Advocacy Ministry

 

Materials adapted from a variety of sources, including the ELCA website. 

 

What is Advocacy?

Advocacy is to plead the cause of another together with them and on their behalf. When, for example, the prophets addressed kings and priests on behalf of those suffering injustice, they were advocating.  Advocacy is one way we seek to love our neighbor in response to God’s love given us in Jesus Christ. We are caring for, standing with, and serving people who are living in poverty and who are suffering when we work for public and corporate policies that advance justice, peace, human dignity, and care for the earth.

 

Why are Christians involved in advocacy?

Biblically Grounded:  As the Scriptures bear witness, the Christian faith story has a rich tradition of speaking to people in power on behalf of others who are not heard. In every age Christians ponder their mission in the world. Is a passionate concern for justice part of being a follower of Christ? Or is seeking justice something Christians may choose to do or not to do? When we study the Bible we find out how central justice is to the life of the people of God.

Justice is significant in the stories of the Old Testament. As a member of the covenant with God, each person was in relationship with every other person. Out of these relationships arose responsibilities and demands. The just person was faithful to these responsibilities and demands.

David Beckmann, in Exodus from Hunger, writes, “Every section of the Bible is clear about our obligation to poor people and about the political dimension of justice for poor people.”  “The prophets repeatedly insisted that the way to national security and prosperity was to worship the real God and establish justice for poor and needy people.  In August 2010, Congress passed a bill to provide financial aid to the states. They decided to pay for it partly by cutting $12 billion from future food stamp benefits. That one, quick decision by Congress took away from needy people more than all the charities in the country can mobilize in two years.  Charitable programs are important to hungry people, but it is impossible to food-bank our way to the end of hunger in America. If we want to make serious progress against hunger, we also need to make our government an active and effective part of the solution.”

Constitutionally Grounded:  According to the ELCA’s Constitutions, Bylaws, and Continuing Resolutions, among the purposes of our church in participating in God’s mission are to:

  • serve in response to God’s love to meet human needs, caring for the sick and the aged, advocating dignity and justice for all people, working for peace and reconciliation among the nations, and standing with the poor and powerless and committing itself to their needs. (4.02.c)
  • lift its voice in concord and work in concert with forces for good, to serve humanity, cooperating with church and other groups participating in activities that promote justice, relieve misery, and reconcile the estranged. (4.03.g)
  • study social issues and trends, work to discover the causes of oppression and injustice, and develop programs of ministry and advocacy to further human dignity, freedom, justice, and peace in the world. (4.03.l)

Theologically Grounded:  ELCA social statements are teaching documents that assist members in their thinking about social issues. They are meant to aid in communal and individual moral formation and deliberation.  In its first social statement, “The Church in Society: A Lutheran Perspective,” adopted in 1991, the ELCA committed itself to “work with and on behalf of the poor, the powerless, and those who suffer, using its power and influence with political and economic decision-making bodies to develop and advocate policies that seek to advance justice, peace, and the care of creation” (II.B).  The ELCA’s social statement on economic life, “Sufficient, Sustainable Livelihood for All,” was adopted in 1999.  It states, “Based on [our] vantage point of faith, ‘sufficient, sustainable livelihood for all’ is a benchmark for affirming, opposing, and seeking changes in economic life. Because of sin we fall short of these obligations in this world, but we live in light of God’s promised future that ultimately there will be no hunger and injustice.  This promise makes us restless with less than what God intends for the world. In economic matters, this draws attention to:

  • the scope of God’s concern “for all,”
  • the means by which life is sustained “livelihood,”
  • what is needed “sufficiency,” and
  • a long-term perspective “sustainability.”

Non-Partisan:  Advocacy for the poor is not bound by partisan politics or the platform of any one party. Faithful Christians may in fact disagree on specific ways in which to lift up the voices of the marginalized, to give them a “seat at the table” where decisions are made that affect their lives.  Advocacy efforts on behalf of the hungry need the supportive voices of Christians across the political spectrum, working in areas of mutual agreement, to maximize their impact on the larger political context.

 

How does the ELCA understand advocacy to be part of its mission?

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America calls persons to advocate justice with and for those without power and voice in places where important political and economic decisions are being made that affect the lives of those who are marginalized. This activity is what is meant by ‘advocacy’.  It is one way the ELCA carries out its strategic direction to ‘step forward as a public church that witnesses boldly to God’s love for all that God has created.’”

 

How is the ELCA involved in advocacy?

The established advocacy ministries in the ELCA are: ELCA Washington Office, state Public Policy Offices (such as Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania—LAMPa), and Lutheran Office for World Community (representing the ELCA and Lutheran World Federation at the United Nations). These work on public social policy based on the social justice policy positions of the ELCA.  To do this, ELCA advocacy works with public policy across the United States and throughout the world. The ELCA uses its social statements and social policy resolutions to determine areas for advocacy. They also use feedback from people involved in Lutheran ministries to determine what to advocate for.

 

What is LAMPa?

Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania (LAMPa) is a State Public Policy Office of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) that advocates for just, sound and compassionate state public policies based upon the officially adopted social policy positions of the ELCA.  The mission of Lutheran Advocacy Ministry in Pennsylvania is to advocate in both public and private sectors of society on behalf of, and in partnership with, those persons who are denied justice, dignity, reconciliation, peace, and access to basic human rights, and who lack adequate representation and voice in the arenas of public policy.  LAMPa is a partnership ministry of the Congregational and Synodical Mission Unit of the ELCA with Pennsylvania agencies and institutions, including:

LAMPa serves these partners through:

  • Providing an advocacy voice for the ELCA, its congregations and members, and with government policymakers in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
  • Conducting analysis and providing resources on current social issues and public policy to help Lutherans understand the connections between faith and daily public life
  • Providing training and opportunities for Lutherans to become better advocates for justice.

