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May 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. | CALIFORNIA  | MINNESOTA | OHIO | PENNSYLVANIA | WASHINGTON | WISCONSIN

 

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

Christine Mangale, Director

  • LOWC engaged and monitored the “International Dialogue Migration 2023- Leveraging Human Mobility in Support of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) March 30-31. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2030 Agenda) marks the first-time migration has been fully recognized as a core development consideration by the international community. This dialogue will feed into the September SDG summit, which marks the halfway point of this 15-year mandated agenda. More information can be found here. A report has been prepared and can be shared upon request. 
  • LOWC hosted a small delegation of three individuals from the ELCA’s Indigenous ministries team and partners for the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples 17-28 April. . LOWC co-sponsored and participated in a side-event, “Between Neglect and Exploitation: The case of Indigenous Communities in the Peruvian Amazon,” that focused on indigenous people from Peru and contained statements of solidarity and common struggle from indigenous people from Africa.  Additionally, the ELCA co-hosted a second side-event with Anglicans looking at “The Church and Indigenous Boarding Schools: A Time of Reckoning and Looking to the Future.”  
  • LOWC also monitored the Finance for Development meetings at the UN from 17-20 April, which is the “ways and means” conversation for the delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), We are in a discernment process with LWF to add depth to this area of advocacy especially as the SDGs approach their halfway point in September. 

 

California

Lutheran Office of Public Policy – California (LOPP-CA) – lutheranpublicpolicyca.org

Regina Banks, Director

It was great to connect with so many strong advocates at Pacifica Synod Assembly in Palm Desert, California on May 5-6. Thank you to everyone who stopped by and engaged with ELCA advocacy there.  

 

The Lutheran Office of Public Policy, California’s (LOPPCA) annual Lutheran Lobby Day took place on Wednesday, May 17th! Lutherans from across the state gathered to advocate for the following bills: 

  • SB 4 (Wiener)- Affordable housing development & zoning reform. This bill would streamline the process for religious organizations & nonprofit colleges to develop affordable housing on their property.  
  • AB 249 (Holden)- Clean drinking water in schools. This bill would increase testing & disclosure requirements of school drinking water lead levels. It would additionally allocate funding for testing filters & infrastructure improvements to reduce/eliminate lead in water.  
  • AB 660 (Irwin)- Food waste, food date labeling reform. This bill would require the use of uniform terms for food product date labels, i.e. removing ‘sell by’ dates and making ‘best by’ or ‘use by’ dates clearer for consumers. The goal is to help reduce food waste, which is a large problem not only for addressing hunger but also for methane emissions and climate change. 
  • AB 1534 (Irwin)- Methane emissions monitoring requirements. This bill would use remote sensing technology to better identify and then regulate methane emissions from landfills. 

 

Currently, all of these bills are in their respective house’s Appropriations Committees. LOPPCA is hopeful that they will advance to floor votes and proceed through the policy bill process in this legislative session. 

 

Minnesota

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

Tammy Walhof, Director

Affordable Housing: The final negotiated Housing Omnibus bill passed with $1.07 billion/FY24-35 biennium. Included were programs addressing homelessness, rental assistance, rental-home preservation, manufactured-home coop purchase, first-time & workforce homeownership, lead-safe homes, and more. The Senate accepted the House’s seven-county metro area sales tax for ongoing housing funding (causing the loss of bipartisan Senate support), in exchange for lowering spending levels.

Lutheran Advocacy-MN focused on big-picture funding/investments, as the Homes for All 2023 Agenda was long and complicated. We are pleased so many Homes for All details were addressed, and that our big-picture advocacy helped secure bipartisan support for the original Senate bill! 

We’re also glad many (though not all) rental reforms we’ve supported over several years passed separately.


Sacred Tiny Home Communities:
Sacred Tiny Home bipartisan language remains in the final Labor Omnibus Bill. We anticipate passage soon by a close margin since other aspects of the Omnibus are controversial.  

We are delighted that some of our Minnesota ELCA synods passed resolutions in support of these Sacred Settlements, and committed to encouraging congregational engagement beyond solely legislative support/action.

 

Negotiations Continue: Other areas for which we’ve had action alerts continue to be in play in various negotiations. Among those are… 

  • Homeless Shelter and Homeless Youth Funding in Health & Human Services bill negotiations.
  • Inclusion of Next Generation Climate Act updates to reflect current science and emphasize the need for lowering harmful emissions across the spectrum in Energy & Climate negotiations.
  • Funding for the Minnesota Climate Innovation Finance Authority (MnCIFA) to smooth the clean energy transition from both the Energy & Climate and Jobs/Economic Development negotiations. 

 

Ohio

Hunger Network Ohio (HNO) – hungernetwork.org

Deacon Nick Bates, Director

On May 11th, 2023, Hunger Network in Ohio in partnership with the Ohio Council of Churches and Dominican Sisters of Peace, held a Budget Advocacy Luncheon – Praying for Our Daily Bread. There were over 100 attendees present, representing over 28 organizations. Additionally, 20 legislators and their staff were present at the event. Speakers included Representative Jay Edwards (Ohio House Finance Chair), Representative Bride Rose Sweeney (Ranking Member of the Ohio Finance Committee), and Bishop Gregory V. Palmer of the West Ohio Conference, UMC. We’re grateful to have had the opportunity to co-host this impactful event, and to have made an impact to ensure that one day, everyone in Ohio will receive their daily bread. 

   

 

Pennsylvania

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry – Pennsylvania (LAMPa) lutheranadvocacypa.org

Tracey DePasquale, Director

Lutherans turned out in record numbers for the Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania (LAMPa) annual day of advocacy on April 27. More than 150 attendees participated in workshops on hunger, climate, clean water, housing insecurity,  LGBTQ+ policy and resources for the new study guide on civic life and faith, before traveling to the Capitol to advocate on hunger and housing priorities in the upcoming budget.

“The day was full of energy,” said LAMPa Director Tracey DePasquale. “It was wonderful to be gathered again after four years!”

The Rev. Dr.  Roger Willer, ELCA director of theological ethics in the Office of the Presiding Bishop, offered the keynote on Discipleship in a Democracy. “The response to the keynote and workshop on progress toward the new social statement gives us hope that these resources will spark good conversations and that our congregations will find the resulting statement useful in their witness and in their daily discipleship,” DePasquale said. 

Even the day’s worship was based on materials used in the study guide, making it a great sending for our work in the Capitol. Watch a recording here. 

Advocates from each synod were recognized as a way of lifting up their work and inspiring others. Read their stories. 

DePasquale has also been busy with legislative visits on environmental justice, participating in SEPA Synod Assembly, a consult with Lutheran Disaster Response, and a conference on science-based targets for faith-based organizations sponsored by World Resources Institute and Georgetown University.   

 

Washington

Faith Action Network (FAN) – fanwa.org

Elise DeGooyer, Director

We have good news to share as the 2023 Washington State Legislative Session adjourned on April 23. We are celebrating some victories and historic milestones for the people of our state: 

  • Our hunger and safety net bills were among the first to pass and be signed by the Governor this session—adding $28M for emergency food and nutrition services, school meals for 90,000 more K-12 students, and basic needs supports for college students. Investments were made to expand affordable housing. 
  • We especially celebrate the removal of the death penalty from state law, following decades of work and after it was deemed unconstitutional by the State Supreme Court. 
  • In a year where we have grieved multiple mass shootings, our state took steps to limit assault weapons, add comprehensive background checks, and hold the gun manufacturers accountable for controls. 
  • The legislature also protected reproductive choice and gender-affirming care in Washington with several bills this session. You can find our full listing of wins and analysis on our website under Legislative Agenda. 

Wash. Governor Jay Inslee signing the Death Penalty Bill with elected officials and advocates

And there is more work to do! The governor called a special session to begin on May 16 to address an impasse over an expiring law about drug possession penalties. Our coalitions’ economic justice bills to fix the state’s regressive tax system—the Wealth Tax, Guaranteed Basic Income, and Future Fund—did not move this session, but important conversations were begun. Renter protection bills to prevent homelessness also did not pass. 

 

Wisconsin

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

The Rev. Cindy Crane, Director

Youth Advocacy Retreat 

Thirty youth from all six synods and several adults showed up for a weekend in April to be part of our first Youth Advocacy Retreat.   

Our organizers included Deacon Laura Ramlow Synod Minister – Communication, Faith Formation, Malawi (Northwest Wisconsin Synod);, Rev. Jenn Pockat, Associate to the Bishop, Director for Communications and Community (East Central Synod of Wisconsin); Rev. Marie Leafblad, Associate to the Bishop for Leadership Support (South-Central Synod of Wisconsin);, Rev. Cindy Crane (LOPPW director);, Ms. Stefanie Ehle, Synod Youth Ministries Coordinator (Northern Great Lakes Synod);, and Ms. Gretchen Haugse, Youth and Sunday School Ministries, St. Matthew’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Milwaukee (Greater Milwaukee Synod). 

 

Additional Recent Events 

Women of the ELCA: The Lutheran Office of Public Policy in Wisconsin (LOPPW) had a presence and spoke briefly at the La Crosse Area Synod Women of the ELCA Convention, which focused on faith and citizenship. Rev. Joanne Richmond of Our Savior’s Lutheran, La Crosse, Wisc., gave an excellent presentation.   

East Central Synod of Wisconsin Lay School: LOPPW’s director led a class on the ELCA social statements for the East Central Synod of Wisconsin Lay School of Ministry, coordinated by Rev. Mark Ziemer. LOPPW will lead one more class on Luther and social justice in May. 

 

State Budget 

LOPPW submitted these comments to the Joint Finance Committee:  2023 Joint Finance Committee Requests   

April 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. | CALIFORNIA  | COLORADO | KANSAS | MINNESOTA | NEW MEXICO | OHIO | PENNSYLVANIA | TEXAS | WASHINGTON | WISCONSIN |

 

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

Christine Mangale, Director

From March 6-17, 2023, LOWC hosted 30 Lutheran Delegates who attended the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York. The delegation represented Lutherans from Africa, Asia, Middle East, Latin America and North America. They were Lutheran Clergy, lay leadership, staff, issue experts, and youth and young people from throughout the global church. The theme for this year focused on “Innovation and Technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.” Our official statement to the Commission on the Status of Women in its 67th session is located here. 

Lutheran delegates attended the CSW 67 both in-person and online (virtually) ensuring that the voices of faith-based organizations and communities were clearly represented in the Agreed Conclusions. Additionally, young delegates, including young Lutheran delegates from the ELCA Hunger Fellows program and the International Leaders Program took center stage at the commission. This is the first year that the CSW has included a youth session specifically for young people to engage with the theme of using technological innovation to promote gender justice and women’s empowerment. 

