* President Clinton reversed his position and is now supporting the "Ottawa process," a Canadian-backed effort to create a worldwide land mine ban. Clinton had backed U.N. talks aimed at limiting land mine use to places such as South Korea, where they are seen as a crucial defense against a North Korean invasion. More than 100 countries have said they would participate in the Ottawa process that would stop the use of the land mines, which kill or maim an estimated 72 civilians every day. ELCA members and the Lutheran World Relief gathered some 82,000 signatures to present to Clinton in support of the ban.
* Two Baptist ethicists have taken opposing views about the Southern Baptist Convention's boycott of the Walt Disney Co. because the church believes it promotes a homosexual lifestyle. David Gushee of Union University in Jackson, Tenn., said the boycott reflects the notion that "American society ought to be Christian," while C. Ben Mitchell of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., said "Christians have no choice but to speak out on moral issues." James Dobson of Focus on the Family also is urging participation in the boycott.
* President Clinton issued guidelines clarifying a current law on how faith and belief may be expressed in the federal workplace. Among the religious practices allowed are: Federal employees may have a Bible or Koran at their desk to read during breaks; they must have equal access to a cafeteria or office conference room for a lunchtime Bible study; they may have religious discussions in hallways and parking lots with willing participant;, and managers are expected to coordinate work schedules to minimize interference of religious holidays and to permit employees to wear clothing required by their faith.
* The 800-member Lutheran Ministerium Synod-USA,formed in 1995, added three pastors to membership, making a total of 11 clergy on the roster at its Second Annual Convention. The LMS-USA, made up mostly of former ELCA pastors with a "high view of Scripture," also approved chartering up to eight new mission congregations in the coming year.
* The World Council of Churches' Program to Overcome Violence has started a global campaign called Peace to the City. The campaign is responding to the rise of violence around the world by focusing on Johannesburg and six other cities as microcosms of some of the most destructive forces and some of the most creative initiatives to overcome violence.
* Sumoward Harris, the bishop of the Lutheran Church of Liberia, was assaulted in his home by armed men. The ELCA and Lutheran World Relief have written a letter asking U.S. Department of State investigate the incident and to express concern for Harris.
* The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod voted unanimously for a major restructuring. The proposal calls for a Synodical Council to assume the functions and responsibilities of the present Coordinating Council and the Board of Trustees. The denomination has 1,235 congregations and 413,839 baptized members.
* Hawaii has implemented the nation's most comprehensive rights package for domestic partners, which allows same-sex couples and opposite-sex unmarried couples older than 18 to qualify for health and other benefits. Couples who cannot marry will be recognized by the state as "reciprocal beneficiaries" which entitles them to many rights reserved for married couples, including family leave and joint auto insurance. Religious conservatives are supporting a constitutional amendment that, if passed, would give the legislature power to restrict marriages to opposite-sex couples.
* The U.S. House of Representatives Science Committee in July approved legislation to ban permanently the use of federal funds for research on human-embryo or human cloning. The House Commerce Committee must approve the bill before it can be sent to the full House for a vote.
* In an effort to combat falling membership, the North Elbian Evangelical Lutheran Church is drawing up proposals for "trial memberships" as a means of encouraging people to become involved in the Lubeck, Germany-based denomination. The 2.4 million-member church has lost 150,000 members over the past five years.
* The three-decade membership decline in the United Methodist Church continued in 1996. The denomination, with a U.S. membership of 8.5 million, reported a decline of 42,000 members last year, compared to declines of 49,308 in 1995 and 62,267 in 1994.
* David Larson, president of the National Institute for Human Research, said studies show 80 percent of Americans want religious or spiritual concepts included in the care they receive from doctors or other health care providers. But only one of 10 doctors addresses spiritual or religious issues.
* The United Church of Canada, that country's largest Protestant denomination, expressed its "deep regret and sorrow" to the First Nations of Canada-Indians and other indigenous people-for the suffering inflicted on them by Canada's system of residential schools that were often run by the church. The statement follows an apology offered to the native peoples in 1986.
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers