Don't Forget to Breathe: The Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality is scheduled for release on March 13. Synods throughout the ELCA will host hearings to collect responses to the draft. So far the earliest of the hearings will be March 27 in the Central States Synod, and the latest is October 9 (Minneapolis Area Synod). Some synods will host more than one hearing. To find out when hearings will be held in your synod, visit the synods page on the Faithful Journey web site.
Response to a Dubium:
On Feb 29, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) issued a terse response to questions (dubia) about the validity of baptisms using alternative formulas. Inquiring minds (whose we don't know) wondered if it was okay to be baptized in the name of "the Creator, and of the Redeemer and of the Sanctifier" or perhaps in the name of "the Creator and of the Liberator and of the Sustainer".
The CDF, with the approval of Pope Benedict XVI, declared that no, such baptisms were not valid, and anyone baptized with those formulas must be baptized using the forma absoluta.
If either dubious formula (apparently initiated in North America to avoid referring to the Trinity with masculine names) was used, the person is not yet formally a Christian and any subsequent sacraments the person received also are invalid, said Cardinal Urbano Navarrete in a commentary commissioned by the doctrinal congregation.
"Persons who were baptized or will be baptized in the future with the formulas in question in reality are not baptized," said Cardinal Navarrete. If such people are now adults and want to be baptized, they must receive the instruction prescribed for all preparing for baptism and they should receive baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist during the same Mass, he said. The most serious practical consequences, he said, are likely to be seen in the area of marriage where no sacrament exists if both spouses had been baptized with an invalid formula. Obviously, he added, the sacraments of confirmation and of holy orders also are invalid when conferred on people baptized with an invalid formula.
Another commentator Msgr. Antonio Miralles (a consultant to the CDF and a professor at the Pontifical Holy Cross University in Rome noted that the use of the alternative formulas could have a negative impact on ecumenism, because a common baptism is essential for Christian unity:
"All of us Christians are called to remain solidly faithful to the unity well expressed in the Letter to the Ephesians," which calls for a common profession of "one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all," he said.
View from Pew: In a comprehensive study of religion in America The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey released Feb. 25 by thePew Forum on Religion & Public Life American religious life is portrayed as "a vibrant marketplace where individuals pick and choose religions that meet their needs," and religious groups compete for members. The report is based on interviews with more than 35,000 Americans age 18 and older.
More than one-quarter of American adults (28%) have left the faith in which they were raised in favor of either another religion or no religion at all. If change in affiliation from one type of Protestantism to another is included, 44% of adults have either switched religious affiliation, moved from being unaffiliated with any religion to being affiliated with a particular faith, or dropped any connection to a specific religious tradition altogether.
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The survey finds that constant movement characterizes the American religious scene: every major religious group is simultaneously gaining and losing adherents. Those that are growing as a result of religious change are simply gaining new members at a faster rate than they are losing members. Conversely, those that are declining in number because of religious change simply are not attracting enough new members to offset the number of adherents who are leaving those particular faiths.
The Midwest most closely resembles the religious makeup of the overall population. The South, by a wide margin, has the heaviest concentration of members of evangelical Protestant churches. The Northeast has the greatest concentration of Catholics, and the West has the largest proportion of unaffiliated people, including the largest proportion of atheists and agnostics.
One striking trend the survey identifies is that the United States is on the verge of becoming a minority Protestant country; the number of Americans who report that they are members of Protestant denominations now stands at barely 51%. Moreover, the Protestant population is characterized by significant internal diversity and fragmentation, encompassing hundreds of different denominations loosely grouped around three fairly distinct religious traditions: evangelical Protestant churches (26.3% of the overall adult population), mainline Protestant churches (18.1%) and historically black Protestant churches (6.9%).
Passing On the Faith: Our synod's most recent email newsletter included a link to the website of The Association of Lutheran Older Adults (ALOA). ALOA is "the only national inter-Lutheran organization focused on identifying and serving the needs and interests of Lutheran older adults, with a focus on working with and through congregations, districts, synods and other service ministry organizations to encourage senior ministry and senior involvement locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. ALOA is "inter-Lutheran," affiliated with the ELCA and recognized as a social ministry organization of the LCMS. The group sponsors national Lutherhostel events, regional Seniorfests, travel events (pilgrimages, cruises, etc.), and educational opportunities for Lutheran seniors.
ALOA's theme for 2006-2009 is "Passing on the Faith."
There is no age requirement for members: "ALOA invites seniors and soon-to-be seniors (boomers!), congregations, social ministry organizations, synods, districts and others to share our vision of a church renewal based on effective use of the gifts, experience, and commitment of older adults"
Calvin09: July 10, 2009 marks the 500th anniversary of the birth of John Calvin, and Reformed Churches throughout the world will mark the occasion with Calvin Jubilee 2009.
Two contests in connection with the event have been announced: a hymn competition to produce an anthem for the jubilee and a sermon competition to find "the most interesting, substantial and catching sermon which hopefully offers new, surprising perspectives to Calvin’s significance today." Parish ministers and pastors in Reformed churches worldwide are invited to participate in this competition.
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