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News from the Virginia Conference - January 14, 2020

Bishop Lewis shares statement on "Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation"
Bishop Sharma D. Lewis shared a statement Jan. 13 on the "Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation." The protocol made headlines around the denomination and major news outlets on Jan. 3. Lewis encourages the Virginia Conference to read this proposal and the FAQ sheet provided and to remain prayerful for the denomination. More... 

View recorded livestream concerning "Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation"
It was love of The United Methodist Church that brought 16 — sometimes hostile — people to a point of agreement for a path forward for the worldwide church. Even though the agreement is to split, participants still talked about loving each other in a livestreamed discussion Jan. 13 to explain how the Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation was formed. “We started with quite a bit of tension and, really, hostility in the room,” said Bishop Christian Alsted, Nordic-Baltic Episcopal Area. “But a sense of hope and the possibility of finding common ground emerged. This was a rollercoaster ride … sometimes we wanted to get off but all stayed.” Front and center of the group was famed mediator Kenneth Feinberg, who helped the United Methodists representing strongly held, diverse viewpoints, get to a yes. This unofficial group of representatives from various United Methodist advocacy groups and bishops from across the world has agreed on a proposal (released Jan. 3) that would provide a pathway for separation of churches or annual conferences that wish to leave the denomination to start a new denomination(s), but only if approved by the United Methodist General Conference in May. Read more about this proposal and others coming before the General Conference. United Methodist News conducted a live-streamed interview on Jan. 13 with a panel of group members.  You can view the recording at the link. More...  Learn more about the panel discussion with this UM News story.

Is God calling you? Learn more about Calling 21 internships
Calling 21 is inviting college-aged young people who are discerning a call into ministry for a nine-week internship in local churches. During the internship, participants will acquire knowledge on the ins and outs of the church life from the perspective of the staff and lead volunteers. This may include leading in worship, meeting with small groups, hospital visits, working with youth in mission, or many other ways the church is actively involved in the community and world. Calling 21 is also seeking host churches for the Calling 21 summer internship. Interns spend eight weeks with the host church, learning what it means to work in the church environment. Calling 21 interns are discerning a call to ministry, which may be toward ordination or as laity. The church's role is to provide opportunities to experience church life from a staff perspective. Host churches also provide room and board for the intern. For more information, visit the link. More...

Help celebrate Heart Havens Month
February is Heart Havens month. Help Heart Havens share the message of inclusion and empowerment across the conference. Heart Havens is an organization that empowers adults with a developmental disability to live and thrive in their community. Electronic resources for Heart Havens month can be found on their website. There is still availability for speakers in February whether it's Sunday morning worship or a UMM/UMW or other small group meeting, Heart Havens would love to visit your church and share about Heart Havens. Please contact Jennifer Boyden at 804-237-6097 or to learn more or if you'd like to schedule a Heart Havens speaker visit your church. More...

Seminary is affordable: Learn more from Wesley on Jan. 16
Are you or someone you know wanting to respond to God’s call to service, but not sure how to take on more student debt for theological education? Wesley recognizes this challenge, and is committed to helping their students as much as possible to graduate without additional debt that constrains their choices in ministry. Wesley has many merit scholarships that offer partial or full tuition for your Master degree. The deadline to apply is Feb. 1, 2020 for the upcoming academic year.

A few of scholarships include:

•    The Next Call Scholarship offers support for “second career” vocations. Available to both full- and part-time students, up to six 50 percent tuition awards will be awarded,
•    The Rising Generation Scholarship Rising Generation Ministry Awards 2020 offers 100 percent tuition-free merit scholarships for 10 Award Recipients.  To support them, this scholarship affirms Wesley's ongoing support for those daring to follow God's call and discern how they will serve at this challenging time in the life of the church – and helping those called to stay the course.
•    The 100 percent tuition Latinx Scholarship seeks to support emerging Latinx/Hispanic leaders for ministries both within and beyond the church. Available for both full and part-time students, up to six 100 percent tuition awards are offered each academic year. 

Find out more about all of Wesley's merit -based scholarships at an upcoming webinar, The Wesley Hour, Jan. 16, 2020, noon-12:45 p.m. Eastern. Join current seminarian Liz and recent graduate Elijah to answer all your questions, and get all your questions answered about scholarship, degree programs and more. More...

Applications and nominations for Shenandoah University Youth Theology Institute now open
Do you have a current high schooler in your life who is ready to learn about how their faith in Jesus Christ calls them to live and be in the world in a way that seeks justice? Nominate and encourage them to apply for the Shenandoah University Youth Theology Institute (SUYTI). SUYTI is a two-week, credit-bearing program for any young person who is currently in high school (that is, any student who will be a rising sophomore through recent high school graduate this summer). Students spend one week on SU’s campus in Winchester, Va., and one week on the campus of Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC, and through a daily rhythm of worship, academic study, experiential and service learning, and (of course) sabbath rest, learn to become stronger Christian leaders in their local communities. The 2020 Institute will run from July 19-August 1, 2020, and thanks to a grant from the Lilly Endowment, students will have all that SUYTI has to offer (room and board, program expenses, and three college credits) at a cost of only $200 per student. To nominate a student or to apply, visit For more information, contact Ian Urriola, Director of the SUYTI, by calling (540) 665-5453 or emailing

Bailey Scholar application deadline Feb. 3
Do you know a young person who is sensing a call to ministry? The A. Purnell Bailey Pre-Ministerial Program at Randolph-Macon College (R-MC) in Ashland is a scholarship that offers half-tuition during a student’s freshman and sophomore years at R-MC and full-tuition during the junior and senior years. The Bailey Program includes weekly meetings for vocational discernment, creating a strong, supportive peer group. During a student’s tenure in the program, there are many opportunities to visit with theology school representatives, spend time with persons in a variety of professional ministry roles, and reflect on a personal sense of call.  There are two internship opportunities, one for academic credit and one with a financial stipend. Randolph-Macon College enrolls over 1,500 undergraduate students who pursue their academic paths in 54 areas of study.  The oldest United Methodist college in continuous operation, the college is proud to be home to the Bailey Scholars program helping to prepare a new generation of leaders in the Church. Online Bailey Scholar applications are being accepted now, with a deadline of Feb. 3, 2020.  The program is open to Christian students of any denomination or Christian tradition.  Learn more at or by contacting the Rev. Kendra Grimes, director of the Bailey Scholars Program, at or (804)752-7374.

Fresh Expressions grant available
Are you considering a fresh expression of church?  A fresh expression is a form of church for our changing culture established primarily for the benefit of people who are not yet part of any church.The Church Development Team is pleased to announce the availability of $500 microgrants for new Fresh Expressions of church.To apply, please visit and click on the link under Fresh Expression Grant Request.

Church in Mozambique continues to grow
The Rev. Glenn Rowley, conference director for the Center of Justice and Missional Excellence, traveled to Mozambique in mid-November to meet with the bishop of the Mozambique Conference and explore new options for multiple conferences to continue in partnership with the country. During Rowley’s visit with Bishop Joaquina Filipe Nhanala, he and three persons from the Missouri Conference met the bishop’s staff and members of the 2020 General Conference Mozambique delegation. They also discussed ideas for a model for multiple conferences to work together in new partnership with the United Methodist Church in that country and to learn how U.S. partners can be supportive of the Mozambique delegates and the partnership with Mozambique. The time spent talking about partnership made Rowley reflective on his own connection to the conference and the Virginia Conference’s ongoing connection to it. More...

Bulletin insert, Sunday Advocate, available in English, Spanish
The Sunday Advocate is a weekly, single-page digest of United Methodist information, news, and resources distributed electronically across the Virginia Conference and suitable for reproduction as a Sunday bulletin insert. It is sent out each Tuesday and the Spanish translation is available every Thursday. Visit the website to view; you can also have it sent to you via email each week by emailing More...

Begin 2020 right: Start the 2020 Bible Challenge
Bishop Lewis is challenging the Virginia Conference once again to join her in reading the Bible all year long--this year with a thematic reading plan. Information can be found on the conference website. More... 

Job opportunities available on conference website
You can find job opportunities from around the connection on the conference website. For details, follow the link. More... 

