By Dennis Frado, Director of Lutheran Office for World Community
After spending many years here at United Nations headquarters in New York, I suppose I could be excused for expressing disappointment – disappointment that governments tend to give priority to their national interests instead of the global common good, disappointment that the Security Council all too often is unable to end barbarous conflicts that leave innocent civilians as casualties in their wake.
But, thinking about Lenten renewal, each year around this time I find my spirit renewed and refreshed as we welcome women — and some men — to the annual session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women. Our office is fortunate to be able to host these visitors each year with the generous assistance of the Lutheran World Federation, including our member church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
These folks do not disappoint. These people of faith – almost all Lutherans – look at the UN with fresh eyes and speak to those who would hear a word of hope and excitement about the work they are undertaking in their own contexts. They may be acting to prevent gender-based violence, holding accountable the perpetrators, seeking justice and comforting the victims of gender-based violence or telling the stories of the empowerment and resilience of rural women and girls who too often lack access to capital, education, services, health care, etc. It is the spirit, active engagement and advocacy of these sisters and brothers in Christ that renews my faith and, despite a shattered world, underscores a Christian word of hope for a better future for humankind.
By Kendrick Hall, Hunger Advocacy Fellow, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry – Minneapolis, Minn.
I am still pretty new to the Lutheran faith tradition when it comes to Lent. But I am learning that Lent is a time for education, for cleansing through fasting, and connecting with people through prayer and fellowship.
As children of God, I believe it is important to be educated. Education can come in many different forms: institutional schooling, self/home schooling, speaking with family and friends, traveling the world, and entering new environments and people. How could we not take education, seriously? I know that when I am in school I will not be educated on how to live in a country other than the United States. I may hear about other countries, but will not know what it is like to live there unless I travel. Lent to me amplifies the importance of education.
I have observed that prayer and fellowship are important during Lent season. Prayer lets us know that people need healing and reassurance. Martin Luther once said, “Prayer is a strong wall and fortress of the church; it is a goodly Christian weapon.” Education leads us to pray that we may get closer to people we would not normally be connected to or we would learn about a certain topic we may not research ourselves.
Lent also encourages us to travel into a space, to engage in learning and to look at the world with a new lens. Fellowship encourages us to forge relationship and confront the chaos. It is a time to learn and get to know someone who may live differently than you, talk differently than you, or even think differently than you. Fellowship opens our hearts and mind to appreciate one another’s uniqueness. Fellowship encourages us to learn from one another, rather than judge one another. Lent offers a space to bring these things to light.
Lastly, Lent to me is about cleansing one’s being, which includes fasting and cleansing the body but also cleansing the mind and soul. Education is important because we are limited to what we learn while in school, we are limited to what we learn from our parents and sometimes the things we learn from school or our parents are not always true. This is where we cleanse our mind, body and soul to receive a new perspective and way of life; releasing the old way that has kept us limited and closed-minded. Cleansing, I believe, is the most important part of Lent which also can come in many forms.
Lent has been short in my Lutheran life, but not in my human life. I believe these aspects of Lent have helped me deepen my work of advocacy. Lent has encouraged me to not only educate myself, cleanse, pray and commune with fellowship, but to also move into action. This fire that has guided me in wanting to move into some action has led me to being employed as one of four Hunger Advocacy Fellows with ELCA Advocacy.
Surprisingly, Lent, nourishes the work I not only do as an advocate, but what partner organizations do as well. We are educating and being educated, we are praying and communing in fellowship, and we are cleansing our minds to see how we should move forward in the work around housing, hunger and homelessness.
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it-not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it-they will be blessed in what they do.”
James 1:22-25, compels us to not only listen and learn from each other and the Word of God, but to do exactly what we have learned and been taught to do. It is up to us to do that and when we do, we are blessed.
MARCH 21, PRAY. FAST. ACT: The March day to #PrayFastAct is Wednesday, March 21! This month we focus on international programs that support women and girls overseas. Although the U.S. government has historically been a leader in funding programs that address the needs of women and girls globally, there are indications that such initiatives are in danger of being significantly reduced or eliminated.
We are all one in Jesus Christ, and, therefore, must work to dismantle structures and norms that allow gender inequality to thrive. Studies show that when women and girls are meaningfully included in all aspects of decision-making, countries are more likely to be peaceful and prosper economically. Let us take action by asking Congress to protect programs that address the needs of women and girls around the world. ELCA Advocacy and The Episcopal Church will share resources and ways to take action later this month.
CLEAN-POWER PLAN REVISION: The ELCA submitted comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on proposed state guidelines for greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants. This rule will be the replacement for the Clean Power Plan rule. We asked for a common-sense rule that is protective of the environment and considers the needs of those whose livelihoods depend on the electric generation sector.
An EPA representative responded immediately to discuss ways for collaborating on environmental justice issues. ELCA Advocacy will continue to work toward developing plans around a celebration of Earth Day.
JOIN LUTHERANS AT ECUMENICAL ADVOCACY DAYS: Now is the time to register for the 2018 Ecumenical Advocacy Days! Ecumenical Advocacy Days, an annual weekend-long conference, will be April 20-23 in Washington, D.C. This year’s gathering theme, “A World Uprooted: Responding to Migrants, Refugees and Displaced People,” will offer ELCA leaders an opportunity to worship and learn together, while honing their advocacy and organizing skills. Lutheran participants will have opportunities to connect at an ELCA reception at the Saturday evening denominational time and at our ELCA Advocacy exhibit booth. You can register for Ecumenical Advocacy Days by clicking here. We hope to see you there!
DACA: In February, the Senate voted down multiple immigration bills that would have provided a pathway to citizenship for people without legal status who were brought to the U.S. as children, also known as Dreamers. There are no current plans to bring additional legislation to the Senate or House floors before the March 5 deadline when the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program ends. However, thanks to the Supreme Court’s decision not to rule on a lower court’s decision, young people who have DACA status can continue to apply for renewal beyond the March 5 deadline.
GUN CONTROL POLICY: A number of gun control policies are being proposed from all corners in response to the deaths in Parkland, Fla. on Feb. 14, Ash Wednesday. We continue to track these efforts and are working to advance ELCA support in both legislative and public opportunities as developments unfold. In response to the ELCA Synod Bishop’s Statement of Support for participation in the March on Our Lives, we will offer a gathering opportunity for Lutherans in advance of the Washington D.C. event on March 24th. Follow our social media for details.
SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM: The Department of Agriculture released a notice of proposed rule making that would affect the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. We are soon releasing resources to support and engage Lutherans in the comment process (ends April 18) and to encourage Congress to mitigate any negative effects people in the program.Lutheran Office for World Community, United Nations, New York, N.Y.
Dennis Frado, director
GLOBAL COMPACT ON MIGRATION: Formal negotiations finally got started last month toward a Global Compact on Migration to be adopted by year’s end. Additional rounds are scheduled to occur monthly from now through July. Statements by member states on a “zero draft” put forward by co-facilitators Mexico and Switzerland varied considerably from strong affirmations of the human rights of migrants to warnings that the text not impinge upon national sovereignty or set international standards for migrants’ identification and documentation. The draft sets forth 22 proposed objectives for safe, orderly and regular migration and an outline for implementation and follow-up.
WORLD INTERFAITH HARMONY WEEK: The United Nations observed World Interfaith Harmony Week during the first week of February with midweek worship at the Church Center for the United Nations sponsored by the Committee of Religious NGOs of the United Nations.
Participants were welcomed by the Rev. Dionne Boissière, Tillman Chapel chaplain, and worship was moderated by Swami Parameshananda and Richard Jordan. Faith tradition representatives included the World Peace Prayer Society, the Holy See, Judaism, Won Buddhism, Shinto, Baha’i, the Episcopal Church, Aztec Conchera, Hinduism, Islam, Mennonites, and the Light of Awareness International Spiritual Family. A reflection was offered by Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, high representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations. Music, dance and choral song from diverse traditions rounded out the afternoon.
Mark Carlson, Lutheran Office of Public Policy loppca.org
2018 BALLOT MEASURES: The Lutheran Office of Public Policy–California endorsed the campaign for Proposition 68, a parks and water bond on the June ballot. $725 million is earmarked for parks in underserved communities. We also joined the campaign for a $4 billion housing bond on the November ballot. Several other measures on the June ballot, as well as initiatives in circulation for the November ballot, will be discussed at the March 17 Policy Council meeting.
CARE FOR CREATION: LOPP-CA joined an updated coalition letter supporting legislation to establish a fee to fund programs that provide safe, affordable drinking water to disadvantaged communities affected by contamination, drought and financial inability to build or connect to public water systems. LOPP-CA was a co-sponsor of the Green California Summit and Reception, which featured a plenary panel on the Me Too movement and sexual misconduct and discrimination and harassment (including gender identity concerns) in the Capitol community.
RACIAL JUSTICE: LOPP-CA Director Mark Carlson was invited to give the opening prayer at a birthday celebration for Rosa Parks on the west steps of the Capitol. We worked with the Belfry Lutheran Episcopal Campus Ministry to arrange for their St. Augustine lecturer, the Rev. Robert W. Lee IV, a descendant of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s family and critic of displaying Confederate monuments, to give the invocation at a Senate floor session. We also hosted a coffee for faith leaders, toured the Unity Center and classroom at the California Museum, and provided some meditative moments in the Civil War Grove in Capitol Park that has trees from sites like Arlington, Gettysburg and Appomattox.
Peter Severson, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry–Colorado lam-co.org
LUTHERAN DAY AT THE LEGISLATURE: More than 60 Lutheran advocacy leaders gathered at the Capitol on Feb. 15 for the Lutheran Day at the Legislature. Attendees met with representatives, senators or their staff. Overall, they contacted over half of our 100 legislators.Colorado Lutherans gather on the steps of the state Capitol on Feb. 15 before meeting with their legislators to talk about hunger in schools.
The group asked legislators to support Senate Bill 18-013, a bipartisan measure that would
expand an existing state subsidy for reduced-price lunches through middle school, allowing kids to receive hot meals without worrying about the copay. Many families struggle to regularly pay the copay, leading kids to receive different meals or to not eat at all. This leaves kids hungry, ashamed, and not ready to learn. The bill passed its first committee and is awaiting an appropriations hearing before going to the Senate floor.
Rocky Mountain Synod Bishop Jim Gonia addressed the attendees in the morning, lifting up the importance of “incarnational advocacy” and the value of showing up in person to give a face to human needs and concerns. “For us, advocacy is not optional,” Bishop Gonia said of the Lutheran Christian witness: “It’s in our DNA.”
Attendees also heard from state Rep. Susan Lontine about her journey into public service. “I always wanted to help people,” she said, a personal commitment that led her into public policy and ultimately to elected office.
Tammy Walhof, Lutheran Advocacy–Minnesota email@example.com
HOMES FOR ALL COALITION: Lutheran Advocacy-MN has been working with a subset of Homes for All Coalition members on our legislative agenda. Now we need your and your congregation’s help to make it a reality! Contact us for ideas, information, sample letters and talking points!
