Action Plan for Public Witness and Political Advocacy

Action Plan: Part Five

Public Ministry/ Policy Advocacy

 

Policy: Beyond the walls of the church, we seek to change the common economic, social, and political systems in so far as they foster the degradation of creation and to rectify the injustices that result from it. And we seek to alert our members to environmental legislation that protects creation and to encourage their active participation in the development of public policy. We encourage members to participate in civic activities that foster ecological health. We seek to let our care for creation be known to others.

 

People: pastors and lay professionals, social ministry committees, directors of publicity, evangelism committees, all members.

Goals: To promote eco-justice and care for creation beyond the walls of the church through hands-on involvement, political advocacy, publicity, conferences, websites, and publications.

 

Actions: Here are some suggested actions to take to fulfill these commitments in the areas of:

 

            Ecological justice in local, regional and global contexts.

            Policy Advocacy

            Community Organizing

            Promoting your creation care

            Networking and Cooperating

            Green investments

 

A. Ecological justice in local, regional, national, and global contexts.   

1. Learn about the public issues: Use classes, forums, and newsletters to educate people about ecological justice issues at all levels. Plan for speakers, panels, workshops, and readings to promote knowledge of environmental concerns. Seek to expose members to the social justice issues involved in environmental degradation. Familiarize people with the major environmental legislation and policies at the various levels of government. Provide information about international conferences, protocols, and treaties related to the environment. Do these on a regular basis to keep the concerns before the community. 

 

2. Learn about legislative process. Familiarize people with environmental legislation and policies at the various levels of government. Teach people the mechanisms and procedures to participate in the governmental process and exercise influence. See www.elca.org/advocacy for basic information and guidance on “how to” do advocacy.

 

3. Ecological justice. Educate members about the integral relationship between human social justice and issues of ecology.

Look for relevant resources on the following websites:

  • www.weact.org.  Visit this website for resources from communities of color addressing concerns about climate change and other ecological matters. Harlem Community Voices for Environmental Justice.
  • www.ejnet.org. A list of reports and statements on many matters of concern for environmental justice.
  • www.blacksingreen.org. An educational and economic organization based in Chicago and led by activist Naomi Davis.
  • www.ejrc.cau.edu. Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University.
  • http://meldi.snre.umich.edu/ Multicultural Environmental Leadership Development at the University of Michigan.
  • http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/hazard/dsw/ej.htm; For Renewed Effort on Environmental Justice, EPA to Assess Impacts of Waste Rule on Disadvantaged Communities.

 

Consider the following books:

  • Robert Bullard, Editor. The Quest for Environmental Justice: Human Rights and the Politics of Pollution (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 2005)
  • James Martin-Schramm. Climate Justice (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2010)

 

4. ELCA Resources on Climate Change. Distribute copies of the printed resource on the impact of climate change on the vulnerable at home and in third world countries.

 

B. Public Policy Advocacy

1. Advocacy in the ELCA. Become familiar with the ELCA resources on advocacy at the advocacy section at www.elca.org/advocacy. Learn about the efforts the ELCA has made through its Washington office to advocate for earth-friendly laws and policies.

 

2. Public Policy offices. Become familiar with the Lutheran Public Policy office in your state. Invite them to hold a training session for your congregations or a cluster of congregations in your area. For a list of state offices, link to http://www.lutheransrestoringcreation.org/events/state-offices.

 

3. Action alerts: Provide a mechanism whereby members can sign up to receive e-mail action alerts from the ELCA in the ELCA e-Advocacy Network at http://www.elca.org/en/Our-Work/Publicly-Engaged-Church/Advocacy/Get-Involved. These alerts will include a suggested letter and a link to your legislator—making the process quick and easy to do. Consider promoting this action alert service among members through your congregational website or newsletter or by sign-up sheets.

 

3. Petitions: Where appropriate, circulate petitions that support legislative actions and policies friendly to Earth. Provide a letter-writing table during coffee hour for people to take the opportunity to urge legislative action.

 

4. Local policy actions: There may be local issues that arise in the community or city in which your congregation is located.  Members can get hands-on experience with community organizers dedicated to resist an action by the government or a corporation that degrades the environment and that poses a threat to human health and well-being.

 

5. Eco-friendly Voting:  There are many ways in which the congregation can provide information on the environmental records of candidates for public office and about pros and cons of referenda being voted on by the public. The League of Conservation Voters (at the national and local levels) is especially helpful in providing information on eco-justice issues and concerns that may assist members of LRC Congregations in their voting decisions. Explore cooperation with your local chapter of the League of Conservation Voters at www.lcv.org.

 

B. Get engaged in community organizing for action in your town or city.

1. Congregation-based community organizing. Consult the ELCA resources for community organizing. http://www.elca.org/Our-Work/Publicly-Engaged-Church/Congregation-based-Community-Organizing. Among other materials, see the ELCA printed resource on community-based organizing by Susan Engh entitled “Emboldened and Empowered.” Make use of the new (comicbook-genre) resource Hope at Work: First Step in Congregation based Community Organizing by Susan Engh, available through Augsburg Fortress.

 

2. Civic Engagement through Transition Initiatives

The Transition model of civic engagement is based on the premise that we can no longer continue with business as usual. People working together at the local level have the capacity to thoughtfully redesign patterns of living leading to viable, resilient communities. A community’s ability to respond quickly to challenges begins with re-localization of the systems that supply the needs of the local population. Built on a foundation of environmental sustainability, re-localization leads to economic sustainability and human well-being. Similarity of values and principles make the Transition Model suitable for people of faith active in civic engagement. 

