The Lutheran World Federation must discontinue its development programs in Eritrea. The Government of the State of Eritrea decided to bring an end to the involvement of nongovernmental organizations in development programs, requiring that all material and equipment be handed over to the government. The LWF is currently negotiating with the government about the use of the LWF assets in the country.
# The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is studying a secret plan to refute historical church doctrines once used to justify white superiority and keep blacks out of the Mormon priesthood, according to the Los Angeles Times. Quoting unnamed soures, the newspaper said the church would soon announce that blacks could now become priests.
# InterAction, a coalition of 160 humanitarian agencies, gave Lutheran World Relief its Mildred Robbins Leet Award. LWR was cited for inspiring progress toward gender equity during the last five years in its own programs and with partner organizations overseas.
# One out of three pastors in the Lutheran Church of Denmark is a woman, but the church projects that females will make up the majority of clergy in 10 to 12 years. The first three women were ordained in the Church of Denmark 50 years ago.
# Won-Sang Ji, 70, president emeritus of the Lutheran Church in Korea, died April 27. Ji spent 40 years helping develop the Lutheran faith in Korea, serving as executive director of the Christian Correspondence Course (1960-68) and as the first president of the Lutheran Church in Korea for almost 23 years, until 1993. He also served as pastor of Central Lutheran Church in Seoul (1965-79), until his post as president became full time.
# The United Church of Canada, responding to petitions from its congregations, is asking the federal government to investigate the social, economic and legal impact of legal and illegal gambling, including charitable gaming such as lotteries. Canada has 55 casinos that earn about $1.7 billion a year, half of which goes to provincial and federal governments.
# About 1,000 women and 50 men, including 100 ELCA members, participated in the Re-Imagining Revival in St. Paul, Minn., a four-day event marking the end of the World Council of Churches' "Ecumenical Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women." Lutheran speakers included Barbara Lundblad, preacher for the Protestant Hour, and Musimbi Kanyoro, YMCA world general secretary. The event held workshops re-imagining the roles of women of color or of homosexuals in the church.
# After discussions between the Lutheran World Federation and the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Lutherans are being asked to recognize the Seventh-day Adventist Church no longer "as a sect but as a "free church and a Christian world communion." Both churches also recommend the mutual recognition of "the basic Christian commitment" of each other's faith communions.
# To aid some 350,000 people nearing starvation in Sudan, trucks carrying 87 tons of food and 22 tons of seeds are arriving in Bahr al Ghalzal, with another 385 tons of food scheduled soon for the country's southern area. To speed up some crucial supplies, 165 tons of food will be airlifted to the area.
# At its assembly, the United Evangelical Lutheran Church criticized the Argentinean government's policies on education, justice, corruption and unemployment and spoke against the possible re-election of Carlos Menem, the country's president. A "Declaration on the National Reality," published at the end of the meeting, opposes a current project that seeks a second re-election of Menem, which is prohibited in the current constitution.
# Some 20 religious leaders, including ELCA Presiding Bishop H. George Anderson, signed a letter to President Clinton calling on him to strengthen efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East. The leaders asked him to work for a peace where "the Jewish people no longer fear for their existence [and] the Palestinian people can gather their refugees to live with dignity and security in their own democratic state."
# Leaders of Brazil's Roman Catholic Church defended starving people who stole food from supermarkets and warehouses to survive. "The church does not condemn anybody who takes food, wherever they find it, to avoid starving," said Cardinal Serafim Fernandes de Araujo of Belo Horizonete.
# Representatives of 15 Orthodox churches recommended that their churches boycott worship services, common prayers and some votes taken during the World Council of Churches assembly in Zimbabwe in December. They are concerned about the council's use in worship of inclusive non-male gender language and the presence of women priests. Among those who made the recommendation are representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the spiritual head of the world Orthodoxy, and the Russian Orthodox Church, which is the largest WCC member church.
# Membership in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) continued to decline in 1997, but at a slower rate than the previous year. Membership at the end of last year was 2,609,191, a decrease of 22,275 from 1996. The Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest Protestant denomination, continues to grow, increasing 1.3 percent in 1997 to 15.9 million.
# The Freedom from Religious Persecution Act, designed to ease persecution of religious minorities abroad, passed the U.S. House with a 373-41 vote, with 169 Democrats joining 206 Republicans in support of the measure. The act would establish a State Department Office of Religious Persecution Monitoring and authorizes economic sanctions against nations that engage in systematic religious persecution. The Senate has yet to vote, and the White House has signaled its intention to veto the bill.
# Christian Krause, president of the Lutheran World Federation, said he will support the Jubilee Year 2000 program, an international campaign to pressure international financial institutions to cancel poor nations' debts during the year 2000.
# Leaders of Scientology hope to gain official status as a religion in Denmark to perform weddings and to be exempted from taxation. The German government considers Scientology as potentially dangerous to society, but the group hopes to benefit from Denmark's liberal legislation. Scientology's European headquarters is in Copenhagen.
# Six years after the authorization of the new Danish translation of the Old Testament, a group of philologists in Semitic languages announced they are preparing their own translation. They believe the Bible should be translated by philologists, not theologians.
# While religious people are healthier than non-religious people, they tend to be heavier, according to a study done at Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind. Southern Baptists were the heaviest on average, while Protestants of the Reformation era were ranked eighth, with a mix of Hindus, Muslims and Buddhists ranked the leanest. The study also showed that obese people who are religious tend to be happier and healthier than obese people who are not religious, but they are more depressed, on average, than normal-weight people, regardless of their faith.
# Gro Harlem Brundtland, a Lutheran physician and former primer minister of Norway, was named director of general of the World Health Organization. She pledged new links with industry and immediate revamping of the U.N. health agency. She takes office July 21.
# A Michigan regional body of the Christian Reformed Church terminated the ordination of Jim Lucas, the denomination's first openly gay minister. The 22-6 vote was based only on the technical issue that Lucas had not received a ministerial call. He remains a member in good standing of Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, Mich.
# Jimmy Creech, a United Methodist pastor who was acquitted in a church trial after presiding at a union ceremony for two women, will not be reappointed as pastor of First United Methodist Church in Omaha, Neb. Creech said the bishop told him that division within First stemming from the union ceremony makes him unable to lead the congregation. The bishop told Creech he could seek an appointment elsewhere in Nebraska, seek appointment in another annual conference or request a leave of absence. Creech said he was "stunned and extremely disappointed."
# Three mourners were shot in Pakistan during the funeral procession of John Joseph, a Roman Catholic priest who committed suicide to protest a death sentence given to a Pakistani Catholic convicted of blaspheming the prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, by speaking favorably of author Salman Rushdie. Thousands of mourners began throwing stones at Pakistani police as they carried Joseph's body to Faisalabad, where he served as bishop. Police had been ordered to fire over demonstrators' heads, the local chief of police said, but at least two fired directly into the crowd after being hit by stones. Christians comprise 2 percent of Pakistan's more than 140 million people.
© 2013 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers