ELCA NEWS

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Recent News Stories

ELCA news releases are detailed accounts describing events and ministires of the ELCA 

ELCA News
  • Lutheran World Federation's Augusta Victoria Hospital needs ELCA members' help

    Media reports say the United States will not continue to fund the Lutheran World Federation-operated Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem. Please call the White House hotline (202-456-1111) or write a comment in its comments submissions area to urge them to ensure there is no interruption of assistance for children and others in need of treatment for cancer and additional life-threatening diseases. This funding represents dollars already promised as part of the 2017 budget.

    Another way to help is to give today. Your gifts will be used over-and-above our church’s ongoing, annual support in order to prevent interruptions to the life-saving, critical care provided to children and other patients. Donate today.

    Prayer of Intercession:

    Look with mercy, gracious God, upon people everywhere who live with injustice, terror, disease, and death. We remember before you today the Palestinians who come for healing to East Jerusalem hospitals, including the Lutheran Hospital on the Mount of Olives. As these hospitals struggle now with keeping their doors open, send your Holy Spirit upon us and all government authorities to provide the support needed for your healing work to continue in Jerusalem; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

    - - -

    About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
    The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with more than 3.5 million members in more than 9,300 worshiping communities across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer Martin Luther.

    For information contact:

    Candice Hill Buchbinder
    773-380-2877
    Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org

  • A statement from ELCA presiding bishop addressing our call to care for creation

    Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) members pray and care for God's marvelous creation every day. We also join the global Christian community each Sept. 1 to Oct. 4 to mark the Season of Creation. This season starts with a World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation, an invitation to focus our worship, our stewardship and action on honoring God by honoring and caring for God's handiwork.

    As members of the ELCA, we share a love and a responsibility for all that God has made. In our social statement "Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice," we affirm that "made in the image of God, we are called to care for the earth as God cares for the earth. God's command to have dominion and subdue the earth is not a license to dominate and exploit. Human dominion, a special responsibility, should reflect God's way of ruling as a shepherd king who takes the form of a servant, wearing a crown of thorns." We confess the ways in which we have been negligent in our responsibility to God and to all of creation and commit ourselves to exercising our stewardship by upholding the integrity of creation and safeguarding those most vulnerable to environmental degradation.

    On this year's World Day of Prayer, I am mindful that our warming climate is creating unprecedented crises for millions. These include increased food insecurity, forced migration, natural disasters, civil conflict and water scarcity. From across all communities most affected by climate change, women and girls are disproportionately affected. According to ACT Alliance, these communities suffer huge losses that extend beyond monetary losses to noneconomic impacts such as loss of lives, land, territory, language and culture.  Our response to these losses has focused on the neglect and carelessness, both in private industry and in government regulation, that have contributed to these changes. An honest accounting also recognizes that we all participate, both as consumers and investors, in economies that make intensive and insistent demands for energy. We are part of the solution.

    In September, the ELCA will mark the Season of Creation by taking a leadership role during the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. Together with The Lutheran World Federation and other partners, we will host a Talanoa Dialogue to accompany those most affected by climate change. The U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change states: "Talanoa is a traditional word used in Fiji and across the Pacific to reflect a process of inclusive, participatory and transparent dialogue. The purpose of Talanoa is to share stories, build empathy and to make wise decisions for the collective good ... sharing of ideas, skills and experience through storytelling."

    The focus of these dialogues will be "Loss and Damage" and "Just Transition" related to climate change. The former will explore the suffering that climate change is causing right now and seek new ways to learn from and accompany those most affected. The latter recognizes that we must also accompany those whose livelihoods are dependent on extractive industries, making sure they are not left behind during the transition to renewable energy sources. These dialogues will equip us in the planetary movement toward climate solutions with initiatives that reflect God's concern for the sufficiency and sustainability of all people.

