Office of Government Relations

Get to Know OGR Week 2: The History

November 2, 2018
Office of Government Relations

We know you might have lots of questions about the history of #EpiscopalAdvocacy and the Office of Government Relations, so send them to us! We’ll try to answer them as quickly as we can. Office of Government Relations

The earliest official version of our office was established 1978/1979 by Executive Council, and was called the “Washington Office of The Episcopal Church.” In 1986, Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning called a committee including several prominent Washington Episcopalians to review the Washington Office and present findings to Executive Council June 1986 with recommendations. Following the report, a revamped staff was appointed to start work on January 1, 1988, with Canon Robert J. Brooks as director.

Get to Know OGR’s priorities: The earliest advocacy priorities of the office: “world hunger, migration issues, peace & disarmament, & domestic social policy.” Quite similar to today’s priorities: the environment, immigration & refugees, anti-poverty: domestic & international, & peace building & human rights. Other churches w/ similar offices at the time OGR was created are still around today: Anabaptists, Quakers, United Church of Christ, Baptist Joint Committee, ELCA, Methodists, PCUSA… 


NEW RELEASE: We’re excited to roll out something new while bringing back something old with this part of Get to Know The Office of Government Relations.

Introducing “Green Postcard Reports,” aimed at highlighting successes and progress in advocacy with U.S. legislation and policy development. We’ll release these periodically to keep you informed about the good news. Today’s Green Postcard Report highlights the Global Food Security Reauthorization Act, which was signed into law.

But this new initiative is modified from something old…

In the early days of the newly structured office (mid-1980s), to send an Action Alert, we had to mail a draft from D.C. to New York for review, get it back, then physically mail it to about 400 addresses, taking up to 2 weeks! In 1994, staff changes allowed for The Episcopal Public Policy Network director to work in the D.C. office, improving the speed of messaging to the Church. Today, our network reaches tens of thousands of Episcopalians through nearly instantaneous email and social media communications.

Some may remember receiving the physical green post cards to take action–our primary means of engaging the church when physical mail was the main way to do it. In our eyes, you still are a “Green Postcard Person.” 

We mentioned the 1986 report that established the office in the form it is today. Below you’ll find several still-relevant observations from that report about the work of our office. Check out these guiding gems:

  • “Always [work] to keep people truly listening to one another instead of ‘demonizing’ one another as Church activists and policymakers often do. The task is to challenge one another and love one another.”
  • “Since policymaking and theology use quite different vocabularies… a major function of the Washington Office will always be to “translate” and “interpret” these languages among those who use them.”
  • “Successful advocacy can then be built on some common understanding of ‘what the problem is’ and ‘what values are at stake.”
  • “[The office is to spend] time with local Episcopalians who are policymakers in ‘unloaded situations…’ this ‘pastoral’ function is essential because policy is still made by people.”
  • “Design, promote, and conduct various ‘occasions’ where the Presiding Bishop, other church leaders, and representatives of church-related groups can work with policymakers on problems in informal settings.” 
  • Our office represents exclusively the policies passed by General Convention & Executive Council. We assist in their processes of policy development when asked. The 1986 report laid this out as follows: “The Washington Office should participate in policy development… because of its on-the-scene experience the Washington Office is in a position to contribute in a special way. It is also in a position to identify future or neglected issue areas to which the Church should address itself so that the Church does not put itself simply in a reactive position of letting the world always set its agenda.”
  • “’Taking a stand’ & ‘passing resolutions’ is an important, necessary activity in which the Church must continue to engage. However, these activities in themselves are only the first step, not the final outcome. If a stand is taken… information, analysis, and theological argument in support of the position adopted must be immediately available to the policymakers whom the Church has targeted as well as to the public at large. Otherwise, the Church will be taken either as sincere but not serious… or worse, as guilty of the same kind of ideological posturing and blatant pressure used by many other special interest groups in Washington.”
  • “We see the work [of the Washington Office] happening both very ‘noisily’ and very ‘quietly.’” The report envisions advocacy having theses particular faces: “Speaking out, educating and training ‘constituents,’ cultivating ‘grassroots’ Episcopalian support, and coalition building.”
  • In the report’s list of personal qualities essential for office personnel: “be secure as people, but enablers rather than prima donnas.” #EpiscopalAdvocacy

Special thanks to The Archives of the Episcopal Church for their help in uncovering some of our history.

The Office of Government Relations