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October Update: Advocacy Connections

from the ELCA advocacy office in Washington, D.C. – the Rev. Amy E. Reumann, Senior Director

Partial expanded content from Advocacy Connections: October 2022

GLOBAL MALNUTRITION PREVENTION AND TREATMENT ACT PASSES!  |  DACA-RELATED DECISION STILL INDICATES NEED OF PERMANENT PROTECTIONS  |  INFLATION REDUCTION ACT AND CHURCH BUILDING INFRASTRUCTURE  |  ACUTE AWARENESS OF DISASTER RESPONSE NEEDS  |  ELECTION DAY IS ALMOST HERE


GLOBAL MALNUTRITION PREVENTION AND TREATMENT ACT PASSES: We celebrate that the bipartisan Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act recently passed the Senate following spring passage by the House and thank the many Lutherans who used their voices to encourage this action!

The bill directs USAID to implement activities to prevent and treat malnutrition globally. The legislation provides better strategic vision and improves coordination and effectiveness of existing U.S. global nutrition programs. An Action Alert and other ELCA activity advocated for passage of this bill which doesn’t turn away from global malnutrition. #untilallarefed

 

DACA-RELATED DECISION STILL INDICATES NEED OF PERMANENT PROTECTIONS: On October 7, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit made a major decision impacting Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Touching the lives of 600,000 current beneficiaries, the decision also impacts thousands of young adults who were locked out while litigation has played out.

The court sided with an earlier ruling by a judge finding that DACA violated the Administrative Procedure Act, but in light of a new regulation, which takes effect on October 31, they have returned the case to U.S. District Court Judge Andrew Hanen for further consideration. The fifth circuit decision maintains the freeze on all new applications, but renewals can continue. “For the time being, this semblance of protection is significant to the hundreds of thousands who depend on it to maintain their jobs, carry on their studies, and support their families. But there’s more to this decision. This is unresolved, leaving Congress with an unmistakable call to action. Congress should heed the call of advocates, amplified by DACA recipients and supporters across the political spectrum, to pass permanent protections now,” said Giovana Oaxaca, ELCA Program Director for Migration Policy. Oaxaca will be among panelists at “Faith Voices Call: Citizenship For All,” a webinar hosted by the Interfaith Immigration Coalition on Thursday, October 27 at 8 p.m. ET. Learn more from www.facebook.com/events/1066432484071714/

 

INFLATION REDUCTION ACT AND CHURCH BUILDING INFRASTRUCTURE:  Through the Inflation Reduction Act, faith-based and community-based organizations are eligible for new grant programs that the law will create to address pollution, incentivize the use of clean energy sources and mobilize certain places that commit to their communities to advance climate-benefitting solutions.

With the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, non-profits and houses of worship now have easier access to clean energy funds and tax credits through a program called “direct pay.” Interfaith Power and Light wrote, “Before the IRA, only homeowners and commercial entities with some tax liability could claim tax credits when installing solar panels, wind turbines, or other eligible technologies on an eligible property. Now, the ‘direct pay’ option means non-taxable entities can also benefit from these credits.” Although incentives and monies will become available, reach and distribution specifics are unrolling. However, it is anticipated that churches will not experience up-front costs to participate in infrastructure updates; rather they will operate through participant agreements. Our ELCA advocacy staff will continue to monitor these aspects of the law and their interface with faith communities.

 

ACUTE AWARENESS OF DISASTER RESPONSE NEEDS Lawmakers in Congress, who are currently in their home state districts and not expected to return to Washington, D.C. until after Election Day, will be discussing what additional resources hurricane-impacted states will need in the coming days and weeks following Hurricane Ian.

Several members of the GOP Florida delegation have called on legislators to reconvene in D.C. to pass a “clean” supplemental relief bill before Election Day. ELCA advocacy staff will be working with affected synods and ministries to advocate for an adequate response to be procured in Congress. Use the Action Alert to give your input on disaster response needs in U.S. policy

 

ELECTION DAY IS ALMOST HERE As Lutherans, we live out our mutual responsibility for one another by guaranteeing our neighbor’s right to vote and supporting free and full participation in elections. As various election deadlines near in states across the country in the coming days, and Election Day arrives on Tuesday, November 8, encourage one another including with @ELCAadvocacy socials and #ELCAvotes resources. ELCA advocacy staff are monitoring mid-term election impacts.

Resources to explore what is on your local ballot include ballotready.org and vote411.org/. Consider congregation and other action like taking someone to the polls, setting up a booth to look up polling locations and other innovative ways to be there for our neighbors and neighborhoods. More from https://ELCA.org/civicengagement.

Attention to U.S. Hunger at White House Conference

When the ELCA signed a request of President Biden to host a White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, Hunger, and Health, the group of organizations stated: “We can end hunger in America, and a public commitment to a White House Conference, with ending hunger as a key priority, is an essential step in accomplishing this goal” (March 14, 2022 Letter). The conference sponsored by the White House on September 28 became the second of its kind in over half a century. Tackling hunger, nutrition and health in America was the theme, accompanied by the announced Biden-Harris Administration National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health.

 

Hunger in the United States

According to the White House data on hunger, nutrition and health, 1 in 10 American households experience food insecurity. Additionally, diet-related diseases are some of the leading causes of death in the United States of America: 10% of Americans have diabetes, 1 in 3 Americans will have cancer in their lifetime, and more than 40% of Americans suffer from high blood pressure. These grim statistics disproportionately affect communities of color, people living in rural areas, people living in U.S. territories, people with disabilities, older adults, LGBT community members, military families and veterans. It is with this landscape that the work being done by government programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); school meals and Child Tax Credits (CTC) is important for meeting basic needs. Among ELCA federal policy prioritization is supporting the strength and reach of these programs.

 

White House Conference and Strategy Highlights

Over 500 elected officials, advocates and activists, and leaders of business, faith and philanthropy groups from across the United States convened in Washington D.C. as well as virtually to discuss the Administration’s goal of “ending hunger and increasing healthy eating and physical activity in the U.S. by 2030.” The first step toward achieving this goal was announced by President Biden: the commitment of $8 billion by public and private sectors toward helping to provide more food and better nutrition by 2030.

It is through the release of the 44-page Biden-Harris Administration’s National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health that the White House gave a direct and detailed plan. This strategy calls for a “whole-of-government” approach that is pursued across five pillars.

