* Shirley Johnson, Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, Scotia, N.Y., took seriously the challenge of Kathryn Wolford, executive director of Lutheran World Relief. At the1996 Women of the ELCA triennial convention, Wolford asked for 67,000 signatures for the global land mine ban. This summer Johnson became the 67,000th signatory for Lutheran petitions that became part of more than 110,000 U.S. signatures presented to President Clinton. The United States in September rejected a draft treaty that's expected to be signed in December by more than 100 nations in Ottawa, Canada. Legislation to ban further deployments of land mines by 2000 has strong support in the House and Senate. Ban advocates vowed to continue their efforts against mines, which kill 72 people each day.
* Several Chicago ELCA churches participated in 1997 Faith and Work, a program to renew ties between labor and the religious community. Sponsored by theChicago Interfaith Committee on Worker Issuesand the Chicago Federation of Labor, the Labor Day weekend program had union leaders, members and activists visiting 150 congregations to discuss ties between values in the labor movement and religion. Some 20 other cities participated in this year's event.
* The ELCA hired Periscope Marketing Communications, a Minneapolis agency, to run its advertising campaign, which will focus on increasing membership especially among the young and churchless.
* The Women of the ELCA Southeastern Synod brought 20,000 pounds of relief supplies-soap, quilts and blankets, health and sewing kits, and clothing-to its convention to donate to Lutheran World Relief.
* ELCA members added 120 voices to the group of 500 Christian anti-hunger advocates who lobbied Congress and the administration at Bread for the World's National Gathering. The group asked for policy changes that address root causes for hunger and poverty and that educate communities about causes and solutions. "The gathering was an excellent opportunity for people of faith to show Christlike concern," said David Beckmann, an ELCA pastor and executive director of Bread for the World, a Christian hunger organization.
* More than 500,000 people face acute food shortages due to severe drought in Tanzania, according toAction by Churches Together. No loss of human life has been reported, but livestock and wildlife have died and the situation is getting worse. ACT issued an appeal for $2.68 million to provide aid to Tanzania, and the ELCA allocated $20,000 for that appeal.
* One year after Hurricane Fran destroyed Faith Lutheran School, Raleigh, N.C., the building is ready to reopen. The school had much support, including immediate assistance from Lutheran Disaster Response, followed by aid from Keep Faith Alive, an association of seven ELCA and LCMS congregations. School continued last year at two congregations.
* Bethany Home of the Northwest at Silver Lake, Wash., puts the whole world within the grasp of its residents. With a donation of three computers from AT&T Wireless and a grant from Lutheran Brotherhood to hook a computer to the Internet for a year, residents are now E-mailing nationwide, taking computer tours of the France's Louvre Museum and making holiday cards for family members.
* Pointing to the ELCA statement opposing the death penalty, Russell Siler, director of the Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs, thanked the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee for removing a provision that would make the death penalty a possible punishment for crimes committed by children as young as 16 from the Violent and Repeat Juvenile Offender Act. "Capital punishment focuses on retribution, which may reflect a spirit of vengeance, and does nothing to alleviate the root causes of violence such as economic injustice and disintegrating social structures," Siler said.
In other action, Siler said the ELCA has "great concern" about H.R. 1709 which would overrule President Clinton's recent decision to not allow states to transfer responsibility for running the Medicaid, Food Stamp and Women, Infants and Children programs to private sector companies. "There appears to be no public accountability," he said. "There appears to be no specific policy that would prohibit [the private sector from] increasing profit by cutting clients or reducing benefits."
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