The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America



• Burmese Lutheran pastor Pau Za Khen, 62, was abducted and beheaded July 4 by unidentified assailants in Tanguam, near Churachandpur, Manipur, in northeast India. With no close, reliable e-mail facility near his village, Khen had crossed the Indo-Burmese border to send a message to the Lutheran World Federation about a November seminar in Malaysia. Khen, president of the Upper Myanmar Evangelical Lutheran Church, served congregations in Khen Maan, a village he founded in Chin, Myanmar, three miles from the border. Thang Khan Kham, general secretary of the church’s 56 congregations, said Huat Khan Thang was elected the denomination’s new president at an emergency conference July 9. Kham told The Lutheran July 31 that no one had claimed responsibility for the crime.

• The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark reported in its June 2007 Church News that little has happened in the five years since a denominational report found that one in five pastors suffers from stress. Sabine Bech-Hansen, chair of the 2,000-member Danish Pastors Union, said in the last year 30 pastors left their jobs for other work because of stress-related symptoms. She predicted more will leave “if something isn’t done soon.”

• With the goal of developing theological responses to “empire,” 20 theologians from Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and South America met June 27-30 at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn. A July 10 Lutheran World Federation news release said many participants commented on “an ever-increasing sense of the United States of America being and acting like an empire today.” Attendees discussed how theology has been used to support and resist American empire. Karen Bloomquist of the LWF said that from the outside, “Christians in the U.S. seem mostly silent and complicit with the assumptions and policies of empire, reinforced by expressions of religiousity that facilitate the imposition of ‘empire.’ ”

• In a July 27 letter to President George W. Bush, a coalition of evangelical leaders sought to “correct a serious misperception” that all evangelicals oppose creation of a Palestinian state. “The only way to bring the tragic cycle of violence to end is for Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate a just, lasting agreement that guarantees both sides viable, independent, secure states,” the letter states. It affirmed legitimate property rights for both Palestinians andIsraelis and placed blame for violence on both sides. The 34 signers included Ron Sider, head of Evangelicals for Social Action; current presidents of Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, Calif., and Bethel University, St. Paul, Minn.; a former president of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship; and the national director of Vineyard USA.

Hartford [Conn.] Seminary researcher Scott Thumma told Religion News Service that megachurches have “a tremendous amount of diversity.” Thumma’s book, Beyond Megachurch Myths: What We Can Learn from America’s Largest Churches (Jossey-Bass, 2007), reveals that churches with at least 2,000 worshipers draw people from varied racial, ethnic, political and economic backgrounds. Thumma and co-author Dave Travis found that 65 percent of the nation’s 1,250 megachurches belong to denominations, although some downplay those ties. The authors say smaller congregations can take a page from megachurches that use small groups to encourage community service and address contemporary issues in sermons.

• Women from around the world gathered in July in Nairobi, Kenya, to discuss taking the lead in HIV/AIDS work. Participants praised the ELCA’s “Stand With Africa” effort, which supports HIV/AIDS-related efforts as well as peace and hunger work. Sellah Opiyo, a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya who lost her husband to the disease, now serves as a trained HIV/AIDS counselor for the church in Kisumu, Kenya. Euni Motsa, an HIV/AIDS worker for Lutheran Development Service in Swaziland, said Lutheran programs have empowered her to be an “ambassador of hope.” She added: “We need to emphasize to people that being HIV-positive does not mean the end of life. God still loves us with our positive status.” Mamy Ranaivoson, a medical doctor based in Nairobi and serving as an ELCA consultant, said responding to the pandemic “has to be a priority in the church.”

• Economic violence is the most imminent form of violence in Nicaragua, Victoria Cortez Rodriguez, bishop of the Nicaraguan Lutheran Church of Faith and Hope, said at the Lutheran World Federation Department for World Service’s July meeting in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Cortez said churches have “an obligation to help people living in poverty.” After Haiti, Nicaragua is the poorest country in Latin America. More than 40 percent of the country’s 5.6 million people live in rural areas, most on less than $1 a day. Participants discussed how they could use advocacy, documentation and partnerships with churches in the North to help reduce violence, which Michèle Oriol, a professor at the University of Haiti, Port-au-Prince, said, “has grown with the rural exodus, the closure of borders and the misery.”

• Ann Holmes Redding, 55, an Episcopal priest in Seattle, was handed a one-year suspension for practicing Islam alongside Christianity. Geralyn Wolf, bishop of Rhode Island, said that for one year Redding can’t “exercise any of the responsibilities and privileges of an Episcopal priest or deacon.” Redding told The Seattle Times in June that she was “both Muslim and Christian, just like I’m both an American of African descent and a woman.”


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February issue


Embracing diversity