ELCA News Bloghttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/Brenda Smith named program director for ELCA’s Faith Practices / Book of Faith ELCA Newshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/81http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/81<div class="ExternalClass838DA8C2557240F9B66E58FE64841457"><p>​The Rev. Brenda K. Smith has been named program director for Faith Practices and Book of Faith at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). She will succeed Diane Jacobson, who retired in January as program director for Book of Faith. Prior to her appointment, Smith served as program director for Faith Practices.</p><p>“I want to thank Diane Jacobson for her great leadership of the Book of Faith initiative, her willingness to open Scripture with us across the country and urging us to join the holy conversation,” said the Rev. Stephen P. Bouman, executive director, ELCA congregational and synodical mission. “Although Diane has retired, she will continue to support this initiative as she is able.”</p><p>The ELCA’s Book of Faith Initiative was approved as a five-year commitment by the 2007 ELCA Churchwide Assembly encouraging members, congregations and synods to increase and enrich their engagement with Scripture. The 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly voted to affirm the Book of Faith Initiative “as a continuing emphasis and priority of this church.”</p><p>The ELCA’s Faith Practices initiative, “Living the Faith – Call to Discipleship,” was introduced in 2000 to provide members ways in which to live out their faith while growing in discipleship.</p><p>“Bringing together the Book of Faith initiative support networks with the Faith Practices focus and networks under the leadership of Brenda Smith will further strengthen and enhance this important and vital ministry,” said Bouman. </p><p>“Immersion in Scripture is elemental in the individual and communal discipleship journey of all the baptized, a premiere ‘faith practice.’ Brenda has provided faithful leadership and support in both these networks. Our aim is to embed the Book of Faith and the other faith practices of the disciple throughout the life of the church. This is an investment into the DNA of our life together in Christ,” he said.</p><p>“One of the Book of Faith resources suggests that as people of God, part of our calling is to know, hear, share and be rooted in Scripture,” said Smith. “The Book of Faith program offers individuals and congregations strategies that will allow them to do some intentional opening up of Scripture and having a conversation about how this sacred text invites us into a relationship with God, makes demands on our lives, and promises us a life in Christ. As we become increasingly grounded in Scripture, we consistently examine our lives and ask the question, ‘How am I living out my faith in my daily life?’”</p><p>Smith said the ELCA has developed a number of faith practices resources, which provide a framework for “how we will reflect our faith in our words and in our deeds.” These resources include “Living Our Baptismal Covenant” and “Daily Faith Practices,” a weekly Bible study based on the second lesson of the lectionary.</p><p>“There are many connections between grounding ourselves in the Bible and living out our faith on a daily basis,” said Smith.&#160; “Both the Faith Practices team and the Book of Faith team look forward to deepening those connections for the three expressions of the ELCA – the churchwide office, the 65 synods and the congregations.”&#160; <br></p></div>04/28/2015ELCA responds in aftermath of tornado damageELCA Newshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/80http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/80<div class="ExternalClassBFEE21DCEFBB42D4A9AF48F747B68FDE"><p>​The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) will provide assistance for survivors of the tornadoes and storms that devastated portions of northern Illinois April 9. In partnership with Lutheran Disaster Response, Lutheran Social Services of Illinois and the ELCA Northern Illinois Synod, the group has created a “Tornado Relief Fund” to be administered through Lutheran Social Services of Illinois. </p><p>The areas affected include Lee, Ogle, DeKalb, Winnebago, Boone and McHenry counties in Illinois.</p><p>“The tornados did great damage in communities that are a significant part of our synod,” the Rev. Gary Wollersheim, bishop of the ELCA Northern Illinois Synod, wrote in an April 10 pastoral letter to members of the synod. “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed.”</p><p>Two people died “from the destructive tornados, a number of injuries and a great deal of property damage” also occurred, Wollersheim wrote. “As people of faith we may be ‘perplexed, but not driven to despair.’ We gather with our partners and seek out the best ways to bring hope and healing in the aftermath of the storm.”</p><p>Wollersheim said support for the tornado relief fund will “provide direct assistance to survivors as well as long-term assistance as people rebuild their lives, homes and businesses.”</p><p>Three ELCA congregations close to the tornado’s path were not directly impacted but there are reports of members who were affected, according to the Rev. Joseph Chu, associate program director, Lutheran Disaster Response.