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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Worldscan

Rowan Williams, a renowned theologian and the archbishop of Wales, was appointed in July to succeed George Carey as archbishop of Canterbury, the clerical head of the Church of England and leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Many Anglican, Roman Catholic and Jewish leaders in Britain gave high praise to the move, but others questioned Williams’ ordination of an openly gay priest, his support of women’s ordination and his criticism of U.S. and British policies toward the Middle East.

Nearly 13 million people are at risk of hunger or starvation in southern Africa, in countries including Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique. In Malawi, some parents feed their children tree bark and roots for lack of any other nourishment. The ELCA sent $100,000 to help provide food for children and others at risk in Zimbabwe and Malawi. Send gifts to: ELCA International Disaster Response, P.O. Box 71764, Chicago, IL 60694-1764; call (800) 638-3522; or visit www.elca.org/giving.


Two women who called a sexual abuse hotline in Sacramento, Calif., operated by the Roman Catholic Church filed a lawsuit against the bishop of the Sacramento Diocese and the hotline operator. The suit claims the operator—an attorney who didn’t at first disclose her occupation—questioned the women about their abuse claims without referring them to a counselor and shared their information with diocesan attorneys and the bishop’s office. The diocese maintains that it hired the operator for mediation skills.

Based on the recent growth and increased visibility of the Laskar Jihad, an Islamic militant group in the Indonesian province of Papua, some Christians speculate that a campaign of Islamic Jihad attacks against Christians could begin there later this year. Papua is 70 percent Christian. Local Christians have reported that Laskar Jihad is stockpiling weapons and opening military training in camps and mosques. They also note the widespread sale of the Laskar Jihad magazine, which contains statements against Christians, Jews and the United States.

With the backing of several well-known American religious leaders, a partnership between U.S. Jews and conservative Christians hopes to support the state of Israel and promote traditional Judeo-Christian values. The American Alliance of Jews and Christians, co-led by Rabbi Daniel Lapin and Gary Bauer, will include James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and several prominent American rabbis on its board.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada elected its first female synod bishop, Cynthia Halmarson, in July. Halmarson, bishop-elect of the Saskatchewan Synod, served congregations in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, following her ordination in the former Lutheran Church in America in 1982. She also served as assistant to the Saskatchewan bishop and as synod secretary. A Connecticut native, Halmarson became a Canadian citizen in 2001.

• Through the efforts of Christian Solidarity International, a human rights group, 4,735 Sudanese were liberated from slavery in Northern Sudan in July. Local peace workers helped the slaves return to their homeland of Southern Sudan. The freed slaves, mostly women and children, were captured in raids on non-Muslim communities by the Sudanese government and Islamic militias in a declared state of jihad (holy war). In interviews with CSI, many former slaves reported extensive physical, sexual and psychological abuse while in captivity.


In June, the United Church of Christ marked the 30th anniversary of the ordination of William Johnson, the first openly gay pastor ordained in the denomination. Johnson and the UCC Coalition for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Concerns gathered in Seattle for a convention themed “Rocking Holy Ground: Tales from Woe to Joy.” The UCC was the first church to speak against slavery in the United States in 1700, the first primarily white denomination to ordain African Americans in 1785, and the first to ordain women in 1853.

A study by the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland detected the beginnings of religious sectarianism in the preferences of Irish children. Three-year-olds were twice as likely to express dislike for the police and Orange marches if they were Roman Catholic; Protestant toddlers typically preferred the British rather than the Irish flag. Fifteen percent of 6-year-olds made statements classified by the study as sectarian. This group also preferred first names, colors and football shirts identified with their primary religious community. A segregated school system and the home and neighborhood environment were named as major factors in the development of community identification.


The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, sponsored by the World Council of Churches, sent a 15 Christians to the Middle East in August, the first of many planned international delegations of human rights monitors. The group will live among Israelis and Palestinians, communicating their observations to the EAPPI. It’s hoped that the team’s visibility as witnesses will encourage Palestinians and Israelis working for nonviolent resolution and influence peacekeeping in the daily lives and at potentially volatile major events. The program is recruiting Christian volunteers from various countries and intends to send groups every three months.

Three Lutheran church bodies in Namibia, once separated by divisions of colonialism and apartheid, are continuing efforts toward unification begun in 1990. Lutherans comprise 66 percent of the country’s 80 percent Christian population. Working through the Lutheran World Federation Namibia National Committee, the churches are cooperating on women’s, pastors’ and youth leaders’ groups; HIV/AIDS discussions; a common hymnbook; and a new united congregation in Windhoek. Differences in church structure, pastors’ salaries, and call process are areas targeted for further discussion.

Among the native Afghan groups affected by long-term civil conflict, a rarely mentioned ethnic minority is struggling to survive, reported Action by Churches Together, an ELCA partner organization. The Kuchis, a nomadic people who primarily earn their living herding sheep, are affected by extreme drought in the area. Kuchi children and shepherds have also been killed and maimed by land mines that cover mountain and grazing areas. The Mine Action Programme for Afghanistan has been forced to place removal of these land mines second in priority to inhabited and agricultural land. Kuchis may comprise more than 10 percent of the Afghan population.


For the first time, the Tamil Evangelical Lutheran Church in southern India commissioned five theologically trained women as pastoral candidates in July. A church statement indicated that full ordination is the next goal for the women.

• In July, the Church of England General Synod rescinded “indissolubility of marriage” policies and will allow priests to marry couples in cases where one or both members are previously divorced, clarifying a 1981 resolution. The possibility of women bishops drew heated debate but no immediate action. The synod also deplored violence on both sides of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, calling for an end to suicide bombings and for the establishment of a Palestinian state within 1967’s borders. The synod marked the end of the 11-year term of Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, whose successor is not yet known.


Flooding and landslides reportedly killed several hundred people in China in June and July. Hundreds of thousands of people were stranded, evacuated, or had their crops destroyed. In one provincial county, water levels rose 40 to 80 inches, stranding more than 500 students on the middle school’s roof for nine hours. Amity Foundation, an ELCA partner organization in China, is assisting victims in the Shaanxi and Sichuan provinces, which are affected by continual rainfall and occasional flash floods.

• On a boat on the River Danube in Austria, with a congregation of 300 present, seven women were ordained as Roman Catholic priests on July 29. The secret ceremony was conducted by Romulo Braschi, an Argentinian archbishop who was ordained Roman Catholic but left the church and founded the Catholic Apostolic Charismatic Church of Jesus King. The women’s ordination came after three years of theological study in Linz, Austria and was deplored by church officials in Austria and Germany, who cited long-held church doctrine forbidding the office of priesthood to women. The Vatican later demanded that the women repent and acknowledge the ceremony as “invalid and null” by July 22 or be excommunicated, Religion News Service reported.


Since the June decision of the Greater Vancouver diocese of the Canadian Anglican Church to endorse unions between homosexual couples, Bishop Michael Ingham has been drafting possible texts for a same-sex blessing rite. One parish in the diocese—St. Margaret’s Cedar Cottage—is already asking for it. 50 members of St. Margaret’s voted unanimously in July to request a formally endorsed rite from Ingham in order to join three couples in the congregation. At presstime, Ingham had not yet found language that successfully encapsulated the rite while distinguishing it from a heterosexual marriage ceremony. Criticism of the vote to approve same-sex blessings has come from throughout the worldwide Anglican Communion, and former members of the diocese who left in protest have founded an alternative group, the Anglican Communion of NewWestminster.


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