The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America



The National Council of Churches in India released a May 25 statement calling on India and Pakistan to refrain from war. “War rhetoric is not an alternative for true patriotism, which enhances peace in the country and assures protection and safety for its citizens,” the statement read.

An Associated Press survey found that at least 176 U.S. priests have resigned or been suspended as a result of the sex abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church that began in January. Disciplined priests represent 28 states and the District of Columbia, but allegations of sex abuse against priests have occurred in 46 of the 50 states so far. Utah, Wyoming, Tennessee, and Arkansas, all states with small Catholic populations, are the exceptions, while Massachusetts, California, and New York are among the most-affected.

Leaders of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines and the National Council of Churches in the Philippines denounced U.S. plans to increase troops in the region to fight Abu Sayyaf, Muslim rebels. The church leaders warned that increased U.S. involvement would likely cause further discord between Christian and Muslim populations in the country, and that the controversial role of U.S. military presence in the Philippines has led to a feeling of U.S. domination and Filipino dependence on the United States, perceptions that would be heightened by an influx of troops.

• ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson and the Lutheran World Federation were among 29 religious leaders and faith-based organizations that signed a letter urging the U.S. government to allocate more money toward global HIV/AIDS causes. The “Interfaith Letter on Global AIDS,” individually addressed to each member of the House and Senate Budget Committee, asked the United States to increase its spending on “development, health and humanitarian programs” to $2.5 billion for the 2003 fiscal year.

• At a four-day Washington, D.C., conference in April to develop a national peace organization for American Jews, Israeli activist Shulamit Aloni urged Jewish Americans to protest the actions of Israel’s government in Palestine and demand its return to Jewish values. Aloni claimed the Israeli government has falsely led its people to support military violence against the Palestinians as a necessity for national security and reported that some Israeli citizens are afraid to voice their protest of the policies lest they be labeled unpatriotic.

Lutheran-supported Phebe Hospital and School of Nursing in central Liberia was attacked and looted in May as an ongoing three-year surge of violence escalated between government forces and members of Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy. The hospital was damaged, but is still operational. Staff and patients safely evacuated to a nearby Roman Catholic hospital.

• During an April visit to Papua New Guinea, Lutheran World Federation President Christian Krause promotedreconciliation in the country’s three Lutheran church bodies. Krause also encouraged Papua New Guinea to hold to its Christian values in the face of upcoming civil elections and strained relationships after a civil war. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea, Melpa Lutheran Church in Papua New Guinea and Gutnius Lutheran Church-Papua New Guinea represent 20 percent of the population.

• By 2004, three Protestant denominations in the Netherlands will merge to form a 2.7 million-member church. The publicized 2004 deadline aims to hasten a decades-long effort to unite the Netherlands Reformed Church, the Reformed Churches in the Netherlands and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Currently, the denominations are connected through a federation called the Uniting Protestant Churches in the Netherlands.

The Protestant Hour, a 57-year-old radio show supported by the ELCA, Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and United Methodist Church, will change its name to Day 1. It’s adding the United Church of Christ as a participant and developing TV programming for the Hallmark Channel’s America at Worship series. The program will include sermons and panel discussions of Scripture by representatives of the five churches.

An agreement between leaders of minority churches in Slovakia and its government will support ecumenism and growth in the predominantly Roman Catholic country, says Julius Filo, head of the Ecumenical Council of Churches in Slovakia, and bishop of the [Lutheran] Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession. The agreement affirms churches’ independence and freedom and ensures state funding for programs.

• Arthur Andersen, the accounting firm involved in the Enron scandal,began defending itself April 29 against accusations that it caused the failure of the Baptist Foundation of Arizona. That failure cost 13,000 investors about $570 million when the foundation filed for bankruptcy. Andersen lawyers argue that their auditors weren’t responsible for the failure, while the foundation’s liquidation trusts say Andersen should have discovered the fraud. A $217 million settlement Andersen earlier agreed to pay fell through its insurance company couldn’t pay the sum.

The Lutheran Church­Missouri Synod’s Foundation received a $9,675,000 settlement from Vining-Sparks, a Memphis-based investment company. The settlement came two years after the LCMS sued the company to recover losses from “extremely speculative investments,” some of which were purchased in violation of foundation policies. The settlement is less than one-fourth of what the foundation lost, and $3 million of it will go to settle a class-action lawsuit. The remainder will partially refund Synod bodies that also sustained losses.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom released a report citing three nations as the worst religious persecution offenders: North Korea, Turkmenistan and Sudan. Panel members urged the United States to work with the North Korean government to help protect religious freedom, advised suspending state visits to Turkmenistan, and urged the White House and Senate to support the House version of the Sudan Peace Act.

Israeli Defense Minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer ordered the construction of a 226-mile fence along Israel’s border with the West Bank. The fence, to be complete within half a year, is supposed to make it harder for suicide bombers to enter Israel. The $44 million fence will include cameras and electronic detection devices.

A new study of U.S. Latinos, “Hispanic Churches in American Public Life,” found that while 70 percent of Latinos are Roman Catholic there has been a generational shift to Protestantism. Over three years, Protestants increased from 18 percent to 32 percent, while the number of Catholics dropped from 74 percent to 59 percent. The study was based on a telephone survey of 2,310 Latinos, a mail survey of 434 Latino civic and religious leaders, and community profiles of 45 congregations and 256 clergy and lay people.

• In a May 21 letter, representatives of the ELCA and 13 other faith groups asked President Bush to keep his commitment to admit up to 70,000 refugees to the United States this year. Only 11,000 have been allowed to enter up to May, they said, emphasizing their concern that “thousands of desperate refugees will be forced to languish in the misery that is the plight of most of the world’s 15 million refugees. … We feel that our country must be especially generous in assisting victims of terror whose only hope for rebuilding their lives is resettlement in the United States.”

This fall, the University of California, Santa Barbara, will open the Walter H. Capps Center for the Study of Religion and Public Life, with a $500,000 appropriation from Congress and additional donations from others. Capps was an ELCA member and a religious studies professor at the university. He briefly served as a U.S. congressman before his death in 1997.


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February issue


Embracing diversity