The Monthly Update

June 2005

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

This Monthly Update contains initial information on the annual conference reports that will be featured in the next three issues. This is the first of the conferences that will be reported to you from our worldwide Methodist connection. In addition there is more information on moral issues so important not only to our denomination but also to our country and world.

I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to a very special lady – Mrs. Martha Gerhard Kubecka. Most, if not all, of you have probably heard of her. She was the mother of one of my classmates in the class I was in when I attended high school on the Texas Gulf Coast.

Through the years when I would hear of a mother complain about how she could not control her child, or maybe two children, and she seemed at the end of her rope, I would tell her about the Kubecka family that I grew to appreciate and respect.

There were eleven boys in the family. Danny Kubecka was in my class, and just about every grade level up to four years ahead of me boasted one of the "Kubecka boys" as did those grades as far back as I cared to look. All of the Kubeckas had common traits: they did not smoke and they did not drink, since their parents taught them that they were not "qualified" to make those decisions until they were 21.

They worked hard (which came easily since they all worked the farm that their father Oswald cultivated). From the time they were old enough to walk, the boys were put to work doing something – working the cotton fields and the rice paddies. As a result, they grew up strong and made good football players, being named All-District or All-State. Each year, one of the boys would win the tractor-driving contest. They were all in FFA – Future Farmers of America.

They drove Ford pickup trucks, and they went to Texas A & M when it was time to go to college.

Church? I still remember one Sunday when their pickup truck (all the boys rode in the back) drove up to our First Methodist Church. Mr. & Mrs. Kubecka got out of the truck and started talking to other adults as they walked inside our church. They did not say one word to any of the boys nor did they even look at them. The older boys helped the younger ones out of the truck and herded them into church. They filled up the two pews that were kind of "reserved" for them. Just as the service was about to start, Mr. and Mrs. Kubecka ended their "socializing" and went to the places that the boys had reserved them sitting together at the end of one of the pews.

Conduct like that does not come by accident. The saying, "the hand that rocks the cradle steadies the nation" is exemplified in the way that Mrs. Martha Kubecka raised their boys. She is a good example of the "bedrock" of our society. Let us pray that others like her will continue to be raised up.

In His service,

 

Allen O. Morris,
Executive Director


June 2005 Update

Bits and Pieces from across the United Methodist Church

Appeasement is feeding the crocodile hoping he won’t eat you. - Winston Churchill

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Of Interest.

+ IRD President Diane Knippers Dies

IRD President Diane Knippers died in Arlington, Virginia on Monday, April 18 of complications related to cancer. She was 53. Earlier this year she was named by Time magazine as one of America’s 25 most influential evangelicals. Knippers was president of the IRD since 1993 and had worked for IRD since 1982. She was a leader of evangelical, renewal voices in mainline Protestantism, especially in the Episcopal Church, on whose Standing Commission on Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations she sat. She also served on the boards of the National Association of Evangelicals, the American Anglican Council, the Religious Liberty Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance, Five Talents (an Anglican micro-enterprise initiative), and the steering committee of Anglican Mainstream, International. She had written for The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, and Christianity Today, and appeared on CBS’s 60 Minutes, CNBC’s Capital Report, and PBS’s Religion and Ethics Newsweekly.

IRD Board Chairman J. Budziszewski, a professor at the University of Texas in Austin, recalled the story of Jesus’ devoted followers Mary and Martha, from the tenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke. Knippers was "that rare sort of disciple who served with both the diligence and energy shown by Martha, and the loving attention to her Master's every word shown by Mary," Budziszewski said. "As she is gathered up to Christ, we lose a dear friend and yokefellow."

IRD Vice President Alan Wisdom, who worked with Knippers for almost 20 years, described Knippers as a "mentor" and a "faithful Christian witness amidst church and political conflicts."

