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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 last month. Full list and map of sppos available.


New York
Lutheran Office for World Community (LOWC), U.N. –
Christine Mangale, Director

As our Lutheran Office for World Community colleagues conclude vigorous activity during the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW68), no March update is available.

Solveig Muus, Director

LAMA hosted its 3rd annual Lutheran Day at the Legislature on January 18. Gathered were 125 Lutherans and friends representing 24 of Arizona’s 30 legislative districts to hear remarks from Secretary of State Adrian Fontes, Arizona’s longest-serving senator, Lela Alston, Bishop Deborah Hutterer and others, and then met with their legislators about hunger, the water crisis, equal access to voting, and the need for low-income housing. Participants met with more than 40 lawmakers, practicing neighbor love through advocacy and demonstrating that faith is an action word. 

LAMA co-hosted its 2nd annual Anti-Hunger Advocacy Day at the Capitol on February 21. LAMA co-founded the Arizona Anti-Hunger Alliance, a statewide coalition of food banks, farmers, healthy school meals advocates, community gardeners, justice advocates, state agencies and faith-based organizations who share common values – ending hunger! – to educate our legislators and advocate for the more than 750,000 Arizonans who face hunger every day. 

The Grand Canyon Synod Hunger Leaders Network sponsored the 40-40-40 Lenten Challenge, an ELCA Region 2 inter-synod challenge. Participating were 708 individuals in 149 congregations across the five synods of Region 2. Based on the enthusiastic response to the challenge and a productive regional meeting at the ELCA World Hunger Leaders Gathering in February, the Region 2 delegates decided to meet regularly to discern how the five synods might collaborate as church together around hunger. 

The Grand Canyon Synod’s Bishop Deborah Hutterer joined other faith leaders and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle on February 15 to discuss the pressing need for affordable, accessible housing, pressing for the passage of Yes In God’s Backyard (YIGBY), legislation aimed at helping Arizona meet the needs of its inadequately-housed citizens.

Lutheran Office of Public Policy (LOPPCA) –
Regina Banks, Director

LOPPCA has a strong focus on the state budget situation leading up to the May Revision deadline. The Legislative Analyst’s Office projects a potential $73 billion deficit as of February. Our priority areas to prevent the most drastic cuts this year are centered in housing, human services, and climate. A budget letter containing LOPPCA’s specific 2024 budget asks has been completed.  

The policy bill process is ramping up in the state legislature as well. A couple bills that we’ve begun to track and support in our office include:  

AB 2090 (Irwin) – which would require the Office of Farm to Fork in CA’s Department of Agriculture to work with transportation agencies to prioritize efforts in food deserts, especially counties most impacted by food security. Additionally, the bill would require the office to work with school districts to assess access to school meal programs during academic calendar breaks and school closures.  

SB 252 (Gonzalez) – which would prohibit the state retirement systems from making new investments or renewing existing investments of retirement funds in a fossil fuel company.  

Upcoming event: Registration is ongoing for our 5th annual Lutheran Lobby Day on Wednesday, May 15th in Sacramento! Register and learn more here:

Lutheran Advocacy Minnesota (LA-MN) –
Tammy Walhof, Director

E-Waste Recycling: Bills to redefine and collect electronic waste have passed House and Senate Environment Committees. Next, they must pass the respective Commerce Committees, and then Ways and Means in the House and Finance in the Senate. Our previous Action Alerts are still valid, but focus on asking legislators to urge their colleagues in the Commerce Committees to pass the bills (H.F.3566 in House; S.F.3940 in Senate). Concerns with small upfront fees to be charged on electronics to pay for statewide collection should be countered by reminding legislators that health costs of toxins getting into groundwater or air are much greater, as are taxpayer costs as counties address fire hazards from electronics in trash.

Affordable Housing: The House Capitol Investment Committee passed H.F.4194 for $500 million in Housing Infrastructure Bonds (HIBs) and an expansion of the possible uses of HIBs to allow funds to be used to address deferred maintenance, insurance, renovations, and more. Our partners at MCCD (Metropolitan Consortium of Community Developers) claim that about one-third of affordable housing residents are at risk of losing housing because operators can’t keep up with expenses (a problem stemming from increasing insurance and pandemic losses). Although we do not expect obstacles at the House Housing Committee, please watch for Action Alerts as HIBs move forward from there

 Lenten Letter Challenge: Action is still possible from this initiative which helps generate action to legislators from your church, committee, group, friends, or wherever through our Lenten Letter Challenge (scroll to mid-page). Action doesn’t need to be tied to Lent, but Lenten season launch was meaningful timing. 


Hunger Network in Ohio (HNO) –
Deacon Nick Bates, Director

Gerrymandering Reform NOW! 

When legislators are more concerned with small segments of primary voters and cable news quotes, our food pantries, social services, and school groups will not be heard on the local needs. That is why the Hunger Network is all in on gerrymandering reform! The Citizens not Politicians campaign is gathering signatures to put the issue before Ohio voters in November. Luther said that Daily bread includes good government. We need a government where the people choose our representatives not where politicians choose their voters. Learn more at 

Faith Leaders Legislative Lunch April 16th 11-1pm at the Ohio Statehouse.  

Join people of faith and advocates to have lunch with our lawmakers to discuss safe, decent, and affordable housing in Ohio and what can be done to guarantee every Ohioan a bed at night and a full table for dinner. You can reserve your seat at  

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania (LAMPa) –
Tracey DePasquale, Director

LAMPa is excited to open registration for Lutheran Day in the Capitol, and our 45th Anniversary Gala Celebration of Advocates on May 9!  We will celebrate and cultivate being church together in Pennsylvania for the sake of the world God loves, lifting up our partnership with ELCA World Hunger as we mark 50 years of striving for a just world where all are fed. 

