ELCA News Bloghttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/Portland ELCA congregation provides sanctuary in face of a deportationELCA Newshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/60http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/60<div class="ExternalClassC4A5FA8DA01E42ABAF6A863F677FE46A"><p>​<span style="line-height&#58;1.6;">Augustana Lutheran Church in Portland, Ore., has opened its church doors to protect Francisco Aguirre from U.S. immigration agents working to detain him. Augustana, a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), is one of a multitude of congregations and faith groups across the country prepared to offer &quot;sanctuary&quot; to undocumented immigrants facing deportation. With support from community groups and others, Augustana is the first congregation in Oregon to provide sanctuary.</span></p><p>A local labor activist who first came to Oregon from El Salvador nearly 20 years ago, Aguirre is married with two U.S. born children. He is facing removal due to a 15-year old drug trafficking conviction and related deportation. According to the Rev. W.J. Mark Knutson, pastor at Augustana, some &quot;legal teams will be investigating this, since there are conflicting accounts.&quot;</p><p>In a Sept. 30 interfaith service and community rally, &quot;This Is Where I Belong,&quot; hosted by Augustana, Aguirre shared his personal story with a gathering of nearly 1,000 people, including Portland mayor representatives and City Council officials, interfaith and business leaders, worker rights groups, Latino-led nonprofits, city residents and others. Aguirre told those gathered that he remembers the day he arrived in Portland but has yet to fulfill his dream.</p><p>&quot;My dream is to one day be free,&quot; he said. &quot;As always I continue to work hard&quot; not just for his family &quot;but for my community.&quot; As tears streamed down his face, he told the assembly that his tears are not a sign of weakness but because of the harsh &quot;reality of what can happen in this lovely country,&quot; referencing the attempt of immigration agents to detain him in September. He thanked churches across the country working to provide sanctuary &quot;because no one should be alone. Also, I pay taxes every year. No one has ever questioned that,&quot; he said. &quot;I believe that I deserve to be here in this country. This is where I've been for the past 20 years, and where I belong now.&quot; </p><p>Augustana's capacity to provide Aguirre sanctuary has been 18 years in the making, according to Knutson. &quot;We declared ourselves a sanctuary congregation in 1996 with just over 250 members. We declared that from the pulpit, citing the life of Jesus, the Scriptures and the Lutheran Affirmation of Faith, and the historical nature of sanctuary. We have lived into that by building strong relationships with community residents and ecumenical, interfaith, political and business leaders on a wide range of justice and peace issues over the years. So when this moment came for us to provide sanctuary, all we had to do was just put out the word. And, in a moment's notice, the Holy Spirit literally galvanized our city into action.&quot;</p><p>Knutson said key partners in the effort to protect Aguirre includes the El Salvadoran community, the VOZ Day Labor Center and the Interfaith Movement for Immigrant Justice – a statewide faith coalition based among one of &#160;Augustana's non-profit collaborative.</p><p>Moving forward, Knutson said this group and the congregation's goals are to accompany Aguirre and his family, that they might be reunited and free; apply community pressure to demand that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents back down so that Aguirre can complete his U Visa process which began prior to the ICE confrontation; to strengthen the sanctuary movement and &quot;bring about true, just and life-giving immigration reform in the United States, so that no family has to face the fear of separation that the Aguirre family is experiencing. Until the world becomes what God intends it to be – a sanctuary, a place of abundant life for all people – our churches, synagogues, mosques and temples must provide that safe place.&quot;</p><p>Information about Augustana, a 900-member multicultural and multinational congregation, is available at <a href="http&#58;//www.augustana.org/">www.augustana.org</a>.&#160;</p></div>10/09/2014ELCA presiding bishop offers prayer for Africans impacted by EbolaELCA Newshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/59http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/59<div class="ExternalClassDBEE69B9660C493BA5FB5AFBD28674C1"><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 and a continued commitment to stand alongside people impacted by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. In a Sept. 29 letter to Lutheran leaders there, Eaton expressed her concern for them and the communities in which they serve.</span></p><p>&quot;I think and pray for each of you daily, but most especially when, during Sunday worship, I greet my fellow sisters and brothers in Christ with a handshake and a hug,&quot; Eaton wrote. &quot;My heart breaks for you as I imagine the difficulty of having to advise and even admonish your congregants from touching one another in a sign of peace, knowing full well that lives depend on such prudence,&quot; she wrote.