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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! 

 

November Updates: U.N. and State Edition

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

 

U.N. | ARIZONA | CALIFORNIA | COLORADO  | MINNESOTA | NEW MEXICO | OHIO | PENNSYLVANIA | TEXAS | WASHINGTON | WISCONSIN |

 

U.N.

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

Christine Mangale, Director

Women’s Human Rights Advocacy Training

  • The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in partnership with the World Council of Churches, Finn Church Aid, and Norwegian Church Aid held the Women’s Human Rights Advocacy Training in Geneva from 25-28 October 2022. The training reverted to its in-person format following the relaxation of COVID-19 travel restrictions. 
  • Lutheran Office for World Community (LOWC) Director Christine Mangale joined LWF colleagues in the planning and facilitation of the training. Nearly 40 delegates from faith-based organizations participated in the training. ELCA participants included Witness in Society advocacy staff, Latin America and the Caribbean and Europe staff, and delegates from companion churches in Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • The course enhanced participants’ advocacy effectiveness through U.N. mechanisms such as the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Universal Periodic Reviews (UPR), Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), the Generation Equality Action Coalitions and other local and regional gender justice processes. The training also offered participants networking opportunities and a chance to meet with CEDAW commissioners and Geneva-based government representatives. 
  • A resource, Affirming Women’s Human Rights: Resources for Faith-Based Organizations”,  can be found here. 

Arizona

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry Arizona (LAMA) – lamaz.org

Solveig Muus, Director

LAMA Summit. The third annual LAMA Summit featuring Rev. Eugene Cho of Bread for the World was engaging, thought provoking, informative and fun for the nearly 40 clergy, LAMA liaisons and hunger leaders in attendance. The event consisted of opening devotions on 1 Kings 17; an introduction to LAMA and its policy priorities; the keynote address by Rev. Eugene Cho; small group conversations to process Rev. Cho’s address; a lengthy Q & A with Rev. Cho; an update on the new legislative districts; an update on current hunger legislation; a practical demonstration of advocacy; and advocacy practice speaking to legislators.

2023 Policy Priorities. The LAMA Policy Council met in November to review the year, discuss the social and political issues facing Arizona, and agree on what LAMA’s priorities would be for 2023. The council agreed LAMA’s primary focus will be to continue advocacy and education around Hunger in our most vulnerable communities, including partnering with hunger anti-hunger advocates around the state and launching the Arizona Anti-Hunger Alliance. In addition, LAMA will continue its work in Civic Engagement as it relates to our Lutheran heritage of being a publicly engaged church, encouraging participation in all areas of our government. Finally, LAMA will focus on Water, educating ourselves and our network on the complex issues related to water in Arizona.

Civic Engagement. LAMA’s work leading up to the election in support of its Civic Engagement policy priority involved efforts to register voters, encourage participation in the voting process, educating our network about ballot deadlines, ID requirements, polling locations, ballot measures, etc.

 

California

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

Regina Banks, Director

Meetings were held between the LOPP-CA office and California congregations during October to discuss the policy office’s positions on the upcoming ballot propositions. It was great to see a large turnout at those events! 

Election day has passed, but votes are still being counted in California and across the country –  and we expect mail-in ballots to continue coming in for a while yet. Currently, ballot propositions 1, 28, and 31 are passing with ‘yes’ votes. These propositions would enshrine the right to reproductive freedom in the California constitution, provide more funding for arts and music education, and uphold a law banning the sale of flavored tobacco products, respectively. The LOPP-CA policy council supported proposition 1 and 31 and took no position on 28, the arts and music education funding. Measures the policy council were against, including two on sports betting regulations, are currently receiving more ‘no’ votes and willould not pass if the results continue in this direction. 

The 27th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP27) is also taking place from November 6th-18th in Egypt, and Regina Banks is attending on behalf of the ELCA and LOPP-CA. You can find updates from her on our social pages throughout the conference. 

 

Colorado

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

Peter Severson, Director

COLORADO ELECTION RESULTS: Coloradans voted on 11 statewide ballot measures this election season. We are excited to report that all three measures which we supported have passed! 