"She was firm in her conviction of God’s truth, and that firmness enabled her to show a great serenity and warmth towards others," Wisdom said. "One of her consistent emphases was the importance of nurturing a new generation of church reformers. The members of the IRD staff show the results of Diane’s wise influence. We will miss her presence among us. But I am confident that God’s grace has equipped us through Diane, and will continue to equip us to carry her work forward.

- Mark Tooley, The Institute on Religion and Democracy; April 19, 2005.

+ Missouri Conference ordered to pay $6 million to church musician

Columbia, Mo. -The United Methodist Missouri Annual (regional) Conference has been ordered to pay $6 million in damages to a former local church music director. A civil court jury found in favor of Teresa and Sid Norris of Springfield, Mo., awarding them $2 million in compensatory damages on April 29 and $4 million in punitive damages on May 4. The couple sued the Missouri Conference for intentional failure to supervise and act on complaints against a pastor more than six years ago. Mrs. Norris - music director of Campbell United Methodist Church from Sept 1, 1997, to April 26, 1998 - and her husband filed the lawsuit in Greene County Circuit Court in 2002, contending the conference did not appropriately respond to informal complaints that were filed against the Rev. David Finestead, and that this alleged failure to respond put Norris in danger. Norris alleged that Finestead, then pastor of the church, raped her on March 25, 1998, in her office at the church.

"We are disappointed by the verdict and will begin to immediately pursue what our options may be, including the possibility of appeal," said the Rev. Steve Cox, director of connectional ministries for the Missouri Conference. "Six million dollars is more money than we have in terms of assets, and this will have a tremendous impact on the conference," he said. Conference leaders will meet May 6 to discuss financial and legal options for future operations, he said.

The defense in the April 18-May 4 trial argued that the complaints before the alleged rape described sexual harassment and inappropriate language, and that the conference responded by following disciplinary protocol, including getting a signed resolution agreed upon by those bringing formal complaints. The defense also argued that the bishop and district superintendent could not have known that physical danger or assault was likely. The attorneys also told jurors that no police report was filed, the rape was not reported for six weeks, no forensic evidence was found to support the allegations, and that Finestead denied the allegations and provided an alibi witness. The defense attorneys contended that although there were complaints received about Finestead before the alleged rape, the complaints were not of a nature for leaders to suspect Finestead would commit a violent act or that anyone was in danger. When Mrs. Norris accused Finestead of rape, the conference followed its standard procedure, and then Missouri Area Bishop Ann Sherer called for an investigation. Finestead was suspended while the investigation committee, consisting of clergy with lay observers, reviewed the complaint and referred the case to a church trial.

Before the trial began, Finestead withdrew his clergy credentials from the United Methodist Church and was ordained by another denomination. Since he was no longer an ordained elder in the denomination, the church trial never took place. Finestead was not criminally charged. A separate civil lawsuit filed against him in 1999 is still pending. Finestead now resides in Louisburg, Kan., and serves the First Baptist Church there. According to his Web site, he is in the hospital being treated for cancer.

Sherer testified in the civil trial, as did the Rev. Elroy Hines, who was the bishop's assistant at the time, the Rev. Jim Ireland, then district superintendent, and members of Campbell United Methodist Church. The jury was instructed that the case was based on six elements, and jurors would need to believe that all six elements were true to return a verdict for the plaintiff. The elements were:

" Sherer and Ireland were Finestead's supervisors;

" they were certain or substantially certain that Finestead would cause harm;

" they disregarded this known harm;

" this harm caused damage to Norris;

" the damage was within the scope of the known risk; and

" the damage occurred on the property the defendant owns or occupies.

To award punitive damages, the jury had to find the annual conference guilty of "reckless indifference." Nine or more jury members had to agree to return a verdict on the damages and the punitive damages. The decision was unanimous.

Because the lawsuit was a civil case, the proof required was less than for a criminal case.

