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Behind the curtain…

A message from Deacon Tammy Jones West, 2024 ELCA Youth Gathering Program Director—

First, there is no curtain but for a peek into the behind-the-scenes happenings of the ELCA Youth Gathering, let me start with my first few months on staff.

Let me introduce you to the people who are called to serve this ministry at the Churchwide office of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. I am Deacon Tammy Jones West and I serve as the Program Director for the 2024 ELCA Youth Gathering. Alongside me is Justin Wilson who was originally hired as communications/social media person but has wowed us all with his ability to step up into so much more. That’s it friends. Justin and I aren’t singing – just the two of us but it’s true – sort of. (Plus, Justin is way too young to even know the line to that song.)

That’s just those of us at the Churchwide office. We plan to hire another staff member to help with registration/housing in the coming months, and soon the Churchwide organization will be searching for the person God is calling to be the next program director to begin planning for 2027 and beyond.

Now, there’s another group of people who you need to know, and we’ll be announcing these individuals shortly, but the group formerly known as Team Leaders, now Directors, are the backbone of this event. Nine people who will build teams, supervise managers, and make the magic happen. What are those roles?

Directors of…

  • Accompaniment
  • Community Life
  • Interactive Learning
  • Logistics
  • Mass Gathering
  • Multicultural Youth Leadership Event (MYLE)
  • Gathering Synod Champions
  • the tAble
  • Volunteers

Serving alongside the directors and forming what we call their core team will be managers of…

Safety and Security, Medical, Transportation, Operations, IT, Justice/Advocacy, Service Learning, Cultural Immersion, Bible studies, Tech and Talent, Champion’s Square, Partners, Administration, and more.

That’s not all friends. Once the Gathering lands in New Orleans, implementation teams join the family. That’s 99 additional people, who will help make these teams work and thrive.

One more important group to remember— our volunteers. 415 volunteers give up a week of vacation to serve this ministry and be with our young people as they explore God’s grace and love.

And finally, adult leaders. Those who really make this ministry happen. The planning, praying, fundraising, details, love, and care that adults who bring our young people provide is invaluable. So, it’s just the two of us and thousands more.

Let’s do this friends— we’ll see you in New Orleans!

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Conflict and Hunger Part V: Stability

This post is Part V of a five-part series discussing the many ways that violent conflict impacts hunger. The next key aspect of food security is stability. Is access to food reliable, even during a crisis? Here, we take a look at how conflict impacts this, with specific attention to the crisis in Ukraine. Read Part I and find links to the other posts here.

Stability, in short, means that food production, access, and utilization are reliable and resilient. Put another way, if we can eat today, how sure are we that we will be able to eat tomorrow?

There are two reasons this is important. First, instability and unpredictability change the way people behave. Farmers, for example, become more hesitant to trade, invest or diversify their work. For example, after the civil war in Mozambique in the 1980s and 1990s, farmers tended to focus on subsistence farming and reduced their participation in the market, meaning there was less food produced for other people to purchase and consume. Similarly, farmers may shift away from livestock or away from crop diversification, since doing so seems to pose less risk in the short-term, even if it may have longer-term negative effects.

In Ukraine, one of the current concerns is that farmers may not fertilize their grain crops because of high prices and instability. That would lead to a drastic reduction in the wheat crop for 2022, which could cause further shortages and higher prices globally into 2023. Moreover, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) notes that fertilizer costs are expected to rise globally, adding to the strain of farmers dependent on them. Russia and Belarus provide a large share of the world’s fertilizer, and their shipments have been significantly interrupted. (Of course, because causes and effects are complex, this situation might actually spawn the positive benefit of focusing attention on increased efficiency of chemical fertilizers and investment in alternative fertilizers that are less destructive to health and the environment, as IFPRI notes.)

The second reason stability is important is because conflict doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine didn’t bring an end to the ongoing threat of COVID-19 or other diseases. Nor does conflict make climate-related disasters take a hiatus. The most significant risk to food security in a region occurs when multiple shocks coincide.

This is, in part, what makes the food security situation for export-dependent countries so dire right now. In places like Yemen, which depend on grain exports from Russia and Ukraine, the war comes on the heels of a locust swarm that devastated crops and continues to pose a threat to farmland. Moreover, some of the people dependent on exports from Ukraine are in areas facing their own conflict-related crises, such as Afghanistan.

When combined with existing poverty, rising prices, climate events and other conflicts, the shock to the global food system that the war in Ukraine represents could be severe. In the short- to medium-term, the FAO estimates that the conflict could lead to nearly 8 million more people around the world becoming hungry. This is in addition to the refugees and internally displaced people of Ukraine whose lives and livelihoods have been immediately impacted. That increase in hunger would come on the heels of significant growth in undernourishment due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To sum it up, conflict destabilizes nearly every aspect of our global food system, which is partly why it is often named as the most significant driver of hunger around the world. For most of history, humans could assuage feelings of responsibility or even fear if a conflict emerged halfway around the globe. But our world today is far too connected to believe that borders, oceans or miles can insulate us. The globalized, interconnected food system that each of us is a part of demonstrates politically and economically what we have always known theologically, namely that the safety and well-being of all God’s creation matters, no matter how distant the people involved might seem to be.

The stability of the food system depends on many factors: farmers, workers, bakers, herders and processors who produce food; truck drivers, rail workers, loaders and grocers who make food available; health care workers who tend to nutritional well-being; employers who provide wages to workers so that they can be consumers; utility workers who keep infrastructure running to ensure the safety of food; construction and road workers who ensure there can be adequate transportation of food; and even policymakers who negotiate trade agreements and aid to ensure that the food system is inclusive.

To paraphrase the philosopher Jacques Derrida, when we eat, we never eat alone. We are eating the fruits of God’s creation made possible because of neighbors around the world. And as we eat, we are mindful that the stability of this system on which all of us depend to some extent, depends itself on the truths we are called to pursue: peace and justice.

So, to return to the first post in this series:

The ripple effects of the war in Ukraine could echo throughout the food system for a long time. But we find courage and hope in God who “calls us to hope, even when hope is shrouded by the pall of war” and who, even now, is at work in, among and through peacemakers, supporting neighbors in need and “striving for justice and peace in all the earth.”

What can be done? Providing support to the work that has already begun by giving a gift to Lutheran Disaster Response is one way to help meet the growing need of Ukrainians, especially those who have been displaced by the conflict.

A next step after that is to consider ongoing support of Lutheran Disaster Response and ELCA World Hunger. Some of the long-term consequences described in these posts may be reduced by working with local communities around the world to reduce vulnerability, increase capacity and build resilience against future shocks. This won’t be the last violent conflict; but by working together toward a just world where all are fed – and safe – we can take steps to help prevent the many destructive ripple effects that we may see this year. Supporting food producers; investing in stable, sufficient livelihoods for all people; increasing the capacity of communities to respond to crises; and building a just, sustainable and stable food system will go a long way to ending both hunger and conflict. As António Guterres wrote last year,

We need to tackle hunger and conflict together to solve either.

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10 things to know as you prepare

 

 

Many congregations are just now getting things ready to attend the 2022 Gathering, so if you haven’t started yet– you aren’t behind! Here are 10 things to know as you prepare to bring a congregational group to the 2022 ELCA Youth Gathering.

