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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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OCtober 2001 Worldscan

  • • Lutheran World Relief is helping provide emergency aid to about 32,000 families in the Indian state of Orissa following flooding. Unusually heavy monsoon rains caused the worst flooding since 1982. The families will receive food, clothing, blankets, kitchen utensils, temporary shelter materials, and water purification and sanitation materials.

  • Mideast violence drains Christians from the region, reports a World Council of Churches delegation that toured the area. "The fear that the holy sites of Christianity will become museums is a very real one, as two to three Palestinian Christian families leave every week," the report says, adding, "The time for statements [from the global churches] seems to be over. An action-oriented and organized response … is required of the ecumenical community."

  • On an 18-11 party-line vote the House Judiciary Committee approved July 24 a bill to ban human cloning. But Democrats say they will fight to allow cloning for research when the full House votes on the measure. Under the bill, violators could face 10 years in federal prison, a $1 million fine or both. The committee rejected a Democratic alternative that would have banned cloning only when the purpose is to initiate pregnancy. Committee chair James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said , "Opening the door to human cloning — even with good intentions — inevitably will lead to experimentation on the child-to-be."

  • Under a law that gives legal recourse to American victims of terrorism abroad, a federal judge ordered Iran to pay $314.6 million to the family of Lawrence Jenco, a Roman Catholic priest who was a hostage from 1985-86. Jenco, former director of Catholic Relief Services in Beirut, Lebanon, died in 1996. Iran said the ruling has "no legal basis."

  • On Aug. 5, Afghanistan's Taliban government charged 24 workers from Shelter Now International, a refugee relief group, with allegedly seeking Muslim converts to Christianity. The16 Afghans and eight foreign workers face the death penalty. One American and one Australian confessed to the charges and asked for pardons. Another American was also arrested. The government said a decision will be made soon.

  • A study shows that while welfare rolls are declining, most who leave remain in poverty without the means to meet basic needs. About 46 percent of 893 people surveyed in 10 states reported annual household incomes of less than $8,500, said NETWORK, the national Catholic social justice lobby organization that released the report.

  • Leaders signed the Reuilly Agreement, which links Anglican churches in Britain and Ireland to Lutheran and Reformed churches in France. The statement commits the churches to sharing a "common life and mission" while taking steps toward "full visible unity." Signers include: the Reformed Church of France, the Reformed Church of Alsace, the Church of the Augsburg Confession of Alsace and Lorraine, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of France, the Church of England, the Church of Ireland, the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Church in Wales.

  • On June 21, the Church of Norway Bishops' Conference welcomed efforts by the public authorities of many countries to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS. The bishops emphasized the need for more investment in the development of medicines and vaccines that the poor can afford, ensuring that churches combat violence and sexual abuse and promote joint action across religious and philosophies of life.

  • The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland approved changes to ecclesiastical law and church constitution that bring the church into harmony with the Lutheran-Anglican Porvoo Declaration signed in 1996. The changes concern the rights and qualifications of church members, as well as a change in the church constitution so a bishop must perform ordination. The changes still have to be approved by Parliament.

  • The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland is trying to even out parishes' tax income. The new system will help poor parishes by scaling the fees they pay from the corporate tax income into the church's general fund. This will help close the gap between wealthy parishes in areas of population growth and small parishes in remote areas.

  • Recently liberated slaves says Sudanese government troops and allied Arab militias rape, mutilate, beat and forcibly convert to Islam Christan and other non-Muslim women and girls after slave raids on northern Bahr El Ghazal villages. Christian Solidarity International says 82 percent of 51 freed females slaves reported they were repeatedly raped by Arab soldiers. Forty-seven percent said they had been gang-raped and 16 percent said they were subjected to female genital mutilation.

  • On July 31, a London judge overturned a 15-year-old ban that kept Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan from entering England. Government officials had banned from the country Farrakhan because they were worried he would adversely affect race relations, Reuters news agency says.

  • The Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in the Slovak Republic and the country's Roman and Greek Catholic Churches signed an agreement on the mutual recognition of baptism June 4. This means "we also mutually recognize each other as Christians, brothers and sisters in Christ. Baptism joins us as one body in Christ, into a communion which, although not completely all-embracing, is indeed a reality,"says a joint statement from the churches.

  • The LWF Council reiterated its call for comprehensive settlement negotiations in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The action included a call for an end to the illegal occupation of, and the illegal settlements in, the occupied Palestinian territories. It also supported efforts to promote non-violence, to welcome the current cease-fire, and an appeal to leaders on both sides to ensure the cease-fire continues.

  • The Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference called condoms an "immoral and misguided weapon" in South Africa's battle against AIDS. In a statement following their meeting in Pretoria, the bishops claimed condoms contributed to breaking down self-control and mutual trust. They urged young people to abstain from premarital sex and remain monogamous during marriage.

  • A survey says Presbyterians show only marginal support for homosexuality as a "legitimate alternative lifestyle." Only 41 percent of pastors and 28 percent of lay members agree "homosexuality should be considered an acceptable alternative lifestyle," according to the Presbyterian Panel survey. This is lower than the general U.S. population in which 50 percent accepted homosexuality.

