The Last Saltie, 2009: Mid-December is a tense time in the Central Great Lakes Synod as the shipping season draws to a close and the bishop's office works to figure out which ocean-going vessel will be the last saltie to leave the lakes before the St. Lawrence Seaway is closed for the winter.
Severe weather throughout the lakes on December 9 and 10 forced many ships to seek shelter. Traffic began to move again on Dec. 12. On Sunday, the Coast Guard began its annual ice-breaking effort Operation Taconite.
BBC Italy (pictured) finally arrived in Duluth harbor on December 13 to discharge wind turbine equipment. On Wednesday, time had grown too short for BBC Italy's sister ship BBC Spain to reach Duluth, discharge her cargo, reload, and depart again before the seaway closed. BBC Spain was re-routed to Texas, and BBC Italy, scheduled to depart on Friday December 18, became the last saltie of the 2009 season.
The bishop's staff in the Central Great Lakes Synod watched the situation carefully and made the necessary adjustments in Bishop Thorvald "Wally" Noe-Effingway's calendar to allow for the synod's annual Blessing of the Last Saltie ritual.
BBC Italy is carrying a load of grain as it leaves Duluth.

Inherent Dignity and Worth: December 10 was International Human Rights Day and the focus this year was Non-discrimination.
One of the Human Rights Day events was a 90-minute panel discussion titled Opposing grave Human Rights Violations on the basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity sponsored by the U.N missions of Argentina, Brazil, Croatia, France, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden.
Among the panelists was Victor Mukasa of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and among the participants in the discussion was Rev. Philip J. Bené (pictured), J.C.D., Legal Attaché for the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations. In a brief scripted statement, Fr. Bené told the panel:
The Holy See also opposes all forms of violence and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons, including discriminatory penal legislation which undermines the inherent dignity of the human person.
As raised by some of the panelists today, the murder and abuse of homosexual persons are to be confronted on all levels, especially when such violence is perpetrated by the State. While the Holy See's position on the concepts of sexual orientation and gender identity remains well known, we continue to call on all States and individuals to respect the rights of all persons and to work to promote their inherent dignity and worth.

Fr. Bené's remarks were greeted with applause.
English and Spanish language video archives of the discussion are available on the United Nations web site.

Sinfully Delicious: You'll be the envy of everyone in your lectionary study group, and your Fair Trade Coffee will be sinfully delicious because you're drinking it from the Official MUG!

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Pr. Sophie is all a-Twitter. Again.
Pr. Sophie's Tweets:

    Hot Dish Hotline: "We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." What have you seen or heard that other people really need to know about? Use the Hot Dish Hotline to submit your item online.

    Still No Lutherans: Last week we reported on the U.S. Christian Leaders’ Statement on the "Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2009" Under Consideration by the Parliament of Uganda.
    At the time 66 leaders had signed the statement. A revised list was released on December 16 featuring 76 signers including Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow (Moderator of the 218th Assembly) and Rev. Gradye Parsons (Stated Clerk of the General Assembly) representing the Presbyterian Church USA.
    As of December 16, no self-identified Lutherans have signed the statement.

    Blog Gone: On December 15, an odd message with the title Announcement from ELCA News Services turned up on our feed from the ELCA News Blog. We clicked the link repeatedly but always wound up at Frank Imhoff's November 5 article ELCA saves $295,000 on health contributions in 2009.
    At first, we feared what we thought was the worst: that someone had hacked the ELCA News Blog.
    Unfortunately, we're optimists, and what had really happened was actually worse than we feared: the ELCA News Blog was a casualty of budget and staff reductions.
    Later in the day, World Faith News carried the announcement from John R. Brooks (pictured), director the ELCA News Service. The announcement read in part:
    As you know, the ELCA churchwide organization recently underwent a series of budget reductions, as well as staff reductions. Because of thoseactions, I regret to inform you that the "ELCA News Blog" has been discontinued. You are receiving this message because you are a subscriber to that service.
    There's no need to remove your e-mail address and name from the "ELCA News Blog" list. That list will remain inactive and will be discontinued as we update our Web site.
    Thank you for your loyalty to the ELCA News Service. Please contact us at if you have any questions.

    Maybe the ELCA News Blog never really caught on with a large audience, but we were always glad it was there and we'll miss it.

    For the Person Who Has Everything: Their ears always attuned to the Zeitgeist, our friends in the Central Great Lakes Synod (CGLS) (The Walk on Water Synod) are now accepting membership applications from both congregations and individuals outside the synod's geographical area. (The synod's constitution was changed this year to create the category of associate membership.)
    Interested parties can apply for membership through the synod's web site and will receive a colorful, personalized membership certificate (suitable for printing and framing) signed by Bishop Noe-Effingway himself.
    An incoherent submission from one of our less reliable far-flung reporters alleged that on Sunday December 13 Bishop Noe-Effingway himself was seen in a bar in Berkeley, California handing out freshly signed membership certificates. We are doubtful and have recommended a brief leave of absence for the reporter.

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