The 2019 ELCA Advocacy Convening was held April 29–May 1 in Washington, D.C., gathering bishops and community leaders around the theme “Prepared to Care: Our Advocacy in Light of Disasters Intensified by Climate Change.” In her welcome letter to participants, Amy Reumann, ELCA Advocacy director, said this topic requires urgent action.
“The earth is groaning as our warming climate intensifies drought, floods, wildfires and sea level rise, each in turn accelerating hunger, conflict, migration and the well-being of every inhabitant of our planet,” she said. “Faith community leadership is required in the small window of time our world has to pull back from the worst climate impacts. Solving the climate crisis requires us to reimagine our relationships to creation and one another.”
ELCA members from across the country attended the Convening to learn more about what the church is doing to change public policy through the lens of the gospel. Participants heard from speakers about climate policy, disaster readiness and disaster response; received advocacy training; and visited elected officials on Capitol Hill to call for action. The goal is to make participants feel confident to be advocates for community issues in their local governments.
“Time and again participants leave D.C. with a deepened respect for policymakers and the process, and for their own valued role as a constituent with faith-informed convictions,” said Karen Krueger, ELCA program director for advocacy engagement. “Back home, whether getting a stoplight on a street corner or putting a spotlight on a state or national issue, those who have been to a Convening have sharpened tools and confidence.”
“Time and again participants leave D.C. with a deepened respect for policymakers and the process, and for their own valued role as a constituent with faith-informed convictions.”
Attendees asked their lawmakers for a holistic disaster-response strategy, including funding immediate needs of affected communities, supporting long-term recovery, addressing root causes of climate change, and providing transition to renewable energy while ensuring equitability and sustainability. The ELCA’s long-standing work in disaster response and anti-poverty projects through Lutheran Disaster Response and ELCA World Hunger provided a foundation for members making these calls for action.
“We are advocates speaking for issues, and for brothers and sisters, from faith grounding and lived experience,” said Krueger, adding that elected officials often value meeting with faith communities because they don’t represent a party or special interest.
Sawyer Vanden Heuvel, a community leader from the South Dakota Synod, was grateful for the opportunity to attend the Convening and thinks people of faith can offer a unique perspective when meeting with elected leaders. “As a Lutheran and a person of faith, we are called to speak out on behalf of our neighbor,” he said. “I truly believe that advocacy work is living out our call to share the gospel in the public arena.”