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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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World Scan

A decrease in contributions by the 330 member churches of the World Council of Churches has left the Council with insufficient income to pay for its current activities, said Konrad Raiser, WCC general secretary. He reminded member churches that last year's financial report indicated financial difficulties and expressed hope that this was the result of periodic fluctuation that would correct itself soon. In response to the financial difficulties, the WCC laid off 42 staff members, leaving the Geneva-based agency's staff one-third smaller than it was in 1991.

The newly established Pastors' Court of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark discharged Pastor Feldbaek Nielsen because he has preached that baptism of infants is merely an act symbolizing a future rebirth by faith. He has suggested a distinction between baptism of infants and adults and believes a new ritual for baptism of infants should express that baptism offers salvation on the condition that the offer is received later by personal faith.

Vandalism against churches and church graveyards in Denmark is increasing. Last year eight churches were damaged, including some that were painted with satanic symbols. Not all cases of vandalism against churches are reported in the news media. Some church leaders prefer to keep silent, fearing that publicity might lead to more vandalism, according to Johannes Aagaard, a professor at the Dialogue Centre in Aarhus.

The Lutheran World Federation showed a surplus in 1995 of $204,026, an increase of $117,147 from 1994. Total receipts from membership fees grew by 13.2 percent in 1995, but the share of membership fees represents only 14.7 percent of the total income for the Geneva Coordination Budget.

The Faith & Values Channel will be renamed Odyssey effective October 1 to try to attract more viewers. About 25 percent of those who receive Faith & Values tune in, many only for a few minutes, said the channel's president Garry Hill. The name Odyssey was chosen, Hill said, because it "evokes both the spirituality of journey so central to our Judaeo-Christian heritage as well as deep cultural themes."

Ellen F. Cooke, the 52-year-old former treasurer of the Episcopal Church who admitted to embezzling more than $1.5 million from the church, was sentenced to five years in prison. U.S. District Court Judge Maryanne Trump Barry in Newark, N.J., said that Cooke "systematically looted" the denomination. Barry dismissed Cooke's claim that a mental disorder combined with stress led to the embezzlement of what church officials said was more than $2.2 million. Cooke will appeal her sentence, her attorney said.

The Korean ministry of education announced a new plan that would open the way to full accreditation of the Luther Seminary in Korea as a degree-granting seminary. A strong seminary is seen as vital to the Lutheran Church in Korea in meeting its goal of doubling the number of its congregations to 50 by the year 2008.

The Chinese-language hymnal Hymns of Praise is for the first time available in a bilingual edition that includes English versions of all the hymns. The hymnal was first printed in 1920, and the new edition includes 597 hymns and 10 indices. It is published by the Taosheng Publishing House in Hong Kong.

For the first time, a woman has been named secretary general of the Council of Christian Churches in Germany. Barbel Wartenberg-Potter, a member of Germany's Evangelical Lutheran Church, will serve a five-year term. Since 1991 she has been a pastor in Stuttgart and has also served as director of the World Council of Churches division of women in church and society.

The Ethiopian Evangelical [Lutheran] Church Mekane Yesus Mesera congregation of the Central Synod was burned for the third time. According to a parish leader, the congregation has faced opposition and persecution from traditional believers in the area since its establishment in 1991. The traditional believers practice sorcery and magic.

A New Testament translation into the Yawu language spoken in Papua New Guinea was dedicated at a ceremony attended by more than 300 Yawu people in Warsai village. Doris Saggau, an ELCA member who chairs the Lutheran Bible Translators board of directors, said, "The joy was so intense it brought tears to my eyes." The dedication marked the 10th time that LBT missionaries and their colleagues have played a major role in a New Testament translation.

The Walt Disney Co., under attack by some religious groups for straying from the path of family values in its entertainment and personnel policies, has named Leo O'Donovan, president of the Jesuit-run Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., to its board of directors. But the company said that there was "absolutely no connection" between O'Donovan's appointment and criticism. Earlier this year the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest Protestant denomination, voted to urge its 15.6 million members to boycott Disney theme parks, films and other products because of what they said was the company's "promotion of homosexuality."

Members of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship voted at their general assemblynot to break away from the more conservative Southern Baptist Convention to form a new denomination. A study of the issue showed that the majority of fellowship members believe a formal split is inevitable, but they don't think the time is right.

Parthenios III, the 76-year-old Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, died of a heart attack July 23 during a visit to Greece. He had served since 1987 as the 113th patriarch of the historic see of Alexandria. Konrad Raiser, World Council of Churches general secretary, described Parthenios as "one of the outstanding Orthodox leaders of the ecumenical movement."

The bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland, Olafur Skulason, has been accused of sexual misconduct ranging from harassment to attempted rape. He denied the allegations but announced he was retiring early because of the stress of the case. After years of unconfirmed rumors, three women made allegations about six months ago, breaking the scandal. Skulason, 66, will step down in late 1997 after eight years in office.


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