The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


May 2000 Worldscan

• A Ugandan commission is investigating the deaths of members of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments, a religious sect that predicted the world would end in 2000. Members barricaded themselves inside their church March 17 and set it on fire, killing 335 people. More than 300 other bodies were found on other church properties. The group was formed in the 1980s with the help of Joseph Kibweteere, a former Roman Catholic priest who claimed to have a tape of Mary telling Jesus the world would end because people don't follow the commandments.

• The United Church of Christ, based in Cleveland, joined the American Civil Liberties Union in filing a suit to allow people around Jacobs Field, home of the Cleveland Indians, to protest the baseball team's name and mascot, Chief Wahoo. Team officials say the stadium is private property and has barred and arrested protesters. John Thomas, UCC president, said the end of Chief Wahoo would be a sign of respect toward American Indians.

• Ignatius Kung, 98, a Roman Catholic bishop imprisoned for three decades for defying the Chinese government's attempts to control Catholics through a state-run church, died March 12 in Connecticut. Named the bishop of Shanghai shortly after Communists founded the People's Republic of China in 1949, Kung was later secretly named cardinal. He shunned the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and oversaw a group of Catholics called the Legion of Mary.

• After the Adam's Mark Hotel chain paid $8 million to settle a racial discrimination lawsuit, the ELCA reconsidered an earlier decision to not assign rooms at the hotel's St. Louis chain to Youth Gathering 2000 participants. It will now assign participants to rooms at the Adams Mark, one of 38 hotels for the event. In addition to the $8 million settlement, courts ordered the hotel chain to take extensive measures to prevent discrimination in its facilities.

• Latino Catholics are twice as likely to worship in "separate and unequal settings" as non-Latino Catholics, according to a National Conference of Catholic Bishops study. While Latinos comprise one-third of the country's 62 million Catholics, only 511 were enrolled last year, the study reports. They also hold relatively few leadership positions within the church, even where Latinos are the majority.

• Russell Siler, director of the Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs, praised the efforts of Doris Haddock, "Granny D," who walked across America to promote campaign finance reform. "We need to ... say that access to our electoral process should in no way be based on the size of a person's wallet," he said.

• Facing concerns from Episcopal and Presbyterian churches, the executive committee of the Consultation on Church Union, an initiative to increase unity among Protestant denominations, decided its plan for a closer relationship would no longer immediately include mutual recognition of the ministries of its nine member denominations. Episcopal representatives said they needed to resolve how to recognize and reconcile ordained ministries of various members denominations. The current plan for the union is to recognize each other's churches, share communion and focus on mission projects.

• United Methodist Church leaders urged members to pray and fast for 40 days leading up to its General Conference in Cleveland, where questions of gays and lesbians within church life will be a major topic. "The discipline of fasting undergirds us by helping us remember that our true hunger and thirst are for the presence of God," said Janice Huie, the Methodist bishop in Little Rock, Ark. A leader of the church's liberal wing, Phil Wogaman, called for the spirit of compromise heading into the General Conference.

• The Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Holy Land is hosting a four-day worldwide Lutheran Gathering for Pentecost 2000, beginning June 8. The celebration hopes to search for new incarnations of the Spirit for the third millennium and plans to use forms of communication that both celebrate diversity and bridge differences through experience, such as music and art. In the new millennium, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and Palestine would like to encourage Christians worldwide — specifically Lutherans — to come to the Holy Land.

• The number of U.S. women attending church has dropped 22 percent since 1991, says a Barna Research Group poll. "We may continue to see tens of thousands of women leaving the church unless there is a widespread, aggressive, thoughtful approach to recognizing and appreciating women," said George Barna. Still, Christian women outnumber Christian men by as many as 13 million. Women also are more likely than men to hold a leadership position (56 percent), to attend an adult class (57 percent), and to give money (23 percent).

• Bob Jones University clarified its interracial dating policy, saying students won't need their parents' vote of approval to date interracially. The school will urge students to notify their parents if they wish to get involved in any serious dating relationship. The South Carolina school ended its 50-year ban on interracial dating, which was instituted to prevent Asian and white students from dating (African American students were not allowed to enroll until 1970).

• Robert Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, said Augusto Pinochet, the former Chilean dictator, should face charges for crimes against humanity to bring justice and peace to the families of thousands of political opponents who disappeared during his rule from 1973 to 1990.

• EBay stopped people from selling their souls on its Web site because a soul's existence can't be documented. "If a soul does not exist, eBay could not allow the auctioning of [it] because there would be nothing to sell," eBay officials said. "However, if the soul does exist, then, in accordance to eBay's policy on human parts and remains, we would not allow the auctioning of human souls."

• White supremacist groups are on the rise in Washington and Oregon, according to the Northwest Coalition for Human Dignity. The coalition identified 52 white supremacist groups in the country's northwest region, including neo-Nazis, the World Church of the Creator and the Ku Klux Klan.

• Muslims can broadcast prayer calls from rooftops in Oslo, Norway, said the city council March 29. Atheists will also be allowed to broadcast announcements of meetings and proclaim "God does not exist." Before the decision, the only legal prayer call in Norway was the ringing of church bells. The broadcasts were limited to no louder than 60 decibels, no longer than 3 minutes.

• The Kentucky legislature approved a bill in March that allows the Ten Commandments to be posted in public school classrooms. It also approved a bill allowing anyone with a permit to carry a concealed weapon to church.

• Donald McCoid, bishop of the ELCA Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod, co-chairs a Lutheran-Orthodox dialogue that is urging Christians worldwide to celebrate Easter on the same day. This year, Western Christians celebrated Easter April 23 and the Orthodox churches April 30. In 2001, the ELCA and U.S. Orthodox churches will celebrate Easter April 15.

• The World Council of Churches appealed to the ELCA and other member churches in the leading industrial nations to ask their governments to cancel nearly $6 billion in debts owed by Mozambique. "Only complete cancellation and not simply postponement — as for Hondurans after Hurricane Mitch — will do," the WCC said. Thousands in Mozambique were displaced by severe rains and floods; hundreds more were killed or succumbed to disease.


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February issue


Embracing diversity