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Publishing House to provide support to hurricane victims

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A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

A waterlogged hymnal lies on the mud-soaked carpet at Coden (Ala.) United Methodist Church following Hurricane Katrina.
Oct. 11, 2005

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)—Some of the most heartbreaking pictures of destruction confronting United Methodist churches after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita are water-soaked and ruined Bibles, United Methodist hymnals and other worship resources.

The board of the United Methodist Publishing House, meeting in Nashville Oct. 3-5, voted unanimously to spend up to $500,000 to restore those lost resources.

“We will work hand in hand with the bishops and cabinets of those annual conferences most affected to plan for efficient and timely help for as long as it takes,” said Neil M. Alexander, president and publisher. “Our aim is to support their work of rebuilding vital centers of worship, Christian formation, evangelism and mission.”

During the annual meeting, the board learned the Publishing House earned $1 million on the bottom line for the operating budget in the fiscal year that ended July 31, 2005. This amount will be contributed to clergy pensions, most of which will be used to support those in the central conferences — the church’s regions in Africa, Asia and Europe — who have the greatest need.

Harriett Jane Olson, senior vice president of publishing, reported on recent changes in Disciple Bible Study.

“More than a million people have participated in Disciple,” said Olson, “but there are still United Methodist congregations that have never had a Disciple group. In order to make it more accessible and appealing to those congregations, we have produced new, up-to-date videos for the first study; we are offering shorter, lower-cost training sessions and making training available on DVD for those who cannot attend; and we have made Disciple products available for sale in Cokesbury stores and at”

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Kathy Gilbert

Neil Alexander addresses Publishing House board members in this 2004 file photo.
Board members heard that the online store,, generated almost $7 million in sales during the fiscal year, exceeding prior-year sales by 40 percent. They also received a report that sales through Cokesbury Music Service topped $1 million for the first time, which is 41 percent over budget and 56 percent over prior year; and they learned that Cokesbury’s vacation Bible school, Circle G Ranch, had a 16 percent increase in sales over the previous fiscal year.

Ed Kowalski, senior vice president of sales, reported that Cokesbury’s Christian Education Showcase produced a sales gain of 5.8 percent over the same period a year earlier. “In addition,” Kowalski said, “the average order value increased by almost 8 percent, and we increased the total number of buyers of our quarterly curriculum, turning around the declining trend of recent years.”

Major new resources for children will be available in the fall of 2006. A new children’s study Bible, using the New Revised Standard Version, is designed for children ages 8 through 12. The study will include notes in the text that help children discover who God is and how God wants them to live, explore the people and places of the Bible, learn how to apply biblical truths to their lives, and memorize verses for use in their lives. In addition, Live B.I.G., a new DVD-based curriculum for children, will be available in fall 2006.

Alexander acknowledged that the Publishing House faces a challenging church resources marketplace. “But that makes our job merely difficult,” he said. “Our charge is to extend the unique witness of the United Methodist Church by shaping a publishing and distribution ministry that is Wesleyan in character, responsive and leading in spirit, and financially self-sustaining. By the grace of God, we will fashion ever more effective ways to help more people in more places come to know God through Jesus Christ, learn to love God, and choose to serve God and neighbor.”

On Oct. 4, board members worshipped with the Rev. Rudy Rasmus and the music team from St. John's United Methodist Church Downtown in Houston. Founded in 1992 with assistance from Windsor Village United Methodist Church, the church has grown from just nine members to more than 9,000 under the leadership of Rasmus and his wife and copastor, the Rev. Juanita Rasmus. By 1995, St. John’s had participating members from every ZIP code in the metropolitan Houston area, as their ministry brought together people searching for meaning and ways to help those in need.

*Information for this report was provided by Judy Smith, associate to the president and publisher, United Methodist Publishing House.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or

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