</p><p>The congregations – St. John’s Lutheran in Ashton, Ill., St. John’s Lutheran in Creston, Ill., and Faith Lutheran in Rochelle, Ill. – will each receive $2,000 from the ELCA Northern Illinois Synod to help in their relief efforts. </p></div>04/14/2015ELCA grieves following terrorist attack in KenyaELCA Newshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/79http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/79<div class="ExternalClass822C9068DB6641D89AB1F3B111A893A9"><p>​<span style="line-height&#58;1.6;">The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), offered prayers to the leaders and members of the Kenya Evangelical Lutheran Church and to all &quot;families who have lost loved ones&quot; following the terrorist attack at Garissa University College in Garissa, Kenya. In an April 9 letter to the Rev. Zachariah Kahuthu of the Kenya Evangelical Lutheran Church, Eaton said ELCA members &quot;grieve with you and for the people who were hurt or killed&quot; in the attack.</span></p><p>Eaton was in China when she received news of the attack&#160;and sought to immediately share her &quot;heartfelt concerns for our Kenyan brothers and sisters.&quot;</p><p>&quot;The reports in the media cause our hearts to cry out in lamentation rather than in the hope that the Easter season brings. Yet, we know in the midst of the sorrow, God is with us always providing comfort and peace to those who grieve,&quot; she wrote.</p><p>The ELCA and Kenya Evangelical Lutheran Church, based in Nairobi, 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. The ELCA Allegheny Synod based in Altoona, Pa., shares a companion relationship with the Kenya Evangelical Lutheran Church.</p></div>04/10/2015ELCA awards 12 Rossing Physics ScholarshipsELCA Newshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/78http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/78<div class="ExternalClassA7007C7DF2934E01B6FE3AB6E4F5D4D7"><p>​The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has awarded Rossing Physics Scholarships to 12 ELCA college and university students. The scholarships are made possible through gifts from Dr. Thomas D. Rossing, who created the fund through the ELCA Foundation. There are 26 ELCA colleges and universities.</p><p>Five students received Rossing Physics Scholars awards in the amount of $10,000 each. The students are&#58; Mikaela Algren from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn.; Fekireselassie Gebar Beyene from Augsburg College in Minneapolis; Jesse Hitz Graff from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa; Cain Valtierrez from Augsburg College; and Daniel Hickox-Young from St. Olaf in Northfield, Minn.</p><p>Seven students received Rossing Physics Scholars Honorable Mention awards in the amount of $5,000 each. The students are&#58; Andris Bibelnieks from Augsburg College; Caleb Clever from Muhlenburg College in Allentown, Pa.; Michael Da Silva from California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, Calif.; Jordan Dull from St. Olaf College; Grace Kerber from Gustavus Adolphus; Think Truong from Lenoir Rhyne University in Hickory, N.C.; and Emily Witt from St. Olaf College.</p><p>“The Rossing Physics Scholarship program is a gem in ELCA higher education,” said the Rev. Mark Wilhelm, ELCA program director for schools. “Tom Rossing’s gift that established the program has made it possible to honor the sterling work done by talented physics students at our colleges and universities.”</p><p>“The impact of a student receiving a Rossing Scholarship is twofold,” said Steven H. Mellema, professor and physics department chair at Gustavus Adolphus College. “The first is the obvious financial relief it provides to the student in this era of rising tuition costs at private colleges. But the other benefit of receiving the award is the recognition and encouragement that it gives these young people and the way it validates their hard work in the classrooms and the research labs. The Rossing awards tell them, and all of their classmates, that the physics program and the work they are doing here is of national stature. That recognition is part of the encouragement it takes to keep our students engaged in the hard work it takes to succeed in one of the most difficult majors in college.”</p><p>Rossing said he established the scholarship after “noting the need for men and women educated in science and especially in physics. This became especially obvious to me when I served as national president of the American Association of Physics Teachers. Not only are physicists badly needed in our modern economy, but the study of physics has led many women and men to successful careers in a variety of fields, including medicine, engineering, government, philosophy and the ministry,” he said. </p><p>Rossing began his academic career as a professor at St. Olaf College, where he became chair of the physics department, and later continued at Northern Illinois University. Now retired, he continues to teach part-time at Stanford University.&#160;</p><p>“We are not only honored to have our students receive these awards, but grateful that the Rossing Fund is helping us to retain these fine student majors and reward their successes. In that sense the ELCA is truly partnering with us to maintain a strong and vibrant program,” said Mellema.<br></p></div>03/30/2015ELCA 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>03/20/2015