The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States. We are the church that shares a living, daring confidence in God's grace. Liberated by our faith, we embrace you as a whole person--questions, complexities and all. Join us as we do God's work in Christ's name for the life of the world.
ELCA Churchwide Assembly — livestream
The ELCA Churchwide Assembly, the church’s primary decision-making event, is a process of communal spiritual discernment — a time for us to be the living body of Christ, guided by the Spirit and conformed to God’s will. Watch our livestream of the 15th Churchwide Assembly, Aug. 5 through 10.
ELCA Annual Report
Members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America share a living, daring confidence in God’s grace. Liberated by our faith, we embrace you as a whole person — questions, complexities and all. Join us as we do God’s work in Christ’s name for the life of the world. View or download the ELCA Annual Report – 2018 in Review video.
Political activity and tax status
501(c)(3) organizations are prohibited from certain kinds of political activity, so your congregation must understand what is permissible and what is strictly prohibited in order to maintain its tax-exempt status. >More
Electrical safety — preventive maintenance
Preventive electrical maintenance is cost-effective in many ways, improves equipment efficiency and reduces utility bills. >More
Data security — protecting your congregants’ information
Data security is the critical process of protecting your congregation’s confidential information against unauthorized use. Data such as Personal Identifiable Information (PII), Social Security numbers, addresses, phone numbers, banking information and more lie at the heart of the organization. Keeping this data protected demonstrates responsibility and increases donor confidence. >More
Spring and summer weather events: Get ready!
Each part of the country has its own warm-weather risks, so prepare your property and your people accordingly for spring and summer in your region. >More
BORDER SUPPLEMENTAL SIGNED: President Trump signed a $4.59 billion border aid package July 1 as border agencies such as Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have been under increased scrutiny for the treatment of migrants in detention facilities. The majority of the package ($2.88 billion) will go to the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement, which takes custody of migrant children from CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) before releasing them to the care of family members or other sponsors. Other notable provisions include: · $1.34 billion provided for the Department of Homeland Security, including $905 million for CBP; · $209 million for ICE accounts, including $20 million for alternatives to detention; · $155 million to reimburse the U.S. Marshals Service for housing and transportation of federal detainees; and · $30 million for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reimbursements to local jurisdictions and nonprofits for the care of homeless migrants. Use an active Action Alert from ELCA Advocacy to urge lawmakers to support just immigration and asylum policies.
DREAM ACT: The Supreme Court said in June that it would review the Administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in its next term which begins in October. The DACA program, which affords protections to nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, has been in temporary limbo as the case proceeded through the courts. The House of Representatives recently passed H.R. 6, the American Dream and Promise Act, which would codify protections for Dreamers and other immigrants with temporary protections. Many Lutherans took action as the House voted in support of the bill and urged the Senate to do the same.
UN CLIMATE CHANGE SESSION: ELCA Advocacy attended the Bonn Climate Change Conference (SB50) in June. The UNFCCC Executive Secretary highlighted four numbers in her Global Climate Briefing: 1.5 or less – the degrees Celsius to which we must limit global warming; 2050 – the year by which the world must reach carbon neutrality; 2030 – the year by which we must limit global emissions by 35-40 percent; and 2020 – when new and revised Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), quantifying commitment for greenhouse gas reductions, must be issued by countries. SB50, an (intersessional) meeting of the United Nations Framework Convening on Climate Change (UNFCCC), saw some progress in moving forward with the implementation of the Paris Agreement, but much work remains to be done.
FY20 FOREIGN ASSISTANCE BUDGET: The House of Representatives passed the International Affairs budget, which funds international anti-poverty programs. Compared to the Fiscal Year 2019 enacted budget, the Fiscal Year 2020 House bill increases by $2.2 billion (four percent). The House rejected President Trump’s proposal to cut this budget by 24 percent. Many of the anti-poverty programs either saw a small increase or were funded at levels similar to those in the FY19 budget. This includes funding for malaria, HIV/AIDS, child/maternal health, food and nutrition, and other humanitarian and development programs.
SUMMER MEALS: Federally funded Summer Meals begin this month and are served in local communities all over the country to low-income children who could lose reliable and healthy food during the school year. ELCA Advocacy will use this summer to bring awareness to the importance of the Summer Food Service Program and other hunger issues that affect our communities.
In this post, ELCA World Hunger summer intern Aml Mohamed reflects on her experiences of accompaniment in her home country of Egypt.
“Why are you interested in this position at the ELCA?” A classic, expected question during an interview. I paused and asked myself three questions. What is the difference between interning at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and a regular nonprofit? Would I care as a practicing Muslim to work at a Lutheran faith-based institution? Would my identity as an Egyptian allow me to work and understand hunger in the US?
