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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Worldscan

After 10 people died in Toronto from Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, Bishop Michael Pryse of the Eastern Canada Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada offered precautions around the common cup. Pryse said clergy and parishioners should remember to wash their hands before distributing the eucharist, wipe the inside and outside of the cup rim and rotate the chalice between communicants. Pryse said it was “quite acceptable to receive communion under one kind” by taking the bread and not drinking the wine. He also asked concerned worshipers to read an article by Anglican cardiologist David Gould, which says no episode of disease attributable to the common cup has been reported. Click here to read a statement by Michael Burk, the ELCA's director for worship.

ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson said April 16 that he was thankful for the potential ending of the U.S.-led war with Iraq. “With grateful hearts we honor the sacrifice made by those service personnel who have been injured or died in this war, and mourn the loss of all innocent people,” he said. Continuing care should be offered to the returning military, who carry “in their minds, hearts and bodies” the effects of war and violence, he added. Hanson also called for prayers for the Iraqi people, attention to humanitarian needs and human rights, protection for civilians and a return of Iraq’s leadership to its people.

South African Anglicans can’t avoid the issue of same-sex unions, said Capetown Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane. He said the issue “strikes at the heart of the Anglican Church, which has fought long and hard for justice and inclusivity, but a definite stand is likely to lead to polarization … unless all debaters are treated with respect and dignity,” he said. Church unity, he added, must be preserved but not used as “a delaying tactic or as an excuse to avoid the issue.” A panel report from lay and clergy church leaders said same-sex unions, while “infrequent,” occur throughout African cultures and are “considered far from abnormal.” Most other Anglican bishops in Africa have voiced strong opposition to homosexuality. U.S. Episcopal bishops advised that their church not allow gay unions because “we are nowhere near consensus in the church regarding the blessing of homosexual relationships.” This summer the Episcopal Church will vote on whether to allow marriage-like rites for same-sex couples.

In a report to the Church of Scotland’s general assembly, the denomination’s Church and Nation committee encouraged congregations to consider also serving as post offices. The committee said increasing numbers of post office closings have a detrimental effect on local economies. Of Scotland’s 1,933 post offices, 1,878 are combined with village shops, and stay afloat only as long as the shops. At least 38 post offices have closed since 2001, with more pending this year.

• When his term expires in 2004, Malawi President Bakili Muluzi says he won’t seek a third term. For months, Muluzi feuded with political opponents and churches, trying to change the country’s constitutional two-term limit. In January, Malawi’s Presbyterian Church called for the president’s impeachment. Roman Catholic leaders warned that amending the constitution would make Malawi a dictatorship.


Faced with attacks by Taliban and al-Qaida forces, relief agencies pulled out of areas in southern Afghanistan. Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children, Mercy Corps and other groups are downsizing due to the violence. “The very insecurity that’s happening in Afghanistan is exactly how the Taliban was born,” said Jim White, Mercy Corps’ South Asia regional director. Guerilla conflict threatens not only Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai’s U.S.-supported government but humanitarian workers, as warlords move into the void left by aid groups and try to turn Afghans against the government, the United States and the United Nations. Mercy Corps and the International Red Cross each had one worker shot since last fall. Increasingly, Mercy Corps workers have been shot at or intimidated, and many have seen posters offering bounties on foreigners. Mercy Corps pulled its workers out of rural areas and back to Kabal. Doctors Without Borders evacuated non-Afghan workers from Kandahar and the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and deactivated its Afghan workers. The relief organizations urge the Bush administration to support an increase in the international security force, which is now confined to Kabul.

Unless the United States intervenes, Afghanistan’s new constitution will be no improvement over the repressive Taliban regime, a federal commission warned President Bush. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom expressed concern that post-Taliban freedoms could be ended by the new constitution unless the United States exerts its influence to ensure that religious freedom is guaranteed for all Afghans. A constitution that “codifies repression, rather than securing freedom, may well undermine the support of the American people for reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan,” the commission said.

• By a 246-49 vote, the U.S. House of Representatives on March 27 called upon President Bush to designate a national day “for humility, prayer and fasting.” House Resolution 153 declares a “public need for fasting and prayer in order to secure the blessings and protection of providence for the people of the United States and our Armed Forces during the conflict in Iraq and under the threat of terrorism at home.” It calls upon U.S. citizens to “seek guidance from God to achieve a greater understanding of our own failings and to learn how we can do better in our everyday activities.” An earlier Senate resolution designated March 17 as a national day of prayer and fasting.

Roman Catholic Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles asked President Bush to legalize all noncitizens serving in the U.S. military. Mahony made the request after presiding at the funeral of Lance Cp. Jose Gutierrez, a Guatemalan immigrant killed in Iraq and posthumously made a citizen. “There is something terribly wrong with our immigration policies if it takes death on a battlefield to earn citizenship,” Mahony wrote, asking for immediate citizenship for more than 36,000 soldiers. Last July, Bush signed an executive order making it easier for such soldiers to apply for citizenship, but citizenship is not automatic.

Thrivent Finanical for Lutherans Foundation pledged $760,000 to Habitat for Humanity building projects nationwide. One projects is a home renovation for a low-income single mother and her teenage daughter in Lehigh Valley, Pa. With $20,000 from Thrivent, or 75 percent of the cost, Hellertown (Pa.) Lutherans planned to help build the home.

The ELCA and 16 other members of the National Council of Churches of Christ met April 11 in Chicago to address U.S. policy toward and humanitarian needs in the Korean peninsula. Since the food crisis began in 1996, Church World Service, the NCC’s aid arm, has sent $4.25 million in food to the Democratic People’s Republic of (North) Korea. The ELCA contributed $61,000. Barbara Lund, ELCA program director for East Asia, said ELCA members can respond through the ELCA World Hunger Appeal, by remembering to pray for the people of North and South Korea, and by remembering “that political references such as ‘axis of evil’ about a country are incongruent with God’s mission.” Victor Hsu, senior adviser to the CWS executive secretary, visited North Korea April 1-5 to monitor food distribution. “The Koreans kept asking me, ‘When is the next shipment?’” Hsu said. “They are in need of all sorts of aid, whether it’s medicine or food. The need is massive.”

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) announced April 5 it would eliminate 19 staff positions at its Louisville, Ky., headquarters. It will draw upon $1.67 million from its savings account to carry out a 2004 budget cut of $3.1 million. The church cut 66 employees from its staff last year.

In an Easter sermon, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams warned against using Christianity to justify one’s actions. “We do it in religious conflicts, we do it in moral debates, we do it in politics,” he said. “We want to stand still and be reassured, rather than moving faithfully with Jesus along a path into new life whose turnings we don’t know in advance. To have an absolute reassurance of our rightness somehow stands in the way of following Jesus to the Father; it offers us an image of ourselves that pleases and consoles, instead of the deeper and harder assurance of the gospel—the assurance that whether or not we have a satisfying image of ourselves, we have the promise of forgiveness and of a future.” Williams said this could be seen in opponents of the Iraqi war who “insisted the motives of those in power must be personally corrupt, greedy, dishonest and bloodthirsty—as if the question could be settled simply by deciding on the wickedness of individuals.” And it could be seen in “defenders of the war, who have accused its critics of being unable to tell good from evil, of colluding with monstrous cruelty and being indifferent to the suffering of nations.”


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Reinventing Sunday school

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