ELCA Initiative Addresses Voting Rights

As the 2016 election season comes to a conclusion over the next few weeks, it’s timely to note that mainstream Christian churches such as the ELCA are outspoken advocates for voting rights. The following are excerpts from a press release issued by ELCA Headquarters in April, 2016, regarding its recently introduced initiative to promote voting rights and fair elections.

Affirming its commitment to ensure voting rights for all U.S. citizens, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has introduced ELCAvotes, an initiative to help members advocate for fair elections and engage in local efforts to guarantee the right to vote.
            “ELCAvotes is about linking faith, civic engagement and theology in the public square,” said Rozella White, program director, ELCA Young Adult Ministry. “It is our hope to invite more people, especially young adults, into fuller conversation as they live out lives of faith in society.”
ELCAvotes was developed in response to “Voting Rights to All Citizens,” a social policy resolution adopted by the 2013 ELCA Churchwide Assembly. The resolution states that “members, congregations, and synods of this church be encouraged to ‘promote public life worthy of the name’ by speaking out as an advocate and engaging in local efforts such as voter registration and supporting legislation to guarantee the right to vote to all citizens.”

The ministries leading the initiative include ELCA Advocacy, ELCA Racial Justice Ministries and ELCA Young Adult Ministry.

“In this election year filled with divisiveness and at times hateful rhetoric, it is easy to forget that our electoral process exists to ensure all voices are heard in the shaping of our representative democracy,” said Tia Upchurch-Freelove, program director, ELCA Advocacy communications and grassroots outreach. “Voting is one of the most important ways Americans can be involved in our democracy. As part of our ELCAvotes initiative, we will share resources and work together to find ways to ensure all citizens have the right to vote.”

ELCAvotes provides faith-based resources to encourage faithful and non-partisan voter participation and a context for all Lutherans to learn about issues such as economic and racial justice that influence voting rights. The resources also provide tools to help young adults understand what it means to be a young person of faith who is civically engaged and will help equip ethnic communities to talk about race and voting rights and the connection with the election year.

The press release goes on to explain how court decisions and legislation in many jurisdictions have eroded voting rights of many groups over the past few years.  The social policy statement was developed in response to this trend.

“We have to be a church that not only thinks about engagement and has prolific documents on our theological views as they pertain to public life, but we also have to be a church that models active, living, daring faith in Jesus Christ,” said [Rozella] White. “Our faith calls us to action, and this initiative is one way of being a church committed to doing God’s work with our whole being.”
Twitter is where the action is: #ELCAvotes.  Or Google ELCAvotes.