January 2001 Churchscan
• Robert Mattheis, bishop of the ELCA Sierra Pacific Synod, said in a Sept. 29 letter that disciplinary charges won't be filed against University Lutheran Chapel, Berkeley, Calif. He earlier censured the congregation for calling Jeff Johnson, a noncelibate gay man, as pastor (June 2000, page 35). The decision came after the Sierra Pacific Synod assembly urged Mattheis to do all he could to "avoid expulsion" of the congregation. Mattheis related his decision to his parenting style, saying that whenever he was faced with indecision he would "always err on the side of grace." • A remodeled printing factory was dedicated Nov. 26 as the sanctuary for United in Faith Lutheran, a 3-year-old congregation that resulted from the merger of eight Chicago congregations, the largest ever ELCA church consolidation (October 1998, page 32). • Taking a new look at shared ministry in retirement, two pastors — Stanley Peterson and Paul Rothfusz — divided one call to Samuel and Holmes Lutheran churches in Eagle Grove, Iowa, with each pastor working six nonsequential months in a year. Since the retirees' July installation, positive comments have come from both congregations. • Four staff members of St. James Lutheran Church, Portland, Ore., were selected as runners-up in a "Drive Your Volkswagen to Work Day" sponsored by VW Trends Magazine. The winners received a magazine subscription and gift certificate. Their picture, alongside their VWs, made the magazine's December issue. Literally rising from the ashes of a fire that destroyed its building five years ago, Our Saviour Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, recently dedicated its Center for Worship and Mission. Our Saviour has been a landmark in the Phillips neighborhood since 1912, reaching out to the community with housing, food and classes. The new building's wall of floor-to-ceiling windows along Chicago Avenue allows the congregation and neighborhood to see one another. "It's important for us to know who our neighbors are, and important for them to know who we are," said Janet Tidemann, pastor. • Every two years, Faith Lutheran Church, Bristol, Tenn., holds "Bless the Years," a special Sunday program honoring members 70 and older. Honorees, who include homebound members, receive a boutonniere, a meal, and a booklet to honor their faith and life. • Arthur Pedersen, pastor of 50-member Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, New Milford, N.J., says he was shocked when he opened a church property tax bill for $32,000. The local tax assessor has challenged the church's tax exempt status because, to help meet expenses, the church collected $600 a month from a dance teacher using the fellowship hall for lessons. The assessor claims she warned Pedersen last spring and that he said the school's lease would end in June, but the assessor noticed dance students entering the church in September. Although state statute allows revenue to go toward building maintenance without threatening the non-profit status, the assessor calls the law ambiguous. The congregation was told to pay $16,000 of the bill immediately and could take their grievance to the county tax board Dec. 1.
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