  • Proposition FF, Healthy School Meals for All, won with 55% of voters saying Yes! This will ensure that kids in public schools have access to healthy meals regardless of ability to pay. The program takes the place of a federal initiative that provided free meals to all kids through the first two years of the pandemic.

  • Proposition GG, Add Income Tax Table to Ballot Measures, also passed with over 70% of voters saying Yes. This will require ballot titles and fiscal summaries for future measures affecting income tax to include a table showing how people in different income brackets would be affected. 
  • Proposition 123, Dedicate State Income Tax to Affordable Housing, passed very narrowly, on a margin of 51% to 49%. This will dedicate 0.1% of the state’s income tax revenue to specific affordable housing programs. 

 

Minnesota

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

Tammy Walhof, Director

ELECTIONS: Narrow poll margin reports proved false as the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party took all state offices, held onto the House, and flipped the Senate with a one-seat majority. Margins in several races suggest much ticket-splitting. Secretary of State, Steve Simon, had the largest margin over challenger Kim Crockett (who questioned 2020 election validity). Attorney General Keith Ellison barely prevailed, with votes primarily from urban cores. Governor Walz won by eight points over challenger Dr. Scott Jensen (who questioned COVID mandates).  

NEW MEMBERS: Minnesota House and Senate both lost many veteran lawmakers through retirement, redistricting, and elections. About 35% of both chambers are new.  

NEW LEADERS: Representative Melissa Hortman will remain Speaker of the House, but Representative Lisa Demuth will replace Representative Kurt Daudt as Minority Leader (first time since 2014 someone other than Daudt leads House Republicans). Demuth is anticipated to have a less confrontational leadership style. Representative Jamie Long will be the new House Majority Leader, so we are watching to see who will take over Energy & Climate leadership from Long.  

Both parties will have new leadership in the Senate. Senator Kari Dziedzic will be new Majority Leader, Senator Bobby Joe Champion will be the first person of color to serve as Senate President, and Mark Johnson of East Grand Forks will be Minority Leader (replacing Senator Miller, who chose not to run again after just 1 year as the head of Senate Republicans). Much remains unknown about committee chairs, particularly Agriculture, since most senators from rural Minnesota are Republican. 

 

New Mexico

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

Kurt Rager, Director

A decade of advocacy… 

According to the 2022 Annie E. Casey Foundation’s KIDS COUNT Data Book that measures 16 indicators of child well-being in the areas of economic well-being, education, health, and family and community, New Mexico once again ranked 50th in the nation. Though the data used does not consider several key state-level policy changes made recently, the challenge for improvement is immense. 

On Election Day, 70% of New Mexico voters approved an amendment to the state’s constitution that advocates, including LAM-NM, believe will truly transform the health and well-being of the state’s youngest and set a standard for the rest of the nation to follow. Driving the decade long battle was the belief that every family and individual should have access to an affordable, evidence-based, and high-quality prenatal and cradle-to-career system of care and education. 

Constitutional Amendment #1 will authorize an additional 1.25% to be withdrawn annually from the state’s unique Land Grant Permanent Fund, financed by state oil and gas revenue and interest on the fund’s investments, which is currently valued at $26 billion. If passed by the U.S. Congress, it is estimated that an initial $150 million would be available to early childhood education, and another $100 million for K-12. Among the many proposals being considered, this includes expanding early childhood services like state-wide prenatal care, home visiting, high-quality childcare and pre-kindergarten programs. Other priorities include moving childcare worker average pay to $18 an hour and making permanent the policy change last year that made childcare free for most NM families. 

Over several contentious sessions, LAM-NM worked alongside numerous partner organizations, which together, formed the Invest in Kids, NOW coalition. While joyous about our victory, the coalition will now join with the state on the hard work it will take to create transformational programs for the future. 

