United Methodist Bishops call for prayers for peaceful elections in Congo

WASHINGTON, D.C.  –  The bishops of The United Methodist Church are calling for prayers of peace for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which is witnessing violence in the buildup to the presidential elections on December 23, 2018.

Here is the statement from the Council of Bishops:

As President of the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church, I am joining our colleague bishops in the Democratic Republic of Congo in a call for prayers for peace in this great country as citizens prepare to vote in the presidential elections.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has been one of the strongholds of United Methodism for decades and has about one tenth of all United Methodist membership with its bishops serving in major leadership roles in our global denomination.

So, we are asking that you set aside a day to offer prayers for the Democratic Republic of Congo, especially on December 23, the day set for the elections.

Recently, a delegation of bishops and representatives from the General Board of Global Ministries were in Kenya where they had a chance to meet with the ambassador from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The ambassador allowed the bishops to pray for him and asked them to keep the DRC in prayer for peaceful elections.

During a special session of the Congo Central Conference held in Kolwezi from December 11-13, 2018, the Congo College of bishops led delegates in prayers for the elections. Furthermore, the Congo Central Conference bishops have taken a proactive approach by conducting electoral civic education seminars with the support of the General Board of Global Ministries and the General Board of Church of Society to ensure that citizens are empowered to exercise their right to vote.

As bishops of the church, we appeal for calmness during this time of great anxiety, and we condemn all forms of violence in the run-up to the elections.  We are saddened by the deaths of those who have been killed just because they wanted to participate in this democratic process.  We extend our sympathy, acknowledge their pain and stand with all peace-loving Congolese.

As brothers and sisters in Christ who share in the Cross and the Flame, we call upon the name of Jesus Christ, who is our peace (Ephesians 2), and we search for the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5) in these events.

Bishop Kenneth H. Carter
President, Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church


Media Contact: Rev. Dr. Maidstone Mulenga, Director of Communications
Council of Bishops The United Methodist Church, mmulenga@umc-cob.org,  

Blue Christmas services provide hope, sacred space for those in mourning

Every year, people from all over the world flock to their local church to attend joyous Christmas services full of uplifting carols, prayers of hope, and words of encouragement.

But for a large number of often overlooked believers, these hope-filled services are anything but uplifting.

For those who have lost loved ones, dealt with debilitating illnesses or experienced a messy divorce, Christmas is like salting a fresh wound. And it’s the reason why many churches have begun hosting special Blue Christmas services as an antithesis to the holiday spirit.

Blue Christmas — also known as Longest Night Services in some churches — typically take place on the longest night of the year; on or around Dec. 21. It’s a time for people who have experienced great misfortune or grief to attend a Christmas service without all of the glitz and glamour.

Blue Christmas services usually take place in the evening, when the sun is starting to set, and many congregations choose to decorate with candles that glow in the dimly lit sanctuaries of their church. This is often accompanied by light hymn singing or scripture reading.

The Rev. Sarah Lowenberg, associate pastor at Russellville First UMC, said her church has been participating in Longest Night Services since 2008.

She said these types of services are important for people because it gives them the opportunity to acknowledge loss or pain during a time when those feelings are typically pushed to the side.

“As someone who lost both her father and step-dad in the same year, that first Christmas was very hard, especially pastoring – putting on the happy face each Sunday and at each party or event. I needed a place to sit, cry, reflect, remember, and be reminded to look forward and see Hope,” Lowenberg said.

If you’re interested in hosting a Blue Christmas Service at your church, the Rev. Nancy C. Townley, an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, has an easy-to-follow template that you can use for your own event. It includes hymns to sing, passages of scripture to read, and prayers to recite.

Those who wish to attend a Blue Christmas Service in their area can find a list of participating churches in the Arkansas Conference below. If you are having a Blue Christmas Service and would like your church’s name added to the list, please contact Day Davis at day.davis@arumc.org or Caleb Hennington at caleb.hennington@arumc.org.

