From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
ELCA Communicators Focus on 21st Century Topics
News News <NEWS@ELCA.ORG>
Wed, 21 Aug 2002 12:37:21 -0500
ELCA NEWS SERVICE
August 21, 2002
ELCA COMMUNICATORS FOCUS ON 21ST CENTURY TOPICS
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- Some 185 communicators with the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) were challenged by speakers who
addressed the role of church communication in 21st century society,
telling the truth, the ELCA studies on sexuality and the role of the
Lutheran church in the Middle East.
The ELCA Communicators' Consultation, with the theme "Making
Christ Known: Writing for the 21st Century," was held here Aug. 15-18.
Participants represented many of the ELCA's 65 synods, eight seminaries,
28 colleges and universities, Lutheran organizations and the ELCA
churchwide organization. The consultation was organized by the ELCA
Department for Communication.
The conference included plenaries and workshops related to
writing, video and photography; ELCA-college communicator relationships;
hunger resources of the church; fund raising; and Middle East concerns.
Ray Suarez, Washington, D.C., a correspondent with PBS-TV's "The
NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," was the keynote speaker at the event's
concluding banquet Aug. 17.
"You in this room must deliver uncomfortable tidings along with
the 'Good News' week after week, month after month, while still
ministering to the more general and mundane needs for information about
the daily life of the faithful," he said.
"A stable religious universe in the United States is a thing of
the past. And, there hasn't been in other parts of the world for some
time," Suarez said. "How much of the world's sorrows over religion are
the sorrows of all people of faith? And what of our own house lately in
that American Christian corner of God's world, where dirty laundry is
the only laundry that much of the public sees? The wider public, the
unchurched, if it cares enough to look, only hears stories of conflict,
dissent and debate."
"The people you talk to in the pages of your publication who
aren't bishops, conveners, moderators, district presidents and those
kinds of things ... need you so much," Suarez said. "They need to be
able to place their church in the context of the rest of their lives, be
uplifted and entertained, be moved to act, moved to reflect."
Suarez said "journalists work in a business" that wants "to figure
out people's ulterior motives." He said Lutheran communicators "work for
institutions that suggest that the way to deal with the unlovable is to
love them more, and if that doesn't work, love them more still."
"Your work is so important," Suarez told Lutheran communicators.
"Outside your community, the idea that communication is a ministry might
strike some people as odd. But you all know better than anyone how vital
communication is in the life of the church."
Suarez served as a host for "Talk of the Nation," a call-in news
program on National Public Radio. An award-winning journalist, Suarez
is a founding member of the Chicago Association of Hispanic Journalists.
PRESIDING BISHOP GREETS COMMUNICATORS
The consultation opened with a video presentation featuring the
Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop. In the video Hanson greeted
communicators and commended their work. He said the church needs
communicators who can "tell stories in a way that draws the church in"
and who can "communicate [a] sense of urgency for mission, inviting all
to come and see Jesus, but to do it in a way that breaks down barriers
of language, gender and culture that so often tends to divide us."
Hanson said members of the church look to communicators for help
in "using new, innovative technology to link the world and share the
story of God's love, God's longing for justice, mercy and peace."
TELL THE TRUTH, SAYS ELCA SECRETARY
The challenge of writing for the 21st century is that we tell the
truth, said the Rev. Lowell G. Almen, secretary of the ELCA, in the
opening keynote presentation. He said the challenge in telling the
truth "is not only offering a clear statement of what we are trying to
communicate; the challenge also is being clearly understood by readers
"Adjectives, adverbs and verbs" are important in relation to the
Eighth Commandment -- "You shall not bear false witness against your
neighbors," he said. "Telling the truth may well mean more than only
being factually correct. How the reader or listener understands what
has been written or said is part of the risk and struggle in truth
telling. It is no simple task, even in the best of circumstances."
Almen told communicators he remains "optimistic" about the
challenge of writing for the 21st century because "I know of your
dedicated efforts and those of people like you throughout the ELCA who
seek to tell the story plainly, clearly, accurately and effectively."
COMMUNICATORS HAVE KEY ROLE IN SEXUALITY STUDIES EFFORT
Last year, the ELCA Churchwide Assembly mandated a study on
homosexuality to address the blessing of same-gender unions and
ordaining pastors and lay ministers in committed gay or lesbian
relationships. It also asked for a social statement, which would
involve a churchwide study on human sexuality.
The Rev. James M. Childs Jr., director, ELCA studies on sexuality,
briefed communicators on the early stages of the studies and his hopes
to "promote participation in the studies through the means of
communication in your synods." He described information available on
the ELCA Web site.
While many in the church fear discussing and making decisions
about matters related to sexuality, Childs said the studies will make
the church stronger if as many ELCA members as possible are involved in
the process and sense it is fair. "That is why you as communicators are
terribly important -- to communicate the urgency of participation," he
LUTHERANS LIVING IN TROUBLED MIDDLE EAST
A panel of five speakers discussed the Middle East and how the
conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is reported in ELCA
publications: the Rev. Said R. Ailabouni, program director for Europe,
the Horn of Africa and the Middle East, ELCA Division for Global
Mission; the Rev. J. Martin Bailey, a retired pastor of the United
Church of Christ and co-chair, media working group, Church World
Service, Middle East Forum, West Orange, N.J.; the Rev. Mary E. Jensen,
an ELCA pastor and communication officer, Evangelical Lutheran Church in
Jordan (and Palestine), Jerusalem; and the Rev. Michael P. Thomas and
the Rev. Susan P. Thomas, ELCA missionaries and pastors of the Lutheran
Church of the Redeemer, Old City, Jerusalem.