 

Ohio

Hunger Network Ohio (HNO) – hungernetwork.org

Deacon Nick Bates, Director

ADVOCACY IN ADVENT: NOV. 29TH 

The Hunger Network and the Ohio Council of Churches are joining together to host Advocacy in Advent: A Lame Duck Lobby Day! We will discuss the important efforts we can take as a state to end hunger in Ohio and transform our criminal justice system to support neighborhoods, families, and communities to regain stability. You can join us by registering here: https://actionnetwork.org/ticketed_events/advocacy-in-advent . 

HUNGER ADVOCACY FELLOW: We are grateful to ELCA World Hunger for supporting a new Hunger Advocacy Fellow position in Ohio who will begin on November 28th.  

ISSUE 1 and ISSUE 2: Sadly, both Issue 1 and Issue 2 passed on election day in Ohio. Issue 1 cements cash bail into Ohio’s constitution. Issue 2 bans non-citizens and, due to a drafting error by the State Legislature, may also end up preventing 17 year olds who will be 18 by the election from registering to vote. “As a person with an early November birthday, this could have disenfranchised me from voting in my first election,” said Deacon Nick Bates, Director of the Hunger Network in Ohio. 

 

Pennsylvania

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry – Pennsylvania (LAMPa) lutheranadvocacypa.org

Tracey DePasquale, Director

The Pennsylvania Hunger Action Coalition held its annual meeting at Trinity Lutheran Church in Camp Hill to begin establishing priorities for the next session of the General Assembly and new Administration.

In the waning days of the 2022 session of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry – Pennsylvania (LAMPa)  and fellow housing advocates applauded the passage of legislation lifting the cap on the state’s housing trust fund by $20 million.  

The increase, which brought the cap on revenues for the Pennsylvania Housing Affordability and Rehabilitation Enhancement (PHARE) Fund to $60 million annually, came on the heels of more than $375 million in American Rescue Plan funding targeted to housing and homelessness in the FY 2022-23 budget. 

Although LAMPa advocates and coalition partners in the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania had pushed for bipartisan legislation that would have raised the PHARE Funding cap to $100 million over three years, the progress is welcome. Read more. 

LAMPa Director Tracey DePasquale joined ELCA EcoAmbassador Stephanie Coble Lower at the Susquehanna Summit, an interfaith environmental gathering.

In addition to surveying our network and Pennsylvania ministries about needs, LAMPa began meetings with coalition partners to begin informing our priorities for the next legislative term. LAMPa’s policy council will consider that policy agenda in December.  Trinity Lutheran Church in Camp Hill graciously hosted leadership from the Pennsylvania Hunger Action Coalition as that group shared updates and discussed potential areas for collaboration in fighting hunger in the Commonwealth.

LAMPa participated in planning for a Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod event to honor the work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., continued organizing for the Homeless Memorial Blanket Project in Washington, D.C., and attended a regional faith-based environmental summit co-hosted by the Lower Susquehanna Synod. 

 

 

 

Texas

Texas Impact – texasimpact.org

Scott Atnip, Outreach Director

In preparation for the general election, Texas Impact participated in presentations in congregations throughout the state, including our Faith in Democracy Series with events in Austin, Houston, Dallas, and Denton. Faith in Democracy events included a faith leader panel discussing why our faith calls for participation in democracy and advocacy efforts, training on Texas Impact’s Election Center tools, and breakout sessions on key public policy issues. Texas Impact also targeted social media ads to encourage voting and supporting the election infrastructure as election workers or poll monitors.
 

Texas Impact’s Weekly Witness podcast is in the midst of a series outlining legislative priorities for the next biennium, including our 200th episode featuring Bishop Michael Rinehart, Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod, discussing human migration.  

The popular Courts and Ports Program is re-launching with a new Immigration Education and Advocacy Manager, Fabiola (Fabi) Olvera Benitez coordinating trips to the Texas-Mexico border.  

Election results changed little in terms of state leadership, so Texans of faith are preparing for the Texas Legislature to convene in January 2023 in a session that could be very similar to 2021. 

 

Washington

Faith Action Network (FAN) – fanwa.org

Elise DeGooyer, Director

During Food Week of Action in October, the Faith Action Network (FAN)  hosted a Food Policy in WA webinar (linked on our YouTube page) with our coalition partners at Northwest Harvest. We also co-hosted two forums with indigenous writers Sarah Augustine and Mark Charles regarding the ways the Doctrine of Discovery continues to impact native peoples and lands. 

FAN helped organize faith leaders in a press conference in October with Governor Inslee and state legislators announcing protective legislation for reproductive choice and gender affirming care in our state. Here’s the recap of the legislation proposed 

We are in full preparation mode for our hybrid Annual Dinner, Sunday evening, November 20, in Renton, Spokane, and online. Our biggest fundraiser of the year is also a time to come back together in-person after two years and renew our connections and solidarity for justice across the state. 

 

Wisconsin

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

The Rev. Cindy Crane, Director

WEDNESDAY NOON LIVE: We interviewed outgoing Republican Senator Kathy Bernier about her views on elections in Wisconsin. Our conversation included the costly Gableman investigation and the Wisconsin Elections Commission. 

ELECTIONS: Governor Evers was re-elected. Michaels, his opponent, claimed he wanted to decertify the 2020 election. How elections are certified made our Secretary of State race unusually contested. At the time of writing this report, the election hasn’t been called. Earlier,  Lutheran Office for Public Policy – Wisconsin (LOPPW) interviewed Sec. of State La Follette (D) after extremists tried to prevent him from certifying the 2020 election. U.S. Senator Johnson was re-elected for a third term. The 3rd Congressional race was closer than expected. In the end, Derrick Van Orden, known for being present at the Trump rally just before the insurrection, won. After Wisconsin maps recently became more gerrymandered, the party that has the legislative majority won enough seats for a supermajority in the Senate but not the Assembly, which means the governor still has veto power. 

JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM: A few of us from our coalition’s steering committee recently met with staff from the Bucks Basketball Team to discuss their interest in supporting our efforts in returning 17 year-olds to the juvenile justice system 

CARE FOR GOD’S CREATION: LOPPW had its second meeting with staff from Faith in Place and confirmed plans to organize a spring advocacy day. 

YOUTH: Representatives from six synods are working with LOPPW to organize our first high school youth gathering with a focus on advocacy, scheduled for April 14 – 16, 2023. 

October 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  | FLORIDA | MINNESOTA | OHIO | PENNSYLVANIA | WASHINGTON

 

U.N.

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

Christine Mangale, Director

The Third Committee of the General Assembly

  • The Committee has robust agenda items and like in previous sessions, is focusing on the examination of human rights questions, including reports of the special procedures of the Human Rights Council. Agenda items include the advancement of women, the protection of children, indigenous issues, the treatment of refugees, the promotion of fundamental freedoms through the elimination of racism and racial discrimination, and the right to self- determination.  The Committee also addresses social development issues related to youth, family, aging, persons with disabilities, crime prevention, criminal justice, and international drug control. 
  • This October, the Committee is also interacting with special rapporteurs, independent experts, and chairs of working groups as mandated by the Human Rights Council. 
  • The Committee will consider several draft resolutions per agenda item. Last year, 62  draft resolutions were adopted at end of the session. LOWC is following closely the sessions and coordinating with the LWF Action for Justice unit.  
  • The formal meetings are webcast live on UN Web TV

 

CALIFORNIA

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

Regina Banks, Director

Several pieces of legislation signed into law at the end of September focused on the Lutheran Office of Public Policy – California’s key priority areas. One such bill the office has been following, Assembly Bill 2183, significantly improves the rights of farm workers. Specifically, the law will now allow farm workers to vote in union elections by mail and guarantee their protection in such elections. Additionally, Senate Bill 731 addresses the criminal justice pillar: the new law expands criminal record relief for all felonies if the individual is no longer on a probationary sentence, which also includes some specific exemptions to the relief depending on the crime. One critical bill our office was supporting and advocating for, Senate Bill 222, would have required the Department of Community Services and Development to provide water affordability assistance to low-income residents. This bill was unfortunately vetoed by the governor. Other priority bills, including Senate Bills 854 and 464 and Assembly Bills 2180, 2589, and 1615 remain in the committee process. 

Looking ahead: Our office’s 2022 voter guide for the upcoming November election has been published on our website and Facebook page as a resource for California voters as they prepare to vote on several propositions. 

 

COLORADO

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

Peter Severson, Director

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

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

HOUSING COLORADO CONFERENCE: Director Peter Severson represented LAM-CO at the Housing Colorado Conference in Breckenridge, a three-day event bringing together housing justice advocates, policy experts, builders, and government officials to discuss Colorado’s ever-present housing and affordability crisis, and to explore new opportunities and ideas together. 

 

FLORIDA

Florida Council of Churches – floridachurches.org

The Rev. Russell L. Meyer, Executive Director

The damage from Hurricane Ian stretched across Florida, and flooding is still possible along rivers as 20 inches or more of rain flows out to sea. Congregation damages from the storm on the west coast include:  

  • St. Peter, Fort Myers Beach: Building mostly destroyed.
  • Faith, Lehigh Acres: half of sanctuary roof lost.
  • Living Waters, North Port: Water damage throughout facility and across campus.
  • Hope, Port Charlotte: Facility walls and roofs breached.
  • Emmanuel, Venice: Water intrusion damage through broken stained-glass window and tree damage to roof.  

Thousands of families, not displaced by lost homes, struggle with food access.  Please support Lutheran Disaster Response! Across Florida Ian has exasperated a housing crisis. Learn more about complex housing factors and public education strains in the Clergy Convening 11/14-15 in Orlando: https://floridachurches.org/how-are-the-children/ 

 

MINNESOTA

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

Tammy Walhof, Director

Coalition Work: This fall, several of our coalitions are reorganizing and rethinking structures. Many participant organizations have had a fair amount of turnover, and some of our longer-term leaders have moved on to other types of work. We are also debating whether to keep last years’ agendas, or reconsider policy options and strategies (Remember that little was accomplished last session due polarization and midterm election posturing.) 

Midterm Elections: As much as 40 percent (or more) of the state legislature could be new following November’s election. Redistricting pitted several incumbents against each other, not just those from opposing parties, but also within parties. Although a few legislators went head-to-head in the primaries, several incumbents retired or left to pursue other interests. Pandemic weariness also likely contributed to retirement decisions. Given this large turnover, the education needed with new legislators will be daunting. Even bills that were completely negotiated between Republicans and Democrats, House members and senators (but never brought to a final vote in last hours of the legislative session), will need to start the whole process again. Furthermore, several of the legislators that retired were those that had friendships across the aisle, were respectful of colleagues regardless of party/ideology, and were long-term experienced negotiators. Moderates of both major parties make up large numbers of those who have left. 

Polarization: Given widening gaps, Tammy Walhof is dusting off her Graceful Engagement workshop, and exploring techniques of Braver Angels to get people talking and relating despite differences and hopefully to work civilly with one another 

 

OHIO

Hunger Network Ohio (HNO) – hungernetwork.org

Deacon Nick Bates, Director

Join the fight for hunger free schools in Ohio!

The Hunger Network is collaborating with Children’s Defense Fund, the Ohio food banks and many others to fight for hunger-free schools in Ohio by providing free meals to all students. Universal meals mean: 

  • Full bellies leading to full minds! This plan guarantees that kids have access to nutritious food each and every day.  
  • Less paperwork – I would rather our shared public resources be used on filling plates instead of pushing paperwork. 
  • Community building – The approach reduces stigma, judgement, and delays in graduation based on school lunch debt or the inability to pay.  

YOU CAN JOIN US BY CLICKING HERE! 

Advocacy in Advent!

Join us and the Ohio Council of Churches on November 29th for an in-person advocacy day at 9:30. We will begin the day at Trinity Episcopal Church in Columbus across the street from the Ohio Statehouse.  