  1. Utilize the Gathering’s promotional materials to get your community excited about this faith formation experience. We have PowerPoint templates, flyer templates, posters, promotional videos and logos for you to download and use. Consider inviting past participants to share a testimony as well!
  2. Download the Official Gathering Handbook: Tips & Tricks for Adult Leaders. This resource is jammed-packed with pro-tips, sample covenants, timelines, budgets and more. If you’d like a printed version, you can purchase one from our partners at Old Lutheran.
  3. Thinking about raising funds to attend the Gathering can be daunting. However, we know from the testimonies of young people and adult leaders that it’s totally worth it. Depending on your community’s guidelines for COVID-19, you might need to adapt and think creatively on how to raise funds. Early in the pandemic, the Gathering curated a resource of virtual and socially distanced fundraisers.
  4. Connect with your Gathering Synod Coordinator (GSC)! These individuals are trained on all things Gathering and are your go-to contact for your synod. You can contact your GSC by sending them an email on the Gathering’s website.
  5. Sign up and attend the pre-Gathering webinars. Gathering leadership will share what they are planning for next summer during these monthly webinars. Visit the Gathering’s website to see recordings of past webinars or sign up for future ones.
  6. Download the Getting Ready Materials. This curriculum was designed to help introduce your congregational group to the daily themes of the Gathering and start bonding.
  7. There is still financial assistance available for young people attending the Gathering. Up to $300 per youth participant may be provided with a max of 10 youth per congregation. The primary adult leader should apply on behalf of the young person via the application.
  8. Our team is hard at work making plans to ensure that the 2022 Gathering is a safe for our participants. All youth and adult participants, team members, volunteers, staff, and Interactive Learning partners will be required to submit proof of a full COVID-19 vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test (likely 72 hours before arriving). More information around how this information will be submitted will come spring 2022.
  9. Gathering leadership is continuously monitoring the pandemic and guidance for events of our size, but confident that we will have a safe Gathering next summer in Minneapolis. If we get to a point where we are unable to have a safe event and the Gathering is cancelled, deposits will be refunded, with the option for congregations to donate some or all those funds towards the ministry of the Gathering or to forward their deposit to the 2024 Gathering. Visit our COVID-19 page for FAQs and more info.
  10. Don’t do it alone. Invite another trusted adult in your congregation to join you in the planning and logistics!

Know that Gathering leadership is praying for you and your community as you consider attending the 2022 ELCA Youth Gathering. We know that this ministry changes lives and enriches congregational youth ministry, and we hope your congregation will join us.

For more information on the 2022 Gathering, MYLE and the tAble, visit: elca.org/Gathering.

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Reflecting on “Made Free”

 

The Multicultural Youth Leadership Event (MYLE) will gather under the theme of “Made Free” in the summer of 2022. Gathering leadership asked a few people to briefly reflect on what it means to be “Made Free” and to live into the scripture verse of “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17).

 

Isabelle El-Yateem from the Association of Lutherans of Arab and Middle Eastern Heritage

Isabelle El-Yateem, Association of Lutherans of Arab and Middle Eastern Heritage

“As an Arab American youth, I think the theme of “Made Free” is awesome. We need to be released from all the things in the world that hold us back from our true potential. We need to be freed to call out for and demand justice and equality for all people, in all places and in all times!”

 

the Rev. Joann Conroy, President of the ELCA American Indian/Alaska Native Lutheran AssociationThe Rev. Joann Conroy, ELCA American Indian/Alaska Native Lutheran Association

“Paul in a letter to the Galatians said, “…we should use that Freedom (of Christ) to serve one another in love and live a Spirit-filled life.” As we come to MYLE, we come sharing the freedom that Christ gave to us – love through a Spirit filled life rich in our Lutheran traditions and celebrating all of our Indigenous gifts of culture with the church.”

To learn more about the 2022 Multicultural Youth Leadership Event, visit our website: elca.org/MYLE.

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November Update: UN and State Edition

Following are updates shared from submissions of the Lutheran Office for World Community and state public policy offices.

U.N.| California | Minnesota | Ohio | Pennsylvania | Washington | Wisconsin

United Nations

Dennis Frado, Lutheran Office for World Community, New York, N.Y. ELCA.org/lowc

Women’s Human Rights Advocacy Training: The Lutheran World Federation in collaboration with Church of Sweden, Finn Church Aid, Mission 21, the World Council of Churches and ACT Alliance is holding an advocacy training on women’s human rights (26 October – 13 November 2020). The training is usually held annually in person, and this year, due to COVID-19 it is being held virtually.

Topics covered include introduction to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), tools and opportunities for engaging in preparing for parallel (also known as “shadow”) reports to CEDAW, the intersection between human rights, faith and gender, Gender-Based Violence prevention and responses, the role of men and boys in gender justice advocacy among others. LOWC is involved in the planning and facilitation of some sessions during the training. A resource for faith-based organizations on affirming women’s human rights can be found here.

General Assembly’s Third Committee Has Dialogues with Human Rights Mandate Holders: As it has done for some years, the General Assembly’s Third Committee has been having dialogues in recent weeks with various persons holding human rights mandates from the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council. While LOWC has been monitoring quite a few of these discussions on topics such as racism and racial discrimination, advancement of women, rights of indigenous peoples, and internally displaced persons, it took special note of the discussion with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Professor S. Michael Lynk.  His report this year reviewed the situation of human rights in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and in Gaza and focused on accountability related issues. Lynk also held a separate virtual discussion with the UN NGO Working Group on Israel-Palestine, of which LOWC is a member, as he has in previous years on this occasion.


California

Regina Q. Banks, Lutheran Office of Public Policy- California https://lutheranpublicpolicyca.org/

Getting ready for the election: The Lutheran Office of Public Policy in California (LOPP-CA) has been working diligently to prepare for the upcoming election. The staff did work around building patience and an understanding of the process. In the weekly Advocacy in Quarantine meetings, LOPP-CA worked with constituents to talk through the timeliness of the election while holding space for further learning on the state’s Proposition.

Prop 16 Text Banking: LOPP-CA went forward this month in continuing to text bank with the Prop 16 coalition. The office has been reaching out to California voters through a texting platform called Thru Text in hopes of overturning the state-wide ban of affirmative action, something that has been in effect since 1996. There has been a committed group of parishioners and advocates meeting every Monday to push this outreach, and so far the office has reached more than 600,000 voters in the state.

Partnering with California Food and Farming Network: Continuing the office’s commitment to advocate for food and farming, LOPP-CA has begun working closely with the California Food and Farming Network (CFFN), a coalition of around 40 advocacy organizations such as food banks, legislative advocacy, farming service organizations, and partners from across both the food and farming sectors. The Network has begun its strategic process for the year 2021, centering racial justice and equity in their approach. LOPP-CA has joined CFFN for this visioning process, and has given financial contributions toward centering racial justice through committing funds to CFFN’s community Engagement process. Specifically, CFFN will be reaching out into communities of color, finding leaders and advocates within food sectors, and providing compensation for their expertise. This listening campaign will take the expertise learned and structure CFFN 2021 priorities.


Minnesota

Tammy Walhof, Lutheran Advocacy- Minnesota http://www.lutheranadvocacymn.org/

State Legislative Elections: Although the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party lost some seats in the House, it retains control of the chamber. In the Senate, some flipped districts occurred, but the balance remains the same. Unfortunately, at least one of the Republicans that was ousted was one who was helpful to our housing agenda. All the main leaders from both parties and both chambers retain their positions.

Minnesota U.S. Elections: Rep. Colin Peterson was ousted from Minnesota’s 7th congressional district seat and replaced by former State Senator/Senate President Michelle Fischbach, who also served briefly as Lt. Governor when Tina Smith was appointed to the U.S. Senate. Representative Peterson served as the long-term chair of the Agriculture Committee, a committee Fischbach hopes to serve on as it also addresses nutrition issues.

