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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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June 2001 Worldscan

Conservatives in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) are circulating a loyalty oath to other church members that says "Jesus Christ alone is God," the Bible is "the Church's only infallible rule of faith and life," and marriages are to be between a man and a woman. Conservatives are upset that a constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex unions was defeated. Supporters want church executives to sign the statement, and some are threatening to reconsider the "biblical mandate of responsible stewardship" to the church.

  • Leaving the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Russia and Other States, Belarusian congregations reconstituted themselves as the Belarusian Evangelical Lutheran Church. The new church rejects women's ordination, homosexuality and compromises concerning the doctrine of justification, as well as fellowship with churches that do not share those principles. Ishmael Noko, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, called the move "very unfortunate."

  • The 2001 Episcopal Church Annual includes ELCA bishops. The addition to its yearbook reflects the spirit of Called to Common Mission, which allows both churches to share clergy.

  • In April, critics within the Unitarian Universalist Association launched a renewal group called the American Unitarian Association. The group said their church has lost its spiritual moorings and is overly linked to liberal politics. "We talk about being a religious tradition that has no creed and no belief system that you have to adhere to," said Stephen Johnson, a UUA pastor in the dissident group. "That may be true theologically, but it's certainly not true politically."

  • Citing Vietnam's "grievous violations" of religious freedom, a federal panel is urging top officials to raise the issue of global finance institutions with Vietnamese officials. "The Vietnamese government suppresses organized religious activities forcefully and monitors and controls religious communities," said Elliott Abrams, chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. The group also called upon the United States to withhold support for a proposed $800 million in loans for economic reform from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. In related news, the Vietnamese government for the first time since 1975 officially recognized the southern Evangelical Church of Vietnam.

  • Bishop Medardo Gomez of the Salvadoran Lutheran Synod called the 1.3 billion aid package pledged by the international community "disappointing," and not enough to provide long-term relief to people affected by earthquakes in January and February. Predicting widespread hunger, Gomez pointed out the disparity between the aid package and the $3 billion the United States alone paid during the war. The earthquakes caused $3 billion in damage, killing more than 3,000 people and rendering 500,000 of the country's 6 million homeless.

  • ELCA Presiding Bishop H. George Anderson and 10 other church leaders sent an April 18 letter urging President Bush to end U.S. military training on Vieques, an island east of Puerto Rico. "The majority of the people of Puerto Rico have demonstrated that they do not want Vieques to be a site for war exercises," they wrote. "Their unanimous message is, `Not one more bomb in Vieques.' We are fully in support of our Puerto Rican ecumenical partners in this position."

  • U.S. Catholic bishops, the Catholic Health Association and Catholic Charities USA asked the U.S. Senate to include $132 billion of the projected surplus to expand coverage for 43 million Americans without health insurance. "In a country as prosperous as the United States, assisting the uninsured to gain necessary health coverage must be a public policy priority," the organizations' wrote in a joint statement.

  • George Carey, archbishop of Canterbury, said the Church of England could not accept gay marriages because marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman. Carey also said celibate homosexuals are welcome in the priesthood, but noncelibate homosexuals are not because the church "has a clear ruling on what kind of lifestyle we require in the ordained ministry."

  • The Odyssey Network will be renamed the Hallmark Channel Aug. 6 in an effort to reach more viewers by using a recognizable brand name. Odyssey, started in 1988 as the Vision Interfaith Satellite Network, de-emphasized religious programming in favor of family entertainment after it was bought by The Jim Henson Company and Hallmark Entertainment.

  • On April 1, when the Netherlands began allowing legal marriage between same-sex couples, the mayor of Amsterdam held a mass same-sex wedding at the town hall. "The new Dutch law just illustrates how out of step the Netherlands is with the rest of the world," said David Coolidge, director of the Marriage Law Project. "Marriage, like the sky, cannot be redefined by any statute."

  • The highest Islamic council in Nigeria criticized the country's six predominantly Muslim northern states, which have adopted, but not strictly enforced the Sharia penal code. "They have been hypocritical about it and not sincere about what they are doing," said Sheik Umar Ibrahim Kabo, chair of the Kano State Council of Ulamas. The Islamic group praised Zamfara as the only state to enforce Sharia law properly. Earlier this year, Zamfara lashed a 17-year-old girl who said she was raped for being pregnant and unmarried. Other penalties under Sharia law include flogging for alcohol consumption and hand amputation for theft.

  • Chinese authorities in Beijing arrested several priests and other Roman Catholics — including Shi Enxiang, the 79-year-old bishop of Yixian, according to the Cardinal Kung Foundation. Shi, who has spent about 30 years in prison, had lived in hiding since escaping arrest four years ago.

  • More than 850 clergy nationwide signed a petition opposing a bill that would permit faith-based groups receiving federal funding to discriminate in hiring. "These provisions would entangle religion and government in an unprecedented and perilous way," the petition read. "Exempting government-funded religious institutions from employment laws banning discrimination on the basis of religion weakens our nation's civil rights protections for those seeking to provide assistance to those in need."

  • Children who worked with their parents to complete homework about sexual abstinence were more likely to refrain from sexual activity, according to a study by the Alan Guttmacher Institute.

  • A review committee determined that a special issue of a magazine published by the United Methodists Church social action and advocacy agency did not violate the denomination's prohibition on funding publications that "promote the acceptance of homosexuality." But it did call the special issue "unnecessarily inflammatory."

  • The 10th round of talks in the United States between the ELCA and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops began drafting a statement on "The Church as Koinonia of Salvation: Its Structure and Ministries." The word koinonia appears several times in the Bible and is translated as "a close mutual relationship." The dialogue is taking up issues of koinonia as they relate to "ordained ministry and structures of church unity."

  • The Lutheran World Federation and other humanitarian and development agencies said food shortages in Kenya are creating a desperate situation. "After years of drought more than 4 million vulnerable people in Kenya are still facing starvation, yet the international community is not responding adequately to appeals for food," the groups said. The food supply is predicted to run out by May.

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    November issue

    NOVEMBER issue:

    The ELCA's aging clergy wave

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