On October 1, 2014, a press release went out from the ELCA News Service, which is part of the national ELCA. The release announced a “Prayer Revival” to be held the next day, on the opening day of the annual Conference of Bishops. Since when do Lutherans do revivals? When did you last see a bunch of bishops at a revival? And why now?
The body of the press release explained that the Revival was intended to be a public statement by the church in response to violence generally, but the timing suggests it was mostly a response to the violence in Ferguson, Missouri just a few weeks before. The format was mostly a prayer service, but featured the anointing of hands, as each participant made a commitment to some particular action to enhance peace and justice in his/her own community.
Revival organizers explained that the goals of the event were to “demonstrate that the ELCA is deeply concerned about the violence happening in Chicago and other American cities and the need for improved relations between police and the communities they serve, and to come together as people of faith and pray with each other about these issues.”
The Bishop of the Metropolitan Chicago Synod noted that while the church does not have the power by itself to stop violence, it must take every opportunity to “announce in the public square that we stand in opposition to violence as an acceptable way to resolve human conflict.” He added that collaboration among law enforcement, community organizations, medical and social service providers, political and business leaders and ordinary citizens is essential to address violence.
Advocacy is about making statements in the public square, and ordinary citizens can get involved with just a few clicks of a computer mouse. Although the next Legislative Session doesn’t start until February 2, 2015, individuals can begin to learn about the issues. There is something called a “Bill Draft Request” which is an outline or proposal for new legislation. These “BDRs” are given to the Legislative Counsel Bureau, whose job is to draw up the legal language. Ultimately the bill is introduced into the Legislature. Bill drafts typically are not made public before they’re introduced, but it’s possible to get an idea what a bill is about by its working title.
There are already over 500 bill draft requests, many relating to violence. There are proposals about firearms, bullying, abuse of children and animals, and more. Other subjects for BDRs include education, mental health, economic development, the environment, and even a proposal to allow dogs in bars! A survey by LEAN last spring suggested that our advocacy agenda should focus on education and mental health, but that can change, depending on what we hear from parishioners.
To see the list of Bill Draft Requests, go to www.leg.state.nv.us. This is the home page for the Nevada Legislature. At the top right, under “78th (2015) Session” look for “BDR List.” If you choose “Divided List” you will get a search window where you can put in a topic and get a list of all the BDRs related to that topic. The search tool only looks for words in the BDR title, so scanning the full list will bring in more. The Legislative website has so much information, and it’s quite user-friendly, so anyone who wants to learn how the legislative process works or follow particular issues should definitely spend some time on the website.
LEAN will continue to publish “how to” information as we move through the Session. There are a couple of easy ways to express your views through the website.
LEAN has been working to get the message out that the concerns of individuals and congregations are the foundation of our advocacy agenda. We’ve asked to meet personally with parishioners in order to learn these concerns. So use the website, but please talk to your Parish Communicators as well.
— Sheila Freed