These are challenging questions for a rising junior in college. I am still in the process of unfolding my answers to these questions.
My tentative answer to the first question is “I don’t know!” I didn’t have the chance to compare work environments at the ELCA and other nonprofits, yet. However, what I can say is that there is something unique about working at a Lutheran faith-based institution. During orientation, we were learning about accompaniment and how it is reflected in the work of ELCA World Hunger. At the ELCA, accompaniment is defined as walking together in a solidarity that practices interdependence and mutuality. Initially, I was not sure how my life related to this model. However, after a few conversations with colleagues, I found that accompaniment is not an unfamiliar term to me. I was able to point to experiences where I saw accompaniment in my home country of Egypt.
There is a hidden power in seeing people who look like you as change-makers. This what an old friend always used to say. For years, I was on the receiving end of nonprofit organizations’ work. I was involved in programs that focus on youth development and entrepreneurship. At the age of thirteen, I remember being impressed by the staff members working on these programs. Now I understand why — they looked like me.
It is important to see work done by people who look like you, speak your language, and understand your daily life. Those might be small details, but they matter. The nonprofits allowed people from my community to be leaders, therefore, my family and I were able to trust them more. The staff members and leaders were aware of the social views on education and extracurricular activities. For example, a shared view among my parents and others is that education and learning occur only in schools and classrooms. It was difficult to come to an agreement with them that extracurricular activities are as important as school education. However, the staff members understood the culture and communicated effectively and respectfully. Thus, they were able to show them that building life skills inside and outside the classroom is critical for one’s personal and professional growth.
There is also another aspect of accompaniment that I found prevalent in my context — trust. Do you remember when your teacher would assign you tasks to do in class, like resetting the classroom tables or giving your opinion and suggestions for an activity? In such moments, I always felt that I matter. I am young, but I am trusted. I am young, but I am responsible. I am young, but I can contribute with what I have and know.
Accompaniment is not always easy; sometimes it can seem as if organizations and individuals care more about seeing their logos and names on products and services than they do for the people they are working with. Accompaniment means walking together, but most importantly, it means giving one’s companion the full trust and agency to work in their communities. Trust that people can, and they will.
Why is it important to accompany? In my opinion, I think it makes all the difference. Seeing people who look like you, understand you and face similar daily trials sets a great example for the community where work is done. It gives hope, and it maintains dignity, freedom and agency. It means remembering that you are the partner that may be needed at that moment. However, you are not the most important piece of the work.
Working on hunger is sensitive, challenging and overwhelming. However, I work with these things in mind. I will remember the times when I was young and was trusted to do things on my own. I will remember admiring the fact that the leaders in the nonprofits looked like me and understood my context. I will remind myself that to the community I walk in, I am the guest. Everyone has assets that they can contribute to the work and the journey of development. Walking with each other, we can accomplish more together. I hope you can walk along!
By John Johnson, Program Director for Domestic Policy
It happens every single day. Somewhere in our country, gun violence shatters a community, a neighborhood, a family. Almost 40,000 people died in 2018 from guns. That equates with a city the size of Annapolis, the capital of Maryland, struck down in a year – year after year.
Although written in 1995, the ELCA social message on “Community Violence” reads as if describing today.
“For some women and children, home is less safe than the street. Hate crimes continue. Neighborhood, schoolyard, workplace, or family disputes spark into violence and become lethal. They become headline news, reinforcing the atmosphere of violence and inspiring profitable entertainment media” (page 1).
Our national reality is that the next tragedy can happen at any moment. Where is Congress? Where is the president? The realities of gun violence are not adequately in the forefront of policy discussion.
Congress and the administration should be debating and passing legislation now like:
1994 Assault Weapons Ban – legislation introduced that would ban military assault weapons like the AR-15 used in many recent mass shootings.
Ethan’s Law – introduced legislation, originating in Connecticut, that would require safe storage of firearms.
The sad reality is that in the current polarized political climate, the likelihood of meaningful legislation passing Congress is remote. Nevertheless, the values of our faith tradition compel us to keep pressing forward. “Community Violence” adopted in 1994 states that the ELCA advocates in favor of gun control on the basis of the resolution on community violence adopted by the 1993 Churchwide Assembly, which called for “passage and strict enforcement of local, state, and national legislation that rigidly controls manufacture, importation, exportation, sale, purchase, transfer, receipt, possession and transportation of handguns, assault weapons and assault-like weapons and their parts, excluding rifles and shotguns used for hunting and sporting purposes, for use other than law enforcement and military purposes” (page 4 and footnote).
Legislatively, this means we particularly look for measures that will curtail the violence, including
Limit of high capacity magazines and require gun locks; and
Invest in domestic violence prevention.
