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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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World News Scan

• The Russian Orthodox Church suspended its secular relations with the Patriarchate of Constant inople, the top Orthodox authority, due to differences over control of Orthodox churches in Estonia. The unprecedented suspension was linked to discontent within the Russian Orthodox Church after the Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church was placed under the jurisdiction of Constantinople. The Estonian church had been under the auspices of the Russian Orthodox Church since 1940.
• Support for married clergy and women priests has grown among Roman Catholic parishioners over the past three years, while support for the teaching authority of the pope has declined, according to Thomas P. Sweetser, co-director of the Parish Evaluation Project. Sweetser said 61 percent of Catholic parishioners favor allowing priests to marry, up 13 percent since 1992.

• Iceland's bishop Olafur Skulasen has asked the island's attorney general to launch an investigation to clear his name of allegations that he tried to rape a woman 17 years ago while he was a minister, the Timm in newspaper reported. "Because of the repeated allegations in the media of an illegal act, I see myself forced to request an official investigation into how these claims came about and if they are true," said Skulasen, the country's only bishop. "The reason I have asked for this is because my honor and my reputation as a civil servant have been attacked, and I cannot live with this." An unidentified woman in her forties complained to the Ministerial Ethics Council of Iceland's Lutheran Church tha t Skulasen tried to rape her in 1979. The woman, who has not filed police charges against Skulasen, turned to the Council after several priests in whom she confided several years ago refused to take up the matter.

• A Swedish television station said it rejected church plans to reach a mass audience in the week before Easter because it is illegal to advertise political or religious views. A spokeswoman for national channel TV4 said Swedish law bars churches from broadcasting of Christ ian messages, placing religion in the same bracket as politics. "Especially at Christmas ... they want to send greetings, but we've said no to that, too," she said. The Swedish Free Church, an alliance of most Protestant churches not linked to the country's state Lutheran church, had planned a pre-Easter advertising campaign to increase church attendance. "I was given to understand the ads would have been passed if we removed the name Jesus," said Curt Ankarburg, organizer of the thwarted tele vision campaign. "If we had done that, there would have been nothing left."

• Concordia Historical Institute, St. Louis, hosted a ceremony Feb. 20 for representatives of the Federal Republic of Germany, CHI and the Lutheran Church-Mi ssouri Synod for the official return of a rare Luther manuscript to its rightful home in Germany. The original writing of Martin Luther, Wider Hanswurst, found in Magdeburg after World War II, was sent to the institute for safekeeping in 1950.

• Alejandro Hernandez, a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission worker in El Salvador, was shot and wounded after leaving a Salvadoran Lutheran Synod youth event. Hernandez, a U.S. citizen, works with a Lutheran community in the rural Cha latenango area of El Salvador. He is in stable condition after what police suspect was an attempted carjacking.

• The Church of Scotland warned Guatemala's government that it must capture the person who killed two Presbyterian human rights workers. "If they want trade with Europe, improving their human rights situation is quid pro quo," said church moderator James Harkness after meeting government officials in Guatemala City. "It's pressure, all right, but that's the only language they understand."
• Relief efforts by U.S. religious agencies to aid internal refugees in Sudan's bitter civil war will not be disrupted by a new freeze in U.S.-Sudanese relations, according to officials from several groups. "What the U.S. does diplomatically won't make us pull out," said Jona than Frerichs, a spokesman for Lutheran World Relief. LWR has a $1.5 million program in Sudan.

• Supporters of a Colorado initiative to impose property taxes on churches and other nonprofit groups say they have enough signatures to place the measure on November's ballot. If the measure gets on the ballot and is approved by voters, Colorado would become the first state to make churches pay property taxes.

• A wide array of Roman Catholic and Protestant religious gr oups, including the ELCA, asked a federal appeals court to uphold an injunction blocking Oregon's assisted suicide law from taking effect. The brief was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco.

• Ge orge Younan, cousin of Munib Younan, pastor of the Lutheran Church of Hope in Ramallah, was among the victims of the March 3 bus attack in Jerusalem. The peace process is the only solution to the continuing Middle East violence, but the "formula is da ngerously threatened by these recent events," said David Johnson, an ELCA pastor in Jerusalem. He added, "In seven years of residence in this often troubled city, it's my observation that the present level of tension is without precedent." ELCA Presiding Bishop H. George Anderson wrote Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres and said, "Steps must not be taken which would ... risk perpetuating the cycle of violence." Lutheran World Federation General Secretary Ishmael Noko slated a visit later in March that in cluded talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials.

• The Lutheran World Federation is close to signing a joint statement with the Vatican on the doctrine of "justification," a key issue in the theological debate that resulted in Ma rtin Luther's departure from the Roman Catholic Church.

• The National Council of Churches and the Christian Coalition formed the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling and named Tom Grey, a United Methodist pastor, as its ex ecutive director.

• Roman Catholicism's insistence that women cannot be ordained to the priesthood is causing some ecumenical leaders in the Episcopal Church to urge the denomination to rethink its relations with the Vatican. "We ne ed to quietly and carefully reconsider our relations with Rome in light of its recent teachings on the ordination of women," said William Franklin of the General Theological Seminary in New York at the Episcopal Church's Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations.

• A presidential reception was given for American Muslims to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan. "It's only fitting that just as children and families of other faiths come here to celebrate their holy days, that [M uslims] come here too," said first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

• A new media law in Hungary prompted claims by the country's mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic churches that it discriminates against historic religious communiti es in favor of smaller religious groups. At issue is who will oversee Hungarian television and radio. The presiding committee will be dominated by a salaried eight-member board of directors representing both the government and the opposition party, with a n additional 13 seats allocated for "representatives of civil society." Only one of the 13 seats will represent Hungary's four largest churches (Roman Catholic, Reformed, Lutheran and Jewish) and one will represent smaller religious groups.

• Felipe Adolf, general secretary of the Latin American Council of Churches, criticized Archbishop Penados del Barrio's remarks in Guatemala City before the visit of Pope John Paul II to Central America. The archbishop described evangelical churc hes as "the opiate of the people, at the service of foreign powers," and as provoking "hatred toward other Christian expressions."

• Colorado's three Roman Catholic bishops sent a letter to the 200 Catholic priests in the state sayi ng that the Christian Coalition's Catholic Alliance does not represent "the so-called Catholic position" on policy issues before the nation. They wrote that the church may agree with the Coalition on issues such as abortion, euthanasia and pornography, "b ut we sharply disagree on issues such as welfare reform, capital punishment and health care reform."

• Roman Catholic bishops from Germany and Poland issued a joint declaration calling for forgiveness "for the evil committed by peop le from both our nations" in the past. According to analysts in Poland, the declaration broke new ground by acknowledging what the statement called the "harm committed by Poles against many Germans" during the post-war era.

• The Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Reform Judaism's synagogue umbrella group, in an ongoing effort to bring gay and lesbian Jews into the religious mainstream, said that a rabbi's sexual orientation should have no bearing on whether he or she is hired.


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December issue

DECEMBER issue:

Advent: Waiting together

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