Coming of Age in Omaha: The 8th triennial assembly of Lutheran Men in Mission (LMM) met July 31 - August 1 in Omaha, Nebraska and elected Norman L. Smith (pictured) of Leawood, Kansas to a three-year term as president of the ELCA's men's ministry organization.
The 2008 Lutheran Men's Gathering ("Coming of Age") was held August 1 - 3 following the assembly at the Hilton Hotel and Qwest Center. Approximately 600 men attended. The "Coming of Age" theme focused on LMM's 20th anniversary, its new relationship with the ELCA and its emphasis on the spirituality of men ages 18-34.Among the featured speakers for the gathering was Tom Osborne, athletic director, University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Mr Osborne was head coach of the University of Nebraska football team from 1973 - 1997 and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000.
We do not know if the program included a discussion of the ELCA Draft Social Statement on Human Sexuality.

When Acronyms Collide: We hear there were some anxious moments among the leaders of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries (ELM) last week. It seems one of the ELM folks fielded an inquiry about an ELM event to be held September 6 in the Southwest California Synod. Diligent research turned up nothing: no one at ELM was hosting such an event.
At length, a call was placed to a local contact in the synod who explained that September 6 is the start of a new offering of foundational courses for Equipping Leaders for Mission (ELM), a two year curriculum of spiritual formation and theological and practical education for members of the synod. The courses and instructors are: Leaders for Mission: Called, Gifted, Sent ( Bishop Dean Nelson, pictured), The Bible: Cradle of Our Faith (Dr. Paul Egertson), Evangelical and Catholic: Lutheran Theology and History (Dr. Guy Erwin, and Worship as the Center of Our Life Together (Dr. Clay Schmit).

Out of State Wedlock in Massachusetts: On Thursday, July 31, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed a bill repealing a 1913 law that blocked marriage licenses from being granted to same-sex couples from out-of-state. Earlier in the week the Massachusetts House voted by a margin of 119 to 36 to repeal the 1913 statute. A similar vote to repeal the law passed the Massachusetts Senate in mid-July.
The 1913 law prohibited couples from marrying in Massachusetts if the marriage would be illegal in the couple's home state. When Massachusetts first approved same-sex unions in 2004, Mitt Romney, Governor at the time, invoked the 1913 measure in an effort to prevent Massachusetts from becoming "the Las Vegas of gay marriage."
The movement to repeal the law gained momentum after same-sex marriage (with no residency restrictions) became legal in California, and New York Gov. David Paterson decided to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.
The Catholic Action League denounced the House vote, calling it "part of a cynical strategy to inflict same-sex marriage on the unwilling citizens of other states without the consent of the electorate."

Olympic Femininity Testing: On July 27, the official Chinese news agency Xinhua reported that a sex-determination laboratory has been established to evaluate "suspect" female athletes competing in the Beijing Olympic Games. According to Prof. Tian Qinjie (pictured) of Peking Union Medical College Hospital, femininity verification tests will include an evaluation of external appearance as well as genetic, chromosomal, and hormonal tests.


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    The first Olympic sex verification tests in the 1960s required women competitors to parade nude before a panel of gynecologists. Chromosal tests were first used at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City with more advanced forms of testing following in 1992.
    In Olympic lore, the case of Hermann "Dora" Ratjen is the only known instance of a man impersonating a female athlete. In the 1936 Olympics, Mr. Ratjen, at the behest of the Nazi Youth Movement, competed in the women's high jump (he placed 4th).
    Over the years, sex verification tests have identified as men a number of athletes with genetic defects.
    In 1999, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) abolished the practice of testing of all female competitors and provided for evaluation of individual athletes by appropriate medical personnel when questions arise regarding gender identity. In 2004, the IOC established guidelines for transgendered athletes.
    Critics maintain that sex verification testing is based on an incorrect assumption that gender determination is a cut-and-dried issue. A New York Times report by Kate Thomas quoted Christine McGinn, a plastic surgeon who specializes in transgender medicine:
    It's very difficult to define what is a man and what is a woman at this point,

    Ask Pr. Sophie: Pr. Sophie Fortresson, our resident expert on all matters of theology, Lutheran etiquette, and social protocol, answers questions submitted by our readers and occasionally simply volunteers advice when no question has been asked. Send your questions to pr_sophie@lutheranconfessions.com.

    Dear Pr. Sophie: At a recent social occasion I was introduced to a young man named "Sven". He did not look Swedish (or even Scandinavian) to me, so I said "Funny, you don't look Swedish."
    "I'm not," he replied, "I'm African-American. My parents had a weird sense of humor."
    Well, I wasn't too sure he looked African-American either, but I got the feeling that maybe I'd said something wrong, and the conversation sort of died right there.
    Now where I live, I don't meet many Swedes or African Americans, or people named "Sven," and in general around here, people look like what they are and have the names you'd expect them to have. I like to think that I can talk to just about anyone, but it seemed to me that Sven took offense at something I said, and I'm not sure why. Can you give me any advice about this? Thanks, Ole Olesson

    Dear Ole: Pr. Sophie is genuinely touched by your predicament and she thanks you for writing. Not everyone is comfortable seeking advice about such situations.
    First, purely as a matter of form, it has been Pr. Sophie's experience that sentences beginning with the phrase "Funny, you don't look..." are not a useful conversational tool. This phrase says that the person you're speaking with does not meet your expectations and that perhaps you're a little anxious about that.
    Pr. Sophie suggests you reply with something less likely to alienate, like "How did you come to be named 'Sven'?"
    Beyond simple phrases that it would be helpful to avoid, however, Pr. Sophie believes you've had your first lesson in diversity and it does not seem to have been too painful an experience.
    A common misconception is that diversity cannot be appreciated by people who have no experience of it. This is not exactly true. Simply being in the presence of people whose lifestyle or culture differs from yours doesn't guarantee that you will perceive them accurately. It's appallingly easy for any of us to develop an idea about how other people "ought" to be and then to use that stereotype to avoid seeing those other people as they are. The important thing is to keep your own ideas (about Swedes or African Americans or people named "Sven") from obscuring the real people in front of you. This is not an easy thing to do, but Pr. Sophie believes you've made a good start by recognizing Sven's reaction.

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