  1. Improve food access and affordability – approach includes goals to increase access to free and nourishing school meals, provision of Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) benefits to more children, and expansion Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility to more underserved populations. This pillar in the strategy names helping all Americans become economically secure as a critical step to reduce hunger and associated disparities toward “making it easier for everyone—including individuals in urban, suburban, rural, and Tribal communities, and territories—to access and afford food.”
  2. Integrate nutrition and health – approach includes pilot coverage of medically tailored meals in Medicare, testing Medicaid coverage of nutrition education, and expanding Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries’ access to nutrition and obesity counseling.
  3. Empower all consumers to make and have access to healthy choices – approach proposes a front-of-package labeling scheme for food packages, an update the nutrition criteria for the “healthy” claim on food packages, expansion of incentives for fruits and vegetables in SNAP, and facilitation of sodium reduction in the food supply by issuing longer-term, voluntary sodium targets for industry.
  4. Support physical activity for all – approach includes expanding the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) State Physical Activity and Nutrition Program to all states and territories, investing in efforts to connect people to parks and other outdoor spaces, and funding regular updates to and promotion of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
  5. Enhance nutrition and food security research – approach includes bolstering funding to improve metrics, data collection and research to inform nutrition and food security policy, particularly on issues of equity and access; and implementing a vision for advancing nutrition science.

 

This Strategy and Our Convictions

Non-governmental programs were highlighted by President Biden during the conference, and he expressed that “everyone has an important role to play”. This includes private and non-profit efforts, to which ELCA congregations, social ministries and ELCA World Hunger initiatives are deeply committed.

The Alliance to End Hunger, in which the ELCA is a member, noted the significance in the White House plan of intending to end hunger for millions by reducing the number of households defined as having a very low food security to less than 1% and by cutting the number of households defined as food insecure by 50% by 2030. “The White House laudably built its strategy based on feedback from stakeholders, the general public and those with lived experience of poverty and hunger… We now look forward to working with our diverse network to determine the action steps that will bring the plan to fruition.”

“The vision of ELCA World Hunger is nothing short of a just world where all are fed,” says Ryan Cumming, ELCA Program Director for Hunger Education. “Congregations, social ministries and local partners have a key role to play in this work. They are on the frontlines of responding to hunger and connecting neighbors to public support, but just as importantly, they are building the relationships rooted in justice, love and hope that will be needed to end hunger for good, together. The White House’s national strategy is a key step to that future.”

Recordings of panel sessions and plenary sessions are available online.

September Update: Advocacy Connections

from the ELCA advocacy office in Washington, D.C. – the Rev. Amy E. Reumann, Senior Director

Partial expanded content from Advocacy Connections: September 2022 

INFLATION REDUCTION ACT  |  FISCAL YEAR ENDING  |  U.S. DISASTER RESPONSE IMPROVEMENTS  |  REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT  |  WHITE HOUSE CONFERENCE ON HUNGER

 

INFLATION REDUCTION ACT:  The president signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law, which is the culmination of months of advocacy on important priorities with Lutherans and partners from every corner of our networks. In addition to significant climate provisions, the Act will make health care more accessible for more people by continuing the Affordable Care Act subsidies and allowing the government to negotiate prices for prescription drugs in the Medicare program. It also makes changes to current tax credits that impact some homeowners and car buyers as well as shifts some longtime tax policy, particularly for some large corporations, provisions which also aim to address inflation.

As a result of our sustained advocacy, the ELCA was represented by invitation to the White House by John Johnson at a reception on Sept. 14 celebrating the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act. Virtual relationships were deepened at this in-person event, including with staff of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

 

FISCAL YEAR ENDING:  The government fiscal year ends on October 1. Should a fully passed budget be absent, lawmakers are preparing a Continuing Resolution to keep federal programs funded. Extended flat funding levels will hurt low-income assistance and housing programs particularly hard due to inflation and the rising costs of housing nationwide.

A Continuing Resolution extension will keep funding levels flat from the previous fiscal year. Hundreds of Lutherans have already contacted their lawmakers in Congress over the past year, urging them to prioritize passing a budget with renewed investments in homeless and housing programs. As October nears, advocates are encouraged to continue taking action with the Action Alert to urge lawmakers to prioritize those investments as soon as possible.

 

U.S. DISASTER RESPONSE IMPROVEMENTS:  The Reforming Disaster Recovery Act (S. 2471) has been included by budget appropriators in Congress as an amendment to a greater FY23 budget bill. It would authorize Community Disaster Block Grant programs, one of the top policy asks of an ELCA Action alert over the last year, among other substantial improvements.

This comes as multiple communities are facing several natural disasters, such as wildfires and hurricanes, and others have failed to see adequate recovery assistance over the last year from the federal government. Though included for now, the inclusion of the amendment is expected to face challenges as the FY23 budget comes to a vote. Advocates are encouraged to take action to ensure the legislation meets final passage.

 

REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT: The U.S. Refugee Admissions Program has historically been an important foreign policy and migration policy tool, ensuring that the U.S. can receive its share of the global displaced population. So far, the United States has resettled just 20,000 refugees out of a goal of 125,000. The FY23 refugee admission target still needs to be authorized by Congress.

It is expected to retain a goal of 125,000 in FY23. Not including the 20,000 refugees resettled via USRAP in FY22, the country has admitted over 50,000 Ukrainians on a temporary basis through the Uniting for Ukraine initiative and over 79,000 from Afghanistan, many through humanitarian parole. With humanitarian parole, migrants are not guaranteed permanent status or access to many of benefits from other processes. Humanitarian parole has re-emerged as the most used policy option given constraints affecting USRAP and following extraordinary displacement crises like Ukraine and Afghanistan.

 

WHITE HOUSE CONFERENCE ON HUNGER:  In 2020, 38.2 million Americans, including 11.7 million children, lived in homes in which they were unable to always afford enough food. A White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health is scheduled on Sept. 28 presents an opportunity to make ending hunger a national priority.

This is only the second time a conference focused on ending hunger has been held by the White House, following one more than 50 years ago. It has been organized to bring together Americans from all walks of life to accelerate progress in fighting hunger, diet-related diseases and health disparities. Sign up to watch the livestream from https://health.gov/our-work/nutrition-physical-activity/white-house-conference-hunger-nutrition-and-health/ .

 


Receive monthly Advocacy Connections directly by becoming part of the ELCA Advocacy network – http://elca.org/advocacy/signup , and learn more from elca.org/advocacy .

 

September Updates: U.N. and State Edition

Following are updates shared from submissions of the Lutheran Office for World Community and state public policy offices (sppos) in the ELCA Advocacy Network this month. Full list and map of sppos available.

 

U.N.  |  ARIZONA  | COLORADO  | MINNESOTA | NEVADA | OHIO | PENNSYLVANIA | WASHINGTON | WISCONSIN

 

 

U.N.

Lutheran Office for World Community (LOWC), United Nations, New York, N.Y. – ELCA.org/lowc

Christine Mangale, Director

UN General Assembly (UNGA 77) 

The 77th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 77) will open on Tuesday, 13 September 2022. Ambassador Csaba Kőrösi, Director of Environmental Sustainability at the Office of the President of Hungary is the President of the 77th session. UNGA 77 will meet under the theme “A watershed moment: transformative solutions to interlocking challenges”

The general debate of the seventy-seventh session will be held from Tuesday, 20 September, to Saturday, 24 September, and on Monday, 26 September 2022. In addition to the general debate, there are several High-Level Meetings planned:  

Opening of the 77th session of the General Assembly: 13 September 2022  

  • Summit on Transforming Education: 19 September 2022 Convened by the UN Secretary-General
  • General debate: Tuesday, 20 September to Monday, 26 September 2022 (including Saturday, 24 September)
  • High-level meeting to mark the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities: 21 September 2022 | Resolution 
  • High-level plenary meeting to commemorate the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons: 26 September 2022 | Resolution

In conjunction with UNGA77 High Level week, an Interfaith prayer breakfast will take place on Thursday, September 22, 2022, under the Communities of Faith Breakfast: Building Partnerships for a One-Community HIV Response. The event is organized by Faith Partners collaborating with the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The focus will be to discuss how to better address key gaps to end inequalities in HIV services for children. 

 

ARIZONA

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry Arizona (LAMA) – lamaz.org

Solveig Muus, Director

Arizona Anti-Hunger Alliance: Lutheran Advocacy Ministry Arizona (LAMA), together with its Arizona Hunger Policy Workgroup partners including Bread for the World, World Hunger Ecumenical Arizona Task-Force  Arizona Food Bank Network and Arizona Food Systems Network and Arizona Faith Network, hosted Arizona’s first statewide gathering of hunger advocates. More than 50 gathered to discuss shared values and goals, setting in motion the new Arizona Anti-Hunger Alliance, an organization for combined messaging, 2023 policy proposals, education, training, and organizing, cultivating and activating advocates. 

Becoming Conference: LAMA joined the Lutheran and interfaith state public policy offices and staff of the Witness in Society team from the Washington, D.C. office at the Becoming Conference in Chicago on Wednesday, August 24 – 28. The group discussed civic engagement, Christian Nationalism, abortion, the Inflation Reduction Act, hunger, housing, climate and the Farm Bill, along with a variety of housekeeping issues. 

LAMA Summit: LAMA’s third annual Advocacy Summit on Saturday, November 5, 2022 will feature a keynote address by the Rev. Eugene Cho, president and CEO of Bread for the World. Participants will meet and engage with congregational LAMA liaisons, the LAMA policy council, and other Lutherans and friends across Arizona who share a common belief that we are called through our baptismal covenant “…to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.” 

Arizona Hunger Policy Retreat Attendees

LAMA Liaison Roundtable: As the election season in Arizona and across the country heats up, LAMA is activating a monthly Roundtable to strategize about civic engagement, and advocacy engagement in general, at the congregational level. 

 

 

 

COLORADO

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry Colorado (LAM-CO) – lam-co.org

Peter Severson, Director

LAM-CO PUBLISHES 2022 VOTER GUIDE: The Lutheran Advocacy Ministry Colorado 2022 Voter Guide is here! We’re providing up to date info and thoughtful reflection on all eleven ballot measures that will face Colorado voters this fall. In addition, the LAM-CO Policy Committee has voted to take positions on four of the measures: 

  •  YES on Prop FF, Healthy School Meals. Creates and funds the Healthy School Meals for All program, providing free school meals to all public school students by capping income tax deductions for individuals earning $300,000 or more per year. 
  •  YES on Prop GG, Amount of Tax Owed Table for Initiatives. Requires ballot titles and fiscal impact summaries for initiatives affecting income tax to include information on how the change would affect different income levels. 
  •  YES on Prop 123, Dedicated Revenue to Affordable Housing Programs. Creates the State Affordable Housing Fund and allocates 0.01% of existing income tax revenue to fund housing and homelessness programs through it.  
  • NO on Prop 121, State Income Tax Reduction. Reduces the state income tax from 4.55% to 4.40%.  

THIRSTING FOR WATER: On September 17, advocates gathered at Bethany Lutheran Church in Denver and on Zoom for a day for holy conversation & community-building under the title “Thirsting for Water: At the Intersection of Climate, Water and Hunger.” Attendees heard from experts, pastors, and advocates about the drought affecting our region, engaged in theological reflection and storytelling, heard stories of the impact on agriculture, considered policy and advocacy, and contemplated how we might respond to the crisis together. 

 

MINNESOTA

Lutheran Advocacy – Minnesota (LA-MN) – lutheranadvocacymn.org

Tammy Walhof, Director

Next Steps for ELCA Hunger Advocacy Fellow: We were blessed to have Rachel Wyffels working with us as a Hunger Advocacy Fellow over the past year. She is now at Luther Seminary and working part-time as Communications Coordinator for the Northeastern Minnesota Synod’s EcoFaith Network (& the Saint Paul Area Synod Creation Care Team). While at Lutheran Advocacy-MN, Wyffels helped with several EcoFaith/Creation Care events, and developed deep interest in what congregations can do to care for creation. We are excited for her in these next opportunities! 

Director’s Sabbatical: Tammy Walhof is back from part 1 of her 3-month sabbatical (part 2 will be in December). Her focus is on climate impacts in the Artic and in Minnesota, climate change adaptations appropriate to Minnesota, transition to a Clean Energy Economy, and congregational engagement. She is particularly interested in messaging for the different regions and Lutheran groups across the state. Stay tuned for more to come! 

No Special Session: We are disappointed that partisan divisions prevented a summer special session, needed to pass bills already negotiated across chambers and parties. Particularly concerning is the loss of Federal infrastructure funding (from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act) without minimal matching funds in the unpassed state bills. If the bills don’t pass on time, other states will take Minnesota’s share of funds. 