The commission closed with Agreed Conclusions at 3:00 AM on March 18th. LWF and LOWC staff will circulate analysis and next-steps from our official delegation over the coming weeks and will circulate our reporting when it is complete 

Our flagship event was entitled, Harnessing digital technologies to end sexual and gender-based violence Friday March 10, 2023. Event sponsored by Lutheran World Federation. Professor Antje Jackelén, archbishop emerita of the Church of Sweden, provided the session opened with greetings from the LWF General Secretary Rev. Dr. Anne Burghardt. Both interventions offered contextual grounding for the discussion. The session moved to a panel discussion moderated by ELCA Hunger Fellow Kayla Zopfi. The panel was made up of Rev. Dr. Debora Sinaga (Indonesia), Ameera Khamees (LWF Jordan), Miriam Alum (LWF Uganda) and Laura Gonzalez (LWF Columbia). Lutheran Pastor and Executive Director of Sonke Gender Justice, Rev. Bafana Khumalo (South Africa)** 

Next year in March 2024, CSW 68 will focus on issues of Gender and Development Finance. Planning for our engagement in this important conference is beginning now. 

 

For the first time in 46 years the UN hosted a “UN Water Conference.” Held in New York from March 22-24th 2023, LOWC hosted a delegation from ELCA World Hunger and ELCA Advocacy as they engaged the United Nation Member States on their contributions to increasing access to the human right to water. The Lutheran Delegation presented during two official side-events:  

  • United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) Interfaith networking event ahead of the UN Water Conference 2023 on Thursday, 16 March 2023. Dr. Ryan Cumming, interim Director of World Hunger presented on behalf of the ELCA and LWF. Interventions issued to this event are available here. 
  • Faith Community is a Blue Community” held on March 22nd, 2023. The World Council of Churches – Ecumenical Water Network and partner organizations, International Partnership on Religion and Development (PARD), Lutheran World Federation, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and World Evangelical Alliance hosted an official hybrid side event. Further details, including a recording of the side-event can be found here. Christine Moffett, interim Environmental Policy Program Director spoke for our Lutheran Community. 

 

California

Lutheran Office of Public Policy – California (LOPP-CA) – lutheranpublicpolicyca.org

Regina Banks, Director

On Sunday, March 19, LOPP-CA the Lutheran Office of Public Policy – California joined other advocates in celebrating the end of the ICE contract at Yuba County Jail. The day included a musical performance by Japanese artists and a variety of testimonies by organizations that were a part of achieving the ending of the ICE contract, as well as from former incarcerated people at the facility. The rain couldn’t keep folks away from celebrating this advocacy success and looking ahead at the work yet to come for immigrant justice.

Registration remains open and active for our Lutheran Lobby Day on May 17th! Come join us for a full day of training, legislative meetings, and fellowship. Register here: https://lutheranpublicpolicyca.org/lutheran-lobby-day-2023 

 

Colorado

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

Peter Severson, Director

Urban Servant Corps volunteers with Sen. Robert Rodriguez (left) and LAM-CO Director Peter Severson (right) at the dais of the Colorado State Senate chamber.

LEGISLATIVE SESSION CONTINUES: The Colorado General Assembly has moved into consideration of the budget for the next fiscal year. In the past several weeks, the Assembly has taken the unusual step of meeting on the weekends to address bills that have generated significant debate and controversy. Ultimately, gun safety bills that raise the minimum eligible age of purchase, extend waiting periods, and expand Colorado’s ERPO (Extreme Risk Protection Order, or “Red Flag”) law have passed both chambers after lengthy delays. 

Among the bills LAM-CO is actively working on, our Medical Debt Credit Reporting bill has passed both chambers with amendments. While the compromise bill is less ambitious than our original proposal, we still look forward to these substantial protections being signed into law by the Governor. Our bill to allow local decision-making on rent stabilization policies has passed the House, as has our bill creating just cause requirements for tenant eviction. 

URBAN SERVANT CORPS AT THE CAPITOL: The volunteers with Urban Servant Corps, a service year program which invites volunteers into simple living and intentional community in Denver, joined Lutheran Advocacy for a day at the state Capitol in March. Representative Andy Boesenecker and Senator Robert Rodriguez both greeted the volunteers and spoke about their paths to public service, while also hearing from the volunteers about their experience serving at organizations in Denver. 

Kansas

Kansas Interfaith Action (KIFA) – kansasinterfaithaaction.org

Rabbi Moti Rieber, Executive Director

The Kansas legislature concluded its main session last Thursday with a marathon session that lasted into the wee hours. Bills were bundled together, and policy that hadn’t been passed by either chamber was included in a demonstration of how broken the legislative process has become.  

Public Education – Vouchers: A plan that would give families within 250% of the FPL up to $5000 toward private or parochial education narrowly passed the House but was defeated in the Senate. We expect this to come back during veto session.  

LGBTQ+ issues – This session has seen a spate of bills targeting transgender individuals, particularly children. The governor’s veto of HB 2238 (the bill banning trans girls from girls’ sports) was overridden and now becomes law. SB 180 (“the women’s bill of rights”) was passed. SB 26 (a ban on gender-affirming care for minors) – which we had previously been told was dead in the House – became suddenly less dead. We expect 180 and 26 to be vetoed, and we will work to sustain the vetoes.  

SNAP – A bill to impose work or training requirements on “Abods” between 50-59 was passed and is on the way to the governor. Another bill to make SNAP dependent on being current with child support failed in the Senate, and a bill to criminalize homeless encampments didn’t get out of committee.  

Flat Tax – As in other red states, a high priority has been moving from a graduated income tax to a flat rate – a repudiation of over 100 years of the progressive income tax. In the conference committee, parts of the bill that benefit high-income Kansans got better, while the components that would benefit low- and middle-income Kansans were watered down. We are urging a veto.  

Vaccine Requirements – A bill cobbled together in conference committee that would expand exemptions from childhood immunizations (among other dangerous policies) based on a because-I-said-so philosophical objection failed on the Senate floor (at 3AM Friday morning).  

Elections – SB 209 would eliminate the three-day grace period for return of mail ballots, but it did not pass by a veto-proof majority.   

There will now be a two-week break while the governor decides which of these bills to veto. The legislature will return on April 24, and they will have to pass education funding, which they haven’t done. 

Minnesota

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

Tammy Walhof, Director

Legislative Session: This session continues to move at a dizzying speed with an unprecedented number of bills moving forward from committees to floor action. 

Sacred Tiny Home Communities: The bill was included in the Senate Labor Committee Omnibus and the House Labor & Commerce Omnibus bill. We continue to work that 

  1. The bill remains in the Omnibus bills, 
  1. The Municipal “Opt Out” favored by the League of Cities NOT be included, and 
  1. The “Intentional Neighbor” participant provision remain at 33-40%. (Attempts to make it 25% “to house more people experiencing homelessness” goes against research for healthy stable communities). 

Lutheran Advocacy, Minnesota Director, Tammy Walhof, testifying.

Next Generation Climate Act: This bill updating our state’s greenhouse gas emissions targets to align with current climate science, is included in the House Climate Omnibus, but not the Senate Omnibus. Although 100% Clean Energy by 2040 has passed, benchmarks are needed for all sectors of the economy. The electrical sector is making strides in reducing harmful emissions, but other areas are increasing emissions. 

Spending Targets: House and Senate leaders along with Gov. Walz released budget targets for Omnibus Spending Bills March 21, much earlier than the usual May time-frame. 

  • Housing Target: Affordable Housing has been allotted $1 billion. A large portion is one-time spending from surplus. With money allocated to other committees, housing-related needs could get as much as $1.4 billion. 
  • Clean Energy/Climate Target: Spending for a number of different bills is included in the targets, including solar on schools, incentives for electrification, and more. 

 

New Mexico

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry New Mexico (LAM-NM) – lutheranadvocacynm.org

Kurt Rager, Director

Legislative Issue Briefing and Bishop’s Luncheon Returns 

After a two-year pause caused by the Covid pandemic, the annual in-person Legislative Issue Briefing and Bishop’s Luncheon returned as focal-point for the New Mexico Legislative Session.  

Legislative Issue Briefing: The morning began with Lutheran Advocacy Ministry – New Mexico (LAM-NM) supporters from across the state gathering at Bethlehem Lutheran (ELCA) in Santa Fe for an update on legislative issues and key bills being supported by LAM-NM during the session.  Featured speakers addressed New Mexico’s abundance of revenue anticipated for FY24 and competing interests, tax reform, proposals to modernize the state’s legislature, legislation related to homelessness and lack of affordable housing in NM, and to a group of criminal justice reform bills being considered.  LAM-NM works in strong partnership with the organizations represented by the speakers, including, New Mexico Voices for Children, New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness, and ACLU – New Mexico.  Participants were centered by a Bible study that began the day, led by Rev. Paul Schick. 

Bishop’s Luncheon: Following the conclusion of the Issue Briefing, participants moved to the historic La Fonda Hotel for the Bishop’s Luncheon, hosted by Bishop Jim Gonia of the Rocky Mountain Synod.  During the meal, Legislator of the Year awards were presented to four legislators. From both the Senate and the House, these legislators were lead sponsors on priority legislation of LAM-NM over the last two legislative sessions.  Legislation chosen included bills that capped store-front, short-term loans, at 36%, legislation that provides significant annual funding to the New Mexico Housing Trust Fund, and a constitutional amendment, overwhelmingly passed by voters, that taps the state’s massive Land Grant Permanent Fund of an additional 1.25%, much of which will go to support a robust expansion of Early Childhood care throughout the state.  In addition, the annual John and Chris Haaland Advocacy Award was presented to St. Andrew Presbyterian Church of Albuquerque, for their long-sustained advocacy on local and state issues that are priorities for LAM-NM.  

The entire day was well-received by all who attended. Attendees included members of Lutheran, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Methodist, United Church of Christ, Unitarian, Catholic, and Mennonite congregations throughout New Mexico.   

Ohio

Hunger Network Ohio (HNO) – hungernetwork.org

Deacon Nick Bates, Director

2023 Budget Advocacy Day
On March 28th, the Hunger Network in Ohio held our Budget Advocacy Day where we invited faith leaders to lobby at the Ohio Statehouse. We had over 40 Faith leaders join us and attend 23 legislative meetings with their representatives and senators. Our main focuses on the day included Hunger-Free Schools, Increasing SNAP Benefits for Seniors, and Increasing Food Bank Funding. We had an amazing time with this group of strong advocates who were able to show up and speak up for our communities. 

Finance Committee Testimony:
Also on March 28th, Hunger Network’s Director, Nick Bates testified in front of the House Finance Committee. To read his testimony, click here! 

Upcoming Event:
Praying for our Daily Bread: Luncheon at Ohio Statehouse
May 11th, from 11am – 1pm at the Ohio Statehouse Atrium 

Join faith leaders, legislators, and advocates to discuss hunger in Ohio and what can be done to address it.  We will hear from Bishop Gregory V. Palmer of the West Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church, and legislative leaders about Ohio’s budget and efforts to reduce hunger in Ohio. 

 

Pennsylvania

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry – Pennsylvania (LAMPa) lutheranadvocacypa.org

Tracey DePasquale, Director

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania(LAMPa) is busy preparing for our first in-person Lutheran Day in the Capitol since 2019.  The Rev. Dr. Roger Willer will keynote as we focus on a theme of Discipleship in a Democracy and progress on the new social statement. The day will feature workshops on hunger, housing, climate and clean water advocacy as well as building bridges for depolarization. We will celebrate advocates from every synod and make legislative visits to advocate on hunger and housing.  

LAMPa participated in the Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod’s Commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr.  as they honored his legacy with an ecumenical service of Holy Communion and a weekend focused the practice of nonviolence in their continuing efforts to build the Beloved Community in the Pittsburgh region with a priority on equitable housing. The weekend included a forum and panel discussion on state and federal housing advocacy priorities as well as the ELCA World Hunger housing resource, and an opportunity to visit ministries with unsheltered neighbors in the Pittsburgh region.  

LAMPa Director Tracey DePasquale participated in the Pennsylvania Emergency Food Assistance Advisory Council spring meeting, taught at Trinity Lutheran Church in Reading and accompanied allies and advocates from United Lutheran Seminary and Lower Susquehanna Synod to a rally at the Capitol for Education Equity as part of the Trans Day of Visibility.  

 

LAMPa is searching for a full-time communications and advocacy engagement manager.  Learn more.   

Texas

Texas Impact – texasimpact.org

Scott Atnip, Outreach Director

The Texas Legislature in the middle of their 140 day biennial legislative session, and Texas Impact has mobilized Texans of faith, and specifically Lutheran leaders, to speak out on a wide range of issues.  

Bishop Michael Rinehart participated in a prayer vigil to support LGBTQ+ Texans testifying against a number of anti-trans bills in the House. Bishop Sue Briner testified against similar bills in the Senate and co-authored an op-ed with Episcopal Bishop Suffragan Kai Ryan. All three ELCA Bishops in Texas signed a letter opposing anti-immigrant legislation, including bills to deputize volunteers to deport migrants.  

Texans of faith participated in Texas Impact’s Annual Interfaith Advocacy Days.  Lutherans are participating in and providing leadership in Texas Impact legislative teams, Rapid Response Teams and Legislative Engagement Groups on a wide range of issues, from maternal health and reproductive justice to immigration, protecting the LGBTQ+ community, protecting public schools and more. Synod leaders and congregations are sharing weekly Action Alerts and calls to action.  

While most of the current focus is on the Texas Legislature, Texas Impact is funded to begin civic engagement work with Houston congregations, so planning is underway for a series of civic engagement programs and opportunities post-legislative session. 

Washington

Faith Action Network (FAN) – fanwa.org

Elise DeGooyer, Director

We are nearing the end of the 2023 Washington State Legislative Session, scheduled to conclude April 23. FAN-supported safety net protections were among the first bills to pass and move to the Governor’s desk to be signed, including one unanimous bipartisan bill Concerning Hunger Relief that will allot an extra $28M to emergency food and nutrition services to begin to address the “hunger cliff” people are experiencing as their pandemic SNAP benefits ended. In a year when the economic forecast wasn’t bright, we still await final passage of the expansion of School Meals for More Students (bill trimmed from universal school meals due to cost), as well as a Hunger Free College Campus bill 

FAN advocates and colleagues continued to bring their multi-issue concerns to their legislators this session.

We are awaiting passage of some technical fixes to the Working Families Tax Credit, which launched February 1 and over 150,000 low-income people have applied for the credit, which provides up to $1,200 cash. FAN is involved in outreach about this credit to faith communities in multiple languages. Our coalitions’ economic justice bills to fix Washington’s regressive tax system–like a Wealth Tax, Guaranteed Basic Income, and so-called “baby bonds”—did not move this session.  

Great news over Easter weekend that the Death Penalty would finally be removed from Washington state law, with the legislature passing the bill to remove it after the State Supreme Court’s declared it to be unconstitutional. In the wake of the tragic Tennessee and Kentucky shootings, the legislature passed FAN-supported bills to limit assault weapons, expand background checks and waiting periods, and hold the gun industry accountable to controls.  

Agreement on a two-year state budget is pending, with FAN advocating for Health Equity for Immigrants and housing/homelessness funding in the final budget. 

Wisconsin

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

The Rev. Cindy Crane, Director

Wednesday Noon Live  We interviewed Faith in Place staff, Alexander Malchow, Wisconsin Policy Coordinator, and Jonathan “Cosmic” Jackson, Wisconsin Outreach Coordinator.  

2023 Interfaith Advocacy Day and the Wisconsin State Budget
We had an inspiring 2023 Interfaith Advocacy Day, organized by LOPPW and Faith in Place, with great speakers and an engaged group we helped prepare to make visits at the Capitol.  

Wisconsin State Budget Tool Kit:   Priorities related to energy efficiency, clean water, adaptation to climate change, youth justice, and driver licenses for undocumented Wisconsinites.  The kit lists dates for public hearings and links for submitting your comments on the budget:  Budget Talking Points & Public Hearings 

 

We made final plans for our April Youth Advocacy Retreat with leaders from synods around Wisconsin and the UP.

Speak and Act for Trans Lives

This post, “Dear ELCA, We Must Speak and Act for Trans Lives,” is reprinted in full by permission of the author, originally posted to the author’s blog on March 27, 2023.

 


By Jamie Bruesehoff [about the author]

During this week leading up to Transgender Day of Visibility as legislative attacks terrorize the LGBTQ+ community with many targeting transgender young people, consider our call as a church and how we might live that call out in proclamation and action for the sake of our siblings. This post is specifically directed at my siblings in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) although the action steps apply to all.

My daughter, Rebekah Bruesehoff, with her dad an ELCA pastor at the New Jersey State House. She was 10 years old then. She is now 16 years old. Trans lives continue to be under attack.

People of faith continue to do the most significant harm to the LGBTQ+ community, personally and politically. People of faith must loudly and boldly speak and act against it.

I have watched as parents, lay leaders, deacons and pastors, and bishops mobilize in action against these sinful attacks on the LGBTQ+ community, especially our transgender and nonbinary siblings. Public posts, sermons, email campaigns, being present at protests, and testifying in the legislature and more.

Thank you Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton for your statement

Thank you to Bishop Kevin Strickland (Southeastern Synod), Bishop Mike Rinehart (Texas – Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod), and Bishop Sue Briner (Southwestern Texas Synod) for showing up at state capitals and testifying and mobilizing your people to do the same. I’m certain these aren’t the only Bishops mobilizing, but these are the ones I’ve spoken with or heard from.

Thank you to ELCA Vice President Imran Siddiqui for repeatedly using your voice to lift up who we are as a church and to vocally support our transgender siblings and oppose discrimination.

Thank you to leaders and ministries like Pastor Dawn Bennett at the Table in Nashville and Technicolor Ministries in the Southwestern Texas ministries. I know so many others are doing this work on the ground; I am grateful for all of you.

I am deeply grateful for every single person, every statement, every act of advocacy. I am grateful for the way our church is looking to understand what a more faithful and just future looks like in the realm of our polity. And we need to do more. Right now.

Our transgender siblings are crying out for justice, they are begging for mercy and protection, for support, for people to care with their words and their actions. Our rostered leaders, our seminarians, families with transgender youth, and the transgender people in our pews need the church to show up at this moment. What are we going to do? There is a genocide happening. There is blood on the hands of those who do not act.

 

WHAT DOES THE ELCA SAY?

For this we can turn not only to recent statements from Bishop Elizabeth Eaton but to our social statement on Faith, Sexism, and Justice.

Faith, Sexism, and Justice: A Call To Action – English

Faith, Sexism, and Justice: A Call to Action – Spanish

In this social statement the ELCA commits itself to the following (among other things):.

  • Advocate for and support laws, policies, and practices that respect diverse bodies rather than discriminating against, objectifying, or devaluing them. (p. 60)

  • Advocate for and support medical research, health care delivery, and access to equitable and affordable health care services, including reproductive health care, that honor how bodies differ and eliminate discrimination due to sex (biological), gender, or sexual orientation. (p.62)

  • Advocate for and support portrayals in entertainment, media, and advertising that do not objectify or stereotype people but rather show all people as capable of the wide variety of human characteristics and roles. (p. 67)

And in implementation of those commitments, we resolve to:

1 – To urge members, congregations, synods, churchwide ministries, social ministry organizations, church-related institutions, ecumenical partners, and all people of good will to be guided by this statement’s convictions and commitments to resist and dismantle patriarchy and sexism, and to transform life in the church and in society; (p. 81)

2 – To call upon members of this church to pray, work, and advocate for justice for all those affected by sexism and patriarchy and to draw upon this statement in forming their judgments and actions in daily life; (p.81)

4 – To call upon all members of this church to reflect on how mass media (films, video games, etc.) and social media distort sex, gender, and sexuality and to address this problem in their own actions (especially their care for children); (p.81)

10 – To call upon this church’s advocacy and related ministries, such as ELCA Advocacy and ELCA World Hunger, to support and advocate for measures, policies, and laws consistent with this social statement and to give sustained attention to its convictions and commitments in the creation of programs and projects; (p. 82)

15 – To call upon rostered and lay congregational leaders, synodical and CWO staff, social ministry organizations, and faculty and staff at ELCA colleges, seminaries, and universities to renew their efforts to welcome, care for, and support the lives and gifts of LGBTQIA+ persons and to oppose discrimination against these persons so that they may live into the promise of gender justice envisioned in this social statement; (p.82)

 

ACTION STEPS

It is clear what we believe as a church. In light of the above directives, we must advocate against: gender affirming healthcare bans, transgender athlete bans, curriculum and book bans, bathroom bans, bills disguised as parental rights efforts that jeopardize the health, safety, and humanity of LGBTQ+ young people.

So what do we do? We give of ourselves, our time, and our possessions for the sake of our siblings. The following action steps are by no means exhaustive. Honestly, they are a starting point. But may they be a jumping off point for you to commit time, money, and energy to the fight for transgender lives.

Learning
Advocacy
  • Find what’s happening in your state (ACLU leg tracker linked). You can google other resources. Here’s a look at healthcare bans that have been passed or introduced across the country.. 

    • Call your legislators. Tell them as a constituent and a person of faith, you oppose bills that discriminate against LGBTQ+ people.

    • Plan to show up to testify

  • Find what organizations are doing on the ground work related to what’s happening in your state. Google it. Ask on social media. 

    • Reach out to ask how you can best help in this moment. Listen to them and do what they tell you to do.

    • Plan to show up at public actions and protests as a person of faith.

    • Donate funds to them and encourage others to do the same.

  • Communicate what you’ve learned in both items above and the next steps with colleagues and congregation members.

    • Speak it from your pulpit.

    • Mobilize your people.

    • Share widely on social media.

  • Tell your story publicly. As a person of faith, as a Lutheran church leader, as a parent and a community member… I oppose discrimination against my transgender siblings of any kind, not in spite of my faith, but because of it. I support LGBTQ+ people. I support science. I support truth.

    • Write op-eds.

    • Speak to your neighbors.

    • Be bold, because your faith calls you to this.

Funding
  • Donate to local, state, and national organizations working for the full justice and safety of LGBTQ+ people, especially transgender and non-binary people. 

  • Donate to direct aid requests for families or individuals seeking safety, seeking healthcare, or otherwise in need.

Transgender and nonbinary people are called and claimed children of God. The church and the world is a better place because of them. And it is our responsibility as Christians to actively and relentlessly work for justice.

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jamie Bruesehoff (she/they), a member of the ELCA Church Council, is an award-winning LGBTQ+ advocate, nationally known speaker, and mother of three, including a transgender child. Her family and work have been featured by media outlets and organizations around the world, including Disney, NPR, Good Morning America, USA Today, The Today Show, CBS News, Human Rights Campaign, The Trevor Project, and The GenderCool Project. With a master’s degree from The Lutheran Theological Seminary-Gettysburg and twenty years of experience working with youth and adults in and outside of the church, she strives to create a world where LGBTQ+ young people thrive. She lives in New Jersey with her spouse and children. Her upcoming book, Raising Kids Beyond the Binary: Celebrating God’s Transgender and Gender-Diverse Children, is available for pre-order wherever books are sold.

March 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. | CALIFORNIA  | COLORADO | NEW MEXICO | PENNSYLVANIA |WASHINGTON | WISCONSIN |

 

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

Christine Mangale, Director

  • Child Labor Statement: LOWC co-led the creation of the statement “A Call to Stop Stealing Children’s Lives” as part of the United Nation’s NGO Committee on Migration. Lutheran World Federation (LWF) has signed. The letter is a call to action to all UN Member States in an effort to raise the alarm and rally collaboration to put an immediate end to all forms of child labor. More information about the letter can be found here as well as sign-on link below 
  • UN Commission on Status of Women: From March 6-17, 2023, LOWC has hosted 30 Lutheran Delegates who are attending the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67) in New York. The delegation includes representation from 12 countries (Columbia, Ethiopia, Finland, Indonesia, Jordan, Liberia, Mexico, Mozambique, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Uganda, UK, USA, Zimbabwe). They represent Lutheran clergy, lay leadership, staff and issue experts from Lutheran faith-based organizations and our partners. This year’s CSW67 priority theme is “Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.”  
    • The group made an official statement to the Commission on the Status of Women in its 67th session. LOWC, together with LWF, planned hosting and co-hosting of eight high level events during the CSW67 including side-events, workshops and learning events, Lutheran worship and ecumenical and interfaith prayer gatherings. Additional event information is available from an ELCA Advocacy Blog post on CSW67. 
    • On March 10, 2023 LWF hosted the event, “Harnessing ICTs to End Sexual and Gender-Based Violence.”  
    • On March 9, 2023, LOWC co-hosted “A Phone of My Own: Sexual and Economic Empowerment in Times of Crisis”. Co-sponsors included Finland, Liberia, UNFPA, ACT Alliance, Act Church of Sweden, Bread for the World, Christian Aid, Dan Church Aid, Finn Church Aid, Lutheran World Federation, World Renew, Norwegian Church Aid, World Council of Churches, and World YWCA. Webcast can be accessed here when it is published. 

 

California

Lutheran Office of Public Policy – California (LOPP-CA) – lutheranpublicpolicyca.org

Regina Banks, Director

Budget negotiations are in full swing in California right now as organizations are dealing with the near $23 billion state shortfall projected for the 2023-24 fiscal year. The Lutheran Office of Public Policy in California(LOPP-CA) is working on a variety of issues with our coalitions covering child poverty, hunger, affordable housing, environmental justice, and more.  

Some key bills we’re supporting and tracking right now include AB 1128 (Santiago), which would remove age restrictions on a qualifying child for the Young Child Tax Credit, and AB 1498 (Gipson), which would create a minimum dollar amount available for the Earned Income Tax Credit. One environmental bill we’re following is the re-introduction of the Climate Corporate Leadership and Data Accountability Act, SB 253. 

Upcoming events: Join LOPP-CA in celebrating the end of the ICE contract at Yuba County Jail on Sunday, March 19th at 1 pm outside the Yuba Co. jailhouse! LOPP-CA is co-sponsoring the event and helping with some transportation costs for families of former detainees to attend the event from the San Jose and Bay Areas. Register at: www.bit.ly/YubaClosure 

Registration is also now open for our annual Lutheran Lobby Day! You’re invited to join us on Wednesday, May 17th from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm in Sacramento for a day of speakers, workshops, and legislative meetings on important state justice issues. Register here: https://lutheranpublicpolicyca.org/lutheran-lobby-day-2023 

 

 

 

Colorado

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

Peter Severson, Director

SUCCESSFUL DAY AT THE CAPITOL: Lutheran advocates joined together for our annual Day at the Capitol event on February 16. Participants engaged with Rep. Andrew Boesenecker (Fort Collins), a former ELCA pastor, and an advocacy leader from the Colorado Center on Law & Policy before moving to the Capitol to lobby for House Bill 1126 (see more below). Thanks to all who came!   

LEGISLATIVE SESSION CONTINUES: The Colorado General Assembly has reached its halfway point of the session. Some of the important bills on the Lutheran Advocacy agenda are below: 

HB 23-1126 – Consumer Reports Not Include Medical Debt Information (Reps. Naquetta Ricks & Ron Weinberg) 

Prevents medical debt from appearing on credit reports, and prevents collection agencies from falsely asserting that medical debt will impact one’s credit score. 

HB 23-1008 – Food Accessibility (Rep. Mike Weissman) 

Transfers $1 million per year for the next 7 years to the Colorado Division of Prevention Services, directing the division to partner with a statewide nonprofit organization to provide healthy eating program incentives among Colorado’s low-income populations. One purpose of the program incentives is to increase access to fresh Colorado-grown produce among these populations.  

HB 23-1186 – Remote Participation in Residential Evictions (Reps. Mandy Lindsay & Iman Jodeh) 

For residential evictions filed in county court, the bill requires the court to allow either party or any witness to choose to appear in person or remotely at any proceedings. 

You can see all the bills we’re working on at https://www.rmselca.org/CO_Bills_2023.

 

New Mexico

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry New Mexico (LAM-NM) – lutheranadvocacynm.org

Kurt Rager, Director

1st Session of the 56th Legislature races toward the finish. 

The New Mexico Legislature’s current 60-day session will come to an end at noon on March 18.  Almost 1,300 pieces of legislation have been introduced.  Lutheran Advocacy Ministry – New Mexico (LAM-NM) has been tracking 90-plus bills, actively speaking in support or opposition to those identified as priority legislation through our 2023 Advocacy Agenda.  

LAM-NM Advocacy Agenda legislation highlights:  

Affordable Housing & Homelessness Supporting legislation that would update landlord-tenant relations, for appropriations to the NM Housing Trust Fund, enabling it to greatly increase the building of low and affordable housing, and for funding of programs that can prevent and assist people experiencing homelessness.   

Family-Sustaining Income – Supporting legislation that updates monthly TANF payment amounts, work exemptions and barriers to access, and for new SNAP transitional support and senior cost-of-living support. 

Healthcare – Supporting legislation that would create Public Health and Climate Resiliency funds, that would create a Prescription Drug Affordability Board, that would increase Medicaid provider rate increases, legislation that supports rural healthcare options and staffing, and studying the feasibility of expanding Medicaid to all New Mexicans.  

Hunger – Supporting legislation that would provide for healthy universal breakfast and lunch meals at schools, and for full funding of the Food Initiative.  

Tax Policy – Supporting omnibus tax legislation that would revise personal income tax rates, reduce capital gains tax break, increase the state’s Child Tax Credit, cut the state’s GRT rate, and more.  

Criminal Justice – Supporting legislation that would eliminate the sentencing option of life without the possibility of parole for juveniles, would revise court fines and fees, and would prohibit private prisons from detaining asylum seekers. 

 

Pennsylvania

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry – Pennsylvania (LAMPa) lutheranadvocacypa.org

Tracey DePasquale, Director

LAMPa Director Tracey DePasquale joined Legislative Hunger Caucus leaders at a Capitol press conference about the looming hunger cliff

LAMPa Director Tracey DePasquale joined Legislative Hunger Caucus leaders at a Capitol press conference about the looming hunger cliff

With more than $200 million a month in federal emergency food assistance about to expire in Pennsylvania, advocates invited lawmakers to learn about the growing rate of food insecurity and urged them to increase state supports in the face of a looming hunger cliff. Lutheran ministries were well represented at the Legislative Lunch and Learn, hosted  by the Hunger Caucus and the Pa. Hunger Action Coalition 

Witness in Society staff delivered invitations from ELCA ministries with people experiencing homelessness to members of Congress

Witness in Society staff delivered invitations from ELCA ministries with people experiencing homelessness to members of Congress

 

Lutheran Advocacy Ministries in Pennsylvania(LAMPa) was on the road in February, marking a significant return to in-person events, starting with the delivery of quilt squares and site visit invitations to members of Congress from ELCA ministries in their districts with people experiencing homelessness. The invitations were a follow-up to the Homeless Remembrance Blanket Project held on the Capitol lawn in December. While in Washington, LAMPa Director Tracey DePasquale participated in the Blessed Tomorrow summit for a faith-community campaign to hit 2030 climate targets. 

Closer to home, DePasquale offered in-person presentations in Southwestern, Northeastern and Lower Susquehanna synods and attended the Pasa (Sustainable Agriculture) Conference. 

