Eaton issues World Refugee Day message

On June 20, ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton issued a message in observance of World Refugee Day. “We are now facing the largest global refugee crisis, with over 65 million people forcibly displaced from their countries,” Eaton said in the message. “World Refugee Day offers an opportunity for us to stand in solidarity with people who have been forced to leave their homes. Today and every day we pray for peace for all the children of God created in God’s image.”

Eaton speaks on anti-Muslim behavior

In a letter released June 9 by Shoulder to Shoulder, a coalition of religious denominations and organizations committed to standing with American Muslims, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton joined other faith leaders in speaking out against anti-Muslim behavior. The letter was written largely in response to rallies in 21 cities organized by ACT for America, a grass-roots anti-Muslim group, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. “We give thanks that our faith calls us to love one another and resist the evil of hate,” the letter said.

South Sudanese leaders hold peace summit

In April, 40 ELCA lay and pastoral leaders from South Sudanese congregations met in Chicago for a peace summit to address the conflict in South Sudan. Discussions also centered around encouraging youth and young adults, and the Lutheran center and clinic that is under construction in Juba, South Sudan. In June a leadership team from the group co-signed a statement of peace and reconciliation that included affirmations on which consensus was reached.

AMMPARO advocacy strategy underway

The ELCA AMMPARO (Accompanying Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation and Opportunities) team held its first advocacy consultation May 9-11 in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, with area churches and organizations that serve migrant children and families from Central America. Participants developed joint principles that will frame how the ELCA determines its priorities and envisioned how the church will continue to work with children and families as policies evolve. “The consultation strengthened our relationship with churches and partners that work every day to address [these] issues,” said Alaide Vilchis Ibarra, migration policy program director.

Thuringia dignitaries meet with ELCA staff

In May, Bodo Ramelow, minister president of the German state of Thuringia, and other dignitaries visited the ELCA churchwide offices. Ramelow, traveling for events related to the Reformation’s 500th anniversary, spoke to ELCA staff about the large number of “unchurched” in Germany and, with this in mind, said the message of the Reformation is meant for an international audience as well as for the people of Germany. The group also met with AMMPARO (Accompanying Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation and Opportunities) staff to discuss the program

Lutherans provide lifesaving treatment

In South Sudan, where the United Nations has declared the world’s first famine since 2011, Lutheran organizations are serving the most vulnerable. Lutheran World Relief is working with IMA World Heath to establish medical centers that will treat young children at risk of starvation. The Lutheran clinic in Juba, set to be completed in November, is being constructed by the ELCA and its local partners as part of its ongoing work in the country. The center will serve as home to the Evangelical Lutheran Church Africa Mission in South Sudan.

Southern Baptists condemn white supremacy

On June 14 members of the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a statement denouncing “alt-right white supremacy” at its annual meeting, calling it “antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ.” The move was unusual because it was a shift from the previous day, when the convention’s Resolutions Committee declined to bring to vote a proposed resolution condemning the movement. “[W]e denounce and repudiate white supremacy and every form of racial and ethnic hatred as a scheme of the devil,” according to the statement.

First Methodist transgender deacon

M Barclay was commissioned June 4 by the Northern Illinois Conference as the first nonbinary deacon in the United Methodist Church. The denomination has been divided regarding matters relating to sexuality and gender identity, but bishops have ordained gay and transgender clergy, and clergy have officiated same-sex marriages. Sally Dyck, conference bishop, said everyone commissioned has “been on some kind of journey that has brought them to new places of faith, life and relationships.”

Van rams worshipers leaving London mosque

A van plowed into worshipers near a London mosque on June 19, injuring 10 people, two of them seriously, in what Theresa May, prime minister of the United Kingdom, said was a “sickening” terrorist attack on Muslims. The vehicle swerved into people mainly from North and West Africa shortly after midnight as they left prayers at the Muslim Welfare House and the nearby Finsbury Park Mosque in north London, one of the biggest in Britain.

Court rules in favor of Advocate Health Care

On June 5, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that Advocate Health Care and two other religious-affiliated hospital systems are exempt from a federal law designed to protect employee pensions. The Employee Retirement Income Security Act requires that pension plans be insured and sufficiently funded. Advocate had been fighting the law, saying its pension plan for its 35,00 employees is a “church plan.” The employees who brought the lawsuit argued that the exemption was never supposed to apply to a “giant business” like Advocate. In addition to the ELCA, Advocate Health Care is affiliated with the United Church of Christ.

Court rules for church in “playground” case

The Supreme Court ruled June 26 for a Missouri church that claimed religious discrimination after it was refused state funds to improve its playground. Ruling 7-2, the court determined that the state had treated Trinity Lutheran in Columbia (a Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod congregation) unfairly under the First Amendment’s free exercise clause. The state denied the church “an otherwise available public benefit on account of its religious status,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion.

ELCA Advocacy news

“For such a time as this” we pray, fast and act together

In May, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton and Michael Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, issued a joint invitation to a period of prayer, fasting and advocacy.

“God’s intention is the flourishing of all people, and we are called to participate in God’s loving purpose by standing with our neighbors who struggle with poverty and hunger,” they wrote.

Eaton extended this call out of concern regarding proposals in Congress to deeply cut federal programs that are vital to people struggling with poverty.

Throughout the year, ELCA Advocacy and the Episcopal Public Policy Network will equip Christians to help support their church leaders’ collective call to #PrayFastAct by focusing attention on a different area of concern each month. Issues being highlighted relate to food, water, racial justice, immigration and the environ­ment, among others.

On the 21st of every month, through the close of the 115th Congress, Eaton and ELCA Advocacy are encouraging Lutherans to pray and fast. Why the 21st? This is when 90 percent of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits run out for families, making the remainder of the month a hungry time. An advocacy alert will also be sent on this day, asking participants to speak their faith by contacting their members of Congress.

To learn more about this action, watch a video message from Eaton.

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