    Our ELCA ministries are making an impact as we as a church take hold of our common responsibility to creation and to God. We know that transitioning to lifestyles that eliminate the causes of global warming is critical and must be done now. In response to the 2016 Churchwide Assembly resolution "Toward a Responsible Energy Future," ELCA members answer the call to care for all of God's creation in our churches and homes through stewardship, education and advocacy. These efforts include establishing environmental stewardship committees, building awareness around energy efficiency, evaluating investments in fossil fuels, and learning more about sustainable farming and development.

    All who care for the earth and work for the restoration of its vitality can be confident in the power of the Holy Spirit to guide us as we serve in concert with God's creative and renewing power and the indwelling Spirit of Christ to give us hope, courage and direction.

    Almighty God, in giving us dominion over things on earth, you made us coworkers in your creation. Give us wisdom and reverence to use the resources of nature so that no one may suffer from our abuse of them, and that generations yet to come may continue to praise you for your bounty; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen (prayer for stewardship of natural resources, ELW p. 80).

    In Christ,

    The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton
    Presiding Bishop
    Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

     

  • Lutheran Disaster Response receives grant for Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts

    CHICAGO – Lutheran Disaster Response has been allocated up to $7.3 million from the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (National VOAD) as part of a cooperative agreement with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to support the implementation of a disaster case-management delivery mechanism for survivors of Hurricane Harvey in Texas.

    Lutheran Disaster Response is one of five National VOAD members participating in Project Comeback: Texas, a program specific to the state. Working through Lutheran Social Services Disaster Response, a ministry of Upbring, funds will be used to hire case managers to help disaster survivors access their recovery needs and identify resources, financial and other, to rebuild their homes and their lives.

    "Lutheran Disaster Response is pleased to be a part of this program that will help those impacted by Hurricane Harvey by providing disaster case-management services through our long-time affiliate, Upbring, which has many years' experience in this work. This work will assist survivors by having a person to walk with them down the long road to recovery," said the Rev. Michael Stadie, program director of Lutheran Disaster Response U.S.

    Much of the work will be focused in 10 counties, one of which includes the city of Rockport, a Texas coastal city that was one of the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Harvey.

    "Lutheran Social Services Disaster Response, a ministry of Upbring, is honored to partner with the ELCA and Lutheran Disaster Response to provide disaster case-management services for an anticipated 1,000 families along the Texas Gulf Coast that continue to feel the devastation of Hurricane Harvey," said Kurt Senske, Upbring CEO. "By joining forces with local congregations and community organizations, we will truly be serving those in need as we provide help, hope and resources to create a brighter tomorrow."

    According to a National VOAD press release, Project Comeback: Texas will be implemented by National VOAD members through their local affiliates and partners, and the direct providers will be organizations already connected to their communities, allowing for better understanding of local relationships, resources and culture. It is also expected that these organizations will hire, collectively, over 400 people – the vast majority of whom will be local hires, further contributing to the community's economic recovery.

    Many of the National VOAD consortium partners are already working in these areas and the availability of FEMA funding will allow them to expand their capacity to other areas of need and extend the length of time that they are able to provide disaster case-management services to over 12,000 households in need of further support.

     

    ---
    About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
    The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with more than 3.7 million members in more than 9,300 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer Martin Luther.

     

    For information contact:
    Candice Hill Buchbinder
    773-380-2877
    Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org

               

  • Idalia Negrón Caamaño elected bishop of the ELCA Caribbean Synod

    The Rev. Idalia C. Negrón Caamaño, San Juan, Puerto Rico, was elected June 16 to serve a six-year term as bishop of the Caribbean Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The election was held during the Synod Assembly June 15-16 at Santísima Trinidad ELC, Bayamon, Puerto Rico.

    Negrón Caamaño was elected on the fourth ballot with 61 votes to 21 votes for the Rev. Luis I. Ehandia, pastor of Del Buen Pastor in Santurce, Puerto Rico.

    From 2003 to 2015 the bishop-elect served as part-time pastor of San Pablo Lutheran Church in San Juan and part-time director for evangelical mission in the Caribbean Synod. She has served full-time in the synod since 2017.

