The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America



ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson and other Christian church leaders received “A Common Word Between You and Us,” a 29-page letter from 138 of the world’s Muslim leaders. Organized by the Royal Academy of Jordan, the Oct. 11 letter called for Muslims and Christians to work more closely on peace efforts. In a written response, Hanson said he received the letter “in the sincere expression of faithfulness intended by its drafters, and with the hopeful expectation for peace that calls to us from the origins of our sacred texts and professions of faith. ... I encourage prayer and planning for communities of justice, peace and security where Muslims, Jews and Christians draw from these origins as from essential wells of living water.” Read more at the ELCA Web site .

• Mindaugas Sabutis, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Lithuania, said religious minorities in the country of 3.5 million people need the same rights as the majority Roman Catholic Church. “We need the same legal norms that establish the conditions of traditional religions and regulate their relations with the state,” he told Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus and others gathered for an 80th anniversary of an agreement between the country and the Holy See. Sabutis said that although Lithuania recognizes Lutheran and other churches as traditional, state officials treat them as second class. Adamkus said he was confident “the situation must change” and that “bureaucratic hindrances” had prevented agreements with other religious communities.

• Six of 11 bishops of the (Lutheran) Church of Norway support proposals that would allow people in same-sex registered partnerships to serve as bishops, priests, deacons or catechists. The church’s national council supported the move but asked that bishops who believe it a violation of church teaching have the right to refuse to perform such ordinations. At presstime in November, the General Synod had not yet voted on the proposals. Olav Skjevesland, moderator of the bishops’ conference, opposes the proposals. Currently some dioceses have priests and deacons living in same-sex partnerships where bishops chose not to follow church policy.

• Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, wrote to Christopher Cox, chair of the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission, to voice opposition to SEC proposals that would reduce or eliminate shareholders’ ability to participate in the proxy resolution process. The process is a tool of the ELCA corporate social responsibility program, which works in cooperation with the ELCA Board of Pensions. Hanson’s Oct. 1 letter said the program “can actually benefit corporations. ... Through this process we have seen corporations address such complex issues as greenhouse gas emissions, the effects of HIV in sub-Saharan African workforces, and predatory lending practices in the subprime market.” John Kapanke, president of the pension board , also sent Cox a letter opposing the proposals.

• Michael Kinnamon, a Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor, was nominated to replace Bob Edgar as general secretary of the National Council of Churches, an ecumenical group made up of 35 Protestant and Orthodox churches, including the ELCA. After a $1.2 million loss in its last fiscal year, the council is reducing its budget by cutting 14 staff positions.

• Fred Nyabera, executive director of the Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in the Great Lakes Region and the Horn of Africa, said the Sudanese government’s reported pledge of $300 million in aid to Darfur is “a positive step, but it is not enough.” He was referring to former President Jimmy Carter’s statement that Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir promised the region would receive $100 million from its government and $200 million from a loan from the Chinese. Nyabere said churches working for peace in Darfur are often disappointed that the crisis was used as a “bargaining chip” while people were suffering. “The real issues have never been sufficiently addressed,” he said. “The focus has always been on the consequences.”

• More than two-thirds of Americans say presidential candidates shouldn’t use their religious beliefs to sway voters, according to an October poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research . Of those Americans who regularly attend worship, nearly 60 percent said faith shouldn’t be a campaign tool.

• Clergy in Britain were warned not to wear their clerical collars when not working to avoid attacks. A report by National Churchwatch, an independent group that advises clergy about security, said pastors are at increased risk for attack because they are clearly identifiable. Five clerics have been murdered in England and Wales since 1996, the report said. A 2001 academic study found that 12 percent of clergy had suffered from physical violence and 70 percent had experienced other forms of violence, from spitting to name-calling.

• Juan Schvindt, executive secretary of the Evangelical Church of the River Plate, an LWF member in Argentina, welcomed the conviction of a former Roman Catholic police chaplain. Christian von Wernich was convicted Oct. 9 and sentenced to life in prison for his involvement in seven homicides, 31 cases of torture and 42 instances of illegitimate deprivation of liberty during the military dictatorship of 1976 to 1983. Von Wernich claimed he was carrying out pastoral duties in police detention and torture centers. The Bishop’s Conference of Argentina said if von Wernich took part in “violent repression,” he acted “under his personal responsibility.”

Lutheran World Relief received a nearly $900,000 grant from USAID to combat malaria in Tanzania. The program will be carried out in partnership with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania. Ninety-three percent of the population is at risk for malaria, which is the leading cause of death for children under 5. Children and pregnant women are the primary focus for the Lutheran church’s work.

Prison Fellowship said Friends Congregational, College Station, Texas, can’t participate in one of its programs because the congregation welcomes gays and lesbians as members. “For a church to qualify for Angel Tree (which provides Christmas gifts to inmates’ children), its beliefs must be consistent with our Statement of Faith,” stated a July 24 letter from Prison Fellowship. David Lawson, a senior official of the fellowship, said Angel Tree involves a year-round relationship between churches and prisoners’ children, involving them in congregational programs. The United Church of Christ congregation wrote back that it was “disheartened that Prison Fellowship has chosen to lean more heavily on small matters of doctrinal disagreements than on much larger matters of theological authenticity and compassion.”


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February issue


Embracing diversity