We Are Church Together for the Sake of the World – ELCA Advocacy with the Lutheran Office of Public Policy – California

We Are Church Together for the Sake of the World – ELCA Advocacy with the Lutheran Office of Public Policy – California

As I write this final Second Mile column before retirement at the end of the year, the Lutheran Office of Public Policy – California (LOPP) is in the midst of a busy legislative and ballot proposition season. By the time this is read, we will know the fate of Prop. 68, the parks and water bond, a measure with strong social equity and care for creation values that was the top primary priority for the LOPP Policy Council, supported by LOPP as it was moving through the Legislature.  We have learned the fate of bills whose deadline to pass the house of origin was June 1, including Senate passage of a bill to tackle deep childhood poverty by raising the CalWORKS/Temporary Assistance to Needy Families support to 50% of the poverty line.  The values embodied in the state budget are coming into sharper focus. We will soon know what we will vote on in November – housing (the bond measure is our #1 priority), taxes, rent control, criminal justice, and on what else will we be Lutheran legislators for a day?  Please plan now to be agents of voter education and moral deliberation, and to share your views and experience with our Policy Council as we discern any recommendations.

Are these moments, or movements?   Whatever the issue – hunger, poverty, disparities, discrimination, and exclusion, violence, or degradation of creation, there are moments and episodes of harm, pain, and lament that can motivate movement toward health, well-being, inclusion, equity, and harmony. Theologian Karl Barth spoke of Christians approaching the world with the newspaper in one hand, and the Bible in the other.  On Sunday before the closing session of Synod Assembly, I read the Sacramento Bee moments before a small group walk in Capitol Park, where we stopped at memorials (Law Enforcement – with a Lutheran CHP officer – a memorial that is the powerful legacy of the vision of Albert Le Bas, father-in-law of Seminarian Fran Le Bas; Vietnam – seeing the name of Charles Vesey, brother of Synod Hunger Team leader Edie Lott, conversing later at the hotel with a long-time Lutheran friend who was an electronic warfare officer on a B-52 over Vietnam).

There on the Bee’sfront page was a feature on the proposed water feeto support safe and accessible water in disadvantaged communities, a proposal we have supported for a number of months, that recalled the moment when I introduced Bishop Medardo Gomez and Abelina to the legislative advocate for the California Environmental Justice Alliance in a Capitol hallway three days earlier (leaving me behind as the conversation proceeded in Spanish!).  The top front of the Forum section was an opinion editorial, supporting the water fee, by Karen Ross, a member of St. John’s Lutheran who serves as California Secretary of Food and Agriculture. Seeing Karen’s name recalled moments of sharing her busy schedule with Lutherans, including the visit of Rwandan youth to Sacramento, the ELCA World Hunger Ethics of Eating Conference, and ELCA public policy advocacy staff.  The top front theLocalsection quoted prominent UC Davis fisheries biologist Peter Moyle on the plight of the Delta smelt, recalling moments when he joined his wife Marilyn, a member of Lutheran Church of the Incarnation in Davis, on a tour organized by LOPP of conventional and organic farms owned by members of Faith Lutheran, Chico.

Support for the LOPP director’s position, part of the ELCA Advocacystaff in the ELCA’s Domestic Mission Unit, is provided by ELCA World Hunger. Please give generously to that remarkable movement with a global reach.  Direct LOPP income for operations, from synods and some congregations and individuals, has not kept pace with expenses recently, as costs have risen, and overall support from the three synods in California has been static – we need your help!

While the busy legislative session runs through August, we are climbing of mountain of ballot measures peaking in November, and helping with Lutheran engagement in the Global Climate Action Summit in SF in September, 2018 is also a time of planning for a new director, new energy, and new vision for ELCA advocacy ministry in California. My experience fuels a deep conviction that our engagement makes a difference, and a keen awareness that we can do better, and have so much more potential that you all and the new director can work on as church together, witnessing boldly to God’s love and justice for all, for the sake of our common life together in Central and Northern California. We may not be a “Movement,” but freed in God’s grace as disciples of a compassionate Redeemer, we are part of movements toward better public policy in areas to which our rich and developing body of ELCA Social Statements commits us. Please help us pass the torch so that financial anxiety is alleviated, and LOPP can realize some of the potential for growth in congregational outreach, leadership development, public voice, and hospitality with those we accompany in Sacramento. And please find us on the web, on Facebook, @loppcalifornia, and director@loppca.org, 916-447-6666.

Thanks for everything, and God’s blessings and peace,
-Mark Carlson, Director

Bishop Medardo Gomez and Abelina greet Sacramento City Councilmember Eric Guerra, an immigrant from Mexico, who spoke during the LOPP Synod Assembly breakfast at St. John’s Lutheran Church.