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ELCA Advocacy Alert – Support Funding for Flint

Take action to support Flint and other cities facing lead crises!

Linda Parton /

Linda Parton /

It has been nearly a full year since the City of Flint, Michigan, first declared a state of emergency over the widespread lead contamination of its water supply. In that time, churches and service agencies have worked tirelessly to provide clean water to city residents—but significant challenges remain. Despite ongoing progress by state and local officials, Flint’s infrastructure is still not in a sustainable place. Citizens are still not able to drink water without filters.

Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, Rev. jack Eggleston and Rev. Ken Fouty from the Southeast Michigan Synod distribute water at Salem Lutheran Church in Flint, Mich.

Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, Rev. Jack Eggleston and Rev. Ken Fouty from the Southeast Michigan Synod distribute water at Salem Lutheran Church in Flint, Mich.

Earlier this year, the Southeast Michigan Synod of the ELCA and ELCA Advocacy urged Congress to take action on this federal emergency. Now, the U.S. Senate is nearing a compromise to provide federal assistance to Flint and help the city recover its drinking water infrastructure. The current deal would also include assistance to states with similar emergency drinking water

situations, which often go overlooked. Congress does not have much time to act, and opposition to the bill still remains. Your Senators must hear from you now!

Call on your members of Congress at the ELCA Action Center to support Flint now!

ELCA World Hunger is continuing to accompany and provide assistance to the people of Flint. Support ELCA World Hunger initiatives by clicking here!

ELCA Advocacy works for change in public policy based on the experience of Lutheran ministries, programs and projects around the world and in communities across the United States. We work through political channels on behalf of the following biblical values: peacemaking, hospitality to strangers, care for creation, and concern for people living in poverty and struggling with hunger and disease.

Reblog: Flint Water Crisis: When Water Becomes Unsafe



(This post originally appeared as “Living Earth Reflection: When Water Becomes No Longer Safe” on the ELCA Advocacy blog. It was written by Rev. Jack Eggleston, Director for Evangelical Mission and Assistant to the Bishop for the Southeast Michigan Synod of the ELCA.  Flint, Michigan, is in the Southeast Michigan synod.)

Rev. Eggleston holds a bottle of water drawn from the tap at Salem Lutheran Church in Flint, Mich.

People around me know that I drink a lot of water. Many years ago, Carl, a member of the congregation I served, told me of the health benefits of

drinking water. I drink at least 80 ounces of water a day. When I am tired, a glass of water refreshes my body and renews my energy. Nothing renews like the life-giving water Jesus offers (John 4), but safe water is one of our most basic needs.

Last fall, when refilling my water bottle at Salem Lutheran Church in Flint, Mich., numerous people told me they had concerns about the water and that I should use bottled water. I filled my water bottle from the faucet, but along the road found it discolored and did not taste right. Only later did I learn how dangerous the water is. Flint’s water is unsafe, toxic and a danger to health.

Water pipes are corroded throughout the city, and lead contamination in many homes and at Salem Lutheran Church far exceed safe limits. Lead harms the blood and can damage the brain. After extended exposure, it builds up in organs and bones, remaining years after exposure. All of this contamination could have been prevented. When people complained and physicians reported unsafe levels of lead, the concerns were dismissed. After 18 months, the water is still unsafe for consumption, cooking or even doing the dishes.

Flint is one of the more impoverished cities in America. Local General Motors employment fell from a high of 80,000 in 1978 to under 8,000 in 2010. More than 40 percent of the people of Flint live below the poverty line. The population has declined from a high of 196,000 in 1960 to just under 100,000 today. The city, under an emergency manager, decided to switch water sources and failed to adequately treat the water. The state of Michigan houses nearly one-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water. It is hard to comprehend unsafe water with such great water supplies nearby.

The long unheard cries of people in Flint remind me of the Israelites refusing to drink the water at Marah because it was bitter (Exodus 15). They complained to Moses, and he cried out to the Lord. The Lord and Moses made the water sweet. Every day, the water crisis in Flint touches me more deeply and reminds me that there are many water concerns throughout the world. Global warming is drying up lakes. The Aral Sea, once one of the world’s largest inland seas is mostly desert now, having receded by more than 75 percent in recent decades. Lake Chad in Africa has diminished by nearly 80 percent over the last 30 years due to global warming, reduced rain and water extraction.

Sharing God’s gifts and life-giving water with people in Flint

After visiting Salem Lutheran Church in Flint, Bishop Donald P. Kreiss and Robin McCants, assistant to the bishop for advocacy and urban ministry, both of the ELCA Southeast Michigan Synod, shared the expanding depths of the crisis with the synod and the ELCA. With some government support

and generous response from the synod, ELCA World Hunger, and people around the ELCA, Salem is now one of the largest distributors of fresh bottled water in the city. Claimed in baptism, refreshed by life-giving water from Jesus that gushes up to eternal life, members of the ELCA are sharing God’s gifts and life-giving water with people in Flint.

Flint will need water for a long time to come. Find out how you can help by visiting the Southeast Michigan Synod website at

Congress is currently considering funding for resources to make the water in Flint safe to drink again. Find out more and take action by visiting the ELCA Advocacy Action Center.

