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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Worldscan

• Alfred Gazola, right, harvested only enough maize from his fields to last three months. The food that's left in these pots has to last his family a few days until his wife returns from Bulawayo, 15 miles away, hopefully with food. Zimbabwe is facing a food emergency. In the southern Matebele Province, drought has withered crops and food shortages are rife. Chosen Dube of Lutheran World Federation/Development Service said fuel shortages prevent much food from being delivered. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe lashed out at charities and international agencies for “meddling with our national affairs.” He banned Save the Children from distributing food in one district and accused the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace of backing opposition candidates in rural elections in Binga. LWF President Ishmael Noko called the actions “political mistakes [that] can be corrected and must be corrected.”

• The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that towns can bar houses of worship from residential areas due to possible noise or traffic problems. Congregation Kol Ami plans further legal action to try to open a synagogue in Abington Township, Pa. Although churches were once an integral part of neighborhoods, the court said: “We do not believe land use planners can assume anymore that religious uses are inherently compatible with family and residential uses.”

• Advisers to the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine found no historical or theological basis for ordination of women as deacons. The 30-member panel’s October recommendation to the Roman Catholic church’s teaching authority—the Magisterium—follows five years of research. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger headed the panel, which said the office of deacon is closely linked to the priesthood, from which women are excluded. Deaconesses of the early church couldn’t be compared to deacons, the panel said. In August, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith excommunicated seven female divinity students ordained as priests in Austria.

•The Vatican won’t approve the U.S. Roman Catholic bishops’ policies for dealing with sexually abusive priests until a U.S.-Vatican committee makes changes. Cardinal Giovanni Re told Bishop Wilton Gregory, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, that some parts of the policies contradict church law and use “vague or imprecise” terminology. Cardinal Dario Hoyos told a news conference that policies should leave space for “mercy, pardon and conversion” and “defend the rights of priests who err.” Gregory said bishops would continue to enforce the rules in the interim. The goal, he said, “remains the removal of priests who are guilty of sexual misconduct with minors.” The committee was to make the changes by mid-November.

• Israeli officials delayed church leaders from Jerusalem, causing them to miss a flight to a London meeting. George Carey, archbishop of Canterbury, called the meeting of interfaith leaders to work toward peace in the Middle East. Lutheran Bishop Munib Younan was one of several leaders stopped at a roadblock en route to the airport. They were asked to identify and open their luggage before the flight in violation of Israel’s VIP security procedures. The leaders refused to submit to the search, and the stalemate ended when they asked for the return of their passports and tickets. Israeli authorities, who will investigate the incident, promised the group would receive appropriate treatment when they tried to leave on the afternoon flight. No further incidents were reported, and the group continued on to London.

• The effects of Sept. 11 and the troubled economy have decreased funding to the poor, reports the anti-poverty branch of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in its 2002 annual “Poverty Pulse” survey. According to the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, one-third of respondents said people were less willing to give to poverty causes after the attacks, either because donations went to Sept. 11 relief efforts or because a sluggish economy increased unwillingness or inability to give. This year’s “Poverty Pulse” was conducted through local aid offices to survey poor people directly.

• A stone box used by ancient Jews to hold the bones of the dead could be linked to Jesus, say researchers from the Biblical Archaeology Society. Dated to A.D. 63, the box is inscribed “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus.” It might be the first archeological artifact linked to Jesus. Scholars agree that the box seems genuine but are divided about whether the Jesus referred to is Christ. James, Joseph and Jesus were common names in the first century.

• President Bush signed the Sudan Peace Act Oct. 21, demonstrating a U.S. resolve to help end Sudan’s civil war of 20 years and 20 million casualties. It gives the Islamic government in Khartoum six months to broker a peace settlement with predominantly Christian rebels in the south. If they don’t reach an agreement, strict economic and diplomatic sanctions will be imposed. The bill would authorize $300 million in aid in the next three years. Serge Duss, World Vision staff, said “a just and sustainable” peace will help with humanitarian aid efforts.

• The House of Representatives voted 178-239 to defeat a bill that would allow churches to engage in partisan politics without losing tax-exempt status. During the debate, Chet Edwards, D-Texas, said the bill “demeans houses of religion by converting them into political campaign organizations.” But John Hostettler, R-Ind., said it “frees our clergy to speak their consciences from the pulpit on all issues.” Amo Houghton, R-N.Y., said churches “cannot use the church resources on a tax-deductible basis to campaign for a candidate.”

• An Oct. 7 report from the U.S. State Department says religious freedom violations occurred not only in China, Burma, Iran, Iraq, North Korea and Sudan but in Belgium, France and Germany in the past year. The report says the three European countries had adopted “discriminatory policies” from sect filters focused on Scientology to government-mandated agencies that track so-called cults. The only country to show significant improvement was Afghanistan.