Update on Special Session #5: A carefully negotiated $1.36 billion bill including bonding, supplemental appropriations, and “tax  relief” for farmers and small businesses was finally passed when House Minority Leader Daudt let his caucus vote their conscience. Freed by Daudt, many House Republicans joined the bipartisan bill. Thanks for your hard work on the housing pieces!

Included in the bill were

  • $100 million in Housing Infrastructure Bonds
  • $16 million in General Obligation Bonds for Public Housing
  • A large amount for transportation including roads and bridges, some public transportation, and electric vehicle charging infrastructure
  • Bonds for public facility projects, public safety, the University of Minnesota, and other various public works, including municipal water infrastructure & solar projects
  • $31 million in a supplemental appropriation (added to last year’s biennial budget)


Ohio

Deacon Nick Bates, Hunger Network in Ohio hungernetohio.com

Hunger For Justice Conference: On November 9th the Hunger Network sponsored the Hunger for Justice Conference featuring theological reflection on the election and analysis of what is to come so that faith leaders across the state can identify opportunities for successful advocacy!

Visit www.hungernetohio.com/summit for links to our plenary panel, theological reflection and musical reflection of what the election means to our communities


Pennsylvania

Tracey DePasquale, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry–Pennsylvania (LAMPa) www.lutheranadvocacypa.org

Shaping Hunger Policy in PA: LAMPa Director Tracey DePasquale participated in the quarterly meeting of the state’s Emergency Food Assistance Advisory Committee, where the state Department of Agriculture and charitable feeding organizations assessed the current response to emergency nutrition needs during COVID-19, mapped likely needs and set goals for meeting those needs in the upcoming state budget.

LAMPa Participates in Virtual Human Trafficking Rally: LAMPa participated in a Pennsylvania Anti-Human Trafficking Advocacy Work Group sponsored Advocacy Day lifting legislation that provides definitions and the offense of trafficking individuals; repealing provisions relating to patronizing a victim of sexual servitude; promoting prostitution and living off sexually exploited persons; commercial sexual exploitation; and providing for Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children Fund.

Workshop presented at We Love: LAMPa Program Director Lynn Fry shared a workshop titled : Take a Stand: Advocacy & Equality in Pennsylvania at the second ELCA NEPA Synod We Love Event – Building Safer & More Welcoming Congregations for LGBTQ+ Youth and Families.

Equipping leaders and vital congregations for discipleship in a democracy: LAMPa continued to disseminate election information to congregations, synods, and leaders regarding election security, poll watching, and voter safety. DePasquale and ELCA Advocacy Director Amy Reumann presented to leaders in the NWPA Synod Bishop’s Convocation.

Responded to Legislative threats to Medicaid: LAMPa worked to successfully stop legislation that threatened Medicaid provisions and funding.

Advocacy and Faith Formation: DePasquale taught a virtual adult faith formation class at Holy Spirit, Emmaus, SEPA Synod.


Washington

The Rev. Paul Benz and Elise DeGooyer, Faith Action Network fanwa.org

Election Successes: WA state passed Referendum 90 for Safe and Healthy Youth, a bill the legislature passed in the 2020 session mandating sex education in our K-12 school system with age-appropriate stages. This referendum was supported by sexual assault and domestic violence advocates, as well as a broad coalition of faith leaders who signed this letter, in contrast to opposition from the “religious right.” FAN was very involved in the campaign to secure the 60% approval. We also secured funding for our Long-Term Care Trust Fund via constitutional amendment – among the first of such funds in the nation.

New Regional Organizers: We are excited to share that our organizing team is expanding! FAN is able to fulfill one of our dreams of having a stronger presence statewide by hiring part-time Regional Organizers in Western, Central, and Eastern Washington as well as two social work interns from the University of Washington. We look forward to building deeper relationships with our Network of Advocating Faith Communities (NAFCs) and local organizations statewide.


Wisconsin

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

ELCAvotes: Wisconsin had a record turnout of voters! Since March, LOPPW placed major emphases on encouraging people to vote, especially absentee, and on countering misinformation. We often worked in coalition with ELCA partners and a statewide voting coalition. October efforts included interviewing a Wisconsin Elections Commission representative for Wednesday Noon Live and creating six Ballot Box FAQs videos, including one with an interview with the ACLU.

Care for God’s Creation: LOPPW’s statewide task force, so far with members from five synods, began planning a Care for God’s creation virtual advocacy day to coincide with an emerging new WI State Budget.

Trainings: LOPPW helped in organizing an advocacy webinar, co-hosted by ECSW WELCA. We also led discussions on voting and advocacy with adults and confirmands in LAS and in SCSW.

COVID-19: Participated in meeting with Lieutenant Governor on health mandates challenged by courts and possibly the legislature. I was then in dialogue with the bishops about drafting a statement, which can be found here. LOPPW also joined an interfaith group to organize an action to address the problem.

New Resource: Read our new resource, “Advocating Locally,” for information about engaging your community!

Criminal Justice: We’ve begun reviving efforts to return 17-year-olds to juvenile courts, led by our Hunger Advocacy Fellow, Kyle Minden.

Anti-Racism: We offered consultation to ECSW’s Global Missions Committee on integrating anti-racism efforts into their work. I invited Regina Banks to give a presentation at one of their meetings.

Immigration and Refugees:  We offered consultation to the SCSW Immigration Task Force and created a video to address decreasing number of refugees in U.S. for the national, “Lift the Torch of Welcome” vigil.

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Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone

 

The first thing that comes to mind when I think about volunteering with the Gathering is stepping outside of my comfort zone. It was an unexpected invitation that pulled me out of my day-to-day cycle and reminded me of the variety of talents and gifts God creates in me to love, support and connect to my neighbors.

When times came that challenged my energy level or my ability level, walking through the week with hundreds of other people who had offered up their own vacation time, jobs, families to create an event for the young people of our church, made me pause and remember how great God is.

Volunteering provided me the opportunity to serve with folks from all walks of life like college students between semesters, parents giving back to the Gathering they attended as youth, pastors on vacation, and others that felt the call to give of their talents as a chance to help others grow. Serving alongside those people, I still recall the goosebumps I got from being on the floor of NRG Stadium as tens of thousands of youth and adults lit up water bottles with glow-sticks, flashlights, and cell phones and swayed to the music in a kaleidoscope of colors and movement.

It’s these types memories and interactions that I stock up on to remind myself that volunteering and giving of myself is so crucial to my spiritual life and my connection to others and God. A comfort zone has its place, but so does setting it aside to help others be in theirs.

To learn more about our volunteer opportunities, please visit our website

Joshua Lotz is a 30-something partner and father of 2 young children. He has worked in youth ministry for 11 years and accompanied youth to the 2012 and the 2015 Gathering. Joshua has served as a volunteer in Houston and is a member of the Volunteers team for the 2022 Gathering in Minneapolis. 

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October Update: UN and State Edition

Following are updates shared from submissions of the Lutheran Office for World Community and state public policy offices.

U.N. | Arizona | Colorado | Ohio |Pennsylvania | Washington | Wisconsin


United Nations

Dennis Frado, Lutheran Office for World Community, New York, N.Y. ELCA.org/lowc

UN 75TH ANNIVERSARY COMMEMORATION: The high-level meeting to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the UN was held on September 21st.  The meeting adopted a declaration acknowledging both the UN’s achievements and its disappointments, such as: “Our challenges are interconnected and can only be addressed through reinvigorated multilateralism,” “Strengthening international cooperation is in the interest of both nations and peoples.” It also included twelve pledges “to ensure the future we want and the United Nations we need.”

