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Mission Team for Justice – #SWCA2022 Report

Our Synod Mission Team for Justice continues to meet monthly on Zoom. Several of our committees and task forces meet at other times during the month and we hear reports of their activities at our meetings on the second Tuesdays. Anyone is welcome to attend these meetings. We have more than 100 email addresses in our database, and they receive notices of the monthly meetings, copies of meeting minutes, and announcements and reports of justice items as they come to me. We begin each of our Justice Team meetings with a Land Acknowledgement Statement concerning the Native American lands we inhabit. We also take turns giving an opening devotion.

Ron Nelson and Ross McConnell report for the Anti-racism and Diversity Committee. On five Tuesday evenings in August several members of the Justice Team had attended the book study series on Rediscipling the White Church – From Cheap Diversity to True Solidarity by David W. Swanson. This series was led by Pastor Toni Castaneda Carrera and Pastor Tracy Williams. A new book study on all kinds of diversity, i.e. disabled, age, LGBTQ, etc., was being planned.

Robert McDuff chairs our committee on Healthcare. Last year the California bill working for a single payer plan became a two-year bill and was to be put forward again this year. However, the bill was not put forth for a vote because there were not enough votes to pass it.

John Halbert chairs our Prison Ministry and Death Penalty Committee. He questioned our knowledge of the death penalty in California. The last execution was in 2006, and there have been only 13 executions since 1977. Gov. Newsom is dismantling death row.

The Green Faith group planned a great event for World Water Day on Tuesday, March 22, 2022 at noon on Zoom. There was a Land Acknowledgement statement given. Ruth Ivory-Moore with Churchwide ELCA opened the event. Keynote speakers were the Rev. Dan Smith and Peter Moyle. Elizabeth Betancourt and the Rev. Amy Beveridge gave responses to the keynotes. Rev. Amy showed a video of farmers telling how the drought has affected them. Bishop Brenda Bos gave a Thanksgiving for Baptism and a prayer. Music was by Pastor Steve Beckam.

Bishop Emeritus Dean Nelson chairs the Southern California Lutheran Palestine Israel Network (P.I.N.). He also chairs the ecumenical group (P.I.E.N). He told us of losing a strong committee member, Pastor Pam Challis, who has taken a call to a church in Colorado. The ecumenical group is planning a virtual meeting on Christian Zionism. They are titling it “What Christian Support Does for Israel.” They are hoping to educate attendees and gain support for Palestine.

The Rev. Dr. Alexia Salvatierra chairs our Immigration Committee. Here is her report from our February 8, 2022 meeting. “The federal picture is in the same place. The Biden Administration is supportive, but immigration is not a priority. They have rolled back the worst of Trump, but have not been assertive. They have not been fighting. The larger community of activists also is not focused on immigration. Locally the ECAS (network of networks) and Matthew 25 are very active. Pastor Alexia has been coordinating both for 3-5 years, but she has two full-time jobs. Both groups have strong boards, so have good potential for moving forward. They are still getting life-and-death requests. She honors the work that Dixie Hanson has been doing in the Thousand Oaks area circle of care. There is need of a legal sponsor for someone aging out of the system (turning 18)."

I am very appreciative of the Justice Team members who faithfully attend our monthly meetings. Many others read the materials sent to those in our database, and when asked, take action. Advocacy with our elected officials does make a difference. Thank you to everyone.

Sharon Heck,
Mission Team for Justice Chair