•Newark [N.J.] Archbishop John Myers barred from church property a state chapter of a lay reform group that was formed to address the clergy abuse scandals. Myers called Voice of the Faithful “anti-Church and ultimately anti-Catholic,” saying the group was “a cover for dissent.” Voice of the Faithful organizer Theresa Padovano said she was surprised by Myers’ decision and failure to communicate with the group. She asked: “Why don’t they just talk to us? They have nothing to fear from us.” Roman Catholic parishes in New York, Maine, Massachusetts and Connecticut also have banned the group from church property, so members have met in homes, public schools and youth centers.

• A Chinese court overturned death sentences for five Christians accused of being involved in an “evil cult,” ordering instead that the five be retried. The Hubei Provincial High Court said it lacked evidence for such a conviction against the leaders of the underground 50,000-member South China Church.

• Enaam M. Arnanout, executive director of Benevolence International, a Chicago-based Muslim charity, was indicted Oct. 9 on charges of using charitable funds to help terrorists. The indictment says Arnaout sent money to the Al-Qaeda network, Chechan rebels and terrorists in Bosnia. In federal custody since April, Arnanout and his lawyer maintain the charges are false and that the support took place in the 1980s when the United States was supporting bin Laden and other Muslim mujahedeen rebels.

• Robin Eames, Anglican archbishop of Ireland, told his synod that neither Irish Protestants nor Catholics can have a “clear conscience.” His comments came after the British government suspended Northern Ireland’s fragile government. Both groups have a choice, Eames said, between violence and old sectarian labels or “genuine democracy.” To move forward, both communities must “see each other in purely human terms of shared needs, hopes and fears, shared vision and shared humanity,” he said.

• The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Christian Medical Association and other assisted suicide opponents filed “friend-of-the-court” briefs with an appellate court that was asked by the Bush administration to rescind Oregon’s assisted suicide law. Oregon officials said they would defend the wishes of state voters to keep the law. In their brief, the Roman Catholic bishops said taking a human life didn’t prevent illness, heal or alleviate pain. “To say it does creates an inherent contradiction, like saying that the legitimate practice of law includes helping clients break the law,” they wrote.

• Nonbelievers doubled in Canada from 1987 to 2000, when they made up 27 percent of the country, says Paul Reed, a scientist with Statistics Canada. Nonbelievers were most populous in British Colombia (55 percent), Prairies (33 percent) and Ontario (28 percent). Forty-three percent of all Canadian adults never attend church, he says.

•Nigerian Christian leaders called a national voter’s registration drive for their country’s 2003 general elections “fraudulent.” They said politicians not only bought registration cards but hired thugs to attack electoral officers and steal materials. In Zamfara, Christians were denied the right to register. In Niger, Deputy Gov. Shem Zugbayi said fraudulent acts disenfranchised 400,000. In Kaduna, an electoral commission official said most of the state’s 2.3 million voter cards were sold to politicians. Local Roman Catholic and Anglican leaders warned the Nigerian government that a revolution could happen if corruption isn’t checked. Transparency International, a group working against corruption, rated Nigeria as the world’s second most corrupt country in 2002, behind Bangladesh.

• ParishPay set up electronic credit-card giving for Greek Orthodox churches in New York and Roman Catholic churches in Chicago and San Jose, Calif. The New York-based firm charges $1 for each donor and a 1 percent service fee for each transaction. Jack Wilkerson, vice president for finance for the Southern Baptist Convention, criticized the method, saying offerings within formal worship are integral to Christian tradition. He said mainline Protestant denominations would use a credit card system “to prop up sagging [membership] numbers through a mechanical system of offering.”

• In an Oct. 3 letter to President Bush, Prison Fellowship Ministries chair Chuck Colson said the call for a pre-emptive strike against Iraq is “both just and right.” Colson also heads the Southern Baptist Convention Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Campus Crusade for Christ and Coral Ridge Ministries Media.

• The ELCA, the National Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops and Catholic Relief Services urged President Bush not to carry out a pre-emptive strike against Iraq. In an Oct. 8 letter, the NCC board wrote to Bush: “On many occasions, you have cited your reliance on principles of faith. It is just such principles that have motivated the letters from the many Christian leaders and their constituents who oppose such a strike. … We further urge you to act with courage and forbearance in setting an example in seeking an alternative to war and addressing the very real dangers confronting the world community.” Additionally, nearly 70 U.S. and British leaders signed a statement Oct. 11 calling Saddam Hussein a “real threat” but declaring a pre-emptive strike against Iraq would be “immoral.” Signer John Chane, Episcopal bishop of Washington, D.C., said: “A pre-emptive strike against Iraq will not only increase the likelihood of terrorist attacks, but will also exacerbate a crisis situation between Palestine and Israel.” Meanwhile, Lutheran World Relief is mobilizing its resources in the event of war, sending nearly $500,000 in relief supplies to the crisis zone.

• Sexually active high-schoolers decreased from 54.1 percent to 45.6 percent between 1991 and 2001, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study. During those years, condom use increased from 46.2 percent to 57.9 percent. Lloyd Kolbe of the CDC attributed the statistics to the combined efforts of youth, families, schools, religious and community organizations, the media and other groups.



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November issue

NOVEMBER issue:

The ELCA's aging clergy wave

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