National/World briefs 05/06/2009


By United Methodist News Service

Death threats don’t deter South African bishop
He has received several death threats and has been under guard by South African police, but that has not stopped Bishop Paul Verryn of Johannesburg’s Central Methodist Church from sheltering Zimbabwean refugees in the heart of South Africa’s commercial capital. More than 2,600 refugees are awaiting relocation from Verryn’s refuge headquarters in the center of Johannesburg, but estimates say the same number live on the streets around the church. Two men were arrested April 7 in a police sting operation when they went to visit Verryn in his office after he had received several death threats. The men claimed they had been paid 30,000 rand (US $2,900) by unnamed shopkeepers to kill Verryn. However, police said the purpose of their visit was to try to get a larger sum from Verryn.

Pastor publishes book on mercury dangers
Every action that the Rev. Lisa Sykes has taken to alert the public about the dangers of mercury in vaccines has been influenced, in part, by her religious faith. The 43-year-old United Methodist clergywoman from Virginia has detailed the support she has received from her denomination in her new book, Sacred Spark, published by Fourth Lloyd Productions. The subtitle offers a quick synopsis of her crusade: A Minister-mom’s Quest to Restore the Light in Her Son’s Eyes Inspires Her Church to Protect Children from Harm and Ignites a Global Debate about Autism and Childhood Vaccines.

Scout helps renovate church sanctuary
Corey Kozak of Boy Scout Troop 636 was looking for an Eagle Scout project, and Jim Szakacs, director of the Nehemiah Mission of Cleveland, needed help renovating a deteriorating sanctuary. Last September, Kozak introduced himself and asked if he could lead the renovation effort for his Eagle project. After devoting more than 300 hours to the project, Kozak was awarded the Eagle Scout Merit on March 28, and Szakacs presented him with “The Good Samaritan Award” on behalf of the North Coast District on United Methodist Men and the Nehemiah Mission of Cleveland. For information about the Good Samaritan Award, contact the Office of Civic Youth-Serving Agencies/Scouting, General Commission on United Methodist Men, P.O. Box 340006, Nashville, TN 37203-0006 or visit

Bishops laud immigration reform plan
A group of United Methodist bishops has welcomed a White House announcement that President Barack Obama plans to include immigration law reform on his 2009 political agenda. To date, 21 active and retired bishops have joined in a statement urging the president to work for comprehensive immigration reform. Six specific goals include a pathway to citizenship for many currently undocumented immigrants and reunification of families divided by the enforcement of current immigration laws. The April 13 statement originated with Bishop Minerva Carcaño of Phoenix, chairperson of the United Methodist Church’s Task Force on Immigration.

UM pastor to preach on national radio show
The Rev. James C. Howell, senior pastor of Myers Park United Methodist Church in Charlotte, N.C., will preach May 17 and 24 on “Day 1,” a nationally broadcast radio program also accessible online at Each program features a sermon preached by Howell along with interviews conducted by the program’s host and executive producer, Peter Wallace. The first sermon, “As the Father Has Loved Me,” is based on Christ’s teachings to his disciples about love, as recorded in John 15. The second sermon, “In But Not Of the World,” takes a fresh look at Christ’s teachings from John 17.