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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Worldscan

• The ELCA, 10 other denominations, the National Council of Churches and Church World Service issued a June 7 statement urging the U.S. Congress and Bush administration to end restrictions for U.S. citizens traveling to Cuba. The rules are “unfair and inappropriate [and] restrain religious freedom,” read the statement. The leaders said interpretation of a new U.S. Treasury Department policy limits religious organizations to one trip every three months and restricts the number of travelers. Such restrictions prevent humanitarian work and church partnerships, they said.

• To stem a decline in vocations, Roman Catholics in Poland are advertising on billboards, in direct mail and in newspapers. One ad features a handsome, unshaven man in a clerical collar and the words: “Hard guy? No, a Jesuit.” Jesuit leader Dariusz Kowalczyk said the church “has been advertising itself for two thousand years. ... Today, the adverts are more sophisticated and this isn’t surprising; there’s the Internet and color printing, and it would be a sin not to use them.”

• After almost 40 years of talks, the Christian Reformed Church voted June 12 to ordain women. A day later, church delegates voted to permit local church bodies to send female delegates to the denomination’s Synod, the church’s legislative body. The local compromise was made to keep the 300,000-strong denomination from splitting, as some church members opposewomen’s ordination.

Graduating from college makes one more likely to maintain religious beliefs, according to a study by the University of Texas at Austin. “Religion and spirituality are becoming more accepted in higher education, both in intellectual circles and in campus life,” said Jeremy Uecker, one of the study’s authors. The complete study, “Losing My Religion,” was printed in the June 2007 sociology journal Social Forces.

• Based on a 2006 law, the British government urged faith-based schools in England and Wales by Sept. 1 to develop programs with British schools sponsored by other beliefs. The legislation requires schools to promote community cohesion between racial and religious groups. The guidelines state: “Every school—whatever its intake and wherever it is located—is responsible for educating children and young people who will live and work in a country that is diverse in terms of culture, faith, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds.” Some teachers criticized the law for creating a new level of bureaucracy in the form of monitoring by an education standards watchdog.

• Episcopal Church leaders said they won’t let pressure from the worldwide Anglican Communion make Episcopalians reverse their policies on the ordination of openly gay bishops. World Anglican leaders met in Tanzania in February, giving the U.S. church a September deadline to promise not to ordain any bishops in a same-sex relationship and not to authorize rites for same-sex blessings. The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council said in a June 14 statement that such policy changes could only be made at the denomination’s general convention, which will be held in 2009.

• Abductions of church workers and human rights activists in the Philippines are on the rise. More than 19 people were kidnapped between January and June by suspected military agents, according to activists and religious leaders. Two abductees were killed. In May alone, 10 people were abducted, including Berlin Guerrero, a Protestant pastor in Laguna. Guerrero said he was thrown into a van, tortured and accused of being a communist. Most victims are farmers and workers identified with labor unions and other groups. Desaparecidos, an organization of people whose relatives have disappeared, told the International Herald Tribune that documented abductions rose from seven in 2001 to 75 in 2006. Roman Catholic Archbishop Angel Lagdameo said the disappearances “shamed and saddened” the church. And Felixberto Calang, a Protestant bishop, called them part of a state-sponsored campaign against political dissenters. Alberto Romulo, Phillipines secretary for foreign affairs, said the government will investigate human rights abuses.

Water scarcity in rural Africa is creating major conflicts from Darfur, Sudan, to Mount Elgon in Kenya. The population in the Mount Elgon area has doubled in the last 30 years, straining limited resources, said participants at an Ecumenical Water Network conference May 21-25 in Entebbe, Uganda. “It all started when the Janjaweed (militia) began burning villages before taking control of the water points,” said Ismail Algazouli, an engineer from the Sudan Social Development Organization, which receives support from Action By Churches Together, an international alliance whose partners include the ELCA. Attacks by Janjaweed in Sudan and other militias in the region have targeted women and children at wells or springs. Maritim Rirei, an Anglican Church of Kenya worker, said local churches are both resettling people displaced by the violence and trying to protect water sources. But church organizations are also endangered. On June 20, militia killed Adam Adam, an ACT employee and displaced person who was a guard and water pump operator in Khamsa Degaig camp for about 130,000 internally displaced people in Zalingei, West Darfur.

• Two recently appointed Lutheran bishops in Norway—Tor Joergensen of Bodoe and Solveig Fiske of Hamar—expressed support for legalizing same-sex marriages. In May the country’s center-left coalition government proposed changing the law on marriage to include “homosexual and heterosexual couples.” It also proposed extending child adoption and artificial insemination rights to homosexual couples. Churches would not be forced to allow marriage ceremonies for gay and lesbian couples. A letter to the editor of Vaart Land claims the bishops’ statements were causing people to leave the (Lutheran) Church of Norway.

Hong Kong Christians instituted a manual to fight domestic violence. Church leaders say their religious communities must renew their pastoral theology to support victims of domestic violence. In a 2006 survey of 480 pastors and lay people, the Hong Kong Women’s Christian Council found that 64 percent of pastors dealt with confirmed and suspected domestic violence. Nearly one-third of the laity said they knew someone abused by their spouse. The manual includes suggestions for support groups, training congregations and promoting gender equity.

• Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Desmond Tutu called for rapid action on climate change while preaching at a June 3 service in Tromsø, the largest city north of the Arctic Circle. The service gathered Arctic, African and Pacific church leaders to celebrate Creation Day. Tutu urged people to take alternate energy sources seriously, saying all people must act now if the world is to be saved. Lutheran Bishop Sofie Petersen of Greenland said melting snow and ice is a major challenge for the Inuit people whose traditional way of living centers on their proximity to the ice cap.

• World Anglican and Lutheran leaders decided at the latest in a series of gatherings that began in 1970 to work more closely on such issues as HIV/AIDS and poverty. According to the Third Anglican-Lutheran International Commission, which met in May in Nova Scotia, Canada, discussions will include “strategies that will help our churches work more closely together in common witness.”


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December issue

DECEMBER issue:

Advent: Waiting together

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