$150 million to provide Minnesotans with safe, stable and affordable housing
- $110 million in housing infrastructure bonds to create supportive rental housing, preserve housing and promote home-ownership
- $30 million in general obligation bonds to make improvements to the state’s public housing
- $10 million in the budget to prevent and end homelessness and promote affordable housing
FAITH AND CLEAN ENERGY CAMPAIGN: Lutheran Advocacy-MN with the Faith and Clean Energy Campaign is working on several non-partisan church and faith events. Would you like an event in your neck of the woods? If so, please call Tammy (651-238-6506). We need lots of action! (We need more signers on the faith campaign letter to legislators).
JRLC Day on the Hill (We are a sponsor!)
Tuesday, March 13 (8:30 a.m. – affordable housing session).
Central Presbyterian Church, St. Paul, Minn.
More information: jrlc.org/day-on-the-hill/details /
First-time attendee? Contact LA-MN to participate for free(get code)
Southwest Metro Forum on Faith and Clean Energy
Thursday, March 15, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Hosted by: Grace Lutheran Church
7800 West County Road 42, Apple Valley, Minn.
Renewing Energy: People, Planet, and Promise
Saturday, March 17, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
St. Andrews Lutheran Church
Grand Rapids, Minn.
GeoRene Jones, Coordinator for Social Justice and Advocacy Ministry NC Synod
REDISTRICTING: Energized by recent U.S. Supreme Court actions regarding redistricting cases in both North Carolina and Pennsylvania, we are encouraged for state advocacy in efforts against legislative and judicial redistricting, as well as removal of executive branch authority with respect to our State Board of Elections. ELCA Lutherans appeared at court-required public hearings, voicing strong support for discarding proposed House and Senate maps drawn with the intent to impede voting by poor and minority residents. The 2017 legislative session stripped North Carolinians of their right to a primary election for judicial candidates. Legislative leaders continue to pursue judicial redistricting efforts that remove from office elected judges and district attorneys. Through our partnership with the North Carolina Council of Churches and non-partisan voter rights groups across the state, we are increasing the prophetic witness against discriminatory practices in public policy.New Mexico
Ruth Hoffman, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry–New Mexico lutheranadvocacynm.org
2018 LEGISLATIVE SESSION: The 2018 legislative session is over, and bills are on the governor’s desk for action by March 7. LAM-NM’s work again focused on both funding and budget issues as well as legislation. There was some breathing room for the appropriations process since oil and gas prices have risen. New Mexico is overly dependent on the volatile oil and gas market, which makes state budget development very precarious. There were some increases in funding for affordable housing, child-care assistance, our state SNAP supplement, services for human trafficking victims and Medicaid. An effort to reinstate the death penalty was rebuffed as well as an effort to enact a right-to-work law. Unfortunately, the push to place a constitutional amendment that would greatly increase funding for early childhood education on the fall ballot failed to pass the Senate after passing the House. Action by the governor, who has line-item veto authority, on the state budget bill is expected during the next week.
ADVOCATING CONGREGATION: St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church in Albuquerque was recognized as an “Advocating Congregation” as LAM-NM Director Ruth Hoffman presented a certificate to the Rev. Joe Britton and Ann Donahue on Jan. 25.Ohio
Nick Bates, Hunger Network in Ohio Nick@hungernetohio.com
REDISTRICTING: Redistricting reform to May’s ballot! Please remember to vote May 8. Fair districts improve policy and foster service over political ideology. You can read our testimony here.
Ohioans will finally have the opportunity to improve the redistricting process for congressional seats. Every 10 years, states redraw congressional districts. In Ohio (and many states) the party that has legislative power can draw the districts to benefit it.
The League of Women Voters and others gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures to place their proposal on the November ballot. They accomplished this with an army of dedicated volunteers throughout Ohio. The Legislature – feeling the pressure – responded with a proposal. While the Legislature’s proposal is far from perfect, it is a much-needed improvement.
In 2001 and 2011, new data mapping software programs allowed very specific maps to be drawn to benefit one party by cracking communities into various districts. Summit County, for example, has four congressional representatives! However, Summit County (population over 500,00 0) has no congressional representative from the county.
This process is known as gerrymandering and leaves candidates more concerned about primary challengers and currying favor with national donors and their political party. Redistricting reform will help place congressional priorities back onto the district.
If passed in May, Districts will continue to be drawn by the Legislature, but they will have rules to follow that will require districts to be compact and prevent numerous divisions. The new rules will also require minority party approval.Pennsylvania
Lynn Fry, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania lutheranadvocacypa.org
ASHES TO GO: LAMPa volunteers and staff provided Ashes to Go at the state Capitol on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14. Recipients expressed their appreciation for the opportunity for prayer and dialogue. Follow this link to Tracey DePasquale’s Lenten blog.
LUTHERAN DAY 2018: Preparation for Lutheran Day, Monday, May 21, continues. Keynote speakers for this annual event include: Sen. Stewart J. Greenleaf, state Senate Judiciary chair; and Dr. Richard Alley, the Evan Pugh Professor of geosciences and an associate of the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute at Penn State.
ELCA WORLD HUNGER: Hunger leaders in the ELCA Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod are planning a retreat to re-energize and reorganize their synod hunger team. LAMPa staff is thankful to have the opportunity to assist with the planning and equipping these leaders with resources.
SYNOD ASSEMBLY: This year’s Lower Susquehanna Synod Assembly will focus on eradicating hunger one relationship at a time. Tracey DePasquale is on the planning team.
ANTI-RACISM: LAMPa staff is working to share information and support synods’ organizing trips to the upcoming anti-racism events in Washington, D.C., April 3-5. For registration and bus transportation in the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod, click here. For the Lower Susquehanna Synod, click here.Southeastern Synod
Hilton Austin, synod advocacy director for Southeastern Synod
IMMIGRATION AND APPROPRIATIONS: On Jan. 15, we joined with Lutheran Services of Georgia for a Martin Luther King Jr. service day; there were many activities that day. The synod Advocacy Team set up a room for participants to write letters to their senators and congressional representatives concerning Dream Act 2017, along with letters concerning the 2018 budget as it applies to hunger. We mailed over 300 letters.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM: On Jan. 17, we joined with Atlantans Building Leadership for Empowerment for a news conference raising awareness about poverty-based detention. On Feb. 5, thanks to the work of many partners, the Atlanta City Council voted unanimously to end poverty-based detention. On Feb. 26, several of us attended Justice Day at the Capitol. SB407 passed the same day.
WORLD HUNGER: On Jan. 20-24, three of us went to Washington, D.C., for the ELCA World Hunger Leadership Gathering and visited our senators and congressmen to talk about the farm bill.
CARE FOR CREATION: On Feb. 2-4, we joined our Green Team and others from around the country at Lutheranch for a retreat on Care for Creation offered by Lutherans Restoring Creation.
UNTIL ALL ARE FED: On Feb. 10, we held our annual advocacy gathering at Redeemer in Atlanta with a focus on connecting our work with ending hunger. Pastors Karen Slappey and Jonathan Trapp wrapped our event in worship. Most inspiring was their use of Lectio Devina with Esther 4:1-17 and the discussion that ensued. Bishop Julian Gordy joined with Pastor Jonathan on guitars, and Pastor Karen led us in singing “Until All Are Fed.” Keith Gammage, Fulton County solicitor general, was our keynote speaker and spoke to us on his approach to restotative justice. Bishop Gordy spoke about loving our neighbor being more than acts of mercy, also being acts of justice by advocating for faith-based public policy. It was also our privilege to have John Johnson join us and speak to the group. Patti Austin spoke on domestic hunger, and Pastor Jonathan shared information from the World Hunger Leadership Gathering. We had a great lunch and welcomed some of our partner organizations. Pastor Ron Bonner spoke on current criminal justice issues. We closed with communion and “Christ Be Our Light.”
HUMAN TRAFFICKING: On Feb. 20, several of us attended the 2018 Anti-Sex Tafficking Lobby Day and talked with our state senators and representatives about proposed legislation. HB732 passed in the House on Feb. 23. HB293 passed on Feb. 27. Sb337 passed the Senate on Feb. 26Wisconsin
Cindy Crane, Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin loppw.org
CO-LEADING ON ADVOCACY: In February, LOPPW’s director co-led the second of two advocacy workshops with Bishop Gerald Mansholt. Bishop Mansholt focused on refugees, immigration and advocacy. The director used LOPPW’s new advocacy resource to discuss steps congregations can take to do advocacy. Between the Appleton and Waupaca trainings, more than 50 new participants were trained to be advocacy leaders in their congregations.
The Rev. Dione Miller added to the February event in Waupaca by talking about the power of stories. The director also met with the Global Missions in the East-Central Synod of Wisconsin team and a synod staff to discuss next steps.
NOW AVAILABLE ONLINE: Our Church Our World: Partnering with God’s Mission
Media on LOPPW’s response to the proposed welfare reform included Advisory Council member Deb Martin’s letter to the editor published in Oshkosh and an interview with the director for a La Crosse radio station.
We also addressed a trafficking bill by contacting our constituents in two assembly districts and a bill related to wetlands.
By John Johnson, Director of Domestic Policy
I recently came across a meme on social media that made me think about this Sunday’s Gospel (John 2:13-22). The meme is an icon of Jesus Christ, whip-in-hand, chasing the money changers out of the temple. The heading reads, “If anyone asks you ‘what would Jesus do?’ This scene contains one of the most striking and animated depictions of Jesus of Nazareth cleansing the temple, written in three of the four Gospels. It is a reminder that flipping over tables and chasing people with a whip is within the realm of possibilities.
In John’s version, Jesus demands that the dove sellers “Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!”. John’s account stands out for how Jesus brings attention to both the sacredness of the temple and the foretelling his own death and resurrection:
“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking of the temple of his body.”
These accounts show three distinct threads. The first thread is “out of the mouth of babies.”, the second is the body as a “temple.” And the third is “Angry Jesus.”
I can apply these threads to the tragic events on Ash Wednesday (February 14, 2018) when Nicholas Cruz entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and used a legally purchased AR-15 assault rifle shot and killed 17 students and teachers and wounded 14 others. The worst high school shooting in U.S. history and desecration of a safe place of learning and development for the future our country, our world and the church.
With breathtaking speed and results, the students in the Parkland, FL community have effectively organized and are making their newly claimed voices heard on local and national platforms. Marches in Washington, DC and communities across the nation are being organized by these advocates. People across the country are dedicating financial support to these efforts. Policy makers are using the momentum that these young voices have galvanized to help push for better gun control policy. Corporations are quickly distancing from the National Rifle Association (NRA), while these survivors face death threats for taking a stand.
Gun violence occurs daily. Mass shootings are a part of our history and our reality, and yet here stand these passionate voices; young survivors who push forward unafraid and hopeful for successful change for all. I think Jesus understood the fragility and sacred nature of being human. I think that was God’s intention in becoming truly human: to live and die as one of us, to celebrate and mourn all that life offers, to find joy, experience pain and sadness, and sometimes to be angry.
This church, Christians, people of faith and secular citizens watch with dismay at the staggering and preventable loss of life due to gun violence in our country.
- On an average day, 96 Americans die due to gun violence—seven are a child or teenager.
- 62 percent of gun deaths in the US, are suicides.
- In an average month, 50 women are shot to death by intimate partners in the U.S.