Wesley United Methodist Church
179 Memory Ln, Cotter, AR 72626
Dec. 15 at 5 p.m.

Pulaski Heights UMC
4823 Woodlawn Dr., Little Rock, AR 72205
Dec. 16 at 4 p.m.

First UMC Hot Springs
1100 Central Ave., Hot Springs, AR 71901
Dec. 16 at 6 p.m.

Central UMC
6 W. Dickson St., Fayetteville, AR 72701
Dec. 16 at 6 p.m. at the Wesley Chapel

Sylvan Hills UMC
9921 Hwy 107, Sherwood, AR 72120
Dec. 16 at 5 p.m.

Cherokee Village UMC
21 Otter Dr., Cherokee Village, AR 72529
Dec. 21, potluck at 6 p.m. and service at 7 p.m.

Jacksonville First UMC
308 W. Main St., Jacksonville, AR 72076
Dec. 21 at 6 p.m.

Beebe First UMC
E. College St., Beebe, AR 72012
Dec. 21 at 5 p.m.

First UMC
304 S. Commerce St., Russellville, AR
Dec. 21 at 6 p.m. in the Covenant Classroom

First UMC Bella Vista
20 Boyce Dr., Bella Vista, AR 72715
Dec. 21 at 6:30 p.m.

Cornerstone United Methodist Church
1910 Disciple Dr., Jonesboro, AR 72401
Dec. 21 at 6 p.m.

Wesley United Methodist Church
2310 E Oak St., Conway, Arkansas 72032
Dec. 21 at 5 p.m.

Quapaw Quarter UMC
1601 Louisiana, Little Rock, AR 72206
Dec. 21 at 5:30 p.m.

First United Methodist Church
307 W. Elm St., Rogers, AR 72756
Dec. 21 at 6 p.m.

White Hall UMC
301 Church Dr, White Hall, AR 71602
Dec. 21 at 7 p.m.


Committee on Reference to meet in January

Nashville, Tenn. — The Committee on Reference will meet in advance of the 2019 Special Session of the General Conference in order to determine whether petitions submitted by organizations and individuals are in harmony with the call to the special session, as required by ¶14 of The Book of Discipline 2016 and Judicial Council Decision 1360. This is in addition to the other responsibilities outlined in Section VII.A.7 of the Plan of Organization and Rules of Order of the General Conference (beginning on p. 18).  The meeting will take place January 11-12 in Irving, Texas.

The Commission on the General Conference developed the process for handling legislative petitions for the Special Session, after consultation with a design team. The Commission recommended that the committee meet before February so that decisions about which petitions are in harmony are made before the legislative assembly convenes. Petitions that are determined not “in harmony” will be withdrawn. The first daily edition of the Daily Christian Advocate will contain a report of the committee’s actions.

The members of the Committee on Reference for the 2016 General Conference will continue to serve as the Committee on Reference for the 2019 Special Session, except where vacancies on the committee have occurred since that time. As directed by the rules of the General Conference, the Council of Bishops recently made appointments to fill those vacancies.


Media contact:
Diane Degnan ddegnan@umcom.org
615.742.5406 (o) 615.483.1765 (c)

2019 GBHEM spring loan applications available now; scholarship applications available in early January

The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry is now accepting loan applications for spring 2019.

The application period for spring 2019 loans is from Dec. 13, 2018 to May 2, 2019.

For 2019 scholarship applications, students need to apply between Jan. 3 and March 7, 2019.

Each year, GBHEM gives out more than $5.5 million in loans and scholarships to help United Methodist students complete their higher education goals.

To apply for a loan or scholarship, visit the GBHEM website and click on the appropriate link for applying for either a loan or a scholarship.