</p><p>Yet &quot;day in and day out, I know that you shepherd your congregations with the message of the love of God,&quot; Eaton wrote. &quot;The ministry of presence, so important in our understanding of what it means to lead as a Christian clergyperson, is now a dangerous, even deadly, proposition in your communities. I pray for God's continued wisdom and grace to be poured out on you and our Lutheran church leaders, knowing full well that God's love is expressed in many ways, even in the absence of human touch.&quot;</p><p>Eaton wrote that although she cannot &quot;pretend to know the profound sufferings of your communities and congregations caused by the Ebola outbreak … I can tell you that, through prayer and the sharing of resources, our hearts go out to you, as do our fervent and constant prayers.&quot;</p><p>The ELCA presiding bishop also wrote to ELCA congregations and members who have close relationships with people in West Africa. Her letter was shared Sept. 29 through the ELCA African National Ministries.</p><p>Information about the ELCA's response to the Ebola outbreak is available at <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/Our-Work/Relief-and-Development/Lutheran-Disaster-Response/Our-Impact/Ebola">http&#58;//www.elca.org/Our-Work/Relief-and-Development/Lutheran-Disaster-Response/Our-Impact/Ebola</a>.&#160;</p></div>10/03/2014Augusta Victoria Hospital featured in documentaryELCA Newshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/58http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/58<div class="ExternalClass491AE50BA7784E669451198889E9E12D"><p>​Augusta Victoria Hospital, located on the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem, is featured in a documentary, “Healing in a Holy Land,” produced by Frakes Productions. Augusta Victoria is a program of The Lutheran World Federation and supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).&#160; <br>In August the ELCA provided $100,000 in humanitarian assistance to help support the operation of the healthcare system in the midst of the recent violence in the Middle East. The funds were disbursed through Lutheran Disaster Response to The Lutheran World Federation, a global communion of 144 churches representing more than 72 million Christians in 79 countries. The ELCA is the communion’s only member church from the United States.<br>During filming this past April, “the situation in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem was relatively quiet. However, the systemic factors which led up to this summer's violent confrontations were all in place,” said Tim Frakes of Frakes Productions.<br>Frakes said his team “observed the many checkpoints and physical barriers which prevent Palestinians from moving freely from their homes to places of business to schools and healthcare facilities. <br>“We also observed the effects of high unemployment in the West Bank and the strong desire on the part of many Palestinian youth to obtain an education and thus create hope for some kind of sustainable employment.”<br>In his visits with Gaza patients and their families, Frakes had the opportunity to hear personal stories about the siege of Gaza. <br>“Augusta Victoria Hospital arranges for Gaza patients to come to East Jerusalem, accompanied by one family member,” said Frakes. “(The hospital) houses these families in a modest hotel on the Mount of Olives. During the day, while patients are receiving treatment, family members are not permitted to venture outside the hotel. Doing so subjects them to arrest and imprisonment. Once the treatment, which often takes several days, is complete, the patient and their family member must get back on a bus and return to Gaza.”<br>“The documentary is designed to present a stark contrast to the images of war and death by holding up tangible evidence of positive work being done on the behalf of ELCA members,” said Frakes. “The Lutheran World Federation Jerusalem's Augusta Victoria Hospital is truly ‘God's work. Our hands.’”<br>The documentary can be viewed at <a href="http&#58;//www.frakesproductions.com/2014/augusta-victoria-hospital-jerusalem-new-broadcast-documentary-abc7-chicago/">http&#58;//www.frakesproductions.com/2014/augusta-victoria-hospital-jerusalem-new-broadcast-documentary-abc7-chicago/</a>.</p></div>09/19/2014ELCA young adults reflect on 2014 International AIDS conferenceELCA News Servicehttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/57http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/57<div class="ExternalClass802D034D7F054B9D81E8A43A272E2B74"><p>​A delegation of young adults from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) attended the 20th International AIDS Conference July 20-25 in Melbourne, Australia. Meeting under the 2014 theme “Stepping up the Pace,” the conference provided opportunities for sharing and networking in response to the AIDS pandemic. <br>“This exposure has enabled young adults to be a part of the global ecumenical movement, touching not only people in their local communities, but peoples of the world,” said Dr. Ulysses Burley, a clinical research associate at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago and a member of the ELCA young adult delegation.<br>“Furthermore, young adult participation at AIDS 2014 is a component of a larger vision within the ELCA to create a critical mass of social justice-minded young people across a multitude of issues including HIV and AIDS,” said Burley in a blog post from the conference. Burley is also a member of the steering committee for <em>Always Being Made New&#58; The Campaign for the ELCA </em>steering committee. <br>In conference workshops, plenary sessions and small-group discussions, ELCA young adults and the ELCA staff who accompanied them learned ways to engage and become leaders in the fight against HIV and AIDS.