- Black men are 13 times more likely than non-Hispanic white men to be shot and killed with guns.
- On average there are nearly 13,000-gun homicides a year in the U.S. (Everytown for Gun Safety)
It is sobering… and it makes me angry, and maybe you are too.
A Jesus kind of angry.
A Jesus fashioning a whip of cords angry.
A Jesus chasing the money changers out of the temple angry.
A Jesus with a “zeal for your house will consume me” kind of angry.
A Jesus taking a stand where others do not kind of angry and passion not unlike the young people we see taking a stand today kind of angry.
For many years, I taught Sunday School to teenagers just like the ones who experienced gun violence in Florida last Ash Wednesday. What would I say to them if I could? I find myself compelled to confess and to apologize.
I confess my failure to do all in my power to protect so many of you in my care from the gun violence that has plagued our society for many years. I have expressed my grief of the senseless loss of life time and again, in particular, the murders of innocent students at Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook and now Stoneman Douglas along with countless lesser-known school shootings too numerous to count.
I am sorry for this, and I am sorry that our elected officials have failed to hear calls for common sense gun control efforts that provide protection for you and for all community members from those intent on using lethal weapons to kill and maim.
I hear your cries and pleas for action. I support, validate and “bless” your claiming of your voices to urge our society and our elected officials to respond where I and others have failed. I encourage you to organize, to march, to bear witness, to tell your stories and to vote or encourage others to vote if not yet eligible.
I commit to support you as you demand action and I pray for your safety, wisdom and vigilance. I also, give thanks to a generous and gracious loving Creator for each of you. Be bold. Thank you for your courage.
These forty days of Lent began with a tragic reminder of the fragility and precious nature of our being created by God. Angry Jesus reminds us that we can do something about it. The children are showing us the way.
By Elena Robles, Hunger Advocacy Fellow
This is the first year that I’ll be partaking in a Lenten discipline, as a part of exploring the many ways in which I can deepen my faith and understanding of Jesus. In being as transparent with myself as possible, I welcome this time before spring arrives to brush off some of the spiritual lethargy that I have allowed to set in. It’s easy for me to become consumed by the injustices of this world- systemic violence, wars, the persecution and rejection of many of our neighbors. While I do see empathy as an expression of my spirituality, it can be limiting when action is not coupled with it.
Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”(New Living Translation, John 7: 37-38)
Jesus offers us the opportunity for a deeper transformation and deeper access to the divine fountain. Lent can serve as an opportunity to awaken to our shortcoming, our complacencies to violence, and can push us into a deeper connection between ourselves, our communities, the world and the divine. Personally, my lesson during this season is to focus on deepening my spiritual practices beyond merely being a witness in this world. Deepening faith will help me to live into what theologians like Kelly Brown Douglas refers to as the moral imagination:
“With a moral imagination one is able to live proleptically, that is, as if the new heaven and new earth were already here. This means one’s life is not constrained by what is. It is oriented toward what will be.”-Kelly Brown Douglas, Stand your Ground
We are capable of living out a world where the dignity of black and brown lives is valued, where violence is not a worry for children anywhere,and where the environment is not exploited. We are capable of building a better world, one that acknowledges our short comings and yet seeks more. Moral imagination is this and more, it dares us to have vision, commitment, and to find redemption. I know that in all of this, I need to work towards an inward transformation. I’m seeking to build a better relationship with God, so that while I can practice deeply listening, I can equally trust in the spirit to move us toward action.
Yesterday, Feb. 15, the Senate failed to pass legislation to protect young Americans without legal status, called Dreamers, from deportation. We are disappointed that politics got in the way of passing sensible and compassionate policy to provide a pathway to citizenship for young people who are incredible assets to our congregations and communities. We pray today for those young people and families who face an uncertain future and reinstate our call for Lutherans to be engaged with those young people locally and through advocacy on their behalf. Our voice as people who express our faith by seeking a more just world for all of God’s children is more important than ever.
Since this administration announced the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), Lutherans have sent out over 1,300 messages and made phone calls to their members of Congress in support of legislation to protect Dreamers. The advocacy of the faith community has been key in ensuring that trafficking protections for children are not taken away as a compromise to pass legislation.
We were dismayed to see yesterday some senators vote for the Secure and Succeed Act, which would take these protections away and would make it harder for families legally present in the U.S. to be together. As members of Congress head to their districts for recess next week, our voices must be strong and unwavering in the face of the administration’s March 5 deadline to end DACA. Continue to follow our social media and connect with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service for updates and action opportunities.
By Tracey Depasquale, Director, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania (LAMPa)
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Psalm 51: 1-3
All advocacy must begin with confession.
It is a reminder I repeat to myself daily, if not hourly, in this work – that I am not blameless in whatever wrong I would right. The fear and violence, the racial and ethnic injustice, the economic and educational inequity, the wasting of resources, the polluting of the earth, the tendency to demonize those with whom I vehemently disagree or to interpret someone else’s actions in a less than charitable light. In failing at times to see the others all around me who are struggling mightily toward the same goals, and at other times, in failing to see the value in what I bring to the table. In all these things, I am guilty – by what I do and by what I leave undone, by what I say and by what I leave unsaid.
And then, like David, I remember I have nowhere to turn but to God, who is daily inviting me to do just that.
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.” Psalm 51:10-12.
That it is an appropriate way to begin the work of seeking justice and peace in a hurting world is made beautifully visible on Ash Wednesday.
Here, at the start of Lent, we give special attention not only to our mortality and our brokenness, but to God’s entry into both of those for the sake of love. The ashes of death and despair are transformed by the death and resurrection of Christ into newness of life. As Paul tells the Corinthians, this is for us right here and now.
“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-19
This changes everything. Daily. Not only has God reconciled us to God’s self in Christ, but we are given the ministry of reconciliation. Freed in Christ, we are to called to participate in what God is doing in the world. To be reconciled to God is to be reconciled to one another, to become engaged in God’s ongoing activity to redeem and bless the world. Our advocacy is rooted in this.
This will be the third year that Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania has organized ashes-to-go at our state capital. It began as a way to help the Lutheran churches closest to the Capitol building offer imposition of ashes to those who serve in state government, many of whom are away from their families and faith communities on Wednesdays. Along with prayers and anointing, those who stop are given handouts with prayers and a list of opportunities for nearby mid-week Lenten observances. Ashes-to-go immediately grew into an interdenominational event.
To walk about on Ash Wednesday with the mark of the cross on our foreheads is a very public expression of our faith, our brokenness and redemption. Although I cannot see the cross on my own forehead, I cherish the scent of the oil all day as a reminder of God’s very real presence in my everyday life, constantly redeeming and healing and leading me into that same work.
It is a mark at once both confessing and professing. I have wished many times that more days could be like Ash Wednesday, particularly in our capitals. I have wished that we could meet each other confessing our brokenness, that we could breathe in the delicious scent of grace clinging to us like perfumed oil, that we might be reminded of our mortality by the ashes falling lightly on our lashes and see one another through the cross of Christ, whether we are wearing one on our forehead or not.
Of course, God is present and about the work of blessing and redeeming in all places and times. But on Ash Wednesday, it is fitting for the church to be publicly present where our elected representatives and their staffs go about the businesses of shaping not only how we will all live together in our mutual home during our mortal lives, but what we will leave behind for those to come.
And so, when a reporter asks why we provide ashes-to-go at the Capitol, the answer is not just about an act of personal piety in a public space. The answer is one of hope. In such a time of division, distrust and despair in our public life, the anointing with ashes to mark the beginning of Lent might serve as a reminder of what we have in common – our mortality, our need for repentance, and the steadfast love and abundant mercy of a God who promises newness of life that is to be shared with all people.
I never saw that newscast, but tens of thousands did. It wasn’t done for the camera, but the camera caught something beautiful, as attested to by the comments left on Facebook and email. When I went to worship that evening, several people approached me with surprise that I was on television. One friend was startled to hear my voice in her kitchen as she was preparing dinner.
She hadn’t planned to come to church, she said, but it sounded like an invitation from God. Indeed, by grace, it was, and is.
STATE OF THE UNION & ADVOCACY PRIORITIES: On Tuesday, Jan. 30, President Trump addressed our nation and introduced this administration’s major priorities for 2018. The annual State of the Union speech provides an opportunity for Americans to learn about the policies our president hopes to focus attention on in the upcoming legislative year. In response to this important moment, ELCA Advocacy presented our public policy priorities for 2018.
The ELCA Advocacy policy action agenda focuses the work of the Washington, D.C., office on current issues central to sustaining a just world where all are fed. Issue selection is based on many factors, starting with prayerful consideration of God’s vision for a more just world. Issue agendas are based on concerns that the ELCA has identified and spoken about through social statements, churchwide assembly memorials or other authoritative documents. You can read more at the ELCA Advocacy Blog.
JANUARY HUNGER LEADERSHIP GATHERING: On Jan. 23, approximately 150 Lutheran hunger leaders from across the nation gathered on Capitol Hill to advocate for policies and provisions in the 2018 farm bill. Reauthorized roughly every five years, the farm bill determines far-reaching rules that affect food assistance and agricultural development, research, land usage, farm and energy production – both in the U.S. and abroad.
Lutheran leaders held over 130 visits with congressional offices in which they called on Congress to support comprehensive solutions that affirm Lutheran values and shared stories about ways their ministries and local communities are affected by policies in the farm bill. Lawmakers are debating early drafts of the bill now, and this month is a critical time for action! Advocates can reach out to their members of Congress at the ELCA Action Center.
FEB. 21, PRAY. FAST. ACT: The February day to #PrayFastAct is Wednesday, Feb. 21! This month, we are mindful of the injustices levied upon American Indians and Native Alaskans. There are approximately 1.9 million American Indians and Alaska Natives whose ancestors have ceded millions of acres of land that has made the United States what it is today and who also were, and are, subjected to various forms of physical and social injustices. As Lutherans, we have an obligation to work, pray and give to respond to and end those injustices. Resources and a shared statement from ELCA Advocacy and The Episcopal Church will come later this month.
BUDGET UPDATE – GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN: Earlier last month, the federal government shutdown for three days after Congress failed to meet a spending deadline. Shortly after the shutdown began, ELCA Advocacy shared a statement with lawmakers encouraging a way forward on important issues.
Though Congress passed a temporary stopgap measure to keep the government open for several weeks, lawmakers will need to pass a new spending deal by Feb. 8. Faith advocates can reach out to their representatives on top budget priorities at the ELCA Action Center and through action alerts focused on the “For Such a Time as This” campaign.
THE MIGRANT JOURNEY THROUGH AMMPARO: Alaide Vilchis Ibarra, program director for migration policy; Mary Campbell, program director for AMMPARO; Stephen Deal, regional director for Central America; and David Wunsch, director for unit operations and programs in Global Mission, traveled to Guatemala and Mexico alongside members from companion churches and partners implementing AMMPARO programs. The delegation followed a common migrant route taken by Central American children and families in Guatemala and the southern border of Mexico.