Death notices, obituaries available on conference website
For informational purposes, you can access recent death notice and obituaries on the conference website. More... 

Kindred Project invites you to morning of prayer, holy conversation in Richmond
Kindred Project invites you to a morning of contemplative prayer and holy conversation on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. at Welborne UMC (920 Maybeury Dr, Henrico, VA 23229). Bagels and spreads and coffee will be provided. At 8:30 a.m., there will be a celebration of the Eucharist and devotions followed by silent contemplative prayer and conversation. Donations will be accepted to cover the cost of the bagels.  If you can attend, please email Joy Crawford at or David Canada at

Reimbursement for Advocate magazine subscriptions available
If your subscription to the Virginia Advocate runs past 2019, you may contact the conference Communications Office to get a reimbursement or to donate your remaining balance to ongoing communications efforts or UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief). Contact the Communications Office at 804-521-1110 or email expiration date can be found on the mailing label of the magazine. Reimbursements will be accepted until Feb. 1, 2020.

Bishop invites laity to February 2020 gathering
Bishop Sharma D. Lewis is inviting laity from around the conference for a time of connection following her return from medical leave on Feb. 8, 2020 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Woodlake UMC in Chesterfield and at five other satellite locations. "It is my deep desire to reconnect with you in a personal and special way having been away from you for six months on medical leave,” Lewis said. “Let us come together both in person and through satellite locations to have a time of worship, fellowship, anointing, sharing our hearts, and reconnecting. I want to hear from you and I want to share my journey with you." More...

Danville flood recovery nearly complete
In October 2018 Hurricane Michael dumped six inches of rain on the city of Danville in 90 minutes. Less than four weeks before the remnants of the hurricane hit, the Dan River had been at levels not seen in Danville since the remnants of Hurricane Fran in the fall of 1996. The excess rushing water flooded homes and businesses and destroyed roads. Now the recovery is nearly complete but teams are still needed for early 2020. More... 

Register now for 2020 Faithful Aging Conference
The 2020 Faithful Aging Conference will be held on Tuesday, Mar. 31, 2020, at Bonsack UMC in Roanoke. The Rev. Dr. Richard (Rick) H. Gentzler Jr., Tennessee Conference director of Encore Ministry of The United Methodist Church, will be the opening keynote presenter. Gentzler, a much sought after speaker, teacher, and writer, is an internationally recognized leader in the field of aging and older adult ministries. He is author of numerous books and hundreds of articles on aging and older adult ministry. His latest book, An Age of Opportunity: Intentional Older Adult Ministry, was published in 2018. Other books and resources written by him include: Aging & Ministry in the 21st Century: An Inquiry Approach; The Graying of the Church; Designing an Older Adult Ministry; Aging: God’s Challenge to Church and Synagogue; Forty-Sixty: A Guide for Midlife Adults Who Want to Make a Difference; and, Rock of Ages (a large print worship and song book). For additional information or questions, contact Martha Stokes, director of Church and Community Relations with Pinnacle Living, by phone at 804-474-8718 or by email at More...

Registration open for UM Day 2020
Registration is now open for United Methodist Day at the General Assembly in 2020 presented by the Virginia Board of Church & Society, United Methodist Women and the Virginia Legislative Network Committee. The date for the event is Jan. 30, 2020. This year there will be a new location for the event at The Pace Center, 700 W. Franklin Street in Richmond.  Learn more…

Five-Day Academy for Spiritual Formation event to be held in 2020
"Songs for the Journey" will be the theme for the Virginia Five-Day Academy for Spiritual Formation event from Mar. 15-20, 2020. The event will be held at the Roslyn Retreat Center in Richmond and will be a week of renewal, worship, prayer and learning with faculty, Dr. Don E. Saliers and Rabbi Rachel Barenblat. More...