CELEBRATION OF THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF BEIJING WOMEN’S CONFERENCE: The UN General Assembly High-level meeting on the 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women was held on October 1st. According to UN Women, no country has achieved gender equality. There has been progress since the Beijing Conference held in 1995, but gaps remain, and in some areas these gains are threatened and even reversed. The meeting was therefore being held under the theme “Accelerating the realization of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls”. It aimed to “demonstrate the political will and leadership that will bring about the transformative change needed to address root causes, structural barriers, discriminatory practices and social norms that underpin discrimination and inequality.” You can watch the meeting on UN Web TV.

LOWC SPEAKS TO LUTHERAN STUDIES PROGRAM COLLOQUIA 2020-2021 AT YALE: In late September, Christine Mangale and Dennis Frado spoke via Zoom with Lutheran students at Yale University as part of the Lutheran Studies Program Colloquia theme “Public Church.” The LOWC presentations focused on the church’s presence at the United Nations (UN) and the history of the ELCA’s work on human rights, including at the UN.


Arizona

Solveig Muus, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry Arizona  https://lamaz.org/

GETTING OUT THE VOTE: In the midst of racial inequity, an upcoming election, a pandemic, and a climate gone crazy, we in Arizona thank God for forgiveness and mercy, and for the miraculous ways God works in us and through us.

This month, we’re all hands on deck to get out the vote. Every faith community and advocacy group in Arizona seems to be in step; all are publicizing the importance of voting and helping in any way to ensure everyone’s voice is heard. Arizona has an excellent track record for successful mail-in ballot counting. Rev. Mark Holman, Bishop’s Associate for Mobility and Leadership, wrote a study resource titled “How Would Jesus Vote?” for congregational use, and a member of LAMA’s policy team created a voter volunteer recruitment packet for congregations.

Like every other state office, LAMA continues to reach out to our 85 Arizona congregations, and are encouraged that several are considering adding an advocacy component to their social ministry teams. Building our network, producing a weekly newsletter, and feeding social media keep us busy.

UPCOMING EVENTS: We are planning LAMA’s first state-wide summit on November 7, which is to be a virtual event featuring Dr. Ryan Cumming of ELCA World Hunger. Together with Spirit in the Desert Retreat Center and Bread for the World Southwest, we are planning and promoting a Virtual Town Hall on November 17 featuring Rev. Eugene Cho, president and CEO of Bread for the World.


Colorado

Peter Severson, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry-Colorado https://www.rmselca.org/advocacy

BALLOT MEASURES: Coloradans will vote on eleven statewide ballot measures this fall. Lutheran Advocacy is committed to providing Lutherans and all people of faith with comprehensive and detailed analysis of each measure from our perspective. Lutheran Advocacy Ministry-Colorado’s positions on the eleven measures are available now. View them at https://www.rmselca.org/ColoradoBallot2020. Our 2020 Voter Guide with analysis and information will be available on the same site in the first week of October. Ballots will be mailed to all Colorado voters on October 9th.

THEOLOGICAL CONFERENCE: The Rocky Mountain Synod met virtually for its annual fall Theological Conference from September 21-24. Lutheran Advocacy was present alongside hundreds of rostered ministers, lay professionals and other leaders to learn from expert presenters, engage in Bible study, and have in-depth discussions of anti-racism and building up God’s beloved community of liberation with all present.


Ohio

Deacon Nick Bates, Hunger Network in Ohio hungernetohio.com

HUNGER FOR JUSTICE VIRTUAL CONFERENCE: As voting begins in Ohio this month, we are all diligently working to discern the best candidates for all positions – including the Ohio Statehouse, State Supreme Court, and community leaders for school board and Township Trustees. Regardless of who wins at the local, state, or national level, our work remains the same – proclaiming God’s desire that all may be fed and have justice and peace in our communities.

Our two-hour conference will be held on zoom and feature theological reflection to help frame the election results and policy landscape moving forward. We encourage clergy, congregational leaders, judicatory staff, and people curious about hunger and poverty to attend. Register at www.hungernetohio.com/summit.

OHIO COUNCIL OF CHURCHES ANTI-RACISM SUNDAY: HNO is a proud partner with the Council and their efforts to educate and engage congregations throughout the state on issues of white privilege and racism. You can watch the Livestream online here https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=620062392203248

CROP WALK KICK-OFF: HNO Director Nick Bates will be the featured speaker at the Columbus CROP Walk virtual kick-off on October 11th at noon to discuss our call to advocacy and justice around hunger issues.

PROBLEMS WITH VOTING: HNO is partnering with the Ohio Voter Rights Coalition. You can check your voter registration and find your absentee ballot at https://ohvotes.org/. You can report a problem or concern to 1-866-OUR-VOTE or view their website, https://866ourvote.org/state-information/ohio/.


Pennsylvania

Tracey DePasquale, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry–Pennsylvania (LAMPa) lutheranadvocacypa.org

EQUIPPING LEADERS AND VITAL CONGREGATIONS FOR DISCIPLESHIP IN A DEMOCRACY: LAMPa staff and volunteers contacted Pennsylvania’s 67 counties to assess their preparedness for the Nov. 3 election and shared the results with synod leaders to target congregations so that they could support safe access to polls in areas of need. Read more.

POLICY COUNCIL RETREAT: The Rev. Amy Reumann, ELCA Advocacy Director, joined virtually to talk about advocacy as discipleship. She invited the council to imagine how congregational leaders could engage in LAMPa’s ministry as faith formation through the practice of testimony.

HUNGER ADVOCACY FELLOW: Larry D. Herrold, Jr. joined LAMPa as our ELCA Hunger Advocacy Fellow. A member of Zion, Sunbury (Upper Susquehanna Synod), and active in hunger ministry there, he is discerning a call to ministry. Learn more about Larry.

ADVOCACY ON RENT RELIEF AND SURPRISE MEDICAL BILLS: LAMPa advocates urged state lawmakers to improve and extend the application deadline for the CARES Rent Relief Program and to end surprise medical billing.

UNITED LUTHERAN SEMINARY CONVOCATION: LAMPa Director Tracey DePasquale shared whys and ways of connecting with policymakers as a form of loving our neighbor.

GWOH: Congregations around Pennsylvania added their voices to God’s work. Our hands. Sunday by writing letters to lawmakers addressing issues to which they have been called in service of neighbor.

OTHER WORK: Opposed legislation rolling back clean water protections; Supported use of CARES funding to stop utility shutoffs; Garnered signatures in support of waivers for school nutrition programs; Increased SNAP benefits


Washington

The Rev. Paul Benz and Elise DeGooyer, Faith Action Network fanwa.org


ANNOUNCING FAN’S VIRTUAL ANNUAL DINNER:
FAN’s Annual Dinner will be held virtually this year on November 15. We hope this change will allow more people from across the state to join in, expanding the traditions of our Renton and Spokane dinners! Our theme is “Rise Up Together,” which speaks to our current and future work in confronting the challenges of multiple pandemics – COVID-19, systemic racism, economic uncertainty, and environmental devastation. Learn more at fanwa.org/annual-dinner.

NEW REGIONAL ORGANIZERS: FAN is building our statewide outreach by creating a staff team of Regional Organizers! In Central Wash., we welcome Zahra Roach (pictured here) who is a Pasco City Councilmember and who worked on our Census Equity Team earlier this year. In Western Wash., we welcome Jaspreet Singh who has experience working with the legislative session in Olympia and is representing FAN at the Career and Technical Colleges coalition. More to come as we add University of Washington social work interns and a Spokane area organizer!

