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Worldscan

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada National Church Council said the Eastern Synod went “beyond its constitutional authority” when it approved a local option to bless same-sex unions. “[The] National Church Council urges congregations and pastors of the ELCIC to continue to abide by decisions made at the 2005 National Convention,” council members said. The council invited synod members to consult on how “concerns may be addressed,” adding that it had approved reconsidering same-gender blessings at the 2007 convention.

• While most of 1.2 million Palestinian children were out of school due to a general strike, the majority of Lutheran schools remained open. “In situations like this, the ones who lose in the end are the children,” said Charlie Haddad, director of schools for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. A September church newsletter said teachers and other government workers were striking because they hadn’t been paid in more than six months since the international aid boycott began. That boycott started after Hamas took power in January. Haddad said more than 20 percent of Palestinian students’ schools were still open since 10 percent attend Lutheran or other private schools and about 12 percent attend U.N. Refugee Welfare Association schools. Meanwhile, many Palestinians still cope with rising unemployment and food prices, lack of electricity and poor water quality.

• Christian groups protested after lawmakers in Gujarat, India, voted Sept. 19 to exempt people who convert from Hinduism to Buddhism or Jainism from a 2003 anti-religious conversion law. The law had required government permission for all conversions. Now “only those converting to Islam and Christianity have to report to the government,” said a statement from the Evangelical Fellowship of India. Legislators said Buddhism and Jainism were branches of the Hindu religion. Christians comprise a little more than 0.5 percent of Gujarat’s 50 million people.

• “We [need] to review the paradigm of Islam so it’s not just understood in terms of oil or terror,” Soritua Nababan told the media at a World Council of Churches meeting in September. Nababan, 73, a former bishop in Indonesia’s Protestant Christian Batak Church, a member of the Lutheran World Federation, urged interreligious dialogue to help “strengthen the role of moderate Muslims in their own communities, rather than letting the extremists take over. ... There are extreme groups even among Christians. The most important thing that I do is to proclaim the gospel. And when a Muslim invites me for a dialogue, I am always ready.”

• Meeting in September in Karasjok, Norway, representatives from indigenous people worldwide asked the Lutheran World Federation to begin a program to improve the lives of those who aren’t often accepted in mainstream society. Their recommendations included adding a staff person at the LWF’s Geneva office, dealing with human rights and land rights, and “incorporating ethical values from indigenous perspectives.” Participants came from countries including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Namibia, Nepal, New Zealand, Philippines, Sweden and the U.S.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Iceland signed an agreement to allow pastors, deacons and diaconal ministers to serve calls in either church. “I expect we will learn new ways from each other to be effective agents for the gospel in the larger context,” said ELCIC National Bishop Raymond Schultz. The ELCIC has similar agreements with the Evangelical Church of Germany and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland.

The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod completed the Lutheran Service Book, a hymnal in development since 1998. It’s the fifth hymnal since the LCMS’ formation in 1847. Congregations received an introductory DVD, a sample hymnal and a CD with samples of new hymns.

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service thanked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the U.S. State Department for allowing thousands of ethnic Karen people living in refugee camps in Thailand to enter the U.S. refugee resettlement program. The State Department lifted provisions in the U.S. Patriot and Real ID Acts that prevented refugee status for many in the camps who’d supported the Karen National Union, a resistance group fighting against Burma’s (Myanmar’s) regime. Calling that regime “brutal,” LIRS President Ralston H. Deffenbaugh said the agency would “help them start their lives anew.” He asked Congress to secure similar protection for refugees from other countries.

• A coalition of Zimbabwe’s Protestant, Roman Catholic and evangelical leaders took partial responsibility for the country’s economic and social decay under President Robert Mugabe. “We have often not been the salt and the light that the gospel calls us to be,” said the group’s Sept. 15 statement. “We therefore confess our failure and ask God’s forgiveness.” Through advocacy and talks with Mugabe, the coalition hopes to focus on a shared national vision, political tolerance, reducing corruption, encouraging tourism and more.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations said it would give $5,000 in seed money to help Roman Catholics repair churches that were burned by Muslims angered by Pope Benedict’s remarks about Islam. Six Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican churches were burned or damaged in the Palestinian Territories in September. In a Sept. 12 speech, the pope cited a Byzantine emperor who called the Muslim prophet Mohammed’s teachings “evil and inhuman.” In Nablus on Sunday, Sept. 17, Bishop Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, heads of other Christian churches and hundreds of Muslim residents gathered in churches to express support for local Christians and discourage other attacks.

