We Are Church Together

Advocacy Task Force

Advocacy Task Force of the MNYS 2025 Vision Plan

Christopher Vergara, chair


We Are Resilient TOGETHER

The Bishop’s 2025 Vision Advocacy Task Force have focused our work in 6 key areas: environmental stewardship, LGBTQIA+, immigration/sanctuary, hunger, statewide advocacy efforts, and anti-racism. The task force is comprised of the chairs of the various committees, task forces, and working groups working in these areas and The Rev. Kevin Vandiver, Assistant to the Bishop. In our working together we have established the following priorities:
  • Develop a set of values for the synod’s advocacy work;
  • Have a collective understanding of the issues deemed important for the synod to publicly advocate;
  • Review/Discuss each focus area’s plans for representing the synod at a public event or in the media;
  • Coordinate individual efforts into an integrated advocacy plan for the synod;
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of advocacy efforts and make recommendations for future advocacy work.
  • Continue conversations about re-starting New York State Public Policy Office (PPO)
  • Develop a list of professional resource individuals and organizations, in our specific work areas, to advise the Task Force in its work.
While the pandemic has been its own area of concern, and has affected our ability to do our work, by the grace of God, we have been able to finds ways to be the body of Christ in metro NY. See below brief reports from our task force members.

We Are Hopeful TOGETHER

Environmental Stewardship
Gerard Falco, chair
In 2020 the Environmental Stewardship Committee began working with the synod’s Advocacy Taskforce, in conjunction with three other synods chosen by the ECLA to further the Earth Charter Initiative. This project is ongoing and will continue over the next few years. The Earth Charter was founded twenty years ago and has been endorsed by the ELCA. It begins with sixteen principles that turn conscience into action. It seeks to inspire in all people a new sense of global interdependence and shared responsibility for the well-being of the whole human family, the greater community of life, and future generations. It is a vision of hope and a call to action. (See: earthcharter.org). The Earth Charter initiatives are very broad and include many issues of economic and environmental justice.
Through the present time, several volunteer members from our synod have been receiving monthly advocacy leadership training from professional instructors retained through the ELCA. At this stage, the volunteers-in-training are currently reaching out to our synod congregations encouraging and assisting them in the creation of Earth Charter inspired activities within their own churches and in sync with our sister synod churches.
If your church would like to join in on the Earth Charter activities or has good news to share, we invite you to let us know by contacting us at [email protected].
AMMPARO/Sanctuary Ministry
The Rev. Eduardo Fabian Arias, ministry co-ordinator
During the past three years we have carried out different recreational, sports, cultural, educational, artistic, and cultural activities for children in detention in metro NY.
  • On three occasions with more than 80 children and young people, visits were made to the Bronx Zoo.
  • Over 100+ young people went ice skating in Central Park over two occasions.
  • We took about 127 children to the Big Apple Circus with 127 children, where our Bishop was present and helped us with the distribution of snacks, prayed with the children, and blessed them.
  • Three times we went with more than 150 children to different sports fields to learn to rugby, indoor rock climbing, and soccer.
  • We had two encounters with children and young people doing artistic and cultural activities surrounding immigrant artists.
  • We purchased school supplies for the beginning of the school year these past two years.
  • In the winter of 2020, 120 coats and other winter wear was purchased for children in need in detention. At the distribution, our Bishop performed a blessing via zoom and spoke with all of them.
  • For the past three Ephiphany celebrations, gifts have been collected and given to the children with special delivery from the Maji!
We should note that during 2020 until now, due to the pandemic, it has not been possible to have in-person contact with the children in detention.  However, I have been in constant communication with the managers of the centers and have regularly found ways to provide care via zoom.
In the past two years, it has been possible to accompany 19 young people who were in different detention centers in the process of removal and placing them in homes.
  • We have paid the bail for 3 migrant minors.
  • Phones and metro-cards have been bought for 11.
  • We have provided all accompaniment to their attorneys' offices, family courts, immigration court for all of them.
During the pandemic we have begun working with the Ellis Preparatory Academy, located in the Bronx, and accompanying young immigrants who have been released from detention centers and are in their processes, supporting them in their studies, encouraging them in their personal lives and in their faith journeys. We are grateful to the bishop who has shared his time with these children as well.
In April 2021, I traveled to the border, to the cities of Tijuana, Laredo and Reinosa.  Since then, they have been receiving families with children and placing them in homes and shelters in metro NY, as well as helping connect them to legal support. 