As we watch and advocate for policy developments that will stem the proliferation of gun violence, the church has our lamps lit – like those waiting and ready in Luke 12:35. Our support and leadership can bolster our communities as we
Build strong anti-violence coalitions in neighborhoods;
Encourage peer mediation skills in our schools;
Call out the culture of violence that pervades our national culture and media; and
Proclaim spiritual and moral resources for replacing fear and violence with hope and reconciliation in our homes, communities and nation.
As Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, chef de cabinet of the secretary general’s executive, pointed out, when AIDS was first identified more than 30 years ago, suffering and death seemed unstoppable. Years later, nearly 8 million deaths have been averted since 2000 and three-quarters of people living with the virus now know their status. Unfortunately, this progress remains uneven. Since 2010, Eastern Europe and Central Asia have witnessed a 30% increase in HIV infections.
Ten years ago the ELCA Church Council adopted the ELCA Strategy on HIV and AIDS and called on the ELCA to respond faithfully and effectively to this pandemic. Find information concerning the ELCA’s HIV and AIDS Ministry, worship resources and more here.
Read the secretary-general’s report: “Galvanizing global ambition to end the AIDS epidemic after a decade of progress”. Read the full report with short summaries of the statements here.
STILL STANDING STRONG – INTERNATIONAL ALBINISM AWARENESS DAY: On June 13, the U.N. celebrated International Albinism Awareness Day. The theme “Still Standing Strong” encourages the international community to “recognize, celebrate and stand in solidarity with persons with albinism around the world”. On this day, everyone is reminded that people with albinism deserve to have their rights to life and security protected.
Different speakers shared their work on awareness-raising and the challenges that people with albinism face. Senator Isaac Mwaura from Kenya pointed out how important it is to be innovative and create spaces where people with albinism feel secure, beautiful and seen. This message was also shared by Diandra Forrest, the first woman with albinism to sign with a major modeling agency.
PROGRESS OF THE WORLD’S WOMEN REPORT LAUNCH: On June 25, U.N. Women launched a 2019 report titled “Progress of the World’s Women 2019-2020: Families in a Changing World,” which highlights the diversity of families. Families “can be places of love and affection” however, women and girls “too often face violence and discrimination” within the home. The report includes a comprehensive policy agenda with eight recommendations, calling on governments, civil society and the private sector to safeguard women’s and girls’ rights. You can read the online report hereand a blog post on the report by Joanna Lilja, Church of Sweden.
Regina Q. Banks, Lutheran Office of Public Policy- California (LOPP-CA) loppca.org
BUDGET GAINS AND LOSSES: During our Lobby Day last month we advocated for a Medi-Cal (California’s low-income health care program) expansion that would cover all income-eligible people independent of immigration status. We, and our allies, were partially successful in spurring an expansion that will cover those up to age 26. We also talked to legislators about the establishment of a clean, safe and affordable drinking water fund. The Legislature agreed and chose to finance the measure with cap-and-trade funds as opposed to the governor’s proposed new fee on polluters. Finally, the Legislature approved a significant expansion to the California Earned Income Tax Credit. This is a tent post for the End Child Poverty coalition to which we belong and was a huge win. Unfortunately, the expansion will not include those who file taxes with an ITIN, whose filers are primarily undocumented workers. Thank you to everyone who came to Lobby Day, made calls, wrote e-mails and prayed. We got both some significant wins and a clearer roadmap of the work ahead!
WORLD REFUGEE DAY ACKNOWLEDGMENT: June 20thmarked U.N. World Refugee Day. LOPP-CA acknowledged the day with partners such as St. Paul Lutheran Church of Lodi, Calif; Organizacion de Trabajadores, Fuerzas Unidas and others in a march and prayer circle for the reunification of families being callously held in US detentions. We prayed together and then marched to the U.S. General Services Administration building in Sacramento where we prayed for the employees and our policy makers.
SECOND-MILE GIVING: Thank you so much to everyone, congregations and individuals alike, who participated in the Sierra Pacific Synod’s second-mile giving support of LOPP-CA in June. We are humbled by your generosity.
Peter Severson, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry–Colorado lam-co.org
MINISTRY VISITS: Peter Severson, director of Lutheran Advocacy Ministry-Colorado, visited Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church in Grand Junction in late June to preach, present, and march in the Colorado West Pride Parade (alongside American Lutheran Church too). The two congregations joined Pride along with other faith communities that participate in the Grand Valley Interfaith Network.
Severson also visited Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp in Hillside, in early June for the commissioning service at the end of staff training. Congratulations to these great counselors and staff, who are having a great summer in the mountains as they faithfully lead campers!