In February, LAMPa staff participated in the World Hunger Leaders Gathering in Texas. Read what Penn. hunger leaders took away from the event.

Gov. Josh Shapiro announced his budget in February. LAMPa found much to applaud, but called for more investment in anti-hunger programs to meet the need we are witnessing

 As we marked National School Breakfast Week with a win and a challenge, LAMPa encouraged congregations to step up in support of summer nutrition programs.  

 LAMPa launched a period poverty postcard campaign on International Women’s Day, Mar. 8, urging lawmakers to support the governor’s request for $3 million for menstrual hygiene products in public schools – a need raised by our ministries with struggling families and individuals across the state. 

Recognizing that Pennsylvania is a pivotal state this election year, Gov. Shapiro launched an elections security task force, and LAMPa shared tips and resources for faithful civic engagement as a way of loving our neighbor

 As the daffodils began to bloom in Pennsylvania, LAMPa shared resources for congregations and conferences to mark Earth Day in praise, prayer and action for the care of neighbor and our common home.

Faith Action Network  (FANWA) –
Elise DeGooyer, Executive Director

 We are grateful to report that FAN had our successful Interfaith Advocacy Day on February 8. The sun shone upon nearly 200 faithful advocates who gathered from across the state. We heard from plenary speakers including Sen. Yasmin Trudeau and attended workshops on different advocacy topics presented by coalition partners in the morning. Attendees caucused among their districts and met with legislators and staff. This year, the attendees had a unique opportunity of “floor pulls,” and some legislators stepped off the floor to meet their constituents in the lobby. The dynamic presence of FAN advocates at the Capitol served as a reminder of the crucial role faith communities play in legislative advocacy. 

As Washington’s 2024 legislative session wrapped up, we have exciting news. At the time of this writing, some bills that we advocated for are nearing the governor’s desk to be signed into law, including HB 2368 Funding for Services for Newly Arrived Immigrants which impacts those who do not qualify for federal refugee programs, and HB 1541 Nothing About Us Without Us to ensure the meaningful participation of people with direct lived experience on state committees. We also witnessed several major policies stall, such as HB 2114 Limiting Rent Increases at seven percent annually, and HB 1579 Establishing a State Office of Independent Prosecutor. Updates can be found on our bill tracker

While some bills’ journeys to become law may have stopped short this year, FAN’s advocacy does not cease. As the legislators finalized the  supplemental budget, FAN network  raised our voices to call for budget allocations that meet the environmental and human needs of communities like children in school, senior citizens experiencing heightened food insecurity, and unhoused people.  


FAN Advocates at the steps of the legislative building of the Washington State Capitol.

The Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin (LOPPW) –
The Rev. Cindy Crane, Director

Voting: On Wednesday Noon Live we interviewed Jay Heck, Common Cause, and discussed how legislative maps in Wisconsin will impact state elections. Heck has been working on fair maps in Wisconsin and explained the nuances of the new maps. We asked him: 

  •   What just happened to our Wisconsin maps? 
  •   Are the new ones much fairer? 
  •   Why did Republicans hang on to the old ones? 
  •   Why were some Democrats against the new ones? 
  •   How long-lasting are the new maps? 

  Care for God’s Creation:  LOPPW is supporting SB791 that would allow Wisconsin to meet the requirements for the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program. Wisconsin is one of two states that has not met these requirements. If passed, Wisconsin’s Department of Transportation would administer $78.5 million in federal funding for electric vehicle infrastructure to have Level 3 DC Fast Electric Vehicle Charging Stations every 50 miles on major state highways. 

  Immigration:  LOPPW has been advocating on four state bills relate to DACA recipients receiving occupational licensing, a tax credit, in-state tuition, and allowing them to be police officers. All but the police officer stipulation failed to pass the Assembly before the session wrapped up.  There is some chance the latter will pass in the Senate.  We know the Republican authors are committed to bringing the bills back and that there will continue to be bipartisan support.  

  New Office:  LOPPW moved with the South-Central Synod of Wisconsin into its space at Lakeview Lutheran Church in Madison! 





March Update: Advocacy Connections

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

Partial expanded content from Advocacy Connections: March 2024


FEDERAL BUDGET:  The House and Senate passed the first tranche of 2024 spending bills, including funding for agriculture and housing programs. The bipartisan deal reached in both chambers in time to avoid a shutdown of many key federal agencies would fully fund core anti-hunger initiatives, such as the Women, Infant, and Children program (WIC), and does not include any harmful policy changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) nutrition program. The deal would also give a two percent increase to federal housing programs – which comes at a critical time when rents, housing costs and affordability continue to climb.

Why It Matters in the ELCA:

Hundreds of Lutherans over the past month took action on hunger issues in the budget, and hundreds more sent messages on the need for affordable housing support over the last year. Rumors of proposed cuts in earlier negotiations would have been a serious blow to the efforts of our ministries at the fore of addressing poverty in our communities.

What’s Next:

Lawmakers must now look to pass 2025 spending bills for domestic programs as the President’s Budget request makes its way to Congress.