<br>Rachel Hunstad, a registered nurse in Minneapolis and a member of Westwood Lutheran in St. Louis Park, Minn., said she joined the young adult delegation because she continues to look for ways to “integrate my career with my passions and commitment to the ELCA.” In 2012 Hunstad served as an ELCA Young Adult in Global Mission, a one-year international mission opportunity for young adults.<br>“What a beautiful thing it is to come together from so many different corners of the world and perspectives on the disease to find a mutual experience,” said Hunstad. “I became more able to recognize my own personal desire to fight for the end of HIV and AIDS by listening to the passionate visions of others. It is so special to build a network of mutually justice-minded peers and role models to lean on as I continually seek an answer to the ever-present question of ‘what is my place in all of this?’ How powerful it is to know that I am not alone as I dream up visions, lament failures, and celebrate victories.”<br>Hunstad said the conference helped her “see that HIV and AIDS is not just a disease of ‘the poor people of Africa.’ The faces of HIV are right next to me.”<br>Karin L. Klingman, an infectious diseases physician and member of Christ Lutheran Church in Washington, D.C., traveled to the conference with two members of the young adult delegation sent by the ELCA Metropolitan Washington, D.C., Synod. Both young adults are volunteers at Youth Haven, a camp for HIV and AIDS affected and infected children and families, which is sponsored and run by Lutheran Social Services of the National Capital Area.<br>In a blog post from the conference, Klingman said that the ELCA young adult delegation was “a thoughtful and eager group who wanted to learn and interact with almost everything that AIDS 2014 had to offer – the researchers, the policy makers, the drug company representatives, the community activists and nongovernmental organization workers. The conference challenged all of us to rethink our priorities and our prejudices. It was a call to action.”<br>“Attending the 2014 AIDS Conference was so amazing because I learned so much during the workshops and exploring the global village,” said Elishua Greenwood, one of the young adults from Washington, D.C., in a blog post. “One of the workshops I attended was titled ‘Curing HIV.’ It was exciting because there’s so much research behind medicine to reduce the infection of HIV, and that makes me happy.” <br>Burley said as a young adult leader within the ELCA, he is “tasked with being an advocate for the domestic epidemic, as much of our engagement in HIV as a church has been abroad. HIV is a disease that is impacting young people in this country – men who have sex with men and (also) people of African descent – many of which are our own brothers and sisters in Christ within our church. Therefore, I am called to accompany the church in its outreach to youth and young adults, people of color, and the LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, intersex and asexual) community because if we are to have an impact among them, they have to first be among us, in relationship and in community. With no stake in these communities, our church will have no stake in the domestic response to HIV and AIDS,” he said.<br>Prior to the 2014 International AIDS Conference, the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance held an interfaith pre-conference July 18-19 with the theme “Stepping up in Faith.” The event was geared for faith-based groups to explore the role they play in addressing the epidemic. The two-day event resulted in a renewed commitment by the faith groups to “leave no one behind” in the struggle against HIV and AIDS.<br>“The biggest challenge for faith-based groups is the second biggest challenge for the fight overall – stigmatization,” said Burley. “Discrimination and criminalization against people living with HIV and at-risk populations kills just as many people as HIV does, and the faith community has earned a reputation in being one of the main sources of such stigma. HIV is a medical condition, not a moral condition.”<br>“It's important for the ELCA to be engaged in HIV and AIDS work because doing so lives out our baptismal call as disciples of Christ to love the least of these through expressions of grace and just peace,” said Burley, who emphasized that “the way in which we as people of faith respond is a question of our morality, and our faith calls us to respond as Christ would.” <br>In 2009, the ELCA Church Council adopted the ELCA strategy on HIV and AIDS intended to “add the voice of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to that of The Lutheran World Federation and the World Council of Churches in recognizing one of the most important lessons the church has learned in the past 25 years&#58; ‘the body of Christ has AIDS.’” <br>Along with the adoption of the strategy, ELCA members have made financial commitments to support HIV and AIDS programs domestically and globally.<br>“As HIV and AIDS will continue to be one of the major global health challenges post-2015, this support (from the ELCA) should continue as long as HIV and AIDS is a priority of our congregations, companion churches and ecumenical partners,” said Rebecca Duerst, ELCA program director for health care, who also attended the conference.