In July, we look forward to visiting Trinity Lutheran Church, Boulder; First Lutheran Church, Colorado Springs; and the ELCA World Hunger Leadership Gathering in Minneapolis!
UPCOMING EVENT – A VIEW FROM THE BORDER/UNA VISTA DESDE LA FRONTERA: The Rev. Mateo Chavez, pastor of San Juan Bautista Lutheran Church in Tucson, Ariz., is a board member of Cruzando Fronteras, a collaborative ministry between Episcopal, Lutheran, and Anglican communities on of borders with Mexico, Latin America, and elsewhere. A free will offering will support ministries of Tapestry and San Juan Bautista, which accompany immigrants, asylum-seekers and refugees.
5:00 p.m. – Worship service, with Chavez preaching
6:00 p.m. – Dinner (suggested donation $10/adult) and Stories of sorrow, hope, determination, and love, as Chavez shares about ministry and work with immigrants and asylum seekers at the Nogales border crossing.
Dinner RSVP: Lidia@oakgrovelutheran.org or on Tapastry (Richfield) Facebook page
Questions: The Rev. Melissa Melnick Gonzalez, firstname.lastname@example.org
ASSESSING & PLANNING: The Legislative session is barely over, but Lutheran Advocacy-MN is meeting with coalition partners to review 2019 accomplishments and prepare for 2020. On both housing and clean energy, it is clear that we need more grassroots action, especially with senators. Housing did better than other issues, but Senate leadership blocked additional needed funding. Housing supportive services fell way short, despite bipartisan co-sponsorship and support! Clean Energy ran into many roadblocks in the Senate, and it’s clear that some senators in key committee positions are 8-10 years behind in their knowledge and understanding of clean energy technologies and possibilities. Now (and throughout the fall) it will be crucial to meet with your legislators to educate them on issues and get them pushing their leaders to do more!
William Ledford, Lutheran Engagement and Advocacy in Nevada (LEAN) leanforjustice.org
With our legislative session officially over and the governor done signing bills, we are happy to report that almost all of the legislation we were supporting has passed. Suffice it to say, this was a successful session for LEAN. Going into our long offseason means that we are strategizing ways to increase buy-in from our represented churches and to increase awareness in our state of the work we do.
AND WE DO NOT HAVE A BUDGET: Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) and Senate President Larry Obhof (R- Medina) were unable to reach an agreement to pass a budget by the June 30th deadline. There are many issues at play – school takeovers by the state, school funding, tax policy, and other issues. During the final hours of June, the Legislature voted for temporary funding bills to keep the state government open for a few more weeks. HNO will continue to work with community groups and legislators to lift up our top issues, including the wealthiest Ohioans paying their fair share and investments in food and housing security.
STEPS BACKWARD FOR ENVIRONMENTAL STEWARDSHIP & OHIO’S ENERGY ECONOMY: HB 6 will bail out nuclear power plants in Ohio with a guaranteed $150 million state subsidy. The bill will also reduce (Senate version) or eliminate (house version) Ohio’s renewable energy goals. This will hurt our clean energy economy and also leave Ohio behind a growing number of states that realize that renewable energy is a smart investment. We encourage our Lutheran partners to follow Ohio Interfaith Power and Light for updates on these policy issues.
VOTER REGISTRATION PLAN – EARN $200 FOR YOUR PANTRY: Are you a food pantry in Ohio and want to earn $200 (or more)? Be on the lookout for our upcoming voter registration campaign where we will pay partner pantries $200 if they incorporate voter registration into their pantry. Sign up form will be rolled out by the middle of July!
LAMPa director Tracey DePasquale accompanied general assistance recipients and housing and domestic violence services advocates to urge lawmakers to preserve the life-saving program for the most vulnerable in times of crisis.
On June 28, Pennsylvania adopted a $34 billion budget that includes no new taxes but socks $330 million away in rainy day fund. Highlights include increases for housing; basic pre-kindergarten and special education; services for disabled Pennsylvanians and domestic violence victims; election security; and help for a struggling agricultural industry. Anti-hunger funding was held level, and a General Assistance (GA) program re-instated by the state Supreme Court last year was eliminated. LAMPa staff delivered about 100 letters in support of increased funding for anti-hunger programs that were gathered at synod assemblies. This followed more than 100 legislative visits made on Lutheran Day as well as other outreach by Lutheran advocates to let lawmakers know that, in spite of what seem like good economic statistics, our feeding ministries have not seen decreased demand.To protect GA, program director Lynn Fry met with the governor’s staff, and director Tracey DePasquale made rounds of Senate offices with recipients and advocates, including a press conference where the Rev. Timothy Seitz-Brown spoke. The battle over ending the program erupted into chaos on the Senate floor as seen in this video, highlighting growing divides in our commonwealth.
