OGR Advocacy Newsletter December 2020
Advent is a season that teaches us to wait well, and we are all waiting for what’s next. We are waiting to put 2020 behind us. We are waiting for a new Administration and new Congressional session to take the reins of our government. We are waiting for the vaccine to be ready, for the pandemic to be over, and to hold those we love close to us again. Many of us are waiting in grief over loved ones we’ve lost or waiting in worry for those who are sick. Yet, we are waiting as we always do at this time of year – waiting for Christmas, for the Christ Child to arrive and to transform the world. We are waiting always for the second Advent, for Christ’s return, waiting for the creation of a new heaven and a new earth.
This is a time that allows for reflection on what we are doing to build the beloved community. You will see below a review of the work that we have done together over this past year – from alerts that you may have acted on, to statements and sign-on letters we joined raising the voice of The Episcopal Church in the public square. We also take some time to summarize some key resolutions from General Convention and tie together our advocacy with work on corporate social responsibility.
In the New Year, we have several new projects planned including a weekly “network call”. On these calls (which will be Zoom meetings!), we will provide updates on what we are working on, what we are hearing from Capitol Hill, and provide some background information on that week’s action alert. Above all, we want this to be a chance to hear from you. Stay tuned—we hope you will join us.
We also look forward to sharing our priorities for the 117th Congress and the new Administration with you, including letters we have signed on to as part of coalitions urging the upcoming Biden Administration to take swift action on critical issues. Thank you, as always, to you our network members. Your advocacy makes a difference, and you are helping The Episcopal Church to carry out our public witness.
OGR “Behind-the-Scenes” Advocacy
OGR staff have worked directly with grassroots and grasstops leaders throughout the Church to push for Congressional action, most especially on COVID relief. We are so grateful to all of those who took the time to meet with us, to meet with Members, and to meet with Congressional staff. This behind-the-scenes advocacy can be the most impactful and allows us to engage across Congress in strategic ways while working with Episcopalians who are constituents of the members we meet with. We are grateful for all the partnerships and dedicated staff work that makes these meetings happen.
All of our advocacy is based on the resolutions of the Church. The Episcopal Church has a long history of advocating on healthcare issues, and you can find here a Summary of Episcopal Church Policy and Advocacy on Healthcare in the United States. For an update on immigration issues, you can review this update from August and a statement on abuses in detention facilities here: Statement on Reported Abuses of Immigration Enforcement and Detention Centers.
OGR Action Alerts
Over the past many months, almost all of our action alerts have focused on the pandemic – in particular boosting SNAP, federal support to states, and international assistance – urging Congress to take action and help all of those in need. Despite these efforts, and several instances when it seemed Congress would be able to move forward, we have still not seen Congressional action for more than half a year. Our action alerts are still active – we urge you to continue to take action until Congress provides relief!
The Episcopal Church, with the guidance of OGR, continues to raise its voice with our secular and faith-based partners in policy areas where we think we can make a positive difference. The letters we sign on to serve the purpose of helping policymakers understand our Christian witness and demonstrating to them the power of broad and diverse coalitions in the fight to ensure a more just and compassionate society. Please find below a list of our letters since the publication of our last newsletter in July.
- Circle of Protection letter to Congress on need for year-end COVID relief
- Clean water access during COVID-19
- Religious Organizations Admonish United States’ Formal Exit from Paris Climate Agreement
- Statement of the Ecumenical Network on South Sudan for International Peace Day
- Faith leaders’ statement on integrity, safety, and fairness in the 2020 U.S. election
- Request for Investigation on Misconduct and Mistreatment of Unaccompanied Children in the US During the Removal Process
- Faithful Democracy coalition letter urging the Senate to provide sufficient Census and election funding in the next COVID-19 legislation
- Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition Letter on Boosting Medicaid Assistance for People with Disabilities
- Interfaith Request to DHS for a) an 18-Month Extension and Redesignation of Temporary Protected Status for South Sudan and b) 18-month designation of DED or TPS for Lebanon
- Letter to Senate Calling for Just and Reasonable Phone Service Rates for Incarcerated People Necessary During the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Interreligious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs letter on prioritizing vulnerable individuals and communities with relief in the next COVID-19 legislation
- Circle of Protection letter calling on Congress to enact measures that help the poor and the most vulnerable
A Year in Review: Election and Census Work
Alan Yarborough led OGR’s work on the Census and the 2020 Election. He mailed out thousands of #VoteFaithfully stickers and magnets, developed resources, toolkits, and promotional materials through both new and old partnerships with faith-based and secular organizations. He helped to plan and host webinars, alongside other OGR staff, to make sure Episcopalians knew about deadlines for registration, had information on early and mail-in voting, and understood the importance of the 2020 Census. The work – and the partnerships we all relied on – created some incredible engagement from our network and beyond. Thank you!
EPPN Election Educational and Webinar Series: This fall, we released an election education series as well as two webinars focusing on various aspects of the election process in the U.S. Check out each of the educational series here: Election Process Integrity, Voter Access, and What to Expect When You’re Electing.
EPPN Census Series: What Happens Next?: In an installment of our series on the U.S. Census, we discussed the implications of COVID-19 for the administration and enumeration of this year’s Census, whose results will be publicly released in the new year.
2020 was a year like no other that was epitomized by a once-in-a-century pandemic and historic demonstrations for racial justice. In the midst of these unprecedented circumstances, the Office of Government Relations has continued to amplify the positions of the Church directly to the U.S. government. We cannot do that work alone, and we rely strongly on your skills and persistence in advocating alongside us and the partners we connect with. To help improve Episcopalians’ capacity for advocacy, we have shared the following resources with our network.
An updated Faith and Citizenship Guide for Advocacy seeks to help you fulfill your baptismal covenant to strive for justice and peace. While it is focused on the federal level, the advocacy tips and tactics we recommend throughout the guide are applicable to state and local advocacy as well.
The Postcard Project invites Episcopalians to engage in “slow advocacy” to shift the focus from reactionary outreach to long-term, big-picture strategy and relationship building with government officials. Use this guide to create advocacy events in your congregation.
The EPPN Ambassador Program is a curated group of Episcopalians across the Church who help amplify our messaging on advocacy, education, and civic engagement. We are slowly building this program with the goal of one ambassador in each diocese. We’d love to have you join this group of brand ambassadors to help get more folks advocating with us.
We now have our disinformation resource available in Spanish: La información errónea, la desinformación y las noticias falsa: ¿Por qué nos importa?
As always, we are very grateful for the tenacious advocacy of our EPPN network. 2020 has assuredly had its fair share of challenges. But we’ve come this far by faith – leaning on the Lord and trusting in God’s holy word. Onward!
The Washington Office
The Office of Government Relations