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March Update: Advocacy Connections

from the ELCA Advocacy office in Washington, D.C. – the Rev. Amy E. Reumann, director


FOREIGN ASSISTANCE FUNDING OUTCOMES: Congress has passed a budget compromise that includes spending levels for international affairs programs. These programs address food insecurity, poverty and other top international ELCA Advocacy priorities. Some programs focusing on poverty reduction saw a slight increase, e.g. global health programs and international disaster assistance.

YEMEN RESOLUTION IN CONGRESS: Last month the House passed a joint resolution calling for an end to U.S. military assistance to the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen. The legislation now heads to the Senate, where 51 votes are required for passage. ELCA Advocacy staff are monitoring the progress of the resolution, which could affect peace outcomes in the region.

JUST TRANSITION AND CLIMATE: ELCA Advocacy and the Franciscan Action Network are working with members of the Edison Electric Institute, which represents U.S. investor-owned electric utilities, to find areas of commonality in addressing the impact of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Together, the partnership is exploring two aspects of the problem—energy efficiency and just transition—and is trying to establish common definitions and principles for just transition. Faith-based organizations can complement the just transition process by addressing the social impact on communities where coal-fired plants have been closed in a manner that utility companies may not be equipped to help, as communities make the transition to a carbon-neutral resilient society where no one is left behind.

INTERNATIONAL GENDER JUSTICE: At the State of the Union Address, President Donald Trump announced a new initiative called Women’s Global Development and Prosperity, with the goal of advancing women’s full and free participation in the global economy. The initiative aims at building on programs that are already in existence. The initiative sets up $50 million fund for USAID to invest in new programs that will help women start their own businesses, overcome barriers to doing business, and find jobs. With the goal of reaching 50 million women by 2025; and requires interagency coordination among different agencies.

FROM THE ACTION CENTER – HUNGER DOESN’T WATCH A CLOCK: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has proposed a rule that would put time limits on food benefits for unemployed and underemployed people who can’t document a designated number of weekly work hours or job training. People who cannot meet the documentation requirement would lose SNAP food assistance eligibility after three months, regardless of how hard they are trying to find work or acquire job skills. This would lead to increasing hunger in our communities. Shortly after the rule was posted last month, ELCA Advocacy responded with an Action Alert opposing it. Advocates have until April 2 to submit comments to the USDA through the Action Center at .

ON THE CALENDAR – ECUMENICAL ADVOCACY DAYS: The annual Ecumenical Advocacy Days conference, gathering hundreds of faith-based advocates from across the country, will be held April 5-8 in Washington, D.C. Early-bird registration for the conference ends Friday, March 9, so interested attendees should apply soon! This year’s conference focuses on the theme “Trouble the Waters,” drawn from John 5:1-9, and calls on God to bring healing to our nation and world. Advocate meetings with Congress will focus on a range of issues, from expanding voter protections to increasing meaningful public participation to realizing social justice in our communities. ELCA Advocacy will host a reception during the conference for Lutheran attendees visiting the city. Additional information for Lutheran attendees will be shared before the conference begins.

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Stewarding God’s Creation: Science Matters

By Ruth Ivory-Moore

“Colliding black holes, dinosaur parts in amber, potentially life-friendly planets: The year in science has at times felt almost cinematic in scope.”- National Geographic 

The year was 2016.  Phenomenal discoveries were made which may have life changing implications that range from better understanding the various forms of waves (i.e. light, x-rays) to finding new extraterrestrial objects to explore, such as the newfound potentially water bearing planet dubbed Proxima b. A global collaboration of scientists measured massive colliding black holes producing gravitational waves. This measurement validated Albert Einstein’s 1916 prediction of the existence of these waves in his General Theory of Relativity.  This collision actually occurred about 1.3 billion light-years away, but by the time the waves reached earth they spread like ripples and washed over earth in September 2016.  Scientists are using this discovery to see if there is any connection between gravitational waves and other waves such X-rays, radio, and light.    

(Photograph Source: . A computer simulation shows the gravitational waves emitted by two gigantic black holes spiraling around each other. Illustration by C. Henze, NASA)

These discoveries show the importance of science. Unfortunately, the church has not always been welcoming of science. In 1633, Galileo Galilei was convicted of heresy for his teachings on the universe being heliocentric (sun is the center of the solar system) versus being geocentric (earth is center of solar system). The latter was the belief held by the church. As a result, he spent the rest of his life under house arrest.  It took centuries to prove that his theory was correct.

Today we have a better appreciation of the value of science, knowledge, and wisdom. Divine wisdom is apparent in the created order and guides how we are to live in it. “We are called to live according to God’s wisdom in creation (Proverbs 8), which brings together God’s truth and goodness. Wisdom, God’s way of governing creation, is discerned in every culture and era in various ways. In our time, science and technology can help us to discover how to live according to God’s creative wisdom”. (Social Statement, “Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope, and Justice” (1993)).

Human wisdom is primary and fundamental to life.  When Solomon was given the opportunity to ask God for anything he desired, he chose wisdom (1 King 3). Wisdom synthesizes knowledge and experiences into conceptual visions and realities.  Knowledge is a tool while wisdom is the craft in which the tool is used.   God provides humankind with unique abilities compared to the rest of creation, namely to reason, research, analyze, and strategize. Wisdom allows us to make use of God’s gifts and deploy them in ways to give us a better understanding of this world; and to follow through on our mandate to be stewards of all of creation. We use wisdom in science to gather together scientific information and discoveries to further our understanding of our environment.

For example, science is the nucleus of our ability to understand the impact of the warming of the earth due to the accumulation of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.

  1. It is science that has allows humankind to measure the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere over time showing the dramatic increase since 1950. (Photograph right: graph displaying carbon dioxide increase over time. Data source: Reconstruction from ice cores. Credit: NOAA. See:
  1. It is science that allows NASA to pictorially show the impact of the accumulation of carbon dioxide emissions globally over the entire earth. Click this link and view what NASA has been observing for in the span of one year compressed:
  2. It was science that allowed Tesla’s Solarcity to convert the island of Ta’u in American Samoa from diesel to 100% solar. This seven-acre solar plant now provides all the power used on Ta’u Island.1  Photo by Daniel Lin. (Photograph below:

It is through science that we find the mechanism to alert us of problems that warrant our attention.  It is through our God-given wisdom that we utilize science to be God’s stewards while we are here on earth. Value science. Embrace it. Thank God for the gift of human wisdom that enables us to use science for the benefit of all. Let us pray.

Unison Prayer

Healing God, forgive us that we see dry bones in places where you see the full vitality of life.  Help us to remember that life comes from you alone.  You alone are the Creator of the universe; you alone are the savior of the whole world.  Help to celebrate the vision of life and to tend to the needs of your world.  Amen2


2Creation Justice Ministries:


COP22 Blog

Ruth Ivory-Moore, Program Director Environment and Energy, traveled to COP22  in Marrakech, Morocco in November as world leaders meet to discuss implementation of the Paris Agreement that went into effect on November 4, 2016.  The first week she is supporting ACT Alliance  of which ELCA is a member by  participating in Side Events that allow for everyone to be directly engaged in discussions addressing the diverse issues surrounding climate change.  The second week she is serving as part of an ACT Alliance delegation as an observer. Below are some reflections and photos of her first week of experiences at this amazing conference where people project to be on one accord to protect and steward all of creation.

In This Together


“If you want to go quickly, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.”  – African Proverb.

This proverb is particularly instructive in describing the events at COP22.   There is a strong sense of diversity and inclusiveness.   Senior level governmental officials negotiate Paris Agreement implementation provisions; civil society observes and seeks to influence; and those most likely to be impacted now and in the future, sought to be heard.   The latter included indigenous people and our children.  These voices were heard in various ways during this session of COP22.21

The indigenous people have contributed least to climate change, but are significantly impacted.  They need the rest of the world’s assistance, but those providing the help must first understand their community dynamics. Those offering assistance must do so in an accompaniment manner.  We must walk and stand with them in partnership – bridging gaps, while laying the foundation for sustainability and resilience. A diverse group of people including the indigenous staged a march to express the need to hear their voices; and to recognize that they must be included in the conversations. (See picture left)

While the indigenous people are likely to be impacted as part of the world’s vulnerable population today, we should not forget that we must leave a vibrant, clean world for our children.  22

The COP presented opportunities for some amazing young people to show the world that they have voices, and deserve better than what we are on course to leave them today. Whether it was the young girl from Senegal speaking about biodiversity. (See picture left)

The students quizzing a panel of experts with questions that challenged the brightest. (See picture left)

Or those students capturing the moments as camera and production personnel for the hour and half, each presented themselves not only professionally, but passionately and 24credibly. (See picture left)

This COP22 cleverly demonstrated the importance of all and the need for complete inclusiveness.  This all-inclusiveness extends to religion.

Sessions incorporated diverse religious personnel.  An Islamic cleric spoke of the importance of ecology, emphasizing that the Islam mandates that people must protect all. The universe is to show gratitude to God, who is beauty. God loves beauty, not war. A Buddhist leader spoke of how all life is interdependent and that we were born on this earth not to be part of the destruction. COP demonstrates that caring for 23creation is a stewardship requirement that is shared by the faith-based community in general.

We are commanded by God; and have a duty to our children.

Prayer: Oh God of Heaven and Earth, you desire a reconciliation of the whole creation.  We confess that we too often make choices that separate and destroy.  Forgive us our selfish ways.  Help us to seek justice, oh God, and to walk humbly beside you as we seek life that is centered on you and as we protect your creation.  Help and guide us to joyfully seek your wisdom and guidance.  Amen.  

(Prayer adopted from Creation Justice Ministries,


Gender and Equity


“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”  (Galatians 3:28, NRSV)

It is unfortunate that being “one in Christ” is not recognized  universally in the world as we live our lives today.   The Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women (ARROW) a Malaysian based organization sponsored an interactive discussion session at COP22 entitled “Paris Agreement and Women – Locating Health in Climate Change Discourse”.    The reality is that women are disparately impacted by the effects of climate change.  The time has come to acknowledge and integrate the gender rights issue into the discussions addressing climate change.