The trip focused on learning more about the services and gaps for Central American children and families, and asylum seekers in Mexico, and making connections with existing organizations to ensure the protection of children and families. The delegation met with civil society, government officials and representatives of international organizations. We confirmed that the number of people seeking asylum in Mexico continues to go up.Lutheran Office for World Community, United Nations, New York, N.Y. Dennis Frado, director
SYMPOSIUM FOCUSES ON MIGRATION – DISPLACEMENT AND MARGINALIZATION, INCLUSION AND JUSTICE: The Fourth Annual Symposium on the Role of Religion and Faith-Based Organizations in International Affairs was held at the United Nations on Jan. 22, organized by the ACT Alliance, the General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church, the General Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists, and the World Council of Churches.
The symposium focused on migration: displacement and marginalization, inclusion and justice. Since its inception in 2015 the symposia have discussed human dignity and rights; prevention of atrocity crimes and violent extremism; and just, inclusive and sustainable peace.
The tone was set as U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed welcomed approximately 250 participants and said that 2018 offers an excellent opportunity to ensure that migration is undertaken in a safe and orderly manner as the United Nations negotiates global compacts for migrants and refugees. Mohammed urged faith-based organizations to be involved in this process however possible. She noted that she comes from the Fulani tribe, a group widely dispersed in the Sahel and West Africa, pointing out that “refugees and migrants are not the other; they are us.”
The Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, World Council of Churches general secretary, asked, “What does it mean to be a human being in the world today?” ACT Alliance General Secretary Rudelmar Bueño de Faria said faith-based organizations need to focus on the person and reminded participants that migration itself is not a problem – “What does need fixing is the continued violation of the human rights of migrants.”
CHILDREN’S RIGHTS IN RELATION TO PROPOSED COMPACTS: UNICEF hosted a half-day consultation on Jan. 23 to explore children’s rights in the Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Compact for Migration.
Dennis Frado shared perspectives provided by the experiences of several Lutheran World Federation’s (LWF) country programs including Kenya, South Sudan, Uganda, Myanmar, Central African Republic, Cameroon and Colombia. To protect and assist unaccompanied and separated children in refugee and internally displaced situations, LWF has partnered with UNICEF, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), other non-governmental organizations and host governments to set up child-protection and education programs. Using a community-based approach, LWF builds the capacities of foster parents, teachers, care-givers and community members to understand and protect child rights as well as strengthen mechanisms for prevention and response to rights violations.
LWF works with UNHCR and host governments in welcoming and receiving asylum seekers, including the provision of first-line services by managing transit and reception centers, including registration and identifying specific vulnerabilities and capacities among the affected populations.
In addition to providing basic education at two refugee camps in Kenya and six camps in South Sudan, incentives there promote the enrollment and regular attendance of girls, given the numerous barriers to girls’ education. Another focus is on accessibility for and inclusion of physically challenged youth to education. Malnutrition, child health and regular attendance concerns are addressed through school feeding programs.California Mark Carlson, Lutheran Office of Public Policy loppca.org
ELCA HUNGER LEADERS GATHERING: A highlight for January was the ELCA World Hunger Leaders Gathering in Washington, D.C., with about a dozen people from the three synods that cover California, including two students from California Lutheran University. “A Day on the Hill” included delegation meetings with staff for senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, and a number of meetings and drop-in visits with California’s large House delegation. Farm bill reauthorization was the focus, and a primary emphasis was on the food-aid provisions, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.Colorado Peter Severson, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry–Colorado lam-co.org Sophia and Peter on Capitol Hill
at the World Hunger Leaders Gathering
LEGISLATIVE SESSION UNDERWAY: The Colorado General Assembly convened on Jan. 10. In the first three weeks of the session, several bills have been introduced that Lutheran Advocacy Ministry-Colorado is supporting. These include:
- HB 18-1001, Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act: This bill establishes a paid family leave program for workers in Colorado.
- SB 18-005, Rural Economic Advancement of Colorado Towns Act: This bill creates a coordinator to assist rural counties in Colorado in recovering from major job-loss events or disasters.
- SB 18-010, Residential Lease Copy and Rent Receipt: This would require landlords to provide a written copy of the lease to tenants, as well as written receipts for rent payments made by cash, check or money order.
- SB 18-013, Expand Child Nutrition School Lunch Protection Act: This bill expands access to a state subsidy for children who qualify for a reduced-price lunch to receive free lunch instead, adding children in middle schools up to eighth grade.
ELCA WORLD HUNGER LEADERS GATHERING: Several Lutheran anti-hunger advocates from Colorado joined the Hunger Leaders Gathering in Washington, D.C., in January. The delegation met with staffers from Sen. Michael Bennet, Rep. Jared Polis, Rep. Ed Perlmutter, and Rep. Ken Buck, as well as with Sen. Cory Gardner.New Mexico Ruth Hoffman, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry – New Mexico lutheranadvocacynm.org
2018 BISHOP’S LEGISLATIVE LUNCHEON & ISSUES BRIEFING: This year’s event began in the morning with about 160 advocates from around New Mexico gathering to learn about issues included in the 2018 LAM-NM Advocacy Agenda and that are being considered in the current legislative session. Advocates were from ELCA congregations as well as from Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, and United Church of Christ congregations. Breakout sessions included “Negative Impacts of Taxing Food” and “Health Care in NM: Opportunities & Challenges in 2018 and Beyond.” In the morning, Bishop Jim Gonia spoke about “incarnational advocacy.”Members of St. Timothy accept award
During the luncheon, St. Timothy Lutheran Church in Albuquerque was recognized with the Haaland Advocacy Award. State Sen. Bill O’Neill and state Rep. Alonzo Baldonado were honored as Legislators of the Year for their work on “Ban the Box” legislation. Bishop Gonia “connected the dots” of Luther’s explanation of the Ten Commandments with service to our neighbors through advocacy. Following the luncheon, about 25 advocates visited the capitol to talk with legislators and become familiar with the building.Pennsylvania Tracey DePasquale, Lutheran Advocacy–Pennsylvania lutheranadvocacypa.org
ELCA WORLD HUNGER: Eleven hunger leaders from across Pennsylvania, accompanied by LAMPa staff, participated in the ELCA World Hunger Leaders Leadership Gathering Jan. 21-24. More than 150 leaders from across the country gathered in Washington, D.C., where they learned about the root causes of hunger, shared stories of their ministries, and advocated for the farm bill with their members of Congress.
P.A. BUDGET: The Pennsylvania Legislature begins its process of working with the proposed annual state budget that Gov. Tom Wolf presents on Feb. 6. LAMPa has been working with partners to prepare requests for the governor’s budget proposal. We will continue to monitor the process and share alerts with constituents as budget formulation continues.Volunteers and LAMPa staff advocated for the farm bill with senators’ and representatives’ staffs.
ASHES-TO-GO: For the third year, LAMPa is organizing Ashes-to-Go at the Capitol. Ecumenical partners are invited to assist in offering prayers and imposition of ashes for those who wish to receive. LAMPa’s network is encouraged to invite their lawmakers and staff to participate since many will not be in their home communities for Ash Wednesday.
LUTHERAN DAY 2018 “Let Justice Roll Down Like Waters”: State Sen. Judiciary Chair Stewart Greenleaf will be the keynote speaker at LAMPa’s annual day of advocacy on May 21. LAMPa will recognize Greenleaf for his many years of service and for being a champion of criminal justice reform.
FORGOTTEN LUTHER II: Staff attended the second Forgotten Luther Symposium, Jan. 19-20 in Washington, D.C., along with their State Public Policy Office colleagues.
Washington Paul Benz, Faith Action Network fanwa.org
STATE POLICY UPDATE: FAN’s Interfaith Leadership Council had its annual session meeting with the governor. Fourteen faith leaders, including two ELCA bishops, two Muslim leaders, a Rabbi, and a leader each from the United Church of Christ, the United Methodist Church, American Baptist Church, and Quaker community, discussed five policy issues: criminal justice, racial justice, the environment, the supplemental budget, and poverty. We are very pleased that two racial equity bills are now heading to the governor’s desk: Breakfast After the Bell (BAB) and the Voting Rights Act (VRA). The BAB will increase access to breakfast for kids of color and help improve their test scores. The VRA will enfranchise communities of color in our state by transitioning to a district voting system from an at-large voting system. The status of bills on our legislative agenda can be found on our Bill Tracker.Interfaith leaders met with Gov. Jay Inslee
and two members of his staff.
INTERFAITH ADVOCACY DAY: Our annual advocacy day in the state capital will be Feb. 20; see a flyer. We will also host an advocacy day on the other side of our state, in Yakima on Feb. 10. These days follow the success of our regular legislative conference in Spokane, where we did a joint presentation with the Catholic Conference for over 160 advocates.
ELCA D.C. HUNGER CONFERENCE: Paul Benz represented FAN at the D.C. Hunger Conference this year and had a great time guiding the eight-member Washington delegation around to visit eight offices of our congressional delegation, including a meeting with Sen. Maria Cantwell and two of her staff on the farm bill, DACA and other related budget issues.Wisconsin Cindy Crane, Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin loppw.org
CO-LEADING ON ADVOCACY: The director led the first of two advocacy conferences with Bishop Gerald Mansholt in the East Central Synod. Bishop Mansholt focused on advocacy, immigration and refugees. The director focused on how to create an advocacy ministry in congregations using several exercises from the new LOPPW resource, “Our Church Our World: Partnering in God’s Mission.”
The director also co-led a workshop with an advisory council member, Lisa Hassenstab (left), on another one of our relatively new resources, a devotional on the social statements, as part of introducing advocacy into a congregation.
CONFERENCES IN WASHINGTON D.C.: The director accompanied other Wisconsinites to the offices of two senators and two representatives (right, Sen. Ron Johnson’s office) to advocate for a healthy farm bill as part of the ELCA World Hunger event. The director also attended the Forgotten Luther II symposium.
BILLS: Authors Sen. La Tonya Johnson and Rep. Jill Billings (left) of an anti-trafficking bill LOPPW has supported for a few years attend its second public hearing. The bill finally has traction.
ELCA Advocacy presents our public policy priorities for 2018. This policy action agenda focuses the work of the Washington, D.C., advocacy office on current issues central to God’s vision of a just world where all are fed.
ELCA Advocacy invites you to live out your baptismal identity through participation in opportunities to learn and act with and on behalf of your neighbor with the ELCA Advocacy network. The agenda outlines our primary areas of focus and is flexible enough to accommodate responses to emerging legislation that address disaster response or immediate circumstances.
How do we determine advocacy priorities?
Issue selection is based on many factors, starting with prayerful consideration of God’s vision for a more just world. Issue agendas are based on concerns that the ELCA has identified and spoken about through social statements, churchwide assembly memorials or other authoritative documents. Priorities reflect issues on which the ELCA can have a unique and decisive impact with the federal government.
Advocacy priorities carry forth the vision of ELCA World Hunger to support transformative, integrated and wholistic ministry where barriers are broken down and inequalities decreased and where relationships and communities are whole and flourishing – a just world.
- Integrated – advocacy priorities connect with and reinforce other ELCA churchwide priorities and initiatives.
- Wholistic – advocacy action is informed by ministry experience of congregations and ministries in the ELCA, with particular attention to the concerns of ethnic-specific ministries, global-ministry partners and goals of racial and gender justice.
- Transformative – advocacy initiatives provide engagement opportunities to inform and transform individuals, ministries and congregations in their walk of faith by embracing charity and justice.
