Looking Back, Looking Forward

Looking Back, Looking Forward

October 30, 2018
By: 
Alan Yarborough, Communications Coordinator and Office Manager

The election is a week away, Congress is in recess, but our advocacy work continues. Every day, all of us in the Office of Government Relations continue to educate and equip Episcopalians to carry out advocacy for the Church based on the policies of General Convention and Executive Council. 

Our advocacy work (and yours!) continues, building upon our strategy that extends beyond election seasons and news headlines. Every day, we meet with members of Congress and their staffs, build relationships with career and politically appointed government officials, and work with partners to develop a strategy to address issues like criminal justice reform, environmental policies, refugee resettlement, peacebuilding, human rights issues, and much more, laying the groundwork for engagement in the 116th meeting of Congress and beyond. This is the final week to #VoteFaithfully in this election cycle–and we continue to promote voter participation and election engagement across the country.

Stay tuned to our Action Alerts in the coming weeks for chances to speak out on pending legislative or policy changes, follow us on social media where we share even more educational resources and public statements, and look out for our new “Green Postcard Reports” that highlight successes in advocacy that you all contribute to.

This week, we look back on the history of the Office of Government Relations as we highlight some aspects of our work that you may not be familiar with as part of our “Get to Know OGR” campaign. We hope you enjoy learning more about Episcopal advocacy below.  

Get to Know the Office of Government Relations

How well do you know the Office of Government Relations and The Episcopal Public Policy Network?

OGR vs. EPPN—are they one & the same? Yes and no. The Episcopal Public Policy Network is a grassroots network of Episcopalians dedicated to carrying out the Baptismal Covenant call to 'strive for justice and peace' through the active ministry of public policy advocacy. The Office of Government Relations runs The Episcopal Public Policy Network as one of the ways of equipping Episcopalians to do advocacy. But the Office of Government Relations team also helps to advise Church leadership on key policy issues, supports Executive Council as the governing body of the Church, and represents The Episcopal Church in the interfaith and ecumenical advocacy space in Washington D.C. The Office of Government Relations brings the resources and experience of the Church and the Anglican Communion to the U.S. government.

What are the tools in The Episcopal Public Policy Network’s toolbox—what methods are at our disposal for educating, equipping and engaging you as top advocates to the U.S. government?

Action Alerts: about each week we send out a new call to action to contact your elected officials in the federal government about a particular issue. These alerts are strategically timed based on what is happening in Congress and coordinated with coalition partner. We also share educational information, newsletters, and more to our email list to provide additional or further information.

@TheEPPN is on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram! Check us out on all three. Go beyond the emails and start conversations and learn more with the additional resources and opportunities that might not make it on the emails.

@TheEPPN strives to be present in the church at conferences and big events. Look out for presentations near you. We recently attended: CEEP, UBE, Discipleship Matters, Lansing Lee, Episcopal Communicators, Love God, Love Neighbor, Forma…

History

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.

Below are a few select quotes from that 1986 report that still carry our work forward today.

“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.”

“‘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

Engage the 2018 Elections with #VoteFaithfully

Make sure you know what your state/local regulations are for the voting process! These regulations are not consistent across the country, so refer to our toolkit for links to resources that will provide you with local-level information.

  1. Register: This close to the election, most states have already closed voter registration, but there are still a handful that allow it during early voting and on Election Day.
  2. Research the candidates: What offices will you be voting on, and what do you know about the candidates for those offices? These elections have local, state and national implications, so learn about who’s on the ballot.
  3. Research the ballot initiatives: Many states will have policy issues up for a vote on the ballot itself—find out if there are any in your state and make sure you’re clear on what the options mean.
  4. Vote: Do you know where to vote? If not, find out. Has early voting already started, and would voting early be easier than voting on November 6th?
  5. Help others vote: Your community can organize volunteers to get people to the polls, and that can even involve people who are not yet of voting age. This can also be an evangelism opportunity! Organize carpooling with your parish (offer it to the community too) connecting those who need rides to the polls with those who have cars and gas. Organize child care to give voting parents a break long enough to get to the voting booth.
  6. Protect the right to vote: Do you know what the Episcopal Church says about protecting voting rights? (D003C047) States are frequently modifying voting procedures, so look out for ways to advocate locally to protect others’ right to vote. If you’re a lawyer and/or clergy, check out Lawyers & Collars to monitor polling stations.
  7. #VoteFaithfully Sunday: Engage your church community with Vote Faithfully Sunday, this Sunday before the election. Even if it’s just inserting a brief prayer from the Book of Common Prayer, see what you can add to the service to pray for the election process. Resources for worship are also in our #VoteFaithfully toolkit.
  8. Stickers and social media: Promote the right to vote by showing off your sticker saying that you voted. We’ve received hundreds of requests for orders of our #VoteFaithfully stickers. Engage with us on social media using the hashtag #VoteFaithfully

Tagged in: Public Policy Voting