LAMPa and ecumenical partners offered ashes-to-go in the state Capitol for the first time since the pandemic

LAMPa and ecumenical partners offered ashes-to-go in the state Capitol for the first time since the pandemic

In another welcome return, LAMPa and ecumenical partners marked the start of Lent by offering ashes-to-go in the state Capitol for the first time since the start of the pandemic. 

LAMPa is looking forward to our first in-person Lutheran Day in the Capitol since 2019.  The Rev. Dr. Roger Willer will keynote as we focus on a theme of Discipleship in a Democracy and progress on the new social statement. 

LAMPa is searching for a full-time communications and advocacy engagement manager.  Learn more.   

 

 

Washington

Faith Action Network (FAN) – fanwa.org

Elise DeGooyer, Director

Trevor Sandison (center), longtime ELCA government relations volunteer for FAN, has put in long hours in Olympia this month!

Trevor Sandison (center), longtime ELCA government relations volunteer for FAN, has put in long hours in Olympia this month!

We passed the halfway point in the 2023 Washington State Legislative Session, scheduled to last until April 23. Faith Action Network(FAN)-supported safety net protections were the first bills to pass their houses of origin, including those addressing funding for food banks, free school meals for more children, and hunger-free campuses. Other bills on our agenda that we care greatly about are moving forward, providing fixes to the Working Families Tax Credit, increasing gun safety, and removing unconstitutional statues such as the death penalty from state law. Some bills we care about that would advance economic justice are not moving forward, like a Guaranteed Basic Income and Washington Future Fund. As we move toward April, legislators will also need to come to agreement on a two-year state budget. The hybrid session has allowed for committee testimony both in-person and virtually, enabling advocates to sign in Pro or Con on bills and provide written testimony—all positive outcomes of two years of online sessions. 

FAN-supported gun responsibility bills were debated for many hours on the House floor before passage: One bill will require a comprehensive background check, safety training, and a 10-day waiting period to purchase a firearm in Washington. Another bill would ban the sale of assault weapons and prohibit the sale, manufacture, transport, and import (but not possession) of assault weapons. 

FAN Governing Board members were also involved in local leadership towards passage of an ordinance to ban caste-based discrimination in the City of Seattle, the first city in the nation to do so. 

 

Wisconsin

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

The Rev. Cindy Crane, Director

Wednesday Noon Live: We interviewed Julia Weibe, ELCA member and Bilingual FoodShare Outreach Specialist at Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin. Extra benefits for FoodShare ended on the day of our interview. Hear about what this means, how public policies matter, and about Julia’s personal story and faith journey. 

Advocacy, Training, and Preparations:  We advocated on driver’s licenses for undocumented Wisconsinites. Wisconsin Representative James Sensenbrenner introduced the Real ID Act in 2005. But it was a state law passed in 2007 that prevented undocumented people from obtaining licenses. There is more movement now than in many years to restore licenses for our undocumented neighbors; farmers are among the most vocal advocates.  

We spoke to legislators about returning 17 year old youth to the juvenile justice system. Wisconsin is one of three states still defaulting 17-year-olds to the adult court system, and the other two, Georgia and Texas, have proposed legislation to change that in their legislative hoppers. 

In addition, we advocated on two anti-sex trafficking bills, and in the state budget, funding to support Focus on Energy and addressing the problem of PFAs in water. 

LOPPW led two workshops, one on why we advocate as people of faith and another on how to advocate at a Northwest Synod of Wisconsin Event. 

We continued planning for our Day of Advocacy: Hunger, Climate & Water with our partner, Faith in Place, and our Youth Advocacy Retreat with leaders from synods around Wisconsin and the UP.   

February 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. | COLORADO  | MINNESOTA | OHIO | PENNSYLVANIA | TEXAS |WASHINGTON | WISCONSIN |

 

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

Christine Mangale, Director

  • LWF General Secretary Advocacy Visit: The Rev. Dr. Anne Burghardt, General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), together with Mr. Isaiah Toroitich, Head of Global Advocacy, and Rev. Arni Danielsson, Head of Communications, held their first advocacy mission to the United Nations (UN) headquarters since Rev. Dr. Burghardt was appointed to lead the global communion of churches.  Colleagues from LWF and the Lutheran Office for World Community conducted high-level meetings with officials from UN agencies and Ambassadors from UN member states. These meetings included: Mr. Martin Griffiths, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (UNOCHA), H.E. Miguel Ángel Moratinos, the UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, H.E. Mr. Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine Ambassador to the UNHQ, the office of Mr. Sanjay Wijesekera, Director of Programme Group at UNICEF. Additional meetings and discussions were held with UNFPA, UN Women, Religions for Peace, World Council of Churches and Caritas. The General Secretary also preached at ELCA’s Saint Peter’s Church in Manhattan.  
  • LWF COVID-19 Advocacy Report Launch: LWF implemented a multi-pronged response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including through concerted advocacy and policy engagement. A study based on a series of interviews with LWF staff and members of partner organizations was undertaken by the Joint Learning Initiative (JLI).  The report titled Until All Are Safe, No One Is Safe was launched during a hybrid event organized to coincide with the New York visit of the General Secretary. The report highlights the life-saving impact of the LWF’s Rapid Response Fund, the short and longer-term responses of churches and partners, and offers recommendations for policy makers, donors, churches and other faith actors for recovery and resilience building. 

 

Colorado

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

Peter Severson, Director

LUTHERAN DAY AT THE CAPITOL: Colorado Lutheran Day at the Capitol took place on Thursday, February 16, 2023. Our featured legislative speaker was Representative Andrew Boesenecker, a former ELCA pastor who now represents House District 53 in the Colorado legislature. He was re-elected in November 2022 and currently serves on the Transportation, Housing, and Local Government Committee;, State, Civic, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee;, Appropriations Committee;, and Legislative Audit Committee. Rep. Boesenecker is also a member of the House Majority Leadership team, serving as House Majority Co-Whip. His legislative priorities continue to include affordable housing, gun violence prevention, single payer health care, and protecting our land, air and water. 

LEGISLATIVE SESSION CONTINUES: As the General Assembly continues its work, Lutheran Advocacy is working alongside coalition partners like the Renters’ Roundtable, the Helping Colorado Families Get Ahead coalition, and End Slavery Colorado to advance our policy agenda. You can learn more about what’s on our plate on our website, and check out all the latest bills we’re advocating on here. 

 

Minnesota

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

Tammy Walhof, Director

Clean Energy/Climate: Minnesota passed 100% Carbon-free electricity by 2040, signed into law by Gov. Walz on Feb. 7. It contains important benchmarks along the way: 80% carbon-free electricity by 2030; 90% by 2035.  

Various versions of this bill have been introduced over the last several years, and Lutheran Advocacy-MN has been engaged both on this and other legislation to increase the renewable energy standard. 

Clean energy has champions in both parties. Unfortunately, the Minnesota DFL decision to pass legislation rapidly without amendments (to avoid Conference Committee negotiations) meant it was passed by strictly partisan votes in both chambers. 

 Nevertheless, we’ll take the win and continue to work with both parties on further climate legislation. 

  

Affordable Housing/Homelessness: Eviction levels have reached very high rates, a combination of the pandemic, inflation, and the severe pre-existing housing crisis that has not had enough investment, despite yearly expenditures and broad support. 

Funding for rental assistance, shelter, and other housing has moved quickly in the House, and been laid aside for possible inclusion in omnibus bills in the Senate. We are working to get it passed with bipartisan support. 

  

Sacred Tiny House Communities: Legislation is being held back until it has a good list of bipartisan co-authors. Meantime, LA-MN is working to get letters and meetings of support from across the state, emphasizing the need a) for a class of housing less than 400 sq. feet, and b) for faith communities to have the discretion to create communities on their property without local “Not in my Backyard”(NIMBY) bans. 

 

Ohio

Hunger Network Ohio (HNO) – hungernetwork.org

Deacon Nick Bates, Director

With the launch of Ohio’s budget recommendations at the end of January, Ohio’s legislative sessions are up and running at full speed. At the Hunger Network in Ohio, we are focused on Healthy School Meals for All. In partnership with Hunger Free Schools Ohio, our goal is to ensure that all Ohio students have access to school meals. Hunger in Ohio remains unacceptably high. One in six children, and as many as one in four children in certain counties, live in a household that faces hunger, yet more than one in three children that live in a food insecure household do not qualify for school meals. These meals help to acknowledge that well-nourished minds are not only healthier, but also help children learn better. Healthy School Meals for All also eliminates school meal debt and significantly reduces the administrative work required to operate the School Nutrition Programs and improve school nutrition finances. In addition, Healthy School Meals for All reduces the stigma associated with participating in school meals, which keeps children who need school meals from participating. Ensuring kids get healthy food is a critical step on the path out of poverty and into the workforce. When you have stronger, smarter, healthier kids, you have a stronger, smarter, healthier, more economically competitive state. Ohio needs Healthy School Meals for All. You can learn more at https://hungerfreeschoolsoh.org/impact. 

Pennsylvania

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry – Pennsylvania (LAMPa) lutheranadvocacypa.org

Tracey DePasquale, Director

Hunger tops the policy agenda adopted by the Lutheran Advocacy Ministries in Pennsylvania Policy Council, as already-stressed feeding ministries brace for the elimination of emergency food assistance that totaled $2 billion in Pennsylvania in 2022. Housing/homelessness and creation care (especially climate and clean water) were named other top priorities for our work.  

LAMPa Director Tracey DePasquale, who serves on the executive team of the Pennsylvania Hunger Action Coalition, is working to organize a Legislative Lunch & Learn hosted by the legislative Hunger Caucus on Feb. 27 in the Capitol’s East Wing Rotunda.  ELCA World Hunger leaders in Pennsylvania have been tapped to make a personal invitation and attend with their lawmakers. 

DePasquale has also been working with housing and racial justice advocates in the Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod, ELCA World Hunger and the ELCA Witness in Society federal office as they prepare to honor the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with learning and advocacy on the anniversary of his death in March.  In related work, LAMPa continues to work with the federal office in a follow up to the Homeless Remembrance Blanket Project, securing invitations to members of Congress for visits to ministries with those experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity. 

LAMPa is searching for a full-time communications and advocacy engagement manager. Do you (or someone you know) have professional communications experience, a passion for justice and a call to serve God’s mission in the world — especially in the public square? Learn more here, including how to apply for this position within ELCA Witness in Society.

