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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Worldscan

• An ELCA pastor, Randall R. Lee, was elected to a four-year term as a vice president-at-large of the National Council of Churches at the organization’s 2003 General Assembly Nov. 4-6 in Jackson, Miss. Lee is an assistant to the ELCA presiding bishop and director of the ELCA Department for Ecumenical Affairs. NCC General Secretary Bob Edgar was re-elected to a second four-year term.

• The National Council of Churches endorsed a consumer boycott against Taco Bell and Mont Olive Pickle products. The NCC made the decision during its General Assembly, Nov. 4-6, in Jackson, Miss. The Taco Bell boycott was called in March 2001 by the Coalition of Immokalee (Fla.) Workers after the company refused to address charges that migrant farmworkers were being exploited, particularly under supplier Six L’s Packing Co., one of the largest U.S. tomato growers. Florida migrant farm workers must pick and haul 2 tons of tomatoes to earn $50—less than half of what they earned 20 years ago after adjusting for inflation. The last time the NCC endorsed a consumer boycott was 1988 against the Royal Dutch/Shell oil company for its investments in South Africa. Several denominations including the ELCA abstained from the decisions to endorse the Taco Bell and Mt. Olive Pickle boycotts because their deonomination hadn’t yet spoken on the issue.”

• The United Church of Christ is facing its worst financial crisis in 47 years. Unless drastic cuts are made, the church will face a $3.5 million deficit in 2004. If not addressed, church officials said the deficit could grow to $33 million by 2007. They attributed the difficulties to a poor economy, lower investment income, and a drop in funds that go from congregations to denominational headquarters. “I just cannot abide the thought that we’re going to allow ourselves to preside over a tranquil decline, and that’s the trajectory we’re on,” said UCC President John Thomas. To help, the UCC launched a campaign to increase overall giving by $140 million to $1 billion by 2007.

• New female theology students in the Church of Denmark greatly outnumbered their male peers in 2003. More than 60 percent of University of Copenhagen theology students, and 80 percent of University of Aarhus theology students are women. Ole Davidson, who heads the Aarhus theology faculty, said if the percentage of male students continues to be below 30, the church may need to discuss the situation. Author Bertill Nordahl told the Christian Daily: “It is alarming that after many years of masculine dominance we are moving toward a feminine dominance. When one sex fills the whole room, both sexes are losers.”

• Douglas Theuner, Episcopal bishop of New Hampshire, said Don Wilson could no longer lead services at Church of the Redeemer, Rochester, N.H., “in view of” his Oct. 29 letter declaring no loyalty for V. Gene Robinson. An openly gay man, Robinson takes over the diocese after Theuner’s retirement in March. Meanwhile, several leaders in the Anglican Communion refused to recognize Robinson. Thomas Kogo, Anglican bishop of Kenya’s Eldoret diocese, reported that Kenya’s Anglican leaders have “broken [their] links with the U.S. Episcopal Church.” Peter Akinola, Anglican archbishop of Nigeria, and Peter Jensen, Anglican archbishop of Sydney, Australia, said Robinson’s ministry as bishop won’t be recognized by the majority of the Anglican Communion.

• The Missouri Baptist Convention voted to defund William Jewell College, Liberty, Mo., of more than $1 million over what Missouri Baptists called the school’s tolerance of homosexuality and hosting of such plays as The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and The Vagina Monologues. The Southern Baptist Convention’s news service said the monies will be redirected to other Southern-Baptist related entities. William Jewell President David Sallee said the school’s tradition of “vigorous liberal arts education [and] exploration of Christian values and spiritual growth … will endure.”

• Following the legalization of same-sex marriage in Ontario and British Columbia, Canada, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada voted Nov. 4 to begin a study of whether or not to bless same-sex unions. ELCIC Bishop Raymond Schultz said the study must consider the value of church unity, effects on ecumenical relationships, how authority is granted for decision-making in the ELCIC, and ways to allow people to express views without fear of attack. He called for a time of “listening prayer” across the church.

• Hoping to get Liberia’s children back in school immediately after a devastating 14-year war, UNICEF signed a contract with Lutheran World Federation-World Service in Liberia to build classrooms for first- through sixth-graders in each of the 14 camps for people displaced from their homes. Each grade will have its own 12-by-12 foot classroom. UNICEF will provide school supplies. Lutherans are also working to provide food relief, emergency supplies, and retraining for former child soldiers in the war-torn country.

• The Lutheran Development Service in Zimbabwe is “extremely concerned” about the continued humanitarian and economic emergency in that country. Because of seed shortages and high prices for fertilizer, only one-third of the maize harvest is expected. Food is available in cities, but many people can’t afford it. As public health services continue to decline, deaths have risen for mothers giving birth and children under 5. At presstime, experts were predicting that inflation would reach 800 percent by the end of 2003. Zimbabwe can’t even pay the interest on its foreign debt. Lutherans are distributing food relief, as well as seeds for planting crops—so people don’t eat the seeds that must be planted to stave off an even worse food crisis in 2004.

• Abraham’s House, a center and guest house for interfaith dialogue between Christians, Muslims and Jews, opened its doors on the grounds of Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Beit Jala, near Bethlehem. The Lutheran-sponsored center uses the biblical hospitality of Abraham as a model for adults and youth learning to understand each other and coming to reconciliation. “We want to help people see God in the other religion, not only in ones own religion,” said Munib Younan, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan (and Palestine). “Once you see God in the other religion, then you can accept the humanity of the other … and then you can mutually recognize each other’s human, civil and religious and political rights.”

• Reconstruction projects in Afghanistan’s Shomali Valley are continuing through Church World Service, an interchurch relief and development group in which the ELCA and other National Council of Churches members cooperate. Aid workers help the most vulnerable displaced and returning families with housing materials for 1,000 homes in the Bagram district of Parwan province. They also hope to increase income-generating opportunities for 2,500 families and strengthen community participation by rehabilitating the centuries-old Shura—a collective decision-making institution. CWS is also involved in education projects in the Hazarajat region and income-generating programs for nearly 2,000 women in Kabul.

• Sixty percent of Americans think religious leaders shouldn’t try to influence government policy on abortion, compared to 38 percent who believe religious leaders should strive for such an influence, according to a September 2003 Gallup poll. Of those who attend church weekly, 41 percent thought they shouldn’t try to influence government on abortion, compared to 51 percent who approved of such an influence. The same poll found 52 percent of Americans think religious leaders should not influence government policy on the death penalty, while 45 percent felt such influence was appropriate.

• According to an FBI report, hate crimes dropped in 2002. State and law enforcement agencies reported 7,462 hate crimes, 23 percent less than in 2001. Of 2002 incidents, 49 percent were racially motivated, 19 percent were based on bias against a religious group, 17 percent were based on a bias against sexual orientation, 15 percent were based on ethnicity bias, and 0.6 percent were victims of a disability bias.


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