From the Worldwide Faith News archives

International Ministries Are Highlight of Global Mission Board Meeting

From News News <NEWS@ELCA.ORG>
Date 05 Apr 2000 10:48:44


April 5, 2000


     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- Lutherans from three different parts of the
world discussed the joys and challenges of their work with the board for
the Division for Global Mission of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in
America (ELCA).  The three Lutherans, representing churches in Germany,
Japan and Madagascar, addressed the board during its meeting here March
     The speakers were Hans Joachim-Kiderlin, president of the
Evangelical Church of the Province of Saxony, Magdeburg, Germany; the
Rev. Hiroko Hiraoka, chaplain, Japan Lutheran College and Seminary,
Tokyo; and Dr. Mamy Ranaivoson, a physician from the Malagasy Lutheran
Church, Madagascar, who is a missionary to Papua New Guinea.
     Joachim-Kiderlin said the unification of Germany is challenging
church structures and the unification of Europe is forcing Lutheran
churches throughout the continent to seek unification themselves and
speak "with one voice," he said.
     Only 20 percent of the German people are church members, 
Joachim-Kiderlin said.  "A large majority of the population no longer belongs to
any church," he said, adding there is "no answer" to reclaiming those
who are not part of any church.
     "I think we have to count on (there being) a secularized society
for a very long time," Joachim-Kiderlin said.
     He said the newly opened ELCA Wittenberg Center in Germany had a
"good start" in 1999.  Joachim-Kiderlin said he looked forward to close
cooperation with the ELCA in the future.
     Hiraoka traced her faith journey and suggested the church has much
to offer in solving social problems in Japan.
     For example, the "breakdown of families," largely the result of
cultural influences and an emphasis by Japanese men on work, has caused
more Japanese young people to become involved with cults, she said.  She
also said more than 100,000 Japanese children refuse to attend school.
     "The Japanese system of education, which concentrates on rote
memorization of facts without any substance, is largely to blame for
this social problem," she said. "But the prime cause is bullying or
rejection by peers.  If children's society is a reflection of adult
society, then we can say that all of Japanese society is beginning to
fall apart."
     Hiraoka said the Lutheran Church in Japan has had slow growth over
its 100 years.  Its members today are older and young people are
"disappearing" from churches, she said.
     But Hiraoka said the church in Japan is making progress, and
relationships with other churches in the United States and around the
world are important.
     "Remember, it was America that ended Japan's long period of
isolation and opened the doors," Hiraoka said. "Japanese Christians are
greatly empowered by realizing that they also are members of the
worldwide Christian church."
     Ranaivoson serves as a medical director to a Lutheran hospital in
Papua New Guinea.  His missionary work is part of the Division for
Global Mission's "South-South" program, in which missionaries from
Southern Hemisphere countries serve in other Southern Hemisphere
     "Everywhere I go in Papua New Guinea, there is an open door for
me," he said of his reception there.  Spirituality is a fundamental part
of his work, and hospital staff routinely pray with patients, he said.
     "I believe in prevention," Ranaivoson said. "It's better than a
cure."  Ranaivoson thanked the Division for Global Mission for making
possible his work in Papua New Guinea.  He is on leave from his position
and is studying at Wartburg Seminary, Dubuque, Iowa.
     There are presently eight "South-South" Lutheran missionaries.
More South-South missionaries are proposed, including two from
Madagascar to serve in Haiti.
     The board heard several reports during its meeting and acted on
several issues:
     + In a preliminary report on the fiscal year ended Jan. 31, the
board was told that missionary sponsorship gifts totaled $3,795,000, an
increase over the previous year.
     + The board adopted a resolution asking the staff of the Division
for Global Mission to compile a report on the status of the ordination
of women in companion churches and on the status of women "in the
ministries of the churches."  The board also asked staff to prepare a
plan for addressing justice for women within the ELCA's global
relationships.  The report is to be presented at the October 2000 board
     + It viewed a new video, "Through My Eyes," which featured a young
Lutheran woman from the United States visiting a Lutheran family in
Palestine.  Copies will be made available to young people attending the
ELCA Youth Gathering in St. Louis this summer.
     + The board adopted a revised policy statement on sustainable
development.  The revisions updated a policy the board adopted in 1991.
     + It discussed the crisis in Africa, and reviewed a report on the
division's commitment of resources for projects in Africa and its
recommendations for future projects.   The crisis involves a variety of
social, economic and health concerns in several African countries.
     + The board asked the staff to "seek approval from the Office of
the Bishop" for ELCA congregations to consider designating future Lenten
offerings as an opportunity to support the Evangelical Lutheran Church
in Jordan.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG

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