The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America



• Daoud Haddad, the first bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, died of a brain hemorrhage March 16. Haddad was born in Lebanon in 1914, studied theology in Switzerland and Germany, and was ordained in Jerusalem in 1940. He was consecrated as bishop in 1979 and served until 1986.

• About 137,000 Anufo people of Northern Ghana, Benin and Togo now have the New Testament in their own language. Missionaries Mary and Tom Holman, serving under the auspices of the Ghana Institute of Linguistics, Literacy and Bible Translation, Lutheran Bible Translators and Wycliffe Bible Translators, devoted 25 years to the translation. Throngs of people celebrated at the dedication ceremony. The Holmans also taught thousands of Anufo people how to read and write.

• Lutheranism should no longer be described in Norway’s constitution as the country’s official religion, the Labour Party stated. The proposal would end a system under which at least half of the 19 government ministers need to be members of the (Lutheran) Church of Norway. But the Labour Party isn’t ready to remove other sections of the constitution that cement the church’s links to the state. Its central board said the church should be given the powers to appoint bishops and deans only after it increases internal church democracy. “We have been concerned to preserve an open and inclusive church, while doing away with the state having an official religion,” said Labour Party leader Jens Stoltenberg. He invited Church of Norway leaders to work with the government to strengthen church democracy.

• Pope Benedict XVI named Kazimierz Nycz as archbishop of Warsaw, Poland, less than two months after the pope’s first choice resigned over revelations that he had collaborated with the country’s communist-era secret police. Stanislaw Wielgus’ resignation in January provoked a scandal in Poland, where the Roman Catholic Church was for many years the only major institution not under the control of the communist regime. Since 2004, Nycz, 57, has been bishop of Koszalin-Kolobrzeg, a northern Polish city on the coast of the Baltic Sea. Secret police files show that Nycz resisted all attempts to recruit him.

• Lobbying has begun to persuade delegates to this year’s Christian Reformed Church Synod to overturn measures that would allow all its churches to ordain women but bar them from serving as synodical delegates or deputies. Last year’s synod approved the measures, but allowing all churches to ordain women must be ratified this June to take effect.

• Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, said the denomination should refrain from ordaining gay bishops and blessing same-sex unions “for a season” so it can contribute to a covenant among the world’s 77 million Anglicans. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams proposed the covenant among the communion’s 38 regional churches, which would outline areas of common agreement and could provide a means for settling disputes. During its March meeting, the Episcopal House of Bishops affirmed the desire to remain in the Anglican communion but rejected a proposed plan by overseas primates in January to immediately provide alternative oversight in those dioceses that won’t accept the direct ministry of their bishop or of the presiding bishop. The bishops called the plan “injurious” to the Episcopal Church. They did not discuss gay bishops or same-sex blessings. Conversations will continue through the summer and at the bishops’ meeting in September.

• The World Council of Churches said the Middle East needs to become a nuclear weapon free-zone and has urged its members to work with other faiths in support of this objective. The WCC warned of a “cascade of nuclear proliferation” resulting from Iran’s “failure to assure the international community that its civilian nuclear programs are not camouflaging its intention to develop nuclear weapons capability,” and Israel’s refusal to subject all its nuclear facilities to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Lutheran church membership soared in Africa and Asia between 2005 and 2006 but continued its steady decline in the West, according to the Lutheran World Federation. Global membership rose by 467,511, an increase of .71 percent, to just under 66.7 million. The Geneva,Switzerland-based LWF counts 140 member churches, 10 congregations and one council in 78 countries. Countries in Asia saw the largest growth, adding 900,000 Lutherans, bringing the total there to 8.2 million. European nations experienced the deepest drop in membership, where the number of Lutherans fell by more than 566,000 to 37.4 million. Membership in North American LWF churches fell by 115,293, a drop of about 1.4 percent to just over 5 million. The ELCA, the LWF’s second-largest church with 4.85 million members, lost about 80,000 members.