"You've probably heard (that) in a criminal case, you must be convinced of something beyond a reasonable doubt," Dan Craig, attorney for the Norrises, said in closing arguments. "This is a civil case, and the burden is that these things are more likely to be true than not true," he said.

- By Fred Koenig, United Methodist News Service (UMNS) #281; Missouri; May 5, 2005.

(UM) Bishops.

+ Bishops meet with U.S. lawmakers on AIDS, other issues

United Methodist bishops met with U.S. lawmakers and other government officials on such concerns as AIDS and support for struggling African countries during a visit to Capitol Hill. The United Methodist Board of Church and Society hosted more than a dozen bishops-most of them African-during a May 4 legislative briefing at the United Methodist Building, across the street from the Capitol. After briefings from board staff on legislative priorities such as AIDS orphans, immigration issues and the federal budget, the bishops went to Congress. At the same time, Bishop John Innis of Liberia met with State Department officials to discuss his country's need for help with reconstruction following years of civil war. He stressed the importance of investing in such services as electricity, water and education. For both Innis and Bishop Nkulu Ntanda Ntambo of the Democratic Republic of Congo, upcoming elections in their countries are a concern. The bishops expressed the need for U.S. help in ensuring fair, orderly elections.

Bishop Al Gwinn of the Raleigh (N.C.) Area met with U.S. Reps. David Price and Brad Miller, both Democrats from his state. He shared his concerns about the federal budget and advocated two bills in the House of Representatives: 1) one bill would provide greater support for children in developing countries, especially in African countries, where many children are homeless and orphaned as a result of AIDS, and 2) health care for legal immigrants, particularly children and pregnant women, who currently are barred from receiving Medicare or other federal assistance unless they've been in the United States at least five years. [Note: Rather than the asking the government to do this, why cannot the church step up to the plate?] - Tim Tanton; UMNS; Nashville, Tenn. {283};May 6, 2005.

+ Bishops Approve Interim Pacts with Episcopalians, Lutherans

 The top clergy leaders of the UMC have approved interim agreements for sharing the Eucharist with two other mainline denominations-the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The approval came May 5, during the UM Council of Bishops' weeklong spring meeting in Arlington, Va. The agreements, if approved later this year by Lutheran and Episcopalian lawmaking assemblies, would result in those churches and the UMC sharing worship, particularly Communion; studying with one another; and being involved in mission together. The UMC is entering into separate agreements with each. This would be the first time the UMC has had such a shared communion with any group outside the Methodist tradition.

The agreements are interim steps toward full communion, in which the denominations recognize the authenticity of each other's ministries and agree that their ministries are reconciled. "The plan is for us to enter into full communion with the Lutherans at the General Conference of 2008 and with the Episcopalians at the General Conference of 2012," said Bishop William B. Oden (retired), ecumenical officer for the council. Studying and fellowship will occur in the interim. Oden noted that 15 members of the Council of Bishops and 15 members of the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops will go on retreat together Oct. 3-4 in Chicago. "This is not a movement toward church union but affirms each denomination's uniqueness while we worship and work together," Oden added. [Note: One cannot help but observe that the Episcopal Church is currently in a headlong rush toward decline and schism based on its consecration of pro-homosexual bishop Gene Robinson. Why would we continue to march toward communion with this denomination? Our church’s leaders really need to reassess their actions here.] - Tim Tanton; UMNS; Nashville {289}; May 9, ‘05.Newscope, May 20, ‘05.

+ Bishops' resolutions address capital punishment, other issues

The bishops met May 1-6 in Arlington, Va., for their spring gathering. their resolutions, the bishops:

- Recognized Hunger Awareness Day. The council recognized the day, set for June 7 in the United States, as a time to unite with the poor and the people who minister to them. United Methodists are encouraged to pray for the poor and hungry, enter into ministry with them locally and globally, and lobby government officials in their behalf.

- Called for an immediate moratorium on capital punishment. They resolved…to continue to engage with elected officials and other government leaders in working to end capital punishment. The bishops emphasized that the resolution applies to all United Methodists around the world.