Kaleidoscope Grief Center seeks volunteers to serve children, families in grief

LITTLE ROCK, AR (Dec. 13, 2018) – Losing a loved one is difficult for everyone, and grieving that loss is essential to accepting painful feelings and creating an opportunity for growth and a new sense of normal. Methodist Family Health’s Kaleidoscope Grief Center is hosting a training for volunteers from 5:30-8 p.m. in the second-floor training room at Methodist Family Health, 1600 Aldersgate Rd. in Little Rock on Mon., Jan. 21, 2019. Volunteers will assist in a family peer support group and Kaleidoscope’s Kids Club.

Kaleidoscope Grief Center is for Arkansas children ages 5 to 18 and their families who have lost a loved one and are coping with grief and bereavement. Utilizing both therapy and recreation, Kaleidoscope Grief Center offers children and families an opportunity to discover their own inner strength.

For more information about volunteer training or Kaleidoscope Grief Center, contact Janet Breen, outpatient therapist and program coordinator, at jbreen@methodistfamily.org or call 501-906-4242 or 800-756-3709 toll-free.


Kaleidoscope Grief Center serves grieving children, teens and their families throughout Arkansas. Grief can be an isolating experience for children. We help those dealing with loss and bereavement through education, therapeutic and recreational services, grief support programs, counseling and Camp Healing Hearts.


Founded in 1899 as the Arkansas Methodist Orphanage, Methodist Family Health has expanded into a continuum of care to serve thousands of Arkansas children with psychiatric, behavioral, emotional and spiritual issues and their families each year. Methodist Family Health has locations throughout the state, including the Methodist Behavioral Hospital, two residential treatment centers, eight therapeutic group homes, an emergency shelter, a day treatment program, eight counseling clinics, nine school-based counseling clinics, the state’s only grief center for children and their families, and the Arkansas Center for Addictions Research, Education and Services (Arkansas CARES). Our mission is to give the best possible care to those who may need our help and to treat the whole person: behaviorally, emotionally and spiritually.


United Methodists Release State of the Church Report 2018

Nashville: A new report from The United Methodist Church on the state of the church says that 50 years after the creation of the denomination through the merger of The Evangelical United Brethren Church and The Methodist Church, the church’s ministries around the world are thriving.

“This 2018 State of the Church report is a story of our mission. As this report will show, we are seeing growth and innovation across our worldwide connection,” states the report. Worldwide, there was a 12 percent increase in membership from 2006 to 2016 — nearly 1.4 million members — and the number of congregations grew from 47,390 to 54,623.

In the decade since the Four Areas of Focus were affirmed at the 2008 General Conference, this common vision for the whole church has engaged local churches, annual conferences and general agencies in countless ministries related to these focus areas with renewed purpose. From hula-hooping for health to the #SeeAllthePeople initiative to providing aid to refugees to empowering students to become leaders, the State of the Church Report recounts story after story of United Methodists doing the work of faithful discipleship.

The report also details efforts to help the denomination be more representative of being a worldwide church through work on the General Book of Discipline, a draft revision of the Social Principles to be more globally relevant and “Wonder, Love and Praise,” a statement on United Methodist ecclesiology — all of which are to be considered by the 2020 General Conference.

The report shares information about the work of the Commission on A Way Forward in preparation for a called session of General Conference in 2019, the Council of Bishops’ recommendation of the One Church Plan and the subsequent actions of the Judicial Council.

More findings include:

  • The largest membership growth was recorded in the Congo, where membership surged by 147% over 10 years, followed by the Africa Central Conference with a 67% increase.
  • In 2017, United Methodists gave about $133.2 million to support connectional ministries around the world, about $1.8 million more than in the previous year.
  • A record high number of U.S. annual conferences paid 100% of their apportionments – 29 out of 56. Nine Central Conference episcopal areas paid at least 100% apportionments.

The State of the Church report, a collaborative effort of the Connectional Table, the Council of Bishops, United Methodist Communications and the General Council on Finance and Administration, is available in its entirety online, along with previous reports, at http://www.umc.org/who-we-are/state-of-the-church-report.


For more information, contact:

Diane Degnan ddegnan@umcom.org

Emily Clemons eclemons@umc.org
(773) 714-1517