Younan honored for 42 years of service
International dignitaries and leaders, including ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton and Rafael Malpica Padilla, executive director of ELCA Global Mission, celebrated Munib Younan, outgoing bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), at a Jan. 10 farewell service in Bethlehem. Younan served as pastor of three ELCJHL congregations, as its bishop for 20 years and as president of the Lutheran World Federation for seven years. “The call of God never ends,” Younan said at the service. “For this reason, I will continue to be a servant of the gospel in whatever way God calls me next. I am out of office but not out of mission.”
ELCA Foundation reorganized
At its fall meeting, the ELCA Church Council adopted several actions on the reorganization of the ELCA Foundation, including approving additional responsibilities for the Endowment Fund of the ELCA and transferring the foundation’s activities to the fund as of Jan. 1. The approval followed a presentation by the chair of the Task Force on the Structure and Governance of the ELCA Foundation, which was established by the council at its November 2016 meeting. Some of the benefits of the transfer include improved governance, expanded investment and financial oversight, increased transparency to current and prospective donors, financial sustainability and legal-risk mitigation.
ELCA delegation attends racial justice gathering
An ELCA delegation, led by Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, participated in the Conference of National Black Churches’ (CNBC) annual gathering in Memphis, Tenn., Dec. 12-14. The ELCA co-sponsors the conference’s cross-racial dialogue, now in its third year. In her remarks to the CNBC, gathered under the theme “Overcoming the Burden of Bias,” Eaton focused on 2017 having been about a Reformation narrative for the ELCA that casts aside triumphalism (the attitude that one religion is superior) for reconciliation within the body of Christ and across the divisions in society.
Scholarship application period ends Feb. 15
In 2018, ELCA Fund for Leaders, which provides scholarships for future pastors and deacons who attend ELCA seminaries, is prepared to offer full-tuition scholarships to more students than ever before. A new open application process allows eligible candidates to apply online directly to Fund for Leaders to be considered for scholarships covering the full cost of seminary tuition for the duration of coursework. Applications must be submitted to the Fund for Leaders by Feb. 15.
Houses of worship can receive FEMA aid
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) issued a new policy extending disaster relief to churches, synagogues and other houses of worship. Following lawsuits and a Supreme Court decision, FEMA’s policy guide says the change was made so houses of worship aren’t considered ineligible “on the basis of the religious character or primarily religious use of the facility.” Previous language deemed private nonprofits ineligible for aid if they primarily offered religious activities.
A vote to strengthen youth leadership
Two German member churches of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF)—the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Saxony—passed resolutions last November to increase participation of youth under 30 in their decision-making bodies. The amendment to the church constitution also granted youth members full voting rights. “These steps toward increased youth participation are encouraging, as they provide opportunities to shape the church in the present and in the future,” said Caroline Bader, LWF youth secretary. “Youth are full members of the church and take on responsibility when given the chance to do so.”
Mennonite conference leaves denomination
The Lancaster Mennonite Conference (LMC) officially separated from its denomination, the Mennonite Church USA, on Jan. 1. The LMC, the largest group of Mennonite congregations in the U.S., opposes same-sex marriage and members were increasingly uncomfortable with some denominational policies that affirmed it, including hiring policies that address LGBT people.
Study: Prayer may help relieve stress
The American Psychological Association’s newest “Stress in America” survey of 3,440 adults shows the public’s overall stress level remains the same as last year’s, with an average level of 4.8 on a scale of 1 to 10. But how Americans respond to stress is changing. Notably, fewer Americans are turning to prayer. Only 29 percent of Americans polled said they pray to relieve stress, a gradual but consistent decline since the high of 37 percent recorded in 2008.
Awana co-founder dies
Arthur Rorheim, co-founder of the Awana children’s ministry program, died Jan. 5 at age 99. Rorheim is credited with helping Awana grow from a weekly club at North Side Gospel Center in Chicago, where he was youth director, to an organization that now has programs in 47,000 churches worldwide from 100 denominations. More than 3.7 million children and youth participate in Awana every week.
LDS church president dies
Thomas Monson, 90, the 16th president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, died Jan. 2. He led the roughly 16 million-member church, popularly known as the Mormons, since 2008. Although Monson’s successor will not be named until after his funeral, Russell M. Nelson, 93, a cardiothoracic surgeon who was the longest-serving member of the church’s leadership council, is expected to become the next LDS “prophet, seer and revelator,” a role established by Mormon founder Joseph Smith Jr.
News from ELCA Advocacy
Through the support of ELCA World Hunger, ELCA Advocacy works with advocacy ministry networks across the country to engage local, state and national governments, and equip people of faith to advocate for policies that move us toward a just world where all are fed.
In 2017, ELCA Advocacy implemented the “ELCA Hunger Advocacy Fellowship” program to help fulfill this commitment. The fellowship is a yearlong experience that combines leadership development and faith formation with advocacy for economic, racial and gender justice. The inaugural class of ELCA hunger advocacy fellows currently serve in advocacy offices in Texas, Minnesota, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
Amanda Silcox, an advocacy fellow serving with the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, described what drew her to this program: “Churches do such a wonderful job of caring for people in their communities through food pantries, clothes closets, community dinners, toy drives and other important things. However, we often don’t see the connection between caring for our friends and neighbors directly, and advocating for fair policies in our government so that people don’t need to use our food pantries and clothes closets. I think this connection is so important, and it’s where I feel called to work.”
“The year 2018 is here. It is a good year to be the church. We have our hands filled with gifts to share. Because the one we glorify is the one who gives water to the thirsty, without cost from the spring of the water of life.”
–Martin Junge, general secretary for the Lutheran World Federation, in his New Year message.