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ENS - Bishops form coalition for a ‘just
Worldwide Faith News <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Fri, 23 Apr 2004 13:15:07 -0700
Friday, April 23, 2004
Bishops form coalition for a 'just society'
By Jim Naughton
[ENS] Episcopal bishops from 30 dioceses have formed a coalition to work on
behalf of public policies that benefit the nation's poor.
The new group, Bishops Working for a Just Society (BWJS), was created in
late March at a meeting in Navasota, Texas, before the annual spring
meeting of the House of Bishops.
Washington Bishop John Chane said the group decided to focus on issues of
economic justice, including improving the quality of public schools,
providing health care for uninsured Americans, and increasing the
availability of low income housing.
Chane and Bishop William Persell of Chicago, who worked together in
organizing the group, were named co-conveners and members of an interim
steering committee. Bishop Suffragan James E. Curry of Connecticut was
named the group's secretary.
The Episcopal Church establishes its official position on political issues
through resolutions at General Convention, but bishops are frequently asked
to speak out on issues for which no Convention precedent exists. The
creation of BWJS allows them to be better informed, and to coordinate
efforts on a statewide or nationwide basis, Chane said.
The group's initial meeting was facilitated by Maureen Shea, director of
the Episcopal Church's government relations office.
Persell said a good relationship with Shea and her staff will be essential
to the success of the bishops' work. "They are a resource for us in terms
of contacts and we are a resource for them in communicating the views and
priorities of the church, nationally and locally," he said.
Shea agreed. "If there were 30 bishops in their communities talking about
these issues, it would be a great help to our advocacy efforts," she said.
Chane said part of the group's mission will be to work with the Washington
office to help make bishops better public advocates.
"We hope they can be the primary feeder source to urge the bishops to be
more politically active," he said. "There is a need to help bishops
understand how to work better politically and how to help dioceses learn to
deal better with the media. We need to learn how to take complex
information and without diluting it or dumbing it down, communicate it to
our people as something that has merit theologically."
Bishop Suffragan Mark Andrus of Alabama, is spearheading the effort to
write a brief theology statement for the group.
Shea said the meetings that led to the group's formation were quite lively.
"They spurred each other on to get out there and be more public in their
advocacy," she said. One bishop told Shea, "This is a real kick in the
pants for us."
Chane said that Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, who did not attend the
meetings but passed by the meeting room several times, said he had never
seen bishops having so much fun.
"I said we are dealing with a common issue," Chane said. "There is nothing
that divides us here."
The most immediate fruits of the meeting will be an email listserv for
members of the coalition and other interested parties. The group will
report on its activities to the full house of Bishops at its meeting in
Spokane, Washington, in late September.
Other members of the temporary steering committee are: Andrus, Bishop
Suffragan Gayle Harris of Massachusetts, Bishop Johncy Itty of Oregon and
Bishop Pierre Whalon, bishop in charge of the Convocation of American
Churches in Europe.
--Jim Naughton is director of communications for the Diocese of Washington.
David Skidmore, director of communications for the Diocese of Chicago,
contributed to this report.
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