Category Archives: National/Global Advocacy

Heidi Ann Michelsen

I´m currently an administrator and professor for the study abroad program of Valparaiso University,  (Praxis Center) located in Costa Rica.  I teach classes about Central American history, politics, religion, ethnicity, environmental issues, sustainable development and also Comparative Healthcare Systems.   In addition, I occasionally lead short term service learning experiences for U.S. universities.  In light of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on my work with college students, I´m also getting certified as a medical interpreter, which I hope to be doing online in the near future.

I served for 21 years in ministry with Lutheran congregations in Costa Rica which were located in squatter´s settlements with primarily Nicaraguan immigrants. I´ve also been involved in initiatives with the Costa Rican Lutheran Church for the past 6 years about climate change and with an ecumenical group of church leaders seeking to educate local congregations about environmental issues.  

In addition, I live in an intentional Christian community ( which seeks to be responsible stewards of the environment through a variety of local projects in our neighborhood.   I bring a perspective about how climate change is affecting vulnerable communities in Central America, and also some of the solutions and mitigation efforts that are being implemented in the region.

Check out the educational presentation Heidi has uses in sharing the connections between faith and climate justice: 

Climate Justice and the Church – Power Point Presentation

Eco-Reformation & Environmental Justice: In Word & Deed

The Grace Gathering ran parallel to the 2016 Churchwide Voting Assembly in New Orleans. The goal in gathering was to inspire one another to look back at the 500 years since the Reformation and see how to move forward in faith and love for the next 500 years. On August 11th a small group was planning to go out and serve near the Make it Right community in the Lower Ninth Ward, still rising from the ashes of the devastation since the levees failed. While, it proved to rainy to get to the land that needed cultivating, our host, Constance Fowler was gracious enough to show off local urban gardens and the Living History Museum. This proved to be a truly transformational outing, even though many were disappointed to not “get their hands dirty”. The service of bearing witness as an act of solidarity with those still impacted by systematic injustices is immeasurable.

The concept of Eco-Reformation was well considered throughout the event as seen in the Reformation Sourcebook Sampler given to every participant which included a section written by LRC founder, Rev. David Rhoads. Two workshops were offered and very well attended: one regarding the WHAT is and WHY we need an Eco-Reformation, and the other focused on the HOW TO engage in the ongoing eco-reformation progress.
Professor Richard Perry, Rev. Nancy Wright, Louis Tillman, Ruth Ivory-Moore and Phoebe Morad shared specific information about the history of the Creation Care movement in the ELCA, including how environmental racism parallels to civil rights injustices.  To download, click: Professor Richard Perry’s pastoral response to environmental racism. If you believe a similar conversation would be appreciated in your community consider looking at our Speaker’s Bureau to see who is in your area.
  

How Do We Truly Commit to the Earth Charter?

During the 2019 Churchwide Assembly the ELCA voted to officially sign onto the principals of the Earth CharterFor a history on that process read here (click).

Now what? How do we all make sure we live this out? 

Thanks to the focus of the Delaware-Maryland Creation Care Ministry group who is acting as shepherd for the larger ELCA Sustainability Table on this facet of our work together.

See most recent working group notes here (from May 2020) and consider how your synod (or just your congregation) may follow their lead: 

As part of the Sustainability/Environment Table workgroup to implement the Earth Charter, the Delaware-Maryland Synod Creation Care Ministry decided to focus on principles 7.a. and 7.b. under II. Ecological integrity.

7. Adopt patterns of production, consumption, and reproduction that safeguard Earth’s regenerative capacities, human rights, and community well-being.

a. Reduce, reuse, and recycle the materials used in production and consumption systems, and ensure that residual waste can be assimilated by ecological systems.

b. Act with restraint and efficiency when using energy, and rely increasingly on renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.

These were recommended because we believe these goals can be embraced and achieved by our congregations and because energy efficiency and adoption of renewable energy sources is critical to address our climate crisis.

As such, we developed an Eco-Resolution (see here) that was to be presented during this year’s Delaware-Maryland Synod Assembly in May 2020.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our assembly was cancelled, however we continue to share our message via digital means including videos we have produced.