WORKING FAMILIES TAX CREDIT: FAN is part of several state policy coalitions – one is the Working Families Tax Credit (WFTC) coalition. Several years ago, our legislature passed this law to provide tax credits to low-income working families, but it has never been funded. Now more than ever in this pandemic where so many households are struggling, funding an emergency cash assistance program like this with an annual credit is critical. Another important piece to make this program more equitable is to statutorily include Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) filers so that ALL workers in our state receive this benefit. Learn more at fanwa.org/advocacy/advocacy-toolkit/working-families-tax-credit/ or budgetandpolicy.org.


Wisconsin

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

WELCOME TO LOPPW HUNGER ADVOCACY FELLOW KYLE MINDEN:  Kyle is with us full-time for one year thanks to a generous grant from ELCA World Hunger.  He graduated from Wartburg College with a B.A. in Religion and Business Administration and a Minor in Social Entrepreneurship. Kyle is passionate about solving the systemic inequities and injustices that stem from public policy at the local, state, and federal level.

VOTING: Kyle has developed two voting resources, the Comprehensive can be found at 2020 LOPPW Voting Guide, while the one-page summary can be found here: 2020 LOPPW Voting Overview

HUNGER: We made known information about people eligible for a stimulus check but who have not filed.  Kyle used the center to create this resource:  file:///Users/cynthiacrane/Downloads/Stimulus-Payment-Outreach-Resource-1-1%20(12).pdf

As part of our project to highlight at least one hunger ministry in each synod for others to learn from, we interviewed Bill Binroth, Director of Let’s Eat Community Meals of Chassell, MI in the NGLS.  https://www.facebook.com/LOPPW/videos/377521223250082

CARE FOR CREATION: Our LOPPW statewide climate task force continues to meet.  We sent this press release as a letter to the WI Legislature:  file:///Users/cynthiacrane/Downloads/Revised-Climate-press-release-Team-Bishops.pdf

WEDNESDAY NOON LIVE & IMMIGRATION AND DETENTION: The video of Attorney Mary Campbell, Ms. Marisol Fuentes de Dubon, and Dr. Stephanie Mitchell mentioned last month was published in September: https://www.facebook.com/LOPPW/videos/743410496506120

“LIFTING OUR VOICES DURING THE PANDEMIC”: This Zoom webinar, co-sponsored by East Central Synod Women of the ELCA and LOPPW, will be held on Tuesday, October 13, 2020 from 6:30-7:30 PM. Register here: https://www.loppw.org/evrplus_registration/?action=evrplusegister&event_id=5.

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November Update: U.N. and State Edition

U.N. | California | Colorado | Kansas | Minnesota | New Mexico | Ohio | Pennsylvania | Southeastern Synod | Washington | Wisconsin

Lutheran Office for World Community, United Nations, New York, N.Y.

Dennis Frado, director

THIRD COMMITTEE OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY: During October, UN Special Procedure mandate-holders and other experts delivered reports to the General Assembly’s Third Committee (on Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Issues), as mandated by the Human Rights Council. These reports focused on the advancement of women, indigenous issues, the protection of children and the promotion and protection of human rights to name a few. The meetings were chaired by H.E. Mr. Christian Braun, Permanent Representative of Luxembourg and can be viewed online here.

Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Under-Secretary General and Executive Director, UN Women, gave opening remarks on the Third Committee’s session on Advancement of Women, highlighting that “violence against women and girls and the renewed pushback against women’s rights remain pervasive around the world so as we prepare for the 25th Anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action in 2020, we need renewed commitment from all.” The Secretary-General focused two reports on Advancement of Women, titled “Improvement of the situation of women and girls in rural areas” and “violence against women migrant workers.” A report was also submitted by the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

The Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples report focused on the implementation the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination through autonomy and self-government. The report includes eight recommendations, one including the role of States in adopting and implementing “all measures necessary to ensure the adequate recognition of the rights of indigenous peoples to their lands, territories and natural resources, as that recognition represents the cornerstone of their autonomy and self-government and is essential for their survival as distinct peoples.” Documentation of all reports for the Third Committee’s agenda items can be accessed online here.

UNITED NATIONS DAY: On October 24, 2019, the United Nations celebrated United Nations Day, marking 74 years since the UN Charter came into force in 1945, launching the United Nations. The Charter consists of a preamble and 19 chapters, calling for the U.N. to “maintain international peace and security, promote social progress and better standards of life, strengthen international law and promote the expansion of human rights”. The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres commented at its commemoration that “United Nations Day highlights the enduring ideals of the Charter, amid stormy global seas, the Charter remains our shared moral anchor.” Guterres has announced that 2020 will kick off with a UN75 initiative that will feature the world’s largest international dialogue on “the role of global cooperation in building the future we want ” to commemorate the 75th anniversary. A special UN Day Concert, featuring musicians from Qatar (pictured above with the Secretary-General) was also held and can be viewed online here.

MANDATE ON SEXUAL VIOLENCE IN CONFLICT: The ten-year anniversary of the Mandate on Sexual Violence in Conflict was commemorated at the United Nations ECOSOC Chamber on 30 October, 2019, hosted by the Republic of South Africa and the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict. The event began with imagery from the exhibition “Youth Speak Out Through the Arts” (pictured left), showcasing art from a diverse group of youth working in New York as well as two young artists working in Iraq.

Ms. Amina Mohammed, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, stated that “sexual violence in conflict has been called history’s greatest silence, the least reported, the least condemned.” Mohammed reflected on the creation of the mandate as the UN’s commitment to “highlight, prevent and seek justice for these crimes” after it was established through the adoption of Security Council resolution 1888 in 2009.

A ‘survivors hearing’ panel was held with panelists sharing first and secondhand testimonies and recommendations from those who have experienced sexual violence in conflict. Ms. Nadia Murad and Dr. Denis Mukwege, 2018 Peace Prize Laureates, officially launched the “Global Fund for Survivors of Conflict-Related Sexual Violence” to help survivors and their families rebuild through locally designed solutions including reparations for survivors. Read the 2019 annual “Conflict Related Sexual Violence” report of the United Nations Secretary General here.


California

Regina Q. Banks, Lutheran Office of Public Policy- California (LOPP-CA) lutheranpublicpolicyca.org

POLICY COUNCIL MEETING AND PRIORITIES: The policy council of the Lutheran Office of Public Policy- CA met at the Luther Center in Glendale, CA on October 26, 2019 to discuss the legislative priorities of the ELCA and LOPP-CA, welcome new staff and plan FUNdraisers for the upcoming program year. It was a great meeting and much was decided. Look for updates soon. But set your calendars now for LUTHERAN LOBBY DAY 2020: Wednesday May 20, 2020. We will use this opportunity to again engage with legislators and staff on issues of concern to Lutherans across the state.

Our priorities for 2020 have shifted but continue to reflect a deep concern for the least and the last in our communities, and care for creation and justice in our golden state. We will continue to advocate for the elimination of Deep Childhood Poverty and accompany those who immigrate to and migrate within California. After listening to your concerns during our congregation visits and in consultation with our partners at Lutheran Social Services of Northern California, we are adding engagement with and for the unhoused to our portfolio of issues. And with the addition of Nicole Newell as our Hunger Advocacy Fellow, we are adding food and farming as a new policy priority for the 2020 legislative session. As the largest producer of food in the U.S., California is dominated by large farms relying on undercompensated migrant labor and extensive use of water throughout the driest of months. These farming systems are too often disconnected from the processing, distributing, eating and waste aspects of the cycle. In keeping with God’s call to care for creation and our neighbor, LOPP-CA seeks to promote equitable food and farming systems in California that support healthy communities, full bellies and the preservation of vital ecosystems. Our policy council has decided to continue to support our ministry and secular partners in the implementation of the Clean Safe Affordable Drinking Water Fund though take a less active role.

