The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


February 2001 Worldscan

  • The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sierra Leone launched a microcredit loan program for amputees, victims of the country's 10-year conflict. The new project is a follow-up of an Amputee Trust and Reintegration Fund established in 1999, with financial support from the ELCA. Church president Tom Barnett, speaking at a workshop that taught loan beneficiaries ways to manage their small-scale businesses, urged the amputees to be "productive in their disability."
  • Janis Vanags, archbishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia, accused the country's politicians of betraying the "hopes and emotions" that emerged when Latvia declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Vanags and other religious leaders staged a protest to mark the country's Independence Day and to focus attention on public disappointment with the government and its failure to deal with problems that concerned various churches.
  • The Church of Norway apologized to its nation's Romanies (once known as gypsies) for its ill-treatment of their people. Many organizations involved in the suppression of the Romany culture were church-run or managed by clergy.

  • The ELCA and the United Methodist Church met in December to lay a foundation for talks in 2001 aimed at forming a full communion relationship. A meeting in September will allow representatives of each denomination to explore issues of Scripture and doctrine. Other meetings will cover the churches' relationships with other Christian denominations and the history of Lutheran-United Methodist dialogue.

  • Jim Wallis, head of Call to Renewals, and other religious leaders, met with President Bush to discuss the role of faith-based initiatives in overcoming poverty. Wallis challenged Bush to make the reduction of child poverty a priority. Currently 12 million U.S. children — one in six — live in poverty, and the U.S. Mayors Conference reported that the demand for emergency shelter had seen the highest increase in a decade.

  • Leaders of three unofficial United Methodist groups — Good News, Confessing Movement and UMAction — filed complaints with the denomination's financial agency charging that the Board of Church and Society magazine, Christian Social Action, violated policy by using church funds to "promote the acceptance of homosexuality." The three organizations charge that at least 10 articles in the magazine's November/December 2000 issue urged "at least some form of acceptance of homosexual behavior." While the church's opposition to homosexual practice is included, the groups say the magazine had no articles defending the denomination's position. Erik Alsgaard, the magazine's editor, said the articles were intended to "allow those without voice to be heard," Alsgaard said.

  • The number of Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod congregations serving mostly non-white ethnic groups has grown since 1994. The biggest increase was in African immigrant congregations, which rose from zero in 1994 to 64 in 2001. Chinese immigrant ministries rose from 16 to 30, and Latino congregations increased from 90 to 112 during the same period.

  • Duke University, Durham, N.C., decided to allow same-sex unions in its chapel, even though its historic sponsor, the United Methodist Church, officially prohibits such ceremonies. The university noted that other campus faith groups, including the United Church of Christ and Unitarian Universalists, do allow same-sex unions and both of those groups use the campus chapel.

  • Pope John Paul II said all who live a just life will be saved even if they don't believe in Jesus Christ and the Roman Catholic Church. "The gospel teaches us that those who live in accordance with the beatitudes — the poor in spirit, the pure of heart, those who bear lovingly the sufferings of life — will enter God's kingdom," the pope said. "All who seek God with a sincere heart, including those who do not know Christ and his church, contribute under the influence of grace to the building of this kingdom."

  • African Americans and Latinos are more likely to contribute to charity than whites, but they are asked to do so less often, according to "Cultures of Caring," a study funded by the Ford foundation that echos another White House report. "If solicitations serve to increase giving, then organizations are overlooking an important resource by not soliciting donations from African Americans and Hispanics at great rates," the White House report states. "They are less likely to contribute to endowment campaigns, and instead focus their giving on religious institutions and organizations, or on efforts that meet pressing needs."

  • Women religious leaders, human rights attorneys, family members and friends honored four American churchwomen on the 20th anniversary of their murders. The women were working on relief and assistance projects in El Salvador when they were killed by members of El Salvador's national guard in 1980. The commemoration ended a year of tribute for the churchwomen, Archbishop Oscar Romero and all those killed in the country's civil war.

  • The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland apologized for decades of silence about the Holocaust and pledged to do more to raise awareness of the Nazi's extermination campaign against the Jews. The church said it will increase teachings about Jews and the common roots of Judaism and Christianity.

  • Cardinal Myroslav Ivan Lubachivsky, 86, head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, died Dec. 13. Lubachivsky's 16-year tenure as major archbishop of the Ukranian Catholic Church spanned the church's emergence from the Soviet-era catacombs to a period of rapid growth that made it Ukraine's second biggest faith after Orthodox Christianity.

  • Michel Sabbah, Jerusalem's Latin (Roman Catholic) Patriarch said Israel must end its occupation of the West Bank and grant Palestinians independence for there to be regional peace. "Justice to the Palestinians and justice to the Israelis, which means what is Palestinian now, what was Palestinian in Jerusalem, should go back to the Palestinians, and what was Israeli, what is Israeli, should go back to the Israelis," Sabbah said.

  • Seven seminarians — one woman and six men — are serving a one-year internship this year, following their graduation in July 2000 from the Lutheran Seminary in Novosaratovka, Russia. With student aid from the Lutheran Board for Mission Support, the seven are the first to graduate from the seminary since 1932, when the Soviets confiscated the old school in St. Petersburg.

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