- Spoke in support of "comfort women." During World War II, the Japanese military forced 200,000 women from Asian nations into sexual slavery. The bishops noted that the Women's Division of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries had recommended actions for implementing the Resolution on Comfort Women…The council also recommended United Methodists study and take actions to support the survivors. [Note: There is nothing that can be done to erase this tragic event of the past, but the question remains, "What can the bishops do to address the realities of slavery and rape of women in southern Sudan who want to practice their Christian faith but are being persecuted in this time by members of the armed forces of the Islamic government in the northern part of the country? This would be addressing a problem that is still going on rather than beating our chests over something that has happened in the past.]

- Recognized the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Japan. The cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed in August 1945 by U.S. atomic bombs, effectively ending World War II in the Pacific. They called on any government with nuclear weapons or on the verge of developing them to begin immediate negotiations with the rest of the world toward a complete ban. The council urged the study of its document, "In Defense of Creation-The Nuclear Crisis and a Just Peace." [Note: This was an unbalanced study not grounded in practicality. As tragic as the use of the two atomic bombs was, it is estimated to have saved between 2 million and 4 million lives.]

- Tim Tanton; UMNS; Nashville, Tenn. {290}; May 9, 2005.

UM Women. UMW Statistics Show Decline. Are Pastors Responsible?

When the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church merged in 1968 to form the United Methodist Church, the combined church membership was 11 million, with more than 42,000 churches. According to the May 1968 issue of Together magazine, there were more than 38,000 United Methodist Women (UMW) groups, with a total membership of 1.7 million. Since 1968, there has been a steady UMW decline. Statistics from 2002 show 775,939 members of UMW. Comparing the 2002 UMW membership with the original combined Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren membership in 1968 shows a membership drop of 56.8 percent. (Total membership loss in the same period is more than 25 percent.)

It is noteworthy that the number of churches with UMW groups has declined along with individual UMW membership. In 1968, more than 38,000 churches are identified as having UMW groups; the 2001 statistics show them in only 22,321 churches. This is a loss of 42.8 percent of UMW groups, while the denomination-wide number of churches lost was 16.3 percent.

The decline does not seem to have plateaued in recent years. Within the last five years, UMW has lost more than 129,000 individual members (14 percent loss) and more than 1,600 churches no longer have UMW units (7 percent loss).

2003 Update

According to a General Council on Finance and Administration report, the 2003 figures for the year ending December 31, show another decline in UMW membership and units. The membership figure for this period is 765,724 for a decrease of 10,215 members. The number of churches reporting UMW membership was 21,521 for a decrease of 399 units.

Who is responsible?

Most interestingly, letters to the editor from two former Women’s Division retired staff persons blamed "Good News pastors" for this decline. One letter made a slight accusation against the RENEW Editorial Team—but pastors were the really bad guys (or gals). It was even suggested that the day may come "when the Judicial Council is asked to consider whether the active and willful subverting of Para. 255.4 is a chargeable offense against a pastor."

A recent mailing to a bishop by the chief executive of the Women’s Division also claimed that "some pastors facilitate the work of RENEW to close UMW units (which RENEW does not advocate), some receive no information about such efforts, even in their own congregations and some express indifference."

This is strange indeed. The Women’s Division comes under the authority of the General Conference, not under the Council of Bishops or any other agency. The local United Methodist Women’s organization comes under the Women’s Division through the district and conference UMW, not under the Administrative Council of the local church or the pastor. The Women’s Division has responsibility for the programs, policies and spending of the UMW organization.

Pastors have no input, even if they disagree with the spending or program content. Are pastors, then, to blame if UMW membership declines, or if the women of the church refuse to give their funds to support things with which they disagree?