 

What are some of the issues being addressed by ELCA advocacy ministry?

A current highlight of ELCA advocacy ministry efforts is: “Why the Federal Budget Matters to People of Faith.”  ELCA advocacy ministry is also addressing these issues:

  • Environment and Energy
  • US Hunger, Poverty and Economic Justice
  • Global Poverty and Development
  • Health Policy and Global Disease
  • Peace and Conflict
  • Israel and Palestine
  • Human Dignity and Human Rights

 

What local issues are being addressed by ELCA advocacy ministry?

The natural gas industry has moved into central Pennsylvania where Marcellus Shale deposits are found, impacting many parts of our lives.  The issues around hydraulic fracturing are complex, touching on both “care of creation” concerns and “sufficient, sustainable livelihood for all”.  Various organizations are at work throughout the area promoting education and community organizing around this issue.  These groups fall on all sides of the arguments: some in favor of drilling, and some opposed.

LAMPa’s website offers links to other sites with information regarding care of creation concerns with natural gas drilling: http://www.lutheranadvocacypa.org/environment/

For effective advocacy around this issue, most of the work needs to be done on the local level, helping to ensure that long-term consequences are examined. On the state level, LAMPa is advocating for drillers to share financial responsibility for the potential environmental impact of industry activity.

The issues related to natural gas drilling are multiplying as the industry grows.  LAMPa continues to follow as the industry develops to stay alert to other advocacy needs that may arise as a result.  Such needs include poverty, hunger, housing issues, water and other social ministry needs…ongoing concerns of LAMPa.

 

How can someone get involved in advocacy ministry?

If you fit this description, then you can be involved in advocacy…

  • If you are a citizen,
  • who has nothing personal to gain from the issue,
  • and represents the interests of a person or group who is disenfranchised,
  • you are an advocate.

For the most current information about ELCA advocacy ministry efforts and how you can get involved, sign up for LAMPa’s ACTIONET.  Joining LAMPa’s ACTIONET is the best way to know when your voice can make a critical difference for the most vulnerable of our Pennsylvania neighbors.  Go here for more information: http://www.lutheranadvocacypa.org/get-involved/actionnet/.   As an ACTIONET member you will receive:

  • Action alerts with step by step instructions, enabling you to quickly and effectively share your opinions on pending legislation with your State Representative & State Senator
  • Invitations to educational opportunities such as LAMPa workshops at ELCA synodical or regional events OR town hall meetings with elected officials
  • Opportunities and resources to engage your congregations or agencies in letter writing, postcard signing, or telephone advocacy
  • Inspiring stories about the progress we are making together towards a more just Commonwealth
  • Be subscribed to the monthly LAMPa Highlights e-newsletter which offers legislative updates, resource and events information. You may choose to unsubscribe if you only want to receive alerts.

Here are some ways individuals and groups can work to influence public policy:

  • Develop relationships with your Senators and Representative. They especially value people who are genuinely concerned about issues and people.
  • Develop a relationship with the DC staffer and field (for Senators) or district (for Representatives) office staffer who handles your issues. Be able to offer them information or other assistance they need it. If you want to be effective, don’t just take the staffer’s time. A grassroots activist with unique expertise can be extremely valuable to the staffer.
  • Assemble citizen groups to meet with your Senator or Representative regarding your issues. These can be either in the field or district office or the DC office.
  • Write letters to the editor. Praise good Senators and Representatives and point out policies you disagree with. Praise any legislators when they do something you support.
  • Raise your issue at Senators’ and Representatives’ town hall meetings. This helps to educate the elected official and the others present.
  • Write letters in your own words to your Senators and Representative.
  • Call DC or field or district office to express your opinions.

Note: These ways are all important; some will be more effective in certain circumstances – some in others. Remember, as an individual citizen you have the right and responsibility to be politically involved. Work with others to support policies which are important to those in whose behalf you are speaking.

 

How can congregations get involved in advocacy ministry?

Here is a “how to” guide for congregations who would like to start an advocacy ministry:

  1. Pick an issue that your church/synod is already addressing through its social ministry programs.
  2. Form a group to study and discuss the issue, using ELCA social statements, ELCA advocacy materials, newspaper articles, videos, or lectures by guest speakers. Consider inviting a staff member of LAMPa or the ELCA Washington Office, an elected official knowledgeable about the issue, or people affected by the issue.
  3. Join LAMPa’s ACTIONET e-Advocacy network. ACTIONET members receive alerts to let you know when your voice can make a critical difference in issues on the LAMPa Public Policy Agenda. You will also receive “LAMPa Highlights”, a monthly e-newsletter, as well as invitations to events happening in your area.
  4. Form a telephone tree for quick communication when emergency action is needed. E-mail lists have become useful in disseminating information. Know how often your group members read their e-mail to see if this works for time-sensitive alerts.
  5. Draft a model advocacy letter for congregational use. Designate a Sunday when letters can be given as an offering in the offering plate. Be creative. If the letter is on food policy, consider writing them on paper plates.
  6. Educate parishioners about the issue by posting information on bulletin boards and publishing updates in your church newsletter.
  7. Establish a relationship and share resources with LAMPa and the Upper Susquehanna Synod’s World Hunger Task Force.
  8. Find out who else is working on these issues in your community and join with them to form a coalition. Be sure to invite other congregations and people of other faiths to join with you in the struggle for justice.