ELCA Newshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/ELCA presiding bishop says land occupation is counter-productive to peace, two-state solutionhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/7704http://elca.org/News-and-Events/7704<div class="ExternalClass43F845A8081A4AA98AB796841424A349"><p><span style="line-height&#58;1.6;">&#160;</span><span style="line-height&#58;1.6;"> &#160; &#160; &#160; &#160; &#160;&#160;CHICAGO (ELCA) – The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), commended the Obama administration for urging the Israeli government to &quot;reverse its recent declaration as 'state land' the estimated 988 acres in the Gush Etzion Jewish settlement bloc in the occupied West Bank.&quot;</span></p><p> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; As a denomination that &quot;calls for a cessation of all settlement activities and withdrawal from settlements on Palestinian territory to the 1967 boundaries,&quot; Eaton expressed hope that the administration &quot;will continue to pursue this reversal.&quot;<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; In her Oct. 22 letter to the U.S. president, Eaton noted that she shares the administration's concern regarding the Israeli government's &quot;reportedly recent move to advance the settlement planning process in the sensitive area of Givat Hamatos in East Jerusalem.&quot; She said the plan for the new neighborhood &quot;would cut the territorial continuity between the Palestinian neighborhoods in South Jerusalem and the future Palestinian state.&quot;<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Eaton also mentioned the recent occupation of six residential buildings in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan in East Jerusalem. This occupation &quot;is a provocative act that only serves to escalate tensions at a moment when those tensions have been high,&quot; Eaton wrote. &quot;This new occupation, the largest since 1991, could expand the settler presence by about 35 percent from the number of settlers currently in the area.&quot;<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; &quot;It is deeply distressing to us that these kinds of action, which seek to create new 'facts on the ground,' continue unabated,&quot; Eaton wrote. &quot;Along with Jewish organizations like Peace Now and B'Tselem, we fully agree with your administration that such actions are counter-productive to achieving a comprehensive and sustainable peace based upon a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, where international human rights and humanitarian law are respected and upheld. … such actions reinforce despondency among the Palestinian people, limiting optimism that a political solution will be found.&quot;<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Eaton urged Obama to call all involved in the conflict to refrain from violent or provocative actions that &quot;could lead to more casualties and further exacerbate the existing barriers toward a return to negotiations and a just final status agreement that results in two viable, secure states living side-by-side in peace.&quot;<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Grounded in hope, &quot;we pray that the current truce, following the recent war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, will hold so that hope might begin to be restored,&quot; the ELCA presiding bishop wrote, adding that it is imperative that, with the help of the international community, both Palestinians and Israeli leaders return to negotiations to &quot;identify and constructively address the underlying causes of continued tension, so that God's peace and justice will prevail.&quot;<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; The full text of Eaton's letter is available on the ELCA website at <a href="http&#58;//download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource%20Repository/ELCA_Letter_to_President_Obama_on_Israel_and_Palestine.pdf">http&#58;//download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource%20Repository/ELCA_Letter_to_President_Obama_on_Israel_and_Palestine.pdf</a>. The ELCA Strategy for Engagement in Israel and Palestine is available at <a href="http&#58;//download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource%20Repository/Engagement_Israel_PalestineSPR09.pdf">http&#58;//download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource%20Repository/Engagement_Israel_PalestineSPR09.pdf</a>.<br> - - -<br> <strong>About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America</strong>&#58;<br> The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with more than 3.8 million members in nearly 10,000 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of &quot;God's work. Our hands,&quot; the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.</p><p>For information contact&#58;<br>Melissa Ramirez Cooper, Manager, Public Relations<br> 773-380-2956 or <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/tools/secure_emailer?a=TWVsaXNzYS5SYW1pcmV6Q29vcGVyQGVsY2Eub3Jn&amp;b=TmV3cw==&amp;subject=News&amp;body="> email </a><br> ELCA News&#58; <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/news">www.ELCA.org/news</a><br> Facebook&#58; <a href="http&#58;//www.facebook.com/Lutherans">www.facebook.com/Lutherans</a><br> Living Lutheran&#58; <a href="http&#58;//www.livinglutheran.com/">www.livinglutheran.com</a><br> </p></div>10/24/2014ELCA members raise awareness of suicide preventionhttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/7703http://elca.org/News-and-Events/7703<div class="ExternalClass1700C0A1E8324638BDEF3E51318AB4B6"><p>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; CHICAGO (ELCA) – Since they lost their daughter, Terri Ann, to suicide in 1987, Jerry and Elsie Weyrauch, members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), have been motivated to help make a difference in the lives of those who are affected by suicide. They have spent the past 27 years working to raise awareness of suicide prevention and the issues that lead to suicidal behavior.<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; “There are no words that you can use. You can’t make it better; you can’t make it go away,” said Jerry Weyrauch. “You have to go through things. You can’t go around or under them. You have to go through them and you have to integrate them into your life and you become a new and different person.” <br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; The couple, along with their four living children, vowed they would always be honest when talking about Terri Ann’s death.&#160;&#160;<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; “As our family gathered for the funeral, we had a family meeting and made the very conscious decision that we were not going to be slaves to a secret and that we were going to openly and honestly tell folks that Terri died by suicide,” said Weyrauch.<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; That openness about the nature of their daughter’s death inspired the Weyrauch family to advocate on behalf of other families affected by suicide. <br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; “We want to identify survivors because many of them are like us in that when you wake up every morning you have what I call fire in the belly that is renewed each and every morning, that you’re going to do everything you can to make a difference. And that motivation in survivors of suicide is the kind of motivation we hope Christians have to follow the example of the Lord,” said Weyrauch. <br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; “We made a commitment at that time that we were going to do all that we could to keep this from happening to other people,” he said. “And so I got involved in trying to figure out what was going on in suicide prevention.”<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; The Weyrauchs, members of Lutheran Church of the Resurrection in Marietta, Ga., formed the Suicide Prevention Action Network (SPAN), a national organization of suicide survivors. These grassroots advocacy efforts eventually led to the 2001 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, a joint effort by the federal Office of the Surgeon General and the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. <br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; “Having worked in the public sector and made an achievement there, we felt that one of the largest populations that was untouched and represented an identifiable market segment was faith communities. We decided it was time to turn to trying our attention to engage the church in suicide prevention.”&#160; <br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; In 2010 the Weyrauchs established the Lutheran Suicide Prevention Ministry, dedicated to implementing the ELCA social messages on suicide prevention and mental illness. The ministry’s mission is to reduce the number of people who die by suicide through awareness, education and advocacy actions that reduce the stigma of suicide. <br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; In 1999 the ELCA Church Council adopted the “Message on Suicide Prevention” as a “call to members, congregations and affiliated institutions to learn more about suicide and its prevention in their communities, to ask what they can do and to work with others to prevent suicide.” Such social messages of the ELCA are documents on specific topics adopted by the ELCA Church Council to focus attention and action on timely, pressing matters of social concern to this church and society.<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Reflecting on the adoption of the social message, the Rev. Cherlyne Beck, program director for ELCA disability ministries said, “There was recognition (in 1999) that it was important for the church to be a leader in talking about a subject that is often kept secret and considered shameful. Most important, it is an opportunity to move beyond the tragic brokenness of life to the news that can bring hope.”<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Answering the call to learn more about suicide prevention, Community of the Living Spirit, an ELCA new-start congregation in Indianapolis, will co-host an event Nov. 8 as part of the city’s 2014 Spirit and Place Festival. The event will help shed light on the issues surrounding suicide and share ways to respond to people who may be at risk. Conversations will center on depression, addiction, suicide and mental health.<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; “I believe that following the example of Christ means that the church is called to be present in places of pain and despair. I can't think of a situation more painful and desperate than when someone is wrestling with whether or not to end his or her own life,” said the Rev. Carolyn Lesmeister, mission developer at Community of the Living Spirit.<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; “The sense of isolation that happens when you or someone you love is struggling with such things can be a significant barrier to healing,” said Lesmeister. “We wanted to create a space where such things could be talked about in a way that wasn't depressing.&#160; <br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; “The church ought to be equipped to sit with people in their pain, to be present with them, to listen with love and compassion, and to speak a message of hope into the hopelessness,” she said.<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Following the suicide of an ELCA pastor at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Muncie, Ind., Jerry Weyrauch met with the associate pastor and members of the congregation. <br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; “That just hit me in the stomach. I never thought a pastor could complete a suicide,” said Weyrauch. “No one knows what to do.”<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; “I think very few people were prepared for it, except maybe his family and in some ways they had dealt with it for a long time, his own struggle, his turmoil,” said the Rev. William O. Gafkjen, bishop of the ELCA Indiana-Kentucky Synod. “But all the rest of us around him, I think, were really taken aback by what must have been the depths of his despair and struggle. I think on the whole we are not very well prepared.” <br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Gafkjen said his role as bishop was “to come up alongside both (the associate pastor) and the family, especially his wife and the congregation, all of whom were the survivors of this.”&#160;During that time Gafkjen also met with clergy from other denominations in the area, all of whom were affected by the pastor’s suicide.<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; “Talking with them I realized just how ill-equipped many of us in professional ministry are for dealing with this,” said Gafkjen. “And yet, truth be told, I think many of us have come into contact with a family or a person who’s been affected by suicide.”<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Gafkjen said honest answers about their pastor’s suicide helped the congregation of Holy Trinity in their healing process.<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; “The first thing that occurs to me is just finding ways to be honest and open about the fact that suicide happens among people who are faithful Christians,” he said. “And that seems to open the door to a whole lot of other forms of honesty and openness about our own feelings, senses of guilt and responsibility as well as theological questions, and even honesty about our own struggles that I think we have not been good about as a church.&#160; <br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; “It just really struck me at that time how often we kind of brush this stuff into the shadows rather than dealing with it in the light,” said Gafkjen. “And (the pastor’s) family really led the way by bringing it into the light so that we could have open and honest conversations with each other about it.&quot;<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Gafkjen emphasized that honest discussions about suicide can help the church lay the groundwork for further questions, including questions about a suicide victim’s faithfulness. <br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; “We can’t even begin to deal with those questions until we’re just honest about the fact that this does happen and it’s not any indication of unfaithfulness or whatever,” he said. “It has much more to do with the person’s health and inner world and all of that kind of stuff that they ultimately did not have any control over.<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; “How can we create a community that’s more supportive and open and doesn’t see this as a salvation question?” asked Gafkjen, adding, “It’s a question of health and well-being and community.” <br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; “There’s a tendency to judge people who die by suicide, who attempt it, or who wrestle with suicide ideation – that they're weak or don't have enough faith in God, that if they just prayed hard enough, they wouldn't feel that way,” said Lesmeister.<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; “What the church can offer is a compassionate, loving, supportive community that can break through some of the isolation that is so common with depression and suicide,” she said. “People who can say, regularly, honestly, and with conviction, ‘You are beloved, by God and by us. Your presence matters, you matter. Please stay.’” <br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Information and resources are available at <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/en/Faith/Faith-and-Society/Social-Messages/Suicide-Prevention">http&#58;//www.elca.org/en/Faith/Faith-and-Society/Social-Messages/Suicide-Prevention</a>.<br>---<br><strong>About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America&#58;</strong><br>The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with more than 3.8 million members in nearly 10,000 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of “God's work. Our hands,” the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.</p><p>For information contact&#58;<br>Candice Hill Buchbinder<br><span class="baec5a81-e4d6-4674-97f3-e9220f0136c1" style="white-space&#58;nowrap;">773-380-2877<a title="Call&#58; 773-380-2877" href="#" style="margin&#58;0px;border&#58;currentcolor;left&#58;0px;top&#58;0px;width&#58;16px;height&#58;16px;right&#58;0px;bottom&#58;0px;overflow&#58;hidden;vertical-align&#58;middle;float&#58;none;display&#58;inline;white-space&#58;nowrap;position&#58;static !important;"></a></span> or <a href="mailto&#58;Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org">Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org</a><br><a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/news">http&#58;//www.ELCA.org/news</a> <br>Facebook&#58; <a href="http&#58;//www.facebook.com/Lutherans">http&#58;//www.facebook.com/Lutherans</a> <br></p><p>​</p></div>10/21/2014ELCA provides 20 seminarians with scholarshipshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/7702http://elca.org/News-and-Events/7702<div class="ExternalClass0315DE02284D4FABBD18EFA10FC68747"><p>​<span style="line-height&#58;1.6;">&#160;</span><span style="line-height&#58;1.6;"> &#160; &#160; &#160; &#160; &#160; CHICAGO (ELCA) – The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has awarded 20 students attending ELCA seminaries with full-tuition or mission developer scholarships for the 2014-2015 academic year through ELCA Fund for Leaders – a scholarship program that attracts men and women of promise to study at one of eight ELCA seminaries.</span></p><p> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; &quot;As we face 4,000 clergy retirements in the next 10 years, it is ever more important that we do all we can to open the doors for these gifted individuals to come to seminary and lead our congregations,&quot; said Rachel Wind, director for the ELCA Fund for Leaders. &quot;The ELCA Fund for Leaders seeks to do just that. And we thank you for your support along the way.&quot;<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Wind spoke at an Oct. 4 banquet here to honor 16 first-year seminarians who received full-tuition scholarships through ELCA Fund for Leaders and four seminarians who received mission developer scholarships.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; &quot;This evening, we celebrate the future,&quot; Christina Jackson-Skelton, executive director, ELCA Mission Advancement, said of the annual banquet attended by synod bishops, synod vice presidents, seminary presidents, churchwide ministries' leaders, donors and supporters.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; &quot;We celebrate the fact that within this room we have 20 candidates for leadership who will have tremendous impact on the church,&quot; she said. &quot;Tonight, amidst conversations surrounding where the ELCA has been, we dare to venture into the future, and these individuals will be the ones to guide us there.&quot;<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Students receiving full-tuition scholarships are&#58;</p><p>+ Erin Branchaud, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago </p><p>+ Cassandra Chavez, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, Berkeley, Calif.</p><p>+ Ellen Clough, Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, Columbia, S.C.</p><p>+ Justin Ferko, Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio</p><p>+ Preston Fields, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago</p><p>+ Nicole Harvell, The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia</p><p>+ Lauren Heywood, The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia</p><p>+ Alexandra Hjerpe, Wartburg Theological Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa</p><p>+ Benjamin Hogue, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary</p><p>+ Branden Hunt, Trinity Lutheran Seminary</p><p>+ Jamie Jordan-Couch, Wartburg Theological Seminary</p><p>+ Emily Kuenker, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn.</p><p>+ Joshua Parris, Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary</p><p>+ Chris Schaefer, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg</p><p>+ James Vitale, Luther Seminary</p><p>+ Ariel Williams, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg</p><p>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Students receiving mission developer scholarships are&#58;</p><p>+ Laurel Midthun, Luther Seminary</p><p>+ Kwame Pitts, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago</p><p>+ Paul Theiss, Wartburg Theological Seminary</p><p>+ Lecia White, Trinity Lutheran Seminary</p><p>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; ELCA Fund for Leaders began in 2000 with the intention of helping to support seminary students complete their studies without taking on sizeable debt. Since then, the fund has grown at a &quot;tremendous&quot; rate, &quot;allowing for hundreds of students to feel the support of the larger church as they venture into the unknown. The leap is due to the generosity of our donors,&quot; Jackson-Skelton said, who thanked guests who have made significant gifts to the ELCA Fund for Leaders.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; &quot;Your generosity has sustained the ELCA Fund for Leaders and grown it to the point that it can support students at our seminaries in such a significant manner. Thank you for your gifts, and for your faith, as many of you were early supporters before the fund was up and running,&quot; she said.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Jackson-Skelton also acknowledged &quot;the exceptional leadership&quot; of the Rev. Eric Wester, who helped create the new ELCA Federal Chaplaincy Scholarship Endowment. This endowment – which is part of <em>Always Being Made New&#58; The Campaign for the ELCA</em> – has been launched to raise $300,000 to support candidates for ministry who will be pursuing a federal chaplaincy ministry career path. To date the endowment has earned more than $17,000.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; &quot;This is a truly exciting initiative and an example of utilizing the overall <em>Campaign for the ELCA</em> to leverage other new and innovative programs,&quot; Jackson-Skelton said.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; This academic year, the ELCA Fund for Leaders as a whole will award $1.45 million in scholarship funds to 235 students studying at all eight ELCA seminaries. This includes students who are receiving full, half or partial tuition scholarships from the general ELCA Fund for Leaders, and others receiving scholarships of varying amounts from ELCA synod partners.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Providing full-tuition support to every qualified ELCA seminarian remains the long-term goal of ELCA Fund for Leaders, Wind said. To accomplish that, the fund will need to raise a total of $300 million. &quot;At just over $44 million, we have a long ways to go, but it is clear from the commitment of many that this is not an impossible goal,&quot; she said.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; For example, the ELCA Fund for Leaders is poised to grow by $15 million within the next five years as part of <em>Always Being Made New&#58; The Campaign for the ELCA</em>, allowing for around $600,000 in new scholarship money, totaling more than $2 million, to be awarded each year. &quot;Can you imagine the impact?&quot; Jackson-Skelton said. &quot;We are nearing the point where scholarships from the ELCA will touch each and every student at each seminary in the ELCA. Join us in the movement to support our future leaders. We are ready to work with your synod, your congregation, your family.&quot;<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Information about the ELCA Fund for Leaders is available at <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/fundforleaders">www.ELCA.org/fundforleaders</a> on the ELCA website.<br> - - -<br> <strong>About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America</strong>&#58;<br> The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with more than 3.8 million members in nearly 10,000 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of &quot;God's work. Our hands,&quot; the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.<br>​<br> For information contact&#58;<br> Melissa Ramirez Cooper, Manager, Public Relations<br> 773-380-2956 or <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/tools/secure_emailer?a=TWVsaXNzYS5SYW1pcmV6Q29vcGVyQGVsY2Eub3Jn&amp;b=TmV3cw==&amp;subject=News&amp;body="> email </a><br> ELCA News&#58; <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/news">www.ELCA.org/news</a><br> Facebook&#58; <a href="http&#58;//www.facebook.com/Lutherans">www.facebook.com/Lutherans</a><br> Living Lutheran&#58; <a href="http&#58;//www.livinglutheran.com/">www.livinglutheran.com</a> <br></p></div>10/13/2014ELCA bishops respond to various assembly actions, topicshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/7701http://elca.org/News-and-Events/7701<div class="ExternalClass3B7A8C30925644AB92AD0F3F5B415895"><p>​&#160;<span style="line-height&#58;1.6;">&#160; &#160; &#160; &#160; &#160; &#160;CHICAGO (ELCA) – The Conference of Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) gathered here Oct. 2-7 to consider an array of topics ranging from this church's commitment to starting new and renewing congregations to discerning the landscape of theological education, from funding the mission and embracing a new comprehensive campaign to the assignment of more than 100 rostered candidates. Other topics included an invitation to study </span><em style="line-height&#58;1.6;">The Use of the Means of Grace</em><span style="line-height&#58;1.6;">, a proposed new Word and Service roster, the 500</span><sup>th</sup><span style="line-height&#58;1.6;"> Anniversary of the Reformation and more.</span></p><p> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; The ELCA Conference of Bishops is an advisory body of the denomination that includes 65 synod bishops, the presiding bishop and secretary. The conference gathers at least twice a year for worship and study, mutual sharing and to conduct business. The conference chair is the Rev. Jessica R. Crist, bishop of the ELCA Montana Synod.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; With one year in office, the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, ELCA presiding bishop, reported to the conference that the &quot;four emphases&quot; on which she is organizing the work of the churchwide organization have &quot;resonance across this church.&quot; She said that the essential foundation for &quot;our life and work together&quot; is &quot;a clear sense that worship is at the heart of what we do together and at the heart of worship is the crucified and risen Christ.&quot;<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; &quot;Being clear about our confessional, theological Lutheran identity facilitates our witness to the gospel and makes possible authentic ecumenical, interreligious and secular engagement. Being church together is a manifestation of the unity we have in baptism as the body of Christ. It is an alternative to the cult of the individual that is prevalent in our culture. It is a source of strength. It is scriptural. Being church for the sake of the world is the natural extension of being church, Lutheran, church together. We get to participate in God's renewing and healing work in the world God so loves,&quot; she reported.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Of the four emphases two in particular – &quot;We are church&quot; and &quot;We are church together&quot; – are &quot;claiming my immediate attention,&quot; Eaton reported. &quot;Tending to these two things,&quot; she said, &quot;will make it possible for us to meet future challenges.&quot;<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; As part of the four emphases and in the work of the church, &quot;we need to be tending our individual and corporate spiritual life,&quot; Eaton said. &quot;As a church we need to engage in basic spiritual practices – prayer, silence, corporate worship, Scripture study, giving and service. These are ways that God comes to us.&quot;<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Eaton expressed her gratitude to the conference for its ministry. &quot;I am not so far removed from synod ministry to have forgotten the unique challenges you face. I don't believe the decline of our church is inevitable. You have shown me signs of hope. Besides, it's not our church, it is Christ's church, and if it is the Lord's will that an evangelical Lutheran witness to the gospel should be raised up, nothing can stop that.&quot;<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Also one year into office is the Rev. Wm Chris Boerger, ELCA secretary, who reported that 2013 congregational reports show &quot;we are a church&quot; with more than 3.8 million members. Although a decline of 2.2 percent from 2012 (or 87,000), Boerger said there are signs of hope. He said that there were 69 fewer congregations in 2012, noting one change this year is that only 16 were from disaffiliation. The remaining were either closures or mergers.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Boerger also observed that while expenses were higher than income among ELCA congregations in 2012, in 2013 income exceeded expenses due to a reduction in debt and payments on debt. &quot;From a financial perspective, our congregations are healthier,&quot; he said.