

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