Advocacy priorities are shaped, when possible, by the joint commitment to action with faith partners or coalitions. Priorities also build on the available opportunity created by Congress’ agenda. Lastly, there must be sufficient support from the ELCA Advocacy network so that this vital work is amplified through local faith-leader advocacy in districts and local communities.2018 ELCA ADVOCACY PRIORITIES
From rural America to developing countries, many of our nation’s food and farm policies, as embodied in the farm bill, impact our communities. Programs and policies that curb hunger and malnutrition, support vibrant agricultural economies in rural communities, and promote the sustainable use of natural resources must be prioritized.
Thousands of children and families from Central America continue to flee their communities due to violence, lacking protections in their home country, hunger and poverty, and environmental degradation. As a church, we envision a world in which children and families are never forced leave their homes to live a safe and a sufficient life. To do this, we advocate for policies that address the root causes of migration. At the same time, we call for the immediate protection of displaced people, including those who have been members of our communities for years but lack legal status.
CARE FOR CREATION:
Environmental degradation disproportionately impacts the marginalized and the vulnerable, exacerbating issues of poverty and hunger. These issues manifest themselves in social areas such as gender, racial, economic and environmental injustices. ELCA Advocacy will raise awareness of the impact of environmental degradation, support environmental and energy literacy, and help congregations and church leadership understand what can be done to steward God’s creation.
JUST TRANSITION TO RENEWABLE ENERGY:
The transition away from fossil fuels will mean changes in the economic livelihood of individuals, families and communities directly and indirectly dependent upon this industry. This transition must include comprehensive planning that incorporates methodologies on how we get from where we are today to where we need to be.
Homelessness and the lack of affordable housing continue to be systemic issues that affect many people in our communities. Investments in affordable housing and rental assistance provide stability that can help families overcome serious barriers, such as affording better health care and education, reducing food insecurity, and recovering after natural disasters.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM:
The United States has the largest prison population in the world. Many incarcerated men and women who commit non-violent drug offenses are sentenced to harsh and unjustly long prison terms. These policies result in considerably high prison populations and disparities in sentencing for drug offenses, disproportionately affecting communities of color. Legislation that reforms sentencing and provides resources for returning citizens will directly reduce recidivism rates and prison populations.
MEDICAID, MEDICARE AND SOCIAL SECURITY:
Congress and the administration may embark on efforts to dismantle three critical safety-net programs that have existed for over 50 years. Medicaid is the largest health insurance program in the U.S. that serves the poorest families and individuals. Medicare was created in 1965 to provide health care coverage for individuals aged 65 and older. Social Security provides monthly cash benefits to retired or disabled workers and their family members, and to the family members of deceased spouses or parents.
CHILD NUTRITION PROGRAMS:
In 2016 the law that makes possible many child nutrition programs like the School Breakfast, National School Lunch, Summer Food Service, and the Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC) expired. While these programs continue to receive annual funding, the opportunity to expand and innovate these hunger programs awaits congressional action.
U.S. foreign assistance plays a critical role in the fight against extreme poverty. Due to federal budget constraints and internal program realignments within our government, international development and humanitarian programs are increasingly in danger of being defunded or eliminated. For many families around the world, such steps would leave them without the support they desperately need. We must continue to raise our voices to ensure that all God’s children are cared for.
Every year, 1 in 3 women experiences gender-based violence globally. The U.S. government can play a leading role in addressing this issue, given its footprint in many parts of the world.
Many countries continue to experience civil conflicts, and prevention of mass atrocities remains a big challenge around the world. The U.S. government can play an important role in peace processes, conflict prevention and the promotion of human rights. The ELCA’s new social message on human rights gives us new ways of speaking about these issues and will help us promote equal rights of all people through advocacy and other ministries.Your ELCA Advocacy Washington, D.C. staff
Your ELCA Advocacy staff in Washington, D.C. works on these priorities throughout the year. They are issue experts and recognized leaders in the faith advocacy community. They attend briefings, research issues, strategize with coalitions, consult with ELCA members, engage ELCA leaders, visit congressional offices, and create platforms for the voices of our communities to be heard.
The Rev. Amy Reumann, director, advocacy
Jackie Maddox, office manager
Patricia Kisare, program director, international policy
Ruth Ivory-Moore, program director, environment and energy policy
Alaide Vilchis Ibarra, program director, migration policy
John Johnson, program director, domestic policy
Tia Freelove Kirk, program director, advocacy engagement
Andrew Fuller, advocacy coordinator
Elena Robles, ELCA Hunger Advocacy Fellow
To contact these staff members directly, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the wake of the current impasse that has caused a shutdown of the federal government, ELCA Advocacy calls on Congress and Administration to do their jobs by passing and enacting legislation that resolves critical issues. Failing to fund our U.S. government, re-authorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and find a permanent solution for Dreamers who are losing protection affects the lives of Americans in every community across this land.
Political posturing by elected leaders on both sides of the aisle at the expense of the lives of real people is inexcusable. We call on our nation’s lawmakers to find a way forward on these important issues that care for the health of children, grant young Dreamers a pathway to citizenship and keep the federal government open and funded to perform its vital functions.
As Lutherans, we believe that “God works through the family, education, the economy, the state, and other structures necessary for life in the present age. God institutes governing authorities, for example, to serve the good of society. This church respects the God-given integrity and tasks of governing authorities and other worldly structures, while holding them accountable to God” (ELCA Social Statement, The Church in Society: A Lutheran Perspective).
We urge our elected representatives to come together to pass legislation that serves all our communities. We must leave no one behind.
ELCA advocacy works for change in public policy based on the experience of Lutheran ministries, programs and projects around the world and in communities across the United States. We work through political channels on behalf of the following biblical values: peacemaking, hospitality to our neighbors, care for creation, and concern for our brothers and sisters living in poverty and struggling with hunger and disease. Learn more at ELCA.org/Advocacy.
#FOR SUCH A TIME: The January day to #PrayFastAct is Sunday, Jan. 21! This month, we are mindful of major programs that help curb poverty, namely Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, and the good they provide for those in the greatest need. People of faith have been champions and voices of support for anti-poverty programs for decades, which continue to serve as a backstop to ensure a minimum level quality of life and security. Be on the lookout for a shared statement from ELCA Advocacy and the Episcopal Church later this month!
HUNGER AND THE FARM BILL: Lutherans from across the country will travel to Washington, D.C., in January for the annual ELCA World Hunger Leadership Gathering to discuss and take action to address the impact of hunger in communities.. The event occurs as lawmakers begin to discuss reauthorizing the Farm Bill, legislation that sets critical agricultural, conservation, energy, rural and hunger policies. While hunger leaders meet with their lawmakers on January 23, ELCA Advocacy will encourage our national advocacy network to stand in solidarity with these advocates by contacting Congress via the Advocacy Action Center.
RENEWING CHIP HEALTH CARE: On Sept. 30, 2017, Congress failed to reauthorize funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which helps provide critical medical care for children in low-income families. With reserves running low, states are beginning to limit coverage to basic, quality health insurance coverage, putting some 9 million children across our country at risk. Shortly before Christmas, ELCA Advocacy shared an action alert encouraging lawmakers to renew the program and sustain health care for the many children who need essential care. As Congress continues to debate a final spending extension, this month is a critical time for advocates to reach out to their lawmakers.
TEMPORARY PROTECTED STATUS: The Administration ended Temporary Protected Status (TPS), an immigration status meant to protect citizens from other countries present in the U.S. when a tragedy strikes in their country, for Salvadorans in early January. This decision affects over 200,000 TPS holders, many with U.S. citizen children, who have lived legally in the U.S. for years. ELCA Advocacy released a statement highlighting our deep disappointment with the decision and calling on Congress to pass legislation to protect TPS holders. We are concerned that TPS for Honduran citizens will also be taken away in May.Lutheran Office for World Community, United Nations, New York, N.Y. Dennis Frado, director
GENERAL ASSEMBLY CONCLUDES ITS MAIN WORK ON HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES FOR 72ND SESSION: This past autumn the Third Committee of the United Nations discussed human rights issues that included protection of religious minorities; responsibility for the education of refugee children; people with disabilities; racial discrimination and intolerance, especially increased racist rhetoric and Nazism; promoting self-determination; the public trust and “fake news;” all reported on in previous ELCA Advocacy Updates.
Once the committee concluded its session in November, it approved 63 resolutions, which were then recommended for consideration and adoption by the General Assembly in its plenary session on Dec. 19. The Assembly occasionally took a recorded vote on several resolutions at a member state’s request, considered several amendments, and adopted all the resolutions that had cleared budgetary consideration. They included reports on social development, the advancement of women, questions relating to refugees and humanitarian questions; promotion of the rights of children; rights of indigenous peoples; elimination of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia; the right of peoples to self-determination; promotion and protection of human rights; implementation of human rights instruments including enjoyment of rights and fundamental freedoms; specific human rights situations in North Korea, Iran, Crimea and Syria; implementation of and follow-up to the Vienna Declaration; crime prevention and criminal justice; and international drug control.
SECURITY COUNCIL AND GENERAL ASSEMBLY TAKE UP STATUS OF JERUSALEM:
President Trump’s announcement in early December that his government recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and would soon move the U.S. Embassy there prompted discussions in both the Security Council and the General Assembly. In the Security Council, an Egyptian-sponsored draft resolution was vetoed by the U.S.on Dec. 18 with all other Security Council members voting in favor. Citing negative trends that are imperiling the two-state solution, the draft resolution would have affirmed that any decisions and actions that purport to have altered the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect are null and void and must be rescinded and called upon all states to refrain from the establishment of diplomatic missions in the Holy City of Jerusalem. The General Assembly took up a similarly worded draft resolution on Dec. 21, and it was adopted by a vote of 128 in favor to 9 against with 35 abstentions and 21 not present.California Mark Carlson, Lutheran Office of Public Policy loppca.org
LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – CARE FOR CREATION: The Legislature returned on Jan. 3, roiled by allegations of sexual harassment and abuse and focused on honoring the memories of fire victims (including Cory Iverson, a CalFire engineer whose paternal grandparents are members of San Marcos Lutheran Church), and law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty since adjournment in September. Oversight hearings are scheduled on California’s recently enacted and updated cap-and-trade carbon reduction and air quality improvement plans, supported by LOPP-CA. We have signed onto, and circulated to others, a faith-based organization letter in support of SB 100, which seeks to achieve 100 percent carbon-free electrical energy by 2050. The Southwest California Synod Green Faith Team is one group that added its name. LOPP-CA is participating in a January conference “to launch a movement to make California the first trauma-informed human resilience enhancing state in the U.S. for climate traumas and stresses!”
HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: LOPP-CA Director Mark Carlson will be attending the legislative reception hosted by Stronger Together, a women-led coalition of groups concerned with economic and other gender justice issues. The California Partnership to End Domestic Violence rallied at the Capitol to support doubling the state budget for domestic violence programs from its current $21 million, a modest amount given a $125 billion General Fund budget and a projected multibillion-dollar surplus. LOPP-CA will be looking to support that effort. Carlson attended a community interfaith service at an Islamic center for 9- and 12-year-old sisters killed by their father in a murder-suicide on New Year’s Eve. Gov. Jerry Brown releases his budget proposal later in January.Colorado Peter Severson, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry–Colorado lam-co.org
LEGISLATIVE SESSION KICKS OFF: The second regular session of the 71st Colorado General Assembly convened on Jan. 10. Lawmakers will be in session for 120 calendar days, a four-month session concluding in early May.