Thousands of women have connected with the RENEW Network, or other viable renewal groups, to educate themselves and to make informed, intelligent decisions about their UMW ministry and the influence of the Women’s Division—yet, the truth that women can and do think for themselves and make their own decisions is not acknowledged. Instead, pastors are held responsible for a program over which they have no oversight. Who’s really responsible for UMW membership loss? Someone needs to look in the mirror.

- Report from the Good News/RENEW Teams; Good News magazine; July/August 2004.

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A man’s character is like a fence; it cannot be strengthened by whitewash. – Lovelights Newsletter.

Global Outlook

Your life either sheds light or casts a shadow. – Our Daily Bread, July 25, 2002

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Abortion, Assisted Suicide, Euthanasia & Other Life Issues.

...The Texas Senate has passed a measure to restore parental rights that were taken from them by the Roe v. Wade decision 32 years ago. By a 25-5 vote, the Texas Senate passed the Parental Consent for Abortion law. The measure simply states that an abortionist may not perform an abortion on a minor without the written permission of the parents. Dr. Joe Pojman, executive director of the Texas Alliance for Life, says if the bill becomes law, the lives of many babies will be saved. "This bill restores some rights to parents -- the rights to protect their young daughters from abortion providers," he notes. "And those rights were taken away by the U.S. Supreme Court [in 1973] in the tragic Roe v. Wade decision. Every year in Texas, there are more than 3,500 abortions performed on very young girls. We're talking about girls 17 years of age and younger -- and in none of those cases do parents have a right to intervene to protect their daughters from abortion." Pojman says he is optimistic the Texas House will also pass the bill, and almost certain pro-life Governor Rick Perry will sign it if it comes to his desk. - AgapePress, May 20, 2005.

The Episcopal Church. HOUSE OF BISHOPS DIVIDED: GC2006 Could See Divorce in the Episcopal Church

[Note: This details the continuing controversy within the Episcopal Church which shows us the future of the United Methodist Church if we do not resolve the problem of homosexual activism in an orthodox, moral direction within our own denomination.]

Tempers flared, bishops traded accusations, Frank Griswold was confronted over the damage he has done [in] pushing homosexuality in the Episcopal Church and, despite a desperate propaganda drive by the church's spin doctors, the situation was described as "irreconcilable" with a divorce pending when the ECUSA meets at General Convention in 2006. These were the sentiments expressed by a number of bishops who spoke this week to VirtueOnline on the grounds of anonymity. At the HOB meeting in Camp Hill, Texas, orthodox and revisionist bishops were divided with a number of borderline bishops who have not joined the Anglican Communion Network, appear ready to do so. If that happens, the number of bishops who could split from the ECUSA in 2006 would reach 19.

Tempers rose when the Presiding Bishop and Pittsburgh Bishop Robert Duncan traded accusations over the Pittsburgh's bishop's role at the Dromantine Center in Northern Ireland where he joined in a celebration party following what appeared to many to be a win for the Global South Primates in getting the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church in Canada temporarily expelled from the Anglican Communion.

Following the flare up, the homo[sexual] bishop of New Hampshire V. Gene Robinson rose in support of Griswold and implied that Duncan was a liar. Duncan flatly denied any role in persuading the Primates. The Primates were locked down for the entire period there with the only two minders being liberals, one of them being Frank Griswold who had Barbara Braver at his side. Two orthodox bishops told VirtueOnline that it was their opinion that the "covenant" is a poorly veiled and cynical attempt to buy time to GC2006 so that the revisionist forces can group for decisive victory at that time. "It seems that the real confrontation will come when the Canadians and the Americans attempt to attend the ACC meeting in June. The Archbishop of Canterbury will be challenged to hold things together, because the global south bishops have already said they will walk out if ACoC and the ECUSA show up (other than for the requested defense of their past actions)."

"We will be counseling our global south friends not to walk out, but to stand their ground, keep the communion together, and firmly ask the ACoC and ECUSA representatives to leave. This will be the crunch time."

