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The Long History of Lutheran Advocacy

In my role I visit a lot of congregations to tell the story of our faith-based advocacy work in the Rocky Mountain Synod. Usually, I begin that story in 1984, when the congregations of one of our predecessor denominations decided to organize formal Lutheran public policy offices for Colorado and New Mexico in response to threatened federal cuts to our social safety net. Thanks to all of our congregations, we have been engaged in full-time advocacy for over 30 years. But even that doesn’t tell the whole story. In fact, did you know that the Rocky Mountain Synod has been advocating on public policy issues for over 125 years?

Consider this excerpt from the minutes of the First Annual Convention of the Rocky Mountain Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, held at St. Paul’s English Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denver, Colorado, October 28th-November 1st, 1891:

“The following resolutions of the General Synod were presented and adopted as a whole: WHEREAS, The continued existence and the permanent prosperity of a nation cannot outlive the virtues of its people; and… Whereas, There is a growing tendency to divest the Sabbath of its Divine authority… therefore, Resolved, That whilst we deplore all forms of the violation of the Sabbath…we do express our most unqualified condemnation of that part of either State or municipal legislation that permits the prosecution of a traffic [in strong drink] on that day which is not alone useless and wicked, but which is a disgrace to the civilization and the Christianity of the nineteenth century…”

Wow! Strong words about strong drink. While our attitudes about temperance today have shifted somewhat, it’s nonetheless powerful to see that the church felt it necessary to speak on what was an important topic of public conversation in its time. This is no less true today: we as a church are always engaged in faithful reflection about public issues and speaking out in places where our voice can make a difference. Our advocacy is grounded in the gospel, the theological understandings of our church, and in our unwavering commitment to the wellbeing of the most marginal and vulnerable people in our communities.

Peter Severson, Director of Lutheran Advocacy Ministry-CO

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