Fall Foci: Partisanship and polarization are out of control. We are focusing on bridging differences, avoiding triggers, and helping advocates de-escalate conversations. We also want candidates to consider ways to overcome polarization, address the ongoing housing crisis, and help our state positively transition into a clean energy economy. 

 

NEVADA

Lutheran Engagement and Advocacy in Nevada (LEAN)- leanforjustice.org

William Ledford, Director

Lutheran Engagement and Advocacy in Nevada is gearing up for our “once every two years” session that will start at the beginning of next year. Due to Nevada’s biennial legislature, our legislators only hold sessions in odd-numbered years. We are tracking Bill Draft Requests and are excited to see what will come down the pipe this session. Nevada is always an interesting place to watch legislation and this session should be no different. 

 

OHIO

Hunger Network Ohio (HNO) – hungernetwork.org

Deacon Nick Bates, Director

In September, Hunger Network Ohio continued exploring the advocacy issues related to the ELCA social statements with a discussion on Criminal Justice Transformation to end hunger. We are grateful for the partnership with ARCH – a re-entry advocacy and support organization – for their leadership on this issue and sharing their expertise with all of us. You can view the forum here on our Facebook page. We are also grateful for Sister Kriss Buss, an ELCA Deacon who currently serves as a prison chaplain for leading a powerful opening devotional.  

Does your congregation want to get involved in supporting our neighbors upon release? Their families? If so, reach out to Deacon Nick Bates Nick@hungernetohio.com for upcoming opportunities! 

Our advocacy in Advent returns! Join the Hunger Network and the Ohio Council of Churches for an advocacy day on November 29th. Every two years, the final two months of the legislature are filled with a rush of activity, trying to finish up many good ideas and slow down many bad ones. During this Holy Season of preparation, let us prepare for a hunger-free Ohio, an Ohio where all receive their daily bread, and justice is done.  

Read more and register here!    

 

PENNSYLVANIA

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry – Pennsylvania (LAMPa) lutheranadvocacypa.org

Tracey DePasquale, Director

LAMPa staff assisting congregations in writing letters to lawmakers on “God’s work. Our hands” Sunday.

Pennsylvania’s General Assembly returned after an August recess with a few session days remaining before the Nov. 8 election. In anticipation of heavy turnout and in response to turnover among elections staff and poll works, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania volunteers and staff are once again conducting an elections support project, calling every county to offer prayers and assistance, assessing their needs and recruiting support to ensure safe and fair elections.

LAMPa director Tracey DePasquale with Marcus Coleman, Director for the Department of Homeland Security Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships for a tour of Eastwick, PA.

In addition to preparing for our annual policy council retreat later this month, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania’s staff assisted congregations in adding advocacy to their service for “God’s work. Our hands.” Sunday. Letters invited lawmakers to visit ministries with those experiencing homelessness and urged them to support lifting the revenue cap on the housing trust fund. 

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania director Tracey DePasquale joined Lutheran Disaster Response Northeastern Region Coordinator Julia Menzo for a visit by Marcus Coleman, Director for the Department of Homeland Security 

Listening to residents of Eastwick, PA about their frustrations, gratitudes and hope for their future in light of threats from climate change.

Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and other local, state and federal emergency management officials for a tour of Eastwick, a Southeastern Pennsylvania community still trying to recover from 2020 Tropical Storm Isaias. We listened to residents’ frustrations and fears as a community that has long suffered environmental injustice. As part of Lutheran Disaster Response’s accompaniment, we also heard their expressions of gratitude and hope for the future as they prepare for major decision-making points with governments in the face of bigger threats from climate change. 

 

 

 

 

 

WASHINGTON

Faith Action Network (FAN) – fanwa.org

Elise DeGooyer, Director

As we enjoy this back-to-school time and our state’s bountiful agriculture, we continue to work for a harvest of hope. We know the fruits of our labors will be the policy changes, reforms, and transformations needed for all our neighbors to thrive. Our state legislative agenda for 2023 is beginning to take shape as the 25+ coalitions we work with craft next-step policy changes and find legislative champions. Priorities this year again include balancing our tax code, which is the most regressive in the nation, and implementing/expanding our state Working Families Tax Credit. 

In August we were also immersed in collaborative efforts with local organizers to stand against Christian Nationalism as the ReAwaken America tour (featuring Mike Flynn and others) came to the Washington-Idaho border in September. More than 1,000 signed the petition and 40 vigils, that we know of, were held statewide to support a different narrative than that of “spiritual warfare” espoused by Flynn and tour organizers. 

The Faith Action Network has onboarded two new part-time organizers in Central Washington who are working with immigration rights and food security efforts. Another two part-time staff members will be working on outreach to Spanish-speaking communities and college-aged advocates. We are currently preparing for our annual celebration in November celebrating our statewide, multi-faith movement with the theme: Pathways to Solidarity. 

 

WISCONSIN

Lutheran Office for Public Policy – Wisconsin (LOPPW) loppw.org

The Rev. Cindy Crane, Director

August and September have been a time for planning. The Lutheran Office of Public Policy in Wisconsin (LOPPW) staff has met with the following groups:

  • Faith in Place, formerly known as Wisconsin Interfaith Power & Light, about holding a Care for God’s Creation advocacy day in the spring of 2023. Advocacy will be monitoring the next Wisconsin State Budget. The former Wisconsin Interfaith Power & Light staff contributed to our last advocacy day that was started by LOPPW and that focused on climate justice and water issues. The governor’s Clean Energy Plan will be a significant part of our discussion for the next budget.
  • Members of our youth advocacy to begin planning a Wisconsin/Upper Peninsula gathering in the spring of 2023.
  • Hunger leaders’ group, organized by ELCA World Hunger leaders in Wisconsin/Upper Peninsula to include the LOPPW.
  • Interfaith clergy group to review upcoming public policy efforts to be alert to.
  • Raise the Age Coalition to plan a meeting with the Bucks to discuss how they might elevate our juvenile justice efforts and to discuss other ways we can launch an educational campaign.

For Wednesday Noon Live in September, we focused on social justice highlights from the Churchwide Assembly, the farm bill, and conflicts related to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, the dissolution of which LOPPW opposes.

