The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America



• The treasurer’s report to the Lutheran World Federation Council meeting Aug. 31-Sept. 6 in Jerusalem and Bethlehem ("LWF Council focuses on reconciliation," October 2005) showed that, though a year ago the financial situation was tight, 2005 and 2006 budget projections indicate no deficit. LWF churches are urged to pay their full fair membership fees. In other business, the council received an interim report on family, marriage and human sexuality from the eight-person task force appointed in September 2004. The report said initial dialogue has helped promote a better understanding of the different positions of Lutheran churches.

Oswald C.J. Hoffmann, religious broadcasting pioneer and speaker of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod radio program The Lutheran Hour, died Sept. 8. The LCMS pastor, 91, had been retired for 17 years as speaker and recently retired from duties as honorary speaker for the program. Hoffmann also served as consultant and friend to U.S. presidents Dwight Eisenhower, Jack Kennedy and Richard Nixon, and to world religious leaders and dignitaries.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II Sept. 13 at Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law, Washington, D.C., called on Jews, Christians and Muslims worldwide to “live by a common word of faith” to defeat religious extremism. He said Muslim extremists “don’t speak for Islam anymore than Christian terrorists speak for Christianity. The real voice of faith will be and must be heard.”

• Israel’s Supreme Court forbid the government from destroying synagogues in settlements evacuated by Israel. Palestinians set fire to several of them. The Palestinian Authority said Israel’s decision to not demolish the buildings puts it in an untenable position, given the anger Palestinians feel about the long-standing occupation. Since Israel removed all religious symbols, Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas said the empty buildings “are no longer religious places.”

• Protestant and Roman Catholic church leaders condemned rioting by militants opposed to Northern Ireland
leaving the United Kingdom and being incorporated into the Republic of Ireland. Belfast has had rioting every night since Sept. 10 and some of the worst violence the city has seen in a decade. Recently international attention has focused on the future of the Irish Republican Army, the largely Catholic paramilitary group seeking reunification of Ireland that has said it will lay down its arms. Protestant groups are worried their concerns are being sidelined in the peace process.

• The American Bible Society is giving Bibles and Scripture portions to Hurricane Katrina survivors
in addition to a special booklet called God Is Our Shelter and Strength. The items are in English and Spanish. Several volunteers at different sites requested Bibles to hand out or to put into backpacks they fill with essentials. “Most of these people lost their Bibles, and they will treasure this new Bible as a sign of a fresh start,” said Dorris Ellis, editor of the Houston Sun and a Bible societyvolunteer.

• The Anglican Church of Nigeria no longer defines itself as a church in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Nigerian church deleted from its constitution the requirement of full communion with Canterbury. The Nigerian archbishop has been among the most outspoken critics of pro-gay policies in Anglican provinces of the West.

• Muslim leaders are protesting Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s suggestion that mosques be wiretapped in the interest of national security. “Everybody knows the governor has presidential aspirations and he is playing to the extreme base of the Republican Party,” said Mahdi Bray, executive director of the Muslim American Society’s Freedom Foundation, Washington, D.C., adding a call to Republican activists and religious leaders to denounce Romney. “Effective law enforcement deals with actual indications of wrongdoing” or reasonable cause for suspicion, said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesperson for the Washington, D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations.

• Spain’s first married Roman Catholic priest was ordained in August with the explicit permission of the late Pope John Paul II. Evans David Gliwitzki, 64, married with two daughters, had been an Anglican pastor before converting to Catholicism. The Tenerife Diocese stated: “This is not an entryway to the abolition of Catholic celibacy. Rather it is a very special exception."

• Bread for the World led an effort of faith communities to protect the Food Stamp Program from funding cuts during the federal budget reconciliation process. The religious leaders, including ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson, sent a letter to each member of Congress asking them to protect the program. The leaders called on Congress and the president to make a new national commitment to fight hunger.

• The (Lutheran) Church of Denmark may redefine its ties with the Danish government, depending on the outcome of a national debate. The majority of members of the Danish Parliament want to keep the present relationship, but a younger generation of politicians favor a clear separation of church and state. In 2000 the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden ended its status as a state church.

• The Hubei Christian Council in China this year held its fourth conference for female church workers. It focused on ways to allow women an even greater role within the church. It included talks on a biblical and historical look at the role of women in the church, resolving family conflicts, building a happy marriage, pastoral counseling and a platform of Asian feminist theology. Of the approximately 300,000 Protestant Christians in Hubei, about 85 percent are women. They comprise about one-third of the province’s pastors and theological teachers and 60 percent of all evangelists.

• A joint statement by Roman Catholic Archbishop Vincent Concessao, Christian minority rights campaigner John Dayal, and Church of North India theologian Valson Thampu said India’s low-caste Christian dalits feel “alienated” from society. Church leaders are stepping up efforts for Christian dalits to have the same rights as other members of the low-caste group. Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist dalits were granted rights such as free education and quotas in government jobs and legislatures. Christian and Muslim dalits have no such rights.

• On Sept. 8 about 500 people from religious and peace organizations gathered in front of the White House to hear speakers and unfurl a petition with 100,000 names that asks the U.S. to support full funding for African Union forces in Darfur and back efforts for a multinational presence in that region of Sudan. Kimberly C. Stietz of the ELCA Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs, Washington, D.C., says U.S. hurricane recovery stories, rightly a media focus, have pushed the Darfur situation to the back burner.

• The Barna Group reports “serious double-digit growth” in the use of Web sites, large-screen projection systems and e-mail blasts by U.S. Protestant churches. Nearly six of 10 Protestant churches have a Web site, up from 2000 when just one-third did. Big screens in sanctuaries may be responsible for the decrease in “pew Bibles” from 86 percent in 2000 to 80 percent today.

• Four senior Anglican bishops suggested that the Church of England arrange a meeting of Muslim and Christian leaders to initiate an apology by Western countries involved in the war in Iraq. A document prepared by a working group under the leadership of the bishop of Oxford, Richard Harries, points to a “long litany of errors in the West’s handling of Iraq” and says the church can play a role as governments are unlikely to express remorse.

• The Christian minority in the Holy Land has come under attack from both Muslims and Jews. A mob of Muslim youth rampaged in the mostly Christian town of Taybe, northeast of the West Bank city of Ramallah, Sept. 4. They beat villagers, vandalized cars and set fire to 14 houses in revenge for an alleged affair between a Christian businessman and a Muslim woman from their adjacent village. The woman was murdered by her relatives for dishonoring them. And on Sept. 5 an ultra-Orthodox Jewish youth spat at a procession of Greek Orthodox priests in Jerusalem’s Old City. It was the third such incident this year.


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February issue


Embracing diversity