In a final flight of fantasy the HOB called on the U.S. Senate not to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for fossil fuel drilling. As one bishop observed, perhaps the HOB needs to drill a little deeper into the Bible to find God's will for sexual behavior. That's far clearer than whether or not we ought to drill for oil in the northern tundra.

The Covenant fails to offer long-term, sustainable solutions and at best simply postpones inevitable conversation about the clear and ultimate choice before us - walking together or walking apart. I am thankful for the bishops who upheld orthodoxy and worked in good faith to voice the irreconcilable differences that mark the House of Bishops.

Said a bishop to VirtueOnline, "I am quite sure the speculation is correct: the next General Convention will decide it all."

- E-mail. By David W. Virtue; VirtueOnline; Date 2005/3/18 16:40:00. URL: http://www.virtueonline.org/portal

The Good Stuff. Be The One Foundation Each year millions of teens make a decision that they will live to regret.

Teens today are up against some pretty rough odds. Each day 8,000 teens contract a sexually transmitted disease. One million teen girls become pregnant each year. Studies show that teens who are sexually active are more likely to feel depressed and more likely to attempt suicide. Many adults have given up on teens, buying into the false belief that sexual activity is unavoidable for them.

"Be the One" is making a difference by providing teens with...

Education:

Each year more than 10,000 students in Palm Beach County participate in Be the One Healthy Relationship courses.

Motivation:

After a four session course on the benefits of abstinence and healthy relationships, a survey of 1,500 local high school students indicated that over 85% had decided to practice abstinence or were considering it.

Support:

More than 400 students have found peer support and developed skills to avoid high risk behavior through Be the One Clubs

**********************************

Help for teens can be found through these two organizations:

1. Best Friends Foundation • 5335 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, Suite 440, Washington, DC 20015 • Phone: (202) 478-9677 • Fax: (202) 478-9678. http://www.bestfriendsfoundation.org/

2. The "Be the One" Foundation: http://www.betheone.org/

- Rebecca Grace, AgapePress, February 15, 2005. Rebecca Grace, a regular contributor to AgapePress, is staff writer for AFA Journal, a publication of the American Family Association. This article appeared in the February 2005 issue.

Homosexuality.

+ A Colorado businessman who used his website to warn families about a homosexual event says he cannot understand why it has generated so much opposition and hate from homosexuals and their supporters. For the second year, the city of Telluride, Colorado, is holding its "Gay Ski Week," which attempts to attract homosexuals to the town recognized as a world-class snow skiing destination. Al Heirich promotes tourism in Telluride through his website. He thought families should have a right to know about Gay Ski Week when planning their vacations, so he posted a notice on the website. Heirich says that move generated a storm of protest from both those in the homosexual lifestyle and those who support it, who claimed his warning was discriminatory. "The hate calls [were so persistent that] I just put my phone on auto," he says. Heirich conducted a survey of potential vacationing families, and found that 96 percent of those who responded appreciated the warning he posted. "One of the major reasons families will not come here during Gay Ski Week, according to our poll, is [they] do not want to spend [their] vacation explaining homosexuality to [their] children," he says. "I don't see how that is really discriminatory or 'homophobic.'" Heirich says it is interesting that the very people accusing him of discrimination have a special week set aside exclusively for a certain group of people.

- AgapePress, January 11, 2005.

+ Ex-Homosexual Ministry Leader says Truth is Coming Out. An official with Exodus International, the world's largest resource and referral organization dealing with homosexuality, says homosexual activists are not showing tolerance when it comes to a series of billboards promoting an upcoming conference in Houston, Texas. More details: http://headlines.agapepress.org/archive/2/152005b.asp. - AgapePress, February 15, 2005.

+ Pro-Family Advocate Condemns Illinois "Homosexual Teachers Recruitment Bill"

The homosexual lobby in Illinois continues to push its agenda into the state legislature. Fresh on the heels of passage of a major "gay rights" bill, a homosexual politician has introduced a measure seeking health benefits for same-sex partners of Chicago school teachers. More details: http://headlines.agapepress.org/archive/2/152005d.asp

- AgapePress, February 15, 2005.