REGISTER HERE! 

Thank You!

We are grateful for great partners across Ohio. Recently we joined the East Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church and the Ohio Council of Churches for their Black Theologian Day.   

Deacon Nick Bates of the Hunger Network joins the Rev. Dr. Jack Sullivan, Jr. of the Ohio Council of Churches to reflect on a powerful morning presentation.

We are also grateful to partner with the Columbus CROP Walk and the invitation to provide opening remarks and to cut the ribbon!  

Deacon Bates of the Hunger Network joins other faith and hunger leaders in Central Ohio to give thanks for dedicated people who are taking steps every day to end hunger.

 

PENNSYLVANIA

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry – Pennsylvania (LAMPa) lutheranadvocacypa.org

Tracey DePasquale, Director

“It’s always so good to be together — to be grounded in prayer and worship, and to share stories of what is happening in our congregations, communities and families,” said LAMPa Director Tracey DePasquale.

The Laurel Highlands served as a beautiful backdrop for LAMPa’s Policy Council retreat at Camp Sequanota in September.  The council received updates on legislative action and discussed possible policy priorities for the next term, based on what they are witnessing in their communities and synods.

The Policy Council began a preliminary examination of LAMPa’s ministry and advocates network survey to help guide their development of priorities for adoption in December. Members also heard from Lutherans Restoring Creation about the resources for supporting our growing network of green teams and the greenhouse gas memorial that was approved at August’s Churchwide Assembly. Continuing the focus on just transitions, the council learned about the implications of new federal infrastructure and environmental funding for Pennsylvania. 

Responding to requests for ways to stay in relationship in spite of disagreement, Policy Council also heard from Julie Boler, Director of Community Relations for Braver Angels.  A small team is exploring the possibilities for collaboration and training for congregations and communities. 

Also, in the past month, LAMPa equipped advocates with information on expanding eligibility for programs to address food insecurity, opportunities to act on homelessness though the Homeless Remembrance Blanket Project at the U.S. Capitol, and ways to help ensure a smooth, safe and accessible election in Pennsylvania. 

 

WASHINGTON

Faith Action Network (FAN) – fanwa.org

Elise DeGooyer, Director

FAN staff attended in-person and online the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in September. We will work with our colleagues across the nation and with the Washington State Anti-Hunger & Nutrition Coalition as the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act and Farm Bill take shape in Congress. We are promoting the release of the Washington Immigrant Relief Fund, which will support immigrants who were not eligible for other pandemic relief funds. And we look forward to promoting the Working Families Tax Credit in our faith communities to reach people who are eligible for this new state cash assistance program—a policy change we worked to enact for more than a decade.

During this interim time between legislative sessions, Policy Engagement Director Kristin Ang has put together some appointments for constituents with their legislators, in preparation for the 2023 legislative session. Our legislative agenda is beginning to take shape as coalition partners finalize their proposals and begin to find legislative champions for bills.

Supporting all this good work, we were able to hire a new full-time employee, Blake Alford, as Operations Coordinator. He has recently moved from Indiana and has a background in food justice, racial equity, as well as education advocacy.

Fall also brings the opportunity to gather for our Annual Dinner! This year it will be hybrid on Sunday evening, November 20, in Renton, Spokane, and online. With the theme of Pathways of Solidarity, you are welcome to join online from anywhere! Register at bit.ly/FANDinner2022. 

October Update: Advocacy Connections

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

Partial expanded content from Advocacy Connections: October 2022

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


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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

Attention to U.S. Hunger at White House Conference

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

 

Hunger in the United States

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

 

White House Conference and Strategy Highlights

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

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

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

 

This Strategy and Our Convictions

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

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

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

Recordings of panel sessions and plenary sessions are available online.

September Update: Advocacy Connections

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

Partial expanded content from Advocacy Connections: September 2022 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 


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

 

September Updates: U.N. and State Edition

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

 

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

 

 

U.N.

