U.S. joint Reformation observance held
In observance of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the ELCA Conference of Bishops’ Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Committee and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs Committee gathered March 2 at the ELCA churchwide office in Chicago for a Lutheran-Catholic service of Common Prayer. During the service, which underscored 50 years of Lutheran-Catholic dialogue, a joint statement was presented and signed by the committee chairs, Mitchell Rozanski, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts, and Donald Kreiss, bishop of the ELCA Southeast Michigan Synod.
Statement on refugees and migrants
ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton and leaders from the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada issued an Ash Wednesday statement addressing refugees and migrants. “This Lent we call our churches to be continually mindful of the global refugee and migration crises, and the injustices and conflicts that have swelled the statistics to a number greater than ever in the history of the world,” the March 1 statement read.
Augsburg College to change name
On March 2, Augsburg College, Minneapolis, unanimously approved a resolution to become Augsburg University, effective Sept. 1. A media release from the school states that the change “reflects the reality that Augsburg already offers nine graduate degree programs in addition to its more than 50 undergraduate degree programs.” Regarding the name change, Paul Pribbenow, Augsburg president, said, “Becoming Augsburg University does not change our dedication to our liberal arts mission or our commitment to being small to our students and big for the world.”
Bishop Schaefer resigns
Citing the privileges but also the rigors and responsibilities of the office, Robert Schaefer resigned as bishop of the Florida-Bahamas Synod, effective March 5. “It has been the greatest honor of my ministry to serve as your bishop, and there are many, many ways that I will miss it,” he said. Marcus Lohrmann will serve as interim bishop beginning April 1. Lohrmann retired in 2016, following 18 years as bishop of the Northwestern Ohio Synod.
Bishop Younan receives Niwano Peace Prize
Munib Younan, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and president of the Lutheran World Federation, was named the 34th recipient of the Niwano Peace Prize on Feb. 20. Younan received the award for his work toward interreligious dialogue among Christians, Muslims and Jews in Jerusalem and around the world. A ceremony will be held in Tokyo on July 27.
Statement on attacks on Jewish community
On Feb. 22, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton issued a letter in response to recent attacks and threats on the Jewish community: “In the face of anti-Semitism, we are called to speak out—as an expression of our love of neighbor and as our faithful response to the love of God in Jesus. … As a church, in our 1994 Declaration to the Jewish Community, we have pledged ‘to oppose the deadly working of such bigotry, both within our own circles and in the society around us.’ ”
Augustana University announces new president
On Feb. 22, Augustana University, Sioux Falls, S.D., announced that former congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin will be its 24th president. The appointment, made by the Augustana Board of Trustees, marks the first time in the school’s 157-year history that a woman will serve as its president. She will succeed Rob Oliver, who will retire July 31.
Islam to become world’s largest religion
A study conducted by the Pew Research Center titled “Muslims and Islam: Key Findings in the U.S. and Around the World” says Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world and suggests it will be the largest world religion by 2070. The research suggests that Islam will grow by 73 percent by 2050, compared to 35 percent growth for Christianity. The report’s demographic projections also estimate that Muslims will make up 2.1 percent of the population in the U.S. by 2050.
“You can imagine the emotions that we experienced upon seeing all our hard work, heartfelt efforts and dedication literally go up in flames.”
—The Islamic Center of Lake Travis, Austin, Texas, in a Feb. 7 statement after four U.S. mosques, including theirs, were burned down in the first two months of 2017.