ELCA News Bloghttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/ELCA leader, others urge Obama to pursue non-military solutions in Middle EastELCA Newshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/77http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/77<div class="ExternalClass19B73FE2C9B74CAA907B52BB8022F397"><p><span style="line-height&#58;1.6;">Given the possibility of continued and renewed U.S. military intervention in the Middle East, the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), is urging President Obama to &quot;move away&quot; from militarization and address the root causes of violence in Syria and Iraq.</span></p><p>Eaton is among a group of U.S. Christian organization leaders – with longstanding, deep ties to churches and faith communities in the Middle East – urging Obama to immediately prioritize diplomatic and political solutions. In a March 16 letter to the president, the U.S. religious leaders have asked him to dedicate ample funds for urgent humanitarian needs in the region; commit to addressing the refugee crisis with governments in the Middle East and around the world; enforce the &quot;strongest possible human rights conditionality for all assistance and work diligently for a complete arms embargo in coordination with Iran, Russia and others to de-escalate the conflict&quot;; and to support non-governmental groups and religious leaders working to build relationships of peace and reconciliation across political, sectarian and religious divides.</p><p>The letter noted that it's been 12 years since the U.S. invasion of Iraq and four years since the beginning of the violent conflict in Syria.<br> <br>&quot;We are sickened by the atrocities that have garnered extensive media attention. Through our partnerships in the Middle East, we are also painfully aware of the magnitude of human suffering that the ongoing crisis causes daily,&quot; the U.S. Christian organization leaders wrote.</p><p>Eaton traveled to the Middle East in January, marking her third visit to the region and first as ELCA presiding bishop. She led a delegation there to meet with leaders and members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and with political and religious leaders, including a meeting with the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land.</p><p>The ELCA and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land are member churches of The Lutheran World Federation – a global communion of 144 churches representing more than 70 million Christians in 79 countries. The ELCA is the communion's only member church from the United States.</p><p>The full text of the letter is available at <a href="http&#58;//download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource%20Repository/Syria_and_Iraq_Violence.pdf">http&#58;//download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource%20Repository/Syria_and_Iraq_Violence.pdf</a>.</p></div>03/20/2015ELCA provides long-term recovery in Serbia and BosniaELCA Newshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/76http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/76<div class="ExternalClassDD01B9CD5A2D4D0292E6443FA176476C"><p>​The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) continues to provide humanitarian support for people affected by the May 2014 cyclone that hit Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Lutheran Disaster Response has disbursed more than $400,000 to Ecumenical Humanitarian Organization and Church World Service to assist in the relief and recovery efforts. More than 3 million people were impacted by the cyclone and the flooding and landslides that followed.</p><p>In the aftermath of the disaster, Lutheran Disaster Response worked with Ecumenical Humanitarian Organization to provide immediate relief including food, personal health and hygiene supplies, disinfection equipment and tools. Founded at the initiative of the World Council of Churches, Ecumenical Humanitarian Organization is a non-profit, non-governmental organization focused on civil society development, diaconal social services and ecumenical and inter-ethnic cooperation. </p><p>Almost a year later, Lutheran Disaster Response continues to work with Ecumenical Humanitarian Organization and Church World Service to assist in the long-term recovery in Serbia and Bosnia. Serbia was hit hardest by the cyclone, with 200 collapsed homes and more than 18,000 damaged homes. Approximately 32,000 people had to evacuate. </p><p>The impoverished Roma settlement in Misar, near the city of Sabac, in western Serbia suffered some of the worst damage. According to an ACT Alliance report, settlement housing was “inadequate,” because it was made from “improvised materials such as plastic, sticks, mud, old wood, scrap metal, or cardboard, with no adequate communal infrastructure.” Much of the recovery work in Serbia is focused on home rehabilitation and assistance to revive and increase livelihood opportunities for the Roma population.</p><p>“Lutheran Disaster Response is the most effective when our disaster response looks beyond (the) immediate response,” said Vitaly Vorona, ELCA program director for Lutheran Disaster Response International. “Broadly speaking, there are two ways to finance disaster response. Initially it’s through supporting a quick and immediate emergency response. (The next step is to) transition from an emergency response to a new level of funding assistance, focusing on longer-term programs. Our response in Serbia and Bosnia is a very good example why it is so important to take into account the bigger picture,” he said.</p><p>Jovana Savic, program manager for Church World Service, said relief efforts in Serbia and Bosnia carried out by Church World Service and the ELCA “reached out to those most vulnerable and offered thoughtful, timely assistance based on the needs voiced by the very people we supported. We assisted those unable to work (by) providing external, qualified labor or reconstruction materials and assistance. We assisted those who were struggling to get food and firewood with providing food security and warmth in their households. We lobbied for those underserved and facing great challenges, connecting them to service-providers.”