<br>Duerst stressed that the church’s response to the epidemic should include “social and structural drivers of HIV (including) poverty, violence against women, social marginalization and criminalization.<br>“One challenge facing most faith communities is reconciling our role as a moral authority in communities – which so frequently leads to judgment – with our higher call toward love and kindness,”&#160; she said. “We need the courage to show humility and risk being vulnerable and the will to put caring above discriminating and compassion above exclusion. If we really believe in the dignity of all people, we need to act on those lines and be a strong voice for grace and justice.”<br>“HIV is a human rights issue; it's a social justice issue, and, therefore, it's an issue that the ELCA must play a role in as a church that God is calling into the world, together,” said Burley.<br>More information about the ELCA’s HIV and AIDS ministry is available&#58; <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/Our-Work/Relief-and-Development/HIV-AIDS-Ministry">http&#58;//www.elca.org/Our-Work/Relief-and-Development/HIV-AIDS-Ministry</a></p></div>08/27/2014ELCA establishes working group to explore ministry to same-gender couples, familiesELCA Newshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/56http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/56<div class="ExternalClass0A96B56D05474ABDB6200354AA571C82"><p>​The Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has established a working group to explore ministry and pastoral care for same-gender couples and their families. “Ministry to and with Same-Gender Couples and their Families” was established in response to action taken by the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, approving a memorial regarding conversations about ministering to same-gender couples and families. Memorials are proposals for action presented to the churchwide assembly by the 65 ELCA synods considered during their individual assemblies.</p><p>The working group is tasked with exploring the ministry and “bringing a recommendation to the Church Council regarding appropriate next steps in carrying out these commitments to pastoral care for same-gender couples and their families,” said George Watson, chair of the working group. Watson is a member of St. Martin Lutheran in Port Huron, Mich., and an associate member of St. James Lutheran in Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich.</p><p>In its recommendation to the 2013 Churchwide Assembly, the memorials committee noted the commitments made by the 2009 Churchwide Assembly in adopting the social statement on human sexuality. The social statement says, “This church acknowledges that consensus does not exist concerning how to regard same-gender committed relationships, even after many years of thoughtful, respectful, and faithful study and conversation.”&#160; The statement continues, “We<br>further believe that this church, on the basis of ‘the bound conscience,’ will include these different understandings and practices within its life as it seeks to live out its mission and ministry in the world.” The social statement contains four convictions about human sexuality based on the conscience-bound beliefs of members of the ELCA. </p><p>Watson said the working group will be intentional in obtaining information from members in all four convictions in order to “discover what conversation(s) are already happening, how they started and how they are going. We will also learn what resources are already out there, whether they need adjustments, and what is missing that people would find helpful.”</p><p>“One thought that seemed to resonate with the group is that the decisions made in 2009 are not the end of the conversation, but the beginning of an ongoing dialogue on how all members of the ELCA, regardless of which of the four convictions they fall into, can live into those decisions,” he said.<br>Watson, who is in a same-sex relationship, noted that “unless intentional ministry is done, there is a good chance that same-gender couples will feel, at best, second-class and, at worst, tokens and excluded. Many LBGT people come to the ELCA, or come back to the ELCA, with a great deal of hurt over having been treated in very harmful ways. They need special care to feel that they are indeed accepted and welcomed as they are. The alternative is that they may fall away from the church.”<br>The Rev. Erma Wolf, pastor of American Lutheran Church in Hawarden, Iowa, and also a member of the working group, said the first meeting “was the start of really listening to one another, of speaking with lowered defenses, and of beginning to find common ground with one another while also respecting our different convictions and perspectives.”</p><p>“As someone who finds herself closest to conviction two, I need to advocate for both conviction four and conviction one, that both are doing pastoral care for same-gender couples and their families and both need resources that are supportive of their convictions,” said Wolf.<br>&#160;<br>In the social statement, conviction two reads in part, “On the basis of conscience-bound belief, some are convinced that homosexuality and even lifelong, monogamous, homosexual relationships reflect a broken world in which some relationships do not pattern themselves after the creation God intended.”