"You have Lutheran brothers and sisters in the Holy Land," said
Jensen. One of the basic messages for U.S. Lutherans is that the Middle
East conflict is not between Muslims and Jews, she said. "The invisible
Christians" are a minority there, but they are deeply affected by the
struggle between Israelis and Palestinians.
Quoting an Israeli human rights activist, Susan Thomas said the
two "sides" are Palestinians and Israelis seeking peace, statehood and
security for all, and another group of Palestinians and Israelis who
advocate exclusivity, conflict and a win-lose mentality, said Susan
Michael Thomas described scenes of Palestinians avoiding Israeli
police and Israelis avoiding Palestinians and public places. "Come and
see," he said, inviting church communicators to visit the Middle East.
"Walk the ancient streets; walk the modern streets."
Bailey described the work of the Church World Service's Middle
East Forum, especially its media working group: developing a style sheet
for journalists, contacting editorial boards, establishing a media
center at the International Center in Bethlehem, and organizing a fact-
finding visit to Israel and Palestine in October 2002.
"My hope is that you and the rest of the church will do as God
calls you to work in the world," said Ailabouni. "We are called to work
for justice," he said. "People need to speak up on behalf of what is
WANGERIN LAUNCHES TWO-MONTH BICYCLE JOURNEY
The Rev. Walt Wangerin Jr. left here Aug. 17 to begin a two-month
bicycle journey through seven states in the Upper Midwest. Wangerin aims
to boost Lutheran Vespers, the radio ministry of the ELCA. Wangerin,
speaker for Lutheran Vespers and a professor at Valparaiso University,
Valparaiso, Ind., and ELCA staff began the journey -- "OutSpoken for
Lutheran Vespers" -- at the ELCA churchwide offices during the
Wangerin said he hopes to talk to more than 3,000 people face-to-
face during the bike trip through 24 scheduled rallies and other
personal appearances. The trip's purpose is to encourage people to
endorse the program, to build an endowment of $10 million to keep the
program on the air, and to enlist people as partners in the ministry, he
Wangerin said another Lutheran Vespers rally is being planned for
next year. It will be held March 28-30, at St. Matthew's Lutheran
Church, Charleston, S.C.
KEY EVENTS OUTLINED FOR 2003
The communicators were also informed about some key events planned
+ The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) assembly, with the theme,
"For the Healing of the World," will be held July 21-31 in Winnipeg,
Canada. More than 400 delegates from LWF member churches will
participate in the Tenth Assembly, hosted by the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in Canada (ELCIC). ELCA congregations and synods will host
international representatives before and after the assembly, said Kathy
J. Magnus, LWF regional officer in North America, and Karin
Achtelstetter, recently named as director, LWF Office for Communication
Services, Geneva, Switzerland. The ELCA is one of 133 churches in 73
countries that comprise the LWF.
+ The 2003 ELCA Churchwide Assembly will be held Aug. 11-17 in
Milwaukee. The agenda will include discussion of a strategic plan for
the ELCA, consideration of a social statement on health and health care
and an emphasis on global partnerships following the LWF assembly, said
Myrna J. Sheie, executive assistant to the ELCA presiding bishop. The
assembly will also elect the ELCA vice president and the editor for The
Lutheran, the magazine of the ELCA.
+ The ELCA Youth Gathering is July 16-20 and July 23-27 in
Atlanta. Under the theme, "Do Life! Ubuntu!," as many as 50,000
Lutheran teens and adults are expected to attend. Worship, education
and service will be highlighted during the events. Organizers are
encouraging participants to collect and bring quarters to the event for
the ELCA World Hunger Appeal and the Stand With Africa campaign, said
Heidi Hagstrom, youth gathering team, ELCA Division for Congregational
+ Shooting was completed in Europe this summer for a feature-
length motion picture about Martin Luther, said Dennis Clauss, Thrivent
Financial for Lutherans, Minneapolis, primary sponsor for the
production. Joseph Fiennes, who starred in "Shakespeare in Love," plays
the role of Martin Luther. Theatrical release is planned for autumn
2003, he said.
The consultation sponsor was Thrivent Financial for Lutherans.
Events during the conference were sponsored by Faith and Values Media,
New York; FaithandValues.com, Lexington, Ky.; Kutztown Publishing,
Kutztown, Pa.; Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Ind.; ELCA Division
for Church in Society, Chicago; and ELCA Board of Pensions, Minneapolis.
Information about the Communicators Consultation, including texts of
some presentations, can be found at
http://www.elca.org/co/comcon/index.html on the ELCA Web site.
Information about the ELCA Studies on Sexuality can be found at
http://www.elca.org/faithfuljourney/index.html on the ELCA Web site.
Resources related to the conflict and peace in the Middle East are
linked to http://www.elca.org/co/mideast.html on the ELCA Web site.
Information about "OutSpoken for Lutheran Vespers" can be found at
http://www.elca.org/lv/outspoken on the ELCA Web site.
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG
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