Lutheran community center opens in South Sudan

More than 5,000 gathered for the dedication of Reconciliation Lutheran Church Community Center and Clinic last November in Juba, South Sudan. ELCA missionaries and pastors Wal Reat and Mawien Ariik were instrumental in bringing this ministry to fruition. The center, which was funded by gifts to the Always Being Created New: The Campaign for the ELCA, provides the community medical care, educational opportunities and worship space.

Funds are still needed to sustain this ministry, said Andrew Steele, director for ELCA Global Church Sponsorship. “We can, and must, continue to accompany our brothers and sisters in Christ in South Sudan as they grow the church, serve the community and bring healing to the sick,” he said. “We thank God for the opportunity to walk alongside our companions and thank God for the donors who have walked alongside us to make this project possible.”

Women and justice draft released

The draft of the ELCA social statement on women and justice, authorized in 2009 by the ELCA Churchwide Assembly, was released Nov. 15 for a public comment period. The ELCA Task Force on Women and Justice: One in Christ is taking feedback through a response form until Sept. 30, 2018, and then will edit the draft accordingly. The proposed social statement will be presented for adoption at the 2019 Churchwide Assembly.

New LWF officers meet with Pope Francis

The new officers of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Council met with Pope Francis Dec. 7 at the Vatican. Among them was ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, who is the federation’s new vice president for North America. Referring to the commitment made by the LWF and the Roman Catholic Church during the Joint Catholic-Lutheran Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017, Musa Panti Filibus, LWF president and archbishop of the Lutheran Church of Christ in Nigeria, said, “We have begun our irreversible journey from conflict to communion and we do not wish to let it cease ever again.”

Presiding bishop responds to embassy move

On Dec. 6, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton issued a statement in response to President Donald Trump’s announcement that he intended to move the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. “As my brother in Christ and colleague Bishop Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land has often said, the security of Israelis depends on the freedom of Palestinians and the freedom of Palestinians depends on the security of Israelis,” Eaton said in the statement. “This proposed action would make both more insecure.”

Eaton co-signs letter on national monuments

On Dec. 4, President Donald Trump signed presidential proclamations to diminish the size of Bear Ears National Monument by more than 85 percent, and reduce Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by about half. On Dec. 5, religious leaders, including Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, sent a letter to U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke urging him to listen to the Bears Ears Commission of Tribes’ recommendation to uphold the monuments. The letter stated: “We recognize the complexity of this matter, but as God’s children we must honor and respect our Native American brothers and sisters, their culture and their heritage.”

New ELCA treasurer elected

Lori Fedyk, a member of Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Libertyville, Ill., was elected to a six-year term as ELCA treasurer by the ELCA Church Council at its November meeting, effective Feb. 1. Fedyk currently serves as executive vice president and chief financial officer of Lutheran Life Communities in Arlington Heights, Ill. “Lori Fedyk not only brings professional skill and experience, but she is also deeply committed to the mission and ministry of the ELCA,” said Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton.

Church Council’s fall meeting looks to future

The ELCA Church Council met at the Lutheran Center in Chicago, Nov. 9-12, where they focused on the goals of ELCA Future Directions 2025 and priorities around congregational vitality and leadership. The council also adopted several actions on the reorganization of the ELCA Foundation. As of Jan. 1, the Endowment Fund of the ELCA assumed responsibility for all programs and related assets associated with the Foundation.

Among other business, the council also adopted a revised social message on human rights; elected an ELCA treasurer to a six-year term; presented the Servus Dei Award to Treasurer Linda Norman in thanksgiving for her service; and commended the Lutheran World Federation Gender Justice Policy to the ELCA for study and consideration.

LDR receives gift from Leipzig, Germany

Largely through the efforts of St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, Germany, the city of Leipzig has raised more than $30,000 for its sister city of Houston following the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. The gift, collected in part through a benefit concert held at St. Thomas, will be mobilized through Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR). In November, Martin Hundertmark, pastor of St. Thomas, and Robert Moore, ELCA representative in Germany for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and former pastor of Christ the King Lutheran Church in Houston, visited the Lutheran Center to offer the gift to Michael Stadie, LDR director.

D.C. congregation receives grant

Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Washington, D.C., is one of 17 congregations participating in a national grant-making program from the National Fund for Sacred Places that supports capital building projects. Michael Wilker, pastor of Reformation, said, “Over the next two years we are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and our 150th anniversary as a congregation with different projects that aim to ‘Open Doors, Nourish Souls, and Praise God.’ Our biggest project is the renovation of our sanctuary building—it is the core of all we do.”

News from ELCA Advocacy

Recent news headlines feature a parade of high-profile men—entertainers, politicians and public figures—facing accusations of sexual harassment or abuse. These have offered a glimpse of the pervasive sexual and gender-based violence in our society. The sin of gender-based violence reveals our deep need for God’s grace and healing for individuals and society.

The ELCA social message on gender-based violence explores the role and response of the church to this brokenness. The message expresses the urgency of this response: “This is the time to speak and to listen, to deeply and honestly know the pain in the body of Christ and throughout the world. This is the time for survivors to speak and to be heard. This is the time to break the silence. … This is the time to wisely care for perpetrators and to hold them accountable. This is the time to change policies, strengthen laws and challenge systemic factors that create and foster gender-based violence.”

ELCA Advocacy is supporting legislative vehicles that address gender-based violence in the U.S. and around the world. Staff are working to promote passage of the International Violence Against Women Act in the U.S. Senate. Previous versions of this bill sought to ensure that violence against women be included in the nation’s foreign policy, with provisions for preventing violence, protecting victims and prosecuting offenders.

The Lutheran World Federation is encouraging church leaders to speak up publicly against gender-based violence. ELCA Advocacy took part in the interfaith campaign “Precious in God’s Eyes” in December.

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