Advocating for women’s health

ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton (fourth from right) stands with Chilean health promoters and ELCA staff in front of a local mural exposing the realities of violence against women. In December, Eaton and other ELCA leaders visited with members of the Educación Popular en Salud (Popular Education for Health) team and recently trained advocates for ending violence against women. Their ministry, which receives funding from the ELCA, has been responding to the health needs of marginalized communities in Chile for 35 years.

Religious makeup of Congress

While the number of Americans who claim no religious identity continues to rise, 91 percent of representatives in the current Congress self-identify as Christian, according to the Pew Research Center. This number is about the same as in 1961. However, Congress is becoming less Protestant. Today Congress is 56 percent Protestant and 31 percent Roman Catholic, a change from 75 percent Protestant and 19 percent Catholic in 1961. Of today’s Congress, 291 of the 293 Republicans identify as Christian, and 80 percent of the Democrats identify as Christian while the remaining 20 percent identify as Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim.

Angolan communities seek land rights

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) reported that more than 30,000 people are benefiting from its land rights project in Angola. In 2015 the LWF introduced a three-year rights project to protect Angolans’ livelihoods through securing land rights, a major issue in the country. In LWF workshops and training, Angolan communities are encouraged to formalize their lands to avoid expropriation. The LWF has also focused in particular on improving women’s access to land deeds.

Luther toy anti-Semitic?

The most popular toy that German manufacturer Playmobil has ever produced is a 3-inch plastic figure of Martin Luther, rolled out in 2015 to promote the Reformation’s 500th anniversary in 2017. But some have accused the toy of being anti-Semitic. Critics argue that the inscription on the open pages of the Bible that Luther holds promotes invalidation of the Hebrew Scriptures. On the left is written in German: “Books of the Old Testament. END” while the right page says, “The New Testament, translated by Doctor Martin Luther.”

ELCA co-sponsors racial justice gathering

An ELCA delegation, led by Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, participated in the Conference of National Black Churches annual gathering in Charleston, S.C., Dec. 13-15. The ELCA is a co-sponsor of the conference’s cross-racial dialogue, now in its second year. In her remarks, Eaton described the ELCA’s efforts to address racial justice, including the 2016 ELCA Churchwide Assembly commitment to increasing ethnic diversity and the capacity of people of color for leadership roles in the ELCA.

Churches offer sanctuary to immigrants

About 450 churches nationwide have offered to provide sanctuary to undocumented immigrants, according to leaders of the Sanctuary Movement. If Donald Trump follows through on his presidential campaign pledge to deport millions of people in the country illegally, houses of worship of various denominations have vowed to offer living space or other assistance. Of the relationship between majority-Latino and majority-white congregations, ELCA pastor Alexia Salvatierra told The New York Times: “We don’t need the white people to rescue us. … We need to be in partnership.”

Roof ruled competent for sentencing

A federal judge ruled Jan. 2 that Dylann Roof can serve as his own attorney. Roof was convicted in the June 2015 attack that killed nine African-American parishioners at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Gergel issued his order after hearing from a forensic psychiatrist, who met twice with Roof, that the “defendant remained competent to stand trial to self-represent.”

Episcopal-Lutheran partnership marks 15 years

2016 marked the 15th anniversary of Episcopal-ELCA full communion. After nearly 30 years of dialogue, on Jan. 6, 2001, the Episcopal Church and the ELCA agreed to work for joint mission and allow clergy to serve between the two churches. While both maintain autonomy, the “call to common mission” has promoted collaboration and dialogue between the two church bodies. In December, Episcopal News Service ran a “Called to Common Mission” series, highlighting the partnership’s work. Read the series at

“Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly” ends

After a 20-year run, PBS’ award-winning weekly series Religion and Ethics NewsWeekly will air its final episode Feb. 24. The program was founded by Bob Abernethy in 1997 and celebrated its 1,000th episode on Nov. 18, 2016. The show was known for its reputable reporting, documentary segments and interviews with dignitaries and prominent faith figures, including the Dalai Lama, former President Jimmy Carter, author Max Lucado and evangelist Billy Graham.

Namibian churches hope to “pray gay away”

Sodomy between men remains a crime in Namibia, though the law hasn’t been enforced. But gay condemnation is common, Religion News Service (RNS) reported. A few denominations, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Republic of Namibia, “tolerate” LGBT Christians, according to RNS. But most do not. In response to this culture, the faith-based nonprofit Tulinam was created to provide safe spaces for sexual minorities in Namibian churches and encourage discussion of religion and sexuality.

Trump brings some Protestants back to church

In the wake of Donald Trump’s election as president, anecdotal evidence suggests congregations from a variety of Protestant denominations have experienced a spike in people returning to church, reported The Atlantic. “The Sunday after the election was the size of an average Palm Sunday,” Eric Folkerth, a pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church, Dallas, told the publication. “I sincerely don’t recall another time when it feels like there has been a sustained desire on people’s part to be together with other progressive Christians.”

Read more about: