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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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After a year of studying relocation options, Lutheran World Relief's board of directors decided to move its domestic operations from New York City to Baltimore. "The move will enhance LWR's long-term viability and effectiveness in continuing our mission and in serving our constituency," said Kathryn Wolford, LWR executive director. LWR has invited its entire staff to relocate to Baltimore. Timing of employee moves is undecided, pending commercial lease negotiations.

Forget Starbucks. The Church of Sweden now has its own coffee. "This is the first coffee produced according to ecological and just methods, and marked accordingly, to be sold in Sweden," said Anders Akerlund, chairman of the Church of Sweden Environment Protection Group. Swedish Church Coffee is a cooperation between the church and growers in the Sierra Juarez mountains in Mexico that guarantees a minimum price.

Billy Graham's film ministry, World Wide Pictures, has distributed its latest film, Repeat Performance, a story about forgiveness that's set in New Zealand. Based in Minneapolis and with a studio in California, World Wide Pictures has released more than 125 films in the last 45 years. Churches renting a Worldwide film pay $100 to $200 depending on the congregation size.

A severe cyclone struck Madagascar at the end of January and heavily damaged or destroyed several churches, schools, clinics and a hospital of the Malagasy Lutheran Church. Thousands were left homeless.

Indonesian President Suharto called for restraint among the country's many religious faiths after a Muslim mob riot in West Java. Eleven churches were damaged, including four that were burned down. Marudut Manalu told Lutheran World Information that one of the churches burned in the riots belonged to the [Lutheran] Protestant Christian Batak Church (HKBP). A month before these latest riots, Muslims burned down a Lutheran church near Jakarta. Last June, 10 Lutheran churches were ransacked in Surabaya, East Java, including a church belonging to the HKBP.

For the first time in its 90-year history, the Protestant Federation of France will be headed by a Lutheran. Jean Tartier, a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of France who served as the federation's ecumenical affairs secretary, was elected its council president.

Lutheran pastors in Sweden are threatening to strike in protest over working hours. The national 40-hour work week in Sweden has been eliminated, and pastors seldom receive two days off in a row.

Lutheran World Relief's petition to ban land mines has received almost 40,000 signatures coming from all 50 states. LWR has set a goal of 67,000 signatures, the number of quilts sent in one year to Angola, a country where mines have been widely deployed.

Retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu underwent surgery this week in South Africa to have part of a cancerous prostate gland removed. Tutu heads South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission investigating human rights violations under apartheid.

George Barna, president of the Barna Research Group, has been polling Americans on their spiritual beliefs for more than a decade. In his recent book The Index of Leading Spiritual Indicators, Barna offers a statistical report on the state of religion in America. Here are some of his findings: Three out of four Americans say having a close relationship with God is very desirable; 30 percent strongly believe they have a personal responsibility to tell others about their faith; half of all adults believe it is very desirable to belong to a local congregation. Sixty percent believe that Satan is a symbol of evil and not a real being; one in 10 believe Noah's wife was Joan of Arc.

Patriarch Alexy II, leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, marked Russian Orthodox Christmas by calling on church members to foster spiritual revival in the nation. "It's high time to muster the spiritual forces of the nation," said Alexy. "May wisdom, love, faith, truth and concord help Russia achieve spiritual renovation."

More than 30 American entertainment industry figures and others have published an open letter to Chancellor Helmut Kohl, accusing Germany of persecuting Scientologists as the country once persecuted Jews. The letter was published as a full-page ad in the Paris-based International Herald-Tribune and was signed by Dustin Hoffman, Aaron Spelling, Oliver Stone and Goldie Hawn.

In Germany atheists and agnostics outnumber religious believers for the first time in the nation as a whole. While 50 percent of residents from western Germany claim to be religious, only one in five eastern Germans make the same claim. Two-thirds of western Germans younger than 30 say God has "no meaning" for them, and even more young easterners gave the same response.

About 10,000 Bibles are shipped from Nanjing to 40 distribution centers throughout China every day, according to the American Bible Society, which provides funds to Nanjing's Amity Press.

The World Council of Churches has accused Nigeria's military leaders and Shell Oil of widespread oppression and environmental devastation in the African nation's oil-rich Ogoniland region. A report from the WCC said, "a quiet state of siege prevails even today in Ogoniland. Intimidation, rape, arrests, torture, shooting and looting by [the Nigerian military's] soldiers continues to occur."

The mass of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland is heading toward its ninth reform. The term "mass" will be restored, old material from the tradition of the early church and influences from other churches were introduced into experimental material. But attendance has dropped in the majority of parishes that have experimented with the new mass since 1992. Now some are wondering whether or not to change to the new liturgy if it alienates faithful churchgoers and does not attract new members. A study showed that 60 percent of infrequent churchgoers like the changes, but the study also showed that the new service least affected those the church would like to reach, those under 40 who attend church less than once a year.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland is setting up a communications network to interconnect 600 parishes, eight dioceses and the central administration of the church in Helsinki by the year 2000. The project, named the CHURCH network, is based on the latest Internet and Intranet technology.


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December issue

DECEMBER issue:

Advent: Waiting together

More...