Lutheran Advocacy Ministry-Colorado is already monitoring legislation that will be introduced soon, including bills related to disability benefits, driver’s license access, workforce development, family leave, and housing stability for low-income renters. Colorado has an open hearing law, which means that every bill introduced must receive at least one public hearing, so we anticipate opportunities to speak to each of these issues.
LUTHERAN DAY AT THE LEGISLATURE: Registration is now open for Colorado Lutheran Day at the Legislature! Join us on Feb. 15 for a morning of learning, equipping and action. Participants will learn what Lutheran Advocacy is working on in the current session, be equipped to use the tools of citizen lobbying, and meet their legislators at the Capitol. It promises to be a great day, so register now at lam-co.org.United Methodist Bishop Karen Oliveto
speaks at a Together Colorado news conference related to SB 13-251.
NEWS CONFERENCE: Lutheran Advocacy joined ecumenical partners at a news conference on Jan. 4 in support of bipartisan upcoming legislation to improve access to driver’s licenses for undocumented residents. The program was curtailed two years ago, making it very difficult to renew a license or get a new appointment, but a broad ecumenical coalition is working together to expand the program again.
Minnesota Tammy Walhof, Lutheran Advocacy–Minnesota email@example.com
FAITH AND CLEAN ENERGY CAMPAIGN: The campaign started with a great October introductory event. Since then, LA-MN and its partners have met and strategized with bipartisan lead House and Senate authors of Renewable Energy Standard (RES) legislation. It would modify the current state RES (25 percent renewable energy by 2025), to 50 percent by 2030 (Minnesota is already at 23-24 percent). Join the campaign and help build new champions of clean energy! How many signers can you get from your congregation on the faith campaign letter to legislators?
Upcoming event: Faith & Clean Energy Campaign Legislative Visit Basics – Thursday, Feb. 8, 3 p.m.-4:30 p.m. (St. Paul) RSVP: goo.gl/forms/B2A3H6lwOkF7Rm352
OTHER CLEAN ENERGY EFFORTS: Tammy Walhof continues to chair the Energy & Climate Cluster of Minnesota Environmental Partnership and was elected to a leadership team of the State Climate Table. Fall was full of meetings to coordinate many groups, find common ground, and collaborate on main messages. Despite the RES modification focus, defensive action will be needed to protect clean energy programs and accomplishments. (Significant fossil fuel money found its way to Minnesota in recent electoral campaigns).
HOMES FOR ALL: LA-MN participates in the Policy, Communications and Community Engagement teams of the statewide coalition. Tammy Walhof and Kendrick Hall have been deeply engaged in the long deliberative process to decide 2018 legislative proposals (affordable housing bonds/appropriations). Kendrick is helping create messaging and educational materials for the coalition’s proposed legislation. LA-MN also joined the new Protect Our Homes coalition to address disturbing proposed cuts and changes in federal housing programs.New Mexico Ruth Hoffman, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry – New Mexico lutheranadvocacynm.org
LAUNCHING OF THE LAM-NM ADVOCATING CONGREGATION OPPORTUNITY: The latter part of 2017 saw the launching of our new Advocating Congregation program. The LAM-NM Policy Committee approved the launch of the program and the information about the program was sent out to the LAM-NM Advocacy Network. Congregations are asked to participate in at least six advocacy education activities or actions. By the end of 2017 six congregations had submitted applications and two certificates had been presented by LAM-NM director, Ruth Hoffman. Fittingly, the first Advocating Congregation to be recognized was St. Paul Lutheran in Albuquerque. Several members of St. Paul were instrumental in the formation of Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in New Mexico in 1984. The second congregation recognized was 1st Presbyterian Church in Santa Fe which has been an ecumenical partner in advocacy for more than 20 years.Ohio Nick Bates, The Faith Coalition for the Common Good Nick@HungerNetOhio.org
ADVENT ADVOCACY DAY: Ohio advocates ended 2017 with an Advent Advocacy Day. Attendees began the day reflecting on the Advent’s season strong call for justice.
“He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty” (Luke 1:51-53).Pastors Leonard Killings and Larry Novak talk about the importance of nutrition in food assistance
Advocates began the day with a briefing on poverty and how it intersects with a wide array of issues, including education, infant mortality, health care, hunger and much more. Too often we treat those who are struggling economically as “other.” Instead, it is time that we honor the dignity of the children of God who are unable to make ends meet. Poverty is not caused by a moral failing but by a lack of resources and decent pay. Currently, 1 in 3 Ohio households is unable to make ends meet, even though more than 80 percent of these households are working.
Pastors Glen Bengson, Libby Buuk and Leanne Reat talk about the long-term
effects of poverty on children.
In 2018, HNO will engage congregations and legislators in a more comprehensive understanding of poverty and its causes and effects.
- Without a long-term funding solution to CHIP at the federal level, 200,000 kids in Ohio are at risk of losing health insurance.
- The Legislature continues to work toward redistricting solutions. Advocates continue to gather signatures for a ballot issue in November to force a redistricting fix.
- Ohio’s unemployment compensation system needs to improve to guarantee the resources are there to help families in need. The Legislature has been unable to improve this important work support.
Alleviating hunger, poverty and injustice while addressing their root causes remains central to the work of LAMPa in 2018. On Dec. 7, LAMPa’s Policy Council adopted a broad agenda that encourages disciples to act where they are called, lifting their ministry context, lived experiences, vocations and gifts for public witness.
“The Hebrew and Greek Scriptures call God’s people to care for widows, orphans and sojourners,” said LAMPa’s newly elected chair, the Rev. William Snyder. “As we look forward, let us join them in lifting up the song of abundant life for all people.”
In addition to informing LAMPa’s work by sharing their ministries and communities in every synod, the Policy Council elected new officers and continued to refine a restructuring that reflects a closer relationship with the ELCA churchwide organization while seeking to give voice to the work of the church in Pennsylvania. The deliberation affirmed LAMPa’s mission to advocate for wise and just public policies in Pennsylvania that promote the common good in response to God’s love in Jesus Christ. Read more.
2018 is a both a legislative and gubernatorial election year, making the outlook for legislative action even more partisan, especially given the announcement that House Speaker Mike Turzai is one of several candidates, including state Sen. Scott Wagner, seeking the Republican nomination for governor. Current governor, Tom Wolf, a Democrat, faces overwhelming Republican majorities in both the House and Senate.
Washington Paul Benz, Faith Action Network fanwa.org
2018 LEGISLATIVE SESSION: Washington’s legislative session begins on Jan. 8 and will last 60 days. FAN will be working on critical bills like Breakfast After the Bell, which would give students access to breakfast as they begin their school day. During the session, FAN will have three part-time lobbyists pushing for the issues on our Legislative Agenda while working in conjunction with key partners: the Racial Equity Team, the Welfare Anti-Poverty Advocates Group, the Revenue Coalition, the Farmworker Coalition, the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, the Alliance for Jobs & Clean Energy, and many more. FAN will also be hosting and facilitating our annual meeting with the governor later this month.
FAN is also gearing up for Interfaith Advocacy Day in the state capitol. We hope to bring 300-400 advocates from at least 40 of our 49 legislative districts to engage with speakers, workshops and caucuses by legislative district. Advocates will meet with their legislators and/or their staff and hear key legislators speak about current, critical issues in the Legislature.Washington State Supreme Court Justice Mary Yu was our Annual Dinner keynote speaker, and leaders at the Muslim Association of Puget Sound were honored for their work to combat Islamophobia.
STAFF UPDATE: In 2017, FAN expanded our staff capacity by hiring a full-time statewide organizer. Amber Dickson now focuses on engaging with faith communities in South King County, an area especially affected by the issues on our Legislative Agenda, and not yet well represented within our network. Amber will also be the staff lead for our criminal justice work group, as well as FAN’s community organizer representative to the Racial Equity Team.
FAN’s 2017 ANNUAL DINNER: Last November, over 450 FAN advcocates from 20 faith traditions gathered to celebrate our movement for justice and to raise funds. At the dinner, FAN honored faith leaders, communities and justice activists, including ecumenical faith leaders who signed a 1987 apology letter to Northwest tribWisconsin Cindy Crane, Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin loppw.org
- LOPPW’s director joined two Wisconsin bishops and a grass-roots leader to advocate for refugees and immigrants at the ELCA Advocacy Convening in D.C.
- LOPPW helped organize People of Faith United for Justice Advocacy Day to advocate on issues related to hunger and poverty in the proposed state budget.
- Three members of the South-Central Synod of Wisconsin/LOPPW Care for God’s Creation Team led workshops on climate change; one leads workshops frequently.
- A Northwest Synod of Wisconsin volunteer traveled to La Crosse to be a key speaker on anti-sex trafficking.
- Two Northwest Synod of Wisconsin Synod Council members led a workshop and two other council members co-led a workshop with the director in the South-Central Synod of Wisconsin.
- Two members of Women of the ELCA and a council member of the East Central Synod of Wisconsin testified at a hearing on anti-sex trafficking.
- The La Crosse Hunger Team has begun educating others about the farm bill.
NEW AND GOOD IN 2017:
- “Called into the World” – devotional on the social statements by LOPPW Advisory Council:
- New workshops: Luther and Economic Justice and Anti-trafficking and Healthy Relationships for youth (the latter led for first time in the Northern Great Lakes Synod)
- Monday quotes – weekly devotions: https://www.loppw.org/resources/
- Overnight advocacy retreat for college students organized with Lutheran Campus Ministry
COMING UP IN 2018:
- Updated Advocacy Manual and trainings, beginning with two advocacy conferences in the East Central Synod of Wisconsin
- Regular communication on legislation to synods with a Greater Milwaukee Synod volunteer
ELCA Advocacy is deeply disappointed in Administration’s Decision to end TPS for Salvadorans (Disponible en Español)
On January 8, the Administration announced that it will end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for over 200,000 Salvadorans. TPS is a legal immigration status that allows citizens from other countries who are present in the U.S. during a catastrophe in their country to remain in the U.S. until it is safe to return home. As a church that affirms earthly peace built on the dignity and well-being of every person, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is disappointed by the Administration’s decision that will separate families and harm communities in the U.S. and El Salvador.
Through the AMMPARO Strategy, the ELCA strengthened our commitment to walk alongside children and families who are forced to flee their homes in Central America. We did this to respond to the suffering of thousands of unaccompanied children and families that are displaced from their communities due to violence, lack of opportunities and environmental issues.
Alongside the Salvadoran Lutheran Church (ILS, its acronym in Spanish), the ELCA has called on the Administration to renew TPS for Salvadorans because we know people still cannot live safely in El Salvador In fact, the ILS has witnessed the displacement of thousands of children and entire families from their homes. The Administration has already rescinded TPS for people from Haiti, Sudan and Nicaragua, and due to today’s decision, thousands more now face an uncertain future.
