The ELCA "In The City for Good" fund team awarded $347,179 in grants to new urban ministry initiatives that illustrate a potential for transforming lives, congregations and communities in U.S. cities. The team selected 23 projects from 140 proposals and gave grants ranging from $1,000 to $30,000. The ELCA plans to give $500,000 a year in grants until 2008The unspent money will be added to next year's grants. Lutheran Brotherhood helped the initial fund by giving $1 million. Next year's grant proposals are due to synod offices by Jan. 15. Sixteen graduating seniors at The Lutheran Seminary at Philadelphia wrote ELCA Presiding Bishop H. George Anderson, calling for continued conversation and review of the denomination's position on the ordination, consecration and commissioning of gay and lesbian people. "Over the past few years we have witnessed a number of friends make the difficult decision between their call to ordained ministry and to their call to a committed relationship with a person of the same gender," said Margaret Spring, class co-president. "We feel it's time to add our voices to the church's conversation about issues of sexuality and rostered ministry." James D. Ford, an ELCA pastor, will retire after more than 20 years as chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives. "We wish him God's speed as he ends his distinguished career in the House and looks forward to retirement and new adventures," said Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, D-Mo. Ford will remain as chaplain until the House elects a replacement. An 18-person committee, including ELCA member Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif., will conduct a search for his successor. As Puerto Rico braces for this year's hurricane season, Lutheran Disaster Response is still working with victims of Hurricane Georges, which devastated the Caribbean last September. Nearly 500 Lutheran volunteers have repaired 125 houses and removed debris from 1,500 homes and yards. More than $300,00 has been spent for assistance grants, emergency supplies and building needs. The Big Partners/Little Partners and After-School Clubs programs at Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, Minn., were given the State of Minnesota Governor's Star Award for Service. The Partners program pairs 180 students with 180 area children to develop mentoring relationships. The After-School Clubs instruct youth in drama, service, art, environment and jazz in a safe and educational atmosphere until parents are through with their workday. The historic Trappe, Pa., home of Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg, the first speaker of the House of Representatives, is in danger of being torn down to make way for a drugstore. Preservationists in Trappe were able to save the home of his father, Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, who founded the former Lutheran Church in America, but they lack the resources to save the other house. The Lutheran Literature Society for the Chinese, founded in 1941, pumped $500,000 into publishing for the Chinese church and its work, including to the Bible Society and Chinese seminary libraries. The organization publishes a free quarterly newsletter, Spotlight on China, to give Lutherans in America fresh news on China and its church. For more information, write the newsletter editor, Arne Sovik, 1201 Yale Place #707, Minneapolis, MN 55403. Lutheran Services in America recognized 22 congressional leaders at a reception in Washington, D.C., for their lifelong service as Lutherans. "We are grateful for the public contribution of Lutherans in all walks of life," said Steve Raabe, the group's public policy director. "They bring faith into practice. Our social ministry organizations administer a number of programs that these legislators make possible." Magician-scholars will gather this fall at Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Pa., to perform and discuss magic's implications for philosophy, religion, history and anthropology. The one-month program, "The Theory and Art of Magic," will be a scholarly celebration of the magical arts, said Lawrence Hass, a philosophy professor at Muhlenberg. The ELCA received block grants totaling $409,500 from Lutheran Brotherhood and $248,300 in grants from Aid Association for Lutherans (AAL) in 1999. The grants funded 40 projects in churchwide ministry areas including evangelism and church growth, leadership development, multicultural ministry, stewardship, youth ministry and wellness. The ELCA African American Lutheran Association adopted prison ministry and advocacy as an ongoing emphasis at its June convention in Chicago. AALA also voted "to actively work in partnership with Black rostered leaders to eliminate the debt of African American ELCA congregations." About 90 participated in the youth trek (ages 7-18), with a Bible study on Daniel and an introduction to the cultural art of Sankofa.
The Lower Susquehanna, Southeastern Pennsylvania and Delaware-Maryland synods are working with five Episcopal dioceses on Beginning Ministry Together, a project that addresses issues facing clergy in congregations during leadership transitions. "Changes in pastoral leadership are some of the most difficult and traumatic times in a congregation," said Roy Oswald of the Alban Institute, who is a researcher for the project. "We often fail to see God's hand working through these transitional periods, offering us times of healing, times of growth, or times when individuals with potential can step up to the plate and assume a new leadership role." The goal is to develop a start-up manual and training program for clergy and lay leaders involved in a pastoral transition.