Thursday, January 31, 2008

Joint Statement on Immigration by bishops

ELCA, Episcopal Presiding Bishops Urge Advocacy in Immigration Policy

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The presiding bishops of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Episcopal Church called
for members of their churches "to advocate for just national
policies on resettlement and migration." The Rev. Mark S.
Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, and the Most Rev. Katharine
Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, made
the comment in joint statement released Jan. 30 at a gathering
here with refugees, staff and friends of Interfaith Refugee and
Immigration Ministries (IRIM).
The gathering was at the Episcopal Church of the Atonement.
Jefferts Schori is here in advance of the Feb. 2 consecration of
the new bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago. The ELCA,
based here, and the Episcopal Church, based in New York, are full
communion partner churches. The churches are affiliated with
IRIM through Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service or
Episcopal Migration Ministries.
In their statement, the presiding bishops noted that there
are 33 million people worldwide who are refugees. They wrote:
"The current migration climate in this country is often focused
on exclusion and restriction. As people formed by a generous and
embracing gospel, we must challenge our leaders to avoid
cultivating an unwarranted atmosphere of fear. We must not
encourage building walls or denying basic human rights to those
who clamor for security and justice. Our perspective should be
one of abundance, for we are blessed with abundance and guided by
the mandate to love all as part of God's good creation."
Two refugees, served by IRIM, told their personal stories to
the presiding bishops. One refugee, Baraka Kubaya, came to the
United States through Egypt, after he and his wife were forced to
leave their home in Sudan. Sponsored by St. Luke's Lutheran
Church, Park Ridge, Ill., Kubaya and his wife resettled here in
2006 with IRIM's help.
"That day was like a new page in my life," he said. "For
the first time in my life, I felt secure. IRIM prepared
everything for us. They deserve good credit for the work they
are doing here."
"Most of us in this country, if we're willing to go back far
enough or even just a few years, have stories (in our histories)
of oppression, of hunger, of warfare, of not knowing what it is
to live in peace with justice," Jefferts Schori said. "We are
called to transform this world into something that looks more
like what God has in mind for all of us."
Hanson agreed, saying that every person has immigration
stories in their histories. "I'm convinced this culture would be
in a very different place if we would stop, as privileged people,
and simply hear the stories of refugees."
IRIM represents all organizations and people who are living
out their faith by heeding the Scriptures, Hanson said.
Immigration stories "drive us back to the biblical narrative," he
"It's always bewildering for me that people of faith become
so ardently anti-immigrant and anti-refugee because they are
becoming biblically illiterate about their own narrative. God
expects -- requires -- God's people to reflect that covenantal
relationship in the extension of justice to the sojourner, the
refugee among us," Hanson said.
Founded in 1982, IRIM provides support and services for
2,500 people annually who have resettled in the Chicago area. It
has served people from 64 countries, said Gregory J. Wangerin,
executive director.
Information about Interfaith Refugee and Immigration
Ministries is at on the Web.

Craig Nessan on Willhelm Loehe

This year is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Willhelm Loehe. Craig Nessan provides a nice introduction to his legacy.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Monday, January 28, 2008

New Orleans | ELCA Youth Gathering 2009

The ELCA Youth Gathering will be in New Orleans in 2009. The LCMS Youth Gathering will be in New Orleans in 2010. This means two years in a row Lutheran youth will have an unparalleled opportunity to live in relationship and service with each other in the name of Jesus Christ.

I just returned from a week in New Orleans in training as our synod coordinator for the Gathering. Being in the city is really an overwhelming experience, and takes some time to process. Much of the tourist/central section of New Orleans, is completely rebuilt. So if you stay in the hotels near the French Quarter you can get the illusion that all is back to normal. Since we were in New Orleans the week before Fat Tuesday, there were already a lot of parades going on. It felt like the New Orleans that is so often celebrated, with jazz and festivities.

But you don't have to go very far from this district to see the places where there is still much work to be done.

While there, we worshiped at Bethlehem Lutheran Church. You can hear an interview with their pastor, Rev. Patrick Keen, on Grace Matters. It was very meaningful to worship with this congregation. We did not get to spend a lot of time there, because we had to catch our train back to Chicago shortly after noon. Nevertheless, we were incredibly thankful for their hospitality.

I do not want to imply that I know tons about New Orleans or Hurricane Katrina. In fact, I confess that before we visited, I was much less informed and involved than I should be. When the disaster struck, like many people our family donated money for disaster relief. I kept thinking of volunteering and traveling to the Gulf Coast to help with clean up effort- but a variety of factors kept me from doing so. Most of them were excuses. Nevertheless, I was thankful for a reason to be in New Orleans and learn about the continuing ministry and necessary work being done there.

