ELCA Fund for Leaders honors scholars

The 2016-17 class of ELCA Fund for Leaders scholarship recipients were honored at the program’s annual banquet on Sept. 30 in Chicago. Fund for Leaders awarded 22 scholarships this year, and 20 recipients were present at the banquet. “The new students receiving Fund for Leaders scholarships are a wonderfully diverse group of gifted leaders who are passionate about being called to serve a changing church,” said Mark Olsen, associate director of the Fund for Leaders. “[This program] is a tangible sign of our commitment to encouraging, affirming and supporting seminary students who have outstanding leadership potential and exceptional gifts for ministry.” In total, the program is supporting 250 students this year.

After violence, prayer and conversation

On Oct. 5, faith leaders and members of the North Carolina Synod gathered for a day of prayer and conversation in response to the September shooting in Charlotte, N.C., that led to racial unrest and protests. Judith Roberts (above), director of ELCA racial justice ministries, facilitates open conversation among ELCA members, ecumenical partners and local law enforcement at St. Luke Lutheran Church in the city. Timothy M. Smith, synod bishop, posted on his Facebook page on Sept. 21 that he was “praying for an end to systemic racial targeting and practices that keep whole communities on edge, especially young black men, who sense that their voices are not heard and their lives not valued. Praying for Keith Scott’s family and for police officer [Brentley] Vinson and his family. Praying for our Charlotte churches to be vessels of healing.”

Catholics on stamps

Next year two prominent Roman Catholics will appear on U.S. postage stamps. The late Theodore Hesburgh, longtime president of the University of Notre Dame (Ind.), will appear on a commemorative stamp, and President John F. Kennedy will be honored during the centennial anniversary of his birth. Faith wasn’t the deciding factor in honoring these individuals, as the U.S. Postal Service cited Hesburgh’s and Kennedy’s civic and cultural contributions as reasons for these commemorations. But the Postal Service did make note of Hesburgh’s service as an “important mid-20th century educational, religious and civic leader” and Kennedy’s pioneering status as the first Roman Catholic president.

Americans on God

Two-thirds of Americans believe God accepts all forms of worship, including Christianity, Judaism and Islam, according to LifeWay Research’s 2016 State of American Theology Study. The exception to this statistic is Americans with evangelical Christian beliefs—only 48 percent think God accepts all forms of worship. Also, 66 percent said they believe God answers specific prayers. The study also found that 65 percent of Americans agreed “everyone sins a little, but most people are good by nature,” but evangelicals were less likely (54 percent) to agree with that sentiment. Nearly two-thirds of respondents said Jesus is God, but more than half said he was a creature created by God.

Faster pastors support refugees

Joel and Sonja Pancoast, a clergy couple who serve Zion Lutheran Church in Loveland, Colo., were part of a team of 10 runners who participated in the Flaming Foliage Relay Sept. 9-10 to raise money for Run 4 Refugees. Sponsored by Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains, the team’s goal was to raise $20,000 to support refugees resettled in Colorado and New Mexico. The “faster pastors” team was formed four years ago to raise money for the ELCA Malaria Campaign by running multiple relays.

South Dakota Synod stands up to stigma

The South Dakota Synod partnered with Face It Together, an addiction clearinghouse based in Sioux Falls, S.D., to help provide outreach and education. Eight synod congregations have signed on to help eliminate the stigma of addiction within the church and to publicly show alliance with people who need support. In a video to promote the partnership, Dave Zellmer, synod bishop, said, “We can become centers of hope and healing for those families and individuals that have this illness within it.”

Why do most people leave religion?

It’s bad news for organized religion: A majority of the religiously unaffiliated—the so-called “nones”—say they fell away from faith not because of any negative experience, but because they “stopped believing,” usually before the age of 30. Gloomier still—nones now make up 25 percent of the American population, making this the single largest “faith group” in the U.S., ahead of Roman Catholics (21 percent) and white evangelicals (16 percent), according to a study by the Public Religion Research Institute.

Lutherans respond to Hurricane Matthew

On Oct. 4, Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti, causing massive destruction before moving on to Cuba and Jamaica with heavy rain and dangerous winds. At presstime the hurricane was heading toward Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. ELCA members were urged by Dan Rift, director for ELCA World Hunger and Disaster Appeal, to support Lutheran Disaster Response and its on-the-ground partners as they care for all affected by the hurricane. For information or to help, visit elca.org/ldr.

Churches stand with refugees during summit

On Sept. 19 the U.N. General Assembly hosted at its New York headquarters a high-level summit addressing the large movement of refugees and migrants. In advance of the summit, the World Council of Churches, the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe, ACT Alliance and Churches Witnessing With Migrants issued a joint statement calling world leaders to address the root causes of large-scale forced movements, to support sustainable and equitable development, and to reaffirm existing international human rights laws.

Refugee athlete speaks at commemoration

Olympic athlete and refugee Rose Nathike Lokonyen was one of four speakers at the Joint Lutheran-Catholic Commemoration in Sweden on Oct. 31. The 23-year-old from South Sudan lives in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, where the Lutheran World Federation provides services. At the Rio games, Lokonyen was the flag-bearer for the Olympic Refugee Team.

Gender and race influence clergy experience

In a survey on the differences and similarities in the experiences between men and women rostered in the ELCA, 45 percent of ethnic-specific female pastors reported being compensated below guidelines, according to ELCA Research and Evaluation. Of white females, 55 percent reported being compensated at synod guidelines while 18 percent of white males and 13 percent of ethnic-specific males reported being compensated above guidelines. The study also found that female clergy are more likely than their male counterparts to receive comments about their attire and experience sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination. Clergy of color were more likely than white pastors to indicate they had experienced discrimination based on their race/ethnicity. A full report of the survey, which was conducted in observance of last year’s 45th anniversary of the ordination of women, is available at elca.org.

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