The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


World Scan

The Interfaith Alliance, a group of mainstream Protestant, Roman Catholic and Jewish religious leaders monitoring the role of religion in public life, asked candidates for national office, including President Bill Clinton and challengers Bob Dole and Ross Perot, to sign a "pledge of civility." "We ask the candidates to repudiate the use of religion as a weapon to demonize those whose religious or political beliefs differ from theirs," said Albert Pennybacker, president of the alliance.

A report by the Church of Sweden Department of Research shows that the total number of communions in 1995 increased by 100,000, and communicants at weekday services have increased by 50,000. "The fact that interest in communion service has gradually increased is something that we have noted in the last few years," said Jonas Bromander of the church's research department. "Fewer tend to remain sitting in their pews for communion, more go up to the altar."

The World Food Program says relief workers entering the strife-torn city of Tubmanburg, Liberia, met with devastating scenes of hunger. Thousands of people had not received assistance for eight months. Action by Churches Together, based in the Lutheran World Federation and the World Council of Churches, is handling an initial two-months food distribution. The next phase will include activities such as emergency school feeding, reintegration of refugees, bridge and road repair, agriculture and health. In a September meeting with members of Congress, the Interfaith Advocacy Working Group for Liberia, which includes Lutheran World Relief, urged greater U.S. involvement in the restoration of peace to Liberia.

Police in Karlstad, Sweden, accused Bengt Wadensjoe, a local bishop in the Church of Sweden, of giving false evidence at the trial of a Lutheran priest convicted of sexually abusing a girl. Police lodged an official complaint that Wadensjoe knew as early as 1992 that the priest, whose identity has not been revealed, had been abusing his stepdaughter.

The National Institute for Healthcare Research awarded its second round of grants to medical schools offering courses that train doctors to be aware of the connections between spirituality and clinical care. "Although science gives us physicians power, power without human values is frequently meaningless, if not downright dangerous. When looking into the abyss, a patient needs more than just ... a good dialysis machine. The values have to be there," said Steven Lefrak, a professor of medicine and assistant dean at the Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis.

Church attendance has suffered a five-year decline and sunk to its lowest in two decades. "From the early '80s to the early '90s there has been a definite change," said Bruce Hose, director of Sunday school programs for the Alabama Baptist Convention from 1985-1995. "Not only has attendance gone down but it's a graying culture, a graying congregation." According to telephone surveys of 1,000 adults, 37 percent of Americans report going to church on a given Sunday. Attendance peaked at 49 percent in 1991. Surveys note that Christian churches are losing entire segments of the population: men, singles, empty nesters and people raised in mainline Protestant churches.

The first church blessing of a homosexual couple in the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Austria is facing criticism, in part because of the church's 1994 decision to postpone the issue of blessing homosexual marriages. Erwin Neumann said he blessed the couple because he doesn't want to refuse anyone who asks for God's blessing. It is not a marriage because the Lutheran church only celebrates a couple married under civil law, he said, but the blessing has no less worth than that of a heterosexual couple.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania plans to set up a university with five constituent colleges in different parts of the country. The first private university in the country will be known as Tumaini.

The Worldwide Ministries Division of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly Council approved the international partnership between its Washington Presbytery and the Central South West Bethel Presbytery of the Ethiopian Evangelical [Lutheran] Church Mekane Yesus. It also renewed the partnership between its Shenandoah Presbytery and the Illubabor Bethel Synod of the Ethiopian church.


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November issue


From myths to ministry