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Worldscan

• Ten ELCA bishops signed a Nov. 6 letter with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service asking a House of Representatives committee to pass the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2007. The act is intended to help identify and protect children from exploitation for the purposes of sex or labor. As many as 5,000 children are brought into the U.S. each year for sexual exploitation, said the Nov. 6 letter. The synod bishops who signed are Stephen P. Bouman, Metropolitan New York; Claire S. Burkat, Southeastern Pennsylvania; David A. Donges, South Carolina; H. Julian Gordy, Southeastern; Richard H. Graham, Metropolitan Washington, D.C.; H. Gerard Knoche, Delaware-Maryland; Gerald Mansholt, Central States; Dean W. Nelson, Southwest California; E. Roy Riley, New Jersey; and Paul W. Stumme-Diers, Greater Milwaukee.

• Andre Appel, 85, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation from 1965 to 1974, died Nov. 1. Appel was president of the Church of the Augsburg Confession of Alsace and Lorraine until he retired in 1987. Born in Saverne, Alsace, France, he studied theology at the universities of Leipzig and Tuebingen in Germany. Drafted against his will into the German army in 1942, he later escaped to the free French forces. He continued his studies at the theological faculty in Strasbourg, and took classes and taught at St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minn.

The (Lutheran) Church of Norway General Synod voted 50-34 on Nov. 16 to allow the 11 bishops and diocesan councils to each decide whether people in registered same-sex partnerships can be ordained as priests, deacons or catechists. Tor B. Joergensen of Soer-Haalogaland, one of six bishops who approved the proposal, said it meant “working together instead of fighting each other.” But Bishop Ole Christian Kvarme of Oslo, one of five who opposes the vote, said the decision changes church doctrine. The General Synod voted down (68-16) a government move that would offer marriage to same-sex couples. It said that in both the church and cultural tradition, marriage is an institution for a man and woman.

• Responding to an earlier call from nearly 140 Muslim leaders seeking common ground, nearly 300 Christian leaders published “Loving God and Neighbor Together: A Christian Response to ‘A Common Word Between Us and You’ ” in a Nov. 18 New York Times ad. “Given the deep fissures in the relations between Christians and Muslims today, the task before us is daunting ...,” the statement says. “The future of the world depends on our ability as Christians and Muslims to live together in peace.” Originated at Yale Divinity School, New Haven, Conn., the statement acknowledged that Christians “have been guilty of sinning against our Muslim neighbors” and asked for forgiveness.

• Israeli and Palestinian religious leaders from the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land met with members of Congress and the Bush administration in November in Washington, D.C., to discuss Middle East peace. The council also released a Nov. 5 communique (download from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land) saying it will monitor media for derogatory representation of any religion; help protect holy sites and secure open access to the Old City of Jerusalem for all communities; educate schools and media for mutual respect; and consult with government leaders.

• Membership in the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod rests at just over 2.4 million after a drop of 22,867 in 2006. Church leaders reported that average weekly worship attendance rose from 164.2 in 2005 to 172.5 in 2006. During that time, giving rose an estimated $58.6 million to $1.3 billion. Fewer children were baptized and fewer teens and adults were confirmed, but more students were enrolled in Sunday school.

• In eastern Chad, the Lutheran World Federation Department for World Service provides people displaced by cross-border violence from Darfur, western Sudan, with protection, counseling and other support.

• According to Ecumenical News International, some estimate that Christians make up 50 percent of the 300,000 people in the former mining area of the Kolar Gold Fields in Karnataka, India. Yet government statistics place the number at 10 percent. Church worker Vasanti Selvaraj says that's because most of the region's population is Dalit. After 1947, when India gained independence from Britain, the India reserved 15 percent of government jobs and university placements for Dalits, hoping to reduce caste discrimination. Initially, only Hindu Dalits benefited but later this expanded to Sikh and Buddhist Dalits. But if Dalits convert to Christianity or Islam, they lose these and other benefits. To prevent this, Selvaraj said many Dailts remain officially Hindu while also worshiping as Christians.

• In a Nov. 6 report, the European Commission said Turkey's legal system doesn't ensure that minorities practice faith "without undue constraint." Turkey's 71 million residents are mostly Sunni Muslims. The commission wrote: "Missionaries have been portrayed in the media or by the authorities as a threat to the integrity of the country, and non-Muslim minorities as not being an integral part of Turkish society." Last October, the European Parliament called for Turkey's Christian churches to be given the right to own property and train clergy. In November, AsiaNews said the Turkish government had promised Bartholomeos I, the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch, to settle longstanding grievances by religious minorities before the country is admitted to the European Union.

• An Oct. 15-31 ad campaign in Lublin, Poland, denounced Martin Luther as a blasphemer and heretic. The posters-depicting a devil whispering in Luther's ear-advertised lectures sponsored by the Organization of Polish Monarchists, whose motto is "God, Family, Fatherland, Tradition, Property and Justice." Dariusz Chwastek, a Lutheran pastor at Lublin's Holy Trinity parish, called the posters "highly damaging." The monarchist group's president, Lukasz Kluska told the Dziennik Wschodni newspaper that "the inspiration for heresy is Satan, and Martin Luther did indeed proclaim blasphemous views. We arranged this meeting out of love for the heretics, to show them the one true faith."

Tearfund, a British relief agency, gave funds to Lutheran Development Service-Zimbabwe and other church groups so churches can provide clean water to many of the 1.5 million residents of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. The main water supply for the second largest city in the African country has been reduced to only a few hours a week due to shortages. In the country's southwest, four of five dams that supply the city recently ran dry. Action By Churches Together, an ELCA partner, asked for $3.6 million to respond to Zimbabwe's increasing humanitarian crisis.

• Organizers broke ground on Luther Garden in in Wittenberg, Germany, in advance of a celebration of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in 2017. The Lutheran World Federation is inviting churches or dioceses worldwide that have been shaped by the Reformation to sponsor one of the garden's 500 trees, said Norbert Denecke, executive secretary of the LWF National Committee in Germany. The garden will symbolize the interaction and reconciliation between Christian churches.

• Christian leaders in Nepal said Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's decision to postpone November's constituent assembly elections only delays freedom for religious minorities. The constitution of Nepal, a predominantly Hindu nation of 29 million people, bans conversions to Christianity. About 800,000 Christians live in Nepal. "We can have full religious freedom only when a new constitution spells out these rights clearly," said Kalai Bahadur Rokaya, general secretary of the National Christian Council of Nepal.


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September issue

SEPTEMBER issue:

Reinventing Sunday school

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