The ELCA: Our Longstanding Partner in Ending Hunger
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“We must challenge and transform the structures that perpetuate hunger and other forms of poverty.”
This sounds like something Art Simon might have said in the 1970s, when he was founding Bread for the World and serving as a Lutheran pastor in New York. But the statement appeared in a 2010 issue of Journal of Lutheran Ethics. Its author is Nancy Arnison, director of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) World Hunger Program.
As one of Bread’s oldest and strongest allies in the fight to end poverty and hunger in God’s world, ELCA World Hunger responds in particular to Christ’s call to “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37).
The ELCA was formed in 1988 through a merger of three church bodies, so technically it is “younger” than Bread. But the churches that later became the ELCA played a leadership role in Bread’s early days. David Beckmann, Bread’s president since 1991, is an ELCA clergyman who began his ministry as a missionary-economist in Bangladesh.
Helping communities lift themselves out of poverty into self-sufficiency is the mission of ELCA World Hunger. Through gifts from individuals and congregations, ELCA World Hunger raises $20 million a year to serve neighbors “around the corner and across the globe.” Focusing on the root causes of hunger, the program seeks sustainable solutions through relief, development, education, and advocacy.
ELCA World Hunger furthers the global hunger work of companion churches and other partners like Lutheran World Relief and the Lutheran World Federation. Here in the United States, it supports many hunger ministries, including Bread.
The organization also supports hunger-related advocacy in its national and state public policy offices. “The ELCA’s staff here in Washington, DC, are wonderful partners in our advocacy efforts,” says Monica Mills, Bread’s director of government relations. “Drew Genzsler, the ELCA’s director for advocacy, is deeply involved in many coalitions pressing for legislation to help hungry people.”
The ELCA is also an essential Bread partner through the ELCA Foundation, which helps people arrange deferred gifts such as charitable gift annuities and charitable trusts. Since Bread for the World is a ministry of the ELCA, any Bread member can use the foundation’s services. The foundation is also a manager of Bread’s endowment.
And, of course, individuals and congregations of the ELCA are a significant percentage of Bread’s membership. “The ELCA has made hunger a central focus of its mission,” says Gary Cook, Bread’s director of church relations, “and that is evident in the way ELCA congregations have embraced Bread’s Offering of Letters.”
“We live in an era when hunger is not inevitable,” Arnison says simply. “Our partnership with Bread for the World is an investment in ending hunger here and abroad—for good.”
To learn more about ELCA World Hunger, ELCA advocacy, and the ELCA Foundation, please visit www.elca.org.