All of these issues and more will be discussed leading up to and during Lutheran Lobby Day 2020 on May 20, 2020. If these priorities are in your area of expertise or you are looking for ways to get involved with LOPP-CA, there are openings for synod representatives in Pacifica, Sierra Pacific and Southwest California synods. Contact us at regina.banks@elca.org to discuss your service.

SYNOD AND CONGREGATION VISITS: A sincere Thank You goes out to the pastors and members of Immanuel Lutheran Church, San Jose; Ascension Lutheran Church, Thousand Oaks; University AME Zion Church, Palo Alto; and Advent Lutheran Church, Morgan Hill for welcoming us into your worship experiences. We continue to delight in the varied ways that the Holy Spirit manifests in your families. Continue to invite us. We will continue to walk with you.

Thank you to Bishop Mark Holmerud and staff of Sierra Pacific Synod for their hospitality during the 2019 Professional Leaders Conference at Monterey Tides. LOPP-CA was offered primetime to talk about the church’s way forward through advocacy, and God is truly still working through contacts and connections made there. Similarly, a big thank you goes to Trinity Lutheran Women of the ELCA members for welcoming our Director Regina Q. Banks’ offer of the Sunday sermon on October 20th. This was her first sermon. She was humbled and blessed to take that journey with you.


Colorado

Peter Severson, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry-Colorado, www.lam-co.org

2019 VOTER GUIDE: Our Colorado ballot measure voter guide is now available! Colorado voters received their ballots in the mail in mid-October and have until November 5 to return them. Download our guide here and share it with your friends, family and congregation today.

THEOLOGICAL CONFERENCE: The Rocky Mountain Synod held its annual Theological Conference in Estes Park, Colorado, in early October. Lutheran Advocacy was on hand to share our 2019 Colorado voter guide, while participants engaged in deep conversation about structures of accountability within the church.

NATIONAL COUNCIL OF CHURCHES: LAM-CO Director Peter Severson joined other ELCA representatives at the National Council of Churches Christian Unity Gathering in Hampton, Virginia. The Joint Action & Advocacy for Justice and Peace Table met during the first day to share updates, stories and resources on advocacy across the denominations participating at the table. On day two, participants joined a ceremony of remembrance at Old Point Comfort to mark the arrival of the first enslaved Africans to English North America 400 years ago.

LUTHERAN DISASTER RESPONSE (LDR): Rocky Mountain Synod representatives participated in the LDR Consultation in New Orleans, Louisiana, focusing on climate change adaptation and mitigation in disaster preparedness. As Colorado faces elevated drought and fire risks in a warming climate, congregations and ministries are invited to be aware of threats and to advocate for policies that will mitigate these risks.


Kansas

Rabbi Moti Riebe, Kansas Interfaith Action (KIFA) kansasinterfaithaction.org

REFORM WORK: Kansas Interfaith Action has joined an effort to reform the payday loan industry in the state. Called the Kansas Coalition for Payday Loan Reform, it was initiated by a local DART (community organizing) affiliate which, realizing that this is a statewide issue, put together a wide-ranging statewide coalition – including KIFA. The legislation is being written, and there is a kick-off press conference for the campaign on November 12th. We anticipate this being a bipartisan effort, which unfortunately tends to be rare these days.

We have also had planning meetings with our coalition partners working on criminal justice reform and voting rights (two separate coalitions) to plan strategy for the 2020 session.

MEDICAID EXPANSION: Medicaid Expansion seems to be moving forward. A Senate select committee met to propose a bill that contains a lot of conditionals (if the federal government lets us, then we will expand to only 100% of the federal poverty line; if not, then we’ll expand to 138% of FPL). Each of these conditions costs money and causes delays. We are working for a bill with, as our coalition is saying it, “No barriers and no delays.”

FAITH AND PUBLIC POLICY FORUM: Every year KIFA runs a program called “Faith and Public Policy Forum,” a panel discussion of the pressing issues facing Kansas voters. The participants are representatives of organizations that we are in coalition with, including Kansas Action for Children, the ACLU of Kansas and the Climate & Energy Project. Topics include Medicaid Expansion, criminal justice reform, voting rights, climate and clean energy and more. KIFA Executive Director Rabbi Moti Rieber moderates the panel and presents on KIFA’s legislative priorities, as well as gives remarks about the role of the faith community in developing public policy. We have three events scheduled for November in Wichita, Topeka and Johnson County. Our goal is to give Kansans good, solid information about the issues facing the state, as well as build our base of support for the 2020 legislative session.

 


Minnesota

Tammy Walhof, Lutheran Advocacy- Minnesota (LA-MN)  lutheranadvocacymn.org

POLICY COUNCIL RETREAT: In October, LA-MN Policy Council members gathered at St. John’s Abbey in the center of the state to spend almost 24 hours together. It was a wonderful opportunity to get to know one another better and benefit from both an outside Bible study leader and a guest speaker regarding the Minnesota housing crisis, in addition to evaluating and visioning for the work ahead.

BONDING MONEY FOR HOUSING: The Homes for All Coalition Policy Team has been meeting twice per week as we work to discern additions or changes to the 2019-2020 biennium agenda we created a year ago. In these discussions and presentations, it is very clear that in addition to the housing crisis, Minnesota has a severe statewide shortage of shelter beds for homeless individuals and families.

Given that 2020 is a bonding year at the legislature, bonding will be our primary coalition-wide focus. Last year the coalition made a bold request of $300 million, $200 million in Housing Infrastructure Bonds (HIBs) to increase the number of affordable housing units supplied through private or nonprofit developers and $100 million to create or rehab public housing options. Last session, we were able to secure $60 million in bonding (HIBs), the only area to get any bonding money in the midst of a focus on budget. (We had anticipated that the bulk of that would need to be secured in the second year of the biennium).

After long discussions about the merits of making an even bolder bonding request vs. filling in the remainder of the $300 million request, we opted to go big and bold. We intend to push for $500 million for the creation & rehabilitation of affordable housing. Within that appeal we will be asking the legislature to add shelter development as a one-time eligible use of bonding money.

CLEAN ENERGY & CLIMATE CHANGE: In our environmental coalitions, we are a long way from having our detailed clean energy and climate agenda decided but are busy with partners trying to figure out what may be able to gain momentum in 2020. One hundred percent clean energy/carbon neutral electricity by 2050 will certainly be part of the work again.

 


New Mexico

Ruth Hoffman, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry—New Mexico (LAM-NM)   lutheranadvocacynm.org

EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION IS ESSENTIAL: LAM-NM has supported putting a constitutional amendment before the voters of our state which would increase the amount of funding available for quality early childhood education programs. Those programs include home-visiting for young children and their parents, pre-Kindergarten, child care assistance and other programs. Such programs have been proven to improve the lives of the children and families who participate in them over generations. Legislation to put the constitutional amendment on the general election ballot will be considered in the upcoming 2010 legislative session.

EFFECTIVE TAX POLICY IS CRUCIAL TO MEETING THE NEEDS OF OUR NEIGHBORS: LAM-NM advocates for tax policy that is fair and provides stable, sustainable and adequate revenue to meet the needs of our state, particularly the most vulnerable. A good tax system should be fair (distribute the tax burden broadly and progressively, with those with higher income paying more), balanced, accountable and able to be efficiently administered.


Ohio

Nick Bates, Hunger Network in Ohio hungernetohio.com  

A BROKEN IMMIGRATION SYSTEM: Miriam Vargas moved into Sanctuary in the summer of 2018 at First English Lutheran Church in Columbus. On Tuesday October 29th, Miriam hosted Bishop Allende (NEOS) and others in a Facebook Live broadcast about the ELCA sanctuary declaration. In Ohio, we are not one of the ‘big immigration states,’ but individuals like Miriam are our neighbors and valued members of our community. Deportations threaten our neighbors and our neighborhoods.

