The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


World Scan

• A debate is being held in Finland as to whether homosexual couples should be allowed to register their relationship. Registration would involve the right to inherit property. The right to adopt children isn't at issue. While the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland does not recognize homosexual relationships, most of the chu rch's bishops believe it should be possible to make more equitable arrangements regarding inheritance, tax and other financial matters for homosexual couples without requiring registration. Press surveys indicate that most Finns favor homosexual couples being permitted official recognition of their relationship through registration.

• The Russian Orthodox Church and its mother church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople, now Istanbul, Turkey, have set tled an argument that severed relations between the two churches regarding which church would have jurisdiction over the Orthodox Church in Estonia. Both sides agreed to a plan where both churches would exercise jurisdiction, and Estonian Orthodox members would choose which denomination to follow.

• Tourism to Israel is on-line, said Uzi Michaeli, Israel's Consul and Commissioner for Tourism in North America. A new Web site dedicated to promoting tourism to Israel was recently inaugurated by Israel's Ministry of Tourism. The site offers current details about hotels, restaurants, transportation and tours and includes maps and color images of Israeli sites. The Israel tourism Web site can be found at http://www.infotour.co.il. In 1995, 2.5 million tourists visited Israel. (Note — As of 9/98, this Web site appears to no longer exist.)

• A federal court of appeals ruled that contributions to a chur ch from a bankrupt Minnesota couple cannot be seized by creditors. The decision overturned a lower court ruling that required the Crystal Evangelical Free Church of New Hope, Minn., to relinquish $13,450 that Bruce and Nancy Young gave the church before t heir contracting business failed. The ruling was one of the first tests of the Religious Restoration Act, a 1993 law that prevents government from enforcing laws that encroach on religious practice unless there is a compelling reason to do so.

• A race against time is how Church World Service describes the urgency of its development, reconstruction and reconciliation work in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia during this year of fragile peace enforced by U.S. and ot her peacekeepers. "Residents are now gauging whether war is more profitable or peace and what is the better course for the future of their lives," said Paul Wilson, a Disciples of Christ pastor who directs the CWS Europe Office. The key, he said, is helpi ng people stabilize their economy and living conditions so that when outside peacekeepers leave, people choose peace rather than return to war.

• The Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Finland has taken a favorabl e stance in its statement to the Lutheran World Federation regarding the draft Joint Declaration on the doctrine of justification. The declaration results from 25 years of doctrinal discussions between the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation.

• Lutheran World Relief continues to aid Liberia as conflicts remain in its capital city of Monrovia. The Lutheran World Federation, LWR's partner, is increasing cross-border aid out of an office in the neighboring ca pital of the Ivory Coast. LWF is distributing food and seed rice in the northern counties of Liberia, and badly needed medical supplies have arrived in the Ivory Coast for Liberia. Twelve international relief agencies, including LWF, decided to limit thei r work until security and order are established in Liberia. Many are working from neighboring countries such as Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast.

• Andrej Beredi, 62, bishop of the Slovak Evangelical Christian C hurch of the Augsburg Confession in Yugoslavia, died May 22. He had served as a Lutheran World Federation vice president since 1993 and had been the church's bishop since 1983.

• Giving to U.S. charities increased by more than 10 percent in 1995, with Americans giving a total of $144 billion to non-profit groups. The report, by the American Association of Fund-Raising Counsel's Trust for Philanthropy, cited the stock market rally and higher personal income as r easons for the increase. Religious contributions grew by 5 percent to $63.4 billion.

• The Washington State Supreme Court blocked enforcement of Seattle's Landmark Preservation Ordinance against a First United Methodist Church that wanted to raise money by selling its 87-year-old property. In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled that the ordinance would infringe on the church's constitutional right to free exercise of religion, the majority opinion saying that "if United Methodist decides to sell its property in order to respond to the needs of its congregation, it has a right to do so without landmark restrictions creating administrative or financial burdens."

• Ishmael Noko, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, said recent formation of the Asian Ecumenical Committee by the Christian Conference of Asia and the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences "will serve to increase the credibility of the gospel wi tness in Asia." Noting that the committee's formation comes as the LWF prepares for its ninth assembly in Hong Kong in July 1997, he added that the committee "will demonstrate clearly that Roman Catholicism is not a different religion from Protestantism."

• The "Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion," an award of more than $1 million, will be presented to Dr. William Bright, president and founder of Campus Crusade for Christ International. The ministry now in cludes more than 100,000 trained volunteer staff members working in 165 nations.

• The new Common Global Ministries Board, a joint overseas mission agency of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the Un ited Church of Christ, has asked the World Council of Churches not to hold its 1998 assembly in Zimbabwe, citing the country's official hostility toward homosexuals as the reason. The assembly, held every seven years, brings together about 1,000 delegates from the WCC's more than 300 member churches. Konrad Raiser, the WCC general secretary, said the organization had already received assurances in writing that gays and lesbians would not be harassed, but the WCC would seek further assurances.

• Teams from the National Council of Churches have visited many of the churches burned throughout the southern United States to provide material and spiritual support and to help stop the attacks and bring the perpetrator s to justice. The teams have documented 53 churches burned and four vandalized since January 1990. Most are African American congregations.


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February issue


Embracing diversity