    Negrón Caamaño received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of San Juan in 1969. She received a Master of Divinity from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago in 2003. The seminary is one of the seven ELCA seminaries.

    Negrón Caamaño will be installed Oct. 6 at Christian Church-Disciples of Christ El Señorial in Cupey, Puerto Rico.

    The Rev. Felipe Lozada-Montañez has served as bishop of the Caribbean Synod since 2007 and will retire Aug. 31.

    - - -

    About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
    The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with more than 3.5 million members in 9,300 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer Martin Luther.

    For information contact:
    Candice Hill Buchbinder
    773-380-2877
    Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org

     

  • ELCA and Portico Announce Changes to ELCA Medicare-Primary Health Benefits for 2019

    In response to the ever-changing health care landscape, the ELCA and Portico have worked together to design changes to ELCA Medicare-Primary health benefits that will take effect Jan. 1, 2019. The majority of members with these benefits will be positively affected by enhanced coverage and reduced monthly contributions, or premiums.

    Continuing a Tradition of Care
    Since its formation, the ELCA has been committed to caring for the well-being of churchworkers. Portico has overseen the ELCA's health, retirement, and other benefits since 1988, when the ministries of the Lutheran Church in America, the American Lutheran Church, and the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches merged to form the ELCA.

    At that time, the ELCA agreed to subsidize health coverage for eligible retirees and family members who participated in a predecessor church plan. The subsidies vary in amount based on several factors, including age and years of sponsored service. Currently, the ELCA subsidizes ELCA Medicare-Primary health benefits for four out of five retirees and spouses. The subsidies range from fewer than $5 to several hundred dollars per month.

    Along with the subsidies, the ELCA inherited a funding shortfall. The church has sought to close the gap through funding from the churchwide budget and by collecting a "retiree support" contribution from congregations. However, health care costs have outpaced what anyone imagined in 1988, and life expectancies have continued to grow. As a result, retirees' medical costs have increased significantly and, under the current approach, the ELCA estimates a continued shortfall.

    In 2016, the ELCA Church Council formed an ad hoc working group to recommend a plan to sustain this important care. In a video message to members, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton shared: "In response to Church Council decisions, we have worked with Portico to make changes that will reduce costs for you and our church and allow us to continue the care and networks of health care providers you count on for years to come. I am very pleased with the outcome, and I believe you will be too."

    Enhanced Coverage, Lower Costs Expected
    Effective Jan. 1, 2019, Portico has selected Humana to insure its hospital and medical benefits as a group Medicare Advantage plan. These new benefits will replace the Medicare supplement currently administered by Mercer.

    The change will affect the nearly 12,000 ELCA Medicare-Primary members, including retirees, spouses, dependents, members receiving disability benefits, and churchworkers who continue active service beyond age 65. Covering more than 8.5 million Medicare enrollees, Humana's economies of scale will help reduce the monthly amount that most ELCA Medicare-Primary plan members contribute, while preserving today's robust coverage.

    In addition, Humana will offer new wellness programs that have been requested by members, said Portico president and CEO, the Rev. Jeff Thiemann. "We are excited about the enhanced care and cost savings this change will bring for members."

    In 2019, members with ELCA Medicare-Primary health benefits will also have prescription drug coverage administered by Express Scripts and dental coverage administered by Delta Dental, the same companies serving members today.

    With this change, the ELCA Medicare-Primary health benefits will no longer cover Medicare-eligible members living outside the United States and its territories. Less than 0.1% of Portico's current membership has this coverage.

    Subsidy Change Designed to Strengthen Long-Term Viability
    Also changing Jan. 1, 2019, the ELCA Church Council has determined that subsidies will become a fixed dollar amount instead of a percentage off the monthly health contribution. The amount is expected to increase 3% per year beginning in 2020, as approved by the council.

    For most eligible members, the 2019 subsidy will start at the same dollar amount as today, with some exceptions for members whose subsidies are subject to different terms. For example, a monthly subsidy of $100 in 2018 will start at $100 in 2019 and grow by 3% to $103 in 2020.