YES IN GOD’S BACK YARD ACT:  On Mar. 12, Sen. Sherrod Brown (OH), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs (Senate Banking Committee), introduced the Yes In God’s Back Yard (YIGBY) Act, legislation to support faith-based organizations and colleges wanting to build and preserve affordable housing on their land and reduce barriers to the development of this housing. YIGBY was endorsed by a group of faith groups and coalitions including the ELCA. The Senate Banking Committee in mid-March held a hearing to discuss bipartisan approaches to address the chronic shortage of affordable housing. This came after a series of housing hearings in the spring of 2023 highlighting the core policy challenges that have led to development barriers, homelessness and skyrocketing home costs. Among the legislative proposals, lawmakers highlighted support for some efforts such as authorizing proactive disaster recovery resources and offering increased resources for churches seeking to build affordable housing.

Why It Matters in the ELCA:

Congregations across the United States have increasingly invested more in developing community housing in recent years as the lack of affordable options has become one of the leading drivers of homelessness. Development planning, zoning approval and other local barriers to building new housing can take years before ground is even broken on a new project. New technical assistance for congregations, and incentives for local governments to lower development barriers proposed in the Yes in Gods Back Yard Act, could go a long way in supporting ministry efforts to end homelessness in our communities.

What’s Next:

Though introduced in the Senate, the Yes in Gods Back Yard Act needs support from across the country in order to make it to the president’s desk. ELCA Witness in Society staff will be tracking the legislation as updates move forward.

RECOVERING AMERICA’S WILDLIFE ACT:  The ELCA has supported the passage of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA), S.1149, a bipartisan bill that would allocate nearly $1.4 billion of annual dedicated funding for state and tribal fish and wildlife management agencies. Even with bipartisan support, RAWA seems to have hit a stall with no indication of movement. An Action Alert is available in the ELCA Action Center to contact lawmakers on this bill.

Why It Matters in the ELCA:

The 2023 ELCA social message “Earth’s Climate Crisis”, which built upon the foundational work of the social message Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope, and Justice, “challenges all expressions of this church to…engage in legislative advocacy at all levels of government, individually and collectively” (p. 16). Our continued advocacy on environmental policies is in direct response to this challenge.

What’s Next:

Additionally, Chairman Bruce Westerman (AR) of the House Committee on Natural Resources quietly filed the America’s Wildlife Habitat Conservation Act, H.R. 7408, last week in competition with RAWA. While there has been some confusion between the two bills, it is important to note that while the America’s Wildlife Habitat Conservation Act would focus on the importance of habitat, it stops short of dedicating the necessary funding for fish and wildlife management agencies that hunters and anglers have long sought through the advancement of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act.

UYGHUR POLICY ACT OF 2023:  The Uyghur Policy Act of 2023, H.R. 2766, was passed by the House and has been sent to the Senate for consideration. The act authorizes the establishment of a Special Coordinator for Uyghur Issues position within the Department of State. The role is established to coordinate U.S government policies, programs and projects concerning the Uyghurs and members of other ethnic and religious minority groups. Further, it authorizes $250,000 over three years to human rights advocates working on behalf of the Uyghurs and other persecuted ethnic groups.

Why It Matters in the ELCA:

The ELCA social statement For Peace in God’s World states that “Human rights provide a common universal standard of justice for living with our differences, and they give moral and legal standing to the individual in the international community. We therefore will continue to teach about human rights, protest their violation, advocate their international codification, and support effective ways to monitor and ensure compliance with them” (p. 14).

What’s Next:

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

CALLS FOR CEASEFIRE, RESTORATION OF UNRWA FUNDING:  There have been multiple calls by the ELCA and its leadership for both a permanent bilateral ceasefire and the restoration United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)’s funding.

  • Following the Feb. 27-Mar. 5 Conference of Bishops (COB), the body advanced a statement and letter to President Joseph Biden, calling for a permanent ceasefire, return of hostages and political prisoners, and protection of civilians and lasting peace efforts. This letter was delivered on Mar. 3.
  • Following allegations by Israel that 13 of UNRWA’s 30,000 staff were implicated in Oct. 7 events, and as UNRWA investigates the allegations, the ELCA joins many others in urging that humanitarian assistance not be further cut off amid the military siege in the densely population Gaza territory. UNRWA provides humanitarian assistance, health and educational services for some three million of the 5.9 million Palestinian refugees in Gaza, East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. In Gaza, where infrastructure has been devastated and essential supplies are dangerously reduced, two million Palestinians in Gaza rely on UNRWA for humanitarian assistance.
  • The ELCA joined Churches for Middle East Peace in organizing congressional meetings with legislative offices on Feb. 13, focusing advocacy on calls for a permanent bilateral ceasefire and restoration of UNRWA funding. Bishop Tracie Bartholomew, New Jersey Synod, met with senior policy staff as well as directly with Sen. Chris Van Hollen (MD) on that date.
Why It Matters in the ELCA:

The opening line of the ELCA social statement For Peace in God’s World states: “We of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America share with the Church of Jesus Christ in all times and places the calling to be peacemakers.”

What’s Next:

The ELCA will continue to advocate for a permanent bilateral ceasefire and the restoration of funding to UNRWA.

SOLIDARITY WITH ANNUNCIATION HOUSE:  On Mar. 4, the COB issued a statement in solidarity with migrants and Annunciation House. Annunciation House is a volunteer-run Catholic organization with over 40 years of providing hospitality to migrants in El Paso, Tex. On Feb. 20, the Attorney General of Texas announced it was suing the El Paso organization for alleged potential legal violations which stem from Annunciation House defending itself from demands for sensitive information. On Mar. 5, the Interfaith Immigration Coalition released an interfaith statement that collected numerous signatures from Lutherans.

