Advocacy is seeking to influence public policy toward justice. Advocacy as defined in the dictionary is “to speak or plead on behalf of another.” Lutherans understand advocacy, quite simply, as a way to love our neighbor and to do justice in society. Motivated by God’s love for us, advocacy seeks to express God’s special concern for people living in poverty, the neglected and the vulnerable by helping to shape the laws and policies that define how we live together in God’s world. It is activity done for the well-being of others, particularly with and for those whose voice is not heard in the places of power. Advocacy is an extension of the church’s practice of loving our neighbors, a practice that reaches back to Israel’s calling, Jesus’ ministry, and the witness of the early church. Advocacy goes beyond the important gifts of charity, like clothing, food, time and money.
Is this Advocacy or Lobbying? Many people find it difficult to distinguish advocacy from lobbying. After all, both advocates and lobbyists aim to influence public policy. Both advocates and lobbyists testify at public hearings, provide written information regarding specific issues and legislative initiatives, speak individually with elected officials and administrators, and keep their constituencies abreast of changes in public policy. However, advocates exercise moral authority for the sake of others, while lobbyists engage in political and often economic pressure for the sake of themselves. In contrast to lobbying organizations, Lutheran Advocacy Ministry-NM does NOT endorse candidates for public office, NOR does Lutheran Advocacy Ministry-NM make financial contributions to political candidates or organizations. Lutheran Advocacy Ministry-NM does not “lobby” for the institutional interests of the Lutheran church, but advocates for those most vulnerable in our society: people living in poverty, people experiencing hunger or homelessness, children, the elderly, the abused, and the mentally or physically ill.
What about Separation of Church and State? As Lutherans, we believe that the government is a means through which God works to preserve creation and to maintain a peaceful and just order in our sinful world. Seeking and serving in political office is a worthy calling in our common life. “Christians are called to respect the integrity and tasks of governing authorities, and to hold them and the decisions they make accountable to God.” (The Church in Society: A Lutheran Perspective, ELCA, 1993). Lutheran Christians believe in “institutional separation and functional interaction” between the Church and the State. We achieve “functional interaction” through advocacy, the vocations of the ELCA’s baptized members, and the witness and service of social ministry organizations.
(Christian Faith and U.S. Political Life Today, ELCA 1995)