“The Transition movement represents one of the most promising ways of engaging people and communities to take the far-reaching actions that are required to mitigate the effects of peak oil, climate change and the economic crisis. Furthermore, these re-localization efforts are designed to result in a life that is more fulfilling, more socially connected and more equitable than the one we have today.  The Transition model is based on a loose set of real world principles and practices that have been built up over time through experimentation and observation of communities as they drive forward to reduce carbon emissions and build community resilience. The Transition Movement believes that is up to us in our local communities to step into a leadership position on this situation.” Transition initiatives provide an opportunity to live out our call to be a public church and encourage the larger community to embrace Earth-care. Visit www.transitionus.org to explore the possibilities.

3. The Natural Step for your Congregation, your Community, your City.

 Developing a shared language of sustainability is essential for congregations intending to engage the wider community in caring for the earth. Conversations among people in business, education, and government (within the church and in the community) about sustainability are more fruitful when there is general agreement about what is meant by sustainability. Cultivating a shared language of sustainability is one of the main goals of The Natural Step, a framework that originated in Sweden and is now used by municipalities and organizations in many countries throughout the world (www.thenaturalstep.org). 

Four principles of sustainability, along with systems thinking and an understanding of natural processes, form the basis of the first step in the ABCD ProcessAwareness. The next step involves a Baseline Assessment of one’s own organization (or household, or church, or community) – how are our current practices violating these principles? What practices are in line with these principles? Next is developing a Compelling Vision—what would sustainability look like in these contexts without any violations? This is a creative brainstorming stage that helps groups think about possible solutions. The final step focuses on Decision-making that will benefit the organization in the direction of sustainability (implementing the use of compact fluorescent bulbs, for example, or recycling food waste). A congregation may choose to articulate elements of its compelling vision using the language of faith.  And a working knowledge of this framework can enable a congregation to be more conversant with other organizations in the community. 

For information about how The Natural Step process has helped one congregation (Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Duluth, MN) engage its members and participate in wider conversations about sustainability in the community, see www.sustainabletwinports.org

 

C. Promote your Creation Care .

1. Publicity: Promote your commitment to care for creation through parish brochures, a section on the congregational website, and articles and reports in the parish newsletter. It will help to have a name and identity that generate interest. Perhaps it will lead other congregations to embrace care for creation.

 

2. Public events: Hold conferences and sponsor speakers that will draw local pastors, members of other congregations, and members of the larger community in which the congregation is located. If you have an annual lecture or renewal or theological conference at your congregation, consider making care for creation the focus. Public workshops might focus on policy issues or greening the congregation or making your home Earth-friendly or greening businesses. Partner with other environmental organizations in planning such a workshop. Sponsor a public showing of such films as Food, Inc or Renewal as a way to generate community interest around key environmental issues.

 

3. Displays: Sponsor a display of photographs or art depicting the impacts of global warming or portraying some human conditions resulting from our impact on the environment. Create your own display from mission trip photos or magazine and newspaper articles.

 

4. Publications/guidebooks: where there are interested members, prepare workbooks and guides for the greening of congregations. Take turns writing articles or letters for the local paper.

 

5. Multiply your impact: Consider partnering with one or more other churches in the process of greening. Or become a mentor for another congregation as a way to assist them in initiating the greening process.

 

6. Start a “green congregation” program in your community. Initiate a coalition of interfaith congregations to meet together regularly, share greening efforts with each other, and learn about environmental efforts in your community. For one model about how to do this, see the Green Congregation program in Racine, WI that was spearheaded by Lutheran Congregations at: www.racinegreencongregations.org.

 

D. Network and cooperate:

1. Partner with other groups. Locate the environmental organizations in your area, either national ones or local community organizing groups. Be intentional in seeking out those most affected by environmental degradation. Network with them, engage them as speakers, cooperate with them to provide hands-on experience for parish members, and arrange to partner with them in sponsoring a speaker or conference.

 

2. Hold an eco-fair. Work with other groups to hold an eco-fair for your community that promotes local green products and services and that includes workshops on “greening your home” or “greening your business.”

 

3. Fair Trade products and Community Supported Agriculture. Purchase fair trade products where they are available such as products that are produced under good ecological conditions, that come with a commitment to give fair wages, and that seek to reduce the role of “middle-men.” Also, as a congregation, manage food needs as church or religious school with “Community Supported Agriculture”—so as to minimize transportation and to support local farmers, especially those growing organic food. For a list of Farmers Market by state, see www.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets/map.htm. Information on Community Supported Agriculture can be found at www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/csa/. If you have a garden, start your own Farmers Market.

 

3. Offer support: Let other organizations know what you are doing and ask how you might participate in their mission.

 

4. Recognize outstanding efforts. Cooperate with other environmental organizations to give public honor to those folks in your community or your congregation who show special commitment and efforts on behalf of Earth.

 

E. Green the Investment Portfolio.

1. Invest in the future of Earth community. Urge the endowment committee to invest your congregational endowment and other funds in social justice funds that include environmentally sound corporations and companies that serve the environment as their business. Many mutual funds and agencies now specialize in environmentally oriented investments.

 

2. ELCA Investments. Urge the ELCA to develop an option in the pension plan that would invest in green companies and green technologies. Promote divestment in companies that contribute to degradation of the environment. Promote green investments for the ELCA Mission Investment Fund.

 

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