A conversation with John Johnson, ELCA Program Director for Domestic Policy, yielded steps forward for GVP.

John shared the story of Episcopal Bishops who have organized a united witness for GVP. Inspiring! The ELCA bishops can learn from our Episcopal friends. The differing faith communities passed Called to Common MIssion in the early 1990s which opened the door for a concentrated effort. Will the ELCA move towards this commitment? The possibility exists.

John shared the ELCA design for a Farm Bill 2023 Reauthorization Strategy as a model for GVP. He cited the ELCA Mission which reads in part: “We are called as Lutherans to ‘advocate an earthly peace that builds on freedom and responsibility, encourages compassion, and embraces justice . . . .'” To that end, there is a three step focus: 1) DATA/REALITY. What are the facts of the situation? Be truthful; 2) FAITH-SCRIPTURE: What are faith positions pertinent to the focus? What does scripture invoke? What are the positions of the ELCA?; 3) ACTION: What are the action steps? Towards these ends, it is vital to engage ELCA Synod Bishops and ELCA networks including Action Alerts, Social Media, Blogs, Bishop Eaton, ELCA members of Congress and secular practitioners of common commitment. It is vital to write personal letters, coalition letters with other common cause organizations, letters to the editor, attending and sponsoring vigils and rallies. Go public! John spoke of organizing a Coalition of Coalitions, of groups with common ground. “This moves bills!” Congregations ought to invite candidates of both parties/sides. John spoke of the difference between politics and policy. We talked of how to address the divide between urban and rural approaches to GVP. John commented: “There is a difference in gunshots from a rifle and an AR-15. Talk to emergency room personnel. Look at the pictures.”

Reflecting on John’s insights stirs the following: 1) ENGAGE has contacts with other GVP organizations with whom we share common ground. We can and ought to work more closely together; 2) Because ENGAGE has two members on the Protect Minnesota-Interfaith Alliance for Gun Safety, and because the IFA is moving towards pushing out the Tool Kit to Minnesota faith communities, and the Minnesota Council of Churches may work with us in this effort, we are positioned to make an energetic and impactful outreach to move legislation; 3) Go public with our constituents about differentiating between POLITICS and POLICY. There is an uncomfortable intermingling; 4) There needs to be an effort led by Bishop Eaton to unite all ELCA Bishops in a common GVP effort, ala the Episcopal Bishops; 5) All ELCA Synods need a GVP committee/task force to move GVP in their synods; 6) Lutheran Advocacy needs to hire a staff person to design and coordinate GVP efforts churchwide. The ELCA has the theological foundation, now we need the muscle!

The upside of our conversation is there is much we can do and strategies exist for action. It is heartening that the ELCA is committed to GVP through Lutheran Advocacy and its Witness in Society focus. ENGAGE can find support and contribute to moving GVP forward. Let’s do it!

Blessings and Peace!

Ron Letnes (Rev. Dr.)