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

Christine Mangale, Director

UN General Assembly (UNGA 77) 

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

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

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

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

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

 

ARIZONA

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry Arizona (LAMA) – lamaz.org

Solveig Muus, Director

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

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

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

Arizona Hunger Policy Retreat Attendees

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

 

 

 

COLORADO

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

Peter Severson, Director

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

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

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

 

MINNESOTA

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

Tammy Walhof, Director

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

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

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

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

 

NEVADA

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

William Ledford, Director

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

 

OHIO

Hunger Network Ohio (HNO) – hungernetwork.org

Deacon Nick Bates, Director

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

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

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

Read more and register here!    

 

PENNSYLVANIA

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry – Pennsylvania (LAMPa) lutheranadvocacypa.org

Tracey DePasquale, Director

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

WASHINGTON

Faith Action Network (FAN) – fanwa.org

Elise DeGooyer, Director

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

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

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

 

WISCONSIN

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

The Rev. Cindy Crane, Director

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

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

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

Current sign-on letters

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

 

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

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

 

WHAT IS A SIGN-ON LETTER

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

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

 

IMPACT OF SIGN-ONS

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

 

DECISION PROCESS

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


LAST UPDATE: 10/19/22

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

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

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August 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 | Delaware | Washington


 

U.N.

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

Dennis Frado, Director

 

The 24th International AIDS Conference took place from 29 July to 2 August 2022. The theme of AIDS 2022 was Re-engage and follow the science. It was the first time the conference was hosted in person in Montreal, Canada, as well as virtually. The conference featured the latest HIV science, explored indigenous responses to HIV, surveillance ethics, health innovation, quality healthcare, HIV cure and vaccine research and much more. The new UNAIDS report, In Danger, released at the conference, highlights the devastating consequences if urgent action is not taken to tackle the inequalities which drive the pandemic. It further shows how the AIDS response has been “blown off course”, making action urgent.

 

Pre-conferences began on 27 July. The Interfaith Pre-Conference was held 27-28 July under the theme “Taking Action to Overcome HIV Stigma & Discrimination Comprehensive, Compassionate Care for All.” The pre-conference was organized by the Interfaith Health Platform (IHP), in collaboration with UNAIDS and PEPFAR. IHP advocacy initiatives include the 12 MILLION CAMPAIGN that engages faith leaders, individuals and communities to promote access to health services to the now 10 million children, women and men living with HIV who are not yet on antiretroviral treatment.

 

There was some uplifting news. According to UNAIDS, the new research presented at the conference showed that “injectable PrEP [pre-exposure prophylaxis] is among the most effective tools for preventing HIV available and that it works well in multiple populations.”. The World Health Organization (WHO) released new guidelines and drugmaker ViiV announced licenses for generic manufacturing of the drug, cabotegravir long-acting (LA), for HIV PrEPin 90 countries.

Other commitments were made by African leaders and by international partners who joined in a new Global Alliance to End AIDS in Children.

 

The Interfaith pre-conference delegates, the International AIDS Society, UNAIDS and civil society organizations all expressed concern and were saddened by the high number of denied and pending visas for the purpose of attending the events by Canadian authorities. These included researchers, officials, and people living with HIV from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. There was global outcry to ensure that the next host of the conference must guarantee that the most affected by HIV can be present at this important world’s largest conference on HIV and AIDS.

 


 

Colorado

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

Peter Severson, Director

 

Healthy School Meals for All campaign kicks off: The Healthy School Meals for All ballot measure will appear before Colorado voters on their November ballot. As a member of a diverse statewide coalition, we’re excited to announce the official kick-off series for our “Yes” campaign! The Denver kick-off will took place at Edgewater Elementary on August 11. Colorado Springs’ kick-off was at Food to Power on August 15, followed by the Western Slope.

The ballot measure will soon have a name, but we already have a website: https://www.healthyschoolmealsforallco.org. Also check us out on social media at Facebook.com/SchoolsMealsforCO and on Twitter @SchoolMeals4CO.

