ELCA Credit Union opens

The ELCA Federal Credit Union celebrated its grand opening with a ribbon-cutting ceremony June 6 at its headquarters in the Lutheran Center in Chicago. It is the first credit union chartered by the National Credit Union Administration to open in Illinois in 10 years. The institution serves ELCA members, synod employees, congregations and ELCA-related ministries.

“This is responsible stewardship,” said Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton at the ribbon cutting. “It makes services available to everyone. The ELCA credit union is socially responsible and is a great benefit not only to members of the ELCA churchwide organization but to all our members across the church.”

Lighting the darkness

As the month of Ramadan began June 5 for Muslims, ELCA members and churches showed their support by placing signs in their yards or on church property wishing their Muslim neighbors a blessed Ramadan. In Redmond, Wash., Faith Lutheran Church’s sign (below) became the subject of a Redmond Reporter essay by Lena Khalaf Tuffaha, who noticed it as she drove through the neighborhood: “I am amazed at how much joy this brought to my heart. … Maybe [it’s because of] the intensity of this election year, and the variety of hatreds it has unearthed.… Thank you to the community of Faith Lutheran for this thoughtful and unexpected gift, and this particular year, for lighting the darkness.”

N.C. Synod rejects house bill

On June 4 voting members of the North Carolina Synod Assembly voted to call on their state legislature to repeal House Bill 2 (HB2). The assembly, representing more than 200 congregations, said the bill discriminates against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and the working poor, and it creates a “hostile community atmosphere,” reported The Charlotte Observer. HB2, also known as the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, prevents transgender people from using public restrooms of the gender with which they identify, limits how certain claims of discrimination can be pursued, and prevents cities and counties from setting a minimum wage standard for private employers.

Methodists postpone gay rights decision

Amid protest, song and fears of a denominational breakup, United Methodists at their quadrennial General Conference in May decided to put a debate on human sexuality on hold. The General Conference is the denomination’s top policy-making body.

Delegates from the U.S. and abroad, however, voted 428-405 on May 18 to allow the church’s Council of Bishops to appoint a commission to discuss whether to accept same-sex marriage or ordain lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender clergy. The bishops said they want the commission to “develop a complete examination and possible revision of every paragraph in our Book of Discipline regarding human sexuality.”

In other action, delegates voted 425-268 for two of its bodies to disassociate from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. The decision instructed the General Board of Church and Society and the United Methodist Women to withdraw immediate membership in the coalition, a pro-choice organization the UMC board helped establish in 1973.

Beth Ann Cook, a pastor in the Indiana Conference, said “the time has come to withdraw” because the UMC’s positions on abortion differ from some of the coalition’s policies.

WELCA at White House

Linda Post Bushkofsky, executive director of Women of the ELCA, was invited to attend the White House’s United State of Women Summit in June. Post Bushkofsky was nominated to the summit by the Women’s Funding Network, of which Women of the ELCA is a member. The event covered gender equality issues such as economic empowerment, health and wellness, violence against women, and entrepreneurship and innovation.

Latvia ordains only men

On June 3 the Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia (ELCL) approved a motion to change its constitution, restricting service in the ordained ministry to men only. The Latvian church is a member of the Lutheran World Federation, of which more than 80 percent of member churches ordain women. In an official statement, the LWF said it “is saddened to see the ELCL depart from a shared journey and common practice among LWF member churches. The LWF expresses its solidarity to women, who by virtue of this decision may feel marginalized and hurt in their dignity.” Going forward, LWF representatives will discuss with the Latvian church the implications of  this decision.

Catholic priest brings wife to new call

Upon beginning his call as a priest at St. Mary Roman Catholic Church, Marysville, Wash., Tom McMichael had an unusual announcement to make to his parish—he was bringing along his wife. A former Lutheran pastor for 17 years, McMichael converted to Catholicism and was ordained as a Catholic priest in 2009. He is now one of about 200 Latin rite married priests in the United States. Most are former Lutheran and Episcopal clergy.

Pope to visit Sweden

Pope Francis’ outreach to the Protestant world will hit new heights this fall when he makes a two-day trip to Sweden to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The Oct. 31-Nov. 1 trip to Lund and Malmö is being structured around the themes of “thanksgiving, repentance and commitment to common witness,” according to the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Lutheran World Federation. Two-thirds of Swedes are members of the Lutheran Church of Sweden (6.2 million), although participation is low. Organizers say the celebration’s aim “is to express the gifts of the Reformation and ask for forgiveness for division perpetuated by Christians from the two traditions.”

School’s policy under investigation

St. John Lutheran School, Baraboo, Wis., is under investigation for distributing a student handbook that includes disciplinary policies for gay and transgender students. Because the institution receives federal funding—and Title IX prohibits disciplining students for their sexual orientation or gender identity—the U.S. Department of Agriculture has opened an investigation, The Oregonian newspaper reported. St. John is affiliated with the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.

Tutu endorses Palestinian for Nobel prize

Archbishop Desmond Tutu in early June endorsed the nomination of Palestinian political prisoner, Marwan Barghouthi, for the Nobel Peace Prize, according to the Anglican Communion News Service. Tutu joined seven other laureates in saying the nomination “is a reflection of our belief that freedom was the only path to peace. … I hope the Nobel Committee will take a bold decision bringing us closer to the day this holy land, charged with unique symbolic value, can stop being a living testimony of injustice and impunity, occupation and apartheid, and can finally be a beacon of freedom, hope and peace.” Tutu was a key player in the fight against apartheid in South Africa and was also the first black South African Archbishop of Cape Town and primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.

Charleston a year later

A young white man walked into a Bible study at Campbell Chapel, in the coastal town of Bluffton, S.C., 100 miles away and a few weeks after Dylann Roof on June 17 of last year killed nine Bible study members at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, S.C.

The young man in Campbell Chapel didn’t seem to understand the nervousness in the room, said Jon Black, pastor, who had been mentored by Clementa Pickney, a pastor and one of the slain Emanuel nine, as they’ve come to be known. Black knew he couldn’t ask the young man to leave. In the wake of the massacre, African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church leaders had asked its pastors to reiterate: “Our doors are open.”

“So how do you do that on Sunday morning and close them on Wednesday night?” Black asked.

Much has changed in a year. The Confederate flag has come down from the South Carolina State House grounds. White families have joined Emanuel AME. The church was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. And African American churches have ratcheted up security—installing cameras and, in some cases, posting armed ushers. Officers sometimes sit in on Bible study, and law enforcement ran a background check on Campbell Chapel’s unfamiliar visitor, who still occasionally attends Bible study. And its church doors remain open.

“For many people who really did not understand that a deeply entrenched and vicious form of racism still existed in America, they now clearly had the evidence,” said College of Charleston history professor Bernard Powers, who co-authored a book on Charleston and the massacre.

A year later, the faithful of Charleston still gather and hope. Charleston, after all, with its low skyline outlined by church spires, is known as the “Holy City.”

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