&#160;Boerger also noted that Mission Support – income from congregations shared with the ELCA's 65 synods and churchwide organization – is down $2.1 million, giving to benevolences other than Mission Support is up $2.1 million.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Seven months into the 2014 fiscal year, the Rev. Linda Norman, ELCA treasurer, reported that the ELCA churchwide organization had expenses equal to operating revenue and support in current operating funds for the period ending Aug. 31, favorable to the period budget by $4.4 million but an unfavorable variance of $2.4 million compared to the seven months ending in Aug. 31, 2013.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Norman told the conference that Mission Support is the churchwide organization's largest source of unrestricted income with a revised goal of $48 million for the 2014 fiscal year. &quot;We're less than one-half percent away&quot; from meeting the goal, she said.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; To date, <em>Always Being Made New&#58; The Campaign for the ELCA</em> has raised $26 million, representing 16 percent of the campaign's total goal of $198 million by Jan. 31, 2019, reported Norman. Among the campaign's priorities, strong response to date has been in the areas of the ELCA Malaria Campaign, New Congregations, ELCA Fund for Leaders, and Global Church-International Leaders&#58; Women, she said.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; In a campaign update, the Rev. Claire S. Burkat, bishop of the ELCA Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod, told the conference, &quot;We can do so much more together than we can do alone. We are a truly an interdependent church. A congregation can do some ministries that an individual cannot do alone. A synod can do some ministries and initiatives that a congregation cannot. Our churchwide organization can do some ministries that a synod cannot do. Our Lutheran World Federation can do some things our ELCA denomination cannot do. And, of course, our God, who by the power at work within all of us is able to accomplish far more than all we can hope for or imagine. To our God be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations.&quot;<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; The Rev. Ron Glusenkamp, director for the ELCA campaign, thanked synod bishops for their commitment to the campaign. &quot;It is important to communicate to you the passion that there is about the campaign. It is always being made new. It is a moment that after 25 years brings the past, the future and the present all into one thing,&quot; he said. &quot;I want you to know that I am very confident that together we will do more. We will meet and exceed our goals for the campaign,&quot; said Glusenkamp, adding that while ELCA members are engaged in what the campaign is already doing &quot;God is calling us to do more together.&quot;<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; In other conversation, the Conference of Bishops discussed an invitation from the ELCA Church Council to this church's 65 synods, nearly 10,000 congregations and the churchwide organization to study <em>The Use of the Means of Grace</em>. The Church Council serves as the ELCA's board of directors.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; The recommended practice in this church from <em>The Use of the Means of Grace</em> is that people who are baptized are invited to receive Holy Communion. Though this is the practice set out in the ELCA statement, there is a wide variety of practice in this church.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; &quot;The Church Council directed us to be in conversation about <em>The Use of the Means of Grace</em>,&quot; said Eaton.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; In an August 2014 letter, Eaton and the Rev. Kevin Strickland, ELCA director for worship, wrote, &quot;The recommendation also suggests that this matter not be studied in isolation from the rest of the statement, but rather we take this opportunity to encourage a renewed study of and conversation about <em>The Use of the Means of Grace</em> in our congregations.&quot;<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; The council's invitation comes from an action of the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, which called the entire church to come together for a conversation and study regarding <em>The Use of the Means of Grace</em>. The conversation among bishops comes as a response to the action of the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. Resources to guide discussion are available at <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/worship">www.ELCA.org/worship</a>. <br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; The conference also&#58;<br> + Received preliminary findings and some initial draft proposals from the Theological Education Advisory Council. A final report and possible recommendations are expected to be presented to the ELCA Church Council in fall 2015. The Church Council formed the advisory council to address in a holistic way issues on theological education, leadership development, candidacy, call and rostered leaders. The Rev. Herman R. Yoos III, bishop of the ELCA South Carolina Synod, and the Rev. James E. Hazelwood, bishop of the ELCA New England Synod, delivered components of the report.</p><p>+ Learned the theme of the ELCA's observation of the 500<sup>th</sup> Anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 – &quot;Freed and Renewed in Christ&#58; 500 Years of God's Grace in Action.&quot; ELCA members and congregations are encouraged to participate in the observation, which will include sponsored feature events through worship, learning and service; initiate activities serving the ELCA's evangelical witness and vocation beyond 2017; collaborate with ecumenical partners and others in activities that promote a witness of the gospel; support participation in the observances planned by The Lutheran World Federation for 2015-2017 and more. The Rev. R. Guy Erwin, bishop of the ELCA Southwest California Synod, is a member of the executive planning team for the observation.</p><p>+ Received an update from the Rev. William O. Gafkjen, bishop of the ELCA Indiana-Kentucky Synod, about the work of the Word and Service task force. Formed by the Church Council, the task force is charged with exploring the possibility of forming a single ELCA roster for ministers. ELCA Secretary Boerger noted that if a single roster for ministers of Word and Service is created, significant revision will need to be made to the ELCA Constitution, Bylaws and Continuing Resolutions, as well as the Constitutions for Synod and the Model Constitution for Congregations.</p><p>+ Held conversations about ELCA Mission Support and received initial recommendations of some &quot;experiments&quot; or types of pilot projects designed to address mission funding from the &quot;Think Tank on Mission Support.&quot; Appointed by Eaton, the think tank – consisting of one synod bishop representing each of the nine ELCA regions – is a collaborative group that is working towards broadening the conversation. It is expected to prepare a report with recommendations for the spring 2015 meetings of the Conference of Bishops and Church Council.