October 2019 Update

by Regina Q. Banks, Director

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.

UN Update: October 2019

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

by 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 75thanniversary. 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.

Golden Rule can have national impact

by ELCA Advocacy

What do you expect to hear in the forthcoming 365 days as we approach the 2020 national election? Do you clench up a bit – anticipating rancor in the airwaves, on screens… not even excluding at coffee shops, dinner tables and perhaps even Fellowship Halls?

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) was among those who helped shape “Golden Rule 2020: A Call for Dignity and Respect in Politics” out of concern about the polarization in our country by emphasizing the applicability of Christian ethical principles to our political discussions. “We believe that we can find guidance through this national dilemma in the teachings of Jesus,” reads a Statement of Support joined by the ELCA and several other Christian denominations and organizations. It continues:

“In particular, we believe that Jesus’ command to “do unto others as you would have the do unto you” should be taken seriously by Christians who engage in political activity. We also believe that if enough people follow this ‘Golden Rule’ principle, it will help generate the respect and civility we so desperately need in our country.’”

“When our tone is automatically uncivil and it’s automatically accusatory, how can we ever hope that we’re actually going to communicate with somebody else if we’ve already belittled and accused them?” said the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, ELCA presiding bishop, in a Religion News Service article (10/31/19) highlighting that civility is not mutually exclusive to speaking out against injustice.

Bishop Eaton drew present applicability in the article from Martin Luther’s explanation of the eighth commandment in the Small Catechism: “We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way.”

On November 3, 2019 and in the year ahead, congregations and individuals are invited to pray for the healing of the divisions in our country and promote the use of the Golden Rule in our own political discussions and election activities in 2020. Resources affiliated with the Golden Rule 2020 movement include a #ReviveCivility pledge from the National Institute for Civil Discourse plus games and activities such as “Media Literacy for High School Students” and an one-on-one discussion guide.

Christians have differing theological and political views. The Golden Rule can give us guidance when we need to come together to solve our common problems.

September 2019 Update

LEGISLATURE ADJOURNS:
September 13 marked the end of the 2019 legislative year. Governor Gavin Newsome has until October 13, 2019 to sign or veto legislation in his possession. LOPP-CA is eagerly awaiting the final disposition of legislation we have been following this session. Please standby for word on all of our legislative priorities.

CLIMATE EMERGENCY SUMMIT:
LOPP-CA had a unique opportunity to engage with faith leaders across the world and spanning numerous traditions at the Climate Emergency Summit hosted by ELCA Advocacy in New York, NY. The summit was an extension of the United Nations General Assembly and provided an opportunity to turn a faith-based lens to the work of climate justice in our world.

HUNGER FELLOW WELCOME:
LOPP-CA is pleased to welcome Ms. Nicole Newell to our office as the 2019-2020 California Hunger Advocacy Fellow. Nicole Newell joins this year’s ELCA Hunger Advocacy Fellows with a background in non-profit work, advocacy and teaching, both domestically and abroad. Her focus on food justice has led her to work in kitchens and on small-scale farms to develop context for sustainable food practices. With a BA in Practicing Theology from St. Olaf College, Nicole has a love for Lutherans and served with Lutheran Volunteer Corps in Washington, DC from 2015-2016. She grew up in Des Moines, IA but was born in Sacramento. Nicole is eager to bring her passion for the intersections of faith and justice to effect policy-level change in California. Please look for ways to invite Nicole into your policy ministries.

SYNODICAL AND CONGREGATION VISIT THANK YOUS:
A sincere “Thank You” goes out to the pastors and members of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran in Simi Valley for their warm welcome this month. This congregation made a special effort to include Advocacy in their “Gods Work. Our Hands.” Day of Service observance, and it was truly special. Please consider adding an advocacy component to this and other special occasions in your ministry.

Similarly, Sierra Pacific Women of the ELCA offered a warm and sisterly welcome to their annual retreat September 18-20 at the beautiful Bishop’s Ranch retreat center in Healdsburg, CA. The majestic scenery was a great backdrop for worship, work and rejuvenation. Congratulations to the new board of SPWELCA, and we at LOPP-CA look forward to working together closely.

