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The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the largest Lutheran denomination in the U.S., is considering pronouncing a statement of caution concerning genetically modified seed.

“The draft does not condemn GMOs (genetically modified organisms),” Bishop Bill Rindy told InForum. “It just says that, as we’re playing with the very building blocks of life, let’s be careful and thoughtful about that be­cause we do not want to do damage in the process.”

One parish, Anselm Trinity Lutheran Church in Sheldon, N.D., has already announced its plans to leave the ELCA over the issue. Sheldon is located in the Red River Valley, where farming with GM crops is a widespread practice.

The ELCA’s churchwide assembly will vote on this and other elements of the statement next August.

• Salem, Connecticut, would like to keep its “rural character” but lower taxes too, by attracting more local businesses. Great idea!

In a new survey, 9 out of 10 Salemites said  “the town is too dependent on residential taxes and doesn’t generate enough through commercial development.” Currently, 94% of Salem’s taxes are collected from residents, 6 percent from businesses.

A message from the Rural Assembly

The wish list sounds familiar: residents want “family restaurants, drugstores, those with a “green” focus, grocery stores, agriculture/plants, small corporate headquarters, organic restaurants, agriculture/animals and village style shops.” Salemites also say that “development must incorporate attractive building designs.”

We look forward to hearing how this plan is enacted, in Salem or elsewhere.

• On Monday, USDA announced a new loan program for rehabbing multi family homes in rural America – 30 year loans at 1 % interest.

“Rural housing is a key in keeping America’s rural towns vibrant,” said Dallas Tonsager, Undersecretary for Rural Development.  The loans will be targeted to projects that repair multi family rental properties, Tonsager said, “to make it easier for the people who work in rural America to live there, too.”

• Thousands of poor Mississippians displaced by Hurricane Katrina, especially inland residents, have not received any federal help for housing in the five years since the storm.

But a group of housing advocates kept pressing, and on Monday federal officials announced that $133 million would be dedicated to what Gerald Blessey, former Biloxi mayor, called “hard cases that were not being taken care of.”

The New York Times reports “Housing advocates have long criticized the state for not spending enough of its $5.5 billion in federal grant money on low income residents, but that criticism reached a fever pitch in 2007 when Mississippi announced it was redirecting $600 million of federal money to refurbish and expand the shipping port her

A message from the Rural Assembly

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