Our Synod Council will vote on whether to pass the resolution and Larry Ryan produced a video to explain our objectives:  YouTube link

  1. Awareness of the ELCA’s longstanding support of Creation Care and specifically the 1993 ELCA Social Statement on the Environment.

2. Awareness of the Earth Charter that was endorsed during Churchwide Assembly in 2019.

3.  Implementation of portions of the Earth Charter working in cooperation with the ELCA Sustainability/Environment Table.

4. Engaging with congregations to help them be better stewards of creation as defined in our project “New Hope for Creation” that received funding from our Synod Connectedness Team.

In addition to our video on the Eco-Resolution, we asked Delaware-Maryland Synod Bishop Bill Gohl to produce a video that explains the Earth Charter at a high level : CLICK HERE

And as part of our outreach to congregations with our New Hope for Creation project, Charlie Bailey produced a video (click here) for his congregation that invites them to become better stewards of creation by becoming a covenant congregation, modeled after LRC’s Covenant for Congregation.

The Delaware-Maryland Synod Creation Care Ministry would be happy to engage with other Synods in implementing the Earth Charter and other creation care work.

Skip the Grid

Skip the Grid is an initiative focused on bringing solar power to health care systems and other critical infrastructure in West Africa. Most clinics and many hospitals around the world are off the grid, relying on generators where fuel is difficult and costly to deliver. Hospitals often must shut down their power system for periods of time to conserve fuel. Vaccines are jeopardized, and operations become riskier with intermittent or no power.

Without consistent and reliable power, rural communities face an uphill battle in managing very real health challenges. Photovoltaic (PV) micro-grids represent a sustainable, long-term solution that free up capital for direct health care initiatives, as well as mitigate numerous untold environmental, social, and health costs.

 How Skip the Grid Got Started 

The Skip the Grid initiative was inspired by a Women of the ELCA trip to Phebe Hospital in 2012. At the end of the trip, women from the NE MN Women of the ELCA asked Dr. Jefferson Sibley, a doctor at Phebe hospital, what he saw as the biggest need at the hospital. His answer – reliable energy.

When the Women of the ELCA returned home to Minnesota, they called on RREAL for help.

The Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL) is a nonprofit organization that has been fighting energy poverty with solar power since 2000. Skip the Grid is an initiative RREAL shares in collaboration with the Lutheran Women of the ELCA to bring solar power to the health care sector in West Africa. These solar projects have attracted support from hundreds of donors and international acclaim.

PV for Phebe

The first Skip the Grid project was built in rural Liberia at Phebe Hospital and School of Nursing. The Women of the ELCA and RREAL worked together to raise funds for the Phebe array, which is now producing power. The solar electric array at Phebe provides up to 77% of the hospital’s daytime electricity needs, reducing operations and maintenance costs. Commissioned in 2017, the project resulted in reduced fossil fuel energy consumption and realized energy efficiency upgrades using renewables and powered equipment with the solar electricity power surge. Cost savings from the array are $35,000 US annually with carbon emission reductions of 198,196.28 pounds and x-ray machines can be used. The added benefits of solar allow Phebe to expand the vital health care it provides and reduce pollution.

Skip the Grid provided solar technical training to the electrical and generator staff at Phebe hospital as well as local Liberians who helped RREAL install the Phebe system. Six months after the installation, in October 2017, two of the hospital technical staff members ventured to RREAL’s home in Backus, Minnesota to participate in a two-week Solar Energy International (SEI) technical training course. The Women of the ELCA hosted the visiting Africans by offering their homes as lodging and providing meals for the trainees and trainers. The trained Phebe technicians are now sharing their knowledge to build solar on rural Liberian clinics, maintain PV micro-grid systems, and support the construction of future Skip the Grid projects.

 

In November 2017, RREAL and the Women of the ELCA traveled back to Liberia to participate in a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Phebe Hospital array. Many people were there, including Nobel Prize laureate Leymah Gbowee, the Liberian Minister of Health, many bishops, two RREAL staff, and nine members of the Women of the ELCA.