Current sign-on letters

WHAT IS A SIGN-ON LETTER  |  IMPACT OF SIGN-ONS  |  DECISION PROCESS  |  UPDATED LIST

 

Our advocacy takes many forms with long-term and immediate aims, and ELCA Witness in Society staff are active equipping members, building influential relationships with policy makers, networking strategically with other concerned partners, researching policy pieces and their impacts and inviting our ELCA Advocacy Network to action at impactful moments.

One timely way we can act as ELCA is to sign on with others to offer pointed comments to decision makers when developments demand.

 

WHAT IS A SIGN-ON LETTER

A “sign-on letter” is an advocacy tool that acts like a petition to members of Congress or other policy decision makers, often addressing an immediate issue or impending vote. Sign-on letters are drafted and circulated among organizations with similar policy goals to ask other organizations to join, showing support for a policy position or value by adding their name.

The Witness in Society team may recommend listing the ELCA as an organization on a sign-on letter. Some letters are tailored for individual sign-ons, usually by the head of an organization. In the ELCA, most individual sign-ons are done by the ELCA presiding bishop.

 

IMPACT OF SIGN-ONS

Sign-on letters are frequently used when swift and targeted action will have an impact on decision-makers. The aim is to provide education on an issue, articulate shared organizational values on a subject and urge the recipient to take a specific action or vote. Ecumenical and interfaith sign-on letters summarize broad consensus in the faith community. In addition to receipt by individual members of Congress or Executive Branch officials for example, they may be used in constituent meetings and shared as public statements as well.

 

DECISION PROCESS

The ELCA joins sign-on letters following careful analysis by the Witness in Society team, sometimes in consultation with other staff. The Senior Director for Witness in Society makes the final determination for a sign-on. Sign-on letters require a foundation in ELCA social teaching and relevance to ELCA public policy advocacy priorities. Sign-on letters are also evaluated for accuracy of facts and the tone of the statement, seeking language that will educate or persuade, avoiding hyper-partisan or inflammatory language. Witness in Society staff are strategic about the use of sign-on letters, asking if a joint letter is the right approach at this time; how the letter will be disseminated and used to create awareness among members of Congress, the Administration and throughout the ELCA; what the impact of not signing a letter might be; and discerning whether a standalone effort from the ELCA would have greater impact at the given point-in-time or may be preferable to state distinctly the ELCA’s position.


LAST UPDATE: 10/19/22

Our ministry of advocacy is a witness to God’s love for our neighbor, ourselves and for all creation. Here are recent statements made with ELCA support. Use the link in the date to read a public posting* of the sign-on letter in full.

  • September 27 – “As U.S.-based groups concerned with public health at home and abroad, we write to ask you to deliver urgently needed health funding for COVID-19 and the Monkeypox Virus (MPXV) response to protect domestic and global health.” Letter to Congressional Appropriators.
  • September 23 – “We, the undersigned organizations, are writing to urge you to take immediate action to activate disaster recovery efforts in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona.” Letter to Administrator Criswell and Secretary Fudge.
  • September 21 – “On the one-year anniversary of the restart and expansion of the Central American Minors (CAM) Refugee and Parole Program, the undersigned immigrant and refugee rights organizations write to request that your administration immediately strengthen the program so that it can deliver on its promise as a pathway to safety and family reunification.” Letter to President Biden, Secretary Mayorkas and Secretary Blinken.
  • September 16 – “As 111 religious leaders and 59 national, state, and local faith-based organizations across traditions, we urge you to support and pass the Afghan Adjustment Act (S.4787 / H.R.8685) as part of the upcoming FY 2023 Continuing Resolution.” Letter to Members of Congress.
  • September 15 – “The undersigned organizations urge your administration to designate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala.” Letter to President Biden, Secretary Mayorkas and Secretary Blinken.”
  • August 22 – Ending border officials’ religious-freedom violations and their practice of trashing migrants’ personal belongings. Letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary.
  • August 1 – Righting the wrongs of family separation. Letter to House and Senate leaders.
  • July 28 – Federal Financial Aid Access in FY 2022 Reconciliation for DACA, TPS, and DED Holders. Letter to Senate and House leaders from 96 groups.
  • July 20 – “We are writing now with a very specific purpose—to urge that the budget reconciliation package include funding to close the Medicaid coverage gap and extend life-saving medical care to the two million Americans who are currently unprotected because their state did not expand Medicaid as provided under the Affordable Care Act.” Circle of Protection letter to senators.
  • July 7, 2022 – “As the undersigned religious denominations, faith-based service providers, and houses of worship from across the country, we ask you to proactively support the Housing First model as a proven strategy to address homelessness and housing insecurity in our communities.” Letter to members of Congress.
  • July 7, 2022 – “As Christian faith organizations with a deep concern for the Holy Land, we urge you allow floor consideration and support passage of Representative Andre Carson’s amendment to the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to require the State Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence, to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh.
  • July 1, 2022 – “On Monday, the nation witnessed a tragedy as at least 53 individuals were found dead in a tractor-trailer in San Antonio, with reportedly 16 more individuals sent to local hospitals… We believe the surviving victims are at imminent risk of deportation or expulsion under Title 42 and want to ensure that your office is aware of this risk and takes action to prevent it from occurring.” Letter to DHS Secretary Mayorkas organized through American Immigration Council.
  • June 29, 2022 – “As representatives of faith-based denominations and organizations, many of whom have a long history of relationships with Cuban faith partners…. We hope these initial positive steps will help increase support for the Cuban people and allow Cuban Americans to assist their families on the island.” Letter to President Biden.
  • June 23, 2022 – “As people of faith, we are called to seek peace and imagine a world free from war and the threats of nuclear weapons. Today, we are calling on President Biden to move one step closer to that vision through a mutual return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) by the United States and Iran.” Faith leader statement.
  • June 17, 2022 – “As the undersigned members of the Washington Interfaith Staff Community, our religious organizations would like to express support for a letter… that [supports] creating a federal reparations commission through an executive order by Sunday, June 19, the Juneteenth holiday.” Letter to PresidentBiden.
  • June 14, 2022 – “The undersigned 21 organizations from the Washington Interreligious Staff Community (WISC) Health Care Working Group write to urge you to advance a budget reconciliation package that prioritizes health care for vulnerable communities.” Letter to Senators.
  • May 18, 2022 – “Today we, bishops of the [ELCA], write you as lead congressional appropriators, to call your attention to the dire cash flow situation faced by the Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH) in East Jerusalem. A.” Letter to congressional foreign affairs chairmen.
  • May 9, 2022 – “The undersigned… write to express our deep concern with the text introduced in the TRIPS Council on May 3, 2022 that has been put forward as an alternative to the proposed waiver of World Trade Organization (WTO) intellectual property (IP) barriers for COVID-19 medical tools. We urge the U.S. and other WTO Member States to reject this text and negotiate a true TRIPS waiver instead.” Letter to U.S. Trade Rep. Katherine Tai.
  • May 6, 2022 – “We call on Congress to appropriate $5 billion in emergency resources to address food insecurity and humanitarian crises exacerbated by the conflict in Ukraine…” Letter to congressional appropriations chairmen and Leadership.

