* Bishop Robert Mattheis, Sierra Pacific Synod, censured University Lutheran Church, Berkeley, Calif., for calling a pastor not on the ELCA roster. Jeff Johnson, who was denied approval because the ELCA requires gay and lesbian pastors to remain celibate, has served University since November. In a letter to the congregation, Mattheis says the primary issue is not sexual orientation but rather whom ELCA congregations may call as a pastor. "Your unilateral action of calling a non-rostered person challenges the integrity of this church's governing documents and its process of moral deliberation," says Mattheis.
Johnson expressed disappointment, telling the San Francisco Chronicle he would have preferred Mattheis "to act in a way that would advance the cause of justice for all."
Under censure, which puts a congregation on notice it is no longer in good standing with the denomination, University will lose ELCA campus ministry funds. Mattheis' letter says the synod may bring discipline charges in January if the congregation is still out of compliance.
In 1995, the ELCA expelled two San Francisco churches, St. Francis and First United, for calling clergy not approved for ordination, including Johnson, who served at First.
* It's been months since Hurricane Floyd made national headlines, but Lutherans are still working hard to help North Carolina residents. Volunteers are needed, especially those with construction skills. To volunteer call George Strunk, (888) 336-4250. Send donations to ELCA Domestic Disaster Response, Box 71764, Chicago, IL 60694-1764.
* Bethany College, Lindsborg, Kan., received a $1.2 million gift from the estate of Tex E. and Elizabeth Fury of Salina, Kan. The couple were longtime supporters of the college. Elizabeth Fury died in March, 14 months after her husband.
* Lutheran Social Services of the Miami Valley, Dayton, Ohio, received the Lutheran Service in America Award for Excellence in Senior Volunteerism at LSA's annual conference. The agency was commended for the ways it involved seniors in community services it provided to 1,000 people a day.
* The "Piece Corps" quilting group from Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Olympia, Wash., was featured in Family Circle (April 18). The article notes the group has made more than 12,000 quilts for Lutheran World Relief since 1971. Writer Christine Hansen, who has contributed to The Lutheran, attends Good Shepherd.
* "The Great Bibleland Dig" was the theme for last year's Bible school materials from Augsburg Fortress, Publishers. St. Peter Lutheran Church, Norwalk, Ohio, brought depth to the theme, as Pastor Fred Wiechers drew on two summers working on an archeological dig in Israel to lead the children on their own excavation on church grounds. They unearthed pieces of glass, broken pots and bailing wire.
* Faith Lutheran Church, Rochelle, Ill., reaped a harvest of savings from a homegrown landscaping strategy for its sanctuary. Seven years ago, member Larry Marty planted 25 tree seedlings no bigger than his thumb on a vacant section of the church's property. Marty, who teaches horticulture at nearby Kishwaukee College, nourished the plants for pennies and last fall transplanted them — now with trunks a half-foot in diameter — around the church.
© 2013 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers