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Biweekly Digest March 2-April 9

Biweekly Digest March 2-April 9

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Biweekly digest

April 9, 2004    News media contact:  Michael Wacht*    
407-897-1140   Orlando  {0056}

March 28 - April 9, 2004
Biweekly Digest PDF version click here

Bishop says strong interest in Dammann verdict in Florida
[March 29, 2004 {0048}]

LAKELAND - A verdict from across the country is rippling through the Florida Conference. There has been so much interest in Florida about the recent trial and acquittal of a pastor from the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference that Florida Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker wrote a statement about the case. "Bishops all over the church have been responding," Whitaker said. "...There is a lot of anxiety in the church about this subject, and I wanted to address the situation and give the people my point of view of what is going on." The Rev. Karen Dammann was charged with "practices declared by the United Methodist Church to be incompatible with Christian teachings," according to The United Methodist Book Discipline, after informing Pacific Northwest Annual Conference Bishop Elias G. Galvan of her involvement in a same-sex relationship and requesting an appointment to a congregation. A jury of 13 clergy peers acquitted Dammann of the charge at the conclusion of a church trial March 20 by a vote of 11 not guilty and two undecided. Whitaker said the jury has turned its back on church doctrine. "Nevertheless, the decisions made by members of the Pacific-Northwest Conference represent a refusal to abide by the policy established by the General Conference and included in The Book of Discipline," he said in his recent statement to Florida Conference clergy. "The Book of Discipline contains the rules by which The United Methodist Church orders its life...The verdict of the church trial in the Pacific-Northwest Conference is a violation of the covenant that exists among United Methodists." Complete and continuing coverage of the trial and verdict and the effects they are having on The United Methodist Church is available through the United Methodist News Service at, or go to and click on the "News" link at the top of the page. full story

Conference holds meetings on restructure proposals
[April 1, 2004 {0050}]

GAINESVILLE - Florida Conference Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker said the meetings he and the Rev. Dr. Anne Burkholder, director of the Florida Conference's Connectional Ministries office, have attended throughout the conference to gain feedback from laity and clergy about restructuring the conference's districts and Council on Ministries (CCOM) have been positive overall. "...We have had healthful discussions," Whitaker said. "The atmosphere has been very good, and people appear to be open to receive the proposals..." The proposals to restructure the conference's 14 districts and replace the CCOM with a structure called the Conference Equipping Network (CEN) were first presented during a Conference Table meeting Jan. 30. Both proposals will be presented at the 2004 Florida Annual Conference Event for approval. Whitaker and Burkholder met at Trinity United Methodist Church, Gainesville, their third stop, March 17. The two will visit their fifth and final site, First United Methodist Church, Lakeland, April 15. "Many annual conferences are moving toward restructuring," Whitaker said during the Gainesville gathering's question and answer session. "There needs to be a reorientation of our lives together. I think if we use this proposal God can work with us in ways God could not work before." The 13-page redistricting proposal would reduce the number of districts from 14 to nine, encourage churches to be part of a cluster and change the responsibilities of district superintendents. The second proposal eliminating the CCOM in favor of the CEN is intended to move the conference away from maintaining programs and toward identifying and fulfilling future leadership needs. The CEN's core is the Leadership Connection, a team of no more than 15 laity and clergy who would be responsible for setting the vision for and identifying ministry needs and creating task teams to focus on meeting the identified ministry needs and visions. "These are proposals that will better order our life together as an annual conference," Whitaker said. "They are relevant for our mission today. They will make us more effective in mission." Whitaker added he trusts "the authority of the annual conference to make its own mind up." To read the full text of the cabinet and CCOM proposals visit full story

 Conference Table examines reorganizing camps and retreat center
[April 2, 2004 {0051}]

ORLANDO - A proposal presented at the March 13 Conference Table gathering seeks to drastically restructure the way the Florida Conference camps and retreat center operate and increase their usage by United Methodists and non-denominational groups. The Rev. Dick Wills, senior pastor at Christ Church United Methodist in Fort Lauderdale, said there is a need for restructuring because there have been numerous problems with the camps in the past. He said the camps and Life Enrichment Center (LEC) have overspent income since 1997, resulting in a $918,550 deficit. The facilities receive funding from a variety of sources, such as the conference board of trustees and subsidies from apportionments. While many United Methodist groups use the camps and LEC, more usage is needed to offset the overspending. The meeting at First United Methodist Church, Orlando, was led by the Rev. Dr. Anne Burkholder, director of the Florida Conference Connectional Ministries office, and Wills. The proposal calls for the conference's camps and LEC to be operated by a Board of Camps and Retreat Ministries (BCRM), which would oversee the facilities, establish their vision and mission, develop goals and maintain the properties. The proposal also calls for local advisory committees at each site to act as advocates or boosters for the property; an executive director to oversee the ministries, facilities and staff at each location; and a retreat and camps ministry specialist to act as a liaison to conference staff and groups using the facilities. full story