Why It Matters in the ELCA:

The COB statement of solidarity with migrants and those who respond to God’s call to serve their neighbors, like Annunciation House, is rooted in a long tradition and legacy of welcoming newcomers. In the United States, congregations accompany migrants in their communities through welcoming and sanctuary congregations and synod task forces, accompany migrant children and families as the physical presence of the church in the immigration courtroom, and pray for justice among other responses.

What’s Next:

On Mar. 11, Judge Francisco Dominguez from Texas’ 205th District issued a ruling blocking further action by the attorney general against Annunciation House until the judge can review the constitutionality of the attorney general’s requests. On Mar. 5, via X/Twitter, Annunciation House posted: “Thanks to the ELCA Conference of Bishops for this statement of solidarity.”


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Election Engagement Updates

CONTENT UPDATED: April 10, 2024

Civic engagement is happening this election year in many diverse communities and contexts—and being activated and led by congregations, rostered leaders, ELCA-affiliated state public policy offices and members.


Consider taking part or taking inspiration for your locality! Also check out:



[date n/a] One Hundred Percent Voting Congregations – Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy

📌With a pledge to sign and support, VICPP is asking congregations to commit to have 100% participation in the electoral process.



Fair Wisconsin Maps – Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin (recorded 4/6/24)

🔎 What the heck just happened with Wisconsin maps? was among questions posed in this “Wednesday Noon Live” interview in a state with maps WUWM reported were “recognized as among the most gerrymandered in the country.”

Solveig’s Day as a Poll Monitor – Lutheran Advocacy Ministry Arizona – authored by Solveig Muus, director (originally posted 3/19/24)

🔎 “I was to observe whether the polls opened on time, whether there was adequate parking, adequate signage, easy access for voters with disabilities, ensure voters people are receiving provisional ballots if indicated, ensure any activists stayed outside the 75-foot perimeter, answer questions, etc. I received another quizzical look…”

Autumn’s Day as a Greeter – Lutheran Advocacy Ministry Arizona – authored by Autumn Byars, ELCA Hunger Advocacy Fellow (originally posted 3/19/24)

🔎“My job today was not to proselytize or advertise our services, but by volunteering at our welcome cart and offering refreshments to all our voters, I had the privilege of representing our congregation to the outside world— which is always a good opportunity.”

In a pivotal state, ways to serve our neighbor in an election year – Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania (originally posted 2/29/24)

🔎Facing “overwhelmed or inexperienced county elections officials” in the state, through love of neighbors we can “step up… We encourage anyone of good will, but especially our eligible teens and young adults, to get trained and serve as official poll workers on Election Day.” Offering our facilities as polling sites if needed in its neighborhood also “can be a big service to our communities.”



There’s more to your vote

In advance of Super Tuesday, William Milner, ELCA Hunger Advocacy Fellow, and Alex Parker, ELCA Advocacy Coordinator, with the D.C.-based staff shared election engagement reflections.

By William Milner and Alex Parker

You could say we’re election nerds. We’ve woken up early, gone to the polling booth to cast our votes before school and work, and afterwards, rapidly dashed home to turn on the news and watch the results pour in. One of us even remembers in middle school printing out a map of the United States so he could write in each state’s electoral college numbers and color them in either red or blue to help him predict the night’s outcome!

This Mar. 5, known as Super Tuesday, millions of people across 16 states (and one territory) hold their primary elections for the 2024 election. Are you feeling it? The excitement is not just about exercising the right to vote. For us, the profundity of voting is an act of faith-informed service to our neighbors and as a testament to our shared commitment to building a more just and equitable society.

Election engagement is not important to us simply because of our personal affinities, or because it is our job as federal advocates. By participating in the electoral process, we fulfill our duty as stewards of democracy and advocates for justice. Our votes are not only a reflection of our personal preferences but also a means to advocate for the common good and ensure that everyone’s voice is heard in the corridors of power. As faithful advocates, we are called not only to vote, but to vote in a way that aligns with the principles of love, justice and solidarity.

“Over time Lutherans have learned that energetic civic engagement is part of their baptismal vocation, both as individuals and through the church’s corporate witness. Such civic participation is not simply voluntary, idealistic, or altruistic. The ELCA holds to the biblical idea that God calls God’s people to be active citizens and to ensure that everyone benefits from the good of government (Jeremiah 29:7, Romans 13:1-7),” reads the ELCA social message “Government and Civic Engagement in the United States: Discipleship in a Democracy” (p. 14). Many resources for faith-based election engagement are available at and, including a new “Intergenerational Conversation Starter,” encouraging story-sharing of what civic engagement looks like for each of us informed by our faith.

Supporting full participation for all is another way faith informs our election engagement commitment. The John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act was reintroduced this past week in commemoration of the 59th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, where activists were beaten while marching for their civil rights across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. Advancement of this legislation, and others like The Freedom to Vote Act, are being monitored by ELCA advocacy staff. As the ELCA social statement Freed in Christ: Race, Ethnicity, and Culture says ” This church will support legislation, ordinances, and resolutions that guarantee to all persons equally: civil rights, including full protection of the law and redress under the law of discriminatory practices; and to all citizens, the right to vote” (p. 7).

Have you caught the excitement? As faith-based advocates for justice and stewards of democracy, we see our engagement in the electoral process as not merely a personal choice or professional obligation but a sacred calling. If you’re a Super Tuesday voter or will vote another time, don’t skip the opportunity. We embark on this electoral journey, mindful of the positive impact casting your ballot can have, taking part in our shared commitment to building a more just and equitable society.