God bless you if you have been involved in the reconstruction efforts. Feel free to share your comments here, or tell your story.

Friday, January 25, 2008

LWR Uganda


ACTION ALERT 01/22/2008
Recently, there have been several serious developments in the ongoing crisis in northern Uganda which threaten to plunge the region back into conflict.

Peace talks have started to break down. Divisions within the Lord’s Resistance Army leadership and delays in the negotiations have undermined the momentum toward a peace deal. In response, the Government of Uganda has threatened military action against the rebel group if progress is not made by January 31.

Even if the Ugandan government does not follow through on this threat, it still signals a further deterioration of confidence in the peace process and could create a return to violence.

The U.S. government, as a strong supporter of the Government of Uganda, has a strong role to play in forging a path toward peace.

The next three months are critical for peace talks, and the prospect of seeing a peaceful end to the conflict. Instead of sitting by and watching this chance for peace vanish, we can come together and let our government know our concern. Too much progress has been made to only return back to violence. The people of northern Uganda have placed their hopes in these negotiations.

Take Action
During this critical moment we at Lutheran World Relief encourage you to:
1. Contact your Representative or Senator on this pressing issue. Ask to speak to the foreign policy aide and say:
“I am (name) from (city, state). I would like to voice my concern for the fragile northern Uganda peace talks. I ask (Representative or Senator) to call the State Department to urge the U.S. Government to ensure that this historic opportunity for peace is not lost. In addition, I ask you to work with the Congress to re-emphasize the importance of this process and increase our support for the Government of South Sudan mediating team and UN Special Envoy Joaquim Chissano.”
2. Become a “piece of the peace” in Uganda by participating in Lobby Days for Northern Uganda from February 24 to 26 in Washington, DC. This will be a way for you to voice your concern for the fragile Uganda peace talks.
This year, over 1,000 participants from across the U.S. will gather to learn more about northern Uganda. Participants will have the opportunity to ask members of Congress to support ongoing peace talks in Uganda and funding for resettlement and reconstruction efforts in the north.
Please visit to learn more and to register for this exciting event!


We give thanks for peace in our lives and for the opportunity to support peacemakers in Uganda. We pray that our efforts will serve to strengthen the spirit of reconciliation in Uganda and offer support to victims of the conflict. We pray that the Lord’s strength will sustain the countless individuals in Uganda who have long awaited stability and peace in their lives and in their land.
Thank You

Lutheran World Relief thanks you for taking the time to be a part of this opportunity for northern Uganda!
For more information, or to join the LWR advocacy network individually, please contact
Visit Lutheran World Relief’s advocacy partner Resolve Uganda for further information on the situation in northern Uganda.
WHO IS LWR? Lutheran World Relief, an international nonprofit organization, works to end poverty and injustice by empowering some of the world's most impoverished communities to help themselves. With partners in 35 countries, LWR seeks to promote sustainable development with justice and dignity by helping communities bring about change for healthy, safe and secure lives; engage in Fair Trade; promote peace and reconciliation; and respond to emergencies. LWR is headquartered in Baltimore, Md. and has worked in international development and relief since 1945.
Lutheran World Relief is a ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS), individuals and parish groups in international relief, development, advocacy and social responsibility.

Monday, January 21, 2008

A blog that only points

I just looked at my own blog and realized I've mostly been pointing to other resources in my posts rather than writing something substantive. This is lazy. My only excuse might be that all creative writing energy is currently invested elsewhere.

That said, I sometimes enjoy blogs that simply point me to other resources. Somebody took the time to surf, and then brings back their favorite shells and puts them on display.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Take Action on the 2008 Offering of Letters

Take Action on the 2008 Offering of Letters

LIRS and Trafficking

LIRS and Lutheran Bishops Fight for Law on Human Trafficking
By Gregory Chen, LIRS Director for Legislative Affairs

Annually, more than half a million people are trafficked across international borders throughout the world. Of these, about 17,000 people are trafficked into the United States, including as many as 5,000 who are children trafficked for purposes of sexual exploitation. These extremely vulnerable child and adult trafficking victims need services, counseling and shelter as well protection from their traffickers.

This year Congress has the opportunity to pass the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2007 (TVPRA), which would add new provisions that identify and protect child victims of trafficking. Identifying child trafficking victims is exceptionally difficult because many who have survived trafficking are afraid to come forward. Children, especially foreign-born children, are often unaware of the illegality of this abuse or of the laws and services that exist to protect them. In fact, since the passage of the original 2000 Trafficking Victims Protection Act, only about 100 children have been identified for trafficking victim benefits, a number far below the thousands trafficked each year.

Through LIRS’s extensive work serving immigrant and refugee children, we have encountered some of those child trafficking victims and children who are at grave risk of being trafficked. Our service experience has helped clarify the the need for improvements to existing trafficking laws. Two cases serve to illustrate:

* After four Indian children arrived at a U.S. airport, federal officers took them into protective detention. Later a man stepped forward seeking custody of the children. LIRS child specialists conducted an evaluation and assessment of the man’s home and personal profile, finding risk factors indicating that the man could be a trafficker. As a result, federal officials rejected the man’s custody request and likely prevented the children from being trafficked into further abuse and exploitation.

Under current law not all adults who seek custody of children in federal care receive a thorough home study and evaluation. This gap leaves hundreds of children perilously at risk of being delivered into the hands of traffickers. If passed, the TVPRA would improve assessment and evaluation systems so that adults who may endanger a child do not obtain custody.

* In another LIRS case two teenage girls from El Salvador were lured to the United States with the promise of a good job. But traffickers forced them to work in a night club and perform sex work for male customers. The girls were fortunate enough to be picked up by government authorities and placed in a federal foster care program through which they received medical care, counseling and education services.

This highlights the needs for interim relief and services for trafficked children. Current law leaves many children in a state of limbo, unable to receive services while their applications for benefits are pending. The proposed TVPRA would make such children eligible for interim relief.

LIRS supports the following provisions in the TVPRA:

* Emergency interim assistance and improved services for child trafficking victims
* Increased support to UNHCR and other organizations to prevent refugees and internally displaced persons from being exploited
* Expedited family reunification for child trafficking victims in the United States
* Training for federal, state and local law enforcement authorities in identifying and assisting child trafficking victims
* Improved procedures for placing vulnerable unaccompanied immigrant children in appropriate settings and identifying children who have been trafficked or at risk of being trafficked.

In support of the 2007 TVPRA, this fall 10 bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and LIRS President Ralston Deffenbaugh issued a formal statement to Congress calling for swift passage of the bill, especially those provisions that protect children. An interfaith coalition of Jewish, Methodist, Episcopalian, Mennonite and Catholic organizations as well as members of refugee, immigrant and human rights organizations joined LIRS in support of the bill. We were extremely pleased when the House of Representatives passed its version in early December. LIRS urges Congress to enact the TVPRA as quickly as possible to ensure that many more victims of this horrible crime receive protection whether trafficked abroad or to our shores.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Flying Hymnals

My son in a quick fit of two year old energy tossed a hymnal off the balcony during an Advent Vespers service, almost hitting me (I was in the center aisle preaching and doing a walking illustration). This is a confirmation youth's depiction of the event, drawn on the back of their sermon notes.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Best Resources for Studying Greek

So, since Greek won out in the poll, now what does everyone recommend for the best Greek study resources? Two that I'm pondering include:

It's Still Greek to Me: An Easy-to-Understand Guide to Intermediate Greek - David Alan Black


The UBS Greek New Testament a Reader's Edition (732) - Barbara Aland; Hardcover

I have been finding that even a bit of study of the gospel lesson in Greek in preparation for the sermon brings some great insights. I had become lazy of late in exploring that, opting more for commentaries and ATLA/textweek resources. So thanks to all who voted...

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Bullet points from Edwin Friedman | A failure of Nerve

As I read through Friedman's book, I'll offer bullet points from the book. Then, after all the posts, hopefully write a bit of analysis.

In the introduction, he says these are the four major similarities in the thinking of American families and institutions that are at the heart of the problem of contemporary America's orientation toward leadership:

1) A regressive, counter-evolutionary trend in which the most dependent members of any organization set the agendas and where adaptation is constantly toward weakness rather than strength, thus leveraging power to the recalcitrant, the passive-agressive, and the most anxious members of an institution rather than toward the energetic, the visionary, the imaginative, and the motivated.

2) A devaluation of the process of individuation so that leaders tend to rely more on expertise than on their own capacity to be decisive. Consultants contribute further to this denial of individuation by offering solutions instead of promoting their clients' capacity to define themselves more clearly.

3) An obsession with data and technique that has become a form of addiction and turns professionals into data-junkies and their information into data junkyards. As a result, decision-makers avoid or deny the very emotional processes within their families, their institutions, and within society itself that might contribute to their institutions "persistence of form."