National Office: September 2019

ELCA Advocacy office in Washington, D.C.

from Rev. Amy E. Reumann, director

PROPOSED SNAP RULE CHANGE | AUGUSTA VICTORIA HOSPITAL | INTERFAITH CLIMATE CONSULTATION | YOUNG ADULT HILL VISITS

THIRD PROPOSED RULE CHANGE TO SNAP BENEFITS ANNOUNCED:  On Oct. 1, the United States Department of Agriculture proposed another rule that would cut SNAP benefits, this time by a total of $4.5 billion over five years. The cut would result from changes in how states take households’ utility costs into account in SNAP benefits determination. ELCA Advocacy opposes this new proposed rule.

Lutheran advocates have already submitted public comments pertaining to previously proposed changes. In the period through April 2, ELCA Advocacy network participants opposed time limits on food benefits. In the period through Sept. 23, participants opposed categorical eligibility elimination for SNAP benefit determination. Additional opportunity for response by the ELCA Advocacy network is in development.

AUGUSTA VICTORIA HOSPITAL:  Since September 2018, congressionally allocated U.S. aid has been redirected from hospitals in East Jerusalem to other projects. Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH) and the other members of the East Jerusalem Hospitals network are critical to the region’s health care and well-being. ELCA Peace Not Walls asks advocates to urge lawmakers to reverse this unilateral policy decision.

AVH is owned and operated by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and several other member churches of the LWF. Without international assistance, Augusta Victoria and other hospitals in East Jerusalem face cuts to services. AVH is unable to make minimum payments to pharmaceutical suppliers of cancer medication and is currently running out of vital medication to treat its patients. Learn more from PNW.

ROBUST AND INSPIRATIONAL INTERFAITH CLIMATE CONSULTATION:  Organized by the ELCA and planning partners, “Climate Emergency: Faith-based Organizations Raising Ambition — Leaving No One Behind” drew representatives from more than 45 groups, including World Council of Churches, Islamic Relief, AME Zion Church, and the Buddhist and Catholic faiths. The consultation, held Sept. 24, amplified the momentum of the UN Climate Change Summit and youth-led actions around the world.

The consultation featured inspirational opening and closing prayers, robust discussions and a passionate report from two student activists who were instrumental in the massive youth mobilizations in New York and around the world on September 20. The consultation is preparing an action plan that reflects the discussions held.

YOUNG-ADULT FAITH LEADERS MAKE HILL VISITS:  An advocacy day for young-adult faith leaders was co-hosted by ELCA Advocacy, Bread for the World, Church World Service and other ecumenical partners in the last week of September. The participants, including ELCA young adults, met with their members of Congress to urging support of foreign assistance development and humanitarian funding.

Lutheran seminary student Wylie Cook said of the event, “It was absolutely humbling to work with fellow young people of faith who came together and sought bipartisan support advocating for foreign assistance funding, which assists the most vulnerable and marginalized around the world. Our common faith values coalesced into a formidable force and illuminated God’s intending of abundant life for all, ‘on earth, as it is in heaven.’”

LOPP-CA Welcomes Nicole Newell As Our Hunger Fellow!

Nicole Newell joins this year’s ELCA Hunger Advocacy Fellows with a background in accompaniment, advocacy and teaching, both at home and abroad. She brings a background in food justice, having worked in kitchens and on small-scale farms to develop context for sustainable food practices. With a BA in Practicing Theology from St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, Nicole has a love for Lutherans and served with Lutheran Volunteer Corps in Washington, DC from 2015-2016. She grew up in Des Moines, IA. Nicole is eager to bring her passion for the intersections of faith and justice to effect policy-level change in California.

UN Update: September 2019

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

from Dennis Frado, director 

“TIME FOR HARD CHOICES” REPORT LAUNCH: On September 6, 2019, the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation and the Multi-Partner Trust Fund Office launched a report titled “Financing the UN Development System: Time For Hard Choices.” Split into two sections, part one provides UN funding data on revenue and expenditure, while part two delves into the financial complexities of the 2030 Agenda, told from the perspective of more than 30 authors within and outside the UN system. Read the full report here.

30TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD: UNICEF installed a display of 3,758 backpacks at the UN Headquarters, representing the ”senseless loss of a young life to conflict,” and a “reminder to world leaders of the stakes,” in the lead up to the 30th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child on November 20. The 2019 Annual Report of the Secretary General on children and armed conflict states, “more than 12,000 children were killed or maimed in conflict zones last year, the highest number since the UN started monitoring and reporting this grave violation.”

