The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


January 2000 Worldscan

• The ELCA is sending $150,000 to aid India, Mexico and Taiwan. Two cyclones hit India, resulting in more than 1,500 deaths. A tropical storm hit Mexico and an earthquake struck Taiwan, 120 miles south of the capital of Taipei.

• Former President Jimmy Carter criticized U.S. sanctions against Iraq and is working with Billy Graham to help people suffering in that country. "We are trying to let the American people know ... that when we try to impose sanctions to hurt Saddam Hussein, we actually hurt the people who are already suffering under his despotic leadership," Carter said.

• Vietnamese police raided several Christian gatherings and detained and harassed worshipers, according to Reuters news agency. During one of the reported incidents, a prayer meeting of the Vietnam Assemblies of God, 17 people were handcuffed or tied together and forced to walk to a government office, where they were held for several hours.

• China wants to re-establish diplomatic relations with the Vatican but also wants to crush the underground Chinese Roman Catholic Church, according to a Vatican-related news organization. "The normalization of relations with the Vatican is an occasion favorable for gaining the majority of the members of the underground church and making sure that the hard nuts among them … do not take power in the patriotic church," read a secret document of the Secretariat of the Central Committee of China's Communist Party.

• Some 40 Filipino Christians were arrested in Saudi Arabia after police in Riyadh raided prayer meetings in two private homes. Muslim Saudi Arabia doesn't allow public practice of other faiths. Officially, private non-Muslim worship is allowed; but the Saudi Muttawa, or religious police, does not tolerate it. Police required those arrested to sign statements promising not to attend religious meetings in the Arab nation.

• Liz Anderson, an office coordinator at USF Logistics in Indianapolis, filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against her employer after she was ordered to stop using the phrase, "have a blessed day" at her office. She filed the charge to protect her religious freedom.

• The Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America elected Uldis Cepure as its president for another three-year term. He will preside over 71 congregations in the United States and Canada, in addition to three Latvian Lutheran congregations in Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela.

• The World Council of Churches and the Conference of European Churches expressed "profound concern" at the intervention by Russian armed forces in Chechnya. "The disproportionate and irresponsible use of force employed by the Russian military forces ... is contributing to a humanitarian crisis of the utmost seriousness," the groups' statement says.

• Heart patients who were prayed for without their knowledge suffered 10 percent fewer complications, according to the Mid America Heart Institute's study of 990 people in the coronary care unit at St. Luke Hospital, Kansas City, Mo. Patients were randomly divided into two groups, one where volunteers prayed daily for the patients' rapid recovery with no complications. No one was assigned to pray for the other group. After four weeks, the patients who were prayed for had suffered 10 percent fewer complications, ranging from chest pain to cardiac arrest.

• The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that students who attend religiously affiliated schools can participate in a Cleveland tuition voucher program for private schools. The ruling overrides a federal judge's order temporarily prohibiting new students from taking part in the program. It's in effect at least until the 6th U.S. Court of Appeals makes a determination on a lawsuit in which taxpayers and civil liberties groups have argued that the program violates the constitutional separation of church and state because most of the money pays for religious-school tuition.

• The Oklahoma State Textbook Committee voted to require a disclaimer in new biology textbooks that says evolution is a "controversial theory." Last summer the Kansas Board of Education passed new testing standards that minimize the importance of evolution and the Education Department in Kentucky replaced the word "evolution" from its standards with "change over time."

• The percentage of people who accept Jesus as their personal savior drops off after age 14, states a Barna Research Group study. Research of 4,200 young people and adults indicates that youth ages 5 to 13 have a 32 percent probability of accepting Christ as their savior, while 14- to 18-year-olds have a 4 percent chance — and adults 19 and older have a 6 percent probability — of doing so.

• Pope John Paul II celebrated Vespers with 20 Lutheran bishops from Sweden and Finland — four of them women — less than two weeks after Roman Catholic and Lutheran representatives signed the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, affirming the churches' basic agreement on an issue that has divided them since the 16th century.

• The United Methodist Church ruled that its congregations can't give themselves labels such as "reconciling" or "transforming" which link them to independent movements supporting or opposing gay rights.

• Southern Baptists in Virginia approved a resolution affirming the 1963 Baptist Faith Message, rather than support a 1998 revision calling for wives to "submit ... graciously" to their husbands. The day before, the Baptist General Convention of Texas rejected the revised statement of faith and affirmed the 1963 statement.

• The number of radio and TV stations broadcasting Christian programs has increased for the third year in a row. Radio stations carrying Christian programs increased from 1,616 in 1998 to 1,731 in 1999, and TV stations increased from 242 to 285.

• More than 350 Lutherans from 26 states attended the 17th Lutherans for Life convention in West Des Moines, Iowa, celebrating life and learning how to help others choose life. Keynoter Dale Meyer, speaker of the Lutheran Hour radio program, said that in an anything-goes society, most people "don't believe there is an absolute truth." He encouraged members to memorize Scripture and to be sincere in their pro-life efforts. In a panel discussion, J. David Wende, a Lutheran pastor, said peers have told him they won't speak out about abortion because they don't want to offend those who have had abortions. Wende said that excuse is similar to giving a Sunday sermon that deals "only with the sins that no one in the congregation has committed."

• Some 60 Sikh leaders nationwide endorsed the establishment of a national office on Sikh religion and education. The group also expressed its concern about the public's misunderstanding of Sikh religious beliefs and a frustration with the slow process of changing laws to accommodate religious practices. The group said Sikhs have experienced job discrimination because of their religious obligation to maintain unshorn hair.

• The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, a prominent Jewish organization, criticized the House of Representatives' passage of the "Fathers Count Act" as a violation of separation of church and state. To promote "fatherhood," the act earmarks $150 million over six years in grants to state, nonprofit and religious groups with programs offering economic, education and employment assistance to young parents.

• The National Council of Churches praised the development of new "Global Sullivan Principles" that call for business practices to be based on support of human rights. The new principles were introduced at the United Nations and were created by John H. Sullivan, who worked with international corporations worldwide.

• The Ecumenical Women's Millennium Celebration — the biggest ever convention of Christian women in India — called for the 29 members of the National Council of Churches in India to approve women's ordination.

• Two people in the Comoros Islands, officially an Islamic republic, were sentenced to prison after being caught watching or possessing the video Jesus, a two-hour tape produced by Campus Crusade for Christ. The men were found guilty of "anti-Islamic activity and disturbing the peace," according to Human Rights Without Borders.

• After eight ballots, the 85,000-member Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles named Jon Bruno, a from-the-floor nominated local pastor who is an ex-police officer and former Denver Bronco football player, as its bishop. Bruno, like the five candidates he defeated, is critical of the 1998 resolution condemning homosexuality passed by the world's Anglican bishops.

• `The faces of those children stayed with me ... how I prayed for them," Gladys Moore told participants of the Conference of International Black Lutherans last October in Wittenberg, Germany. After reading a USA Today story about the devastating numbers of children in southern Africa who lose both parents to AIDS, Moore, an assistant to the bishop in the New Jersey Synod, decided to bike 440 km from Boston to New York to raise money for programs that support people with AIDS and their children. Moore raised over $10,000, which she presented as a check to Bishop Ambrose Moyo of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe.


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