ALSO IN JUNE:
Staff led workshops at the Upper and Lower Susquehanna synod assemblies.
Lutheran advocates joined approximately 400 in urging lawmakers toward the goal of 100% renewable energy by 2050.
DePasquale taught post-confirmands at Camp Nawakwa how they can engage their faith in climate change advocacy.
DePasquale visited lawmakers urging rejection of bill reducing clean-water protection.
The Rev. Timothy Seitz-Brown urges lawmakers and citizens to see God in the faces of the poor.
Kathie Westman, a member of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod’s Church and Society Committee, joined Lutheran advocates from around the state in a rally for legislation to get Pennsylvania to 100% renewable energy
Hilton Austin, director
SOUTHEASTERN SYNOD ASSEMBLY: We had a great assembly this year. There were three workshops that reflected our work as advocates for the common good: “Disaster Preparedness and Mitigation in the Age of Climate Change”; “Welcoming the Stranger”; and “Who is My Neighbor: A Prophetic Vision”, our ‘Advocacy Policy Council’ workshop. The latter was a seven-person panel answering how Jesus’ question “which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man?” speaks to their ministry of advocacy. It was awesome. We also gained significant support in Alabama. Kevin L. Strickland is the new bishop-elect of the Southeastern Synod.
CARE FOR CREATION: “Faithful Climate Conversations: Public Forum on Faith, Science, & Climate Solutions” was sponsored by Interfaith Power and Light and held at the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. Speakers were the Rev. Susan Hendershot, president of IPL, and Dr. Kenneth Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists. Kait Parker of the Weather Channel was the panel moderator; the Rev. Gerald L. Hurley, chair of the IPL Board of Directors, joined the panel discussion.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM: The leader of our Criminal Justice Reform “Ready Bench” and I attended a three-day conference on “Ending Mass Incarceration” at Ebenezer Baptist Church. We made several new inter-faith connections and had the opportunity to collaborate with many of our current ecumenical partners. Michelle Alexander, Esq, author of The New Jim Crow, was the speaker at the first plenary.
IMMIGRATION AND REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT: World Refugee Day in Clarkston, sponsored by the Coalition of Refugee Services, was a great event, lifting up and celebrating the contributions of refugees in Georgia.
2019 ALABAMA LEGISLATIVE REPORT: The legislative session for Alabama officially drew to a close at the end of May, passing very few of the bills for which we were advocating. However, there is still plenty to celebrate from this session!
The state of Alabama seems to have had a great fiscal year, bringing wonderful benefits to several of the state’s governmental systems.
The Education Trust Fund (EFT) was among the systems that received benefits. The surplus in funds allowed legislators to approve a 4% increase in teacher pay, make increases to most K-12 programs, and provide a 6% increase in funds allocated to state four-year colleges and public universities.
Legislators also approved a $40 million increase to the state’s prison system. It is speculated that a special session may be called later in the year to address specific problems with the system as a whole.
A victory for care for creation was won with the passage of a gas tax. Between now and 2021, the tax on gas will rise 10 cents, 6 in the first year, and 2 more cents each subsequent year, bringing the total tax from 18 to 28 cents. Money provided in this bill will also be used to aid the Port of Mobile and create a charging station for hybrid and electric vehicles.
As far as bills we supported are concerned, HB176 was the only one that did not die in committee. With this bill’s passage, legislators ensured that many of Alabama’s hospitals will continue to receive the funding they need to keep their doors open.
On to the less than favorable bills that were passed, Alabama was one of a few states that passed an infamous heartbeat bill, banning pregnant people seeking an abortion from obtaining one if a fetal heartbeat can be detected.
Thank you to everyone who has been involved in all of the ups and downs associated with state advocacy this year. Now that all normal state legislative sessions in the synod have ended, we can rest (for just a moment!) and enjoy what has been done. Be sure to look for our special session updates and legislative posts for next year’s sessions, and don’t forget to vote!
Paul Benz, Faith Action Network (FAN) fanwa.org
REGIONAL SUMMITS: FAN wrapped up our spring summit meetings with our fourth and final gathering in Spokane on June 30. We are working to pull together notes from all of the attendees who shared their policy recommendations for the 2020 legislative session. Once we compile the notes from our network of advocates, our program committee will review them this summer. The results of that review will then be formulated into a draft legislative agenda for our board to review later in the year. Our goal is to have a board-approved draft for our legislative agenda by our annual dinner on Nov. 17! It’s important to shape this agenda with the guidance of our network and advocates from all around Washington state.