    Because Portico expects members' monthly health contributions to decrease next year, the subsidy will actually fund a greater portion of the monthly contribution amount. As a result, most retirees can look forward to paying a lower monthly contribution in January.

    In fact, some older retirees currently receive such a large subsidy percentage that their 2019 subsidy dollar amount will exceed their 2019 monthly contribution. The excess will be applied toward those individuals' future monthly ELCA health contributions.

    It's difficult to accurately predict future health care costs, but if health care costs increase at a greater rate than the subsidy does, the portion of contribution paid by the member may increase over time.

    Portico to Share Details, Help Ensure a Smooth Transition
    Members directly affected by these changes are being contacted in July and will receive personalized details, including 2019 subsidy and contribution amounts, starting in late September. Likewise, in July Portico is sharing advance notice of these changes with members currently age 64 who will be eligible for Medicare in January.

    To help ease the change to Humana for retired members, Portico will automatically enroll them in the 2019 option that's most similar to what they have today. Just as in recent years, retired members who prefer a different ELCA Medicare-Primary option ― Economy, Standard, or Premium ― can elect it this fall during Portico's Annual Enrollment.

    Members with ELCA Medicare-Primary benefits who are sponsored, on leave from call, or disabled will also transition to the new Medicare Advantage benefits. Like today, these members will keep the Standard health benefit option in 2019. They will have a choice of options when they retire and receive subsidy details if they qualify.

    In a joint letter to members, Eaton and Thiemann described these changes as a way to better withstand the decades-long dramatic increase in U.S. health care costs. "More importantly," they said, "this new approach means the church can carry on our time-honored tradition of supporting the well-being of faithful servants."

    https://vimeo.com/278174473/171f913a8a



  • ELCA presiding bishop responds to Supreme Court decision on travel ban

    June 26, 2018

     

    Thus says the Lord: Act with justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor anyone who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the alien, the orphan, and the widow ... (Jeremiah 22:3).

    I am dismayed by the Supreme Court's recent decision concerning the president's authority to restrict travel into the United States. It applies to travelers from certain countries based on those countries' inability to provide information necessary for immigration vetting. Strong vetting procedures have already been authorized by Congress and reviews of applications for possible links to terrorism are also in place. Therefore, restricting all travelers from certain countries simply because they are citizens of those countries is deeply troubling. In the past, we have seen the sometimes horrific effects of excluding and marginalizing (or worse) whole classes of people based on their ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender identity or other characteristics.

    Our social statement, "For Peace in God's World," provides theological guidance for the church to respond by offering wise words of caution:

    Citizens need to give careful attention to how we in the United States perceive our national interest and interpret our national identity, since what states do depends in large measure on their views of their own interests and identity. Sin's power often makes itself felt in arrogant and self-righteous views of national identity, and in narrow, short-term, and absolute views of national interest.

    We expect expressions of our nation's identity to build on the best of our traditions, to respect others' identity, and to open up paths for mutual understanding. For the sake of a greater good or for reasons of conscience, citizens may need to oppose a prevailing understanding or practice of national identity and interest.

    With this court decision, we are again reaching a point where the assertion of "national security" by the executive branch of government results in the rejection of all other considerations in national policy discussions. Our social statement also reminds us: "In bondage to sin, we fall captive to fear." Jesus taught us to love one another. The social statement calls us to "a dynamic vision of difference in unity."

    In a time … when an idolatrous allegiance to one's own community endangers our oneness, we must voice with clarity the powerful vision of difference in unity. This vision calls us to engage differences, not to ignore or fear them. The hope for earthly peace challenges people to strengthen their own particular communities in ways that promote respect and appreciation for people in other communities, for all share a common humanity.

    Let us recall that all people are created in God's image and, therefore, rather than have suspicion be our assumption, let us attribute to them honor and respect as God does.

    God's peace,

    The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton
    Presiding Bishop
    Evangelical Lutheran Church in America



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