February Update: Advocacy Connections

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

Partial expanded content from Advocacy Connections: February 2024



CHILD TAX CREDIT EXTENSION: The House of Representatives on a 357-70 vote passed a bipartisan tax package, including a modest expansion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC), added housing development incentives and tax relief for people impacted by the East Palestine, Ohio chemical spill. If passed by the Senate, the measure could lift as many as 400,000 children out of poverty and create over 200,000 new housing units according to some estimates.

Why It Matters in the ELCA

This legislative push comes as family homelessness rose over 17% in the last year and as many ministries across the United States report over-capacity in shelters and food pantry lines. Tax relief lifting thousands of people out of poverty would come at a truly urgent time for many families and those of us in need across the country. The ELCA Witness in Society staff shared two action alerts addressing both the Child Tax Credit and Low-Income Housing Tax Credit over the last year, with hundreds of Lutherans taking action on each issue.

What’s Next

Though the bill passed the House by a wide margin, passage seems less certain in the Senate. Advocates should take action calling their senators to pass the bill as soon as possible as the start of tax season is already underway.

WIC FUNDING RUNNING LOW: The Department of Agriculture is warning that the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program that provides assistance to millions of low-income families is set to run low on funding in the coming months. The funding shortfall comes as enrollment for assistance and the cost of food rose faster than the Department’s estimations, and as Congress has yet to pass a full year budget for the current fiscal year. Without congressional action, the department warns, millions of women and children could be turned away from assistance as soon as late summer.

Why It Matters in the ELCA

The WIC program is an essential, proven supplemental program that keeps over six million families out of hunger. The WIC program supplements the efforts of many of our hunger ministries, helping give direct food assistance as valuable partners. ELCA Witness in Society staff have been discussing the shortfall with concerned lawmakers and congressional staff across the political spectrum, urging the need to meet new demand for the program.

What’s Next

Though the WIC program carries bipartisan concern, appropriators in Congress are struggling to come up with the political will to meet the shortfall in funding. ELCA advocacy staff continue to monitor.

FEMA INDIVIDUAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM UPDATES: The Biden Administration, along with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), has made significant updates to the Individual Assistance program for survivors of disaster. These updates are intended to establish new benefits, cut red tape and expand eligibility, and simplify the application process for Individual Assistance.

Why It Matters in the ELCA

ELCA Witness in Society along with Lutheran Disaster Response have been advocating for changes like these to simplify the process for survivors of declared disasters. With faith-based volunteers, houses of worship and disaster response coordinators, such as Lutheran Disaster Response, often on the front-line of major disasters, changes in regulation like this can be quite impactful.

What’s Next

It is promising to see changes made swiftly at the regulatory level, but potential for Administration turnover could threaten these improvements. ELCA Witness in Society, along with partners, will continue to advocate for legislative action to simplify and improve disaster response policies. For more information or to take action through our Action Alert.

HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS BILL INTRODUCED IN SENATE: A new bill to protect human rights defenders has been introduced in the Senate. Among other things, the Human Rights Defenders Protection Act of 2024 (S.3705) seeks to create a new, limited visa category to provide up to 500 at-risk human rights defenders with a multiple-entry, multi-year visa to the United States to ensure such individuals are able to safely continue their work.

This bill requires a global strategy for human rights defenders to bolster the ability of U.S. embassies and missions to protect human rights defenders. It also expands diplomatic tools to ensure issues pertaining to human rights defenders are included in each mission’s integrated country strategy, and codifies and strengthens the Biden Administration’s Guidelines for U.S. Diplomatic Support to Civil Society and Human Rights Defenders.

Why It Matters in the ELCA

The ELCA social statement For Peace in God’s World articulates that dignity, “equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world” (pg. 14). Therefore, defending those among us who are risking their lives daily to improve the lives of others is a responsibility we as Lutherans must embrace.

What’s Next

The bill was introduced in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Committee is yet to schedule a hearing to mark up the bill before it can be advanced to the full senate floor for a vote.

PUSH FOR CEASEFIRE BETWEEN ISRAEL & HAMAS CONTINUES: ELCA advocacy continues to urge Congress and the Administration to: (1) Publicly call for a ceasefire to prevent the further loss of life; (2) Prioritize the protection of all civilians, including by urgently securing the entrance of humanitarian aid into Gaza and working to secure the release of hostages; and (3) Urge all parties to fully respect international humanitarian law.

Over 27,000 Palestinian people have been killed in Gaza since the start of the war, of which approximately 70% are women and children, and 1.9 million have been displaced from their homes (approximately 85% of the population). As of Jan. 29, 69 U.S. legislators have voiced calls for a ceasefire. ELCA is calling on senators to co-sponsor Senator Van Hollen amendment, which requires that “weapons received by any country under the [request be] used in accordance with U.S. law, international humanitarian law and the law of armed conflict.” The measure also requires the president to report to Congress on the matter and, according to the press release, to strengthen “current law that prohibits U.S. security assistance to any country that prevents or restricts U.S. humanitarian assistance to those in need.”

Why It Matters to the ELCA

Freed by the transformative life of Christ, the ELCA is committed to accompaniment, advocacy and awareness-raising with our partners in the Holy Land and in the United States. Sumud, an Arabic word meaning “steadfastness” used to describe this ministry and work since Oct. 2023 ELCA announcement, connects ELCA members to our companions in the Holy Land and seeks to follow the guidance, support the leadership and amplify the voices of our Palestinian partners. Together with our Lutheran companions, we accompany Palestinians and Israelis, and many other Jews, Christians and Muslims, in working to establish the justice required for peace.