  • Fides, a Vatican missionary news agency, says Chinese authorities freed Joseph Zhang Weizhu of Sienhsien, a bishop of the underground Roman Catholic Church, in July after 18 months of imprisonment due to ill health. Fides says arrested clergy are "placed in isolation to be subjected to ideological sessions to convince them to cross over to the official church."

  • Leaders of Sri Lanka's majority Buddhist population asked the government to ban conversions to Christianity, which are increasingly prevalent in rural areas. The monks say Buddhism loses about 23,000 people to Christianity each year.

  • The National Council of Churches and theCoalition on the Environment and Jewish Life urged Congress to reject President Bush's energy plan. The groups say the White House should abandon its intention to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and should trim the plan's $33.5 billion in tax credits for oil, coal and nuclear energy. They also said Congress should direct initiatives toward renewable energy and efficiency instead of wasting tax incentives on more pollution.

  • Christian music sales have outpaced the overall music industry's declines in sales and have increased by 12 percent in the first half of 2001. The Christian Music Trade Association announced that contemporary Christian and gospel album sales totaled 19.8 million units between January and July 2001. SoundScan says 17.7 million units were sold during the same period in 2000.

  • The Christian Coalition was ordered to stop retaliating against four African American employees who filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the organization. The employees say they were subjected to "unlawful retaliation" after they joined six other African American employees in a $621 million lawsuit filed in February. In the lawsuit, the employees claimed their work hours were cut, their health benefits weren't the same as for white employees, they weren't allowed to use the same entrance or break room as white employees, and were excluded from office parties and events.

  • The Anglican Church of Australia is heading toward working with the Lutheran Church. The 12th General Synod of the Anglican Church of Australia, meeting in Brisbane, welcomed and supported the Anglican-Lutheran Dialogue Group report, "Common Ground." The report was the result of almost 30 years of discussion.

  • Troy D. Parry, moderator of the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, warned President Bush that his plan to funnel federal money to religious groups will "unleash a backlash of righteous anger" if the money is used to discriminate against gays and lesbians. "Federal tax monies which are designated to help our most needy and vulnerable citizens must never be used by religious organizations that demonize groups or individuals which differ from themselves, said the leader of the nation's most prominent group of gay churches.

  • At least 70 percent of crops have been lost in El Salvador, according to ACT member Lutheran World Federation in El Salvador. The Salvadoran government is studying whether an emergency situation should be decreed. So far, losses in grain crops are estimated at 92,000 tons and World Food Program has assisted 15,000 people.

  • Although the Supreme Court upheld the right of the Boy Scouts of America to exclude gay boys and leaders, the organization is losing popularity with the public. Polls by the organization show 30 percent of Scout parents don't support the exclusionary policy, Newsweek reported on Aug. 6.

  • Twenty Americans from the Episcopal Church went to the West Bank on a peace mission and began living in Palestinian homes. Volunteer Ronald Forthofer of Longmont, Colo., said, "We who are protected in America should experience and live in the same way that Palestinians are living in the suffering."

  • A court convicted three military officers and a priest for the murder of Juan Gerardi, a Roman Catholic Bishop in Guatemala City. Gerardi was beaten to death in April 1998, two days after releasing a report blaming the military for most of the abuses committed during the country's 36-year civil war. The three officers received 30-year sentences, and Mario Orantes, a priest who shared a residence with Gerardi, received a 20-year sentence for complicity in the murder.

  • The World Council of Churches in Geneva hoped to bring pressure on governments to ensure that discrimination against India's dalit community be discussed at a U.N. conference on racism. "The discrimination against [the dalit people in India] is demeaning. They are treated like they are less than human," said Marilia Schüller, WCC staff member for combating racism.

  • Church involvement helps low-income youth progress in school, says Mark Regnerus, director of the Social Research Center at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich. His findings are based on analysis of more than 9,700 responses to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.

  • The board of the Catholic Biblical Association of America sent an Aug. 13 letter warning U.S. Roman Catholic bishops that liturgical translation guidelines issued by the Vatican could impinge on the "reverence and love for as well as study and knowledge of the Bible in the church." The board criticized the document's attempt to limit inclusive language.

  • A federal judge overturned the manslaughter conviction of a man who talked about the memories of his crime with other Alcoholics Anonymous members. U.S. District Judge Charles Brieant ruled July 31 that Paul Cox's remarks should be accorded "a privilege granted to other religions similarly situated." Cox was convicted of two 1988 stabbing deaths. The ruling was prompted by a case that determined a criminal defendant can't be forced to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings "because of the religious nature of the 12 steps."

  • Cardinal Edward Cassidy, the Vatican's former director for Christian United, told the World Methodist Conference that only together could the two churches make an impact in challenging the "increasingly secularized and pagan" society of today. "How much more effective would our proclamations be if we could be seen as truly reconciled one to the other, truly brothers and sisters united in the love of Christ," he said in his plea for joint evangelization.

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    November issue

    NOVEMBER issue:

    The ELCA's aging clergy wave

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