</p><p>Wolf said an “important first step” for the working group “was talking about the existence of, and continuing situation of, there being a lack of consensus regarding same-gender committed relationships across the ELCA.” </p><p>Watson said ultimately the recommendations from the working group will “propose how to get conversations going throughout the church on ministry to and with same-gender couples and their families. We recognize that the conversations may be very different depending on where congregations and individuals fall within the four convictions described in the social statement. We recognize that it is not the purpose of these conversations to changes anyone’s position, but rather to discuss how and what kind of ministry can be done in varying contexts.”</p><p>Smith Heavner, a member of Christ the King Lutheran in Greenville, S.C., described the initial group meeting as the members realized “we’re all on the same page.” Heavner, who is gay, said that after sharing experiences with the group, he discovered, “this is the same pain, this is the same distress, of not feeling like I am important, of not feeling like I am valued. It was a very enlightening moment to realize we are all sharing the same pain,” he said.</p><p>“But I think the greater ELCA is the same,” he continued. “If we look at Martin Luther’s teachings, we are a people who come out of questioning the people around us. And this culture, we’re kind of abandoning that if we don’t allow ourselves to live together when we don’t agree.” </p><p>“For all four convictions to be included as the social statement declares means that each conviction has a place at the tables of the ELCA, but no one conviction has a privileged place in the ELCA. This is so counter-cultural that it takes my breath away,” said Wolf, who emphasized that “to do serious public work to ensure that all four convictions found in (the social statement) are included, listened to, respected, consulted, and supported appropriately, can be an important step, perhaps a crucial step, to rebuilding a culture of trust and mutual care within this portion of the body of Christ.” </p><p>Watson says he hopes through the process of the working group, “the ELCA may discover that there is a need for continuing conversations about how to live together in the midst of our diverse convictions and that these conversations may prove to be life-giving for the church.”</p><p>Wolf acknowledged that there is “a lot of work ahead of us, in this working group and beyond. I ask the prayers of others in the ELCA for this group as we try to make this work, for the sake of the continued ministry of the ELCA.”</p><p><br>&#160;</p></div>08/08/2014Lutheran Disaster Response provides assistance for Ebola outbreak in Liberia ELCA Newshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/55http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/55<div class="ExternalClass11AE5D24C2A64BB6BB6AEA1DDD26CBA9"><p>​The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) will provide $10,000 in humanitarian assistance in response to the Ebola virus outbreak in Liberia. The funds are being disbursed through Lutheran Disaster Response-International 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.<br>The funds will help cover air-freight costs to deliver supplies to Monrovia, Liberia. According to a Global Health Ministries press release, the shipment of supplies will include “five pallets of PPEs (personal protection equipment).”&#160; In addition, Global Health Ministries is sending a 40-foot container ship that will carry more “urgently needed medical supplies and equipment in care of Phebe Hospital and Curran Hospital.” Phebe Hospital, a Lutheran hospital, is the largest public health institution in Liberia.<br>“The Ebola virus disease has been deadly unmerciful,” said the Rev. Jensen Seyenkulo, bishop of the Lutheran Church in Liberia. “It has especially taken a toll on our health workers. This has led to the closure of most of our hospitals.”<br>Seyenkulo said that patients at Phebe Hospital have “fled the hospital for fear of the disease.” He added that nurses have “abandoned the wards after seeing four of their colleagues and a doctor succumb to the virus.” <br>“With the help of funds provided by our friends around the world, among them Lutheran Disaster Response, some nurses have returned for training on how to protect themselves, protective gear are being provided, there is a mass awareness campaign, and isolation units are being built,” said Seyenkulo. “We are very hopeful that the virus will not overrun our second hospital and that it will remain open because of steps these funds are making possible.”<br>In an email to the ELCA’s Global Mission unit, Seyenkulo asked that the ELCA not deploy any new missionaries to Liberia because of the Ebola virus.&#160; <br>According to the Rev. Andrea Walker, ELCA area program director for West Africa, ELCA missionary personnel in Liberia currently on leave in the United States “will not be able to go back” to Liberia “until the spread of this virus is contained.”&#160; Others who are waiting to be deployed as new missionaries in the country are on hold until the situation is under control. <br>The virus outbreak has spread to several African countries, including Sierra Leone where the ELCA has missionary personnel. “We do have someone in Sierra Leone and we are making arrangements to have him leave as soon as possible,” said Walker.<br>“We continue to pray for the people affected by this virus that has no cure,” she said.<br>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.</p></div>08/05/2014