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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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May 1999 Worldscan

  • Several Church of Norway clergy said they can no longer accept spiritual guidance from Rosemarie Kohn, the Lutheran church's only woman bishop, who allowed a lesbian pastor to return to work. Although gay and lesbian marriages are legal under Norwegian civil law, it violates church rules that bar openly homosexual people from ordained jobs. Kohn's appointment of the pastor, Siri Sunde, came in part because the Church of Norway is a state church and clergy and government employees are protected by anti-discrimination laws.

  • Allan Boesak, former head of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and a prominent anti-apartheid activist, was sentenced to six years in prison after he was found guilty of stealing $400,000 from a charity he led, the Foundation for Peace and Justice.

  • Henry Lyons, the former head of the National Baptist Convention who resigned after being found guilty of swindling money meant to aid burned African American churches, plead guilty to federal tax evasion as part of a plea bargain. Some 49 other charges were dropped after his admission of guilt.

  • Three Episcopal groups supporting full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the church are dismayed that the denomination's House of Bishops made plans to avoid human sexuality issues at the General Convention to be held in 2000. "Once again, the bishops appear to have forgotten that the church is more than the episcopal order, but is a collaborative endeavor of laity and clergy," the groups said in a statement.

  • The Christian Coalition plans to raise $21 million to mobilize 15 million conservative voters in next year's presidential election. "We are launching the most massive effort to mobilize the grass roots in our history," said Coalition founder Pat Robertson.

  • Theologian and physicist Ian Barbour, cited for pioneering a framework for discussing scientific issues with significant moral and ethical implications, received the $1.2 million Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. "Forty years ago, few scientists had even a passing tolerance for religion and few theologians had any interest in science. More than anyone else, Dr. Barbour has changed all that," said Robert Russell, executive director of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, affiliated with the Graduate Union in Berkeley, Calif.

  • The Maryland Human Rights Commission accused a minor league baseball team, the Hagerstown [Md.] Suns, of religious discrimination. The team gives discounts to the ballpark for people who bring a church bulletin. The human rights commission said a man who didn't receive a discount because he didn't have a bulletin was denied his civil rights. If a settlement is not made, a public hearing will be held.

  • H. George Anderson, ELCA presiding bishop, signed letters of support for church leaders in Jerusalem who oppose the Israeli policy that has caused increased confiscation of Jerusalem residency cards from Palestinians.

  • The Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria commended Nigeria's current transition from military to civilian rule. Although the country faces challenges dealing with widespread corruption, fuel shortages and a poor human rights record, the church supports the new government in establishing democracy, said Archbishop David Windibiziri.

  • A new hymnal for British Methodists contains the phrase "Our Father and Mother" God in one of its three communion services. The book includes a richer provision of liturgical texts and underscores the considerable ecumenical convergence in current worship trends, said Methodist Conference officials.

  • Mario Orantes, held in custody for several months under suspicion of murdering Juan Gerardi, the auxiliary bishop of Guatemala City, was released for insufficient evidence. The judge who ordered his release told Orantes that he was still under investigation.

  • Christians should stay away from the Holy Land during the year 2000 celebrations, says Barry Weetman, a journalist and Methodist lay preacher from the United Kingdom, who visited the area. "I don't think they have prepared the sites well enough. The infrastructures such as toilets can't cope," he said. "I think even if they improve [Nazareth] and complete the road works, [Nazareth] won't cope, even though they have spent many millions of dollars on it."

  • Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican bishops in Canada agreed with the Catholic Franciscan monastic order to jointly operate a retreat center in Regina, Saskatchewan. "We are following the World Council of Churches' Lund principle, which asks churches to act together in all matters except those in which deep differences of conviction compel them to act separately," said Donald McDonald, provincial head of the Franciscans.

  • A Protestant pastor in the Republic of Congo, who refused to be named because he feared for his life, said the country faces total annihilation if the international community doesn't help halt the factional fighting that killed thousands, according to Ecumenical News International. He expressed concern for the hundreds of thousands of people who fled into the forest near the capital city of Brazzaville to escape the violence, saying, "They can neither eat or drink, nor cultivate crops because of the bombs falling on them." Konrad Raiser, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, wrote the U.N. secretary general supporting efforts to bring the troubles to world attention.

  • William Persell, who was consecrated as bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago, plans to emphasize inclusivity and community during his episcopacy. "I want each congregation to be an exciting place, that is attractive to people, where worship is done well ... and where there are outreach ministries that really serve the community," he said.

  • Church leaders from southern Sudan outlined actions that U.S. churches can take to help overwhelmed Sudanese churches. Harunn Runn, general secretary of the New Sudan Council of Churches, said churches can pray for the people, appeal to legislators and other government leaders on behalf of the southern Sudanese, and assist with spiritual leadership training and humanitarian work. Runn also wrote to the United Nations asking that humanitarian aid reach affected areas. A conference, facilitated by the council, resulted in a peace agreement signed by more than 300 Dinka and Nuer chiefs, community and church leaders, women and youth, promising an end to the seven-year conflict.

  • Ingrid Washinawatok, one of three people murdered in Colombia during a visit with the U'wa Indigenous People, was an active member of Agricultural Missions, a National Council of Churches program. Washinawatok and two other Americans were abducted Feb. 25. Venezuelan judicial police discovered their bodies just across the Colombian border. Washinawatok was a member of the Menominee tribe of Wisconsin.

  • Pierre Esperence, the main Lutheran World Federation/DWS-partner in Haiti, was shot twice and wounded outside his office in Port-au-Prince. It's unclear whether the incident was an armed robbery or a politically motivated murder attempt.

  • Bernard Law, the Roman Catholic cardinal in Boston, told the state's Catholic population that church members who support the death penalty are committing a sin. "The teachings of the church are very clear," Law said. "For a well-informed Catholic to support capital punishment would be morally wrong." Polls show that about 70 percent of Catholics support capital punishment.

  • Melvin Talbert, Methodist bishop of the California-Nevada Annual Conference, is referring a complaint against 69 pastors for their role in performing a same-sex union to the church counsel. Talbert said he was acting to uphold church law, even though he disagrees with the church's ban on pastors celebrating or presiding at same-sex unions. "I will uphold the law, but I will not be silenced," he said.

  • The Amity Printing Company, established in 1988 through a joint venture with United Bible Societies and Amity Foundation in Nanjing, China, celebrated printing its 20 millionth copy of the Bible. "During the Cultural Revolution the red guards destroyed all our Bibles, and we needed Bibles to read," said K.H. Ting, honorary president of the China Christian Council. "The United Bible Societies knew the need and wanted to help. Both sides did not know or trust each other at the time. Despite the risks involved, both sides wanted and desired to try to establish the printing work. In Jesus Christ we became good friends."

  • The leadership of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Germany criticized the increasing erosion of the observance of Sundays and public holidays. Church leaders noted that local authorities generously approve longer business hours for shops during fairs and festivals on Sundays and holidays.

  • The Evangelical Church of the River Plate in Argentina asked Roman Herzog, the president of the Federal Republic of Germany, for a personal commitment to make the archives in Buenos Aires or Germany accessible to facilitate investigations into human rights violations against those of German origin by Argentina's military dictatorship. The church body is a member of the Lutheran World Federation.

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    December issue

    DECEMBER issue:

    Advent: Waiting together

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