Hunger Team
Karen Nurmi, chair
The world produces enough food to feed everyone adequately. Hunger exists because millions of people are not able to access it. The reasons why are the root causes of hunger, such as poverty, high housing costs, lack of education and job opportunity, discrimination, climate change, and poor infrastructure that disrupts food distribution. Combatting hunger has two major components.  One is providing the necessary emergency food that people challenged by hunger rely on to meet their nutritional needs.  The other component is addressing these root causes.  An effective way to address these causes is through advocacy with leaders on the community, state, and national level to address the policies and practices that keep people in a cycle of hunger. 
The MNYS Hunger Team is excited to announce the formation of the Feed My People Collective, a pilot food justice advocacy initiative for MNYS congregations, which will begin in September. We have been planning for the implementation of this initiative in order to help strengthen hunger ministries across our Synod by addressing the root causes of hunger. Through the Feed My People Collective the MNYS Hunger Team will provide congregations with training for effective food justice advocacy, resources for specific advocacy actions culled from ELCA Advocacy, Bread for the World, etc., and partnerships with other congregations engaged in this effort. To learn more, and to sign-up your congregation, visit the Hunger Team's page on the MNYS website.
LGBTQIA+ Working Group
The Rev. Kelsey Brown
The past two years have been a time of transition for the work on LGBTQIA+ issues and advocacy. Even during this time, and through the pandemic, we have found ways to uplift queer voices, and be present as the work for justice and equity continues in metro New York. Instead of participating in the usual Pride March, we were present, handing out much needed water during the Queer Liberation March.
In 2019, in celebration of Pride we hosted Queer & Faithful, a festival of conversations with authors, preachers, bishops, mission developers, and ministry/organizational leaders, lifting up the voices of queer people in our church and those who minister to them. Queer & Faithful & Informed was a beginners introduction to sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression terminology using resources from Reconciling Works. Q&F & Drag Story-time was for our youngest members, we listened as a special synodical guest with VP Wicklund read some inspiring books about celebrating differences and inclusion. Q&F & Bishop had our bishop speak with fellow bishops about their journey of being queer & faithful. Q&F & Called is where we learned about the amazing work of Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries and candidacy from a queer perspective. Q&F & Race we listened as we dove into the intersection of queer and BIPOC identities. Q&F & Serving we heard ministry leaders share their experiences serving queer communities. Q&F & Journeying we navigated the unique crossroads of queer identity in immigrant communities. And in Q&F & Looking Ahead, we met with young queer MNYS voices to look at what work lies ahead for the queer community and the church. The day concluded with a service of the word with affirmation of Christian Vocation.
Ten-plus years from the decision of 2009, we want to look ahead to what work lies before us as a community. We continue to look for ways to be the body of Christ in the world. We see this public work of the church as integral to our advocacy efforts in metro New York.
Anti-Racism Taskforce
The Rev. Marcia Parkinson
No report submitted.
Statewide Advocacy Efforts
The Rev. John Flack
As part of the Metropolitan New York Synod’s work to meet God’s call to care for all of God’s created order, the advocacy team has resumed its earlier work joining efforts with the Upstate New York Synod, holding meetings with Bishop John Macholz and others. We also focused on joining the work of the New York State Council of Churches, which brings together all different kinds of Christian denominations to bring the concerns of the church into the halls of our state government. We participated in the NYSCC advocacy days in Albany.

The Metropolitan New York Synod’s council voted to join the NYRenews coalition, a network of organizations, including the New York State Council of Churches and other faith-based groups, working to pass legislation in New York State to stop climate change and fund a just transition to renewable energy. Many of our congregations helped NY Renews and the New York State legislature pass the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, and joining their work more formally, along with so many other partners in ministry. 

We hope that we will continue building partnerships with our ELCA synods, our ecumenical partners, and other like-minded advocacy organizations to try to bring our commitment to the care and redemption of all that God has made.

God's Work. Our Hands, TOGETHER

As you can read, even during the pandemic, a lot of work is being done so that we have a physical presence and voice in the public sphere as the Metro New York Synod. I am so grateful for all these servants, especially Assistant to the Bishop Vandiver and our Bishop Egensteiner, who are leading our synod’s efforts in these various areas. I thank God with and for them daily.