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As part of the ecumenical group Churches for Middle East Peace, ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson and 47 other church leaderstold President Bush that a pre-emptive military attack on Iraq would be "wrong, as well as detrimental to U.S. interests." The text of their Sept. 11 letter can be found at www.cmep.org/letters/2002Sep12_BushReIraq.htm. Hanson, Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops President Wilton Gregory also expressed "serious moral concerns" about military action against Iraq at a Sept. 16 meeting in Washington, D.C., with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

American confidence in charitable organizations dropped between July 2001 and August 2002, according to surveys from the Brookings Institution. Nineteen percent of Americans claimed "a lot" of confidence in charities, down from 25 percent in July 2001. The number of people who felt "no confidence" in charities rose from 8 percent to 16 percent. Paul C. Light, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Public Service, said the primary reason for the decrease was "the controversy surrounding the

• The 21-member Christian Scholars Group on Christian-Jewish Relations claims that faith in Jesus Christ as the Messiah isn't necessary for Jewish salvation. Their September statement affirms God's eternal saving covenant with the Jews and rejects efforts to convert Jews to Christianity, as does an August statement from participants in a dialogue between Roman Catholic bishops and the National Council of Synagogues (see "Clarification," page 73). ELCA signers include Norman Beck, professor of theology and classical languages at Texas Lutheran University, Seguin; Peter Pettit, assistant religion professor and director of the Institute for Jewish-Christian Understanding at Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Pa.; and Franklin Sherman, professor emeritus of religion at Muhlenberg and associate for interfaith relations, ELCA Department for Ecumenical Affairs. Some evangelical Christians and the Jews for Jesus organization criticized the statement, but several Jewish groups praised it as a step forward in interfaith dialogue.

While Protestant pastors feel generally satisfied with the quality of worship and relationships with local churches, they believe their outreach to singles and youth needs improvement, says a study by Ellison Research. The study asked 567 pastors to rate their ministries in 15 areas. Lutheran pastors ranked themselves lowest in outreach to junior high and high school students--only 2 percent described their ministry in this area as "excellent." Singles ministries ranked at the bottom for all pastors. Most clergy rated themselves "excellent" or "good" on overseas missions, music quality, physical buildings and children's ministries.

The Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act, brought to the House of Representatives in September, would allow religious entities to endorse or oppose political candidates. The act rejects a 1954 ban on church involvement in partisan politics under threat of losing tax-exempt status. Supporters claim approval would restore freedom of speech to religious bodies. Opponents insist the current ban helps concentrate religious energy on issues rather than candidates and that the act might shift congregational focus to election politics. The Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs, Washington, D.C., asked ELCA members to communicate their perspectives to their representatives. At presstime, the House had not voted on the act.

• Facing a potential financial deficit, fewer refugee arrivals and changing needs,Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service announced a "renewal" process to "stabilize the agency's finances [and] preserve its ... ability to carry out core functions." The process eliminated 14 staff positions and froze salaries in 2002. LIRS also plans to develop strategies for long-term preservation.

Explosives attached to a sign reading "Death to Yids" sparked a anti-Semitic incidents in Moscow in May. After a woman was injured trying to dismantle the bomb, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke out against anti-Semitism. Thirteen similar signs have appeared in various Russian cities with arrests made in two incidents.

Lutheran World Relief and its partners are assisting some 63,000 people devastated by floods and landslides after torrential rains in Nepal, India and Bangladesh. LWR said more than 440 people have died, 300 in Nepal alone. More than 5 million in India are affected. LWR sent food, clothing, mosquito nets and tarpaulins. Send contributions to: ELCA World Hunger Appeal, P.O. Box 71764, Chicago, IL 60694-1764; (800) 638-3522; www.elca.org/giving.

• In accordance with a decision by the denomination's College of Presidents, the Lutheran Church in Australia's magazine,The Lutheran, banned letters to the editor that argue the issue of women's ordination. The church doesn't ordain women. Members of the Women's Ministry Network in the LCA, a grass-roots organization that supports women's ordination, denounced both moves in a letter to the presidents. They cited the presidents' 2000 call for churchwide discussion of the issue.

Baron Der, a sacred site near Bethlehem owned by the Armenian Church since 1641, was threatened in July and August with demolition. The Israeli government planned to build a utility road and security fence through the site as a buffer between Israelis and Palestinians. Baron Der includes a church center, religious retreat, archeological site and olive groves that supply oil for lamps at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. With support from the National Council of Churches, Churches for Middle East Peace and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Armenian Church negotiated with Israeli authorities in September. At presstime, Bishop Vicken Aykazian, ecumenical officer of the Diocese of the Armenian Church in America, said negotiations were "looking rather positive."

A volcano erupted on New Britain, an island in Papua New Guinea, displacing more than 15,000 people from their homes and affecting more than 15,000 others whose health, crops and livestock are at stake. Lava, toxic fumes and ash from Mount Pago have caused human and environmental damage since August. Action by Churches Together, an ELCA partner, is providing health and medical personnel as well as food, shelter materials, clothes and baby supplies.

Forty-one high school seniors graduated Aug. 7 from the Lutheran School of Hope in Ramallah, Palestine, after repeated postponements due to curfews in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Bishop Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan (and Palestine) voiced concern that further curfews, which can without warning restrict Palestinians to their homes, could disrupt the academic year. With a 70 percent unemployment rate in the West Bank, many families can't pay tuition. ELCJ schools need support and student scholarships, he added.

As armed conflict escalates in Colombia, left- and right-wing groups are targeting Protestant pastors and church leaders for assassination and kidnapping. Mennonite peace activist and church leader Ricardo Esquivia released a list of 26 pastors and church leaders killed in recent years. A dozen other pastors have received death threats. Most religious targets were rural, independent, Pentecostal or Roman Catholic clergy. Few were activists in the political conflict. In September, the World Council of Churches asked the U.S. government to end its assistance for Colombia's military, saying it intensifies the 38-year-old civil conflict.

Anti-Muslim sentiments are on the rise in Canada, says the Canadian Islamic Congress. More than 200 anti-Muslim hate crimes were reported to police following Sept. 11, a 66 percent increase over the previous year. Mohamed Elmasry, Congress president, blamed the increase on media references to “Muslim extremists” and “Islamic terrorists.” He suggested the media should describe terrorist actions as criminal acts by people using Islam as a justification.

Children aged 6 months to 5 years in the West Bank and Gaza have high rates of malnutrition and anemia, according to an August US Aid report from Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, and Al Quds University, Jerusalem. Rates of acute malnutrition range from 4.3 percent of children in the West Bank to 13.2 percent in the Gaza strip—both higher than the 2.28 percent rate found in a “normal” population. Rates of chronic malnutrition were 3.4 percent in the West Bank and 17.5 percent in Gaza. Nineteen percent of West Bank and Gaza children were anemic. A key factor is the lack of access to proper nutrition due to curfews and military incursions, as well as poverty, the report said.

Charles Bennison, bishop of the Episcopal Church’s Pennsylvania Synod, defrocked David Moyer in September for refusing him permission to preach or preside in his parish. Moyer, the American president of the church’s conservative Forward in Faith movement, objected to Bennison’s liberal views. Bennison cited Moyer’s rejection of episcopal authority, not the priest’s theological differences, as the reason for disciplinary action. Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, offered to license Moyer to serve as a priest in the diocese of Monmouth (Wales), after then-archbishop George Carey extended a similar invitation for the diocese of Canterbury.



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September issue

SEPTEMBER issue:

Reinventing Sunday school

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