The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America



• Ishmael Noko, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, told Ecumenical News International that the international community must act to ensure the situation in Zimbabwe “does not deteriorate to a state where even after change, the country is unmanageable.” Zimbabwe has an annual inflation rate of more than 7,600 percent, severe political repression, government-imposed wage controls, and widespread unemployment and poverty. At the end of August, a national takeover of water and sewage systems where funding wasn’t provided for chemicals to clean the water led to cholera and diarrhea outbreaks in Harare and other areas. Church leaders in Bulawayo advised the government in an Aug. 22 letter that “the Bulawayo residents are not accepting the Zimbabwe National Water Authority takeover.”

ELCA International Disaster Response sent nearly $39,000 to Peru after an Aug. 15 earthquake struck the country’s coast, killing more than 500 people and displacing thousands. The Peruvian Evangelical Lutheran Church used the funds to provide 420 families with food, tents, blankets, water and flashlights. Belletech Deressa, director for international development and disaster response, ELCA Global Mission, said about 16,670 families were affected and many lost homes. “The most urgent needs are drinkable water, shelter, medicines, clothes and nonperishable food,” she said. To help, send checks to ELCA International Disaster Response, P.O. Box 71764, Chicago, IL 60694-1764, or give by credit card at 800-638-3522 or at ELCA Good Gifts.

• The National Council of Churches USA named Ann M. Tiemeyer, an ELCA pastor, as its program director for women’s ministry, effective Oct. 1. Previously she directed Koinonia NYC, a ministry that responded to the effects of the Sept. 11 attacks in New York. According to an NCC news release, Tiemeyer will “champion the spiritual and professional development” of women who are leaders in the NCC and its member bodies—including the ELCA. She will also develop programs to encourage young women to become involved in the ecumenical movement.

• Female full-time solo pastors are better compensated than their male counterparts, according to a survey of church workers by Your Church, a ministry of Christianity Today International. Female solo pastors received an average of $62,472, 10.4 percent more in compensation than males ($56,558). Male senior pastors receive more compensation than female senior pastors—$81,432, compared to $66,218 for women. The researchers gathered information through the Internet, Church Law & Tax Report, Leadership Journal, e-newsletters and other publications.

• Zephania Kameeta, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Republic of Namibia, gave up trying to convince the country’s government to allocate $14 a month for the poor. Instead, Namibian Lutherans, other churches and nongovernmental organizations are making the monthly grants. “If talking cannot convince, do it,” Kameeta said Aug. 7. Around 1,000 people in Omitara, near Windhoek, will benefit from a two-year pilot project beginning in December. Project leaders hope to show how small grants can make a big difference to people living with poverty or HIV/AIDS. More than 30 percent of Namibians are considered very poor, and 36 percent are jobless—one of the world’s highest unemployment rates.

• Toshimasa Yamamoto, head of the Japanese Christian Council in Japan, welcomed a July 31 U.S. House of Representatives resolution that demands Toyko formally apologize for a system of sexual slavery during World War II. Introduced by Japanese-American Mike Honda, the House resolution responded to a March statement by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who said there was “no proof” that women from Korea or other Japanese-occupied territories were forced to work as sex slaves for the Japanese Imperial Army during the war. Yamamoto, a Methodist pastor, said the council will continue to work with Christians in Korea to address the issue.

• An Indian church worker called for expatriate Christians living in Afghanistan to present a “more inclusive Jesus, without alienating the people” of the war-torn country. David Selvaraj, a member of the Church of South India, told Ecumenical News International that he was shocked by the “little respect” some Christians working in the country had “for the local people or their faith.” At the same time, he reported that local Christians in Afghanistan were “scared of speaking about the persecution they face in the overwhelmingly Muslim-majority nation. The feeling of insecurity is terrible.” Selvaraj said he witnessed Western Christians carrying firearms during church services. He visited Afghanistan in July to train staff of a Christian action group working in the country.

• Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop and president of the Lutheran World Federation, welcomed a ruling by the Madras High Court in Chennai, India, that dismissed Novartis AG’s challenge to the constitutionality of Indian patent law. The Swiss pharmaceutical company sought a patent for Glivec, which a lower court had rejected on the grounds that it was a new form of an old cancer medicine with a trivial change. Church and ecumenical groups said another outcome could have affected the manufacture of thousands of generic medicines in India, a source for many worldwide who can’t afford brand-name drugs. “Patents must be granted in a way that balances public health and real innovation,” Hanson said. But Paul Herrling, a Novartis spokesperson, said, “Medical progress occurs through incremental innovation. If Indian patent law does not recognize these important advances, patients will be denied new and better medicines.”

• Lutherans and Muslims in Norway signed a joint declaration Aug. 22 on religious freedom to “create space for understanding,” the document said. Signers said they believe the document, which supports citizens’ rights to convert between faiths without harassment, is the first of its kind in the world between a national Christian and a national Muslim group. “We hope to contribute to the international process on this important matter,” said Olav Fykse Tveit, secretary of the Church of Norway Council on Ecumenical and International Relations. About 86 percent of Norwegians are members of the Church of Norway and there are 72,000 registered Muslims. Both groups said conversion between Islam and Christianity isn’t common in Norway.

• Japanese Christian theologian Yasuo Furuya urged churches in Japan and the world to emphasize God’s kingdom to overcome stagnant evangelism and church divisions. Furuya, a professor at Seigakuin University in Saitama, issued the call in The Kingdom of God and Christianity, published Aug. 7. After the Manchurian incident in 1931, Furuya said Japanese Christians “stopped talking about the kingdom of God” because it would have clashed with the then-popular militaristic notion of Japan “as a nation of gods.” Furuya said many churches in Japan are internally divided between a “church faction” and a “social faction.” He said many young Japanese avoid church because they see congregations focused mostly on their internal life or divided over ideology.

• Christian women in India are protesting the illegal practice of aborting fetuses and killing young infants because they are female. “If it continues, there will be an extinction of female children,” said T. Sabitha Swaraj, president of the All India Council of Christian Women, part of the National Council of Churches in India. She said it was not a new development, but “those engaging in it seem to have become bolder now.” Last December, India’s minister for women and child development reported that more than 10 million girls had been killed in the last 20 years due to female feticide and infanticide. A skewed gender balance results, with 927 women for every 1000 men—and in northern India, fewer than 800 girls born for every 1,000 boys.


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February issue


Embracing diversity