4) A widespread misunderstanding about the relational nature of destructive processes in families and institutions that leads leaders to assume that toxic forces can be regulated through reasonableness, love, insight, role-modeling, inculcation of values, and striving for consensus. It prevents them from taking the kind of stand that set limits to the invasiveness of those who lack self-regulation.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Select a Candidate 2008

Select a Candidate 2008

A short survey that helps you know which canditate matches your political perspective. Unfortunately, I couldn't even find a position on immigration that comes anywhere close to my own...

Kenya and Lutherans


January 3, 2008

Lutherans Seek Resolution to Violent Dispute in Kenya

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- Officials of the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America (ELCA) and Lutheran World Federation (LWF)
called for peace in the Republic of Kenya and for resolution of a
dispute over election results that has escalated into violence.
The ELCA confirmed its missionaries in Kenya are safe, and it is
sending an initial $25,000 to assist emergency relief efforts in
east-central Africa.
More than 300 people have died in violent protests in Kenya
since the Dec. 27 presidential election, in which the incumbent
Mwai Kibaki declared victory over Raila Odinga of the opposition
Orange Democratic Movement. The government there estimates as
many as 75,000 people have been displaced internally by the
"We pray that all parties will work toward a peaceful
resolution of the post-election crisis in Kenya and that the
violence, which has touched the lives of so many, will cease,"
said the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop and LWF
"The ELCA is committed to supporting the Kenya Evangelical
Lutheran Church (KELC) during this time of unrest, as it provides
basic assistance to individuals in communities hard-hit by the
violence. We do so in the context of our relationship with the
Lutheran World Federation, ecumenical partners and global
companions," Hanson said.
The KELC and ELCA have a relationship which includes the
placement of eight mission personnel in Kenya. "We are closely
monitoring the situation, and all of our personnel report that
they are safe," said the Rev. Stephen J. Nelson, director for
international personnel, ELCA Global Mission. "We continue to be
in communication with them about safety and security as the
situation in Kenya continues to unfold," he said.
ELCA missionaries in Kenya include a husband and wife team
serving the Nairobi International Lutheran Congregation, a health
care consultant for HIV and AIDS ministries throughout Africa and
his family, and two ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission, who are
part of a joint program in Kenya with the Presbyterian Church
ELCA International Disaster Response is sending an initial
$10,000 to the Kenya Evangelical Lutheran Church, for its
emergency response in affected communities in Kenya. It is
sending another $15,000 to Church World Service, which together
with Norwegian Church Aid is helping facilitate the worldwide
response of Action by Churches Together (ACT). The ACT response
also supports the emergency work of the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in Kenya, another LWF member church.
Coordinated by ELCA Global Mission, ELCA International
Disaster Response channels its funds through international church
organizations and relief agencies. Funds provide for food,
medicine, drinking water, emergency shelter and other materials
for survivors of disasters.
ACT is a global alliance of churches and related agencies
working to save lives and support communities in emergency
situations worldwide. It is based in Geneva with the LWF and
World Council of Churches (WCC). The ELCA is a member of the LWF
and WCC.
The Rev. Ishmael Noko, a Zimbabwean theologian and LWF
general secretary, Geneva, issued a Jan. 3 statement urging the
leaders of Kenya's major political parties to "urgently pursue
constructive dialogue to end the impasse." He said, "There can
be no political justification for the loss of life, senseless
destruction of homes and property, and insecurity that have
resulted from this violence."
The LWF general secretary said Kenya had undergone a
democratic political transition that offered a concrete
expression of an "African renaissance." The light of "this
beacon of hope is being extinguished by the post-election
violence targeting certain ethnic communities," he said.
"It is my earnest prayer that the people of Kenya will be
preserved from violence and that the world will respond with
compassion and generosity to the humanitarian needs of those
affected by the unrest," Noko said.
The Rev. Samuel Kobia, a Kenyan and WCC general secretary,
called Jan. 2 for an immediate independent investigation of the
electoral dispute monitored by international observers. "Now is
the time to put the interests of the nation and the surrounding
region above other concerns," he said.
-- -- --
The full text of Bishop Hanson's statement is at on the ELCA Web
The full text of General Secretary Noko's statement is at on the LWF
Web site.
The full text of General Secretary Kobia's statement is at on the WCC Web site.



Another one of the great religion essays of 2007. This is an "atheist" critiquing the new atheists and their arguments. Fascinating...

The Claremont Institute - Lord Have Mercy

Lord Have Mercy- a review of Christopher Hitchen's God is Not Great

This is one of the best essays of 2007, at least of those published electronically. I've been looking for a short piece that responds to the new atheists effectively, and this is one of the best.

Catalog Choice - Eliminate unwanted catalogs you receive in the mail

Catalog Choice - Eliminate unwanted catalogs you receive in the mail