“WOMEN IN POWER” CALL TO ACTION: H.E. Mrs. Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, the 73rdPresident of the General Assembly, led the final informal high-level event in her “Women in Power” series. The call to action was titled “Voices for Change and Inclusion: Joining Forces and Redoubling Efforts to Achieve Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment for All,” influenced by Espinosa Garcés’ eight priorities to advance female leadership. During opening remarks, Ms. Susan Malcorra stated, “We are deeply convinced that for peace to be achieved and sustained, the full participation and potential of women must be unleashed.” View the session here. This event is in line with the call for action to accelerate full implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, as we head towards its 25th Anniversary in 2020. Read more here.

ANNUAL PRAYER FOR PEACE: In the lead up to the United Nations International Day for Peace (21 September) and the general debate during the 74th Session of the General Assembly, the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations hosted its 33rd Annual Prayer for Peace service. Archbishop Bernardito Auza led three prayers by Pope Francis, UN Secretary-General António Guterres spoke of the value of such a service, and His Excellency Tijjani Muhammad-Bande of Nigeria, President of the 74th session of the General Assembly, expressed how ”it is important to seek the help of God in the work of the United Nations.” 

LOWC FOR CLIMATE JUSTICE: On Friday, September 20, 2019, LOWC staff joined an estimated 60,000+ students, adults and activists in the Climate Strike for climate action in New York. Greta Thunberg delivered a speech during the event in New York stating, “we are doing this to wake leaders up… We are a wave of change, together and united we are unstoppable .” It is estimated that more than 1 million people participated in climate strikes globally across 125 countries on this day.

The UN Youth Climate Summit and SDG Action Zone took place the following day (September 21) at the United Nations Headquarters where Greta Thunberg criticized world leaders for their lack of urgency, during the opening session. Young entrepreneurs from around the world were given the opportunity to take the mic and discuss solutions.

On September 22, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres convened the Climate Action Summit 2019, where leaders were urged to showcase “concrete, realistic plans to enhance their nationally determined contributions by 2020, in line with reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 45% over the next decade, and to net zero emissions by 2050.” During the event (view here), members of governments, the private sector, civil society and other international organizations came together to develop six action portfolios to curb global greenhouse gas emissions and promote global action.

74TH GENERAL ASSEMBLY CONVENES: The 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA74) began on 17 September with the general debate taking place 24 – 30 September under the new GA President, His Excellency Tijjani Muhammad-Bande of Nigeria. To view what each country had to say during the General Debate, click here. Many other high-level events were held, such as on Universal Health Coverage, the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, financing for development, and the review of progress made in addressing priorities of small island developing states (SIDS) also took place during this time. 

August 2019 Update

LEGISLATURE BACK IN SESSION:
Fiscal committees had until August 30 to hear and pass the remaining fiscal bills to the floors of the respective houses. The remaining two weeks of session, until September 13, are reserved for floor sessions. This first year of a two-year session adjourns at midnight on Friday, September 13, 2019. Please look out for time-sensitive alerts about ways to support our advocacy as measures move from the floor of the legislature to the governor’s desk for signature.

LOBBY DAY PARTICIPATION:
LOPP-CA has had an exciting month supporting our ministry partners and advocacy allies in their lobby days and advocacy actions. Just a couple of highlights:

On Wednesday, August 21st we participated in Building The California Dream Alliance (BCDA) lobby day. BCDA unites more than 60 organizations in a broad progressive coalition in an ambitious agenda to uplift families and expand opportunities for all Californians. We worked on stronger protections for striking and locked out workers, more robust safeguards for student borrowers, greater securities for our undocumented siblings and much more. Go to http://cadreambuilder.org to find out more about BCDA and our participation.

California Interfaith Power and Light (CIPL) envisions a stable climate where humans live in right and just relationship, interconnected with a healthy, thriving, natural world. They work toward this goal through education, advocacy, direct action and conservation. Their lobby day was Wednesday, August 28th and together we advocated for “Complete Streets” (safe use of our community streets for walkers, bikers, public transportation, and private vehicles), Smog Checks for Big Rigs, the protection of our state lands from would-be fossil fuel extractors, and plastics use abatement. LOPP-CA would be glad to help you register to become an IPL congregation.