*These urls were selected for public availability of the signed document, not for the content of the website.

Creation Care Investments in Inflation Reduction Act

By Christine Moffett, Federal Policy Intern, ELCA Witness in Society

After many months of deliberation, Congress has passed and President Biden has signed the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, a federal spending bill that was heralded as a crucial step towards finding solutions to the climate crisis by making the largest federal investment ever in clean energy technologies. This investment comes as movement toward the United States fulfilling its pledge, under the Paris Climate Agreement, of 50% reduction in emissions by 2030. By fulfilling this pledge, the United States will prioritize our environment in need of care and aim for a better quality of life today without shortchanging future generations.

Our faith community acted on our convictions, adopting during the very recent 2022 ELCA Churchwide Assembly a memorial on Greenhouse Gas Reduction. This memorial reaffirms our commitment to engage in creation care and act in support of 50% reduction in 2005 U.S levels of greenhouse gas pollution by 2030 and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, including having the churchwide organization meet these goals. With all of this in our minds and in our hearts, it is not without discernment that we can celebrate the recent passage of the largest federal clean energy investment in U.S. history.

 

Elements of the Act

The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 most notably invests $369 billion in energy security and climate change programs over the next ten years. This is the largest investment by the United States in climate and clean energy to date. This bill contains crucial investments in solar, wind, electric vehicles and environmental justice, along with new penalties on methane pollution that will make a significant dent in our carbon pollution.

The climate investments from the Inflation Reduction Act will put our nation on the path to cut climate pollution emissions 37-41% by 2030 as compared to 2005 levels, according to Energy Innovation: Policy and Technology, a non-partisan energy and climate policy think tank. Additionally, this bill is projected to create 1.5 million new jobs. The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 also pledges to invest $40 billion in agriculture, forestry and rural communities. This investment would put a priority on climate-smart agriculture, rural power and clean energy, and wildfire protections and climate-smart forestry.

In addition to climate provisions, the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 will make health care more accessible for more people by continuing the Affordable Care Act subsidies and allowing the government to negotiate prices for prescription drugs in the Medicare program. It also makes changes to current tax credits that impact some homeowners and car buyers as well as shifts some longtime tax policy, particularly for some large corporations, provisions which also aim to address inflation.

 

Compelled to Act on Climate Change by Faith Foundation

As Lutherans, we understand our human role to serve creation as God has modeled for us. As people of God, we must carry out our calling to care for creation through principles of vision, hope and justice as described in the ELCA social statement on Caring for Creation. It is through our sin and captivity that we have contributed to the urgent crisis of the world: climate change.

Our changing climate only continues to intensify our world’s tribulations including floods, wildfires, droughts and intensified storms, driving global migration and civil conflicts while intensifying hunger, poverty and natural disasters. These climate burdens, while felt by all, are not equal. Some of us who have contributed the least are feeling the most intense effects of climate change. As God’s people, we are compelled to act on climate with and on behalf of our neighbor and for the wholeness of Creation. It is our vision to embody a “flourishing creation” that is not burdened by the issues of climate change. It is our hope, that as people of God, we can imitate God’s care for creation by demanding a legislative response to human-induced climate change. Finally, it is justice that shall guide us in decisions made about our environment in the interest of all creation.

 

A Step in the Right Direction

While the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 is by no means perfect, we can celebrate this historic achievement to address climate change. It did not include poverty-cutting provisions that we had advocated for like enhancing the Child Tax Credit and paid family leave. Yet it is the beginning of a new, less carbon-reliant nation. It is a hope for a new kind of world that better honors the integrity of creation and prioritizes an acceptable quality of life for present generations without compromising that of future generations. It is a testament to the work of those who have spent tireless hours advocating for creation, including many who’ve taken actions through the ELCA Action Center, and those lawmakers who received our cries for change. It is a step in the right direction.

 

Advocacy Cafe

See one another and share stories on important themes in our lives as people of faith in our communities – both as church and citizens. Bring your experience, new or seasoned, and your questions. Our Christian faith compels us to attend to the world through the lens of our relationship to God and to one another. Sometimes, we may echo the sentiment: The world’s so big and I’m so small. Yet there is much we can do act for greater justice, and we are far from alone.

Register today – and invite others!

The ELCA “is called to be a part of the ecumenical Church of Jesus Christ in the context in which God has placed it—a diverse, divided, and threatened global society on a beautiful, fragile planet” (from the ELCA social statement Church in Society: A Lutheran Perspective). Together, there is much we can do.


Tue. Oct. 25 – Can Talking Politics Be Healthy?

Anxiety and passions that run high in election season don’t stop when we enter our church doors. Yet we can shift the tone, facing the heightened rhetoric with tools and faith-centered convictions that break through heightened rhetoric. We can and do foster civil relationships and dialogue that invites trust amid our differences and lead healthy community conversations on the common good.
Offered in conjunction with the ELCAvotes initiative.

Choose

 


CONCLUDED: Tue. July 26 – August Recess

With the Tue. July 26 cafe exploring August Recess opportunities to start us out, drop by an Advocacy Cafe to hear from ELCA advocacy community leaders about timely topics on the last Tuesday of every month. Get to know staff, issues and one another!

CONCLUDED: Tue. Aug. 30 – Our Stories of Civic Engagement

There is no shortage of ways we and our congregations can and do get involved in civic engagement around the electoral process. As a church, we do not endorse a particular candidate, party or form of government or strive for a Christian one. Yet in Lutheran teaching, one way God works to preserve creation and build a more peaceful and just social order in a broken world is through government. Let’s have a positive impact!
Offered in conjunction with the ELCAvotes initiative.