</p><p>+ Offered insight to help craft a case statement for the Renewing Congregations priority of &quot;<em>Always Being Made New&#58; The Campaign for the ELCA</em>.&quot; In 2015 the focal point of the campaign will be on congregations.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; The conference also received the following reports and updates&#58;<br> + The social statement on women and justice is under development and slated to be considered by the 2019 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. The ELCA Task Force on Women and Justice&#58; One in Christ is leading this process, hosting listening events and preparing study materials for use throughout the church.&#160;</p><p>+&#160;A draft of a social message on gender-based violence is now available for public comment and response. The ELCA Church Council authorized the draft social message, and the tentative timeline calls for a message, or messages, to be considered by the council in April 2015.</p><p>+ Attended a prayer revival Oct. 2 to address the violence happening in Chicago and in communities around the world. The ELCA Renewal/Prayer/Revival team in partnership with the ELCA Metropolitan Chicago Synod hosted.</p><p>+ Held an educational session on voting rights. According to the Rev. Wolfgang D. Herz-Lane, bishop of the ELCA Delaware-Maryland Synod, the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly called for the conference to address this topic at its meeting and, among the resolves of its action, the assembly asked ELCA members &quot;to call on local, state and federal governments to guarantee the right to vote to all citizens and to discourage or eliminate all laws, ordinances or regulations that would have the effect of racial and ethnic discrimination in the exercise of that right.&quot;&#160; According to Herz-Lane, &quot;We're committed to help fight for equal rights in all ways of life, including voting rights, as also shared in the ELCA social statement on 'Race, Ethnicity and Culture.'&quot;</p><p>+ Greeted full tuition scholarship recipients of ELCA Fund for Leaders at a special banquet Oct. 4. ELCA Fund for Leaders is a merit-based scholarship program that attracts men and women of tremendous promise to become pastors and rostered lay leaders to study at an ELCA seminary.</p><p>+ Received an update on the Ecclesiology of a Global Church task force, which is exploring how the ELCA can affirm its self-understanding as part of The Lutheran World Federation – a global communion of 144 member churches representing more than 72 million Christians. The ELCA is the communion's only member church from the United States.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; The conference also was briefed about a visit of ELCA leaders to Texas to learn more about the influx of unaccompanied and migrant children entering the United States and this church's continued response efforts; held a conversation about &quot;ready benches&quot; as a way to engage in advocacy on a variety of public policy issues; received an update from Portico Benefit Services; learned more about religious-led peace initiatives of the Peace Institute of Oslo; received an update on the ELCA Youth Gathering to take place July 15-19, 2015, in Detroit. The ELCA Multicultural Youth Leadership Event (MYLE) and the ELCA Definitely-abled Youth Leadership Event (DAYLE) are also in Detroit, July 12-15, 2015.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Synod vice presidents and presidents of the eight ELCA seminaries also participated in the ELCA Conference of Bishops meeting.<br> - - -<br> <strong>About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America</strong>&#58;<br> The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with more than 3.8 million members in nearly 10,000 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of &quot;God's work. Our hands,&quot; the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.</p><p>For information contact&#58;<br> Melissa Ramirez Cooper, Manager, Public Relations<br> <span class="baec5a81-e4d6-4674-97f3-e9220f0136c1" style="white-space&#58;nowrap;">773-380-2956<a title="Call&#58; 773-380-2956" href="#" style="margin&#58;0px;border&#58;currentcolor;left&#58;0px;top&#58;0px;width&#58;16px;height&#58;16px;right&#58;0px;bottom&#58;0px;overflow&#58;hidden;vertical-align&#58;middle;float&#58;none;display&#58;inline;white-space&#58;nowrap;position&#58;static !important;"><img title="Call&#58; 773-380-2956" alt="" style="margin&#58;0px;border&#58;currentcolor;left&#58;0px;top&#58;0px;width&#58;16px;height&#58;16px;right&#58;0px;bottom&#58;0px;overflow&#58;hidden;vertical-align&#58;middle;float&#58;none;display&#58;inline;white-space&#58;nowrap;position&#58;static !important;" /></a></span> or <a href="mailto&#58;Melissa.RamirezCooper@ELCA.org">Melissa.RamirezCooper@ELCA.org</a><br> <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/news">http&#58;//www.ELCA.org/news</a><br> Facebook&#58; <a href="http&#58;//www.facebook.com/Lutherans">http&#58;//www.facebook.com/Lutherans</a><br> Living Lutheran&#58; <a href="http&#58;//www.livinglutheran.com/">http&#58;//www.livinglutheran.com</a>​​​</p></div>10/09/2014ELCA prayer revival service to address violencehttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/7700http://elca.org/News-and-Events/7700<div class="ExternalClassBBCD7CC58F884E58B19D92BD153EE26E"><p>​&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; CHICAGO (ELCA) – Bearing witness as a church that is committed to ending violence, members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) will gather Oct. 2 for a prayer revival in Chicago to address the violence happening here and in communities around the world. <br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; “The Lutheran faith tradition has, for generations, held to a strong belief that the church lives and works on Christ’s behalf for the sake of the whole world and the welfare of the place to which God has called us,” said the Rev. Wayne N. Miller, bishop of the ELCA Metropolitan Chicago Synod. “The accelerating concern over global, community and domestic violence, therefore, is not merely a political advocacy position. The destructive impact of violence on all human life calls for confrontation and a bold counter-witness to God’s loving intention for the whole creation.”<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; The prayer revival, which will be held at the Kroc Center of Chicago, is hosted by the ELCA’s Renewal/Prayer/Revival team in partnership with the Metropolitan Chicago Synod. The Rev. Brenda K. Smith, program director for faith practices and missional leadership, ELCA churchwide organization, described the event’s goals.&#160;<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; “One is to demonstrate that the ELCA is deeply concerned about the violence happening in Chicago and other American cities and the need for improved relations between police and communities they serve. The second goal is to come together as people of faith and pray with each other about these issues,” said Smith.