Do Justice
Welcome to Do Justice, a bi-monthly newsletter of the Virginia Synod, lifting up God’s call and command that we, God’s people, do justice. You will find helpful info about justice ministries in congregations, around Virginia, and through the ELCA. If you have stories of justice to share from your congregation, please share those with me at so I can share them with others in the synod!

The Rev. Kelly Bayer Derrick
Assistant to the Bishop
On Sunday July 22, the church commemorated Mary Magdalene, Apostle. All four gospels record that Mary was a disciple of Jesus and present at the tomb on the day of Christ’s resurrection. The early church deemed her “the Apostle to the Apostles.” It was not until the 6th century that Pope Gregory declared that she was the woman caught in adultery, leading to the misrepresentation of Mary as a prostitute, despite any biblical evidence to support that. The bible tells us that Mary was a disciple, resurrection witness, and apostle. May Mary’s story make us ever mindful of the ways that we often misrepresent and falsely condemn others
Can’t Wait for Election Day? Be a part of ELCAvotes this Summer!
Election Day is only four months away, and faith leaders are getting involved in civic engagement across the country. ELCAvotes provides support and resources for congregations serving their communities through nonpartisan election activities, voter registration and access to the ballot.

In 2013, the ELCA adopted a social policy resolution titled “Voting Rights to All Citizens.” This resolution calls on members, congregations and synods of the church to “promote public life worthy of the name” by speaking out as an advocate and engaging in local efforts such as voter registration and supporting legislation to guarantee the right to vote to all citizens. We are called to conversation and prayer around our role as U.S. residents and as people of faith in ensuring our election systems guarantee participation and promote dignity for all.

Be a Lutheran Voter Champion! Sign up with ELCAvotes to receive information on faith webinars, engagement opportunities and congregational planning resources for Election Day.

Already on-board? Use #ELCAvotes on social media to share pictures, stories and ways your congregation is getting involved!
New District Center in Bialla
We join in celebrating the preparation of the groundbreaking ceremony of the new district office here at New Guinea Islands District, Bialla Circuit, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Papua New Guinea, the VA Synod's Companion Synod. The new District Center will serve as offices for the District President (who serves much like a synod bishop) and as a gathering space for the people of the New Guinea Islands District.
Pictured above: Pastor Gerong, the Assistant Bishop of ELC-PNG (left), Reverend Lucas Kedabing (center), and Pastor Tobby Eleaser (right)
From St. Stephen, Williamsburg, and the Peninsula Conference of the VA Synod
Sharon Powell, an immigration attorney and member of St. Stephen, Williamsburg, gave a presentation on Sunday, July 1, with information regarding current immigration and refugee realities. During these days of conflict in our nation over immigration policy, Sharon spoke on a number of issues: separating children from their parents at our border, what constitutes a “colorable asylum claim” under existing U.S. laws, defined pertinent legal terms, and discussed the various policies that have been introduced by our current administration.

Sharon, who grew up in Tanzania and completed her Bachelor's Degree at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, worked in the refugee field from 2005 until 2010, beginning in Baltimore with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, then moving to Minnesota to work with Lutheran Social Service Refugee Services. While working for LSS of MN, Sharon ran the immigration program, working with refugees and asylees to apply for their family members, adjust their status, and apply for citizenship.

When speaking about immigration and asylum, Sharon noted:
  • People who are seeking asylum at our borders today are primarily coming from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. They are fleeing persecution (primarily related to gang violence and domestic violence).
  • One may only seek asylum if one has a credible fear of persecution upon return to his/her home country and must go through a strict federal procedure to be granted asylum. Asylum is not amnesty (i.e. not a blanket pardon for everyone who has entered unlawfully regardless of their reason) and it is not based on economic need.
  • An asylum case usually takes 2-4 years for a final determination from an asylum officer or an immigration judge (the only two authorities who may make a decision).

To review some of the information Sharon covered during her talk, click here.
Connect with the Virginia Synod