What’s Next

In January, the Senate tabled Senator Bernie Sanders’ effort to curb military aid to Israel during Israel-Hamas war, but “the roll call vote begins to reveal the depth of unease among U.S. lawmakers over Israel’s prosecution of the war against Hamas…In all, 11 senators joined Sanders in the procedural vote, mostly Democrats from across the party’s spectrum, while 72 opposed.” A number of senators were unable to travel in time for the vote in D.C. due to winter weather storms. The future of the resolution is unclear, but Sanders has vowed to continue to advocate oversight from Congress.

SUPPLEMENTAL BILL MAY REWRITE IMMIGRATION LAW: Lawmakers left Washington, D.C. in Dec. without agreement on President Biden’s request for $106 billion in supplemental funding to be split among overseas priorities and border security (looking increasingly likely to be coupled with an extreme border deal). But after months of secret negotiations, a bipartisan compromise was announced.

Estimated to cost $118 billion, the bill would dramatically rewrite immigration law. The bill would create new hurdles for asylum seekers, undermine due process in immigration proceedings, and expand immigration enforcement in unforeseen ways. This was part of the compromise negotiations, which did bring along some favorable immigration provisions such as protections for Afghans.

Why It Matters to the ELCA

The asylum and border proposals are deeply misguided because deterrence does not actually prevent people from making the journey to the United States. The ELCA recognizes the most effective way to reduce migration pressures is by addressing the desperation that is pushing people out of their communities, a key focus of the ELCA AMMPARO strategy. Advocacy priorities formulated in consultation with AMMPARO companions in Central America and Mexico call for a human security and rights framework on migration, and a distancing from the current national security one. The social message on “Immigration” under “Asylum” articulates that the ELCA opposes “unreasonable obstacles and unattainable standards of proof for those seeking asylum” like many of the policies under consideration would do.

What’s Next

The outlook of the supplemental package is not clear, despite procedural votes in the Senate anticipated on Wed. Feb. 7. A vote to proceed with the security supplemental package ultimately failed on Wednesday. Senator Schumer and some Republican senators would like to vote for the same bill without the border provisions, so long as there is an amendment process.


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Devotional: Shared Power

by Tomo Duke, Faith Action Network in Washington [about the author]

I visited the Washington State Capitol a few times this legislative session to advocate with our elected officials. I walked through buildings filled with elegant marble and golden interiors and observed many people dressed in fancy suits. I thought the grandeur created an illusion about elected officials’ status and power.

In a culture that tempts us to fall into idolization of elected officials or political apathy, what kind of power and accountability do we share?



In his Epistle to Ephesians, Paul reveals a vision of a new unified community among Jews and Gentiles through Christ. It is difficult to bear witness to this vision today in our contemporary political characterizations of red and blue, polarized ideologies, and deepening alienation between privileged and marginalized people. As the 2024 election season is rapidly barreling toward us, a competition for power is amplified. A true sense of a unified community seems remote.

But after sitting with Ephesians 3:10, I was reminded of the great power of God which redeems what’s been lost and reconciles what’s been divided.

Ephesians 3:10 claims the wisdom of God as the greater power which transcends earthly places and will reach “the heavenly places.” We must not be deceived by the worldly powers that possess an outer, physical manifestation – like the fancy government buildings and the elected titles. The inner wisdom from God appears embodied in our beings and our relationships with fellow human beings and creation.

Christ demonstrated His power not in military prowess but in His consistent presence with those of us described as lowly, afflicted and the ‘least of these’ by pouring out love. This power is never scarce but grows in abundance the more it is shared among all people, all creation.



What I look for in elected leaders and candidates is deeper than their political party or position on hot-button policy issues. I look for those who ground their worldly power in their inner spiritual power that they are willing to share. I wish for leaders who multiply the power of the Spirit by releasing their attachment to the possession of worldly power.

Power is shared in moments like when elected officials step off the floor to meet their constituents, or when they value their time to just know and listen to their constituents by standing outside the power structures. Power is shared when constituents of diverse races, ethnicities and faith traditions from the district come together with their elected officials to share individual lived stories. Power is shared when we acknowledge humanity and equal dignity beyond one another’s societal role in the worldly hierarchy.



This is being posted on Ash Wednesday, a day when the church remembers, “you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). Dust is our universally shared context. We often forget that we share in our fragility. For those in elected offices, who have the worldly power to affect millions of people at the stroke of a pen, I believe accepting the truth of our common fragility is especially important.

The spirit-filled power of love, justice and compassion needs to be shared among us and be known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tomo Duke (she/her) serves at Faith Action Network (FAN) in Washington state. She was born and raised in Japan and has lived in the United States since 2014 as a first-generation immigrant. She graduated with a M.Div. from Duke University in 2023 and holds a B.S. in Political Science. Prior to joining FAN, she gained experiences in immigration service from humanitarian relief to policy advocacy for immigrant justice both in secular and faith-based contexts.

Devotional: Leader Values

by Frances Dobbs, Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin [about the author]

I believe it is important to look to Scripture for values that our leaders should inhabit. The third chapter of Ephesians explores how Christ perfectly embodies leadership, making a clear example for worldly leaders.

When reading the story of salvation history, I believe we are reminded that God has a role in appointing leaders, but that leadership also comes with guidelines for how they act. Micah 6:8 states: “He has told you, O mortal, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God?” [bold added]. These three values shape a biblical understanding of what a leader ought to be and are exemplified in Christ’s example.

