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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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March 2001 Worldscan

  • • Questions surround the death of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who disappeared after saving thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Nazis. He was last seen in 1945 headed for a meeting with leaders of Soviet forces that had invaded Hungary. Initially Russian officials said Wallenberg died of a heart attack in 1947. But Russian members of a Russian-Swedish commission now believe he was shot in 1947 at Soviet headquarters in Moscow. "Even though all versions from Russian sources largely assume that Raoul Wallenberg had died at that point, the working group has not uncovered any evidence to confirm a definite conclusion to this effect," the Swedish commission members said.

  • About 50 percent of teens who made a formal pledge to abstain from sex before marriage kept their promise until about age 20, nearly 18 months longer than other teens, according to a study in the American Journal of Sociology. Half of those who didn't make a pledge had sex by age 17. "The average delay among pledgers is 18 months," said Peter Bearman, the study's co-author. "That is significant. And that is pure pledge effect."
  • About 50 percent of teens who made a formal pledge to abstain from sex before marriage kept their promise until about age 20, nearly 18 months longer than other teens, according to a study in the American Journal of Sociology. Half of those who didn't make a pledge had sex by age 17. "The average delay among pledgers is 18 months," said Peter Bearman, the study's co-author. "That is significant. And that is pure pledge effect."
  • until about age 20, nearly 18 months longer than other teens, according to a study in the American Journal of Sociology. Half of those who didn't make a pledge had sex by age 17. "The average delay among pledgers is 18 months," said Peter Bearman, the study's co-author. "That is significant. And that is pure pledge effect."

  • Membership is increasing in churches belonging to the Mennonite and Brethren in Christ traditions. The most rapid growth is in Africa, where membership has grown 322,000 since 1998 to 405,000. Currently, the Mennonite population is 1.2 million, up from 1.06 million in 1998. U.S. Mennonite members number 319,000. The most rapid growth is in Africa, where membership has grown 322,000 since 1998 to 405,000. Currently, the Mennonite population is 1.2 million, up from 1.06 million in 1998. U.S. Mennonite members number 319,000.

  • Some 70 percent of Americans believe religion should have a greater effect on society, says a Public Agenda survey. Of the 1,507 people questioned, 52 percent believe the country needs more religious politicians, but 39 percent thought such leaders would not make better decisions, and 11 percent said officials might make worse decisions if they became deeply religious. says a Public Agenda survey. Of the 1,507 people questioned, 52 percent believe the country needs more religious politicians, but 39 percent thought such leaders would not make better decisions, and 11 percent said officials might make worse decisions if they became deeply religious.

  • The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), which narrowly voted last year to ban same-sex unions, is looking for a "third way" to work through the issue, one that will please liberals and conservatives. "We believe the church we love has a future, but it will not be by determining winners and losers," said the church's regional executives. "We envision a third way, which can come only from an openness to the Spirit." The executives didn't say what a third way might mean.

  • Christianity remained the world's largest religion, a position it held at the beginning of the 20th century. There are 1.9 billion Christians, which comprise 31 percent of the current world population. In 1900, 555 million Christians accounted for 32 percent of the population. Christians are divided into 33,820 denominations, with 386 million people belonging to independent churches apart from Anglican, Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant branches. Christians belonging to other groups have quadrupled since 1970, with large increases reported among Pentecostal and Charismatic movements. a position it held at the beginning of the 20th century. There are 1.9 billion Christians, which comprise 31 percent of the current world population. In 1900, 555 million Christians accounted for 32 percent of the population. Christians are divided into 33,820 denominations, with 386 million people belonging to independent churches apart from Anglican, Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant branches. Christians belonging to other groups have quadrupled since 1970, with large increases reported among Pentecostal and Charismatic movements.

  • The National Council of Churches called on the United States to acknowledge that its soldiers killed several hundred refugees at No Gun Ri during the Korean War. "Until justice is done, there can be no true reconciliation between our two peoples and no lasting peace for survivors, victims and their families, or for those who killed and wounded innocent civilians," said Bob Edgar, NCC general secretary. at No Gun Ri during the Korean War. "Until justice is done, there can be no true reconciliation between our two peoples and no lasting peace for survivors, victims and their families, or for those who killed and wounded innocent civilians," said Bob Edgar, NCC general secretary.

  • Stephen Pedley of Lancaster and a bishop for the Church of England, criticized parishioners for not doing enough kneeling in church. Responding in a local paper, parishioner Ian Wells said there isn't enough leg room in many churches to kneel. "Not kneeling is not necessarily a sign of lack of reverence," Wells said. "It is often simple prudence. ... [It] also lets you hold an order of service without the risk of using the back of the person in front of you as a prop." Responding in a local paper, parishioner Ian Wells said there isn't enough leg room in many churches to kneel. "Not kneeling is not necessarily a sign of lack of reverence," Wells said. "It is often simple prudence. ... [It] also lets you hold an order of service without the risk of using the back of the person in front of you as a prop."