During the ribbon cutting visit, RREAL traveled to Curran Hospital to complete a site assessment and develop relationships with the staff. Current for Curran is the next project that will empower a rural Liberian hospital to expand its vital health care services to the poorest people’s through Skip the Grid.

Current for Curran

The next Skip the Grid solar project will be at Curran Hospital in Liberia, a 125-bed hospital facing significant economic and health care challenges. Curran Hospital is a regional referral hospital for 17 clinics and health centers in Lofa County, Liberia. Curran currently depends solely on expensive, polluting, and unreliable diesel generators. These generators often fail, and doctors are forced to deliver babies or complete surgeries using only a cell phone light or flashlight. Watch the Curran Hospital video here.

Without a reliable source of electricity, Curran struggles to meet the daily health care needs of its patients. We can do better. Project Current for Curran will bring clean, reliable solar energy with battery storage to the essential rural hospital in Zorzor City, Liberia.

These are our three specific and measurable objectives for Current for Curran:

1.     Raise $750,000 by October 31, 2018 to cover all project costs

2.     Ship array components, balance of system, and build materials to Liberia by November 30, 2018

3.     Build a 150-kW solar micro-grid with battery power system at Curran Hospital by March 31, 2019

We are grateful for Skip the Grid project partners who invest in the health of our world’s most vulnerable people as care for creation. Liberia, the fourth poorest country in the world, is recovering from a long civil war and the Ebola crisis. Please support Skip the Grid. Follow StG on FaceBook. RREAL and the Women of the ELCA seek your partnership and support of this innovative solar micro-grid solution for Curran Hospital and the global citizens it serves.

Submitted: March 25, 2018 by Vicki O’Day Development Director at RREAL vicki@rreal.org

RREAL is located in Backus, MN. We partner with the Women of the ELCA of Minnesota.

Thanks to Bishop Eaton for her Earth Day Message!

As a grassroots movement, Lutherans Restoring Creation aims to support and advocate Creation Care work throughout ELCA communities.   At our June 20, 2020 Board of Directors meeting we officially recognized the significance of Presiding Bishop Eaton’s 2020 Earth Day message (read in full here).

“…thanks Bishop Eaton for her Earth Day message and her lifting up of Lutherans Restoring Creation.”
excerpt from Minutes of June 20, 2020 LRC’s Board of Directors’ Meeting

We are eager to grow together with church-wide offices in this critical ministry as Creation Care Ambassadors and Coaches flourish, more Congregations sign Covenants with Creation and the emerging ELCA Sustainability Table guides collaborative and action-based progress.

Do we Stay Home and DO nothing?

The general call to to action is simply: “Stay Home”.   However, many can’t heed that call, even if they wanted to.  When we are asked to care for our neighbors by stepping back,  what are other ways we can lean in to understanding each other and practice moving  forward in action?

The following is a selection of conversations, reflections, and emerging information.   Consider what realities we have learned about our neighbors’ insecurity,  the adaptability of humans under stress, the impact of policy decisions on our daily lives… and what does our faith give us as tools to fight any crisis?

> Connections, Comparisons & Lessons – April 3, 2020 – Consider how we can learn and grow during this crisis.  Hear a variety of perspectives. Thanks UCC for gathering this group of theologians.

> “The Earth is Sick of Us” – commentary from Dr. Ulysses Burley III

> BlessedTomorrow’s Blog:  Inescapable Lessons Offer Invaluable Opportunities – Earth Day 50th & COVID19 – By Rev. Dr. Jim Antal

Tools for Grassroots Advocacy: Full Spectrum

On our April 2020 Connections Call, we lifted up numerous ways we can represent what the ELCA’s Creation Care stance offers and how to implement action from where we are each planted. Since we are all living in very different spaces and each know our own audiences best there seems to be a spectrum of resources. Below is a sampling which we can add to and will continually evolve. While there is no one size which fits all, we can all work in harmony to lift up the common language our faith offers.