ELCA HUNGER ADVOCACY FELLOW: Sarah Vatne has spent the past year working at FAN as an ELCA Hunger Advocacy Fellow. Below she shares a reflection as she begins her final month with FAN and prepares to start law school at Gonzaga University School of Law in August:
“Throughout this year with FAN, I’ve attended rallies and marches, met with elected officials, led advocacy and educational events, spoken at youth gatherings, and worked with faith communities from a multitude of different backgrounds. I’ve really loved getting to know the other fellows in..
Please pray for all those affected by the refugee crisis. Remember those who have lost everything and all those who are working to respond. You can use these prayers and resources in your worship services.
Your gifts are needed now to help with immediate relief. Gifts designated for the Middle East and Europe Refugee Crisis will be used in full (100 percent) to assist those directly impacted and have fled for safety.
To learn more about this situation and other LDR response:
Sign up to receive Lutheran Disaster Response alerts.
Thanks to generous, undesignated donations, Lutheran Disaster Response is able to respond quickly and effectively to disasters around the globe, including Cyclone Fani. Your gifts to Lutheran Disaster Response will be used where there is the greatest need.
To learn more about global migration and what Lutheran Disaster Response is doing:
Recent news stories of appalling conditions at immigrant detention centers and of deep human sorrow on our country’s southern border have many of us desperate to be part of change.
Lutherans have a deep-rooted history in refugee and immigrant issues. One of every six Lutherans in the world was a refugee or displaced person after WWII. The God-given dignity in all people and value of family unity have been cornerstones of ELCA faith-based advocacy, and we understand that many immigrants, as well as their families, are both afraid and confused by recent developments. Daily experience of ministries, Lutheran organizations and members “keep before us – so that we do not forget – the grim realities many immigrants face and the strength of character and resourcefulness newcomers demonstrate,” notes the ELCA social message, “Immigration.”
OUR PUBLIC VOICE
At the meeting point of our knowledge and values, here are some ways Lutherans have acted and can continue to respond.
JOINT STATEMENT – Ecumenical and inter-religious partners joined the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, ELCA presiding bishop, in a joint statement addressing concerns over the well-being of children who cross the U.S. border seeking safety from danger and threats in their home countries (6/6/19). Read at elca.org/News-and-Events/7982 .
“We follow a Lord who instructed, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs’ (Matthew 19:14). As we continue to serve and love our neighbor, we pray for the well-being of children and families in detention, and we urge the presidential administration to seek alternatives to the detention of children.”
AMMPARO – Ministry through the ELCA Accompanying Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation and Opportunities (AMMPARO) strategy is present in countries of origin, transit, and the U.S. with our neighbors in Central America. Actions include presence of pro bono lawyers who provide services and monitor detention center visits, and resourcing people in their countries of origin with proven programs that result in fewer choosing to take a difficult migration journey. Consider a gift to ELCA AMMPARO. Donate to this ministry from community.elca.org/donations/ammparo-donate.
In the ELCA Advocacy Action Center, Action Alerts are available for you to customize with your message to your member of Congress. Begin from the following.
“Protect the housing rights of mixed-immigration status families” – In a tight timeline before July 2, consider using this Action Alert facilitating public comment to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), on a proposed rulemaking that would prohibit mixed-immigration status families from living in federal affordable housing programs.
Other ways to urge U.S. immigration enforcement policy to recognize human dignity, uphold human rights, ensure the safety and well-being, and treat all individuals and families fairly and with respect, are to:
Call your Member of Congress at (202) 224-3121 to connect with your two Senators and one Representative. Find our who represents you from govtrack.us/congress/members .
Tweet, and tag @DHSgov and @POTUS or other official.
Additionally, congregations and individuals may want to take further steps.
WELCOMING CONGREGATION – Consider becoming a Welcoming Congregation in the ELCA AMMPARO network, making a commitment to spiritually and pastorally accompany migrants in our community congregation; physically accompany migrants as needed to medical, legal and pastoral resources; pray for the children and families; and prayerfully consider participation in ELCA advocacy.
GUARDIAN ANGEL PROGRAM – Consider participating in the Guardian Angel Program of ELCA AMMPARO, providing spiritual and physical accompaniment of unaccompanied migrant children and families through their immigration court process. More at vimeo.com/157458987 .
CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY – Check your investments. Private companies are managing the detention of children.
The ELCA Private Prison Screen “recommends no investment in private, for-profit prisons including firms involved in prison privatization of the criminal justice system.”
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS – Share “Know Your Rights” information, providing critical facts about legal rights during encounters with law enforcement.
Cards give quick tips and can be printed in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Hmong, Korean, Spanish and Vietnamese from www.ilrc.org/red-cards .
