• The Montana Synod and the Montana Association of Jewish Communities celebra ted the one-year anniversary of an agreement for continuing interfaith dialogue. The agreement grew from local response to the ELCA Church Council's 1994 repudiation of Martin Luther's anti-Jewish statements and showed solidarity with the Jewish community after a brick was thrown through a window in Billings, Mont., where a Menorah was displayed. Synod Bishop Mark Ramseth called the agreement a "means of building bridges and celebrating common faith tradition." Montana has 50,000 ELCA Lutherans and 2,000 Jews.
• The ELCA Division for Congregational Ministries approved "in principle" moving from one triennial youth gathering to two back-to-back gatherings beginning in the year 2000 to increase participation. "River of Hope" — to be held July 23-27, 1997 — will bring 35,000 youth to New Orleans. With two events in 2000, registration could be set at 20,000-22,000 per gathering. In a separate action, the DCM board voted to bring the youth gathering office to Chicago by the end of 1997. Part of the gathering staff works in Minneapolis.
• Holden Village, the Lutheran retreat center in the Cascades high above Lake Chelan, Wash., turns 35 this year. Holden Village is housed in a facility built in the 1930s for copper miners and their families. The center has no official ties to Lutheran church bodies, but members from the ELCA and Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod are on its board.
• Ishmael Noko, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, said the growing gap between poor and rich has become a critical moral issue that cuts across nations and communities. Giving this year's commencement address at Concordia College, Moorhead, Minn., he said, "In spite of the fact that we can theoretically feed the entire world population, there has never been a time in the history of humanity when there are so many hungry and poor people." In an interview after his address, Noko added that he would like U.S. Lutherans to take better advantage of their political freedoms by advocating for oppressed people around the world.
• The ELCA Foundation introduced the Planned Gift Partnership, which enables congregation members to provide a gift to the church from their estate after their death. The program is being pilot tested in the South Carolina and Southeastern synods. It provides reference books and other materials for a locally implemented program a nd makes the congregation the focus of planned giving.
• Henry L. Lieske, a retired ELCA pastor from Golden Valley, Minn., contributed to Oberlin [Ohio] College his collection of documents from both sides of the decades-long theological conflict within the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, which led to the formation of the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches, now part of the ELCA. Information on the papers can be accessed on the World Wide Web at http://www.oberlin.edu/archive/ in the "Record Groups No. 30."
• The Northeastern Ohio Synod is working with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Youngstown, Ohio, to est ablish New Hope Academy, an ecumenical elementary school. The new school will be an independent, Christ-centered educational program serving the children and families of the south side of Youngstown.
• Faith E. Rohrbough, member of St. Michael Lutheran Church, Philadelphia, has been elected the first woman president of a Lutheran seminary in North America — the Lutheran Seminary in Saskatoon [Saskatchewan, Canada]. She is a professor of the history of Christianity at the Lutheran Seminary at Philadelphia where she also served as academic dean and vice-president for 13 years. She assumes the new position Sept. 1.
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