As soon as Rabbi Morris Allen was done scanning the letter inviting him to attend the Israeli Presidential Conference 2008, he tossed it into the recycling bin in his office at Beth Jacob Synagogue in Mendota Heights along with the rest of the day's bulk mailings.

He'd heard about the conference, of course. In conjunction with Israel's 60th anniversary, President Shimon Peres has called together many of the world's most influential people to discuss the future. The list includes former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. It sounded fascinating, but his calendar was way too crowded to fit in a trip.

He didn't give it another thought until his phone rang a week later.

"It was a man from the conference organizing committee asking me if I had gotten my invitation," he said. "Suddenly, I looked at that letter a little more seriously."

It turned out to be anything but a piece of junk mail. Allen had been included on Peres' hand-picked list of "thinkers and doers" invited to participate in the conference. He reworked his schedule and is flying to Israel on Sunday for the three-day conference, which starts Tuesday.

He's still somewhat taken aback by his inclusion in the group. "We're talking about heads of state," he said. "I don't think I was invited as Morris Allen. I'm convinced that the only reason I was asked is because of Hekhsher Tzedek."

That's a national program he launched to ensure that kosher food not only meets the ritual requirements of Jewish law, but also coincides with ethical business standards. According to the organization's website, the Hekhsher Tzedek (roughly translated as "justice certification") seal is given to foods "produced according to standards of fair wages and benefits, worker training, ethical corporate behavior and environmental impact."

"I'm very excited about going, but I'm more excited about the attention it will draw to Heksher Tzedek," he said. "It will be a wonderful opportunity to meet people. I'm going to go with an eye on getting some recognition for our undertaking."

Methodists, ELCA near a deal

At its general conference a week ago, the United Methodist Church voted to enter into full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), meaning that the country's two largest Protestant denominations will be allowed to support each other, including sharing clergy.

For the agreement to become official, the ELCA also must ratify it at its biannual conference next year. That's not expected to be an issue.

This is more noteworthy for the Methodists, for whom it would be the first such agreement, than the Lutherans, who already have full communion pacts with five other denominations: the Presbyterian Church, Episcopal Church, United Church of Christ, Reformed Church in America and Moravian Church.

New local author

The Rev. Leith Anderson can add a new line to his résumé: correspondent for Time magazine.

Anderson, senior pastor at Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, was asked to write an article about Eric Civian, a Harvard professor and Nobel Prize winner, and the Rev. Richard Cizik, a Presbyterian minister. The two share a passion for protecting the environment, a calling that landed them on Time's annual list of the "100 most influential people in the world."

"They each have their own worlds of acquaintances, but I'm probably one of the few people who knows both of them," explained Anderson, who is president of the National Association of Evangelicals. "Plus, I've had a lot of contact with the media" because of his presidency, so they knew how to get in touch with him.

Anderson's fellow guest correspondents in the magazine's May 12 issue range from Madeleine Albright (who wrote about Vladimir Putin) and Henry Kissinger (Chinese leader Hu Jintao) to Stevie Wonder (Mariah Carey) and Jerry Seinfeld (Chris Rock). But perhaps the most notable aspect of his article is that it was left nearly untouched by the editors, a rarity in magazine publishing.

"They didn't change much at all," Anderson said. Maybe if this religion thing doesn't work out for him, he can go into journalism.

Jeff Strickler • 612-673-7392