* Through the recent change in government in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), Action by Churches Together-which includes the Lutheran World Federation-has continued working with Rwandan refugees around Kisangani. Assi stance also is provided to returning refugees upon arrival in Rwanda. More than 14 tons of medicine and 20 tons of high energy food, as well as 50 rolls of plastic sheeting, has been flown into Kisangani by ACT/Norwegian Church Aid. The death rate among r eturning refugees to Kigali, Rwanda, has reached seven people a day, according to LWF. Since May 1 about 2,000 Rwandan refugees have been flown in daily. The refugees, mainly young men and women with children and unaccompanied minors, are transported to t he transit center where they receive food and other items.
* Janne Pedersen, one of 16 Danish missionaries attached to the Ethiopian Evangelical [Lutheran] Church Mekane Yesus was murdered on Good Friday. The Danish Evangelical Mission, after investigating, believes the murder was a ritual killing by a group of religious extremists. Pedersen's desecrated body was found in Bale, a Southern province, in an area dominated by Muslims. For safety reasons, missionaries will not visit the area where the murder occurred.
* Anglican bishops in England, Canada and Brazil are taking a second look at their policies toward homosexual church members. In England, John Baker, the former bishop of Salisbury, called for the Church of England to sanction gay marriages and allow homosexuals to enjoy the "spiritual blessing" of a sexual relationship. Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey said there would not be sudden change in the church's position, but it would continue to review the issue. Canadian bishops completed a six-year review of their 1979 policy, deciding to retain those guidelines that allow non-practicing homosexuals to be ordained but to not accept homosexual marriages. Brazilian bishops have encouraged Anglicans to accept homosexuals and call for "dialogue, prudence and pastoral concern for people with a homosexual orientation in the faith community."
* Oakhurst Baptist Church in Decatur, Ga., amended its church covenant to specifically welcome people regardless of their sexual orientation. The statement appears to oppose the statement of the Southern Baptist Convention,which amended its constitution in 1992 to ban membership by "churches which act to affirm, approve or endorse homosexual behavior."
* Church of England officials say it will cost more than $25 million to compensate clergy leaving the denomination because of their opposition to the ordination of women as priests. Under legislation passed by the church shortly before the first women priests were ordained in 1994, clerics who resign their ministry because of their conscientious objection to women priests receive a three-year stipend.
* Dean Kelley, a leading proponent of religious liberty who served as the executive for religious liberty of the National Council for Churches for 30 years, died of cancer. He was 70.
* A group of 50 Alabama clergy have filed a friend-of-the-court brief with that state's Supreme Court arguing that Judge Roy Moore's sponsorship of Christian prayers and the display of the Ten Commandments in his Gadsen, Ala., courtroom violates the Constitution. "Church-state separation is not an anti-religious concept, but instead protects the religious diversity and equality by ensuring that government remains neutral on religious matters, neither favoring not inhibiting religion," the brief stated.
* Amid growing tensions between Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics in the Ukraine, the Vatican and the Orthodox patriarchate in Moscow have urged both sides to tone down their rhetoric to achieve reconciliation. The churches declared that a joint study should be conducted on the theological and pastoral practices that divide them.
* South Carolina's Lutheran, Episcopal, Roman Catholic and United Methodist bishops issued a statement confessing guilt and seeking forgiveness for the "sin of racism." The statement, signed by ELCA South Carolina Bishop David Donges, was issued following a two-day dialogue at which 73 church members met with bishops to discuss racism.
* Lutheran World Relief has provided $30,000 to aid local relief efforts for the victims of a cyclone that struck Bangladesh, leaving as many as 1.5 million people homeless and as many as 112 people dead. Hundreds of thousands of people are reportedly living in the open without food or drinking water. In addition to relief items for 20,000 stricken families, the Christian Commission for Development in Bangladesh, funded in part by the Lutheran World Federation, is planning to mobilize local women and men to repair earthworks, roads and waterways.
* Actions by Churches Together, which includes the Lutheran World Federation, has sent more than 2,000 tons of rice into North Korea, a country with reported widespread famine following two years of flooding and a decline in agriculture production. ACT previously sent 500 tons of barley seeds, 200 tons of plastic sheeting and 10 tons of spinach seeds to North Korea. People in remote areas are reportedly surviving on bark and green leaves.
* Bishop Manas Buthelezi, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa, said he was attacked and his car stolen by four armed men outside the gate of the diocesan office in Soweto, Johannesburg. Buthelezi also serves as a vice president of the Lutheran World Federation.
* Manidy Edmond, president of the Eastern Synod of the Malagasy Lutheran Church [Madagascar] singled out the ELCA for special thanks when he thanked all who provided relief in the wake of devastation caused by Cyclone Gretel. He says some people, including church workers, still live in homes consisting of two or three sheets of corrugated iron put together tent-style. Agricultural assistance to the area will continue for some time. Relief efforts to complete the rebuilding and repairs to 21 of 400 destroyed churches are ongoing.
© 2013 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers