The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America



Croatia's five primary minority religious bodies have set up a committee with the dominant Roman Catholic Church as the first step toward a full-scale national council of churches. Representatives of the Lutheran, Catholic, Serbian Orthodox, Baptist, Pentecostal and Reformed churches said in their founding declaration that what they have in common is more significant than what divides them.

Lutheran World Federation's contact farmer program in Gitarama, Rwanda, is paying off. In the last year, seeds and cuttings given to widows of war victims have turned into flourishing farms of fruits and vegetables land where there was nothing. LWF helped the widows by financing a mill to grind the maize, sorghum and cassava from the farms. The federation also helped repair damaged roads, schools and clinics. But the main emphasis is on helping people to help themselves, said an LWF relief official.

The Alabama Supreme Court granted a temporary reprieve to a judge who was facing possible contempt-of-court charges for refusing to remove a wooden replica of the Ten Commandments from his courtroom. The court voted 5-0 with four abstentions to delay a lower court's order that Circuit Judge Roy Moore, Gadsden, Ala., remove or change the display. The American Civil Liberties Union claimed the display was unconstitutional and sued to eliminate it.

A broad coalition of religious leaders, including ELCA Presiding Bishop H. George Anderson, called the reform of the system for financing elections a moral matter and called on Congress to pass legislation to change it.

Five Protestant churches in Wales are considering a proposal that they jointly appoint the world's first ecumenical bishop, a prelate who would belong to the [Anglican] Church in Wales, the Presbyterian Church of Wales, the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church and the Covenanted Baptist Churches. If the proposal is approved, the bishop would be appointed in 1999.

The Lutheran Church of Norway and the United Methodist Church in Norway signed an agreement establishing altar and pulpit fellowship between the two churches. The agreement will allow clergy from either church to serve both churches without being reordained.

The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus approved the ordination of women if they receive a call from an individual congregation. The ordination of women has been a longstanding subject of discussion in the Ethiopian church, the second largest Lutheran church in Africa.

Representatives of Hungary's main Protestant churches have welcomed a Supreme Court decision to recognize their right of patronage to former Protestant-run school buildings. The ruling gives them the right to use some municipal buildings that housed Protestant schools before 1948.

For the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, it's grapes or nothing. The church's eight bishops approved a ban against using berry wine for communion because the wine in the Bible is made from grapes. The ban stemmed from complaints that some churches were breaking tradition.

Members of the State Department's new panel on religious freedom abroad urged the U.S. government to take a "bold as well as prudent" step to ensure that support for religious freedom is a "paramount factor" in foreign policy.

A study of nearly 800 TV commercials found that less than 2 percent have religious or spiritual content. Two exceptions found in the Western [Macomb] Illinois University study were a Buick commercial showing a family driving to church and a Coke commercial with a choir singing outside a church.

The Lutheran World Federation, after failing to persuade the United Nations to secure a global ban of anti-personnel land-mines, has asked its member churches to concentrate on pressing their governments to unilaterally ban such land mines. More than 60 countries contain more than 140 million land mines.

The Russian Orthodox Church has issued a statement expressing "deepest anxiety" about the future of the growing numbers of people "caught between life and death because of poverty." The statement marks the first time church officials have issued such a high-level document on social and political concerns.

A German coffee shop chain has received criticism from the country's Bible society for selling Bibles in its 620 stores. According to the Bible society, the "coffee-shop" Bible-a 1912 version of Martin Luther's translation- includes mistranslations and old-fashioned words and is often incomprehensible to modern readers, confirming a widely held view that the Bible is a difficult book.

In an open letter to President Clinton, Ishmael Noko, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, has accused the United States of impeding progress to end the involvement of children in armed conflict around the world. According to a 1996 United Nations study, hundreds of thousands of boys and girls around the world, some younger than 10, are being pushed into battle. He added that because of their humanitarian work in war-torn parts of the world such as Liberia, Angola, El Salvador and Cambodia, the LWF and its 122 member churches were "acutely and painfully aware of the severe physical and psychological effects suffered by child combatants, and of the particular vulnerability of displaced children to military recruitment."

Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey called on the Episcopal Church, a 2.5 million-member denomination that is divided over sexuality issues, to show tolerance. In a speech to the annual council of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia, Carey said that Anglicans are "a people who live with diversity and differences." The denomination has been involved in a debate over the ordination of gays and lesbians to the priesthood and whether non-celibate lifestyles can be legitimate for priests and candidates for the priesthood.

Even Fougner, a bishop from the Lutheran Church of Norway, has asked that all air traffic at Oslo's Gardermoen airport be halted while funerals are conducted at the seven churches below the airport's flight paths. The request could not be honored, according to the planning chief for Norway's National Aviation Board, because of the frequency of takeoffs and landings-about one every other minute.

The ruling South-West Africa People's Organization had called on its members to boycott a February reconciliation conference on the detainee issue. The conference was proposed by the Council of Churches in Namibia following a campaign by human rights activists pressuring SWAPO to apologize for atrocities it committed against exiled Namibians falsely labeled as South African spies during Namibia's liberation struggle. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia and the Roman Catholic Church joined SWAPO in rejecting the conference, saying they were not consulted by the Council of Churches.

A new TV program developed by Lutherans for Lutherans, debuted on Chicago's WCFC Channel 38 earlier this year. The half-hour Sunday evening program has featured messages from ELCA and Missouri Synod pastors and choirs in northern Illinois along with expressions of faith from church members.

After numerous dashed hopes for an end to Liberia's seven-year civil war, even skeptical Liberians and foreign watchers now believe elections will be held as scheduled May 30. Diplomats and peacekeepers say disarmament of guerrillas under a peace accord signed in Abuja, Nigeria, last August has practically cleared the biggest obstacle to free elections. Ironically it was the seven-week ethnic militia warfare that exploded in Monrovia last April that appeared to give momentum to the on-off Liberia peace process. The LWF's relief program continues to operate from the Ivory Coast where it moved during last April's fighting.

A service was held at Vilnius Evangelical Lutheran Church, Vilnius, Lithuania, to celebrate the 450th anniversary of the first Lithuanian book. The book was published by Martinus Mosvidius in Kaliningrad in 1547 and contained a translation of Luther's Small Catechism. Most of the Lutheran clergy from Lithuania attended the anniversary celebration.


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