 

CONCLUDED: Tue. Sept. 27 – Bringing Down Barriers to Voting

Being alert to barriers to voting and acting to guarantee that all citizens be able to exercise the right to vote can demonstrate our Christian faith as Lutherans and have value for our communities and country. The right to vote on an equal basis is a fundamental requirement for a just society, affirmed in ELCA social teaching. Let’s hear from one another about ways we remove barriers as individuals, congregations and in partnerships.
Offered in conjunction with the ELCAvotes initiative.

Quashing Replacement Theory with Irreplaceable Truth

by the Rev. Amy E. Reumann, Senior Director, ELCA Witness in Society

In her sermon, my pastor lamented that “each person killed was a precious and irreplaceable child of God,” on the Sunday following the racially motivated massacre of 10 shoppers and workers at the Tops supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y. The irreplaceability of each person made in God’s image stands in marked contrast to so-called “Great Replacement” theory, the fear that stoked the White shooter’s hatred and motivation to target and gun down people of African descent.

The Great Replacement is a far-right conspiracy theory that claims there is a plot to bring nonwhite, non-Christian people to western nations through immigration. The assumed aim is to “replace” White, Christian majorities by adding voters of other races, ethnicities and religions, resulting in the marginalization of the White Christian population and loss of its political power and cultural dominance. Rather than using inevitable demographic shifts as a moment for reflection and repentance in the White community for historic injustices in its treatment of minority groups, replacement theory uses the coming change to stoke fear and to call for White people to cling to power by any means necessary, which does for some include acts of horrifying violence.

 

Replacement Theory Moves from Fringes

What began as a fringe theory in the corners of the internet has now gained prominence in multiple acts of mass violence. At the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, white supremacists marched while shouting, “Jews will not replace us.” Replacement theory echoed through the lives and motivations of the shooters at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, at two mosques in New Zealand where 51 worshippers were killed and at the El Paso Walmart where 23 people were murdered. In each case, white shooters invoked the grievance and language of “invasion” and “replacement” by Jews, Muslims and Latinés.

The Great Replacement has been employed by White nationalist groups in the U.S. to recruit members by making dire predictions about loss of White power and control. It is invoked by politicians who stir up fears of migrants and immigrants by portraying them as violent invaders. As pronouncements of replacement theory move from fringe to center, our voices and actions are needed to replace hate-filled speech with God’s vision for the Beloved Community.

 

Refutation in ELCA Teaching

The ELCA social statement Freed in Christ: Race, Ethnicity, and Culture grounds us in this moment with the church’s teaching that refutes replacement theory and points us towards the fulness of human diversity that God intends. The ELCA teaches that there is one humanity created by God. Our oneness in Christ, who breaks down dividing walls of hostility, connects all people. Yet we, in our sinfulness, rebuild those walls, and cement discrimination and injustice into them. Our statement names the church’s complicity in individual and structural racism while also pointing forward to an identity beyond it that we have yet to fully claim.

The irreplaceable truth is that we are freed in Christ to see and celebrate the image of God in everyone in our beautiful diversity. We are called to co-create a common life that affirms the diversity of cultures and people as a God-given gift. This is a blessing to be appreciated, not absorbed by assimilation or destroyed by fear. God hands us the vision of the Beloved Community, reconciled to God and to one another. But we cannot realize this vision without embracing our freedom in Christ. In this freedom we repent, we repair, we reconcile, including offering of our faith-filled public witness that denounces hateful speech, supports equal rights at home and promotes international respect for human rights.

 

Opposing Evidenced Evils

Replacement theory may be the new wine in the old wineskins of intolerance, bigotry and White supremacy. Luther once said that because poverty is an evil that is always in evidence, it is an evil always to be opposed. The same applies here. Christians need to be tireless opponents of this or any teaching that diminishes, distorts or denies the image of God in every person. No one is replaceable.

We are called to replace language that denigrates and divides, including within our own congregations, by naming the sin of racism and continuing our repentance of it in our words and actions. God stirs us to confront hateful speech and promote a better public life, replacing unjust laws with policies that will preserve human dignity and increase justice in immigration, civil rights, housing, employment and other arenas. Actions birthed from our Christian practice will then be discipled by the fruits of the Spirit.

 


FURTHER INFORMATION: Confronting Intolerance, Bigotry and White Supremacy

In his lectures on Deuteronomy, Martin Luther said “constant care should be taken that, since these evils are always in evidence, they are always opposed.” We need to talk about, condemn and disown evidenced evils. Following are samplings of moments on our ELCA journey toward better living into fruits of the Spirit. Refer to the documents for additional reflections and action steps.

 

From “A Declaration of the ELCA to the Jewish Community” (1994)

“Grieving the complicity of our own tradition within this history of hatred, moreover, we express our urgent desire to live out our faith in Jesus Christ with love and respect for the Jewish people. We recognize in anti-Semitism a contradiction and an affront to the Gospel, a violation of our hope and calling, and we pledge this church to oppose the deadly working of such bigotry, both within our own circles and in the society around us.”

 

From the “Explanation of the Declaration of the ELCA to People of African Descent” (2019)

“The ELCA teaches that racism is sin and that racism denies the reconciling work of the cross. Rooted in slavery, racism is manifested through the history of Jim Crow policies, racial segregation, the terror of lynching, extrajudicial killings by law enforcement, and the disproportionate incarceration of people of color. Descendants of formerly enslaved Africans are still denied equal access and opportunity in church and society while white people collectively benefit from unequal access, opportunity, and power.”

 

From “A Declaration of the ELCA to the Muslim Community” (2022)

“Through loving our neighbors, we have come to reject Luther’s polemics. We do not dismiss our history but take it to heart. By embracing dialogue instead of rejecting difference, we have come to realize that we can truly love our neighbors only when we know them…Given the disunity around us and the fear of the unknown, we sense the renewed urgency to nurture relationships and build communities in which we look upon one another with respect and esteem, in which people feel safe and loved, and in which we seek the common good together.”