+ FLORIDIANS MAKE MOVE TO PROTECT TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE

A citizens initiative is under way to amend Florida's constitution to preserve marriage as one man and one woman. The amendment has gained the support of the Florida Baptist Association, the Florida Catholic Bishops, and a host of churches and special-interest groups. More details: http://headlines.agapepress.org/archive/2/152005c.asp - AgapePress, February 15, 2005.

Iran. A former Iranian Shiite Muslim who converted to Christianity believes the people of his homeland are tired of Islam and are ready for freedom. He says he is confident Iran is moving toward regime change. Donald Fareed is chief executive officer of Persian Ministries International, which broadcasts the gospel into Iran via satellite. He says 70 percent of Iran's population is composed of people who are 30 years old or younger and do not want a government based on Islamic law. "They want separation of mosque and the state," the evangelist explains. "There is a conflict between Islamic laws and human rights -- so having Islamic law as part of the constitution eventually is going to cause problems. They just don't want it; they are done with it. They want it to be separate." And Fareed does not think the Iranian regime can imprison the entire population. "The regime in Iran is not popular. They have almost five percent of the people on the payroll, but the majority of the people are against them," he says. "They cannot put 65 million people in jail." Fareed predicts that Iran will undergo regime change within the next few years. - AgapePress, March 21, 2005.

Malaysia.

...An American who was jailed in Malaysia for sharing his Christian faith with Muslims plans to keep living there with his wife and daughter. Rick Rupert and another American, Zach Harris, were released without charges after ten days of confinement and interrogation. Rupert says they shared the gospel with their interrogators and with other prisoners, some of whom trusted Christ. Rupert says he is starting a business in Malaysia so he can tell more Muslims about Jesus, despite the risk to him and his family. He believes "the prize that's awaiting the Muslims who will believe in Jesus" outweighs the risk of his being jailed again or even killed. - AgapePress, May 20, 2005.

Annual Conference Reports

The rest of this Update will contain the summaries of the annual conferences that are meeting during this time period around the country and in various parts of the world. Often the actions are reported without editorial comment. [Note: for this edition of the Update, there is only one report to offer.]

Red Bird Missionary Conference met May 13-14 in London, Ky. Bishop James R. King Jr. presided over the session, which was held at The Bennett Center. King also preached and led Bible study. Under the theme "On Wings of a Dove," the conference heard stories about the ministries of the churches, outreach centers, and mission institutions. The conference adopted a strategic plan for mission and ministry for the quadrennium, which included: 1) insuring adequate resources for all Red Bird Missionary Conference ministries; 2) responding to the drug abuse epidemic in southeastern Kentucky; 3) fostering persons' self-worth and self-esteem in the conference's area of service; 4) training and mentoring conference mission personnel; and 5) expanding youth ministry throughout the conference. Members also ratified, by a two-thirds majority, all eight of the constitutional amendments proposed by General Conference.

  Patrick Friday of the North Alabama Conference provided the mission-night message through preaching and song, and an offering of $13,508.40 was collected for Camp Wesley in Latvia. The conference adopted the 2006 budget, with a 10% increase for World Service and programs. The General Council on Finance and Administration presented the conference with a certificate of recognition for 100% payment of apportionments, and the conference presented certificates to 62% of the chartered churches and outreach centers for "five-star mission giving" and 58% for giving

to all six special Sundays with offerings. Membership is 1,385, up 18 over the previous year.

- Ruth A. Wiertzema, Newscope, May 20, 2005.

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He died for me. I’ll live for Him. – This is an eight-word sermon. It was printed on crosses handed out by members of a youth group from a Florida United Methodist Church at camp Lake Junaluska in the North Carolina Smoky Mountains)