United Methodists respond to deadly tornadoes in Alabama, Arkansas


By United Methodist News Service

United Methodists responded quickly to tornadoes in Arkansas and Alabama.

One United Methodist died and St. Luke UMC in Enterprise, Ala., suffered extensive damage when tornadoes bounced across Alabama and Georgia on March 1.


Disaster recovery coordinators with the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference were surveying the damage on March 2, and representatives of the United Methodist Committee on Relief are scheduled to visit the site as well.

Killed was Cliff Gaston, a member of the Camden (Ala.) United Methodist Church. At the St. Luke church, one wall was demolished and the roof damaged on the church sanctuary. St. Luke is located near the high school where eight people were killed as a result of the storms. St. Luke’s parsonage also is damaged, according to conference reports. First United Methodist Church of Enterprise is serving as a Red Cross relief center, and First UMC of Abbeville, Ala., is serving as a Red Cross shelter.


Anyone wishing to send a work team to help should call  866- 340-956 or e-mail disaster@awfumc.org.


Meanwhile, residents in the rural Arkansas Delta community of Dumas flattened by a powerful Feb. 24 tornado are sifting through what’s left of homes and businesses as The United Methodist Church assists in relief efforts. The storm destroyed a third of the town’s business district and left an estimated 800 jobless in the town of 5,300 people. Almost immediately after the tornado, members of First UMC gathered and began preparing food for displaced residents, most of whom are being housed at the local Baptist church. “They were doing this without lights. I just can’t say enough about the people in this church,” said the Rev. Glenn Pettus, pastor of the First United Methodist Church. “It has been an awesome thing to witness the outpouring of love and caring.”


UMCOR is providing a $10,000 assistance grant to aid in the relief effort, said Martha Taylor, director of communications for the Arkansas Annual Conference. The conference is seeking donations of nonperishable food and bottled water. Mission teams and other volunteers are asked to contact Don Weeks, the conference Volunteers in Mission coordinator, at dweeks@arumc.org or 501-681-2909.


Report on ministry ignites conversation across nation

NASHVILLE— A report recommending “profound” changes to the ministerial leadership of The United Methodist Church was meant to spur conversations. It has done its job. “We’ve got the church talking,” said the Rev. Thomas E. Frank, principal writer of the Study of Ministry Commission report.


He reported on conversations and reactions to the eight recommended changes to the church’s system of lay, licensed and ordained leadership during the commission meeting Feb. 22-24 in Nashville. The report was posted in January on the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s Web site along with an online survey, which drew approximately 1,000 responses by its Feb. 26 deadline. A final report will be presented at the 2008 General Conference. For more information on the report, visit www.gbhem.org and click on Study of Ministry.


Ruling by Judicial Council reveals conflicts among UMs

NASHVILLE — A ruling about pastoral authority by the highest court of The United Methodist Church revealed conflicts over church membership criteria, ecclesiology and the authority given to appointed leaders. Those conflicts were explored as pastors, bishops, theologians, seminary deans and denominational staff members gathered Feb. 15-16 in a consultation over implications of Judicial Council Decision 1032 in the case of a Virginia pastor who blocked a homosexual man from church membership.


Specifically, the Judicial Council ruled that “the pastor in charge of a United Methodist Church or charge is solely responsible for making the determination of a person’s readiness to receive the vows of membership.” The word “solely” has especially generated emotionally and politically charged conversations throughout the church about pastoral authority and the power of United Methodist bishops.


WNBA star sees first-hand need for bed nets in Angola

LUANDA, Angola — While visiting hospitals and clinics filled with mothers cradling sick and dying children, professional basketball star Ruth Riley saw “what the face of malaria looks like.” Touring the African nation on a malaria observation trip hosted by the people of The United Methodist Church, the WNBA star urged people everywhere to support Nothing But Nets, a global campaign working to provide insecticide-treated bed nets to protect families against disease-carrying mosquitoes.


The nets cost $10 each. Health officials say the nets can reduce transmission by as much as 90 percent.  To send a net, visit Nothing But Nets (www.NothingButNets.net) or United Methodist Communications (www.umc.org). United Methodists also can give through their churches by designating their gift for Advance #982015.