 

From the social policy resolution “Condemnation of White Supremacy and Racist Rhetoric” (2019) –here listing #1-6 of 8 points-

“[We] resolve and proclaim that:

    1. White supremacy is racism and we condemn it;
    2. Violent rhetoric against persons of color in the name of so-called “Christian Nationalism” is not a true Christian faith. It is idolatry and we condemn it;
    3. The love of God is for all people, without exception, and we proclaim it;
    4. The justice and mercy of God are for all people, without exception, and we proclaim this;
    5. Our religious and political leaders have a moral responsibility to condemn racist rhetoric and to speak with respect for the innate dignity of all persons, regardless of their race, ethnicity, national origin, immigration status, or faith tradition and we call our leaders to honor this responsibility; and
    6. Language that refers to people of color or immigrants with words like “invasion” or “infestation” or “white replacement” is racism and we condemn it”

 

From the ELCA social statement Freed in Christ: Race, Ethnicity, and Culture

“We of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, with the whole Church, look forward to the time when people will come from east and west, north and south to eat in the reign of God (Luke 13:29). For the Church catholic, diversity of cultures is both a given and a glimpse of the future.” (p. 2)

Confession and hope give strength to end gun violence

The following reflections are the foundation of comments shared at the “Interfaith Vigil and Rally: Faith Acting on Gun Violence” by the Rev. Amy E. Reumann on June 8, 2022, hosted by Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Washington, D.C.


by the Rev. Amy E. Reumann, ELCA Senior Director, Witness in Society

I don’t know what tone to strike today. Is it to be a deep wail of grief and sadness at the blood that has been spilled, the lives lost, the communities forever changed by gun violence? Is it to be cries of holy rage at our leaders in Congress who we fear once again may not hear our determination and add the smallest scrap of protection for children and teachers; for shoppers in the Black community; for the faithful worshipping in church, synagogue, mosque or temple? I want to do both. But here in this space of a Lutheran church, I want to start with what every Lutheran worship service begins with – confession. To make confession to God and to one another about what we have done and what we have left undone.

 

CONFESSION

Our confession is that we have forgotten whose we are and therefore who we are – created and lovingly made to walk in God’s way of peace and live in God’s shalom. We are to strive for the vision of a peaceable kingdom where enemies reconcile and turn weapons of war into instruments of agriculture, of feeding others, of kindness and generosity.

We confess to allowing our nation to be awash with guns, awash with weapons, awash with unchecked violence, awash with people so alienated that they turn to weapons of war to express themselves.

We confess to failing to protect our children.

We confess that we ignore or quickly forget the pain of gun violence – especially in communities threatened and stalked by gun violence where people are of a different race or religion or ethnicity or sexual orientation than ours.

We confess to numbness from the numbers of those shot, maimed, killed, and left to mourn after media moves on; to weariness at the frequency of these events.

We confess that we indulge in the hopelessness of doubting that easy access to guns will ever change, and use our weariness as an excuse to quit trying.

 

FORGIVENESS

Here’s the thing about confession. When we name the truth of what is, we are also given the potential to see what can be changed. When we receive God’s forgiveness, it is not an end but a beginning that seeds our hope.

In 1 Corinthians 13:13, we are taught that faith, hope and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. Today, however, in this moment in this nation, the greatest to me is hope.

 

SUSTENANCE

I have been reading a book of mediations called Ladder to the Light: An Indigenous Elder’s Meditations on Hope and Courage, written by former Episcopalian priest Steven Charleston. In one chapter he reflects on his ancestors’ walk along the Trail of Tears, seeing nothing beyond the trauma of what they were living with. What sustained them along this trail was the one blessing they needed most: vision to see beyond what is to what the future could be.

He writes, “Here is the holy equation of faith: We are as strong as what we hope. Hope may be dormant beneath the weight of oppression. It may be small and precious, handed down through word of mouth, told in stories, preserved in ceremonies. It may go underground, a hidden light to keep the vision alive. So it was with my people for centuries.”

 

STRENGTH

We, too, are as strong as what we hope. And the hope that we have is not dependent on our whims and on the headlines which flicker and fail. Our hope rises from God’s overflowing faithfulness, love and promises that bind us together as an interfaith community, united in hope, to seek peace. From this we draw strength and power and community for the journey against gun violence.

Our marching and advocacy are ways that we embody hope with and for each other, even in what may seem like hopeless circumstances. We are as strong as what we hope. And we speak, we march, we plant, striving for something not yet realized, but firm in the promise. We act in hope together.

Devotional: Can’t Control the New

by Isabella Peterson, 2021-22 Hunger Advocacy Fellow [about the author]

I often struggle with an uneasy sensation when faced with change – that is the inability to control the “new.” It isn’t because I fear a new stage in my life, it’s because I fear the unknown. I fear the loss of control of what is happening around me; I fear the journey to the “new,” not the destination. I fear the loss of control of what is happening around me.

“I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:19).

I grew up a Lutheran, having built a deep connection to God from a young age. However, like many of us I am sure, I have struggled with my faith over the last few years, especially these last two years. It seemed like the life I planned out was turned upside down and twisted without a moment’s notice. “New” things kept appearing everywhere I looked, and I felt incredibly lost, stuck in an uncontrollable void of questions and uncertainty. My personal journey had become convoluted, and I was desperately searching for control.

New opportunities frighten me, and when another “new” – my position as a Hunger Advocacy Fellow – came along, it was no exception. I was utterly nervous about this alternative path that I was about to undergo, as working for a faith organization was something I had never contemplated.

Once again, I felt I had no control. However, I tried to keep my mind open. Although fear overwhelmed me, possessing an open mind and keeping an open heart allowed me to… thoroughly enjoy this journey.

Working with Texas Impact brought new opportunities that I never thought I would experience. I took environmental advocacy abroad to Scotland during the United Nations Climate Conference, down to the Texas-Mexico border to focus on climate migration, and to North Carolina soon for the U.S. Climate Action Network conference. If I’d continually let my fear of having no control hinder my life, I would have missed out on all of these “news.”

Another “new” is in my peripherals. This fall, I am going back to my alma mater, The University of Texas at Austin, to get my Master’s in Public Affairs, focusing on energy policy. Yet again, I have another “new” I have to face.

Although I have control of many things, I don’t have control over the journey itself; and that is okay. When I feel overwhelmed by the uncontrollable nature of life, I will remember this experience as a Hunger Advocacy Fellow when “new” came along. I will remember all the amazing experiences I had when I left my mind and heart open.

Having an open mind and heart comforts me during the uncertainty of newness, and I hope it brings comfort to others who struggle when feeling out of control as well.


 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Isabella Peterson is an ELCA Hunger Advocacy Fellow placed with Texas Impact in Austin, Texas, an ELCA-affiliated state public policy office. She graduated from The University of Texas (UT) at Austin with a double major in Government and Sustainability Studies. Peterson is a passionate environmental advocate and has worked previously with several environmental nonprofits in Austin such as the Shoal Creek Conservancy and Rainforest Partnership.