Pope Benedict XVI reaffirmed church teachings on divorce and priestly celibacy, and told Roman Catholic politicians they must follow church doctrine on abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage. He said “Catholic politicians and legislators” are bound to “introduce and support laws inspired by values grounded in human nature,” including “respect for human life, its defense from conception to natural death, and the family built upon marriage between a man and a woman.” Meanwhile, the pope reaffirmed a strict ruling forbidding eucharistic celebration with ministries of non-Catholic churches, while at the same time giving priests the go-ahead to revive Latin as the main language used during mass.

• A Baton Rouge, La., priest became the youngest Roman Catholic bishop in the country in a two-hour ordination ceremony in which Shelton Fabre, 43, was given a share of the leadership of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Fabre will serve as an auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese, assisting Archbishop Alfred Hughes and senior auxiliary Bishop Roger Morin in the administration of the second-oldest diocese in the U.S.

The leader of a Japanese Christian group that concerns itself with nuclear disasters protested against a power plant accident in central Japan that they say was covered up for years. “This is an injustice that cannot be tolerated. We strongly protest [against the accident cover-up],” said Yoshiko Bannai, chair of the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster Issue Project of the National Christian Council in Japan. It was reported in March that a nuclear power plant in Shika, Ishikawa Prefecture, had caused an inadvertent nuclear chain reaction in 1999 after three control rods slipped out of position. The report added that the company covered up the incident for more than seven years before reporting it to the government. The company said it was a minor accident.

• Plaintiffs in sexual abuse cases against the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego and victims’ rights groups reacted angrily after the diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Bishop Robert Brom announced the decision, which resulted in the postponement of action in about 150 sexual abuse lawsuits, leading some to accuse him of attempting to conceal details of the cases from the public. John Manly, an attorney for 18 of the plaintiffs, described the filing as “a cynical attempt to keep the truth from coming out. The diocese’s action makes clear that this organization is nothing more than Enron in a Roman collar.” Brom argued the diocese had no choice but to file for bankruptcy, saying it’s “the best way available for us to compensate all of the victims as fairly and as equitably as … resources will allow.” “This is not a ‘cop out,’ but a sincere effort to face up to our responsibility,” he wrote in a statement.

The National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka is pleading for international support after four members of the church grouping, including a pastor and his two sons, went missing in early March. “We are appealing to international agencies to put pressure on the government to reveal the whereabouts of these missing church members,” said Godfrey Yogarajah, general secretary of the alliance.

A Colorado Springs, Colo., megachurch laid off 44 staff members, citing a 10 percent decline in revenue since its pastor, Ted Haggard, resigned after a scandal. The cuts, which include a range of administrators, custodians and nursery workers, amount to about 12 percent of New Life Church’s paid staff. Ross Parsley, interim senior pastor, said revenue declined after Haggard was fired over charges that he had bought methamphetamine and paid a Denver man for sex. Haggard has since resigned as president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

• Defying some perceptions of widening divisions between Christians and followers of Islam, hundreds of Muslims joined a sit-in in New Dehli, India, organized by Christian groups fighting discrimination meted out to Dalits, considered by many in the country as “untouchable” citizens. “Give us equal rights,” shouted the protesters, including senior church leaders and Muslim activists.

• Too many people deemed “nobodies” exist in the world today, Argentine pastor Sonia Andrea Skupch said in the opening sermon to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Lutheran World Federation in Lund, Sweden. “Argentina ... like many other countries, has a high percentage of children and teens living in the streets,” she said. “Many of them are continually being sent to prison, then leaving it again and falling back into crime again.” Skupch said a human rights group gave street teenagers cameras to film their lives, dreams and problems for the movie The Nobodies. “We are not a group of crazy people dreaming of a better world. We are the people of God … with names, identities and stories to share,” Skupch said. “Therein lives our hope, our faith and joy.”


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February issue


Embracing diversity