 

 

Texas

Texas Impact – texasimpact.org

Scott Atnip, Outreach Director

The Texas Legislature has convened for their 140 day biennial legislative session, and Texas Impact is using the first third of the session for membership events and encouraging members to build relationships with their legislative offices. The opening day of the session, Texans of faith gathered with Texas Impact, faith leaders and elected representatives for the Interfaith Service of Public Witness.

The United Women in Faith Legislative Conference sold out with over 200 participants, including many Lutherans for a three day legislative conference and advocacy day at the Capitol. Regina Banks, Director of the Lutheran Office of Public Policy, California, was a keynote speaker and attended the event. Additional advocacy opportunities include Texas Interfaith Advocacy Days, February 19-21, and coalition advocacy days for gun reform, maternal health, LGBT equality and more.  

Texas Impact is organizing Texans of faith through Legislative Engagement Groups by district, and in issue specific teams. Courts and Ports trips to the border have also restarted to allow faith leaders to serve as court observers and learn about issues at the U.S./Mexico border.  

All of this and more is highlighted on Texas Impact’s weekly podcast, Weekly Witness, featuring elected representatives, faith leaders and advocates.

 

 

Washington

Faith Action Network (FAN) – fanwa.org

Elise DeGooyer, Director

We are halfway through the 2023 Washington State Legislative Session that will last into April. Lawmakers will focus this session on creating a two-year state budget, as well as hear from Faith Action Network(FAN) and our partners on bills related to universal school meals, housing justice, expanding the Working Families Tax Credit, assault weapons ban, healthcare for immigrants, solitary confinement, and addressing climate change. Once again, we have an ambitious Legislative Agenda that you can follow with our Bill Tracker. 

One highlight of the session so far was gathering 200+ advocates in our network on February 9 for the first in-person Interfaith Advocacy Day in Olympia in three years! Standing together on the Capitol steps was a jubilant moment in a day filled with learning, engaging, and advocating. From Bellingham to Vancouver, Port Angeles to East Wenatchee and Yakima, and all along the I-5 corridor, 207 people from 36 districts attended over 87 meetings with their legislators. 

ELCA Bishops Shelley Bryan Wee of Northwest WA Synod and Rick Jaech of Southwestern WA Synod shared reflections on how we are called by our faith traditions to learn and to act for justice. We were delighted to be visited by Rep. My-Linh Thai, first refugee member of our legislature, whose passionate message resonated with ours: that love guides her policymaking decisions as she calls on her colleagues to do what is right. Workshops on each category of our legislative agenda were expertly presented by our coalition partners and FAN leaders. Advocates caucused with others from their legislative districts and attended afternoon meetings with legislators. More photos of attendees energized by democracy in the sunshine can be found on our Facebook album. We plan to keep the momentum going through the rest of session and throughout the year!

 

 

Wisconsin

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

The Rev. Cindy Crane, Director

Wednesday Noon Live: We interviewed John Johnson, ELCA Domestic Policy Director, on the Farm Bill. 

 

 

 

Partnerships and Coalitions 

At a recent South-Central Synod event, the Lutheran Office of Public Policy in Wisconsin (LOPPW) and a representative from Women of the ELCA(WELCA) co-led a workshop on social media and engaging with the news. 

LOPPW recently joined a new coalition, Wisconsin Coalition for Safe Roads, which is a broad group including secular and faith-based leaders, advocates for immigration rights, and farm groups.  The focus of the coalition is to pass legislation to allow driver’s licenses for immigrants who do not qualify for Real IDs.   

We continue to be part groups including  the Wisconsin Climate Table, where the director is part of a working group making the Wisconsin Clean Energy Plan known; Healthy School Meals for All Coalition; the Wisconsin Consortium for Anti-Sex Trafficking; and the Raise the Age Coalition, which LOPPW helped to re-unite in 2020.  Our ELCA group planning the Youth Advocacy Retreat also meets regularly. 

The Wisconsin State Budget 

We expect new energy around the driver’s license issue and returning 17-year-old youth to the juvenile justice system.  Both will likely be in the Governor’s budget but will hopefully have independent bills. 

Our interfaith advocacy day will be focused on hunger, climate, and water.  The organizers, LOPPW and Faith in Place, are consulting with our speakers from Renew Wisconsin and Clean Wisconsin to choose issues on energy and water to advocate on.  We will also choose issues related to hunger. 

Lutherans in the 118th Congress

The 118th U.S. Congress convened on January 3, 2023. Following finalization of House speakership, the official swearing in took place January 7, 2023. The following are some of the legislators with Lutheran affiliation who will serve the country in this new session. 


In the U.S. Senate, ELCA member Sen. Sherrod Brown D-OH, Sen. Joni Ernst R-IA, Sen. Martin Heinrich D-NM, and Sen. Jeff Merkley D-OR are continuing their service. In the U.S. House of Representatives, incumbent ELCA members continuing their service includes Rep. John Carter R-TX, Rep. Zoe Lofgren D-CA, Rep. Scott Peters D-CA, Rep. Chellie Pingree D-ME, Rep. Stacey Plaskett D-U.S. Virgin Islands, and Rep. Lloyd Smucker R-PA.  

Additional Lutheran leaders in the Senate include Sen. Cynthia Lummis R-WY and re-elected Sen. Ron Johnson R-WI. In the House of Representatives, incumbent Lutheran leaders continuing their service include Rep. Kelly Armstrong R-ND, Rep. Jack Bergman R-MI, Rep. Larry Bucshon R-IN, Rep. Angie Craig D-MN, Rep. Ron Estes R-KS, Glenn Grothman R-WI, Rep. Tracey Mann R-KS, Rep. Donald Norcross D-NJ, and Rep. David Trone D-MD. Rep. Sydney Kamlager D-CA will be joining the House, and Rep. Ryan Zinke R-MT will be returning to the House after leaving his seat to serve as Secretary of the Interior in the Trump administration from 2017-2019.  

Prior to conclusion of his term, Rep. Jim Hagedorn R-MN, had died in office in February 2022. Retiring from Congress are Lutherans Rep. Ron Kind D-WI, Rep. Ed Perlmutter D-CO, and Sen. Ben Sasse R-NE. 


 

“Taking the time to learn about your legislators is an invaluable asset to your advocacy efforts at any level of government,” notes Lutheran Advocacy Ministry Arizona in the ELCA-affiliated state public policy office network. “Maybe you’d be surprised how effective a simple postcard congratulating them on their victories can be,” they add. 

Get a jump start on building relationships with your lawmakers this session! Start by making sure you know who represents you. Use govtrack.us to find federal officials, or openstates.org, among other lookup tools to find websites and social media for state and federal leaders, as well as www.congress.gov/members/find-your-member.

January Updates: State Edition

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

CALIFORNIA | COLORADO  | FLORIDA | MINNESOTA | OHIO | PENNSYLVANIA | WASHINGTON | WISCONSIN |

 

California

Lutheran Office of Public Policy – California (LOPP-CA) – lutheranpublicpolicyca.org

Regina Banks, Director

Happy New Year from the Lutheran Office of Public Policy-California! The California legislature reconvened for the start of the 2023 session on January 4th. We will start to know more about proposed legislation and goals for this year once the governor’s budget is released soon. 

Looking ahead: LOPP-CA’s weekly advocacy briefings are starting up again on February 8th and will continue throughout the legislative session on Wednesdays at 12 pm Pacific Time on Zoom. Feel free to join us! Find out more on our website: https://lutheranpublicpolicyca.org/advocacy-in-quarantine-2 

 

Colorado

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

Peter Severson, Director

LEGISLATIVE SESSION KICKS OFF: The Colorado General Assembly returned to legislating action on Monday, January 9. Lutheran Advocacy joined partners in human needs and social services sectors for a kickoff luncheon at First Baptist Church of Denver to discuss the budget and fiscal forecast for the upcoming session, featuring the experts from the Colorado Fiscal Institute. The state of Colorado is expected to continue to experience historically high revenue for several years, and we look forward to advocating for equitable, human needs-centered legislation that makes the best use of the opportunities ahead. 

 

COLORADO LUTHERAN DAY AT THE CAPITOL: Mark your calendars! Colorado Lutheran Day at the Capitol will take place on Thursday, February 16, from 8:00am to 1:00pm. The event will kick off with breakfast at St. Paul Lutheran Church, 1600 Grant Street, in downtown Denver, just a few blocks from the Capitol, followed by a morning of advocating with legislators in person. Breakfast and lunch are included! Registration opens soon: check https://www.rmselca.org/co-lutheran-day-at-the-capitol for more information. 

 

Florida

Florida Council of Churches – floridachurches.org

The Rev. Russell L. Meyer, Executive Director

“I Desire Mercy” is the 2023 Florida Advocacy Days theme with Florida-Bahamas Synod Bishop Pedro Suarez for synod clergy and laity in Tallahassee on February 14-15. Participants are asked to arrive in the afternoon for training on February 14 followed by a dinner. Visits with legislators will be held the next morning. More information is forthcoming at floridachurches.org/idesiremercy. Please make this your date with the Florida you love!
 

Florida has become an expensive state to live in (read more). Many moved here for the good weather and low cost of living. The state coffers are flush with money, yet the burden are high on local taxes and fees. Wages don’t match increases in rent, food, and fuel costs for many. Our schools are pinched, creation is under great strain, and divisiveness is apparent.  

Jesus teaches that God desires mercy.  Faith communities have been feeding and clothing and counseling Floridians without question. We know human pain. We have stories to share. These stories are God’s tools for bringing new opportunities to life. Our legislators need to hear our voices speak of the calling for mercy. Your voice belongs in the legislature! 

 

Minnesota

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

Tammy Walhof, Director

Affordable Housing: The Homes for All Coalition has a list of 35 issues. Lutheran Advocacy-MN will focus on… 

  1. Sacred Communities (Communities of tiny homes on premises of places of worship with formerly homeless households and “missioner” households): Change zoning laws to allow houses under 400 square feet. 
  2. Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing (NOAH): Provide significant annual funding for acquisition and rehab. 
  3. Capital Requests for Production & Rehab Funding: 
    1. $500M for Housing Infrastructure Bonds; 
    2. $250M for General Obligation Bonds for publicly owned housing rehab; 
    3. $250M cash for homeownership, community land trusts, and manufactured home park infrastructure; 
    4. $200M for emergency shelter capital. 
  4. Down Payment Assistance: Create a first-generation down payment assistance program targeted to BIPOC homebuyers.  
  5. Housing Support Income Modifications: Reform calculations to ensure those receiving SSI, RSDI, veterans benefits, tribal payments and lived experience stipends can to retain more of their personal income.  
  6. Pre-Eviction Notice & Eviction Expungement: Mandate a landlord-provided 14-day pre-eviction notice, and make reforms including a requirement that evictions 3 years or older be removed from a renter’s record.  
  7. Source of Income Protection: Amend the Minnesota Human Rights Act to clarify that housing discrimination based on a person’s source of income is illegal. 
  8. Lead-Free Homes: Create a fund for small grants to do lead-remediation in low-income rental homes. 

