As the relationship between church and state continues to evolve in Minnesota and across the United States, the Minnesota South District has taken steps to be more directly engaged in the process of shaping this relationship. To that end, in early 2014, Rev. Fred Hinz was called as Assistant to the President to serve as both a mission formation advisor and as a public policy advocate for both Minnesota North and South Districts.
Through Hinz’s work, the district’s engagement in public policy has been focused on four main issues: sanctity of human life, marriage and family, religious freedom, and parental choice in education. Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison, President of the LCMS, characterizes these public policy issues as the “core issues of concern [on] which our church has spoken publicly.”
Harrison visited the Twin Cities in mid-February to learn more about what steps the district is taking in these areas and to meet (along with President Dean Nadasdy, President Don Fondow of the Minnesota North District and Brad Rixmann, a member of St. Paul, Prior Lake) with Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk and Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt. These meetings were a crucial step in helping establish a more visible LCMS presence related to these specific issues of public policy.
In addition to direct contacts with lawmakers, significant energy has been expended in order to establish a network of like-minded individuals and organizations in order to better coordinate our efforts with those of others. One part of this network is the Minnesota South and Minnesota North District Joint Public Policy Advisory Committee. This group of pastors and laypeople from both districts meets quarterly and discusses how to better communicate with our congregations, leaders, pastors and laypeople concerning these issues.
Finally, our efforts at advocacy have been instrumental in helping address the issue of parental choice in education through the formation of a new organization called Opportunity for All Kids (OAK). It brings together a diverse group of church and non-church organizations around the common goal of empowering parents to be the decision makers in the educational lives of their children free from the state’s current educational funding system which biases parents against choosing a religiously informed education for their children. To that end, OAK has introduced two pieces of legislation for our Minnesota legislators to consider.
According to Harrison, these efforts are not aimed at making society more “Christian”, but rather to simply “maintain our ability to function in good conscience as Christians.”