Global Lutherans gather for 12th LWF Assembly

Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton and an ELCA delegation joined Lutherans from around the world May 10-16 for the 12th Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Windhoek, Namibia. The LWF is a global communion of 145 churches representing more than 74 million Christians in 98 countries. The assembly—the highest LWF decision-making body that meets every six to seven years—elected Musa Panti Filibus, archbishop of the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria, as its new president. He will serve until the next assembly.

Eaton, other ELCA leaders join LWF Council

At the 12th Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton was elected vice president of the LWF North America region. She succeeds Bishop Susan Johnson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada in the role, which is part of the council’s executive committee. “I am honored to join my sisters and brothers in service through the Lutheran World Federation,” Eaton said. “Together as 145 churches around the world, we face significant challenges but also new opportunities to bear Christ’s ministries of reconciliation in a deeply divided world.”

Three other ELCA members were tapped to serve on the LWF Council. Robin Steinke, president of Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn., was elected as chair of the Committee for Theology and Public Witness and will also serve on the executive committee. William Flippin, pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Atlanta, and an ELCA Church Council member, and Cheryl Philip, a member of Resurrection Lutheran Church, Chicago, were elected as members at large. The new council met for the first time May 17 in Windhoek, Namibia.

ELCA, Episcopal Church issue call for fasting

Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton and Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry issued a joint statement calling for prayer, fasting and advocacy to address cuts to public programs that are vital to hungry people living in poverty. The statement, “For Such a Time As This,” calls for fasting on the 21st of each month through December 2018, at which time the 115th Congress will conclude. The call launched with a fast May 21-23.

Save the date: Oct. 31, 2017

Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton will co-host “Looking Back & Called Forward: ELCA 500,” an event commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, Oct. 31, in Washington, D.C. The event, which will include a service and speakers, will be held at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill. Join the livestream and honor the Reformation anniversary as we bear public witness to Christ.

Episcopalians, Methodists on full communion

On May 17, Episcopalians and Methodists released a proposal for full communion between the two denominations. Full implementation of the proposal will take at least three years. The Episcopal Church General Convention, which meets in 2018, and the United Methodist General Conference, meeting in 2020, must approve the agreement. The Episcopal Church and the United Methodist Church are full communion partners of the ELCA.

LIRS CEO receives Wartburg award

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service President and CEO Linda Hartke received the Living Loehe Award from Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa, on May 14. The award honors individuals who have given distinguished service to and through the church and exemplify Christ’s call to be disciples in the context of their daily lives and professional commitments. “Linda Hartke exemplifies the Loehe tradition through her dedication to serving immigrants and refugees,” Wartburg said in a statement.

800 ELCA rostered ministers to gather

For the first time in the ELCA’s 29-year history, its rostered ministers will meet Aug. 7-10 in Atlanta under the theme “On the Way … Together.” At presstime approximately 800 had registered. “Having a gathering like this has been a visionary idea for quite some time in our church’s history, but Bishop Eaton wanted to see this come to fruition with both Word and Service and Word and Sacrament ministers together,” said Kevin Strickland, ELCA executive for worship and assistant to the presiding bishop.

Clergy call for “supportive environment”

Clergy in the Charlottesville, Va., area held a counter-rally after self-identified white supremacists took part in a May demonstration supporting a local statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Removing the monument has been a point of contention for locals—at presstime, the city’s council had voted to remove it but a pending court case has stalled action. “When there are expressions of hatred against people, there needs to be a faith-based response to that,” said Sandy Wisco, retired ELCA pastor and member of the Charlottesville Clergy Collective. “I’m glad we were there.”

Bishop Oliveto responds to ruling

The April 28 decision by the United Methodist Church’s (UMC) top court on the consecration of openly gay bishops was a “very good representation” of the denomination, UMC Bishop Karen Oliveto told Religion News Service. “We are not of one mind when it comes to the role of LGBTQI people in the life and ministry of the [UMC],” she said. The 6-3 ruling found that while the consecration of an openly gay bishop violates church law, Oliveto’s consecration is not in question.

Cloistered nuns use social media

After spending most of their lives in silent prayer, the 10 remaining nuns in a convent inspired by St. Clare in Oristano on the island of Sardinia are breaking their silence—and tradition. Now with their own website, Facebook page and cellphone, the nuns are embracing the internet in an effort to raise their profile and attract newcomers. If their numbers continue to fall, they may be forced to leave the convent.

College freshmen becoming “less religious”

According to a report from the Cooperative Institutional Research Program in Scientific American, the number of college students with no religious affiliation has increased from 10 percent in 1986 to 31 percent in 2016. The study, which surveyed more than 137,000 first-time students from 184 colleges and universities across the U.S., also showed that the number of students who attend religious services dropped from 85 percent to 69 percent during the same time frame.

Gunmen kill 28 in Egypt

On May 26 gunmen attacked Coptic Christians traveling to a monastery in central Egypt, initially killing 28 people and wounding 24, with many children among the victims, Health Ministry officials said. Islamic State took responsibility for the attack, which came on the eve of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. It followed a series of church bombings claimed by the militant group in a campaign of violence against Copts.

Christian support for paid parental leave

A study from the Pew Research Center shows that Christians of color are more likely than the average American to support paid parental leave. The data, originally reported in Christianity Today, reveals that 90 percent of black Protestants, including evangelicals, and 85 percent of Hispanic Catholics believe mothers should receive paid leave. White evangelical Protestants and white mainline Protestants showed lower levels of support than the average American with 78 percent and 76 percent support for paid parental leave, respectively.

News from ELCA Advocacy

In March, students from The Vine NYC, a Lutheran and ecumenical campus ministry in New York City, traveled to Washington, D.C., on a spring break “faith in action” pilgrimage. While most of the students had participated in direct service to neighbors, this trip sought to effect change in a different way—through advocacy to elected officials.

Before doing advocacy on Capitol Hill, the students were asked to consider their stories as the most powerful gifts for advocacy they could offer. One student shared that a friend may have to leave college to take care of her siblings if her mother is deported.
Another talked about his peers routinely going hungry during exam times when they can’t work as many shifts at their jobs. Each student discovered that he or she had a story or experience to offer that would be vital to shaping their collective witness when speaking with Senate staffers.

Christian Pisco, a sophomore at New York University, reflected that before this trip, he would intentionally avoid mentioning his faith when he talked about social issues because not everyone believes in God. The trip helped him and other students learn that talking about faith is not something to be afraid of but rather can convict them to advocate for the most marginalized in society.

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