Creation Care:  

  1. Infrastructure Funding Matches: Funding to take advantage of federal funds available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure legislation.  
  2. Climate/Clean Energy: Reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase clean energy through stand-alone legislation or portions of other bills, including the 100% Bills.  
  3. Energy Transition: Increase the role and funding of the Minnesota Energy Transition Office to support both community and worker transition from fossil fuels. 

 

Ohio

Hunger Network Ohio (HNO) – hungernetwork.org

Deacon Nick Bates, Director

The Hunger Network will focus the next six months on the Ohio Capital Budget. We are offering a budget training and conversation on Thursday, January 26th at both 12pm and 7pm to discuss priorities, historical context and hot issues for this year’s budget debate. REGISTER HERE FOR THIS EVENT!  

In the budget we plan to prioritize: 

  1. Support for food pantries and affordable housing: We will work in partnership and coalition to make sure we continue to increase investments into housing and food security in Ohio.  
  2. Hunger Free Schools Ohio: During the pandemic we saw that universal school meals worked. We encourage the Ohio General Assembly to expand free meals again to all of Ohio’s public schools.  
  3. Inflation assistance through targeted tax credits: The federal child tax credit in 2021 reduced childhood hunger in Ohio. Ohio should adopt a refundable Earned Income Tax Credit EITC or a Child Tax Credit to help families respond to higher prices at the grocery store and gas pump.  
  4. Guarantee equity and adequacy in our schools: Two years ago, the General Assembly agreed to a new school funding formula. It is time that we properly fund it so that all kids have the love and support they need to succeed.  
  5. Make Ohio the best place to raise a family: There are many steps we can take in Ohio to build up our great state that will reduce hunger and infant mortality, invest in our parks and waterways, and help families to succeed. Through Ohio’s budget we can change lives and strengthen our state. 

 

Pennsylvania

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry – Pennsylvania (LAMPa) lutheranadvocacypa.org

Tracey DePasquale, Director

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania (LAMPa) advocates helped draw attention to the needs of our unsheltered neighbors as 2022 drew to a close, spreading approximately 1,000 blankets on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol on the nation’s Homeless Persons Memorial Day, also the longest night of the year.  The art installation was also an act of charity – enabling people across the country to donate handmade blankets that were later distributed to those experiencing or escaping homelessness.  Advocacy with and on behalf of unsheltered neighbors continues through ELCA Witness in Society, as ministries invite lawmakers to visit and learn about the factors underlying homelessness in their communities. 

LAMPa’s policy council will meet later this month to establish priorities for its policy agenda, a task made more challenging by the uncertainty in the General Assembly, with leadership in flux and a vow by the surprise Pennsylvania House Speaker that nothing will move until the House adopts an amendment reopening a window in the statute of limitations for cases of child sexual abuse 

LAMPa has begun a search for a full-time communications and advocacy engagement manager. Do you (or someone you know) have professional communications experience, a passion for justice and a call to serve God’s mission in the world — especially in the public square? Learn more here, including how to apply for this position within ELCA Witness in Society. 

 

Washington

Faith Action Network (FAN) – fanwa.org

Elise DeGooyer, Director

We have turned our attention toward the 2023 Washington State Legislative Session, which officially began Monday, January 9, 2023. We are proud to share our ambitious Legislative Agenda, shaped in collaboration with advocates who participate in Faith Action Network (FAN) meetings year-round, coalition partners, and FAN’s staff, Policy Committee, and Governing Board. There is momentum from the Governor’s office and legislators for making significant investments in affordable housing and preventing homelessness this session, and we are part of building momentum for universal school meals and an assault weapons ban. We will be adding fact sheets for the items on our legislative agenda and updating our bill tracker as legislation moves through the session.  

We recently hosted two virtual trainings sessions to prepare our network for the session, one previewing our legislative agenda and the other an Advocacy 101 refresher with tools for getting involved this session. You can view these recorded sessions on our YouTube Page. We are co-sponsoring and will be presenting at the annual Eastern Washington Legislative Conference in Spokane on Saturday, January 21. We especially look forward to gathering our statewide network in person in Olympia again for Interfaith Advocacy Day on Thursday, Feb 9. 

 

Wisconsin

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

The Rev. Cindy Crane, Director

Wednesday Noon Live: We interviewed former Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin (LOPPW) ELCA Hunger Advocacy Fellow, Vicar Kelsey Johnson. Johnson discussed faith-based advocacy, her year in the Holy Land as a YAGM, and her continued advocacy for Palestinians. 

 

 

We enter 2023 looking forward to following through with plans we began in 2022, some that were initiated earlier. 

  • March 21 Advocacy Day: Hunger and our Environment. We are co-organizing this event with Faith in Place, an interfaith environmental organization, and accessing local experts to address specific line items in the Governor’s budget as the budget is analyzed by the joint finance committee. 
  • April 14 – 15 Youth Advocacy Gathering: LOPPW has been meeting with representatives from six synods since early in 2021. Our first in-person event for youth from Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan will be held in Madison. We will address specific social justice issues and talk about faith-based advocacy. 
  • Our Raise the Age Coalition, which was resurrected largely by our former Hunger Advocacy Fellow, Kyle Minden, is coming closer to influencing legislators to pass a bill to return 17-year-old youth to the youth justice system. We have key Republicans interested in championing the bill. 

LOPPW has a presence at the regular meetings of ELCA World Hunger leaders from around the state. We are discussing ways to educate people about the Farm Bill.  One of our members is involved with Bread for the World. We may organize one event in partnership with Bread while working with our D.C. office. 

Hard and holy work of depolarization

By Kayla Zopfi, ELCA Hunger Advocacy Fellow[about the author]

“When we talk to someone who shares the same Christian faith, but has a different set of political beliefs or convictions, it can be uncomfortable, or frustrating, and sometimes even scary. As members of the ELCA, we believe that we can have different political opinions but be of the same faith,” asserts Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton in her November 2, 2022 video addressing Christian Nationalism. 

Bringing people together because of, rather than despite, political differences has been a successful value nurtured in many congregations and synods, as well as by us as individuals. “It feels like progress is being made, like seeds are being planted,” said Marilyn Berberich, a leader with the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia, after trying Braver Angels tools that help facilitate depolarizing conversations. “It made me realize how much I assumed about others,” she reflected, which prompted her to volunteer as a “Red leader” in the parlance of the organization.  

As the United States continues to grapple with accelerating polarization, and the ELCA navigates being a multipartisan denomination, we can play a role in coming together to create spaces that center us in our common identity as followers of Christ, and build up our resistance to that which may divide us. 

Sharing stories based on important themes and experiences from within our faith communities, an ELCA Advocacy Cafe took on the question, “Can Talking Politics Be Healthy”. Silas Kulkarni, ELCA Director of Strategy and Advocacy and former Senior Fellow and Chief of Staff for the Braver Angels Debate and Public Discourse Program, brought together diverse presenters to help envision the role that every individual can play in the work of depolarization.  

“We need reconcilers,” stated the Rt. Rev. Mark Beckwith, Episcopal Diocese of Newark bishop, during Advocacy Cafe. Centered in Matthew 5, Bishop Beckwith said healthy conversations across divides are important “not to move people from one side to another, but to find common ground” and “honor the differences we have.

Local, faith-centered approaches to having healthy conversations across divides were described by participants. Some tools from Braver Angels include: 

 

“Many congregations already face enough friction in their life together without looking for more, particularly in the fraught arenas of public policy and politics,” wrote the Rev. Amy Reumann, Senior Director, ELCA Witness in Society, in The Forgotten Luther: Reclaiming the Social-Economic Dimension of the Reformation. “As the essays in this volume show, Luther lived and taught a living and lively faith that inspires and enables us to respond to God’s grace by moving us from our private lives into the public square for the well-being of our neighbor.” 

I’m drawn to the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi: “Lord make me an instrument of your peace.” Depolarization is hard and holy work. Consider joining, or even creating, these conversation spaces in your community. 

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kayla Zopfi(she/they) is a Hunger Advocacy Fellow with the ELCA Witness in Society team, passionate about the intersection of faith and the policy. Zopfi is a 2021 graduate of Concordia College, Moorhead, where they studied Religion, Political Science, and Interfaith Studies.

December 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. | CALIFORNIA | COLORADO  | NEW MEXICO | OHIO | PENNSYLVANIA | WASHINGTON | WISCONSIN |

 

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

Christine Mangale, Director

World AIDS Day 2022

  • This year, World AIDS Day 2022 was marked under the theme Equalize, a call on global leaders and all peoples of goodwill to recognize and address inequalities holding back progress in ending aids. It is critical to equalize access to essential HIV services particularly for children and key populations and their partners.
  • On Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, an interfaith World AIDS Day service was held under the theme: “The impact of HIV among the marginalized within the marginalized.” Planning partners of the service included leadership from the U.S. Faith & AIDS Coalition, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, HIV Vaccine Trials Network, and the Lutheran Office for World Community.
  • Ensuring that all people living with HIV have access to HIV treatment, testing and prevention services must continue to be the focus of our HIV and AIDS ministries both in the U.S. and abroad. We encourage Lutherans everywhere to support efforts by governments, churches and other partners to provide resources towards testing, treatment, care and prevention services.
  • We call upon President Biden and Congress to increase funding to PEPFAR; the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; and domestic programs that provide preventive care and treatment in the United States. We also urge U.N. member states to reform laws, policies and practices to tackle the stigma and exclusion faced by people living with HIV and by key and marginalized populations, and to support the proposed target of ending the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria as articulated in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

 

California

Lutheran Office of Public Policy – California (LOPP-CA) – lutheranpublicpolicyca.org

Regina Banks, Director

With the start of December, new and returning California legislators were in Sacramento on December 5th to be sworn in. This new legislature is the most diverse in California history, seeing record numbers of women and LGBTQIA+ people elected. Of note, a few races remain too close to call, and the deadline to certify results is not until December 16th.  

Additionally, a special session in the legislature was opened to discuss a proposal headed by Governor Newsom that would place a cap on the profit margin of oil companies and fine  companies that exceed the limit. The stated goal of this proposal is to prevent price-gouging by oil companies, as California has seen vastly higher gasoline prices for consumers than other states. More details have yet to be flushed out in this proposal, however, including whether any fines will be considered a tax and whether California residents will receive any compensation from such fines.  