Justice can be explained as proper relationship, both proper relationship between humanity and God, and also right relationship between humanity and one’s neighbors. When interacting with our neighbors, there is a consistent call to care for the poor, the stranger and the orphan. When God’s people fail in orienting their hearts to care for one another, the Lord rebukes them harshly. An example of this is Amos 2:6: “For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because they sell the righteous for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals”.

When defining loving kindness, one should focus on the right orientation of their heart. Hosea 6:6 says: “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” This verse in my view demonstrates that though burnt offerings are to be accepted by God, the focus is that one must have a merciful heart in doing so. Likewise with our political leaders, there is a call to do just things with a clean heart.

Lastly, walking humbly with God is marked by a desire to be in communion with God. There is a reciprocal relationship present, that in loving God, God’s people can be guided to act justly, and in loving the oppressed and vulnerable in our society, our behavior is pleasing to God. “May all kings fall down before him, all nations give him service. For he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper,” reads Psalm 72: 11-12. In other words, leaders of the world ought to walk humbly with God as God is the deliverer of justice to the poor and needy.

Again, it is Christ that exemplifies this image. Through Jesus’ presence on earth, leaders are given an example of which to follow. Their authority carries significance, but it is in justice, kindness, humility and the preference of the poor that they will be worthy worldly leaders.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Frances Dobbs (she/her) is the Hunger Advocacy Fellow placed with the Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin. She is a recent graduate from Marquette University with a B.A. in Political Science, a B.A. of International Affairs, and a minor in Theology. She is a Melkite Catholic which is an Eastern Catholic Church in communion with the Roman Catholic Church. She lives in Milwaukee and commutes to Madison for work. She has engaged in a variety of volunteer opportunities including receiving her Girl Scout Gold Award in which she started a library for Amahoro Children’s School in Musanze, Rwanda.

January/February Updates – State Edition

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



Lutheran Office of Public Policy (LOPPCA) – (
Regina Banks, Director

California is facing an ongoing budget deficit, which could range from $38 billion to $58 billion for fiscal year 2024-25, per the existing analyses from various sources. This will have a significant impact on policy efforts in the state. LOPPCA is working with our partners and coalitions to prevent major cuts to critical programs that affect the most vulnerable. Significant cuts exist in the Governor’s proposed budget, which include programs surrounding climate change, affordable housing, and economic safety nets.

Emerging policy priorities apart for LOPPCA in 2024 include housing and homelessness, immigration services and support, and climate change.


Hunger Network in Ohio (HNO) –

Deacon Nick Bates, Director

Veto joy was short-lived.

As we have always said, stories are sacred. Governor DeWine (Republican-Ohio) spent his Christmas holiday talking with families with LGBTQIA+ youth, psychologists, doctors and social workers. He heard the stories and stood with gender non-conforming youth and their families in receiving gender affirming care. We spoke with Channel 5 in Cleveland and Spectrum News Ohio about the joy that LGBTQIA+ Ohioans have during this season of joy. Sadly, the Ohio House of Representatives returned from their holiday early to override the veto, despite growing bi-partisan opposition to legislative overreach and overriding the nuanced and long-discussed decisions of doctors, parents, youth, and case workers.


In 2024, we will begin a monthly advocacy meeting on zoom for advocates across Ohio. This will be at 7pm on the second Thursday of each month. Come and lift up your issues, ask questions, and learn from policy experts and one another. Register at

Texas Impact – Texas Impact
Scott Atnip, Outreach Director

Theyear 2024 was a long year for advocates in Texas with the Texas Legislature’s 140-day biennial regular session, an impeachment trial and four thirty-day special sessions focused on creating a new public school voucher program and harmful immigration policies. Thanks in part to incredible advocacy from the faith community, the voucher bills failed, but a harmful immigration bill making immigration a state crime was signed into law two weeks before Christmas.

Texas Impact is organizing a series of “Texas Faith Votes” events and other advocacy and civic engagement events across the state in January and February to prepare for an important election cycle.

Three members of the team joined other ELCA and faith advocates at COP28 and provided great content for advocates and congregations.

The Texas Impact Weekly Witness podcast covered it all and is preparing for incredible speakers and content in 2024.

Faith Action Network (FANWA) –
Elise DeGooyer, Executive Director

The 2024 State Legislative Session Began!

The 2024 Washington state legislative session convened January 8th in Olympia, and is a short 60-day session, ending on March 7. More than 600 bills had already been introduced in both chambers before the session began, with hundreds to follow. With an unprecedented speed of bills being introduced, FAN advocates have been busy preparing for the upcoming Interfaith Advocacy Day (IFAD) on February 8th at the State Capitol. FAN staff offered an online session to give an overview of our multifaceted legislative agenda as a multi-faith, multi-issues organization. Close to 100 people attended our legislative preview. Some of the bills from the agenda include Extreme Wealth Tax, Healthy Free School Meals for All, Clean School Buses, Housing Stability for Tenants, and more. We also hosted two online Advocacy 101 sessions for both new advocates and those wanting a refresher for legislative advocacy. During this time of policy committee hearings, we are encouraging our network to sign in support for bills, submit testimonies, and write letters to their legislators. We are grateful to our Policy Engagement Director Kristin Ang (pictured below) and volunteer lobbyist Trevor Sandison (ELCA member) for representing FAN in Olympia throughout the session, and to our coalition members who testify and help inform us on facts and talking points for each bill.

The session in the State House Legislature opened with prayers by Imam Omar Kaddoura and Rabbi Seth Goldstein (pictured below) from our network along with the Squaxin tribe. Amid complex policy discussions, we remember to take a pause and ground our advocacy in multi-faith values and our responsibilities of being good stewards to our world.

