ELCA bishops to meet with congressional leaders on Capitol Hill

3/31/2014 1:30:00 PM

     CHICAGO (ELCA) – Thirty-two bishops representing 65 synods of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) will meet with congressional leaders on Capitol Hill April 2. The meetings will focus on the ELCA’s commitment to advocate for public policy that creates opportunities to overcome poverty, promote peace and justice, and care for creation. 
     “Our bishops and Lutheran leaders have a powerful voice with an ability to cut through the divisive (partisan) environment that exists in Washington,” said Stacy Martin, ELCA director of advocacy in Washington, D.C. “Advocacy is one of the ways Lutherans put their faith into action. It is an important spiritual practice that keeps our focus on the kind of world God calls us toward.”
     “The regular convening of ELCA bishops in Washington gives us a chance to get up-to-date on those public policy issues about which our church has spoken and to speak as a public church to those issues that affect the lives of all God's people,” said the Rev. H. Julian Gordy, bishop of the ELCA Southeastern Synod and chair of the ELCA Conference of Bishops Immigration Ready Bench – one of six ELCA ready benches.
     Gordy said the ELCA Immigration Ready Bench will encourage members of Congress “to pass reform that meets the criteria outlined by Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services and affirmed in resolutions passed at our Churchwide Assemblies.”
     The 2011 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, in partnership with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, approved resolutions designed to advocate for comprehensive federal immigration reform and support of the DREAM Act -- legislation that would provide a path for citizenship for undocumented immigrant youth. Based in Baltimore, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is one of the nation's leaders in welcoming and advocating for refugees and immigrants working on behalf of the ELCA.
     “It's an honor to remind (Congress) that people of faith care about issues beyond party politics,” said the Rev. James A. Arends, bishop of the ELCA La Crosse Area Synod and a member of the ELCA International Ready Bench. “We seek to remind our elected officials of the common ground we share. No one wants poverty, hunger, conflict or strife. God calls us to the better. It's important that faithful citizens speak out as responsible citizens.”
     The ELCA International Ready Bench will address the Millennium Development Goals, a global effort aimed at ending poverty by 2015. The bishops will ask Congress to support the post-2015 development agenda and work to assure adequate aid especially on behalf of child and maternal health. The Millennium Development Goals were adopted in 2000 by all members of the United Nations, including the United States. In 2006, the ELCA and The Episcopal Church introduced ONE: The Campaign to Make Poverty History. The campaign expressed the churches' unity and commitment in working together to eliminate poverty through achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. The Episcopal Church is one of the ELCA’s six full communion partners.
     “The international commitment that most nations of the world made in the Millennium Development Goals adopted over a decade ago have resulted in greatly improved lives for the world’s poor,” said the Rev. Peter Rogness, bishop of the ELCA Saint Paul Area Synod and chair of the ELCA International Ready Bench. “Much more can and should be done. Our nation can and should be a leader in this work. We know many of our government leaders share this commitment, and we come to add our support.”
     The bishops will also address the topic of minimum wage, asking members of Congress to support an increase in the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, as an essential part of an overall strategy to address poverty in the United States.  
     “Minimum wage legislation is too often written off as another political hot-button issue.   The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America enjoins its members to pray, work and advocate that all might have a sufficient, sustainable livelihood,” said the Rev. Lawrence R. Wohlrabe, bishop of the ELCA Northwestern Minnesota Synod and member of the ELCA Domestic Ready Bench. “We who belong to faith-communities that value care for the poor want this issue to receive fair, thoughtful and compassionate consideration by our members of Congress.”
     Other topics include:
+ Care of creation: Bishops will ask members of Congress to vote against any legislation that would undermine our efforts as a country to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and prevent the worst impacts of climate change. They will also ask members to support the Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to address climate change while ensuring a just and healthy future for children and urge them to vote against any efforts to undermine proposed rules for power plant emissions. The 1993 ELCA Churchwide Assembly adopted the social statement “Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice,” which expresses a call to pursue justice for creation through active participation, solidarity, sufficiency and sustainability, and states the commitments of the ELCA for pursuing wholeness for creation.
+ The Middle East: Bishops will request that members of Congress urge the U.S. Agency for International Development to designate a portion of its bilateral support to the Palestinian National Authority to paying its debt to Augusta Victoria Hospital. The hospital is a program of The Lutheran World Federation, a global communion of 142 churches representing more than 70 million Christians in 79 countries. The ELCA is the communion's only member church from the United States.
     The Rev. Murray Finck, bishop of the ELCA Pacifica Synod and chair of the ELCA Middle East Ready Bench, said the bishops will also advocate for “a continuing voice calling for a just peace for the Palestinian and Israeli people living in the Holy Land, opportunities to articulate the hopes of the people of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America for ‘Peace Not Walls’ in that region, and encouragement and support for all efforts of the United States, as a key member of the international community, to continue to provide urgently needed humanitarian assistance and help bring an end to the conflict in Syria.” 
     The ELCA is working for justice and peace in Palestine and Israel through the Peace Not Walls campaign. 
     “Advocacy work is all about relationships. So we begin with words of thanks, not only for listening to the concerns we share, but for service in office,” said the Rev. Michael L. Burk, bishop of the ELCA Southeastern Iowa Synod and member of the ELCA Domestic Ready Bench. “Lutherans are determined to see government at its best as a gift from God. This includes the people who are elected or appointed to decision-making positions within the government.”

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About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with almost 4 million members in nearly 10,000 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of “God's work. Our hands,” the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.

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