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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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The Lutheran Church­Missouri Synod may sanction both the president and pastor of Valparaiso [Ind.] University, reports the Associated Press (Nov. 13). The LCMS doesn't financially support Valparaiso, but campus pastor Joseph Cunningham and President Alan Harre could be removed from the denomination's clergy roster. Complaints were filed after Cunningham participated in an interfaith event marking the one-year anniversary of Sept. 11. It's not known if Harre was present at the service. In 2001, LCMS Atlantic District President David Benke was charged with syncretism (worshiping with other faiths) and suspended after he participated in a nationally televised Sept. 11-related interfaith event.

Roman Catholic bishops passed a strategy for Hispanic ministry Nov. 12. The plan urges parishes to reach out to recent immigrants and calls for more Hispanic and Latino priests. Forty percent of U.S. Catholics are Hispanic, but only 13 percent of seminarians are. In a statement, the bishops said Protestant churches foster "a notion of church as extended family that provides Hispanics with a sense of belonging to God's family." Chicago Cardinal Francis George said the bishops should look closely at aggressive proselytism by Protestants (see page 36), which has "complicated ecumenical relationships."

• Gunmen believed part of the Marxist Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia kidnapped Bishop Jorge Enrique Jimenez Carvajal, president of the Episcopal Conference of Latin America, and another priest, Desiderio Orjuelo, Nov. 11. Pope John Paul II appealed for their freedom, as did the commander of the Colombian army. Guerrillas, paramilitary and drug traffickers in Colombia have killed more than 20 priests and two prelates since 1989.

Paul Baier, co-founder of Voice of the Faithful, a Roman Catholic lay organization formed out of the church's clergy sexual abuse scandal, started an independent group. Using media reports, the group's Web site lists the names of 573 priests convicted or involved in sexual abuse cases. The group is investigating at least 1,500 other priests. "The last thing we want to be part of is any kind of witchhunt," Baier said at a news conference. Baier is sharing the list with other victims' groups and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. David Clohessy, head of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, hopes the database will help parents protect their children.

Ten U.S. representatives and six senators sent a Nov. 7 letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, asking him to stop foreign missionaries from being expelled from the country. He was asked to end "discriminatory denials of visas to religious workers from select minority religious communities." A charismatic pastor in the New Generation movement, four Roman Catholic priests and a bishop have been expelled from Russia without explanation since April. Anatoly Pchelintsev of the Institute of Religion and Law in Moscow says the situation is a result of the politically powerful Russian Orthodox Church's efforts to stymie competition. Orthodox church leaders deny this claim.

• During a Nov. 16 meeting with a delegation from the Lutheran Diocese of Nidaros of the Church of Norway, Pope John Paul II pledged to move ahead with ecumenical dialogue toward "full visible unity" between Roman Catholics and Lutherans. "May we ever remain open to the surprising work of the Holy Spirit among us," he said.

Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick and Moderator Fahed Abu-Akel of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) oppose holding a special churchwide meeting to discipline pastors and congregations who defy church law banning ordination of noncelibate gays and lesbians. Two members of a Newport Beach, Calif., church started circulating a petition for the assembly. To hold it, 25 ministers and 25 elders from at least 15 different regional presbyteries must sign the petition. "The time, energy and money that we would spend on a special meeting need to be spent in mission in the name of Christ," Abu-Akel said.

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., blocked President Bush's faith-based initiative from coming to the Senate floor, citing a concern that federal money could be used for religious proselytizing and discrimination. The bill would have created $10.4 billion in incentives for charitable giving and enabled religious groups to compete for federal funds. Then-Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said he wouldn't schedule a floor vote unless Reed's concerns were addressed.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops named two women to top positions in its sexual abuse reforms. Sister Andree Fries is the liaison between the conference and groups charged with protecting children, including the new Office of Child and Youth Protection, to be directed by Kathleen McChesney, the FBI's third highest official.

Nearly 60 percent of homeless people said it was more difficult to find work toward the end of 2002 than it was six years earlier, says an annual survey by the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions. Of the more than 20,000 people surveyed, 37 percent attributed their homelessness to economic conditions. Homeless families (wife, husband and children) seeking aid increased from 17 percent in 2001 to 25 percent in 2002. Fifty-nine percent were homeless for less than a year and 33 percent had never been homeless.

Religious school students admit to cheating more than others, found a survey of 12,474 high-schoolers by the Josephson Institute for Ethics. Seventy-eight percent of those surveyed said they'd cheated at least once on exams in the past year, compared to 72 percent of students at other schools. Of those students in both public and religious schools who said religion was important to them, 74 percent admitted to cheating on a test.

About 700 U.S. and Canadian members of 14 mainline Protestant churches attended an Oct. 25-27 "Confessing the Faith National Conference" in Indianapolis. They endorsed a letter from a new "Confessing Theologians Commission." The letter, "Be Steadfast: A Letter to Confessing Christians," was written in September by theologians from the ELCA, including WordAlone representatives; the United Methodist Church; the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); the Episcopal Church; the United Church of Christ; the American Baptist Church and the United Church of Canada."The work and witness of faithful confessors helps to reclaim and redirect these institutions toward their proper ends," the letter says about why renewal groups should remain in their churches.

The number of Americans with negative views of Islam rose in 2002 from 24 percent in January to 33 percent in October. The ABC News/Beliefnet poll of 1,018 adults found that more Americans think Islam doesn't teach respect for other faiths, up from 22 percent to 35 percent over the 10-month period. Likewise, those who believe Islam encourages violence rose from 14 percent to 23 percent. But 49 percent said calling Islam a violent religion shows prejudice against Muslims, and 73 percent said they lacked a basic understanding of Islam. Eighty-four percent said their religious leaders don't discuss Islam.

The aid and development arm of the English and Welsh Roman Catholic bishops conference warned against a military attack on Iraq. After visiting Iraq, a delegation from English and European Catholic aid groups warned that an attack will create a "humanitarian catastrophe. ... All peaceful avenues to resolve this crisis over weapons must be explored, re-explored and explored again."


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