In Spanish and English, resources about rights at home, in public, and in the workplace are available from elca.org/Resources/AMMPARO .
FIRST STEPS GUIDE – In English and Spanish, the First Steps Guide from Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS) helps refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants navigate the complex system of laws, agencies, and public and private systems they must master by providing important information on legal rights, responsibilities, and eligibility for services and benefits such as healthcare and education, according to immigration status.
SANCTUARY MOVEMENT – The Sanctuary Movement is a growing movement of immigrant and faith communities in the current political climate. “Sanctuary: A Discernment Guide for Congregations” from the Presbyterian Church USA may facilitate discussion of this possible involvement in your congregation.
SHARE STORIES AND PRACTICE ACCOMPANIMENT – Create opportunities to gather and hear the stories of immigrants and migrants in your congregation and community and respond to their requests for partnership and solidarity.
CENTERED IN OUR FAITH
We hold in prayer the many migrants imperiled and struggling. We also pray for those on the forefront including ELCA congregations in U.S. border communities who are providing spiritual and physical sustenance, as well as border patrol officers, resettlement staff and many others charged with implementing our nation’s policies compassionately. During Sunday worship, in personal devotions, or by hosting a prayer service with faith partners to generate awareness within your local community, here are some resources as we turn to God for wisdom and strength.
“We draw on the best of our nation’s traditions as a refuge and haven for the persecuted and destitute when we affirm that ‘we support a generous policy of welcome for refugees and immigrants,’ and that we ‘will advocate for just immigration policies, including fairness in visa regulations and in admitting and protecting refugees. We will work for policies that cause neither undue repercussion within immigrant communities nor bias against them.’”
From the ELCA social message on “Immigration,” incorporating affirmations from the social statements For Peace in God’s World and Freed in Christ: Race, Ethnicity, and Culture.
Two important anniversary dates occurred last week. On June 19th there was the observance of Juneteenth, the date on which African descent slaves in Texas received the good news that they had been set free from their bondage. Two days earlier marked the fourth anniversary of the slaying of nine African descent Christians at a Bible Study in their church in Charleston, South Carolina, by a young man hoping to start a race war. On both of those dates last week, there was a nationwide showing of the documentary “Emanuel.” Director Brian Ivie is a Christian filmmaker interested in stories about the impact that the Christian witness can have on those outside of the church. The spontaneous expressions of forgiveness from some of the surviving family members in that tragedy were certainly compelling and made headlines around the world. And that witness had the effect of lessening the racial tension in the days that followed in the city of Charleston–which one of the film’s commentators described as “Confederate Disneyland,” for its glorification of its antebellum past.
The challenge for me in commentating on this documentary is that we white people have a tendency to make everything about us. Part of our privilege is assuming that everything is about us, after all. Indeed, in the aftermath of the shooting, we white Lutherans in South Carolina kept mentioning how two of the clergymen that had been shot in that church had graduated from our Lutheran seminary in Columbia. Somehow that seemed to ease how distressing it was to learn that the shooter came from a family that was active in one of our Lutheran churches. It fit into our theology that even our community is connected to both saint and sinner.
I was one of only a handful of white persons in a theater filled with people of color at the showing of the documentary that I attended. And I felt somewhat of a voyeur watching the intense expressions of grief by the sons and daughters and spouses and mothers of the slain martyrs. But my presence was graciously acknowledged by this community of color, just as the shooter had been welcomed into the Bible study on the night of his crime.
The theme that Ivie focused on in his film was the radical forgiveness expressed following the event. That’s what made the headlines and the impact on those outside of the church. As the Director explored it in depth, he revealed that forgiveness was not something glib. We heard from family members that were still struggling with coming to that place of forgiveness. Those who had so vividly expressed their forgiveness said that forgiveness did not matter if the young man showed remorse or not, or came to the full realization of the pain he had caused. And that was when I realized that I, too, have been the recipient of much forgiveness and grace from people of color, even as I have been unaware of the cost to them. Yes, I am a progressive white clergyman who has engaged in the battle for racial justice. And yet, I am too tempted when I become war weary, I have the privilege to disengage and take a break from it. As he sat in a Birmingham jail cell, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote a letter calling out the progressive white clergymen of the city for wanting to work for change more slowly and cautiously. His frustration was that progressives who want to do just enough to make themselves feel good that they are not like our more visibly racist neighbors can be an even greater stumbling block than hardcore white supremacists.
The most impactful part of the documentary for me was the contrast shown by the news footage of the arrest of the perpetrator. As one of the police officers approached the getaway car, he put his gun back in his holster, in stark contrast to the plentiful news reports we’ve heard about the way people of color are approached when stopped. Indeed, just prior to this church shooting in Charleston, a black man had been gunned down by a police officer in the same community. As one of the voices in the documentary expressed it, we’ve seen too many images of black bodies lying in the street “like road kill.” It is that contrast between the way people are treated by the color of their skin that we white people have long been oblivious to.
