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Called Forward initiative In anticipation of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017, the ELCA launched “Called Forward Together in Christ,” an initiative that invites members to join in a conversation about the future priorities of the church. Led by ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton, the initiative was endorsed by the Church Council with collaboration by the Conference of Bishops. Following the process, a statement of future directions and priorities will be considered by the council. For more, see ELCA.org/future.


Civil suit fi led in Burnside case A civil lawsuit fi led in early April accuses an assis tant dean at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, of misrepresenting himself in a counseling relationship with a student, reported the Wisconsin State Journal. The student, Megan Mengelt, is the daughter of Maureen Mengelt, who was struck and killed by Bruce Burnside, then bishop of the South-Central Synod of Wisconsin, while out jogging near Sun Prairie, Wis., on April 7, 2013. The university employee, Tori Richardson, reportedly reached out to Mengelt via email four days after her mother died. Richardson didn’t tell Mengelt he was texting with Burnside just prior to the accident. Since the initial contact, the two had developed a “confi dential and trusting” relationship. Burnside pleaded guilty in May 2014 to second-degree reckless homicide and drunken driving. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison.


Episcopal bishop wants reform Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said in an April 4 statement that two offi cials in the Episcopal Church’s national offi ce “violated established workplace policies” and “failed to live up to the church’s standards of personal conduct in their relationships with employees.” Curry’s call for work culture reform and the fi ring of the senior administrators apparently didn’t surprise Bob Honeychurch, who formerly served the offi ce. Honeychurch said he heard accounts of gender bias on multiple occasions—women excluded from important decision-making and not treated as equals. Led by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jeff erts Schori at the time, Honeychurch said her work often took her out of the offi ce and she gave the chief operating offi cer authority to manage the staff .


Seminaries to merge


The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia and the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg (Pa.) in April announced plans to merge rather than create a new school of theology and leadership formation.


This marks a change in direction from January, when the schools said they would be closing to launch a new one. Accreditation concerns caused the change, said Gettysburg Seminary President Michael Cooper-White. Under state regulations, a new school would not be licensed to grant degrees or federal student loans for about two years. “We would not have been able to attract new students,” he said. “To have students who would not be in an accredited school—that was just untenable.”


The consolidated institution is expected to open in July 2017. With new support from ELCA partners, all full-time residential students preparing for ministry will be able to attend tuition-free, said Philadelphia Seminary President David Lose.


While leaders previously hoped for a new school with a radical design, they’re now reportedly exploring whether both seminaries will endure under the same umbrella or if one will cease to exist.


Sabbath value slipping


A Deseret News poll found that the number of U.S. adults who fi nd spiritual meaning in the Sabbath is down from 74 percent in 1978 to 50 percent. But 62 per- cent of people say it’s important for society to have a day of the week dedicated for spiritual rest. The survey shows that the modern Sabbath has become a day more focused on relaxation and errand-running rather than religious commitment.


RELIGIOUS NEWS & SOCIAL ISSUES • LIVINGLUTHERAN.ORG 9


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