* In an ecumenical prayer service, the Council of Churches in Namibia urged parties in the Angolan civil war to come to the negotiating table and end the 25-year conflict. "God wants us to enjoy peace and live in security," said Apollos Kaulinge, a bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia. "Anyone who disturbs our peace stands condemned by us in no uncertain terms."
* Most Americans say strengthening families is a greater priority than having a cleaner environment or increasing job opportunities, says an Alliance for Marriage poll. Seventy-seven percent favored stronger families to a cleaner environment, while 64 percent chose families over more job opportunities.
* A Lutheran World Federation program assisted 10,000 families after floods in India and Bangladesh left at least 400 people dead and 15 million homeless in India alone. The ELCA sent $50,000 for medicine, food, seeds and tools.
* A Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod task force will develop initiatives to promote better health for its pastors. The church has lost about 120 clergy a year for the last 10 years. The group, which is looking into conducting a research project with the ELCA, believes that if its 14,000 church workers are fit, they'll be more resilient to job stress.
* The Dalai Lama, exiled spiritual leader of 15 million Tibetan Buddhists, wasn't invited to the U.N. Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders. Kofi Annan of the United Nations said he wasn't invited because of China's "sensitivities" to the issue. The Dalai Lama declined an invitation to attend the closing two days of the summit, which were not held at the United Nations. At the event, religious leaders committed to work for global peace and the abolition of nuclear weapons, among other things.
* Most Protestant pastors — 72 percent — support the death penalty, while only 17 percent of pastors favor laws to allow physician-assisted suicide. Ellison Research conducted the poll of 518 Protestant pastors.
* The Chinese government detained Jiang Ming Yuan, the new auxiliary bishop of the Roman Catholic Church in the Hebei province, the Vatican's news agency reports. In the same province four years ago, authorities took away a bishop and an auxiliary bishop who haven't been seen since. In other government crackdowns, police detained 24 Catholics, says U.S.-based Cardinal Kung Foundation.
* Jazz great Dave Brubeck received the first John Garcia Gensel award, named for a deceased pastor of St. Peter Lutheran Church in New York City. Gensel was pastor to that city's jazz community in the 1960s and inspired a Duke Ellington composition. The award honors artists who have integrated faith and the arts.
* Archeologists found remnants of a structure and other pieces of wood under the Black Sea that provides evidence of an ancient flood that may have inspired the story of Noah. geologists William Ryan and Walter Pittman said the modern-day sea may have been created 7,500 years ago when melting glaciers caused the Mediterranean Sea to overflow and dramatically raise the sea level. "Among scholars who take the Bible literally, this will be confirmation," said Hershel Shanks, editor of Biblical Archeology Review. "Critical Bible scholars are almost unanimous in regarding the flood story as a legend. On the other hand, legends arise not out of imagination but from an experience."
* Presidential candidates Al Gore and George W. Bush were accused of "political immorality" on the issue of nuclear disarmament by two bishops — Thomas Gumbleton of the Roman Catholic Church and C. Dale White of the United Methodist Church. When both politicians answered a 10-question survey issued by 48 religious leaders, they steered clear of answering how they would abide by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to achieve nuclear disarmament or whether they would support a global convention to advance that goal. Ralph Nader, the Green Party candidate, offered six proposals. Working toward total elimination of nuclear weapons "is the only moral and rational course," he said.
* Drought in Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia and other African countries caused extensive crop loss, leaving 20 million people in urgent need of assistance — 3 million more than three months ago. The ELCA sent $375,000 to aid Ethiopians and $50,000 to help Tanzanians. To help, send a gift through your congregation or directly to: ELCA International Disaster Response, P.O. Box 71764, Chicago, IL 60694-1764. For more information, call (800) 638-3522, or visit www.elca.org/dgm/disaster.
* Johannes Friedrich, a bishop of the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany, called the beatification of Pope Pius IX by Pope John Paul II a step backward for ecumenical relations. Pius IX fought unification of Italy and ordered papal gendarmes to kidnap a 6-year-old Jewish boy, Edgardo Levi Mortara, who was secretly baptized in his infancy. Despite protests from several countries, the pope refused to return the boy, who later became a priest and was among the first to call for Pius IX's canonization.
* Government aircraft bombs destroyed a Roman Catholic medical clinic in southern Sudan, killing one person and wounding five others. The Catholic diocese in southern Sudan called the bombing an act against "innocent and defenseless civilians" who would be left without medical care.
* The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago hired its first full-time exorcist. The unidentified priest will cast demons out of possessed people. Archdioceses in Boston and New York also have exorcists on staff. Last year the Vatican released a revised rite that warned exorcists not to mistake psychiatric illness for demonic possession.
* Joseph Bvumbwe, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Malawi, asked that country's politicians to "stop bickering and start looking for ways to strengthen the stormy national economy." He pointed to rising inflation, which he said posed serious challenges to much of society, including the church.
* Lutheran World Relief asked Congress for import restrictions on "conflict diamonds," which help fuel conflicts in Liberia, Angola and Sierra Leone. Money from American consumers, who buy 65 percent of diamonds sold internationally, may end up paying for guns in Africa. Under pressure from LWR and other humanitarian groups, the World Diamond Congress recently adopted measures to ensure that diamonds come only from legitimate sources.
* Nearly half of more than 100 Iraqi Christians who tried to enter the United States via Tijuana, Mexico, can apply for political asylum. U.S. immigration officials have received nearly 200 such asylum requests from Christians who fear religious persecution in Iraq.
* The National Church Arson Task Force reported a drop in the number of arsons at U.S. houses of worship for 1999. Between 1996 and 1999, the annual number of church arsons dropped from 297 to 140.
© 2013 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers