Justice Journeys: Gary Mulder Reflects on Advocacy

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Twelve years ago, as he was retiring as Director of Faith Alive and planning to move to the Washington DC area, Gary Mulder received a call from Peter Vander Meulen, the then Director of the Office of Social Justice. Vander Meulen asked if Mulder would serve as an Office of Social Justice representative in Washington. Mulder “thought that was pretty great because I’d become passionate about justice issues.”   

So Mulder signed up as a volunteer in his retirement. To date Mulder has served as the CRC representative on Washington Interfaith Staff Community (WISC) for over twelve years. WISC is a network of staff from more than 70 national religious bodies and faith-based organizations. Participant organizations lobby at the national level for policies important to their constituents.

When asked about the specifics of his role, Mulder’s passion shows. His contributions on the Domestic Human Needs working group stands out. This group works on questions of food security, jobs, housing, SNAP benefits, and minimum wage. “One of the great myths held by many in the U.S. today is that people just need to try harder to ‘pull themselves up by their bootstraps’ and it is not necessary for the government to try to create a society that is more just, to solve racism and inequity.” 

But Mulder’s involvement goes way beyond one working group. He’s particularly proud of the growth in CRC involvement in Ecumenical Advocacy Days where people of faith learn to advocate with their representatives in meaningful ways. Because of his thoughtful recommendations the CRC became a sponsor of the event.  

Mulder’s advocacy journey began while he was living in Grand Rapids with a book club at his church that addressed anti-racism. Getting to know people directly impacted by issues being debated was important for Mulder’s understanding of the issues. “While I enjoy volunteering at ‘direct service’ non-profit organizations, it is not enough, even though it does help me stay aware of the difficult lives many leave today; systemic change needs to happen! That is what motivates me to engage in advocacy.”  

For those continuing in advocacy work, Mulder has a word of encouragement. “The motivation that kept me going when things didn’t seem to happen is each of us have to do whatever we can do to create change in the world. It’s our responsibility to do what we can in our small way and let the results be in God’s hand.”  

Mulder is retiring from his volunteer role this spring as he is moving back to Grand Rapids. And while his role will change, Mulder expects that God will lead him to be involved in justice work in different ways. His dedication and insight will be deeply missed by the justice organizations of the CRC.  

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Thank you for your many years of volunteering in advocacy and justice work. I appreciate your thoughts about what motivated you to keep going - do what we can to bring about change and leave the results to God.