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Episcopal Public Policy Network
and General Convention 2012

Episcopal Public Policy Network
and General Convention 2012

From the Episcopal Public Policy Network reflecting on General Convention and the next triennium:

As we arrive upon a quieter time of summer, when lawmakers head home for their summer recesses and the schedules in most of our church communities provide for some time of rest and re-creation, we in the Office of Government Relations take this opportunity to provide our members an update on the public-policy actions of the 77th General Convention that met in Indianapolis in July. As ever, the Convention provided the staff in Washington — and, even more importantly, Episcopalians throughout the Church — with new clarity about how our identity as Christians might shape our voice in the public square.

I was struck by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s description of the General Convention’s work in her recent message to the Church, finding it to be particularly apt for the Convention’s public-policy work. “The way we worked together also represented a new reality, working to adapt more creatively to our diverse nature as a Church, the Presiding Bishop wrote. “On issue after issue, the resolutions addressed by General Convention emerged in creative responses that considered, but did not end in, the polarized positions expected as we went into Convention. People listened to the movement of the Spirit and discerned a way forward that was mutually upbuilding, rather than creating greater divisiveness or win-lose outcomes.”

The Presiding Bishop’s message noted, as did my own recent commentary for the Episcopal News Service, that this spirit was particularly manifest in the faithful approach of bishops and deputies to public policy surrounding the Arab-Israeli Palestinian conflict. Having closely witnessed the wider scope of the Convention’s work on social justice, however, I believe it was true in many other areas as well. From an extraordinarily diverse legislative committee on National and International Concerns (diverse in age, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, geographic background, and political ideology) to the floors of the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies, we saw a holy process in which participants recognized that the work of advocacy belongs to the whole Church, and that for the Episcopal Church to be most effective and most credible in its witness, we must draw all voices to the table.

I was impressed throughout the Convention at the degree to which deputies and bishops listened to one another, to the impressive cast of witnesses who came to testify on specific pieces of legislation (some coming to Indianapolis for that sole purpose!), and to the voices of Anglicans and others who live in places around the world affected by our advocacy.

Along with my colleagues in the Office of Government Relations, I look forward to working with each of you in the coming triennium in our shared work to implement the public-policy resolutions of this Convention.

In Christ’s enduring peace,

Alex Baumgarten

Director of Government Relations

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Matt Gobush

Bill – Thank you for opening the floodgates. It’s a fair question, and your skepticism is healthy. But, in my humble opinion, it’s misplaced. The Church’s public policy work is fundamental to fulfilling our baptismal covenant, which includes “striv[ing] for justice and peace among all people, and respect[ing] the dignity of every human being.” If we are to take this ministry seriously, we must engage the public policy debate. When it comes to justice, peace and human rights, we have no choice but to engage the leaders and lawmakers who govern us. Sadly, too many denominations have retreated from the public square, ceding sacred ground to secular interests who have a blinkered view of the human condition. The Episcopal Church offers to this debate a unique and sorely needed moral perspective – one, like Christ’s, that is indifferent to national, ethnic, gender or racial distinction; critical (but respectful) of earthly power; and concerned foremost with the content of one’s character and the secrets of the heart. The loyal opposition to the powers-that-be that the Church provides is an essential counterweight without which the scales of justice are tragically skewed. We have a duty as Christians and as the Church to engage. As we consider reforms to restructure our governing structure, we should not ignore this moral imperative.

Full disclosure: I was blessed to have the opportunity to serve on and chair the Standing Commission on Anglican and International Peace with Justice Commission during the last triennium, one of several public policy bodies within the Church’s current governing structure. Several of our resolutions were adopted by General Convention, and make an important contribution to the public policy debate. Among the many blessings I received serving in this capacity was the wise counsel of Alex Baumgarten, whose office provides an invaluable service to the Church.

Bill Carroll

At the risk of opening the floodgates, I’m increasingly skeptical about the vast majority of our publuc policy wirk and wondering what role it might have after restructuring.

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