<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; The ELCA Conference of Bishops, an advisory body of the church that includes 65 synod bishops, the presiding bishop and secretary, will attend the revival. The conference meets in Chicago Oct. 2-7. <br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; “When the fall meeting of the Conference of Bishops convenes in Chicago, they will be meeting in a metropolis where children too often deal with violence as they pursue their lives with dignity and courage,” said the Rev. Stephen Bouman, executive director, ELCA congregational and synodical mission. “Too many of our children have been killed. Too many of our children know firsthand the devastating force of violence. The bishops will begin their time together by gathering on the South Side (of Chicago) with brothers and sisters in a revival of prayer for Chicago.”&#160;<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Smith said the prayer service format “will offer a spirited climate where participants will hopefully be open to the transformative power of the Holy Spirit to offer healing, strength and guidance as we pray for justice and peace in our communities. Each participant will be asked to commit to some action in their life to enhance peace and justice in their communities. The (revival) team and bishops will anoint the hands of participants as they commit to work for justice and peace.”<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; “The church, as a social institution, does not have the power, in and of itself, to stop violence. But we have a very important role to play in the formation of human beings around life-giving values and behaviors,” said Miller. <br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; “We have an important role to play in looking for every opportunity to announce in the public square that we stand in opposition to violence as an acceptable way to resolve human conflict. And we have an important role to play in building collaborative coalitions between law enforcement, community organizations, medical and social service professionals, political and business leaders, emergency responders and ordinary citizens, none of whom have the complete solution to this problem, but all of whom make an essential contribution to the solution,” said Miller.<br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; The ELCA’s Renewal/Prayer/Revival Team is composed of ELCA clergy and laypersons who travel around the country offering Lutheran revivals, healing and prayer services, and workshops for clusters of congregations and synods. Smith said in recent years the team has emphasized that “participants should come away from one of the events wanting to make some positive change in their lives to draw closer to God.” <br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Bouman said the team “is a ministry to places of hurt and hope across the country. Revival and prayer have accompanied disasters and evangelistic outreach. I have been privileged to preach revivals in a tent in Detroit and the historic joint worship of black and white churches together in Harper’s Ferry, W.Va.” <br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; “The idea of hosting a revival is based on creating a public event to inspire and galvanize these social coalitions, so that people can be sent back into their villages and neighborhoods for persistent, perseverant engagement with the problem of community violence,” said Miller. “And it seems fitting to have the ELCA bishops participate collectively in this event as a witness to the fact that the violence that affects one of us anywhere affects all of us everywhere.”<br>---<br><strong>About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America&#58;</strong><br>The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with about 4 million members in nearly 10,000 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of “God's work. Our hands,” the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.</p><p>For information contact&#58;<br>Candice Hill Buchbinder<br><span class="baec5a81-e4d6-4674-97f3-e9220f0136c1" style="white-space&#58;nowrap;">773-380-2877<a title="Call&#58; 773-380-2877" href="#" style="margin&#58;0px;border&#58;currentcolor;left&#58;0px;top&#58;0px;width&#58;16px;height&#58;16px;right&#58;0px;bottom&#58;0px;overflow&#58;hidden;vertical-align&#58;middle;float&#58;none;display&#58;inline;white-space&#58;nowrap;position&#58;static !important;"></a></span> or <a href="mailto&#58;Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org">Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org</a><br><a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/news">http&#58;//www.ELCA.org/news</a> <br>Facebook&#58; <a href="http&#58;//www.facebook.com/Lutherans">http&#58;//www.facebook.com/Lutherans</a> <br>Living Lutheran&#58; <a href="http&#58;//www.livinglutheran.com/">http&#58;//www.livinglutheran.com</a></p></div>10/01/2014ELCA provides $100,000 to support containing Ebolahttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/7699http://elca.org/News-and-Events/7699<div class="ExternalClassF0B14F1DF59B4D27B5E813B179C6AD5B"><p><span style="line-height&#58;1.6;">&#160;</span><span style="line-height&#58;1.6;"> &#160; &#160; &#160; &#160; &#160; CHICAGO (ELCA) – In an effort to help contain the Ebola outbreak in Africa, provide food assistance and more, members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) have committed an initial $100,000 as of Sept. 25 to support the response efforts of partners and Lutheran companion churches there.</span></p><p> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; The Lutheran Church in Liberia and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sierra Leone, for example, have asked the ELCA for assistance in containing the outbreak, distributing food, shipping personal protective equipment, training of health care workers, offering education about prevention and completing an isolation unit at Phebe Hospital and School of Nursing in Monrovia, Liberia.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Through Lutheran Disaster Response, the following allocations are underway&#58;<br> + $25,000 to the Lutheran Church of Liberia, which is providing food assistance to nearly 1,000 households in six territorial areas. The assistance includes a month's supply of oil, rice and fish per household.<br> + $15,000 to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sierra Leone, which is overseeing the distribution of oil, rice and fish to 3,000 individuals.<br> + $50,000 to ACT Alliance (Lutheran Development Service in Liberia), working to raise awareness and share messages about Ebola symptoms and prevention methods to 4,500 individuals (2,000 males and 2,500 females) in Liberia. Lutheran Development Service hired a contractor to ensure that the construction of the isolation center at Phebe Hospital and School of Nursing meets World Health Organization standards.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; This past summer, $10,000 was given to Global Health Ministries at the request of the Lutheran Church in Liberia. Global Health Ministries provides medical supplies and funding for health care programs in Lutheran churches in 20 countries. The funds helped cover air-freight costs to ship personal protective equipment to Monrovia.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; &quot;South African Presiding Bishop N.P. Phaswana once said that 'if we are all part of the body of Christ and if one part of the body is suffering from HIV and AIDS, then we must say that the body of Christ is HIV positive.' This startling observation brought home to me the realization that what happens to one part of the church is not something distant or separate from our (ELCA) part of the church. This is true now about the Ebola crisis,&quot; said the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the ELCA. &quot;St. Paul tells us, 'If one member suffers, all suffer together with it.' 1 Corinthians 12&#58;26,&quot; she said.