The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America



-- Bishop Ambrose Moyo of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe called on Africa's Lutheran churches to end their dependence on European and North American partners. He said the relationship between African churches and church aid agencies is "extremely humiliating" for local church leaders who must surrender their freedom to overseas agencies.

-- Church leaders in Poland and Germany believe the first official partnership between Germany's regional Protestant churches and a Polish Lutheran diocese marks a step in reconciliation between the countries. The agreement, signed by the bishops of the Lutheran diocese of Wroclaw and of the Evangelical Church of Silesian Oberlausitz, also is significant because until the end of World War II some territory that now makes up the Wroclaw diocese belonged to Germany.

-- A bracelet trend started in Michigan has spread worldwide. People of all ages are wearing colorful nylon straps with the letters W.W.J.D., which stands for What Would Jesus Do? When someone asks what the letters mean, the wearer explains the acronym and then hands the bracelet to that person.

-- Lutheran World Relief joined other church agencies to send food to North Korea, which the United Nations and United States estimate will run out of food long before September's harvest. A $2.1 million appeal from Action by Churches Together provides food shipments for the country plus 500 metric tons of barley seed for spring planting.

-- Allan Boesak, one of South Africa's most prominent clergy in the anti-apartheid struggle, was charged in Cape Town Magistrate's Court with 21 counts of theft and nine of fraud. The court appearance follows allegations of misappropriation of donor funds from DanChurchAid, a Danish church humanitarian assistance organization, earmarked for victims of apartheid. Boesak says he is not guilty of all charges. A trial date was set for Aug. 4.

-- The Federal Communications Commission renewed the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod's licenses for KFUO (AM and FM), Clayton, Mo., for a full term, subject to reporting conditions based on the church's failure to comply with the equal employment opportunity requirements. The FCC concluded the church made misleading statements about its EEO practices, including requiring Lutheran training for certain positions, which would have an adverse impact on recruiting African Americans. The FCC fined the stations $25,000 for misconduct.

-- A gathering of European churches helped reintegrate churches from East and West, says Lutheran leaders from former communist-bloc countries. "We are pleased that minority sister churches from Eastern Europe were so well-represented and brought into the general community atmosphere," said Georg Kretschmar, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Russia and Other States.

-- Episcopal and Lutheran leaders in Central America issued a statement in Guatemala City endorsing the Concordat of Agreement that would establish full communion between their North American partners if passed at national meetings this summer (see page 8). "We want to thank you for inspiring us and want to inform you that we have initiated our encounter to dialogue with the objective of establishing an agreement between our churches at the Central American level," t he statement says.

-- Some 300 homeless people and their advocates stood at a soup line on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol to protest changes in food-stamp benefits due to last year's welfare reform legislation. The meal/protest was sponsored by several groups including Bread for the World, a national Christian anti-hunger advocacy organization. The group proposed a legislative package that would restore food stamps to unemployed adults unable to find work and protect funding for the Women, Infants and Children n utrition program.

-- A new constitutional amendment allows couples in Ireland to divorce for the first time in more than 75 years. The amendment permits divorce if the couple have "no reasonable prospect of reconciliation" after being separated for four of the five previous years.

-- Pakistan's High Court, in what some call a landmark ruling, said weddings of couples who marry for love rather than having their marriage arranged by their parents are valid and permissible under Islamic law.

-- Some 16 leading American Islamic groups asked the U.S. Supreme Court to remove a 64-year-old stone bas-relief of the prophet Muhammed from its chamber because they regard it as offensive to Muslims. "This touches a raw nerve," said Salam Al-Marayati, director of the Los Angeles-based Muslim Public Affairs Council. "Muslims are sensitive to any images of the prophet as a statement for our commitment to strict monotheism."

-- The Lutheran Church of Nigeria Council voted unanimously against expensive burials of deceased church members. Samuel Udofia, the church's president, said, "The important thing is to keep the body away to await resurrection. No amount of festivities or exorbitant spending will bring the dead to eternal salvation."

-- Leaders of the Evangelical Church in Germany condemned the North Elbian Evangelical Lutheran Church's recognition of long-term partnerships-either homosexual or heterosexual-as permissible lifestyles for Christians. "A special blessing being given in a service of worship for people who live together in same-sex partnerships, or in heterosexual partnerships without being married, will mean that the model character of marriage and family becomes unclear," the council said.

-- James Bell, former executive director of Interfaith Impact, said a few major denominations that feared losing power to smaller churches killed the influential religious group. A United Church of Christ minister, Bell made the charge in a million-dollar breach of contract suit against his former bosses and the churches they represent. Interfaith Impact for Justice and Peace, which lobbied on such issues as welfare and health care reform, had more than 40 member organizations including the ELCA.

-- The United Church of Christ appointed William R. Johnson its first national staff minister for lesbian and gay concerns. The UCC is one of the first major mainline Protestant denomination to place staff specifically in charge of ministry to homosexuals.

-- Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, said the church must combat the rising appeal of Buddhist practices among Christians. "If Buddhism seduces it is because it seems possible to reach the boundless and the bliss without having concrete religious obligations," he said. "In that sense it is an erotic spirituality."

-- Benjamin Chavis, a United Church of Christ minister, announced that he joined the Nation of Islam led by Minister Louis Farrakhan. The UCC regional association that ordained him in 1980 temporarily suspended him. Chavis left his position as NAACP executive director under a cloud of controversy in 1994.

-- The Eisenhower World Affairs Institute of the ELCA's Gettysburg [Pa.] College chose Nobel Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel as winner of the Eisenhower Leadership Prize for his lifelong efforts to raise awareness of human rights.

-- A proposed bill, which received initial approval from the Israeli parliament, regulates missionary activity in Israel. The bill seeks to prohibit "the possession, printing, copying, distribution, sharing of and importation of advertisements to induce religious conversions." U.S. evangelical leaders urged Christians to oppose the bill in letters and calls to Israeli and American officials.

-- Thomas Stillday Jr., 63, is the first Native American spiritual leader to serve as chaplain of the Minnesota Senate. He was nominated for the position by senate majority leader and ELCA member Roger Moe, Erksine, Minn., whose district includes the Red Lake Reservation.

-- The ecumenical spirit that bound the churches of South Africa together in the struggle against apartheid isn't as strong as it once was, said Peter Storey, bishop of the country's Methodist Church Central District. In a visit to Minneapolis he recalled how police agents helped unify the churches by bombing the South African Council of Churches' headquarters. Storey also described South Africa as walking on a tightrope between a commitment to compassionate economics and the demands of the world's economic system.

-- The World Council of Churches reduced its deficit from about $13.6 million to $680,000. But the WCC may face other financial problems. Payments from German churches, which constitute 40 percent of the WCC's income, would drop significantly if the German parliament passes proposed income tax reform legislation that would cut the amount of taxes given to churches.

-- The only two known complete copies of the Tyndale New Testament, the first English Bible translation, will be displayed at the New York Public Library's Center for Humanities until May 17. The translated New Testament was completed by William Tyndale and published in 1526. The rest of the estimated 3,000 copies were systematically destroyed under orders from the Archbishop of Canterbury in November 1526 (see March, page 49).


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February issue


Embracing diversity