Devotional: Envisioning Leader Resonance with Young Generation

by William Milner, ELCA Witness in Society [about the author]

As I consider candidates vying for public office, it’s crucial that their discussions align with my values and concerns. In a world inundated with political discourse, I find myself among young voters seeking leaders who address the issues that matter most to us. I envision a political landscape where leaders prioritize values that resonate with our generation’s aspirations.

“In 2024, Gen Z youth alone will make up over 40 million potential voters—including 8 million youth who will have newly reached voting age since 2022—making up nearly one fifth of the American electorate. Together with the youngest Millennials, young people ages 18-34 are poised to be a potential force in the next presidential election,” reports Tufts University Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. “But young people are also living through trying times in their personal lives, for our country, and around the world that make their continued civic participation far from guaranteed.”

With all the constant noise about life altering events in the United States and around the world, it can be maddening to feel like politicians do not care about the issues that really matter.

One key issue at the forefront of my mind is the ongoing conflict in Gaza. Leaders who acknowledge the horrors of the Israel-Gaza situation and advocate for a just and peaceful resolution are vital. A candidate who actively opposes the occupation and advocates for diplomacy over conflict would capture my attention and support.

Another pressing matter is the weight of student debt, a burden carried by many young Americans. Leaders committed to addressing this issue by advocating for comprehensive student debt relief programs and more affordable education options would earn my trust. I imagine a future where the pursuit of knowledge is not hindered by financial constraints, allowing every young person to reach their full potential. I think perhaps proposals like interest-free loans or capping interest levels so former students do not have to pay double their original loan amount could be helpful.

As a passionate advocate for social justice, I recognize the urgency of tackling gun violence in this country. Leaders who prioritize comprehensive gun control measures while addressing the root causes of violence are crucial in creating safer communities. Supporting candidates who advocate for sensible gun legislation will align with my vision for a safer and more inclusive society.

Equitable education funding is another cornerstone of my political ideals. Leaders who champion fair and adequate funding for schools, addressing systemic inequalities in the education system, would resonate with my commitment to a just society. I dream of a future where every child has access to a high-quality education, regardless of their zip code or socioeconomic background.

In the pursuit of a better future, I urge fellow young voters to consider supporting leaders who share our values and prioritize the issues that matter most to us. By engaging in the political process and supporting candidates who align with our vision, we can contribute to shaping a more inclusive and progressive society.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: William Milner (he/him) is serving with the ELCA Witness in Society advocacy staff in Washington, D.C. and is a passionate graduate student pursuing a master’s in public policy at George Mason University. Raised as an African Methodist Episcopalian, Milner brings a unique perspective and a deep sense of community to the ELCA. Milner formerly taught in both private and public schools and takes the skills he learned there with him everywhere. His academic pursuit is driven by a deep-seated desire to bring about meaningful societal change and empower marginalized communities.

Devotional: Disruptive Compassion

by Autumn Byars, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Arizona [about the author]

There is so much noise around the federal election cycle. Op-eds, debates, primaries, public feuds, scandals, caucuses, social media exchanges, exclusive interviews and on and on take up so much of our time and attention. As often as not, public discussions around pressing issues devolve into arguments about rhetoric and attempts to assert the superiority of any given campaign. Even though this is only the second presidential election I am able to participate in, I, like most people, find myself exhausted at the thought of going through it all again.

Thankfully, our God is a God that disrupts cycles.

God greets us with compassion and, many times, encourages us to greet each other with compassion. This election cycle, I am praying for our candidates to move through this process with compassion.



Compassion shows. It is to look upon someone not as a sum of their actions, not as someone who must earn our empathy or prove their relevance to us, but as a person with their own struggles and story. When we are no longer fixated on tracking our or another’s failures and successes, when we no longer have to spend our energies ensuring that we are measuring up and doing good enough, we are freed. We are freed to do good in the world without fear, to live in and extend the grace we all need. Compassion for ourselves and others helps to undo the cycles of resentment in our lives. If my life, worth and value are no longer dependent on what I can earn, then no one else’s has to be either.



A candidate can demonstrate compassion with their opponents by seeking to understand how they came to their beliefs and why certain policy changes matter to them.

I hope to see candidates who greet the electorate with more compassion as well. Elected leaders on all sides of the aisle often seek to further the wishes of those who voted for them, ignoring or discounting the rest of their constituents. I want to see officials who work for the betterment of everyone they are sworn to serve, including those who cannot access the voting booth or did not vote for them. I don’t want leaders who are only loyal to their donors, but also to those who do not hold political sway. I want leaders to look upon all of us – the poor, the weak, the immigrant, the hungry, the disabled, the unhoused, the disenfranchised – and feel, above all, compassion. To look at us not as potential voters or opponents or problems to be fixed, but people in need of care and attention as much as themselves or any other.



Compassionate is a difficult thing to be sometimes– for all of us. It makes us recognize humanity in people different from us. It challenges our notions about the world. It spurs us to act even when costly or uncomfortable.

In a system that seems to thrive off of alienating one another, the disruption of compassion isn’t always popular. But greeting each other with understanding and grace can be a disruptive first step to building genuine, effective solutions for the issues we share.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Autumn Byars (she/her) is the first ELCA Hunger Advocacy Fellow placed with the Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Arizona (LAMA). Before joining the LAMA team, Byars graduated with her BFA from Arizona State University. A lifelong Lutheran and Arizonan, she is greatly enjoying this opportunity to serve her community through advocacy.