For a look at the California ballot proposition results from the midterm elections, and to compare the results to what our Policy Council recommended, check out our updated voter guide here.

 

Colorado

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

Peter Severson, Director

PREPARING FOR SESSION: The Colorado General Assembly will return on Monday, January 9, 2023. Policy advocates across the state are preparing for the beginning of session, which may feature significant bills to address housing supply, the cost of living, disaster preparedness, gun violence, and other critical issues facing Colorado. Lutheran Advocacy will be there from opening gavel to close, and we invite you to join us in lifting our voices for the sake of critical issues affecting our neighbors. Learn more at www.lam-co.org 

 

New Mexico

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry New Mexico (LAM-NM) – lutheranadvocacynm.org

Kurt Rager, Director

A long-standing annual event for Lutheran Advocacy Ministry – New Mexico(LAM-NM) has been its annual Fall Advocacy Conference. The event is highlighted by keynote speakers connected to key policy areas focused on by LAM-NM, and offers various workshops on topics such as how to advocate on priority issues with state legislators. The Covid pandemic caused a two-year pause for the conference. Naturally, there was much enthusiasm when the decision was made to hold a hybrid  event in November this year.    

Advocates from across New Mexico gathered in-person at All Saints Lutheran Church, Albuquerque, as well as online on November 19th. In attendance were not only ELCA congregations but also, in a reflection of historically strong ecumenical participation and support, participants included Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Catholics, Methodists, Mennonites and more. Alongside keynote speakers and workshops, the day-long event included small and large group discussions, and of course–the key to success at Lutheran events–coffee, snacks and a meal!  

As we continue to learn and adapt our advocacy ministry during a global pandemic, a primary focus of LAM-NM is to continue to nurture and grow its congregation-based advocacy network, as well as extend it to our on-going advocacy partnership with the New Mexico Conference of Churches. Lilly Irvin-Vitella, a highly respected advocate, organizer, and consultant, led participants through two interactive experiences focused on building grassroots advocacy groups in congregations and on how to successfully hold conversations on topics that often become divisive. Sherry Hooper, who leads the primary food bank covering northern NM, shared with participants a proposal to end hunger by addressing poverty in the city of Santa Fe that could be used as a state-wide model. Finally, Denali Wilson, an attorney with the ACLU, focused participant’s attention on juveniles convicted of murder and serving life sentences in NM and on the move to remove the mandatory life sentence without a parole hearing option from judges during sentencing. LAM-NM will lead the faith community’s advocacy during the upcoming legislative session that begins in January 2024.    

 

Ohio

Hunger Network Ohio (HNO) – hungernetwork.org

Deacon Nick Bates, Director

On November 29th, 30 faith leaders from across Ohio gathered at Trinity Episcopal Church in Columbus, across from the Ohio Statehouse, to begin Advocacy in Advent. During a season of hope and anticipation, we prepared and sent advocates to two dozen legislative meetings to discuss important issues including: 

– Investments needed in affordable housing ($308 million) and Ohio’s foodbanks ($90 million) 

– Criminal Justice transformation (SB 288 passed the Senate with a 27-2 vote later that week!)  

– Protecting LGBTQIA+ youth’s access to mental and physical healthcare. (HB 454 was removed from the legislative agenda because of a strong push from community advocates! However, further discriminatory measures are still being considered against trans and non-binary youth. Our director wrote a letter to the editor of the Columbus Dispatch on this issue that can be found here.) 

                

 

We are also pleased to welcome Jillian Russell to the Hunger Network as our ELCA Hunger Advocacy Fellow!  Russell comes to us from the Northwest Ohio Synod and is a recent graduate of Capital University. We look forward to working closely with her over the next year to strengthen our advocacy here in Ohio! 

 

Pennsylvania

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry – Pennsylvania (LAMPa) lutheranadvocacypa.org

Tracey DePasquale, Director

The Rev. Matthew Best, LAMPa chair; LAMPa Director Tracey DePasquale, the Rev. Schaunel Steinnagel and the Rev. Violet Little, co-pastors at The Welcome Church, lifted up the voice of unsheltered neighbors at the PA Homes Within Reach Conference.

LAMPa wrapped up 2022 with a focus on housing and homelessness as hundreds of thousands of Americans face winter without a  safe and reliable place to call home. 

Staff and Policy Council members continued outreach to fellow Lutherans across the country and the Commonwealth in support of the Homeless Remembrance Blanket Project on Dec. 21 in Washington, D.C. The project, which features blankets from every state spread on the lawn of the Capital in remembrance of those who died unsheltered in the United States in 2022, was inspired by a similar event in Carlisle, Lower Susquehanna Synod, led by the Rev. Matthew Best, LAMPa’s Policy Council Chair.   

The Housing Alliance of PA recognized the Rev. Violet Little with the Frontline Leader Award. The ministry of The Welcome Church is supported by ELCA World Hunger.

Lutherans and others have been busy quilting, crocheting, and knitting blankets for the art installation and press event. Approximately 1,000 blankets are expected to arrive from each state in the country and be distributed afterward to those in need. LAMPa is assisting ministries with unsheltered neighbors to connect with ELCA Witness in Society to host a site visit with members of Congress as a follow up to the event. Email us to learn more. 

One of those sites will be The Welcome Church, whose founder, the Rev. Violet Little, was recognized with the Frontline Leader Award at the state’s Homes Within Reach Conference. More than 800 attended the conference, hosted by the Housing Alliance of PA, of which LAMPa is a member. The award recognizes those whose work inspires and uplifts and puts the needs of those they serve front and center. Learn more. 

 

 

Washington

Faith Action Network (FAN) – fanwa.org

Elise DeGooyer, Director

This past month, Faith Action Network(FAN) hosted its first Annual Hybrid Dinner celebrating together the theme, Pathways to Solidarity. We experienced so much solidarity as we helped keep FAN moving forward into a new year of advocacy and organizing for justice. The Northwest African American Museum Cultural Ensemble/ACE gospel choir added incredible harmonies and a joyful noise. FAN Board Member Aneelah Afzali of MAPS(Muslim Association of Puget Sound)-AMEN raised the energy in the room with her passion for solidarity as faith in action! You can still enjoy the program archived on our YouTube page (program begins at the 30 minute mark), and view  select photos from the evening on our Facebook page. 

FAN also recently welcomed in a new part-time Spokane organizer, Jeff Debray. Jeff played a major part in orchestrating our Spokane location for our annual dinner. Jeff brings his political organizing skills to the legislative session that will begin on January 10, 2023.  

We are now preparing for the 2023 legislative session. We will be finalizing our priorities this month. We also will be hosting two legislative training sessions in January, as well and two advocacy days, one in Spokane and one in Olympia, to put our Faith into Action. 

 

Wisconsin

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

The Rev. Cindy Crane, Director

ANNUAL LOPPW POLICY COUNCIL MEETING: We explored the possibility of continuing our current priorities:  hunger, care for God’s creation, anti-sex trafficking, immigration, and youth justice, with the possibility of expanding one of our priorities. We also decided that the council will, in our education and resource-building, emphasize one priority at a time each year. We decided to focus on care for God’s creation in 2023. 

WEDNESDAY NOON LIVE: Our co-host, Rev. Andy Twiton, sought out connections with young adults who are doing faith-based social justice work as part of their career or as volunteers. He was directed to Rachel Wyffels, former hunger advocacy fellow for Lutheran Advocacy Minnesota. Rachel discussed her work with Abide and offered keen insight into what a number of young adults are passionate about in their advocacy and voting. We will invite former LOPPW hunger advocacy fellow, Kelsey Johnson, next month. 

RETURNING 17 YEAR-OLDS TO THE YOUTH JUSTICE SYSTEM: Our coalition received good news about two Republican legislators who were willing to champion this bill. We are strategizing how to build public support when the bill comes out. Recently, Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin(LOPPW) director, the Rev. Cindy Crane, led a new workshop on this issue for the first time!

CARE FOR GOD’S CREATION & HUNGER:  LOPPW and Faith in Place have a location for our spring advocacy day and will soon make an announcement with details.  

YOUTH: Our team of representatives from six synods are almost settled on an exact location for our April youth advocacy gathering.   

Hunger Advocacy Fellows Loaded with Skills and Opportunities

The year spent with ELCA Hunger Advocacy Fellows enhances our work and ministry at the D.C. and state public policy offices in the ELCA-affiliated network where they are located and enriches their future encounters with a year spent loaded with opportunity, networking, discernment and engagement.  

In the 2022-23 cycle, three leaders are placed through funding of ELCA World Hunger in California, Ohio and Washington, D.C. where they’ve expressed eagerness to connect, learn and grow as they help work for a world where all are fed. 

 

Savannah Jorgensen (she/her):

Savannah Jorgensen is currently serving with the Lutheran Office of Public Policy – California. Before joining the ELCA, Jorgensen received her master’s degree in Atmospheric Sciences from Texas A&M University. She also holds her bachelor’s degree in Meteorology from Valparaiso University.  

With these education foundations, this Fellow has a passionate interest in environmental justice and climate change policy, so she is very excited to work in advocacy in Sacramento. In her free time, Jorgensen enjoys singing, spending time outdoors, and relaxing with her cat. 

 

Jillian Russell (she/her):

Jillian Russell is currently serving with Hunger Network Ohio. Russell graduated from Capital University in Columbus, Ohio where she studied Youth Ministry and Christian Education and Psychology. While in her undergraduate program, she focused her education surrounding the intersection of religion and agriculture and on how religious groups can engage members in new and exciting ways and advocate for one another. This encouraged Russell to find a passion in outdoor ministry where she served two summers at both Agape Kure Beach Ministries and Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp.  

Currently, Russell serves on the synod council of the ELCA Northwestern Ohio Synod. As an ELCA Hunger Advocacy Fellow, she hopes to continue her work in building connections between people of different faiths, traditions, and backgrounds while also advocating for state and local issues surrounding these topics.  

 

Kayla Zopfi (she/they): 

Since August, Kayla Zopfi has been serving with D.C.-based advocacy staff on the ELCA Witness in Society team. Zopfi graduated from Concordia College, Moorhead, where they studied Religion, Political Science and Interfaith Studies. Through her coursework and involvement, Zopfi became interested in understanding how people’s core values affect the way they see and interact with their communities and the world around them, and found her passions for institutional reform and storytelling.   

Zopfi recently concluded a Lutheran Volunteer Corps year of service with the ELCA Minneapolis Area Synod, where she was the Communications and Administrative Associate. Outside of work, Zopfi loves podcasts and audiobooks, talking about the Enneagram and astrology, and building new connections!