In Ohio, we are trying to live into the declaration that the ELCA is a sanctuary denomination. This will look different for everyone, because God gifts us with different gifts and talents to express God’s love for the community. What it does mean for all of us is to ask the question: “How is God calling me to love my neighbor?”

We will continue to advocate to fix a broken immigration system, a system that divides parents from children, a system that sends people to famine soaked and war plagued communities. A system that causes fear and delay for stability for those who are most in need.

It is time to fix a broken system.

You can read more here on how to accomplish this and watch our Facebook Live event here

UNTIL ALL ARE FED: Our director Deacon Nick Bates and board member Pastor Larry Novak both testified this month against SB 165. This bill will put photo IDs onto a household’s SNAP benefits card. This will create headaches for children and spouses who attempt to use the card, headaches for pastors and mission team volunteers who do the grocery shopping for homebound members and headaches for grocery stores who have no clarity on how to implement or enforce these rules.

There is no need for these headaches, because they will do little to nothing to prevent fraud. Instead Ohio should invest these resources into outreach for those who struggling with addiction and help them access the necessary medical services. Take action by clicking here

 


Pennsylvania

Tracey DePasquale, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry–Pennsylvania (LAMPa) lutheranadvocacypa.org

LAMPA VOLUNTEERS AND STAFF ATTEND LUTHERAN DISASTER RESPONSE (LDR) CONSULTATION: Director Tracey DePasquale accompanied seven Pennsylvania Lutheran Disaster Response coordinators and synod representatives to the 2019 LDR Consultation in New Orleans. This year’s consult focused on building relationships with synod, congregation and advocacy partners to address not only disaster relief but climate change mitigation and adaptation. There is great enthusiasm for building on these relationships for the good of our neighbors, near and far. Read more about the hopes for our work together.

STAFF ATTENDS GOVERNOR’S ANNUAL FOOD SECURITY PARTNERSHIP SUMMIT: DePasquale and LAMPa Program Director Lynn Fry attended Governor Wolf’s Annual Food Security Partnership Summit in Harrisburg. Attendees received reports on the Blueprint for a Hunger-Fee PA from various state agencies. The afternoon addressed college hunger in Pennsylvania. College students and staff representing schools across the commonwealth shared their personal experiences with hunger and the social services system. Deacon Alicia Anderson of Lutheran Student Community / Lutheran Campus Ministry at Penn State joined LAMPa staff and connected with Penn State students working to fight hunger. LAMPa hopes that the network of Lutheran Campus ministries in Pennsylvania might become engaged in helping to shape policy in this area as the First Lady focuses attention on hunger among college students.

LAMPA STAFF ATTENDS PA HUNGER ACTION COALITION BI-ANNUAL MEETING: Members shared reports on poverty and anti-hunger programs from the perspective of providers and advocates and heard from staff of state human services, agriculture and education departments about impacts of proposed federal rule changes. The coalition discussed strategy for addressing hunger policy together in the face of federal proposals and the upcoming state budget.

LAMPA JOINS COALITION PARTNERS AT RELIGIOUS SECURITY SUMMIT: Fry joined religious and community leaders in the Capitol to learn about threats to security of religious institutions as we prepared to mark the one-year anniversary of murders at the Tree of Life synagogue. Presentations were shared by: Anti-Defamation League, Pennsylvania Governor’s Office – Public Safety, Pennsylvania Homeland Security, Pennsylvania State Police, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), United States Secret Service and United States Postal Service. LAMPa invited congregation, synod, seminary and social ministry leaders to attend the summit, the first of several to be held around the commonwealth.

EDUCATING AND EQUIPPING: DePasquale participated in the inaugural meeting of the Upper Susquehanna Synod Advocacy Team, launched at the direction of Bishop Collins and Synod Council to support congregations and church leaders in following their baptismal call to strive for justice and peace. She also participated in Lower Susquehanna Synod’s day of equipping on the actions taken at the Churchwide Assembly, offering to assist attendees as they encourage their congregations to live into the calls coming from that gathering – particularly around the social statement on Faith, Sexism and Justice, the Day of Repentance for the Emmanuel Nine, the Declaration of Apology to people of African Descent and declaration of sanctuary denomination. In addition, DePasquale taught about LAMPa’s work at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Bangor (Northeastern Pa. Synod) and St. John’s Herr Estate in Columbia (Lower Susquehanna Synod).

 


Southeastern Synod

Hilton Austin, Southeastern Synod advocacy team

CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM: The kick-off for the Second Chance campaign was very well attended. There are 31 organizational partners. According to the Georgia Justice Project’s (GJP) Facebook page, “Georgia has the highest rate of correctional control in the nation, yet is one of only a few states that do not allow expungement of convictions, no matter how long ago they occurred. 4.2 million people have a Georgia criminal record (approximately 40% of adults) and as a result they face barriers to employment, housing, higher education and other opportunities long after their sentence is over.

“Employment is the most effective way to reduce recidivism. Changing Georgia’s law so that certain misdemeanor and felony convictions can be restricted and sealed after a period of time will unlock opportunity for thousands of Georgians who are rehabilitated and want to work, rebuild their lives and provide better futures for their families and communities.”

Our synod staff is aware of our GJP partnership and have been given basic information on what “Second Chance” is about.

I also attended a documentary screening at GJP, Life After Life; if you have the opportunity to see it, the film does a good job of representing the barriers that people face after serving their time.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING: While Georgia has made great legislative strides with Safe Harbor, the funding of the rehab programs has been held up by lawsuits. We continue to monitor that process and what is happening with these funds.

HEALTHCARE: The American Cancer Society has targeted Georgia this year for Medicaid Expansion. We have contacted the Georgia chapter to see what that will look like; we should know more next week.

SOUTHEASTERN SYNOD LEADERSHIP CONVOCATION: Most of the Advocacy Policy Council and myself attended our synod leadership convocation at Lutheridge. The theme was “Preaching in Such a Time as This: Kairos, Truth, and Prophetic Gospel,” the Rev. Dr. Sam Giere, Wartburg Theological Seminary, explored the proclamation of Jesus Christ in such a time as this (Esther 4:14), by discerning “the times,” considering the relationship of trust and truth and engaging the prophetic nature of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

GEORGIA INTERFAITH PUBLIC POLICY CENTER: At our October board meeting, we added two people to our Board of Directors: Bishop Kevin L. Strickland and John Moeller, CEO of Inspiritus (formerly Lutheran Services of Georgia). Our 2020 Lobby Day will be February 26. Three of us attended an event at Redeemer Lutheran on October 30th sponsored by Inspiritus, titled “How to Have Hard Conversations Well, The Practice of Empathetic Listening .”


Washington

Paul Benz, Faith Action Network (FAN) fanwa.org

ANNUAL DINNER: FAN’s annual fundraiser will be Sunday, Nov. 10 with the theme “Raising Our Voices.” Our keynote speaker will be ELCA Minister Priscilla Austin from Immanuel Lutheran Church in Seattle. This is a great event where our partners for the common good come together to celebrate our successes and be inspired for the work ahead. We are grateful to the ELCA Hunger as one of our year-round sustaining sponsors.

NEW ELCA BISHOP INSTALLED: Shelley Bryan Wee is the new bishop for the NW Washington Synod and will be installed Nov. 2 at Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle. Bishop Wee has been a great supporter of FAN, and we look forward to continuing our collaboration with her and the 95 congregations and ministries of this synod.

