United Methodist

'Dear Martin': Bishop's Letters to MLK Trace the Highs and Lows in Race Relations

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and associates call a temporary halt to mass demonstrations in 1963. Religion News Service filephoto

The nation will mark the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday with speeches, prayers, and volunteer service.

But for decades, retired United Methodist Bishop Woodie W. White has marked the holiday in a more personal way: He writes a “birthday letter” to the civil rights leader who was killed in 1968.

“It was a way to get kind of a year’s assessment on what the nation was accomplishing and not accomplishing in the area of race,” said White, a bishop-in-residence at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology for the last decade.

“I did it because, frankly, I needed to have perspective. I needed to not get discouraged, and I needed it to be affirming of progress in race which had taken place over the course of a year.”

Minister-Turned-Atheist Loses Harvard Job After Inflating Resume

Teresa MacBain was fired from her newly created position with the Humanist Community at Harvard. RNS photo by Colin Hackley

A former United Methodist minister-turned-atheist was dismissed from her high-profile position at Harvard University on Thursday after it was revealed she falsified her resume.

Teresa MacBain, one of the most high-profile nonbelievers in the country after profiles by NPRThe New York Times, and Religion News Service, was fired from her newly created position with the Humanist Community at Harvard.

United Methodist High Court to Consider Challenges to Gay Teachings

Rev. Kathryn Johnson performs a wedding ceremony between David Shumate and Andy Ragland. Photo: RNS/Andy Oliver/Kathryn Johnson

Facing a wave of open defiance to church law, the top court of the United Methodist Church is set to consider rulings challenging church teaching on homosexuality.

The United Methodist Judicial Council will decide whether church ministries can advocate for the acceptance of homosexuality, whether ministers can officiate at same-sex ceremonies, and whether a regional conference can urge members to ignore portions of Methodist law.

The rulings made by regional conferences are among 17 items the court will consider at its Oct. 23-26 meeting in Baltimore.

Mistaken Identity Brings Threats to Pastor Zimmermann

Photo courtesy RNS/Flickr.

Protestors at the Minneapolis rally in response to the George Zimmerman verdict in July, 2013. Photo courtesy RNS/Flickr.

Death threats were the last type of phone calls George A. Zimmermann thought he’d get after serving for 55 years as his Pennsylvania community’s preacher.

And he never thought he’d be mistaken for the man headlining news these days: George Zimmerman, the Sanford, Fla., neighborhood watch volunteer acquitted in the fatal shooting of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin in February 2012.

Zimmermann, 78, retired to Deland, Fla., 16 years ago from his post at Georgetown United Methodist Church in Paradise, Pa. He said his time in Florida had been relatively peaceful and uneventful — until the phone calls began trickling in.

Appeals Court OK’s Pastor’s Suit Against Oklahoma License Plate

Photo courtesy RNS/Flickr.

Oklahoma license plate image. Photo courtesy RNS/Flickr.

A Methodist pastor of a suburban Oklahama City church is suing the state, claiming its license plate image of a Native American shooting an arrow into the sky violates his religious liberty.

Last week, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled his suit can proceed.

The pastor, Keith Cressman of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Bethany, Okla., contends the image of the Native American compels him to be a “mobile billboard” for a pagan religion.

'Homeless' Pastor on Mission Arrested in Texas

From WOAI-TV in San Antonio, Texas:

She's been living on the streets to bring attention to homelessness, but Sunday night a local pastor stayed behind bars.

The Rev. Lorenza Andrade Smith had a warrant out for her arrest, because she was cited for sleeping on a park bench, which she says proves her point, that the homeless have few places to lay their heads. Along her journey the pastor has discovered what she calls an unjust judicial system for the poor.


She said, “This will be the second time I’m in jail for that same ticket and I’m just trying to survive out in the streets like hundreds of others here in San Antonio.”

Leontine T.C. Kelly, Pioneering African-American Woman Bishop, Dies At 92

RNS photo by Mike DuBose / United Methodist Church Service

RNS photo by Mike DuBose / United Methodist Church Service

Retired United Methodist Bishop Leontine T.C. Kelly, the first African-American woman elected to the episcopacy by a major religious denomination, died Thursday (June 28). The teacher, pastoral leader and activist was considered a pioneer for her ministry of more than two decades. She was 92.

Her death was reported by United Methodist News Service.

Bishop Judith Craig, who was elected a Methodist bishop just hours after Kelly in 1984, recalled the pioneer’s “audacious” life.

“She never ran from challenge or controversy, and she also stood fast in her convictions,” Craig told the denominational news service.

Why the United Methodist Church Canceled Votes on Same-Sex Marriage, Gay Clergy

Image: Nataliia Antonova/Shutterstock

Image: Nataliia Antonova/Shutterstock

United Methodists concluded their General Conference last Friday (May 4) without voting on gay clergy or same-sex marriage, a surprising end to a disappointing week for gay activists.

Last Thursday, the nearly 1,000 delegates gathered in Tampa, Fla., soundly rejected two motions that would have amended the United Methodist Church's book of doctrine and rules, which calls the practice of homosexuality "incompatible with Christian teaching." After those votes, protesters flooded the convention floor, briefly shutting down the conference.

Conference planners, evangelical leaders and gay and lesbian advocates met later on Thursday and determined that there was little use in holding additional contentious debates on homosexuality, according to several sources. Proposals to ordain gay clergy and bless same-sex unions held little chance of passing, the parties agreed, and so were pushed to the back of the agenda, essentially assuring that they would not be debated.

"Leaders of the demonstration were told that the legislation was postponed to avoid more harm to LGBT people and their supporters," the Love Your Neighbor Coalition said in a statement. "The United Methodist Church had an opportunity to offer love, grace, and hope," the coalition said. "Sadly, we did not take that opportunity."

Methodists Uphold Policy Calling Homosexuality 'Incompatible with Christian Teaching'

The Rev. Will Green calling for greater inclusiveness at the 2012 UMC General Conference. RNS photo by Mike DuBose/UMNS.

Despite emotional protests and fierce lobbying from gay rights groups, United Methodists voted on Thursday to maintain their denomination's stance that homosexuals acts are "incompatible with Christian teaching."

Two "agree to disagree" proposals were soundly defeated during separate votes by the nearly 1,000 delegates gathered for the United Methodist Church's General Conference in Tampa, Fla.

One proposal would have replaced the "incompatible" phrase in the Book of Discipline, which contains the denomination's laws and doctrines. Both proposals sought to soften the disputed doctrine by adding more ambiguous statements about homosexuality.

Gay rights advocates in the UMC viewed the compromise proposals as the best chance to advance their cause at this year's General Conference, which convenes every four years. On Friday, delegates are expected to debate the church's bans on noncelibate gay clergy and same-sex marriage.

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