Children and family members of TPS holders, many of whom are U.S. citizens, will bear the brunt of this Administrative decision. We pray today for all who are suffering due to this decision and ask members of our church to join us in prayer and action. At the same time, we urge Congress to pass timely legislation that protects all TPS holders.La oficina de Incidencia Política de la ELCA está profundamente decepcionada por la decisión de la Administración de terminar TPS para Salvadoreños
El 8 de enero, la Administración anuncio que terminara el Estatus Temporal de Protección (TPS, por sus siglas en Ingles) para más de 200,000 Salvadoreños. TPS es un estatus legal de inmigración que da la oportunidad a ciudadanos de otros países que están en EE.UU. durante una crisis en sus países de quedarse en EE.UU hasta que sea seguro regresar a su país. Como una iglesia que afirma la paz terrenal construida a través de la dignidad y bienestar de cada persona, la Iglesia Luterana Evangélica de America (ELCA, por sus siglas en inglés) está profundamente decepcionada por la decisión de la Administración que separa a familias y daña a comunidades en EE.UU y en El Salvador.
Con la estrategia AMMPARO, la ELCA fortifico nuestro compromiso de caminar junto a niños(as) y familias que son forzados a huir de sus casas en Centroamérica. Lo hicimos respondiendo al sufrimiento de miles de niños(as) no acompañados(as) y familias que son desplazados de sus comunidades por violencia, falta de oportunidades, o circunstancias ambientales.
Al lado de la Iglesia Luterana Salvadoreña (ILS), la ELCA hizo un llamado a la Administración a renovar TPS para Salvadoreños porque sabemos que todavía no pueden vivir seguiros en El Salvador. De hecho, la ILS ha sido testigo del desplazamiento de miles de niños(as) y familias enteras de sus casas. La Administración ya rescindió TPS para personas de Haití, Sudan y Nicaragua, y por la decisión de hoy, miles mas ahora se enfrentan a un futuro incierto.
Niños(as) y familiares de las personas con TPS, muchos quienes son ciudadanos estadounidenses, serán los más afectados por esta decisión. Hoy rezamos por todos los que sufren por esta decisión y le pedimos a miembros de nuestra iglesia que nos acompañen rezando y tomando acción. Al mismo tiempo, le insistimos al Congreso a que pasen legislación oportuna para proteger a todas las personas con TPS.
Learn more and join the ELCA Advocacy network by visiting ELCA.org/Advocacy
By Elena Robles, Hunger Advocacy Fellow
“All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him, Emmanuel,’ which means, “God is with us.”- Matthew 1:23
A common tradition in my family – And one that I have been witness to through my travels in America Latina— is that before a driver begins the journey they will whisper a small prayer: Emmanuel. A three-syllable reminder for all in the car that God is amongst us and will keep us safe on our journey. As I’ve grown older and begun to drive and travel alone, Emmanuel has become my way of being grounded on journeys. A space to be still in the truth that I can be witness to this world without the constraints of this world.La Ventana Abierta by Juan Gris
Advent is so pivotal as it serves as a space to celebrate the birth of Christ, the recognition of God’s presence among us, and a time to be in deep listening and reflection. A time to see what has passed, to be still and to prepare for the continued journey. This year has been filled with much grief, anger and disappointment in seeing how our world leaders have led, the ways we have upheld structural and physical violence, and how we have been complacent about its effects on our neighbors—locally and globally. I believe that this time can be an opportunity to move beyond what no longer serves us, to whisper Emmanuel :
“Dios se ha inyectado en la historia. Con el nacimiento de Cristo, el reino de Dios ya está inaugurado en el tiempo de los hombres. Desde hace veinte siglos todos los años esta noche recordamos que el reino de Dios ya está en este mundo y que este Cristo ha inaugurado la plenitud de los tiempos. Ya su nacimiento marca que Dios está marchando con los hombres en la historia, que no vamos solos.”- Archbishop Oscar Romero
“With Christ, God has injected himself into history. With the birth of Christ, God’s reign is now inaugurated in human time. On this night, as every year for twenty centuries, we recall that God’s reign is now in this world and that Christ has inaugurated the fullness of time. His birth attests that God is now marching with us in history, that we do not go alone”- Archbishop Oscar Romero
Let us in this truth, be strengthened and led to action. God is with us now –as they have been since the birth of Christ. They have held us, accompanied us in our pain and witnessed our shortcomings. By rooting ourselves deeply in them, we can move towards healing and wholeness.
Now is the time to set intentions for the year ahead that are centered in deepening our faith in God. Emmanuel.
While grief, anger, fear will arise, may we continue to do work that is centered in deep and unconditional love for this world. Emmanuel.
May the spirit guide us to see and treat each other as sacred and indispensable. Emmanuel.
May we— through stillness and deep love—act to bring forth a world that has Christ’s spirit woven in; where love, justice, peace and a deep respect for all dignity is upheld. Emmanuel.
Read more ELCA Advocacy Advent Reflections by visiting blogs.ELCA.org/Advocacy.
By Ruth Ivory-Moore, Program Director, Environment and Energy Policy
“Action to counter degradation, especially within this decade, is essential to the future of our children and our children’s children. Time is very short.”
– A Social Statement: Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope, and Justice
The village of Newtok, Alaska, a Yupik Eskimo community of 450 people, is in a battle for survival. Time is working against them as the village faces certain annihilation from a slow-moving climate disaster.On December 6, 2017, residents of this village shared brought their stories to the Wilson Center in Washington, DC where they served on a panel entitled, “Fleeing Change: Relocating the Village of Newtok, Alaska.”
The residents delivered vivid testimonies. They told of the village losing 70 feet of shoreline per year; people having to perform sleep watch duty because a shift in winds could have devastating consequences in minutes; floods that produce fertile breeding ground for black mold in structures resulting in respiratory health issues; and waste disposal issues. Images shared by residents are shocking, and powerfully represent the Newtok community’s experiences.
The impacts of this slow climate disaster are visible in every facet of life. “The banks of the Ninglick River have been rapidly losing ground to erosion. In one year, the river took as much as 300 ft of land.” (Source: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/interactive/2013/may/15/newtok-safer-ground-villagers-nervous)
“Human waste, collected in “honey buckets” that many residents use for toilets, is often dumped within eyesight of the village. Historically, Newtok discharged its untreated sewage into the Ninglick River, but with the change in hydrology, the disposed waste has no place to go. When the village floods, as it does most years during sea-ice break-up, the water washes up to the houses, stinking of sewage and waste.” (Susan Goldenberg)
Once the [winter] snow melts, people make their way around Newtok on wooden boardwalks set down on the mud. But the melting permafrost no longer provides stable ground for village buildings or the boardwalks. The boardwalks have also taken a beating over the years due to increasing severe storms that bring flooding from the Ninglick River. (The Guardian)
The impact of environmental degradation is felt in every aspect of the Newtok residents’ lives. The community has no choice but to relocate, and the cost will be tremendously burdensome both financially and mentally. There is uncertainty about how relocation will be funded, which has heightened feelings of stress and anxiety among residents. However, the true losses go beyond financial demands.
Newtok Village residents are forced to leave behind a place they have called home for many generations; a place that has their culture and way of life woven into it. It will not likely be duplicated in a new village location.
Children at Risk. “Children jump over ground affected by erosion in Newtok. Natural erosion has accelerated due to climate change, with large areas of land lost to the Ninglick River each year. Photo by Brian Adams. Source: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/interactive/2013/may/15/newtok-safer-ground-villagers-nervous
In Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech, “I Have a Dream,” he stated: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” One wonders what is the dream of the Newtok Village parents for their children? Could it be simply to live, to survive? The time for prayer for guidance and hope could not be greater.“Merciful God, when the storms rage and threaten to overtake us, awaken our faith to know the power of your peace. Deliver us from our fear and ease our anxiety. Help us to endure the time of uncertainty and give us strength to face the challenges ahead. Give us the assurance of your presence even in this time so that we can cling to your promise of hope and life shown to us through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.” (© Evangelical Lutheran Church in America)
By Lynn S. Fry, Program Director, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania (LAMPa)
Sometimes it’s difficult to find things to rejoice in. We listen to the news; we see the hungry; we walk alongside those who are oppressed; we sit with the lonely in heart and spirit; we advocate for those whose voices are lost in bureaucratic minutia; and yet we move forward in hope as witnesses to the light of Christ. Though the night often seems interminably long, the promised light comes in the morning. That same light that John the Baptist lifts in the Gospel of John. We, like John, as covenanted in our baptism, testify to the true light, the light of Christ. Even in the darkness, the light of Christ dwells within us.
During this season of preparation, I invite you to reflect on the road of Mary, a young teenager who embraces her prophetic place. Her world was turned upside down with the unexpected visit of Gabriel; yet she accepts her role and “magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior… “Luke 1:46-47. In her song of praise, also known as the Magnificat found in the Gospel of Luke, Mary acknowledges God will put down the powerful, feed the hungry and send away the rich empty handed.
Mary’s life is not easy. She travels pregnant, by donkey, 80 miles to Bethlehem with her betrothed to be registered in accordance with the decree sent out from Emperor Augustus. She’s a pregnant teenager in a foreign land ready to give birth, and still she rejoices! Mary was our neighbor. As we continue to prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus, may we be more mindful of our neighbors locally and globally.
We ask for your guidance, Lord, to be more open-minded with our neighbors. Help us to look inward and identify our passions in serving our neighbors. Stir our hearts, O Lord, to assist one another tangibly throughout the year sharing your light and witness through our lives.
We rejoice in the never-ending love and omniscient presence of God in this broken world as we strive to be Christ’s hands and feet loving our neighbors as ourselves. God for whom we wait, stir up our hearts, to witness to your light and love to all the world.
Help us find our true passion in assisting neighbors locally and globally. Comfort the broken hearted and oppressed. May your Holy Spirit guide us in helping to fix broken systems.
We rejoice in your abiding presence with us and with all the saints. May we continue to prepare the way of the Lord.
I invite you to reflect on an uplifting Youtube video of The Magnificat presented by Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Worcester, MA .
In response to God’s love in Jesus Christ, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania (LAMPa) advocate for wise and just public policies in Pennsylvania that promote the common good. Learn more about their work at LutheranAdvocacyPA.org.
Art: “The Canticle of Mary” by Jen Norton
Read more ELCA Advocacy Advent Reflections by visiting blogs.ELCA.org/Advocacy.
REFLECTING ON ADVENT: Visit blogs.elca.org/advocacy each Friday of Advent to read reflections from our ELCA Advocacy staff on this Holy Season.
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS: The December day to #PrayFastAct is Thursday, Dec. 21! This month, we focus on our commitment to supporting Sustainable Development Goals by engaging in prayer, fasting and advocacy for a just world. During this Advent season, we are directed to God’s steadfast resolve for peace and the signs of God’s reconciling love and restoration at work in our troubled world. As we await the arrival of the Prince of Peace, Lutherans and Episcopalians around the country, alongside churches’ leadership, are praying, fasting and committing to advocate together in support of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals as part of our ecumenical “For Such a Time” campaign.