From protesting to preaching to praying:

Reflections from The Bible to the Frontlines – Stony Point Retreat Center, August 2019

 Lutherans Restoring Creation partnered with Presbyterians for Earth Care for their bi-annual conference at Stony Point Retreat Center in NY August 6-9, 2019 where over a hundred earth-keepers gathered.  Below are some of the remarkable reflections during our time together processing how to take some of the Bible’s directives to bring us to the frontline. Using the World Cafe Method, participants conversed around the three following verses and considered how the Word could help them (and their faith community) progress from movement to action.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15: 5

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”
Psalm 119:105

 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.
Romans 12: 4-6

Here are images of our time together at Stony Point Retreat Center:

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Peace for the Earth: From the Bible to the Frontlines

What to do for Spring in 2019?

We know you don’t need an excuse to celebrate and protect the Earth… but sometimes knowing that similar projects are happening across the globe can build momentum.  Coming up soon is our ultimate Holy Day of Resurrection: Easter on April 22st. The next day is officially Earth Day (4/22).  Many consider the entire month to be a time to focus on our place in the world and responsibility to all our neighbors.

Voices from the ELCA – Caring for Creation Today

God’s work. Our hands. from ecoAmerica on Vimeo.

ELCA churches across the country are working to serve our neighbors and to ensure that how we live does not harm others, including those yet to be born, vulnerable populations, and even life other than human.  We have an ELCA Social Statement written over 25 years ago on the topic, but how do we live that out?  The compilation of voices above give some examples, but it is clear we need to do more.  Lutherans Restoring Creation can help you determine what next steps your congregation can make. Click here for a Step by Step guide to begin work now from your pulpit, pews, and personal life.

What does church have to do with it?

As many faith-based organizations are struggling with their place in relation to people’s daily lives, so does the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America look for ways the world can use what we offer.  As part of an appeal for our churches to take on the uncomfortable challenge of being engaged in the public sphere, let’s take stock of how other sectors of our society ask the church for help.  If you have articles or stories to share please submit them to info at lutheransrestoringcreation dot org.

Comments from BBC’s NewsHour Jan 22, 2019 Davos, Switzerland as Global Business leaders meet at World Economic  Forum:

Listen in to this conversation from global leaders and their call to us all to act as leaders.

What does a “moral and empathic revolution” look like?

When are you tempted to make villains out of your neighbors?

How can prayer offer a way out of habits that take us further away from our goals?

ELCA Welcomes the Global Climate Agreement

On Saturday, December 12, 2015 leaders from 195 nations concluded the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris by approving a global agreement to address climate change. This agreement includes a commitment to keep global warming well below 2 degrees. The ELCA welcomes the Paris Accord, and we renew our own commitment to care for all of God’s good creation.

“We stand at a critical moment, when the world has come together to decide the framework for our shared future,” said Interim Advocacy Director Mary Minette, who traveled to Paris last week as part of a delegation representing ACT Alliance, of which the ELCA is a member.

“People of faith showed up in unprecedented numbers for the climate talks in Paris because we believe that this moment includes a moral obligation to our most vulnerable neighbors, to future generations, and to all of God’s creation to act on climate change.

The Paris agreement sets the world on a pathway to stewardship, justice and sustainability. All countries have, for the first time, agreed to take concrete steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to review and increase their commitments over time.

The Paris agreement includes financial pledges to help developing countries adopt  clean energy technologies and adapt to already-occurring impacts of climate change.  It also includes provisions that will help the most vulnerable countries avoid the worst of human suffering from irreversible climate damage in the future,  and it sets the world on a more sustainable, low carbon, development pathway.

The outcome of the Paris talks reflects momentum brought by a growing global movement of people and communities around the world, including communities of faith, who are leading the way in pushing for a better future.

As we leave Paris and return to our own communities, we must continue to act in solidarity with those who are most vulnerable to climate change, with those yet to come, and with all of God’s creation.

Along with membership in ACT Alliance, the ELCA is also a member of the Lutheran World Federation and World Council of Churches. Together these organizations had a delegation of over 100 in Paris for the summit. You can read ACT Alliance’s response to the Paris Accord here.