FOOD WEEK OF ACTION: Every fall FAN works with the national Presbyterian Hunger program to promote Food Week of Action. We created an action-centered resource for faith communities to use that week and throughout the year. You can view our PLEA (pray-learn-educate-advocate) here: http://fanwa.org/2019/10/food-week-of-action-is-here/

2020 LEGISLATIVE SESSION: FAN members have been meeting with their state legislators to build relationships and prepare for next session which will begin on Jan. 13. The House and Senate will have their annual committee days Nov. 19-22 in Olympia when most legislators will be present for caucus and committee meetings.

CONGRESSIONAL FOCUS: As one of the main congressional issues we are following this season, we are asking our members to urge US Senator Cantwell to put her support behind the expansion of funding for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Care Tax Credit (CTC) to keep more households from falling deeper into poverty. We are also thanking her for her leadership on expanding funding for housing tax credits.


Wisconsin

Cindy Crane, Lutheran Office for Public Policy in Wisconsin (LOPPW) loppw.org

SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM: Via an action alert and social media, we supported our D.C. office’s efforts encouraging people to comment on the new proposed rule for SNAP. The director also sent individual emails to hunger leaders around the state inviting them to access their networks to respond.

CARE FOR GOD’S CREATION: Several months ago, the director suggested that members of the Wisconsin Climate Table explore how we can amplify the positive environmental efforts in parts of our state government within a highly partisan atmosphere. LOPPW is now part of a campaign that is planning how we can support Wisconsin having a clear, actionable plan to equitably meet the 2050 carbon neutral goal.

We are also supporting a bill on regulating PFAS and testing lead in water in facilities that would require child care centers, child care providers and recreational and educational camps to test for lead in drinking water.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING: The director was asked to give a legislative update to the Wisconsin Anti-Human Trafficking Consortium at our last quarterly meeting. We also had a legislator on the phone for part of our meeting and strategized next steps.

LOPPW has continued regular contact with WELCA and other LOPPW supporters to move Safe Harbor forward.

The director has met regularly with LOPPW’s intern, Amelia, who successfully had a letter to the editor published, has organized other college students to advocate and has delivered petitions written by WELCA members to legislators.

NEW PROGRAMS: The director worked with volunteers to plan for our first monthly update on FB live (Wednesday Noon Live) on November 6th and our first pilot of a gathering for young adults (Engage) on November 7th.

 

 

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“Big Dreams” on World Food Day

 

Announcing ELCA World Hunger’s Big Dream Grant Awards

This World Food Day, ELCA World Hunger is pleased to announce four ministries that have been awarded Big Dream Grants. ELCA World Hunger’s Big Dream Grants, one-time gifts of $10,000 to $75,000, support domestic ministries as they pursue innovative and sustainable approaches to ending hunger. As we reflect on the meaning behind World Food Day and our shared commitment to address hunger until all are fed, we celebrate the big dreams of these ministries and their commitment to excellence.

New this year, ELCA World Hunger’s Big Dream Grant recipients were identified in part based on the contributions of their work toward the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs. The SDGs are intended to focus sustainable development toward overcoming poverty, inequality and environmental degradation. ELCA World Hunger is pleased to partner with the Lutheran World Federation as part of its “Waking the Giant” initiative. “Waking the Giant” is a global ecumenical effort which aims to build the capacity of churches to contribute effectively to the SDGs. Churches and partners are focusing on five of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – Goals 3, 4, 5, 10 and 16 – and the ELCA has an additional focus on Goal 2.

Ministries receiving ELCA World Hunger Big Dream Grants are:

IntegrArte, a ministry hosted in an ELCA congregation in Dorado, Puerto Rico, works with people of all ages to address mental health in a community where mental health services are otherwise inaccessible to many who need them, particularly in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. IntegrArte is building connections between church and community by expanding mental health services within the greater community. IntegrArte is preparing to realize its long-term dream of expanding into a community center that will host programming for older adults, a Montessori school and an emergency shelter.

Through its McClintock Partners In Education (McPIE) ministry, a partnership with the local middle school and community, Christ Lutheran Church in Charlotte, North Carolina fosters an environment where families have the opportunity to thrive through meals, clubs, camps and courses that open up pathways for both youth and parents. Christ Lutheran is increasing the ministry’s capacity to support the economic success of under-served populations in Charlotte through a commitment to bilingual support and the creation of the McClintock Innovation Lab & Library, which will focus on STEM programming.

The Table: A 1st Century Style Community in the 21st Century is a worshipping community in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, reducing barriers to food. The Table provides a place where families can learn to grow the food that they want to eat and fosters learning and entrepreneurial opportunities for community members. Looking ahead, The Table will further drive economic development and empowerment through expanding programming and a longer growing season made possible by new greenhouses.

End Hunger in Calvert County, based in a rural area in Maryland, is a coalition of local churches and other organizations working together to end hunger in the community. End Hunger Calvert County connects food-insecure communities with hunger relief options and works to reduce systemic poverty through a robust workforce program. Now, the organization is blazing new trails as it develops a mobile app to connect low-income families to comprehensive services.

We celebrate the work of these ministries and thank you for your support of ELCA World Hunger as we work together to fight hunger and poverty in the United States and 60 other countries around the world. To learn more about ELCA World Hunger’s approach, visit ELCA.org/hunger.

At the global level, the “Waking the Giant” initiative provides churches and church-related actors with tools and training to relate their on-going work to the SDGs. At the national level, churches and ecumenical partners set up implementation mechanisms for taking stock of their existing work in relation to the SDGs and engage in joint planning for direct action and advocacy. “Waking the Giant” is currently focused on four target countries: Colombia, Liberia, Tanzania and the United States. The ELCA is hosting and funding the initiative in the United States. To learn more, watch the video below or visit wakingthegiant.lutheranworld.org.

 

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A life-changing opportunity

by: Erin Strybis

I went to the 2018 ELCA Youth Gathering to tell their story. 

I didn’t anticipate how they’d change my story, too.

When my editor and I discussed my assignment – to shadow a youth group at the Gathering for Living Lutheran – my stomach flipped with excitement. I believe this event for youth is one of the best things this church does. Not only does it inspire Lutheran teens in their faith journeys, the Gathering also affects adult participants and community members.

Walking into Houston’s NRG Stadium for opening night with my reporter’s notebook in hand, however, I felt timid. Would they accept me? Would they open up? I settled into my seat beside youth from Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Laurel, Md., and let a wave of cheers and music wash over me.

In her opening message, ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton urged Gathering participants to watch for God to “show up in places we least expect.” OK Bishop, I thought, observing the sea of Lutherans surrounding me, I’ll keep watch. 

I turned on my tape recorder, started asking questions, and sure enough…

          God showed up as youth served with their hands and opened their hearts to seniors at a local YMCA.

          God showed up in Interactive Learning, where I met teens who’d found acceptance at the Reconciling Works booth.

          God showed up in the stories of speakers who shared myriad challenges and gospel hope.

          God showed up in the blare of bands and synod gatherings and holy conversations.

After Friday’s Mass Gathering, Holy Trinity youth were bouncing with excitement as they exited the stadium. We pulled off to the path’s edge and I found myself surrounded, each jumping for a turn to speak into the recorder. As I watched their faces light up, I thought, Yes! This electric faith, this community, this growth is why the Gathering matters.

God showed up in the clear, honest testimonies of these 12 young people – Alicia, Caroline, C.J., Jenna, Jordan, Lewis, Madison, Michael, Peter, Samantha, Tyler and Will.

I came into their group an outsider; I left with 12 friends in Christ.

Erin Strybis (middle) is a lifelong Lutheran, mother of one and voracious reader who believes in the healing power of stories. Find more of her stories at erinstry.com or on Instagram (@erinstry).

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