When I participated in my first racial reconciliation training, I remembered hearing one of the black participants describe how, in the grocery store, the clerks would place change directly in the hands of white customers, but when it came her turn, the clerk placed the change on the counter for her to pick up, rather than risking skin to skin contact. I had simply never noticed that before. Soon after participating in that event, I attended a movie theater. The perky young white ticket taker greeted me very warmly as she handed me the torn stub. But her tone and demeanor changed remarkably when she disdainfully tore the ticket of the black woman who came in after me. I would not have noticed that before the training, despite how stark the contrast was. For our obliviousness to that distinction in treatment, we white people are in need of forgiveness. For our cowardice in not saying anything when we do observe it, we are in need of forgiveness. Just as Christ died for us while we were still sinners, people of color have been patient and forgiving of us. And just as with Christ, that witness has come at a great cost. The documentary “Emanuel” shows that forgiveness does not come without great pain and suffering.
When I try to discuss these thoughts with my white peers, I am often accused of wallowing in “white guilt.” “I don’t want to be made to feel guilty for being white,” they say. It is part of the backlash that swept the current administration into power. But it is not about being made guilty about the past. Even discussions about reparations are not meant to be punishment for previous bad behavior on the part of our white ancestors, but are an effort to restore balance in opportunity. We have the chance to reboot the way we interact with one another in the present. We can wake up and be grateful for the patience and forgiveness from those who have been wronged. And we can learn from the witness to extend grace and forgiveness as well, rather than responding with defensiveness. I confess that I am still tempted to be intermittent in my work for this goal. Confession is a start.
~Pastor Mark Cerniglia
Mark Cerniglia is a retired Lutheran Pastor with 37 years of ordained ministry. He currently lives in Columbia, SC, with his racially mixed family of three generations, and serves as an Interim Pastor. He is on the board of the European Descent Lutheran Association for Racial Justice (EDLARJ) and chairs the Immigration Task Force for the South Carolina Synod.
By Ruth Ivory-Moore, Program Director for Environment and Corporate Social Responsibility
There are four numbers that matter according to Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC):
1.5 or less – The degrees Celsius to which we must limit global warming; 2050 – the year by which the world must reach carbon neutrality; 2030 – the year by which we must limit global emissions by 35-40%; and 2020 – when new and revised Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), quantifying commitment for greenhouse gas reductions, must be issued by countries.
The world is in a critical state, and we are far behind in our efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 °C said the executive secretary in her Global Climate Action briefing on June 21, 2019 at the Bonn Climate Change Conference (SB50). ELCA Advocacy is present at SB50 which raises ambition to curb greenhouse gas emissions, accelerate resilience-building efforts, and ensure that climate policy is built on a solid foundation of the best available science and knowledge. Battles over resources will only exacerbate if the limit is not reached, Espinosa warned. We have the facts, but she emphasized we must “get on with the how.”
“In our ministry, we learn about the extent of the environmental crisis, its complexities, and the suffering it entails. Meeting the needs of today’s generations for food, clothing, and shelter requires a sound environment. Action to counter degradation, especially within this decade, is essential to the future of our children and our children’s children. Time is very short.” Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope, and Justice, page 8.
Diversity is required to address climate change, and UNFCCC appointed two High Level Champions who exemplify and connect the work of governments with the many voluntary and collaborative actions taken by cities, regions, businesses and investors, and nations. Tomasz Chruszczow, Special Envoy for Climate Change from the Ministry of Environment in Poland, said mindsets on all sides need to be changed such that there is a recognition that acting on climate presents economic opportunities to eliminate hunger. Gonzalo Muñoz, business entrepreneur and social change-maker at the forefront of environmental innovation in Chile, said moving forward requires a toolbox with four items: evidence of what has been done; grassroots engagement; talent called upon and used from around the world; and love. Both appreciated successes in the Marrakech Partnership, a framework for high level champions across seven thematic areas, namely – land use (agriculture, forestry and other land use), water, oceans and coastal zones, energy, industry, human settlements and transport.
“As congregations and other expressions of this church, we will model the principle of participation. We will welcome the interaction of differing views and experiences in our discussion of environmental issues…” Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope, and Justice, page 10.
In a meeting attended by Chruszczow and Muñoz along with ELCA Advocacy, UNFCCC staff members and others, we were assured with awareness of an important asset on earth – our humanity. One comes away with a renewed sense of hope and a firm resolve to navigate the bumpy paths ahead.