To learn more about the Paris summit and how the ELCA continues to be involved in caring for God’s Creation, visit http://www.elca.org/advocacy and read Mary’s updates from Paris on our ELCA Advocacy blog

ADVOCACY: national/global advocacy, public witness
Issue-based advocacy, climate change
ELCA materials/resources

ELCA Advocacy Updates

The National ELCA Office of Advocacy offers updates from what’s going on in our capital and news from various affiliate offices around the country. Be sure to stay up-to-date with your area by signing up for these – CLICK HERE.

 

 

 

 

2016 Churchwide Assembly Passes Memorial To Move Towards A Responsible Energy Future

2016 Churchwide Assembly Passes Memorial To Move Towards A Responsible Energy Future

During the months leading up to the August 2016 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, a group of people promoted memorials to suggest that the church divest from fossil fuels and/or invest in renewable energy, and worked to ensure that the issue was properly discussed by voting members.
Read their position paper and follow their efforts as reported on our Facebook page  See also information on Key differences between divestment and shareholder advocacy
We still have a ways to go – but with the advocacy office, Portico, and a handful of dedicated “restorers of creation” progress is being made.
 

From minutes of Plenary 8 session – August 13th, which can be found in full here.

MEMORIAL B3:

To receive with gratitude the memorials of the Saint Paul Area, Metropolitan New York, Northeastern Pennsylvania, Upper Susquehanna and Northwestern Pennsylvania synods related to climate change and fossil fuels;

To urge all ELCA members, congregations and synods to inform and educate themselves about the effects of climate change through the lens of the “Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope and Justice” social statement, and to advocate for policies that reduce energy use and our dependence on fossil fuels and encourage development of renewable energy sources as an expression of our commitment to address climate change and caring for God’s creation;

To affirm the action of the 2013 Churchwide Assembly and subsequent action of the Church Council in 2014 related to the development of revised or additional investment screens on fossil fuels, and to support and commend ELCA members, congregations, synods, the churchwide organization, and related institutions and agencies such as ELCA Endowment Fund and Portico Benefit Services for their leadership efforts to invest in companies that are taking steps toward a sustainable environment;

To affirm Portico’s balanced approach to supporting this church’s principles and directives as stated in the social statements — including the commitment to help transition to an economy less dependent on fossil fuels.

That approach includes has included:

1. shareholder advocacy (filing and supporting resolutions on environmental issues, including 150 resolutions in 2015),

2. focused investment screening, which has identified 113 companies screened for environmental reasons, and

3. ramping up positive social investments, such as investments in companies that develop solar, wind and water power generation systems, repurposing waste products and reducing toxic emissions;

and now:

To call upon Portico to evaluate the viability of an optional fossil -free fund for retirement plan participants; and To call upon the ELCA to heed the call of the Lutheran World Federation Council in 2015 to member churches “not to invest in fossil fuels and to support energy efficiency and renewable energy companies, and to encourage their institutions and individual members to do likewise”; and

As part of this church’s response to the Lutheran World Federation’s call, to request that the ELCA churchwide organization review the ELCA’s applicable social teachings and Corporate Social Responsibility policies and procedures, with the goal of not investing in, and removing the largest fossil fuel companies as identified by Carbon Tracker, and investing in corporations which are taking positive steps toward a sustainable environment.

 

 

 

 

You and Your Congregation Can Sign the Paris Pledge!

Take the Paris Pledge, as an individual or as a congregation, and commit to reducing your carbon pollution. Together, we can make a real difference. Interfaith Power & Light will provide you with helpful resources and tools so you can reach your goals.

Reflections on Swedish Bishops’ Letter on Climate Change

On May 19, 2015, LSTC Professors Kadi Billman, Barbara Rossing, and Vítor Westhelle, reflected on A Bishops’ Letter about Climate Change published by the Church of Sweden in 2014. The Rev. Dr. Antje Jackelén, archbishop of the Church of Sweden, concluded the session presented for the LSTC Board of Directors and faculty. Click here to watch the four videos.

Click here to read “A Bishops’ Letter about the Climate” from the Church of Sweden.