 

Register now for Thirsting for Water: Lutheran Advocacy is collaborating with the Rocky Mountain Synod (RMS) World Hunger Team and the RMS Creation Care Team to host “Thirsting for Water: At the Intersection of Climate, Water and Hunger” on Saturday, September 17. Join us at Bethany Lutheran Church, Denver, or on Zoom for a day for holy conversation & community-building with faithful people from the Rocky Mountain Synod and beyond. We’ll learn the facts about the drought affecting our region, engage in theological reflection and story-telling, hear stories of the impact on agriculture, consider policy and advocacy, and contemplate how we can respond to the crisis together.

More information & registration can be found at https://www.rmselca.org/events/thirstingforwater.

 


 

Delaware

Lutheran Office for Public Policy – Delaware – demdsynod.org/delaware-public-policy-office

The Rev. Gordon Simmons, Director

 

Director for the Lutheran Office for Public Policy – Delaware, Gordon Simmons was able to be in all 12 ELCA churches this year, to preach and to lead a forum on issues.

Among issues was support of a bill that would have required training before purchasing a firearm, which did not pass. However, in the aftermath of the shootings earlier this year in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, two bills were quickly passed and signed by the governor: one which outlaws assault weapons (HB 450) and another which raises the age to purchase a firearm to 21 (HB 451).

 

LOPP-Delaware worked a lot with a clean energy coalition. A bill was introduced in the last month of the session which would have raised the state’s goals for reduction of greenhouse gases, which are currently at 40% reduction by 2035, and would have given the state much more extensive regulatory power. At the last minute the Governor pulled his support, and while the bill passed the Senate, it failed to get out of the House committee with a 5-6 vote. We’ll be back next year.

 

Delaware codified at the state level the healthcare protections which were found in Roe v Wade several years ago. After the Supreme Court decision in the Dobbs v Jackson case, the Legislature passed bills HB 455 and HB 460. These bills give certain physician assistants and registered nurse’s the authority to perform abortions and to prescribe medication to include abortions, and also protects those seeking abortions who travel from out of state from lawsuits.  

 


 

Washington

Faith Action Network (FAN) – fanwa.org

Elise DeGooyer, Director

 

Our work this summer has included bills in Congress that will impact communities across our state. In July, we were present at a Congressional hearing on the Farm Bill, held locally in Carnation, Wash. It was such a great day for food security in Washington, as Congresswoman Kim Schrier and House Agriculture Committee members listened to advocates, farmers, and food bank providers about shared priorities for Farm Bill reauthorization to end hunger. FAN Policy Engagement Director Kristin Ang spoke to the power of SNAP benefits for our neighbors who are struggling, and while faith communities are on the front lines in response to hunger, they can’t do it without equitable public policy. We will continue to work with our colleagues at the Washington State Anti-Hunger & Nutrition Coalition (pictured at right with Rep. Schrier, 2nd from right) and our ELCA partners.

 

In advance of Washington state primary elections, FAN co-sponsored some candidate forums with our colleagues at the Coalition of Immigrants, Refugees, and Communities of Color (CIRCC) and the Seattle-King County NAACP. Following our four summits across the state this spring, our legislative agenda for 2023 will continue to take shape in collaboration with the newly-formed FAN Policy Committee, our governing board, and our 25+ coalition partners.

 

The FAN governing board and staff enjoyed a rare opportunity to meet in person and online in July in a statewide planning retreat, hosted by the Sikh community’s Khalsa Gurmat School in Federal Way. We listened to each other’s perspectives, identified some of the most critical challenges to our communities during this difficult time, and considered some multi-faith approaches to help us adapt to meet these challenges. It was a chance for new board members and new staff members (including our new part-time organizers in central Washington) to become acquainted; after two years of online meetings, we felt the tangible impact of planning together in person. We are energized to work together to best address the needs ahead.

Creation Care Investments in Inflation Reduction Act

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

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

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

 

Elements of the Act

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

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

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

 

Compelled to Act on Climate Change by Faith Foundation

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

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

 

A Step in the Right Direction

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