ELCA Responds To Government Shutdown

In the wake of the current impasse that has caused a shutdown of the federal government, ELCA Advocacy calls on Congress and Administration to do their jobs by passing and enacting legislation that resolves critical issues. Failing to fund our U.S. government, re-authorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and find a permanent solution for Dreamers who are losing protection affects the lives of Americans in every community across this land.

Political posturing by elected leaders on both sides of the aisle at the expense of the lives of real people is inexcusable. We call on our nation’s lawmakers to find a way forward on these important issues that care for the health of children, grant young Dreamers a pathway to citizenship and keep the federal government open and funded to perform its vital functions.

As Lutherans, we believe that “God works through the family, education, the economy, the state, and other structures necessary for life in the present age. God institutes governing authorities, for example, to serve the good of society. This church respects the God-given integrity and tasks of governing authorities and other worldly structures, while holding them accountable to God” (ELCA Social Statement, The Church in Society: A Lutheran Perspective).

We urge our elected representatives to come together to pass legislation that serves all our communities. We must leave no one behind.


ELCA Bishop Eaton Responds To Alleged Trump Comments

Editor’s Note: On Friday, Jan. 12, ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton issued the following statement in response to President Donald Trump’s alleged comments regarding immigrants from certain nations the previous day:

I am very disappointed and disturbed by the remarks that President Donald Trump is reported to have said yesterday – and confirmed by others who were present – in the context of a discussion about immigration.

Regardless of the context, references of that kind have no place in our civil discourse and, if true, reflect racist attitudes unbecoming any of us, but especially a president of the United States.

Instead, we should be fostering a world where each of us sees every person – regardless of race, origin, ethnicity, gender or economic status – in the image of God and, therefore, worthy of dignity and respect. Our church has relationships and partnerships with Christians and others on six continents. These are our sisters and brothers. We strive to accompany them and they us, across boundaries and cognizant of our diversity, yet all seeking the common good. In working for a healed, reconciled and just world, we all should faithfully strive to participate in God’s reconciling work, which prioritizes disenfranchised, vulnerable and displaced people in our communities and the world, bearing witness – each of us – to the love of God in Jesus Christ.

“We have before us the glorious opportunity to inject a new dimension of love into the veins of our civilization” —Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

God’s peace,

Elizabeth A. Eaton
ELCA Presiding Bishop

LEAN Names New Advocate

By Sheila Freed

Lutheran Engagement and Advocacy in Nevada is pleased to announce it has retained a new Advocate.  William (Bill) Ledford will be LEAN’s voice at the Legislature in 2019 as well as the organization’s representative in congregations and the larger church.

Ledford comes from a not-Lutheran background, and therefore provides a fresh perspective on our issues and activities. He is presently a Master of Divinity student at Multnomah University, and did his undergraduate work at Simpson University in Redding, California. Until recently he was the Youth Pastor at Valley View Christian Fellowship in Reno. Before that he was Youth Pastor at Discovery Fellowship Baptist Church, and while an undergraduate he led youth activities at faith organizations in the Redding area.

Ledford is articulate and thoughtful, and brings to the job an ability to form relationships.  This skill is central to advocacy.  In reviewing his qualifications, the LEAN board asked him to read the ELCA Social Statements, since all LEAN’s advocacy springs from them.  His responses overcame any concerns about his conservative evangelical roots.  Here are some excerpts from that letter:

“It is not an easy time being a more liberal “socially minded” Christian in the cliché Evangelical environment that I have been in for years.  . . . . I have found it impossible to divorce my devotion to the Gospel with my desire to defend the oppressed, the marginalized, and the environment.  . . . . While I have not spent any time with a Lutheran church, I have familiarized myself with the Social Statements and find myself refreshed in my agreements with almost all of them. . . . . These issues [social justice] are my life, my faith, my passion.  . . . . And it would be my absolute joy to prove this to the organization and, in so doing, make a difference for the Gospel in my state.”    

Ledford starts work with LEAN on December first.  Two previous Advocates and continuing Board members, Allan Smith and Pr. Mike Patterson, will train him and introduce him to church officials at all levels.  In the coming year will find Bill will reach out to congregations throughout Nevada while parishioners share with him their hopes and concerns for the 2019 Legislative Session.

To read the ELCA Social Statements visit https://www.elca.org/Faith/Faith-and-Society/Social-Statements.


God’s Work, Luther’s Hands

By Sheila Freed

Lutherans frequently refer to our wonderful  tradition of “speaking out in the public square,” of participating in public discourse. We who do advocacy have proudly claimed Martin Luther’s practice of “speaking truth to power,” of holding those in authority accountable to a moral standard. I recently learned something new about Martin Luther courtesy of Living Lutheran magazine.