This Sunday when I preach at Salem, I will bring cases of water and two of my own large drinking water bottles. When I return home I will refill them from my faucet and remember the people in Flint. I will be more attentive to ELCA blogs and advocacy requests. Jesus, who gives life-giving water, compels me to do this and to act.

Finding Faith in Flint

Few experiences produce anxiety much like washing your hands in water that you know can poison you.  I’m watching a natural resource come natural hazard spill over my hands from a tap in Salem Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Flint, Michigan.  Like many other buildings and homes, the church has lead in its water — water it has used for drinking, cooking and baptizing infants.  Before my meeting with Pastor Monica Villarreal of Salem, I had stopped by a downtown coffeeshop for an iced tea, something I do far too often in my own city without batting an eye.  But here in Flint, even this simple act carries with it pit-of-the-gut worry.  It’s one thing to trust that your barista has put enough milk in your latte.  It’s quite another to trust her when she tells you the water is safe.

Flint bears all the marks of any number of Midwestern towns abandoned by manufacturing firms in search of cheap labor.  Liquor stores dot barren blocks.  Once-proud homes loom in disrepair from untended lots. Violent crime is a regular experience. And a river runs through it.  A river filled with bacteria and, now, so corrosive it can damage pipes and car parts.

Water BottlesIn politics as in war, the first casualty is truth.  Finding reliable information on the water crisis is difficult, even from reputable news sources.  What we do know is this: people in power gambled with the lives of people in poverty and lost.  When residents complained about the water, state officials from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality responded with “aggressive dismissal, belittlement and attempts to discredit these efforts and the individuals involved,” insisting that the water was safe.

The first “strategic goal” of the MDEQ is to “protect public health.” They failed. Miserably.  But no apology  from state officials, no number of resignations will be enough.  Those officials get to go home and drink clean, cheap water from their taps.  The people of Flint are stuck paying for poison in their homes.  The state leadership in Michigan was as corrosive as the Flint River, eroding trust and sowing fear as quickly as the water they provided corroded pipes and spread lead.  This water was given to babies, infants, and children because people in power said it was safe.

My work with ELCA World Hunger has carried me to places of rural poverty in Iowa, drought-stricken neighborhoods in Central California, and the corrugated metal-covered homes of displaced people in Colombia in search of answers to the same two questions: Where is God? and Where is the Church?

As I sit in Pastor Villarreal’s office holding a bottle of murky brown water drawn from the taps at Salem Lutheran, she tells me about the deep pain resonating throughout her neighborhood.  She describes the guilt of parents who gave their children lead-filled water to drink, of the frustratingly slow state response, of the opportunistic lawyers and media now spilling into Flint.

But she also shows me a list of the congregations and individuals that have reached out to her with donations of time, money, water, and filters.  She describes a young girl who was so moved by what she learned about access to water at the ELCA Youth Gathering in 2015 that when she heard about Flint, she felt called to help.  I hear about churches working together to prepare truckloads of water to ship to Flint, plumbers and pipe-fitters offering their services pro bono.

Pastor Villarreal describes interfaith groups and ecumenical groups coming together to support the community, of Muslims, Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans, Catholics, and others in conversation and in partnership. Last week, ELCA World Hunger joined that list, by providing $5,000 to the Southeast Michigan Synod for Salem Lutheran Church.  This support will help Salem purchase bottled water to distribute to people in need.  It will also provide support to Salem’s food pantry, so that they can purchase food that meets the nutritional needs of people affected by lead.

And I have my answer.  We may not be eating bread and wine at an altar or singing hymns, but here, in this office, this is Church in its most basic form — a site of relief for those in need, a safe space to share dangerous stories of guilt and pain, and a place to unite to hold our leaders accountable when they fail to protect the well-being of all citizens.

Here, too, we are surrounded by weighty symbols — the brown water and corroded pipes that symbolize injustice, and the donated water from across the state and letters of support from all over the nation that symbolize a community committed to not let that injustice stand. The icons here represent a community of neighbors that transcend boundaries to accompany one another.

It is impossible to miss the sacramental volatility of water, that medium that gives life and takes life. It encapsulates the irony of living in the Great Lake State without clean water to drink. It symbolizes both the life-giving grace of the created world and the death-dealing abuses of power that come when we silence and marginalize our neighbors.  It is the touchpoint that knits together people across the spectrum of faiths and no-faith. It has become a rallying point for a community to come together.

Long after the media has left, Flint will still be dealing with this catastrophe.  The lead will still be in the pipes, and the chemicals and bacteria will still be in the river.  But people of faith and people of goodwill will still be here, too, to accompany one another and to hold government accountable.  ELCA World Hunger will continue to be present, too, and to accompany our brothers and sisters in the area with prayer, conversation and financial support.  As we learn more about the shape that this accompaniment will take, we will provide updates both here on the ELCA World Hunger blog and on social media.

What can you do to support Flint?

Pray – Include the people of Flint in your personal prayers and during worship with your congregation this Lenten season.

Advocate – This is a federal issue, and ELCA Advocacy recently released an advocacy alert related to the crisis.

Give – ELCA World Hunger will continue to support the community of Flint and Salem Lutheran Church through the long-term work that will be needed to find a “new normal” after this catatstrophe.  Prayerfully consider supporting this long-term work by making a gift to ELCA World Hunger.


Ryan P. Cumming, Ph.D., is the program director of hunger education for ELCA World Hunger.  He can be reached at