Puerto Rican Methodists tackle earthquake response
A series of earthquakes in recent weeks has left the people of Puerto Rico in a constant state of unease and distress. News reports indicate that the  Jan. 7 deadly 6.4 magnitude earthquake — the strongest of the series of quakes — left a man dead and injured at least eight others, caused dozens of homes and structures to crumble and cut power and water service to large swaths of the island. Days later, the island is still struggling. More than 5,000 people are sleeping outside of their homes, with 2,200 of them in government-run shelters and 3,400 sleeping in parks, parking lots and other places. The Methodist Church of Puerto Rico has opened the parking lots of its churches in Ponce and Jayuya to families in need of a place to sleep. UMCOR has awarded a solidarity grant to help with immediate needs. An UMCOR special assessment team will be traveling to the island the week of Jan. 13 to conduct site visits and determine how best to support the Methodist Church of Puerto Rico and REHACE in their response efforts. More...

Feinberg kept church negotiators at table
A few months ago, United Methodist leaders trying to break the denomination's long, divisive impasse over homosexuality sought help from a famous lawyer-mediator. Kenneth Feinberg — who oversaw the 9/11 victims' compensation fund — not only agreed, he said he'd do it for free. A Feinberg-mediated proposal for The United Methodist Church, titled "Protocol of Reconciliation & Grace Through Separation," went public last week and made international news. Some of the diverse, 16-member team of United Methodists who joined Feinberg in the negotiating room consider him heaven sent. “To receive the help of a mediator with Mr. Feinberg’s experience, on a pro bono basis, is a sign that God is making a gracious provision to The United Methodist Church,” said the Rev. Tom Berlin, who represented centrist groups in the talks. The Rev. Keith Boyette, a lawyer-turned-clergyman, elaborated on Feinberg’s role. “He was able to use his expertise to help us hear one another, see possibilities that no one had seen or been prepared to admit, and understand what was really at stake,” said Boyette, who represented traditionalist groups. More...

Protocol process painful but fruitful
In a plush lawyer’s conference room, steps from the White House, 16 United Methodists gathered around a table and set to the hard task of pushing a 48-year-old elephant out of the room. Led by an expert mediator and two other accomplished lawyers, the group came in representing members from distinct viewpoints over the decades-long feud over homosexuality. The third and last meeting of the group took place in the Washington law offices of Kirkland & Ellis. When things got tough, Bishop John K. Yambasu, Sierra Leone, stopped and called for prayer. Walking into the mediation, most did not think it was possible for all to agree. “Peacemaking is hard work,” said the Rev. Tom Berlin, who represented centrist groups in the talks. “The real story is the mediation process allowed us to gain the necessary muscle tone to work toward resolution rather than work toward conflict.” Working with Kenneth Feinberg, a famous lawyer-mediator, the negotiating team — consisting of bishops and advocacy group leaders from markedly different perspectives on LGBTQ inclusion — arrived at a plan that would let traditionalist-minded United Methodist churches separate to form a new denomination, keeping their properties and getting $25 million in United Methodist funds. The plan is still being drafted as legislation for the 2020 General Conference, set for May 5-15 in Minneapolis. Delegates there would have to give their approval. However, the plan holds the possibility of ending decades of denominational infighting and avoiding the kind of litigation other dividing mainline Protestant churches have experienced. More...

Farm churches spread Gospel in rural communities
In rural Zimbabwe, farm-based communities are often associated with high illiteracy, early marriages, alcohol abuse and increased HIV prevalence. To combat some of those problems, The United Methodist Church has helped to establish and support churches on two farms in the region. The owners of Pagejo Rarubi Farm in Harare East District and Brooklands Farm in Mutasa Nyanga District have planted preaching points on their properties. “My husband (retired Army General Happyton Bonyongwe) and I always wanted land to call ours,” said Willia Bonyongwe. “We saved up enough money, spent almost two years looking for a farm and got one about 8 kilometers from Old Mutare Mission.” She said as devout United Methodists, they would attend services and revivals at Old Mutare Mission or Inner City Mutare circuits. “That meant taking our family and leaving the farm workers to the farm life of voodoo (rituals) and other denominations,” she said. “As our farm grew into a full commercial enterprise, we employed more than 500 workers and had a population of 1,500 people on the farm. We could not ignore the duty to share the Gospel with them. We started with monthly all-night prayers inviting speakers from all over The United Methodist Church family.” Zimbabwe Area Bishop Eben K. Nhiwatiwa said taking the Gospel to farms is in harmony with the denomination’s mission. More...

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