From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
ENS Religious advocates gathered to call for justice in
Worldwide Faith News <email@example.com>
Thu, 11 Mar 2004 18:36:00 -0800
Thursday, March 11, 2004
Religious advocates gathered to call for justice in Washington
By John Johnson
[ENS] Christians from every corner of the country converged in Washington,
D.C., March 5-8 to participate in the second annual Ecumenical Advocacy
Days. Out of urgent concern for four corners of the world in turmoil--Asia,
Latin America, Africa and the Middle East--and in support for global debt
relief and nuclear disarmament, 37 Episcopalians and more than 500 others
representing 26 main-line Christian denominations and religious groups
gathered in the nations capital to learn from experts and advocate for
global peace with justice to U.S. policy makers.
We are here unashamedly to advocate before our government for priorities
that meet human needs and care for Gods creation, said Jim Winkler, general
secretary of the United Methodist Church Board of Church and Society, in
his keynote address. We engage in this ministry because we have heard the
God of Moses calling us to do so.
This years theme was I will feed them with justice, taken from the book of
Ezekiel. Other speakers included the Rev. Samuel Kobia, general secretary
of the World Council of Churches, the Rev. Bob Edgar, general secretary of
the National Council of Churches of Christ, USA, and Dr. Bernice Powell
Jackson, United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries.
The Washington Office on Africa, headed by the Rev. Dr. Leon Spencer, an
Episcopal priest, coordinated this year's Advocacy Days. Ecumenical
Advocacy Days confirmed what we suspected, that there are considerable
numbers of us within the Church who want US foreign policy to reflect
justice, peace and human rights in the world, said Spencer. While the views
we shared, especially regarding the Global South, are not marginal in US
society, they are hardly in the mainstream within a political environment
that is so narrow-minded in its vision of US policy. That Advocacy Days was
able to proclaim an alternative vision, one that embraced right
relationships and human dignity, energized participants, and I believe
there is a promise of energizing our faith communities.
Building the kingdom--on earth as in heaven
The Episcopal Church upholds my spirituality, said Chris Smith from the
Diocese of East Carolina. Sitting in the pews may build the kingdom of
heaven, but I think we have a commission to build the kingdom of heaven
here on earth. Smith came to Washington with the support of her bishop
after receiving an announcement through the Episcopal Public Policy Network
I have been on the [EPPN] network for five years, said Smith. It keeps me
up to date and gives me a vision of what I can do.
After a visit to the Middle East with his parish, Alan Weirick of the
Diocese of Los Angeles developed a passion for peace in Palestine. I think
the Episcopal Church has always taken a leadership position and Im proud of
[that] leadership, Weirick said. Were starting a task force to educate
other parishes about the issues of peace and justice in Palestine.
Training in justice issues
Ecumenical Advocacy Days featured six tracks for participants that included
a broad array of workshops and speakers. An Asia track informed
participants of the difficult foreign policy issues between North Korea and
the United States. A Latin America track focused on challenges facing
Colombia, U.S. policy toward Cuba, and debt and trade agreements in the
region. Advocates for peace in the Middle East were briefed on the latest
developments there and potential political solutions to the crises and
prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking. The Africa track offered
workshops not only on trade and debt but also on HIV/AIDS, the right to
water, Sudan, Liberia, and small arms trafficking, to name a few.
A track entitled Jubilee and Economic Justice brought attention to the
one-third of the worlds population that lives in absolute poverty and
examined how the intersection of debt and trade has created global economic
injustice and explored ways to build a world where there is enough for
everyone. Finally, a track on Nuclear Disarmament featured opposition to
new types of nuclear weapons and expanded roles for nuclear armaments
including measures to reduce nuclear danger and eliminate nuclear weapons.
All of the tracks included workshops to prepare participants to meet with
members of Congress and staff on all of these areas. Maureen Shea, Director
of Government Relations for the Episcopal Church, spoke at the Middle East
track on lobbying the White House.
John Feeney from the Diocese of Southwest Florida, the state convener for
the Florida Episcopal Peace Fellowship, joined a group that met with a
foreign policy advisor to House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
Feeney was surprised by the amount of time that staff spent with his
delegation. [The aide] listened to everybody, Feeney said. Everybody had a
chance to speak. He was very informed on all of our issues [and] my
impression was very positive.
Plans for the future
The gathering was cosponsored or supported by numerous churches, church
agencies, and church-related organizations, including: Africa Faith and
Justice Network; American Friends Service Committee; Bread for the World;
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); Church World Service; Churches'
Center for Theology and Public Policy; Churches for Middle East Peace;
Episcopal Church USA; Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Friends
Committee on National Legislation; Interfaith Committee for Nuclear
Disarmament; Interfaith Working Group on Trade and Investment; Jubilee USA
Network; Latin America Working Group; Lutheran World Relief; Maryknoll
Office for Global Concerns; Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate Justice
and Peace/Integrity of Creation Office; National Council of the Churches of
Christ in the USA; Peaceful Ends through Peaceful Means; Presbyterian
Church (USA); Reformed Church in America; Stand With Africa; United Church
of Christ; United Methodist Church General Board !
of Church and Society; and the Washington Office on Africa.
Organizers were pleased with the responses from participants. Molly Keane
of the Government Relations Office in Washington, who served on the
planning committee, concluded, The good news is that next year is already
shaping up with a growing presence of Episcopalians planning to participate
and pledging to bring other Episcopalians.
--John B. Johnson is the Domestic Policy Analyst in the Episcopal Church
Office of Government Relations in Washington, D.C.
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