</p><p>Information about Lutheran Disaster Response is available at <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/Our-Work/Relief-and-Development/Lutheran-Disaster-Response">www.ELCA.org/Our-Work/Relief-and-Development/Lutheran-Disaster-Response</a>.<br></p></div>03/20/2015ELCA funds support projects that sustain families, communities worldwide ELCA Newshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/75http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/75<div class="ExternalClass8B165DFDFEAB489A8347960F55331EDB"><p><span style="line-height&#58;1.6;">Th</span><span style="line-height&#58;1.6;">e Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) contributed $3.3 million in 2014 to Lutheran World Relief to fund 28 projects in 14 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Lutheran World Relief is a ministry of U.S. Lutherans.</span></p><p>&quot;Through Lutheran World Relief, the ELCA deepens and extends its relief and development work carried out by the ELCA Global Mission unit and supported with ELCA World Hunger and Lutheran Disaster Response–International funds,&quot; said the Rev. Rafael Malpica Padilla, executive director for ELCA Global Mission.</p><p>The projects cover a range of strategic priorities including agricultural production and food security, income generation, disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation, local capacity building and gender sensitive livelihood support, according to a Feb. 20 letter from Lutheran World Relief to Carl Stecker, director for Global Diakonia, ELCA Global Mission. &quot;In many cases the ELCA support was used to complement and scale up work funded through other donors,&quot; stated the letter. ELCA World Hunger funds provided partial or full support for projects in Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Philippines, India, Nepal, Colombia, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras.</p><p>&quot;Improving the livelihoods of local populations is often the main objective of Lutheran World Relief's work. The programs focus on women, young people and men who are introduced to new skills and tools. It's a joy to see the result – people who have pride in their expanded ability to support themselves and their families and play a role in strengthening the resilience of their communities to economic and climate-related shocks,&quot; &#160;said Stecker. </p><p>&quot;These commitments can be kept only in anticipation of the generous gifts provided to ELCA World Hunger and are made with regard to where the church's best capacities meet great needs with a vision toward ending hunger,&quot; said the Rev. Daniel Rift, director of ELCA World Hunger and Disaster Appeal.</p><p>For 2015, the ELCA is allocating $2 million for Lutheran World Relief to support &quot;development work in places where the ELCA does not have a companion church relationship or where The Lutheran World Federation is not an implementer,&quot; said Malpica Padilla.</p><p>ELCA World Hunger funds disbursed through ELCA Global Mission–Diakonia support the development projects of 49 Lutheran companion churches and other direct bilateral partners, including support to The Lutheran World Federation, Church World Service and Lutheran World Relief, said Stecker. &quot;We are in 62 countries.&quot;</p><p>&quot;In addition, we are providing The Lutheran World Federation more than $7 million to support its programs and projects. Of that amount, more than $5.4 million is allocated to support the Federation's Department for World Service and more than $1.2 million for its Department for Mission and Development,&quot; said Malpica Padilla, who added that in 2015 the number of development projects supported by ELCA Global Mission–Diakonia is 157, which is 24 more projects than in 2014.</p><p>The Lutheran World Federation is a global communion of 144 churches representing more than 70 million Christians in 79 countries. The ELCA is the communion's only member church from the United States.</p></div>03/04/2015ELCA provides humanitarian support for UkraineELCA Newshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/74http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/74<div class="ExternalClassC759624A9A9C4FDA8C8E5FD9C196AA67"><p>​The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is committed to providing humanitarian assistance for those affected by the fighting in eastern Ukraine. In January, Lutheran Disaster Response disbursed $85,000 to its partners from ACT Alliance, Hungarian Interchurch Aid and the Russian Orthodox Church to help support almost 20,000 survivors in the areas of conflict.</p><p>“The humanitarian assistance from the ELCA is critical for those who are still in the conflict areas, particularly in light of increased needs during the winter months,” said Vitaly Vorona, ELCA program director for Lutheran Disaster Response International. “The ELCA supports dialogue, peace and reconciliation between those most involved in and affected by the conflict. Our church should also stand with the ordinary Ukrainians who speak out against human rights abuses and injustice in this country.” </p><p>Lutheran Disaster Response is working with its partners to provide food, diapers, blankets, water, health kits, hygiene kits and psychosocial services to assist those who have fled their homes.</p><p>A Feb. 20 United Nations report states that, although the Feb. 15 ceasefire “led to a considerable decrease in hostilities in most parts of eastern Ukraine,” clashes have continued in some areas. According to the report, there are more than 1 million people who are internally displaced within Ukraine. The report says more than 5,000 people have been killed and more than 14,000 have been wounded since April 2014.