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; &quot;But we are not without hope. God has given us all that we need to contain and overcome this crisis. It is up to the whole body to respond. The second part of 1 Corinthians 12&#58;26 is '… if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it,'&quot; said Eaton.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; &quot;We need food,&quot; said the Rev. D. Jensen Seyenkulo, bishop of the Lutheran Church in Liberia. &quot;There is a saying (here) now&#58; 'If we don't die of Ebola, we will die of starvation.'&quot;<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; According to the Rev. Andrea Walker, ELCA area program director for West Africa, the &quot;West Africa and Diakonia teams of ELCA Global Mission have had regular communications with our companions in Liberia and Sierra Leone since the Ebola outbreak began early this year.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; &quot;We have listened to the stories of loss from Bishop Thomas Barnett of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sierra Leone and Bishop D. Jensen Seyenkulo of the Lutheran Church in Liberia. Throughout these conversations, an ever-present faith in Jesus the Christ has been evident. In this listening, we have heard their needs and endeavored to respond through prayer, shipments of personal protective equipment and grants for food security. As church together, we have worked with Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sierra Leone and Lutheran Church of Liberia and its companion synods – ELCA Northern Texas/Northern Louisiana Synod and ELCA Upper Susquehanna Synod – to coordinate responses,&quot; said Walker.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; The Ebola outbreak &quot;is truly unprecedented,&quot; said Dr. Rebecca Duerst, ELCA program director for global health. &quot;The outbreak is not only causing an extraordinary number of deaths but also from other treatable diseases, childbirth and starvation.&quot;<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; &quot;We have heard a multitude of reasons (as to) why the virus has spread so rapidly – the slow international response, the already-weak health care systems whose capacity was quickly overwhelmed, the relatively recent civil conflicts and lingering mistrust of government, the emergence of the disease in a new region and its presence in densely populated urban centers, the lack of a vaccine and cure, an insufficient supply of personal protective equipment and other materials, the absence of health workers due to fear of the virus and more,&quot; said Duerst.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; What is &quot;sometimes left off this list is the desire to show love for friends and families,&quot; Duerst added, &quot;both in life, as those who have been infected fight the disease, and in death, as families prepare to respectfully say goodbye.&quot;<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Complications from the Ebola outbreak have expanded beyond those directly related to the disease.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; &quot;There are really two stories here,&quot; said the Rev. Daniel Rift, director of ELCA World Hunger and Disaster Appeal. &quot;One is the immediate need and response. But the second is about the long-term commitment and the difference it makes that so many generously support the church's efforts to address poverty, hunger and health year in and year out through the ELCA.&quot;<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; &quot;When a situation like this arises, the importance of the church's commitment to be present in a community, with ministry of health and hunger, become clear. It is because of this ongoing work that the ELCA is able to confidently encourage support through health centers and programs in Liberia and Sierra Leone. These churches have experience, through good times and difficult days, to provide food and build for sustainability. And it is our privilege to stand with them now as they work in this most difficult situation,&quot; said Rift, who also expressed his gratitude to ELCA members &quot;who are responding to this special invitation for support.&quot;<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; &quot;This critical work builds on the capacity that has been founded and can only be sustained by gifts to ELCA World Hunger and through benevolence support of the church,&quot; he said.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; In an ELCA video, Bishop Seyenkulo thanks ELCA members for their contributions and prayers.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; &quot;We feel the impact you are making just by your prayers,&quot; he said. The video is available at <a href="http&#58;//bit.ly/1CoHq6R">http&#58;//bit.ly/1CoHq6R</a>. <br>&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Information about the ELCA's response is available at <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/Our-Work/Relief-and-Development/Lutheran-Disaster-Response/Our-Impact/Ebola">www.ELCA.org/Our-Work/Relief-and-Development/Lutheran-Disaster-Response/Our-Impact/Ebola</a>. Gifts to support this church's efforts will be used 100 percent to assist those impacted by the outbreak.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; The Lutheran World Federation has invited its member churches to &quot;join in solidarity prayers&quot; Sunday, Sept. 28, &quot;for churches and communities affected by the Ebola crisis in Central and West Africa.&quot; The ELCA, Lutheran Church in Liberia and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sierra Leone are member churches of The Lutheran World Federation, a global communion of 144 member churches representing more than 72 million Christians. The ELCA is the communion's only member church from the United States.<br> &#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160;&#160; Lutheran Disaster Response provides assistance to survivors of natural disasters and humanitarian crises throughout the world. This support is carried out, both domestically and internationally, in coordination with local affiliates – social ministry organizations, agencies, partners and international companion churches – located in the disaster-affected communities.<br> - - -<br> <strong>About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America</strong>&#58;<br> The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with about 4 million members in nearly 10,000 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of &quot;God's work. Our hands,&quot; the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.</p><p>For information contact&#58;<br> Melissa Ramirez Cooper, Manager, Public Relations <br>773-380-2956 or <a href="mailto&#58;Melissa.RamirezCooper@ELCA.org">Melissa.RamirezCooper@ELCA.org</a><br> <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/news">http&#58;//www.ELCA.org/news</a> <br>Facebook&#58; <a href="http&#58;//www.facebook.com/Lutherans">http&#58;//www.facebook.com/Lutherans</a><br> Living Lutheran&#58; <a href="http&#58;//www.livinglutheran.com/">http&#58;//www.livinglutheran.com</a> </p></div>09/25/2014