PARTNERSHIP WITH FARMING HOPE:
LOPP-CA is excited to announce collaboration with Farming Hope, a non-profit community organization providing transitional employment and training in the culinary industry to unhoused and low-income people in our community. They are a recipient of an ELCA World Hunger grant and Executive Director Jamie Stark was well received at the hunger leaders gathering this summer in Minneapolis, Minn. Initial discussions were had over brunch on August 24th with representatives of Lutheran Social Services of Northern California, ELCA World Hunger and the office of Bishop Mark Holmerud, ELCA Sierra Pacific Synod. To find out more about Farming Hope visit them at https://farminghope.org and have a bite at their commercial kitchen site Manny’s at 3092 16th Street in San Francisco.

MISSION SUPPORT LETTER:
Be on the lookout for a letter going to congregations asking for additional mission support. The work we do here at LOPP-CA is dependent upon you and your congregation’s generosity. Please consider blessing our ministry with an additional gift today. Instructions can be found in the mail, or at our website: lutheranpublicpolicyca.org.

CONGREGATION VISIT THANK YOU: 
A sincere thank you goes out to congregations that have welcomed LOPP-CA into their Sunday worship experiences recently. They were truly blessed times in the Lord, and we look forward to coming back soon. Specifically, Faith Lutheran Church in Marysville, Calif.

August 2019 Update

SUMMER RECESS:
The Legislature for the state of California is in Summer Recess and slated to return August 12. Fiscal Committees will have roughly 3 weeks, until August 30, to hear and pass the remaining fiscal bills to the floors of the respective houses. The remaining two weeks of session, until September 13, is reserved for floor sessions. This first year of a two-year session adjourns at Midnight on Friday, September 13, 2019.

SUMMER LEGISLATIVE VISITS:
Summer is an excellent time to meet with federal, state and local policy officials while they are back home in their districts. LOPP-CA would like to highlight just such an opportunity taken. Lutheran Church of the Master in Sacramento, CA hosted a beautiful community meeting with elected officials on the Sacramento City Council and command representatives from the Sacramento City Police Department and local social service agencies to address the homelessness issue in their South Land Park community. Pr. Linda Boston and Councilman Steve Hansen did a great job of engaging the nearly 100 participants who came out on a hot Wednesday evening on July 24th. It is a beginning to their local advocacy and LOPP-CA has vowed to walk with them. Is your congregation interested in beginning an advocacy project? Contact us and we would be proud to walk with you.

HUNGER LEADERS’ GATHERING 2019:
LOPP-CA participated with ministries across the country (and touching locations across the globe) in the Hunger Leaders’ Gathering hosted by Central Lutheran Church of Minneapolis, Minnesota July 18-21. The Hunger Leaders’ Gathering is a conference of ELCA World Hunger Grant recipients. ELCA World Hunger Grants amount to LOPP-CA’s single largest funding source and a source of ministry support and guidance. It was a blessing to get together with fellow recipients and World Hunger staff to share best practices and network. Standby for word on new initiatives from California!

MISSION SUPPORT LETTER:
Be on the lookout for a letter going to congregations asking for additional mission support. The work we do here at LOPP-CA is dependent upon you and your congregation’s generosity. Please consider blessing our ministry with an additional gift today. Instructions can be found in the mail, or at our website: www.lutheranpublicpolicyca.org

CONGREGATION VISIT THANK YOUS:
A sincere thank you goes out to congregations that have welcomed LOPP-CA into their Sunday worship experiences recently. They were truly blessed times in the Lord, and we look forward to coming back soon. Specifically, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church (Fairfield) Pr. Karen Stetins Sr. Pastor, Peace Lutheran Church (Grass Valley) Rev. Bill Wong Interim Pastor and Lutheran Church of the Master (Sacramento) Pr. Linda Boston Sr. Pastor.

Responding to Our Sorrow With Action

Our communities are bracing for nationwide raids by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to begin on Sunday. Planned raids are reported to focus on 10 major cities where the Department of Justice has sped up immigration cases for thousands of recent arrivals.

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.”

A compilation of resources, updated today from an original posting on June 28, can be found in “Responding to our sorrow with action” on the ELCA Advocacy blog. At the meeting place of our knowledge and values, Lutherans have acted and can continue to respond.