  • Britain approved a bill allowing scientists to clone human embryos for medical research, despite the objections of British Muslim, Jewish, Roman Catholic and Protestant communities. "We owe a measure of respect to the millions of people living with these devastating illnesses and the millions who have yet to show signs of them," said Lord Hunt, the junior health minister. despite the objections of British Muslim, Jewish, Roman Catholic and Protestant communities. "We owe a measure of respect to the millions of people living with these devastating illnesses and the millions who have yet to show signs of them," said Lord Hunt, the junior health minister.

  • In a rare statement about the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement, the Chinese government said 242 of the group's adherents have been given "criminal punishment," which included a labor camp sentence for most. The Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Hong Kong, believes that as many as 10,000 Falun Gong members have been sent to labor camps and nearly 100 followers have died in police custody.

  • France and the United States reached an agreement that will create an initial unlimited escrow account of $50 million to compensate Jews who can show evidence that their families' assets were confiscated during World War II. Those without evidence will be compensated from a capped fund worth the equivalent of $22.5 million. The United States and Austria also reached a similar agreement, with the latter pledging more than $300 million to settle claims.

  • A study of 1,356 federal appeals court decisions between 1970 and 1990 found that a judge's religion may influence rulings on religious liberty cases. Barbara Yarnold of Florida International University, Miami, says judges who were Roman Catholic or Baptist were more likely than others to take "pro-religion" positions in cases that involved the First Amendment. Lutheran judges were more likely to have taken a position that was anti-religion, but this tendency was not as strong statistically.

  • Alwi Shihab, Indonesia's foreign minister, told Pope John Paul II that that the government will do "everything possible" to end attacks on Christians. The 5 million Roman Catholics in Indonesia make up 2 percent of the world's most populous Muslim country. In the last two years clashes between Christians and Muslims in the Moluccas islands in the Malay archipelago have claimed more than 2,500 lives.

  • Chile's Supreme Court received documentation from the military, churches and religious communities on the disappearances of some 1,000 opponents to Gen. Augusto Pinochet's 1973-1990 dictatorship. Chilean President Ricardo Lagos expressed his sorrow over the "cruel and painful truths" contained in the documents, which described how 130 of those missing were dumped into the sea, rivers, lakes, or buried in mass graves. More than 3,000 people were murdered during Pinochet's rule.

  • The Lilly Endowment provided a $10 million grant to Duke University's Divinity School, Durham, N.C., to create a a program that trains new pastors to better engage congregations. The Learned Clergy Initiative will provide 60 three-year scholarships for students to learn from some of the country's best pastors. It also will link students with 15 "teaching congregations" nationwide and across denominations for internships.

  • Church Women United is facing criticism and a potential reduction in funding from some supporters after officers of the interdenominational Christian women's group fired almost half its staff, including executive director Kathleen Hurty, an ELCA member. Hurty said reasons for the terminations were unclear. "I care a great deal about the mission of Church Women United and I think this action defied their mission," Hurty said. "It's an organization that has so much rich history and tremendous potential and this is a real setback." The United Methodist Church and the Disciples of Christ decided to temporarily withhold funding to the group because of its actions. Jerrye Champion, president of Church Women United said the organization is not in crisis and "this is not something that has just happened in a spontaneous way."

  • The Christian group Focus on the Family filed a federal lawsuit against a Florida transit authority for pulling advertisements on its Tampa-area bus shelters. The ads promoted a conference "addressing, understanding and preventing homosexuality in youth." A private advertising company under contract to the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority pulled the posters, citing concerns over content. "Government officials often have the mistaken view that the First Amendment allows them to censor anything they don't like," said Matthew Staver, president of the Orlando, Fla.,-based Liberty Counsel, which filed the suit asking the transit board to accept future ads for an upcoming conference.

  • Some 56 percent of Roman Catholic priests in the Netherlands said they would bless a homosexual union in their church despite a letter from Dutch bishops that expressly forbids such a ceremony, says a survey by the Dutch gay newspaper Gay Krant. The survey of 339 priests also showed that 85 percent of those who responded said practicing homosexuals should be eligible to receive the sacraments.

  • The Church of Pakistan ordained two women as deacons, bringing the church a step closer to accepting women as priests. But Timotheus Nasir, the moderator-secretary of the United Presbyterian Church of Pakistan, is trying to block the ordinations in civil court, saying the action will lead to "apostasy and heresy."

  • The Reform Judaism Central Conference, in response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing the Boy Scouts to ban gay men from leaderships posts, called on Jewish families to sever ties with the organization. "While we maintain our hope that the Boy Scouts of America will abandon its discriminatory polices, its lack of response to the many expressions of disagreement and disappointment with the policies gives us little basis for optimism," said Rabbi Dan Polish, director of the Joint Commission of the Reform Jewish movement.


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