United Methodist Association offers prescription drug program
[April 5, 2004 {0052}]

LAKELAND - A prescription drug plan aimed at assisting those with no prescription drug plan coverage is off to a fast start in its first month of service, with more than 10,000 people enrolled in the program. The plan, launched in March by the United Methodist Association (UMA) in conjunction with Destination Rx, a Los Angeles-based firm, is offering The United Methodist Church's 8.3 million U.S. members a free prescription card that is accepted at pharmacies such as Eckerd's, Kmart and Target. The card is available regardless of insurance coverage, income or health status. The plan is not health insurance. The Rev. Dr. Mearle Griffith, president and chief executive officer of UMA, said the program is primarily intended for those without insurance benefits. He said the program does provide savings for non-covered items such as birth control, smoking cessation, cosmetic and fertility products, and anti-obesity medications. Church members can obtain their cards by visiting or by calling 1-800-379-9040 and referring to the United Methodist Association. More information about this new benefit is available on the Florida Conference's Health and Wholeness Ministry Web page at full story

In Brief
[April 8, 2004 {0055a}]

United Methodists encouraged to send items to Haiti
 LAKELAND - Haiti may no longer be in the forefront of the national news, but the war-torn country is still very much on the hearts and minds of Florida Conference United Methodists. Violence and strife have become a way of life for many Haitians since the abrupt, forced departure of former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in mid-February after months of political unrest. Amid the chaos and confusion of the aftermath, many find themselves without the daily basics for living. Hallendale Haitian United Methodist Mission in the Broward Palm Beach District is accepting donations that will be shipped to the Methodist Church of Haiti later this month. The church is partnering with Grace Haitian United Methodist Church in Miami, which is also collecting items to restock the shelves of the Methodist Church of Haiti. United Methodist pastors in Haiti will receive and distribute the items to their members throughout the country. "There is a severe lack of food in the country," said the Rev. Luc Dessieux, pastor of Hallendale Haitian Mission. "We are asking for non-perishable food such as sugar, flour, rice and beans... school supplies such as pencils, paper and pens...over-the-counter medication and clothing in good condition..." Grace Haitian United Methodist Church in Miami is collecting Advil, rubbing alcohol, aspirin, bandages, bed sheets, blankets, cotton balls, gauze, Ibuprofen, medical gloves, Motrin, peroxide, soap, sterilizer, syringes, towels of varying sizes, Tylenol and vitamins, canned and powdered milk, dry beans, rice, shortening, spaghetti and V-8 juice. Any items or donations should be mailed to Grace Haitian United Methodist Church, 6501 N. Miami Ave., Miami, FL  33150, or Hallendale Haitian United Methodist Mission, 220 S.W. 6th Ave., Hallandale, FL 33009-5322.

Igniting Ministry releases its first Hispanic TV commercial
 NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - The United Methodist Church is sharing its message of "open hearts, open minds, open doors" with one of the fastest-growing segments of the U.S. population. "No Estas Obligado" ("You Don't Have To") is the denomination's first Spanish-language television commercial since the official launch of Igniting Ministry, its media effort, in September 2001. The 30-second ad is airing on the Telefutura and Telemundo Spanish-language cable networks March 24-April 11, Easter Sunday. The commercial emphasizes acceptance of and service to others as a choice, rather than a requirement, and showcases ways to do so. Igniting Ministry is aimed at raising awareness of the denomination through a series of cable television commercials and other advertising. " 'No Estas Obligado' represents the first time the United Methodist Church has spoken so intimately through public media with this significant segment of the U.S. population," said the Rev. Larry Hollon, top executive of United Methodist Communications, which administers the denominational media effort. Developed by United Methodist Communications in collaboration with a Dallas-based Hispanic ad agency, "No Estas Obligado" also had the input of an advisory committee of Hispanic United Methodist church leaders. "No Estas Obligado" will air during the campaign's established Easter, back-to-school and Christmas flights and is available for viewing on the denomination's Web site, Downloadable images from the commercial are available at
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*Wacht is director of Florida United Methodist Communications and managing editor
of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.