The Paris Agreement in the preamble states:  “ Acknowledging that climate change is a common concern of humankind, Parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity…”   At the COP22 where the representatives from the many nations are beginning to hammer out the implementation rules and guidelines of the Paris Agreement, the hope is that key linkages between women’s health and climate change will be considered and incorporated in the implementation discussions.

ARROW has captured the stories of women on post cards.  Here are the stories of two of them.

Supl’s story is:12


Gladys’ story is:13


These women’s stories are unfortunately not atypical particularly in developing countries.  ARROW representatives gave the example of  Bangladesh which is a densely populated country with a poverty level that is very high. Bangladesh is experiencing more severe weather in the form of increased frequency of floods and cyclones where women are impacted the most.   The women do not want to leave their homes for fear of property losses, but are often forced to leave and migrate internally walking through high flood waters that results in gynecological illnesses that can impact the reproductive system.  These women can also be the targets  of sexual violence.  Living through situations such as these can cause depression which impacts mental health.

This ARROW presentation at COP22 was unique in that the end of the session was all about hearing what the audience had to say.  The session facilitators engaged the audience in a robust conversation.  Questions raised included: (1) How will women’s health issues be incorporated in the Paris Agreement implementation; and (2) What can be done to make this happen?  The consensus of the group was  that the time has come where gender issues needed to be integrated into the talks and be given the same weight/status as other issues.

Women in a marginalized society, are the most vulnerable among us.

The Paris agreement: What’s next?

By Mary Minette

mary 3After nearly 10 years of service as ELCA Advocacy director for Environmental Policy and Education, Mary Minette has completed her work with the ELCA Advocacy Office and is moving to a new position.

 “Mary has provided tremendous leadership for the whole church in her vocation and passion to care for creation. Her voice and perspective is respected from Washington, D.C., to congregations and synod assemblies throughout the church.” – Stephen Bouman, ELCA executive director for Congregational and Synodical Mission

 We hope you enjoy her final Living Earth Reflection below. Mary’s thoughtful and faithful leadership will be greatly missed by Lutheran advocates and ecumenical partners, but in her new role she continues her work for creation justice. Please join us in thanking God for Mary’s ministry and wishing her the best of luck!

On Dec. 12, 2015, in Paris, nearly 200 nations agreed for the first time to collectively take steps to address climate change. The Paris agreement was the culmination of years of movement building by groups ranging from environmentalists to labor unions, from local governments to the business community. The faith community has played a key role in the U.N. climate negotiations since their beginnings at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, but in Paris faith advocates were present in the highest numbers and had the greatest visibility and access ever.

Under the Paris agreement each country has pledged to set its own greenhouse gas emission reduction goals and to review those goals on a regular basis. As of this writing, 160 countries have submitted national goals, or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC).  The INDC for the United States includes actions across our economy—raising fuel economy standards for cars and trucks, regulating carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and methane emissions from oil and gas production, increasing energy efficiency, and encouraging adoption of renewable energy technologies. Other countries have also stepped forward with ambitious plans. For example, during the Paris meeting in December, leaders of African nations announced a new initiative that will make their continent a leader in the adoption of renewable energy—addressing both climate change and the continent’s need for energy development.

The Paris agreement pledges to keep total human-induced global warming below a 2-degree Celsius increase from pre-industrial levels, which climate scientists consider a key threshold for preventing catastrophic climate change. Although current INDC are not sufficient to meet that goal, the Paris agreement also includes mechanisms to review current commitments and to scale up ambition for reducing greenhouse gas emissions every five years. This creates opportunities for advocates to put pressure on our own governments to make good on their promises and to increase ambition over time; however, it will be incumbent upon all of us to make sure that we keep building pressure on our elected officials to ramp up their goals.

The Paris agreement includes financial commitments to help developing countries adopt cleaner energy technology and to help vulnerable countries adapt to already occurring climate change, including rising sea levels, increases in severe weather, and long-term droughts.

A key priority for faith advocates during negotiations was helping vulnerable countries address so-called “loss and damage,” the term used to refer to irreparable impacts of climate change on lives and livelihoods, including loss of territory. Island nations, such as Kiribati, might soon be completely submerged and will face relocation and sovereignty issues.

The Paris agreement did not provide a final answer to these difficult questions, but it did include a recommendation to continue working for solutions to loss-and-damage issues, which faith advocates can build on in future years.

How can we help support the Paris agreement?

We can support initiatives, such as the Clean Power Plan, to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and rules to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.

We can continue our strong support for the U.S. contribution to the Green Climate Fund and to poverty-focused international development.

This agreement, for the first time, considers local actions as part of what will be needed to keep temperatures within safe boundaries. As advocates, we can work with our cities and counties and states to push for more renewable energy, higher energy efficiency standards for buildings, better land use practices and other things that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

We can build on what many of our congregations are already doing—making our buildings more energy efficient, putting solar panels on church roofs and geothermal heating and cooling systems under our foundations.

And we can continue to look at our individual contributions to climate change—driving less, turning down the thermostat, recycling, and prioritizing small and large actions to reduce our carbon footprint.

 And most importantly:

Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.Romans 12:11-12