Three Albanian aid workers with the Mother Teresa charitable organization were killed Aug. 24 in the Kosovo capital of Pristina, apparently by Serbian canon fire. The workers were driving a tractor with aid packages and had just passed a Serb checkpoint when they were hit. The Mother Teresa charity is a partner of Action by Churches Together in Kosovo. The Lutheran World Federation is part of ACT. Following the Sept. 2 crash of Swissair Flight No. 111 off the coast of Nova Scotia, ELCA pastor Stephen Larson, now serving the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Geneva, Switzerland, was called to the Geneva airport to minister to families of victims. The flight was headed to Geneva. Dimitri Petrov-an aid worker with International Christian Charities, a member of Action by Churches Together, of which the Lutheran World Federation is a part-was released after being held for almost 11 months in Chechnya. He is the last of four kidnapped aid workers released in Chechnya. The Oregon Health Division said eight people have taken their lives under provisions of the state's assisted suicide law permitting patients to ask doctors for lethal prescriptions. Since the law took effect a year ago, 10 patients have asked for the prescriptions. The National Council of Churches planned an interfaith initiative urging the United States to adopt a treaty designed to reduce the greenhouse gas emission levels of developed nations. NCC General Secretary Joan Brown Campbell said the council is taking the lead against global warming because it's a "moral issue" involving Christian concepts of justice. The Lutheran-Orthodox Joint Commission, which met for the ninth time since 1981, continued its joint exploration and formulation of basic elements of the Christian faith. The commission adopted a statement on "Salvation: Grace, Justification and Synergy." Church Women United, a national ecumenical movement of 500,000 women in the United States and Puerto Rico, expressed sorrow and outrage over the bombing of Sudan and Afghanistan by the U.S. military and called for an end to conflict resolution by force. "The tactic is not only in conflict with our Christian values, but it is also practically ineffective," the group's statement said. The National Council of Churches also responded to the U.S. action, saying, "There may be moments when military action is legitimate. We do have reservations about the effectiveness of relying on military strikes to counter terrorism." The NCC, which often has staff members working out of the American Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, announced that none of its workers were killed by the bomb that ripped through the embassy. Action by Churches Together, a relief network that includes the Lutheran World Federation, issued an appeal for $150,200 to help victims of the bomb blast at the American Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya-one of the bombings that set off the U.S. response by force. The U.N. World Food Program and the Lutheran World Federation agreed to strengthen their collaboration to improve the effectiveness of operations providing food aid worldwide to those in need. "In this era of new, more complex humanitarian crises coupled with increasingly limited financial resources, we believe efficient and inventive steps need to be taken to best reach the people most in need," said Catherine Bertini, executive director of the World Food Program and LWF General Secretary Ismael Noko in a joint statement.
Most people-70 percent-have discussed faith while at work, according to a study for Lutheran Brotherhood, a fraternal benefit society. The survey found that 50 percent said a faith-based discussion takes place at least once a month, while 19 percent talk about religion with a co-worker at least once a year. The survey also showed that women are twice as likely as men to discuss religion in the workplace and those living in rural areas are more likely to have religious discussions at work than those in the suburbs. Raymond Brown, a Roman Catholic Bible scholar and author, died of a heart attack Aug. 8. Brown, 70, taught for 20 years at Union Seminary, New York, and wrote nearly 40 books, many of them commentaries on the New Testament. In 1996 he wrote An Introduction to the New Testament to counter what he called "new and bold theses" that question the historical accuracy of the biblical accounts of Jesus' life and teachings. These theses were put forth by liberal theologians associated with the Jesus Seminar. Elderly people who study the Bible, attend religious services or pray every week are 40 percent less likely to have high blood pressure than those who aren't active in these activities, says a study of 4,000 North Carolinians ages 65 and older conducted at Duke University, Durham, N.C. "The likelihood of this finding happening randomly is less than one in 10,000," said psychology professor Harold Koenig, co-author of the study. "That finding holds up even after you take out age, sex, race, smoking history, and a number of chronic illnesses into account." United Methodist pastors who preside over same-sex unions may be charged with disobedience, the church's Judicial Council ruled. "Conduct in violation of this prohibition renders a pastor liable to a charge of disobedience to the order and discipline of the United Methodist Church," the council ruled. Pastors found guilty can be reprimanded or removed from the roster. A judge dismissed a lawsuit against Yale University by four Orthodox Jewish students who said the school's housing policy violated their religious requirements of chastity and modesty. Yale requires that freshmen and sophomores live on campus unless they are married or older than 21. Freshmen live in dorms where sexes are divided by floors while sophomores live in single-sex suites with men and women sharing floors and sometimes bathrooms. "The plaintiffs could have opted to attend a different college or university if they were not satisfied with Yale's housing policy," said U.S. District Judge Alfred Covello. The National Council of Churches sent $143,000 in medical supplies to Cuba on its first direct relief flight in two years. "After long pressure for the restrictions on direct flights [from the United States] to Cuba to be lifted for humanitarian supplies, we are grateful that we can avoid the extra expense and time to get these supplies to the people where they are needed," said Joan Brown Campbell, NCC general secretary. President Clinton lifted the restriction on direct flights of humanitarian supplies last spring. Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minn., destroyed 1,300 copies of Women at the Altar, a book written by Sister Lavinia Byrne promoting the ordination of women as Roman Catholic priests. The book was published in 1994 before Pope John Paul II insisted the ban on women priests was to be definitively held by all Catholics. "We are one of the publishers of the church," said Mark Twohey, managing editor of Liturgical Press. "We agree that the book is against the stated policy of the church. We want to be in compliance, so we removed it from sale."
Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was upset with the Vatican's selection of Boutros Mouallem, a Palestinian living in Brazil, as archbishop for the country's Galilee Greek Catholic region. The church has about 50,000 members in a heavily Arab region in north Israel. Netanyahu said the appointment resulted from Palestinian political pressure, but the Vatican said the pope made his selection without any external influence. A new Russian regulation restricts foreign religious workers to three-month visas, requiring them to leave the country and receive a new visa from a Russian embassy or consulate. Previously most foreigners could receive a one-year visa. This regulation appears to be the latest step in limiting influence of foreign religious groups, which have gained members at the expense of the Russian Orthodox Church. Reaction to a call by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for its members to remove handguns and assault weapons from their homes has been almost exclusively negative. The church's headquarters received 300 phone calls and E-mails, most of which condemned the resolution that passed 393-120 in June at the church's General Assembly. Church officials said they don't believe the highly negative reaction is reflective of Presbyterians because many of those responding didn't mention their religious affiliation. Church World Service is sending $100,000 in blanket fund money and Action by Churches Together is appealing for $500,000 to help those affected by the flooding along China's Yangtze River. Some 18 million homes have been destroyed and millions of acres have been damaged. More than 2,000 people have died from the floods. The Northern Province of the Moravian Church in America, a denomination that traces its history to 1457 in Europe, elected Kay Ward, Bethlehem, Pa., as the first woman bishop in the history of the worldwide Moravian Church. Moravian bishops are not administrators or executives and don't serve specific regions or dioceses. Instead the office is primarily that of a pastor to pastors. Bishops ordain men and women to the first order of Moravian ministry, which is deacon, and then consecrate that person to the order of presbyter or minister. The church has ordained women since 1975. An Aug. 9 vote by the Northern Province to approve full communion with the ELCA followed a similar positive vote in May by the Southern Province. This will allow the two churches to exchange clergy and permit members to commune in each other's churches.