The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America



Former President Jimmy Carter called for a partnership among groups upset with the conservative leadership of the Southern Baptist Convention. "We should reach out to other traditional, or moderate, Baptists and form a partnership that would greatly strengthen what we do," he said in June at the 10th anniversary meeting of the moderate Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

  • The General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association elected William Sinkford, 54, as president June 23 in Cleveland. He is the first African American president of the historically white denomination.

  • The House Judiciary Committee passed a bill June 28 that will enact some of President Bush's faith-based initiatives. It approved the Community Solutions Act of 2001 by a 20-5 party-line vote. The bill permits groups to offer worship services, preaching and prayer if attendance isn't required and they are separate from the government-funded service activity. Bush told the U.S. Conference of Mayors June 25 that it would help faith-based organizations "compete for government funds without being forced to hide their religious character."

  • The Barna Research Group says 27 percent of Americans have a strong belief that Satan is real, and Mormons are most likely to accept that he is more than a symbol of evil. About one-fifth of Roman Catholics, Episcopalians and Methodists say Satan is real, while 59 percent of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints say so.

  • Americans support federal funding of stem cell research by a 2-1 margin, reports an ABC News/Beliefnet poll. Of those surveyed, 60 percent support funding while 31 percent opposed it. When asked about their view of the research, 58 percent said they favor it and 30 percent said they oppose it.

  • President Bush apologized to American Muslim organizations for an incident in which a Secret Service agent asked a member of their delegation to leave a White House meeting. On June 28, 25 representatives of American Muslim organizations walked out of a meeting with Mark Scott, associate director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives, after college student Abdullah Al-Arian to leave. Al-Arian is an intern in the office of Rep. David Bonior, D-Mich. Some delegation members want Bush to investigate an "alarming trend" of discrimination against American Muslims.

  • The American Jewish Committee criticized Christian leaders who met with Secretary of State Colin Powell in June as anti-Israeli and biased toward Palestinians. In a letter to Powell, Christian leaders said: "Israel's practice of assassination and the economic strangulation of the fledgling Palestinian state are counterproductive to either security or peace." Rabbi David Rosen, the AJC's new interfaith director, said the letter "reflects a terribly unbalanced perspective on the conflict."

  • In addressing Cuban prelates in July, Pope John Paul II labeled the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba "unjust and ethically unacceptable." But he warned the Castro regime that the world is "tired of old ideologies" and urged more freedom for Cubans. He urged the church in Cuba to commit to improving society in the name of Christian values, always seeking "justice and not clashes."

  • The Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School says no TV network now employs a religion newsperson. Peggy Wehmeyer, who followed religion news for ABC's World News Tonight for several years, was recently let go in a round of budget cutting.

  • As peace efforts continue in Bosnia and Herzegovina, U.S. Army chaplains there are assuming the role of spiritual diplomats. They are teaching local military leaders the benefits of creating a chaplaincy within the Bosnian armed forces to teach harmony and tolerance. Military clergy from Britain, Denmark, Poland and Turkey work with the U.S. Army chaplains.

  • Meeting in Nashville, Tenn., July 5,delegates approved the merger of the Mennonite Church and the General Conference Mennonite Church to form the Mennonite Church USA. The merged denomination will have about 125,000 members in 1,100 churches. The headquarters will continue to be in Newton, Kan., and Elkhart, Ind., with two additional offices in urban areas on the East and West coasts.

  • Thirty-one runners from Wittenberg, Germany, participated in a 680-mile run June 24 to July 2 to bring attention to Martin Luther and his impact on today's society. The group ran from Wittenberg, Wis., to Springfield, Ohio, a sister city to Wittenberg, Germany.

  • In June, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) recommended that the General Assembly Council study the ELCA's "A Message on Suicide Prevention" (see www.elca.org/dcs/suicide_prevention.html) .The council is to make recommendations at the 2002 General Assembly for the publication's use in PCUSA.

  • The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints changed its name to Community of Christ. The group hopes to alleviate confusion among outsiders that has been present since the church split from the Brigham Young-led Mormons in the mid-19th century. The laity essentially runs both churches and both have modern-day prophets whose revelations are added to the books of doctrine as they are revealed. But Community of Christ claims to be the only true continuation of the original church started by Joseph Smith Jr.

  • Lutheran World Relief is supporting families in southern Peru following the June 23 earthquake that registered 8.1 on the Richter scale. More than 90 people died; 120,000 others were affected. "LWR aid will go where there is no other aid, targeting 10,300 people in the most isolated areas," said Pedro Veliz, LWR regional representative in the Andes. Long-term plans will focus on reconstructing housing and rebuilding irrigation systems. Outreach will include training for constructing earthquake resistant structures.

  • Forty women delegates of the three Lutheran churches in Namibia met in May at the Phillipine Conference in Okahandja to discuss common concerns. In a country where more than 66 percent of all Christians are Lutheran, historical differences in structure, financing and religious customs make it difficult for the churches to work together. The churches are the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia and the German Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia. Despite their churches' divisions, the women meet regularly. "When we want to unite, we have to share, and in order to share we will have to meet," says Selma Shejavali, outgoing president of the Phillipine Conference.

  • Equal Partners in Faith, a network of clergy and people committed to equality and diversity, will continue to speak against President Bush's "charitable choice" initiative. It reaffirmed its opposition after a July 10 Washington Post article, which said the Salvation Army had proposed a regulation to exempt religious groups receiving federal funding from local requirements that they offer domestic benefits to partners of gay and lesbian staff members. Following the article, John Busby, the Salvation Army's national commander, wrote to employees declaring that the group is no longer working with a public policy team it hired to help it support Bush's faith-based initiative.

  • An AARP survey found that prayer and faith is the chief source of support for people aged 45-55 who take care of older family members. Sixty-two percent of respondents said faith and prayer helped in their care-taking responsibilities; 42 percent said their houses of worship or religious institutions helped. Researchers say African Americans and women were more inclined to cite spiritual sources of assistance.

  • Human rights advocates say a French law which cracks down on religious groups that are considered sects or cults could be a dangerous model for government-targeted minority religions in other countries. The law bans groups considered cults and stops them from changing their name and reorganizing. Group members can also receive a fine and three-year prison sentence for recruiting people by "abusing" a "state of ignorance or situation of weakness." Any "religious education or proselytization can be suspect under the vague crime of `abuse of a person's state of weakness,'" said Joseph Grieboski, president of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy. France argues the law was needed because of the mass suicides in the 1990s of Solar Temple members in France, Canada and Switzerland.

  • The Vatican gave its blessing to proposed measures to stem illegal trafficking in small arms and light weapons, calling them weapons of "mass destruction against the poor." Archbishop Celestino Migliore spoke for the Vatican at an International Conference on Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons on July 12 in New York.

  • A January 2001 study by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland found that 82 percent of Finnish people believe killing another human being is the most obvious sin. Sixty-one percent say extramarital affairs are sinful, and one in 10 believe premarital sex and divorce are sinful. Homosexuality is regarded as a sin by more than a quarter of the population. Over half the population doesn't consider abortion a sin. In a second study, researchers found that Finns consider the Church to be important and necessary. Researchers attribute the change to a value shift away from money and material possessions after a recession in the '90s.

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    February issue

    FEBRUARY issue:

    Embracing diversity