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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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January 2001 Worldscan

  • • Nearly three-quarters of the world's population is subjected to restrictions and violations of religious freedom, states the Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom. "Religious freedom is rapidly deteriorating in many parts of the world," the study concluded. Countries with the most violations include Burma, Turkmenistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea and Tibet, while countries with the broadest religious freedom include Estonia, Finland, Norway, the Netherlands and the United States.

  • • Private donations to the United States' largest charities increased by $38 billion in 1999, a 13 percent increase from 1998. The Salvation Army for the eighth consecutive year received the most donations, according to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, collecting $1.4 billion. The YMCA came in second with $693 million. Lutheran Services in America moved up the list from 42 in 1998 to six last year with $559 million in donations. Catholic Charities USA ranked 11 with contributions totaling $446.3 million.

  • When some interpreted an ecumenical document supporting marriage as an attack on same-sex unions, Bob Edgar, head of the National Council of Churches of Christ, withdrew his name from the document, which he signed Nov. 14. "I'm disappointed that he removed his name and withdrew the NCC as a partner in ... what he has actually called a table of unity," said Bishop Kevin Mannoia of the National Association of Evangelicals. "It was never our intention for this to be a statement on homosexual behavior. ... This was not a statement about anything but Christian marriage." The marriage statement had been an attempt to find common ground in which mainline NCC, evangelicals and Roman Catholics could work together.

  • Cardinal Thomas Winning, archbishop of Glasgow, urged the British government to adopt policies that encourage couples to have children, saying that encouraging immigration is not the whole answer to the "very real threat" of a declining population. Winning proposed such measures as generous child-care allowances to a parent who stays home with a preschool child.

  • The Vatican issued a 19-page statement rejecting the production and therapeutic use of embryonic stem cells because it violates Roman Catholic teaching on respect for life from the moment of conception. But the statement said "adult stem cells represent a more reasonable and human method for making correct and sound progress in this new field of research."

  • Two hundred Jewish scholars placed a full page ad in the New York Times and Baltimore Sun titled "Dabru Emet: A Jewish Statement on Christians and Christianity." An ELCA panel on Lutheran-Jewish relations, says Dabru Emet ("to speak the truth") moves "Jewish-Christian dialogue to new levels, as together we seek to understand how the God of history is working in our time." The document offered eight statements about how Jews and Christians may relate to one another, including that both faiths worship the same God and that both accept the moral principles of the Torah.

  • Almost 85 percent of mainline Protestant pastors support denominational lobbying in Washington, D.C., even though most pastors have little or no contact with their church's capital offices, according to a Clemson University survey. Researcher Laura Olson said many pastors feel their lobbyists are an important alternative voice to the influential conservative evangelical activists in the religious right.

  • Catholics in the Boston area called for a criminal investigation of WAAF-FM after the station allegedly played a recording from a church confessional. "Violating the sanctity of the sacrament would impair Catholics in the free exercise of religion," said C.J. Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts. If the recordings are authentic, Doyle said, the station also broke a state law prohibiting eavesdropping.

  • New data compiled by humanitarian aid workers finds that the Sudanese military bombed civilian and humanitarian targets in the Sudan at least 113 times last year, more than twice as many as in 1998. Calling the bombings "egregious abuses," President Clinton said he is "deeply concerned."

  • A Lutheran World Federation commission took initial steps toward reunification of the Evangelical Church in Croatia. The commission, which is comprised of representatives of both parties in the conflict, is attempting to work through issues stemming from a 1996 controversy over leadership that led to the creation of two administrative points.

  • The ratification of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification improved relations between the Catholic and Lutheran churches, said Johannes Friedrich, the Lutheran bishop of Bavaria, Germany. He cited as one example the Lutheran Church in Nicaragua, which for the first time was recognized as a partner by the Catholic church. "The evidence seems to go against the skeptics who prophesied that the [declaration] would have no effect," Friedrich said.

  • The Georgia Baptist Convention voted 2-1 to affirm the new faith statement of the Southern Baptist Convention. This statement led former President Jimmy Carter to distance himself from the Southern Baptist Convention for its "increasingly rigid" doctrinal positions on women as clergy and interpreting the Bible literally.

  • Only 1 percent of dying patients would choose physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia, states a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study showed that those who consider euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide are affected by depression, feel unappreciated and have substantial need for assistance with basic functions.

  • The Alliance of Baptists, a 60,000-member organization formed in opposition to the conservative direction of the Southern Baptist Convention, was received by unanimous vote as the 36th member of the National Council of Churches.

  • A new policy at Brigham Young University, a Mormon Church-owned school in Provo, Utah, prohibits male students from having any body part pierced and restricts women to wearing only one set of earrings at a time.

  • Fred Rogers, a Presbyterian minister and host of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, taped his final episodes of the children's show, which has run for 32 years. The final shows will air in August.

  • Nearly 400 Lutherans gathered in Bloomington, Minn., for the 18th Lutherans for Life National Convention. Don Matzat, the keynote speaker, challenged participants to learn everything they could on partial-birth abortion. "We should not be ashamed to speak the truth of what is happening in this procedure," said Matzat, the host of the national radio program Issues, Etc.

  • Nearly 60 percent of all Americans say they read the Bible at least occasionally, and 65 percent believe the Bible "answers all or most of the basic questions of life," according to a Gallup poll. Bible readership dropped from the 1980's, when 73 percent of Americans said they read the book on occasion. Sixteen percent of those surveyed said they read the Bible every day.

  • Christian-Muslim violence continues in eastern Indonesia's Maluku provinces, which has claimed the lives of 4,000 people on both sides in the last year. A recent attack left six Muslims dead on Seram Island, one day before an Indonesian court sentenced the leader of a Muslim separatist group to six years in prison for the murder of three civilians.

  • The Episcopal Church Standing Committee of the Diocese of Atlanta agreed to have St. Bartholomew Church in Atlanta celebrate a liturgy of renewal of baptismal vows and a form of commitment to Christian service, rather than a proposed same-gender blessing. The committee disagreed with parish clergy, who interpreted last year's General Convention decision as allowing such blessings.

  • In a letter, the National Coalition of American Nuns asked Pope John Paul II to silence Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger for issuing Dominus Iesus, "which is contradictory to your openness and invitation to dialogue [among Christians]. ... Cardinal Ratzinger sees the goal of dialogue as the conversion of the other party. This attitude creates barriers to dialogue and fosters religious arrogance and bigotry."

  • Pavel Fedotov, a Seventh-day Adventist pastor, was arrested during church services in Turmenabat, Turkmenistan, and detained for three days for holding "illegal religious meetings." Police said the church can't hold religious gatherings since it isn't registered as a national religion. Fedotov also was accused of "drawing children into religious activity." The Adventist Church had attempted to register, but in practice national laws prevent registration of all but the Russian Orthodox Church and Sunni Muslims


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