The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


July 2001 Worldscan

• President Bush told the American Jewish Committee he'll work to convince Sudan's government to end its civil war. "We must turn the eyes of the world upon the atrocities in Sudan," said Bush, adding that a newly appointed humanitarian coordinator for Sudan will ensure aid "goes to the needy without manipulation by those ravaging that troubled land." Since 1983, more than 2 million lives have been lost to war-related violence and famine. Elliott Abrams, chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, called Bush's announcement "a terrific first step."

  • Some faith-based advocacy groups say President Bush's $200 million donation to a U.N. HIV/AIDS fund isn't enough. Tim Atwater, director of Jubilee USA Network, said debt cancellation for poor countries is the first step. He said Africa needs $10-15 billion annually to fight AIDS, but the United States and other creditors bleed it of more than $13 billion in yearly debt payments. "The U.S. is cutting taxes for the rich by more than a trillion dollars," he said. "Meanwhile, 17 million Africans have already died from AIDS …."

  • New Roman Catholic guidelines bar translators of liturgical texts from using "inclusive" language and dialects. Instruction for the Right Application of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (see www.vatican.va) says men and women must be referred to with a masculine collective pronoun in the mass. The document also says the liturgy should use only more widely spoken languages, with dialects limited to prayers, sung texts and parts of the homily. And when the celebrant says, "The Lord be with you," congregants must reply, "And with your Spirit," instead of "And also with you."

  • Scottish Presbyterians are calling for strict limits on genetic engineering of animals for medical purposes. In a "Society, Religion and Technology Project" report, church leaders asked the British government to close a loophole in its law that allows cloning of human embryo and to press for an international ban on cloning. But the report called genetic engineering to produce pharmaceuticals "ethically acceptable."

  • On May 22, more than 200 religious activists formed a human bar graph on the Capitol lawn connecting energy policy to climate change. Demonstrators said the administration's energy plan doesn't meet biblical standards of environmental stewardship. In an earlier letter to President Bush, Congress and U.S. citizens, leaders of 39 faith groups called for redirecting the nation's energy policy toward conservation.

  • The seven-year itch for marriages is now closer to fives years, say Creighton University (Omaha, Neb.) researchers. The study of 947 married couples found that most problems centered around time, sex and money, with half of all divorces occuring during the first five years and 30 percent in the first three years. "There needs to be some kind of post-marriage enrichment at around five years," said Michael Lawler, director of Creighton's Center for Marriage and the Family. The study found few couples asked the church for help-57 percent turned to friends; 46 percent to parents.

  • After renewed fighting between rebels and government forces in northern Liberia, the Lutheran World Federation is helping relocate 25,000 displaced Liberians in Lofa and Bomi counties. LWF is providing food, blankets, seeds, tools, improved sanitation and drinking water, and supporting a mobile clinic.

  • About 200 internally displaced people were feared dead after the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola attacked Caxito, Angola, just outside Luanda, the nation's capitol. Carl von Seth of the Lutheran World Federation said more than 100,000 fled the attack, which revealed a precarious security situation. At a Danish-supported school, two teachers were killed, 60 students abducted and 120 children were missing. Children are often forced to become UNITA soldiers, von Seth said.

  • The International Rescue Committee says 3.5 million people have died during three years of war between rebels and the Democratic Republic of Congo's government. Urging international action, the humanitarian group said nearly 1 million of the deaths were children under the age of 5. In the Kalemie and Moba regions, 75 percent of children "born during this war have died or will die before their second birthday," the report said.

  • More than 60 percent of Danish seminarians are female, says the news service of the 4.5-million member Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark. But a survey in The Christian Daily, a local church paper, says that while more than a third of pastors are women, females account for only 10 percent of bishops and deans, and only four have become doctors of theology since 1973.

  • In a speech to 600 evangelical leaders from 82 nations, Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia's prime minister, called for an end to interreligious conflict. "Once started, religious strife has a tendency to go on and on, to become permanent feuds," said Mohamad, a Muslim. Participants of the meeting in Kuala Lumpur represented more than 100 national and regional evangelical alliances.

  • "The situation in Sudan is desperate — it's genocide," said Faith McDonnell, coordinator of the Institute for Religion and Democracy's Church Alliance for a New Sudan. The group asked Congress to close the U.S. stock market to oil companies — such as Canada's Talisman Energy Inc. — that do business with Sudan's government. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the United Methodist and Episcopal Church have passed resolutions to divest church-owned shares in such companies, she said. Most of the oil "is retrieved by `clearing the land,' burning villages and killing the people or forcing them out," she said. "The Sudanese government uses the revenue from oil sales to continue fighting the war."

  • The Evangelical [Lutheran] Church of the River Plate, a 47,000-member denomination in Argentina, called for state action and solidarity to provide for a just distribution of income. Church leaders said the gap between poor and rich continues to widen, with more than 30 percent of the population below the poverty line. They credit the situation to an export-oriented economic model introduced by a military regime in 1976. Church leaders also confessed they were wrong in not speaking out "loudly and clearly enough [during the dictatorship] to move the conscience of society or our congregations" when disappearances, kidnappings, tortures and murders occurred.

  • The International Religious Freedom Commission was criticized for not issuing a report on its fact-finding trip to the Middle East. The American Committee on Jerusalem, American Muslim Council, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation and others said the omission raises "serious questions about the commission's objectivity and integrity … it appears that Israel has been singled out for preferential treatment." The groups commended a dissenting member of the commission for describing "a pattern of clear and egregious religious freedom violations by the Israeli authorities."

  • The Lutheran World Federation asked Sweden, as president of the European Union, to take the lead in raising questions with Israel's government about wide-ranging violations of international humanitarian law and human rights, particularly in occupied Palestinian territories. Calling for "urgent action," LWF General Secretary Ishmael Noko said recent events "are bound to lead to spiraling violence in the absence of urgent and constructive engagement by the international community."

  • At an ecumenical assembly of bishops, Barbel Wartenberg-Potter, the new Lutheran bishop of Holstein-Lubeck in northern Germany, introduced herself to Catholic, Orthodox and other colleagues by saying she realized "not all of you will be happy that there is another woman bishop." She asked each to share their "wisdom as bishop, for I want to be an ecumenical bishop" who is "a witness that some churches take the issue very seriously, and have given women responsibility in leadership." She led a group Bible study on the role of women and men in the church.

  • Francis A. Sullivan, a Jesuit priest and theology professor at Boston College, said the Roman Catholic Church must find a more collaborative model of authority if it is to make progress in the new millennium. Sullivan said bishops should have a deliberative, not advisory, role before the pope makes major pronouncements and that bishops need the active participation of priests and laity.

  • Pope John Paul II called his sixth "extraordinary consistory" — a gathering of 155 cardinals from 68 countries — to consider the Roman Catholic Church's role in the 21st century. Of special concern were questions of how to evangelize, religious pluralism, church administration, sexual morality and use of media evangelism. A Vatican spokesman said discussions ranged from primacy of the pope to the centrality of the family.

  • The Lutheran Ecumenical Representatives Network of the ELCA sent members and staff a "statement of concern" about a proposed bylaw to the ELCA constitution that would allow synod bishops in unusual circumstances to designate another pastor to preside at an ordination. "The bylaw represents a unilateral change to a principle established in bilateral agreement," the statement says. "It brings the ecumenical integrity of the ELCA into serious question." The bylaw would lead to such "unfortunate changes" as vesting additional power in bishops and creating "an ongoing division in the one ministry of Word and Sacrament," the group says. The ELCA Conference of Bishops endorsed the change.

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