In 1522, Luther joined with others to establish the Wittenberg Common Chest.  The Common Chest was a joint effort of church and state to provide financial support to the poor, interest-free loans or refinancing of high-interest loans, education or vocational training for children, and job training for adults. The Chest later provided funding for a town physician and paid medical costs of the poor. Wow! This sounds like the forerunner of Lutheran Social Services!

Many of us have read of Luther’s care for those around him, and the tradition of service to neighbor is with us today. The Common Chest shows that Luther did not view government as the enemy. Luther’s approach was not just to criticize those in authority, or even tell them what they “should” do.  Rather, he got together with them to solve problems.

Lutheran Engagement and Advocacy in Nevada tries to take the same “both-and” approach. We don’t just hang around the Legislature firing off morally indignant diatribes. We work for engagement on the part of parishioners, by doing education, since knowledge of the issues leads to better policy decisions. We hope that knowledge of the issues will also lead to involvement by parishioners, both in advocacy and service.   At the Legislature, LEAN likewise works toward engagement with elected officials. Our “citizen legislators” are not always very informed on issues. We at LEAN try to offset the effect of paid lobbyists to educate legislators in balanced, factual ways. But we also provide that moral perspective. Luther believed every citizen should help public officials to succeed in their vocation.  For LEAN, this can mean providing “political cover” to legislators who face pressure to act on behalf of special interests, rather than the common good. Committee testimony from someone in a clerical collar can be a powerful thing.

The Legislature will not convene again until February 2019. We don’t know what the important issues will be at that time, but some perennials are sure to be back: Taxes, education funding, criminal justice. The public good is a work in progress, so things change and we need to revisit the same topics repeatedly. At least one bill draft request has reportedly been submitted in response to the shooting in Las Vegas.  Between now and the next legislative session, LEAN hopes to hear from parishioners. We want to know what concerns you, what insights you have to share, and what solutions you’d like to see. Let’s follow Luther’s example and focus on engagement.

Contact LEAN or email me at scf1@charter.net.


Nevada Lutherans, Catholics Remember The Reformation

The year 2017 marks 500 years since Martin Luther famously nailed his “95 Theses” to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany.  Although he did not intend to start a movement, his action is recognized as the start of the protestant Reformation. Over the past 50 years, Catholics and Lutherans have been working to overcome centuries of division.

To recognize the progress made and to look toward a collaborative future, a Commemoration was held on Oct. 9 at St. Therese Little Flower Church in Reno. Rev. Jorge Herrera and Rev. Michael Patterson presided and the sermon was delivered jointly by the Most Reverend Bishop Randolph R. Calvo and Rev. Kathryn Gulbranson while other clergy of both denominations, and a combined choir from local parishes also attended.

In 2013 Catholics and Lutherans issued a joint statement titled, “From Conflict to Communion,” which recognized that the beliefs that unite are far greater than the differences. Included in the joint statement are five “Imperatives,” or goals, for which each member of both denominations should strive. One is “Catholics and Lutherans should witness together to witness to the mercy of God in proclamation and service to the world.” Both denominations recognize that service to the world includes caring for those in need in our own community.  Offerings received at this joint commemoration will be divided between Catholic Charities and Faith Lutheran Food Pantry, for the benefit of hungry people in this area.

Lutheran Engagement and Advocacy in Nevada exists to bring to public attention the needs of disadvantaged people.  LEAN advocates at the Nevada Legislature to reduce barriers that keep people in poverty. However LEAN also works in the community, and to that end, will donate $1,000 to the offering for the commemoration, to benefit Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada. LEAN will also donate $1,000 to Lutheran Social Services of Nevada, to reflect LEAN’s commitment to address hunger and poverty in southern Nevada, the most populous part of our state.

Lutheran Social Services began serving the Southern Nevada community in 1985 with a simple clothes closet and food pantry.  The agency has since become a leader in providing healthy, nutritious food in innovative ways.  It is led by Executive Director Armena Mnatsakanyan.

In 2012, LSSN pioneered the Open Air Market to provide fresh produce and other nutritious food to those living in “food deserts.”  In 2014, LSSN launched a Senior Meal Program.  In 2016, LSSN received the Agency of the Year award from Three Square, the umbrella food bank in Southern Nevada. The agency was recognized for starting DigiMart, the first online digital food pantry in the west. LSSN has been recognized by the Governor and Lt. Governor of Nevada for outstanding community service.

Additional information about Catholic Charities is at www.ccsnn.org. Additional information about Lutheran Social Services of Nevada is at www.lssnnv.org.