Global Lutheran Warming: Representatives of the Lutheran World Federation and the International Lutheran Council met February 25-26 in Johannesburg, South Africa to discuss a number of theological topics including relations with other Christian bodies, the differing meanings of "membership" in the two organizations, the significance of baptism and the relation of ecclesial bodies to the one body of Christ.
As stipulated by a 2005 "Memorandum of Understanding", leaders of the two groups meet annually in order to foster communication and understanding between the two organizations which together represent most of the world's Lutherans.
Both groups acknowledged the importance of mutual respect, good will, and open communication,in the hope that "worrisome reports" about each other's activities could be checked out and discussed directly.
Plans for observing the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation in 2017 were discussed extensively.
The "Memorandum of Understanding" was reviewed, and no changes were made. The possibility of future documents to express agreements about practice was discussed. Planners are looking for a site in the Philippines for the 2009 meeting.
The group issued a Communique summarizing the results of the meeting.
Issues, Etc.: Mollie Ziegler Hemingway, a former member of the LCMS Board of Communication Services, writing in the Wall Street Journal reported on the precipitous cancellation of Issues, Etc., a much-beloved radio show on KFUO. Station KFUO is operated by the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) and is oldest continuously running religion-themed radio station in the United States.
On Tuesday of Holy Week, the show was abruptly terminated and its staff, host Rev. Todd Wilken and producer Jeff Schwarz, were dismissed without explanation. The program's Web site, with past episodes and issues of its magazine, was taken offline. It was as though the show had never existed.
LCMS officials in St. Louis were initially silent, and then claimed that the show had been canceled for "business and programmatic" reasons. Subsequently the synod cited low local ratings in the St. Louis area and the low number of listeners to the live audio stream on the Web site. The synod also claimed that the show lost $250,000 a year, which Ms. Hemingway asserted, is at odds with reports by others familiar with the operating budget of the station:
The program was in all likelihood a pawn in a larger battle for the soul of the Missouri Synod. The church is divided between, on the one hand, traditional Lutherans known for their emphasis on sacraments, liturgical worship and the church's historic confessions and, on the other, those who have embraced pop-culture Christianity and a market-driven approach to church growth.
The Rev. Gerald Kieschnick, the synod's current president, has pushed church marketing over the Lutherans' historic confession of faith by repeatedly telling the laity, "This is not your grandfather's church."
By Good Friday, public outcry compelled the synod to repost the archived broadcasts on KFUO's Web site, and thousands of people had singed a petition calling for the show's return. A Facebook group has formed to share information about the fate of the show.
Pope Baptizes Muslim: On Holy Saturday at the Easter Vigil in St. Peter's Basilica, Pope Benedict XVI baptized Magdi Allam an Egyptian-born Muslim journalist who is deputy director of Italy's oldest newspaper Corriere Della Sera.
The service was televised and widely reported among news services which did not hesitate to describe Allam as "Italy's most prominent Muslim".
Allam is a strong supporter of Israel (he was once called a "Muslim Zionist" by an Israeli newspaper) and has lived under police protection since death threats were made against him for criticizing Iran's position on Israel.
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Allam is also quick to acknowledge that he has not been a particularly observant Muslim: "I was never practicing, I never prayed five times a day, facing Mecca. I never fasted during Ramadan."
He also admitted that as a child he had once received Communion "even though I knew it was an act of blasphemy, not having been baptized."
Cardinal Giovanni Re commented, "Conversion is a private matter, a personal thing and we hope that the baptism will not be interpreted negatively by Islam,"
LDR Nearly Completes Large Expenditure: Perhaps the first week of the Easter season really is a slow news week, but we feel the ELCA News Service has gone out of its way to make things seem duller than they are with its release Lutheran Disaster Response Nearly Completes $27.7 Million Expenditure.
In fact, the subject of the release is LDR's $27.7 million project to support Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts along the Gulf Coast. The $27.7 million fund includes $18.68 million in contributions from ELCA and LCMS members between 2005 and 2007 and a matching contribution of more than $9 million from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.
At the start of 2008, more than $25 million had been disbursed to recovery projects and the LDR fund's remaining balance of $2.27 was been carried forward to continue the Lutheran response efforts along the Gulf Coast.
Coming Out Trans: If you're looking for some background material to accompany you're study of the ELCA's Draft Social Statement on Sexuality, we'd recommend checking out the Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality and particularly the article by William A. Henkin in volume 11 titled Coming Out Trans. Regarding the unique dilemma of transgendered children who try to come out, Henkin writes:
If you're transgendered, ... as soon as you say I'm not a girl" or "I'm not a boy," people point to your body, sometimes literally, and tell you you're wrong about your very own identity. In the face of your still relatively innocent, trusting, and unencumbered awareness, the people you must trust and upon whom you must rely tell you that you are not who you know yourself to be. Especially when they derive from the mostly adult world of appearances, these assertions establish an element of identity conflict in the trans child unlike any other developmental identity conflict we know. That is why coming out trans is not like coming out gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Where sex is concerned, including orientation, a person's value may be questioned and demeaned, but where gender is concerned the person's identity itself is indicted...
Isogogy: With the announcement of its Fall, 20008 course offerings and an updated web site, The Institute of Lutheran Theology (ILT) is showing some signs of life. At its March meeting the the ILT Board of Directors approved plans for the institute to offer both Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Sacred Theology (STM) degree programs.
Among the Fall course offerings, we were pleased to note TEXO 507: Old Testament Isogogics:
Introductory treatment of the Torah, the Prophets, the Historical Books and the Writings. The history of Israel is surveyed and each book studied in the light of this historical background. Emphasis is placed on the content, form and composition, theological motifs, and relevance of the materials contained in the same.
Isogogics was a new word for us, and Merriam-Webster could not dispel our ignorance. A helpful blog entry suggested that word was properly spelled isagogics, and that led to the Christian Cyclopedia on the LCMS web site where there is a 348-word entry that reads in part:
Isagogics (from Gk. eisagoge, "introduction"). 1. Introductory studies.
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