</p><p>“Much of the refugee work of Lutherans began in European conflict over a century ago, and the relief expertise was built some 70 years ago, again related to conflict in Europe,” said the Rev. Daniel Rift, director for ELCA World Hunger and Disaster Appeal. “It is distressing to see old divisions renewed, with such destruction and disruption of lives. It invites despair, but we are a people who stand in hope. We invite others to live in hope and to the confidence that support extended through Lutheran Disaster Response follows that hope with real help and care of those who have been driven from their homes and livelihoods by this atrocious situation.”</p><p>Information about Lutheran Disaster Response is available at <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/Our-Work/Relief-and-Development/Lutheran-Disaster-Response/Our-Impact/Ukraine-Conflict">www.ELCA.org/Our-Work/Relief-and-Development/Lutheran-Disaster-Response/Our-Impact/Ukraine-Conflict</a>.<br></p></div>02/25/2015ELCA resource asks members to reflect on nature and purpose of this church ELCA Newshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/73http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/73<div class="ExternalClassAF51D9405D3E43F69AC65A3D6282B9BE"><p>​As the season of Lent approaches, a time for reflection and contemplation, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has introduced a new resource that invites members to reflect on how this church makes a difference in the world.</p><p>“Claimed, Gathered, Sent – A Guide for Conversation,” is a five-part resource developed by ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton and the ELCA Ecclesiology of a Global Church Task Force. According to the resource introduction the goal is to “invite reflection, conversation and discernment about what being the church means today” and “strengthen the mission and ministry of congregations and the ELCA as a whole by going back to our spiritual roots.”</p><p>The first four sessions focus on the four emphases Eaton has identified for the ELCA&#58; We are church. We are Lutheran. We are church together. We are church for the sake of the world. </p><p>The fifth session addresses the ELCA’s relationship with its global and ecumenical partners, particularly The Lutheran World Federation – a global communion of 144 churches representing more than 70 million Christians in 79 countries. The ELCA is the communion's only member church from the United States.</p><p>&#160;“I’m eager to share with you the resource ‘Claimed, Gathered, Sent – A Guide for Conversation.’ You may remember my earlier invitation for conversation and engagement during a five-week period about the very nature and purpose of our church,” said Eaton in an email message to ELCA members. “Please consider joining in this timely conversation about the life of our church. I believe your engagement will lead to a deeper understanding and a clearer sense of our identity, our mission and our calling to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ and to be agents of God’s love in the world. Thank you for your partnership in the gospel.”</p><p>Congregations are asked to send feedback about their experiences using the resource to <a href="mailto&#58;Faith@elca.org">Faith@elca.org</a>.</p><p>“Claimed, Gathered, Sent – A Guide for Conversation” is available at <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/faith/">www.ELCA.org/faith/</a>.</p></div>01/30/2015David Vásquez-Levy to become first Lutheran, Latino president of a U.S. seminaryELCA Newshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/72http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/72<div class="ExternalClass583199E8FD68426DA8DA0F62EA89B7DA"><p><span style="line-height&#58;1.6;">The Rev. David Vásquez-Levy, a pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), will become the 12th president of Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Calif. Vásquez-Levy was a campus pastors at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, one of 26 ELCA colleges and universities.</span><span style="line-height&#58;1.6;"> </span><span style="line-height&#58;1.6;">Vásquez-Levy is the first Lutheran and Latino to serve as president of Pacific School of Religion, and one of four people of Latino/a descent serving as president for a U.S.-accredited seminary.</span></p><p>&quot;I am excited to join a community that has been at the forefront of bringing the good news of the gospel to bear on issues as diverse as gender equality, civil rights, peace and justice (and more), and that is poised to be a catalyst to continued conversations that broaden the spectrum of people of faith and conviction that want to join together in shaping the future,&quot; said Vásquez-Levy.</p><p>Vásquez-Levy earned a Master of Divinity degree at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago in 1995, and a Doctor of Ministry degree there in 2001. The seminary is one of eight of the ELCA. </p><p>Vásquez-Levy has authored several publications and a dedicated advocate for humane immigration policies. After the 2008 immigration raid in Postville, Iowa, Vásquez-Levy co-led the Postville Relief Effort team. He served as a consultant on two documentaries discussing the raid, worked closely with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services based in Baltimore, and he participated in White House conversations and congressional briefings about the raid in Postville and immigration.</p><p>&quot;President David Vasquez will bring strength to the strategic direction of Pacific School of Religion to inspire, train and sustain spiritually-rooted leaders for social change,&quot; says David Tiede, president emeritus of Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn., and former interim president of Luther College.</p><p>Vásquez-Levy's inauguration and celebration will be held Jan. 29, 2015, at 2&#58;00 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Berkeley. Pacific School of Religion has formal relationships with the United Church of Christ, the United Methodist Church, and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church are full communion partners of the ELCA.</p><p><em>Amanda Straw is a student at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., majoring in English writing. She served as an intern for the ELCA churchwide organization.</em></p></div>01/27/2015