Two Roanoke, Va., congregations, St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran and St. Peter’s Anglican, are merging and disassociating themselves from the ELCA and the Episcopal Church. Church leaders told the Sept. 23 Roanoke Times that the congregations would become the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, under the jurisdiction of the Anglican Diocese of Bolivia.

The National Association of Evangelicals and an interfaith coalition of religious groups, including mainline Protestants and Unitarians, opposed proposed language within a defense spending bill related to military chaplains. Passed by the House of Representatives in May, the language would allow prayer “according to the dictates of the chaplain’s own conscience.” NAE President Ted Haggard wrote House and Senate members Sept. 19, calling the amendment “unnecessary and likely counterproductive.” In a separate letter, the coalition called the amendment “unnecessary and unwise.” Both the coalition and Haggard said multifaith settings call for “inclusive” prayers. Other conservative evangelicals, such as Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council, supported the language.

ELCA International Disaster Response sent $30,000 Sept. 5 to the Amity Foundation to help people in southeast China recover from a July tropical storm and a typhoon in August. The funds will help Amity, an ELCA partner, provide food, medicine and other supplies, as well as rebuild homes, water systems and more. Together the two disasters took the lives of more than 360 people and affected more than 1.5 million. To help, visit www.elca.org/disaster/idrgive.

• Lutheran and Muslim leaders in Norway expressed support for the country’s Jewish community after a Sept. 17 attack on an Oslo synagogue. No one was hurt when four men allegedly fired gunshots that struck synagogue walls and windows. Ole Christian Kvarme, the (Lutheran) Church of Norway’s Oslo bishop, called it “a situation in which we must raise the barricades against all types of anti-Semitism.”

• A Purdue University (West Lafayette, Ind.) researcher found a significant relationship between being religious and obesity. Tracking 2,800 religious Americans over eight years, sociology professor Kenneth Ferraro said Baptists were most likely to be obese, followed by Pentecostals, Roman Catholics, Methodists and members of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Fewer Lutherans, Seventh-day Adventists, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists were obese. Most likely to be obese were less active “coach potato saints,” who tend to watch “lots of obese religious leaders on TV,” the study said.

• U.S. media conglomerate Fox introduced FoxFaith, a label for “filmed entertainment with a clear Christian message or based on material by a Christian author,” the company announced Sept. 20. According to Ecumenical News International, Jeff Yordy, a Fox vice president, said the company isn’t in the business of “proselytizing” but “recognized that there was a hugely underserved audience” and had seen “explosive growth in this marketplace.”

• A Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) task force recommended the denomination more closely supervise its social service division, which filed for bankruptcy in 2004. Recommendations included requiring some division executives to be active members of a Disciples congregation, selecting an ombudsman to review audits and reports from whistleblowers, and setting up a church grievance procedure. Before filing for bankruptcy, the church’s National Benevolent Association had 18 programs, serving some 200,000 people annually. Today it serves fewer than 700 people.

• The Episcopal Church Diocese of Quincy, based in Peoria, Ill., asked for oversight by someone other than Katharine Jefferts Schori, who will be installed in November as the church’s new presiding bishop. Seven other diocese have made the same request. The 2,200-member Quincy diocese doesn’t ordain women. In a statement, diocese leaders said they were taking action because of Jefferts Schori’s support of an openly gay bishop in New Hampshire and same-sex unions. In related news, Christ Episcopal, a 2,200-member congregation in Dallas, paid its diocese $1.2 million so it could leave the denomination and retain its property. The Diocese of Dallas is one of those asking to be removed from Jefferts Schori’s oversight.

• In its 2006 report on international religious freedom, the U.S. State Department listed ally Saudi Arabia as a “country of particular concern,” but removed the statement that “religious freedom does not exist in Saudi Arabia,” said Dwight Bashir of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. Bashir said removing the sentence sent a false message because “things have not really changed.” The State Department’s report also criticized Israel for constructing a wall that “limited access to sacred sites and seriously impeded the work of religious organizations that provide humanitarian relief and social services to Palestinians.” Countries listed of particular concern included Burma (Myanmar), China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Vietnam.

• At future meetings, United Church of Canada leaders said they will offer tap water wherever sites allow and discourage use of bottled water. They based the decision on demands by the church’s legislative body for an end to the privatization of water. A church report says Canadians use twice as much bottled water as Europeans, although testing shows the tap water is “as clean or cleaner.”


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September issue

SEPTEMBER issue:

Reinventing Sunday school

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