TAX BILL UPDATE: The Senate passed its version of HR 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, legislation that would cut taxes for corporations and wealthy individuals. This legislation now moves to a conference committee to merge the two versions and will be back in the House and Senate for another vote. The House version includes language, opposed by the ELCA, that would permit houses of worship to engage in electioneering. The Senate version does not include this language, known as “The Johnson Amendment.” ELCA Advocacy will work to prevent inclusion of the Johnson Amendment in a conference of the two versions.
WORLD AIDS DAY: ELCA Advocacy, together with ELCA HIV and AIDS ministries, shared an action alert Dec. 1 in support of public policies and programs that address the spread of HIV and AIDs worldwide. U.S. programs and strategies have been effective in reducing the spread of HIV nationally and across the world. As Congress considers a spending bill to keep the government open after Christmas, it is critical to voice support for programs under consideration for being cut, such as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), prevention programs and housing for people with AIDS.
MIGRATION UPDATE: Advocates are urging Congress to pass the Dream Act, which provides a pathway to citizenship to young Americans without legal status (Dreamers), before the end of the year. The status of approximately 10,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients has already expired, and 1,000 lose their status every day that a bill is not passed. ELCA Advocacy has updated our action alert to reflect the important deadline and continue to advocate for a bill to pass.
In November, the administration announced that it would shut down the Central American Minors Program (CAM) for refugees, ending all operations by Jan. 31. It is unclear whether this arbitrary deadline will allow the review of all 3,000 pending CAM cases. The program allows children who had a legally present parent in the U.S. to apply for refugee status in their country. Children who arrive in the U.S. could avoid the dangers of traveling through Mexico to request asylum.
INTERNATIONAL GENDER JUSTICE AND HEALTH: The International Violence Against Women Act has finally been re-introduced in the Senate. This bill encompasses a few changes from the version introduced in the last Congress but keeps key pieces intact. Unlike the last time, the current version was re-introduced by a bipartisan group of senators, which increases likelihood of passage.
Another bill to improve maternal and child health outcomes in developing countries has been introduced in both chambers. The Reach Every Mother and Child Act’s goal is to ensure that the U.S. can continue its role of providing critical interventions in an efficient and strategic manner. Advocates can voice support for the bill and other international health goals at the ELCA Action Center.
ENVIRONMENT COP23: ELCA Advocacy attended the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 23) in Bonn last month. Significant outcomes of the conference included: 1) approval and adoption of the Gender Action Plan (GAP); 2) approval and adoption of the Indigenous Peoples Platform; and 3) moving forward with the Talanoa dialogue for implementation of the Paris Agreement. ELCA Advocacy, as a member of the UN Gender team, participated in workshops to help shape the Gender Action Plan, and, along with LWF, hosted a table at the Gender Market Place Event on Gender Day (November 14th) at COP 23. Find out more at the ELCA Advocacy Blog.
Lutheran Office for World Community, United Nations, New York, N.Y. Dennis Frado, director
In late October and early November, the Third Committee of the United Nations discussed eliminating racial discrimination,xenophobia and related intolerance, and promoting self determination. Experts monitoring human rights treaties were especially concerned over increased violence, racist rhetoric and Nazism, calling for targeted efforts to address root causes of discrimination.
Sabelo Gumedze, chair of the working group of experts on peoples of African descent, reported on pervasive structural racism, with people of African descent facing extreme violence, racial bias and hate. He called for an honest debate about history and its connection to modern racism.
Gabor Rona, chair-rapporteur of the working group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human
rights, focused on the use of private security personnel, particularly in prisons and immigration-related detention
facilities. Abuses include violence, medical negligence and sexual abuse. He recommended that member states stop
outsourcing, and urged alternatives to detention for undocumented migrants.
On Nov. 21, the committee concluded its 72nd session, having debated and approved 63 draft resolutions,
including children’s rights, assistance to refugees, people with disabilities, human rights defenders, migrants, safe
drinking water, youth policies, glorification of Nazism, eliminating racism, strengthening elections, prison reform
and human trafficking.
UPDATE ON GLOBAL COMPACT ON MIGRATION STOCKTAKING PHASE: The United Nations is now in the stocktaking phase of a process to create a Global Compact for Migration. This compact, mandated by the 2016 New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, is to be the first inter-governmentally negotiated agreement designed to address all aspects of international migration. LOWC has been active in a subcommittee of the NGO Committee on Migration which has been focusing on the discussions during the recently completed consultation stage and will continue its activities in relation to the current stocktaking stage. These are steps on the way toward the compact being adopted by the U.N. The committee has provided input to the “Ten Acts for the Global Compact,” a document outlining the essentials for a meaningful compact. The Lutheran World Federation has endorsed it.
The stocktaking phase of the work plan to bring the compact to fruition will be followed by the negotiating and
finalization phase in early to mid-2018. Adoption of the global compact should occur in December 2018 at a special
conference to be convened in Morocco.
The special representative for the Global Compact on Migration, Louise Arbour, recently met with members of the Committee on Migration. She focused on her upcoming official report to the U.N. secretary general, which will set out criteria for safe, orderly, regular migration; look at how the United Nations can work on migration; offer recommendations and a review of the compact for the future.California,Lutheran Office of Public Policy Mark Carlson,Lutheran Office of Public Policy loppca.org
POLICY COUNCIL MEETS: The Policy Council for the Lutheran Office of Public Policy-California met at the Southwest California Synod office in Glendale. Following the meeting, several members went to Palo Verde Gardens, site of a permanent supportive housing community for formerly homeless people, operated by LA Family Housing, with a courtyard named after the late ELCA pastor, the Rev. John Simmons, an original founder of LA Family Housing. A $4 billion housing bond is an LOPP-CA priority for the November 2018 ballot.
CHILDREN’S ROUNDTABLE: The quarterly meeting of advocates, held at the California Endowment, focused on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and immigration, with briefings from the state attorney general’s office, advocates and legal experts, all acutely aware that about one-fourth of DACA recipients are in California.
GREEN CALIFORNIA: The Green California network, in which LOPP-CA participates, discussed differences in advocacy styles, internal power dynamics and communication among various organizations, and diverse approaches to social change, including “inside” and “outside” advocacy, transactional and transformational work, and the spectrum of engagement from a “culture of resistance” to “pragmatic problem-solving and compromise.” Some of those tensions were on global display at the Council of Parties meeting in Bonn. Green California is looking at ways to support efforts to change the permissive culture of sexual harassment and abuse in the Capitol community, a topic that will be on the agenda of the Feb. 28, 2018, Green California Summit. #WeSaidEnough. Gov. Jerry Brown’s Sept. 12-15, 2018, globalclimateactionsummit.org in San Francisco was also discussed.
Pennsylvania Tracey DePasquale, Lutheran Advocacy–Pennsylvania Lutheranadvocacypa.org
In November, LAMPa accompanied the Rev. Jennifer Crist as she testified in support of Safe Harbor legislation that would redirect child sex trafficking victims away from the criminal justice system and toward appropriate services. Crist, a second-career pastor with a degree in neuroscience, spoke as a scientist, a mother and as a minister who works with child trauma survivors through her nonprofit orphanage in Guatemala. Read and watch her testimony here. Lutherans across Pennsylvania, particularly Women of the ELCA, continue to write and call lawmakers to move SB554 out of the House Judiciary Committee.
LAMPa staff delivered nearly 100 paper plates drawn by children of Trinity Lutheran Church in Camp Hill, Pa., to Gov. Tom Wolf as part of a thanksgiving offering of letters. The plates expressed gratitude to the Governor’s Food Security Partnership for progress toward making Pennsylvania hunger free. Members of Trinity spent three weeks before Thanksgiving learning about the faces of hunger and its roots, signing hundreds of letters to state and federal lawmakers in support policies that address hunger, children’s health insurance and protections of child sex-trafficking victims. Read more.
Lynn Fry dove into her new role as program director at LAMPa, taking on leadership on healthcare and immigration. Director Tracey DePasquale preached and taught at St. Bartholomew’s in Hanover on ingathering Sunday at the invitation of the congregation’s Women of the ELCA group. She also spent several days participating in the Appalachian Ministry Assembly gathered in West Virginia as the body discerned gifts and calling for public witness.
Wisconsin Cindy Crane, Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin
The director accompanied five bishops to visit staff of U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson to encourage him to urge the administration to extend the temporary protective services for Hondurans and El Salvadorans, to ensure the administration reaches the 45,000 refugee goal set for 2018 and to encourage him and his staff to visit local resettlement facilities.
LOPPW and Madison Lutheran Campus Ministry held an overnight advocacy retreat that drew students from three campuses. We heard from special speakers and delved into the civil rights movement, ELCA advocacy, and the advocacy experiences and interests among the partipants, and next steps.
Governance, FoodShare, Water, Trafficking:
- Discouraged a resolution to call for a U.S. constitutional convention but the resolution passed.
- Supported a bill that would launch a pilot program to provide discounts to households that are eligible for FoodShare benefits with discounts on fresh produce and other healthy foods. The bill passed the Assembly.
- Supported a bill that would make it easier for public utilities to assist people with low incomes to get lead out of their pipes. The bill passed the Assembly.
- A bill formerly called Safe Harbor to decriminalize youth under 18 caught in prostitution was voted out of committee.
- Addressed the Farm Bill at Our Savior’s in Oshkosh, where the director preached and led a workshop, and in a workshop at First Lutheran in Janesville.
- Addressed how the tax bill would affect hunger and healthcare in an action alert.
The Edward Hicks painting, The Peaceable Kingdom, depicts a scene from the 11th chapter of Isaiah. Lions cozy up to lambs, oxen lie down with bears and children cavort with them all. Predators put aside their natural appetites to pursue harmonious relationships with former prey. Goats and sheep swallow their understandable fear to rest beside carnivores. Each gives up something that they have needed for survival in order to create peace together.Edward Hicks [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Hicks, a Pennsylvania artist, also interjects a decidedly non-biblical moment into the scene, showing the Quaker, William Penn, signing a treaty with the indigenous people of the region. He brings together the prophet’s peaceable natural kingdom with an image of societal peace and reconciliation for humans who might otherwise be at war. God’s realm, he suggests, delivers many kinds of peace.
I was recently among faith leaders from multiple nations that possess a history of hostile words and actions toward one another. As we spoke about the religious causes of violence between Muslims, Jews and Christians, we named the ways that sacred texts and theological misunderstandings have sanctioned violence in the name of God and are twisted to support divisive political ends. We also named the deep wellsprings in the three faiths that place a religious obligation of active peacemaking on believers. We affirmed that religion has an essential role in ending violence, with faith leaders often creating the spaces for dialog and reconciliation that resolve hostilities in communities and between nations. We parted with commitments to continue the work of peacemaking in our own nations by challenging misconceptions about one another’s religion and continuing interfaith dialogues at home.
Hicks painted the Peaceable Kingdom scene over 100 times in his life. This says something about the endless task of making peace. We are never quite done. The aggression and fear that humans may think are necessary for survival repeatedly reassert themselves in communities and between nations. We are called to promote and seek peace over and over again as part of our vocation to love and serve God.This holy season, with wars, and with rumors of war, we await the advent of the Prince of Peace who renews our hope for a Peaceable Kingdom. May these weeks bring about renewed and fervent prayers, action and advocacy for peace in our world.