If you've never engaged in advocacy getting started can seem overwhelming. Through the Mission 4/1 Earth campaign, we'll work with you to make speaking out for environmental justice as easy as possible by providing tools to take action through our web site, educational materials, and sample letters. You are also encouraged to come up with your own actions that are unique to the concerns of your community and congregation. Below are some frequently asked questions about advocacy to help you begin this work. Please be in touch if you have questions.
What is Advocacy?
Advocacy is an action taken by individuals, or groups to defend, support, or protect us, our communities and others in need. Generally, advocacy is standing with or standing for a person or group that is disadvantaged or denied justice in society. In the effort to bring about justice, advocacy may include education, affecting public policy, joining coalitions, and participating in nonviolent direct actions.
More advocacy basics.
Why should Christians engage in advocacy?
Two central themes run through the Bible concerning justice. The first is God's all-encompassing love, concern, and mercy for all human beings. The second is our responsibility to love God's earth and to care for God's people.
Churches are already doing a lot to take care of needy people directly through charity work. But Christians have traditionally devoted much less effort to influencing what governments do.
God, however, requires both charity and justice, and justice can often be achieved only through the mechanism of government. The view that nations, as well as individuals, will be judged by the way they treat the most vulnerable among them is deeply embedded in the witness of prophets such as Isaiah, who said:
How terrible it will be for those who make unfair laws, and those who write laws that make life hard for people. They are not fair to the poor, and they rob my people of their rights. They allow people to steal from widows and to take from orphans what really belongs to them. (Isaiah 10:1-2)
Jesus criticized and disobeyed laws when they got in the way of helping people. He healed people on the Sabbath, for example, even though all work was prohibited on the Sabbath. Religion and government were intermixed, so Jesus was challenging the law of the land. The threat Jesus posed to both religious and political authorities led to his crucifixion. Government is not the only or always the best instrument to deal with injustice. But it is one of the institutions created by God as part of God's providence for the welfare of people. Because we live in a democracy, a nation with a government "of the people," we have a special privilege and responsibility to use the power of our citizenship to promote public justice.
Learn more about the biblical foundation for advocacy.
How can I get my message heard?
Whether your contacting your local community leaders, a CEO, or the President of the United States, there are a few things you can do to strengthen your letter or phone message.
• Say It Like You Mean It: Because congressional offices are contacted hundreds of times per week, always try to personalize your message. Tailor your letter with your own language and any special concerns that you might have.
• Identify Yourself: Begin each letter or phone call by stating that you are a constituent. This will let the staffer know right away that they need to pay attention to your questions and concerns.
• Get to the Point: To ensure that your letter gets the most attention from the staffer reading it, make sure that you put your request at the very beginning of your letter. By the second sentence, you should identify the issue that you are writing about, and how you want your representative to act on that issue. Don't be afraid to state your positions strongly.
• Short and Sweet: One of the reasons constituents write letters to their members of Congress is to inform them of their opinions. Another reason is to educate them on an issue that is important to you. Always include the relevant facts and arguments to your issue when you write - but remember that you probably won't keep their attention for more than 1-2 pages.
More tips for effective advocacy.
Can churches legally engage in advocacy?
The short answer is yes, churches can legally engage in advocacy, and individual church members are constituents who are certainly encouraged to be in conversation with their elected officials about their beliefs and desires for the nation and the world.
Almost all churches are tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code on the basis that they are “operated exclusively for religious, charitable or educational purposes”
As a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, a church:
• is exempt from paying corporate income taxes, and donations to it are tax deductible on federal tax returns
• may expend funds for religious, charitable and educational purposes, and an insubstantial amount on lobbying and to promote legislation
It is our right to advocate for legislation and policy changes in a nonpartisan way. According to the IRS, a 501 (c)(3) exempt organization may not “participate in, or intervene in any political campaign on behalf of any candidate for public office.” As a result, we do not advocate for a party or candidate when we engage in advocacy as a denomination. Rather, we speak from the basis of our religious beliefs and General Synod statements to advocate policy changes to make a better world possible.
Read the full IRS guidelines.
Who are my elected officials?
If you take action via our online action alerts we will automatically connect you to your elected officials. You can also identify your federal and local officials by entering your zip code in the form below: