Over 100 Colorado Faith Leaders to Reclaim Values in ’08

June 12, 2008, 2:51 pm | Posted by

Diverse New Coalition Puts Common Good Issues at Center of “Values Debate”

We Believe Colorado – Tonight at Montview Boulevard Presbyterian Church in Denver at 6:30 pm a diverse new coalition of faith leaders united to put common good issues at the center of the “values debate” in the 2008 election and beyond – is gathering for a historic evening of worship, celebration and training for effective advocacy on moral issues such as immigration, civil rights, the environment and economic justice. More than 100 people have already registered, and we expect even more to attend.

Members of Muslim, Christian, Jewish and other congregations will attend this racially and ethnically diverse gathering to embrace and advance a values agenda that is new, inclusive and focused on a broad range of issues that affect us all. Together we are changing the face of faith in the public square. Members of the news media are particularly encouraged to attend from 7:00 – 7:45 pm for an opening session with all the religious leaders together on the stage affirming the We Believe Colorado founding statement and strategy.

More information is available at http://www.webelievecolorado.org.

Where: Montview Boulevard Presbyterian Church, 1980 Dahlia St. at Montview Boulevard, Denver

When: Tonight, June 12, 6:30 – 9 pm.

What: Interfaith celebration and worship, workshops for political engagement and issue advocacy.

Who: Leaders available for interviews: [Call Becky Vanderslice at (303) 517-7955 to arrange]

• Imam A-Rahim Ali, Northeast Denver Islamic Center/Greater Denver Interfaith Alliance

• Rev. Phil Campbell, Iliff School of Theology

• Rabbi Brian Field, Judaism Your Way

• Rev. Jann Halloran, Chair of Justice Commission, Colorado Council of Churches

• Rev. Reginald C. Holmes, New Covenant Christian Church

• Imam Ibrahim Kazerooni, Imam and Muslim scholar

• Fidel “Butch” Montoya, Founder, H.S. Power and Light-Latino Faith Based Initiative

• Rev. Dr. James R. Ryan, Executive Director, Colorado Council of Churches

• Rev. Peter Sawtell Eco-Justice Ministries

• Rev. Andrew Simpson, Vice-President , Colorado Council of Churches, Presiding Elder, African Methodist Episcopal Church

• Rev. Nathan Woodliff-Stanley, The Interfaith Alliance of Colorado

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Historic Christian Gathering to Chart Gospel Politics of the Future

June 3, 2008, 2:55 pm | Posted by

Unprecedentedly diverse “Envision” conference June 8-10

In an election year when religious leaders are getting media scrutiny, the chorus of voices — both new and established — calling for rethinking the role of faith in public life grows louder. Hundreds of Evangelical and Mainline Christian activists will gather in Princeton, New Jersey, on June 8-10 to envision the future of Christian engagement in the public square.

The conference – Envision – is organized by an unprecedentedly diverse group of leaders, scholars, artists and activists, and will include prominent Christians such as Richard Cizik, Jim Wallis and Brenda Salter McNeil. At this critical moment, this prophetic group will craft a statement charting the gospel politics of the future.

Conference directors and participants will be available to media between now and the conference.

“We are not just people of vision, but are also implementing a public strategy that will not only shape the Fall’s election, but is transforming culture beyond politics, both in the United States and abroad,” says Cizik, Vice President for Governmental Affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals, who was recently featured in TIME Magazine’s annual “TIME 100.”

“What we’re witnessing is the beginning of what could be another Great Awakening in which the hunger for spirituality and social justice are fueling a revival and inspiring a movement that will significantly impact politics in the 2008 election and beyond,” says Wallis, president and founder of Sojourners and author of the New York Times bestsellers God’s Politics and The Great Awakening: Seven Commitments to Revive America.

“No matter who gets elected, the real work of social change comes after all the confetti has hit the floor. This is a chance for all the diverse followers of Jesus to think through our role in a new political era,” says conference co-director and New York Faith & Justice founder Lisa Sharon Harper, author of the forthcoming Evangelical Does Not Equal Republican or Democrat.

The conference will present a rare opportunity for Evangelicals, Mainline Protestants, Pentecostals, African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans, Whites and many other groups represented in the church universal to draw on their diverse experience and shared faith to forge common ground for the next century of Christian public engagement.

“Envision 08 is ¡Ahora! An idea whose time has come, re-thinking our faith amongst a great diverse mosaic, the mosaic of 21st century U.S. Christianity,” says conference steering committee member Rev. Gabriel Salguero, director of Princeton Theological Seminary’s Hispanic Leadership Program.

The conference will take place June 8-10, 2008 at Princeton University Chapel. A complete list of speakers and program details can be found at www.ev08.org. The week before the conference, Christians across the country, as well as those attending the conference, will gather for an online dialogue to create a vision for the future of faith in politics.

Conference directors and participants will be available to media between now and the conference.

Envision ’08 directors and steering committee:

• Rev. Dr. Peter Heltzel – New York Theological Seminary, 646-279-6690, peterheltzel@gmail.com

• Lisa Sharon Harper – Executive Director, New York Faith & Justice, 646-702-9776, lisasharper@mindspring.com

• Rev. Gabriel Salguero – Director, Hispanic Leadership Program, Princeton Theological Seminary; Executive Member, Latino Leadership Circle, 609-497-7994, Gabriel.salguero@ptsem.edu

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Participant spokespersons:

• Rev. Richard Cizik – Vice President for Governmental Affairs, National Association of Evangelicals. Please contact Sarah Kropp at skropp@nae.net or call Richard at (202) 253-6525..

• Rev. Jim Wallis – Founder and President, Sojourners. Please contact Jason Gediek, Deputy Press Secretary, Sojourners, T: (202) 745-4633 / jgedeik@sojo.net

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Hillary and Obama in Small Town

April 17, 2008, 12:09 pm | Posted by

*Faith in Public Life planned and co-sponsored the Compassion Forum, a presidential forum at Messiah College in Pennsylvania in April 2008. Religious leaders posed questions on issues like poverty, climate change and Darfur to then-Presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Hillary Clinton knows exactly what Barack Obama is feeling as he struggles to contain his San Francisco faux pas. Her moment came during the 1992 campaign in an appearance on “60 Minutes” when she suddenly said: “I’m not sitting here as some little woman, ‘standing by my man’ like Tammy Wynette.”

Why she said that doesn’t matter now. What matters is that every Tammy Wynette cooking dinner in a mortgaged house for three kids and a working man in some small town rose up to say, “You’re not me, Hillary.”

So it came to pass last Saturday night, in what is surely the most preposterous photo-op in campaign history, Hillary Rodham Clinton of Wellesley and Yale was pounding down Crown Royal whisky from a shot glass at Bronko’s bar in Indiana. A friend emailed that if she really wanted to win Pennsylvania, she would have drunk some of the draft beer in her left hand, dropped the shot glass into the mug and slammed that back. But hey, her heart was in the right place.

For those of us who monitor the political currents to discern direction in the nation’s life, this was one of the biggest weeks in the campaign.

Remember the culture wars? This week the Democrats sued for peace.

On Friday evening, email queues lit up everywhere with people reacting to Barack Obama’s thoughts on life being nasty, bitter and short in small-town America. Time was not long ago that a Democratic candidate could have said such folk cling to guns and religion and are hostile to “diversity” with nary a peep from his party. Not now. Obama was repudiated. Crushed. Media analysis suggested the damage could last til November.

Before midnight, Hillary was paddling down Whiskey River with the boys at Bronko’s. Then on Sunday evening, the white flag really went up over the culture war’s battlefield.

Hillary and Obama were both at an event in Grantham, Pa., in Cumberland County. That’s south of Mechanicsburg and east of Boiling Springs. John Kerry took Pennsylvania by 2.5% in 2004, but Cumberland gave George Bush 64% of its vote. Hillary and Obama were appearing on a CNN event called the “Compassion Forum.” They were at a place called Messiah College. Connect the dots.

Campbell Brown to Sen. Clinton: “And you have actually felt the presence of the Holy Spirit on many occasions. Share some of those occasions.”

Hillary Clinton: “I have had the experiences on many, many occasions where I felt like the Holy Spirit was there with me as I made a journey . . . You know, it could be walking in the woods. It could be watching a sunset.”

Hit rewind on the tape of history. It is 1992, the Republican Convention in Houston, at the Astrodome. This was the moment of arrival for the “Christian right.” Dan Quayle, George H.W. Bush’s VP nominee, spoke to a huge throng of evangelicals about “family values.” Pat Buchanan delivered his “culture wars” speech. The press corps, for whom all this was alien ground, was openly hostile to the GOP.

Shelves bend beneath the weight of books analyzing the “war” between religiously oriented cultural conservatives and secular libs. “Piss Christ” and all that. Abortion. Robert Mapplethorpe’s erotic photographs banned in Cincinnati. Abortion. Gun control. Michael Moore mocking Charlton Heston. Hollywood’s endless Babylon. Home schoolers. Abortion.

Though vilified, these people wouldn’t go away. The exit polls for George W. Bush’s victory in 2004 revealed that the No. 1 issue for most voters was “moral values.” Liberal analysts furiously attacked Karl Rove for “exploiting” these sentiments.

But even Karl Rove couldn’t invent God, and God and faith were everywhere in Grantham Sunday evening.

Sen. Clinton: Faith “is everything that makes life and its purpose meaningful as a human being . . . We want religion to be in the public square. If you are a person of faith, you have a right and even an obligation to speak from that wellspring of your faith . . . Our obligation as leaders in America is to make sure that any conversation about religion is inclusive and respectful. And that has not always happened, as we know.”

Sen. Obama: “Religion is a bulwark . . . Somebody like myself whose entire trajectory, not just during this campaign, but long before, has been to talk about how Democrats need to get in church, reach out to evangelicals, link faith with the work that we do . . . There is a moral dimension to abortion, which I think that all too often those of us who are pro-choice have not talked about or tried to tamp down. I think that’s a mistake . . . A comprehensive approach where we focus on abstinence, where we are teaching the sacredness of sexuality to our children.”

Some bloodless analysts have said for several years that Democrats had to say this to win because, you know, a lot of people “go to church.” And yes, what candidates seeking votes say may be false, faked or fantastic. What remains is the fact that these two, in competition for votes, have conferred political legitimacy and respect on this swath of America.

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VALUES DEBATE TRANSFORMED: THE COMPASSION FORUM BRIDGES IDEOLOGICAL AND RELIGIOUS DIVIDES

April 14, 2008, 4:44 pm | Posted by

The reviews are in and mainstream, conservative and progressive sources agree: The Compassion Forum, broadcast live internationally on CNN, signaled a dramatic shift in the national conversation about religion and politics. “Last night, the faith community made a profound statement about our values,” said Katie Barge, Director of Communications for Faith in Public Life, the organizer and co-sponsor of The Compassion Forum. “We simply cannot be pigeonholed into categories of left and right. Faith transcends ideological and religious divides. A new conversation about religion and politics has begun and it’s driven by compassion issues.” Religious leaders from across the faith and ideological spectrum were present at the Forum to ask Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to address poverty, global AIDS, abortion, climate change, genocide in Darfur, and torture. Their concerns reflected the new faith and values compassion agenda. CNN transcript available here.

THE REVIEWS ARE IN:

Faith in Public Life is setting an agenda and it is doing so with a “Big Tent” philosophy of letting different religious Americans bring their concerns to the fore. Last night a theologically diverse group of pre-selected clergy asked questions about euthanasia, environmental concerns, poverty, AIDS, the relation between science and faith, and so on. In so doing, they broadened the issue palette pertaining to religious politicking considerably. This is where Faith in Public Life is making a major contribution to national discourse. All of this was done–note this–without castigating or excluding secular Americans.

Jacques Berlinerblau, Washington Post “On Faith,” 4/14/08

Political candidates’ fortunes aside, the forum likely served as a boon to both Faith in Public Life (FPL) and Messiah College. The former is a relatively new organization founded after the 2004 election that demonstrated that it can attract not just political candidates, but also religious leaders from a broad spectrum (in fact, evangelicals dominated the FPL-picked questions from the floor).

Christianity Today, 4/14/08

I think the other point, though, is not just how much the Democrats have changed, but how much the evangelicals in the audience, when you listen to the questions, have changed. Because there was abortion, but there were also questions on torture and the environment, which was a consistent theme, and HIV/AIDS and Africa and Darfur was mentioned. And I think you’ve seen a broadening of this social justice agenda among religious conservatives. That’s also an important point.

Michael Gerson, Former speechwriter for President Bush, CNN Post-Compassion Forum commentary, 4/13/08

Finally, (I know this is a long post) a quick shout out to Faith in Public Life, the group that put on this Compassion Forum. Kudos to Katie Barge and the gang over there who are really trying to start a new dialogue with Evangelicals across the spectrum. The group isn’t just trying to ram the progressive agenda down people’s throats. Conservative Evangelicals are fully welcome.

David Brody, Christian Broadcasting Network, 4/13/08

A phenomenal conversation, and it should not be the last time the Democrats begin to deal with this, because it certainly gave me a much better understanding of both candidates and their views on issues facing America.

Roland Martin, CNN Contributor, CNN Post-Compassion Forum commentary, 4/13/08

I do think it was a good night… I wish Senator McCain would have accepted the invitation to have come and been here also because this was a non-partisan event, and I wish he would have come. It would have been good to hear how he would have answered some of the same questions.

Dr. Frank Page, President, Southern Baptist Convention, CNN, Post-Compassion Forum, 4/13/08

Messiah College, a small Bible school in the Allegheny foothills south of Harrisburg, may not be everyone’s idea of a national trendsetter. But the school hopes to be remembered as the place where America’s religious politics began to change. Messiah was the host Sunday night of a “Compassion Forum” sponsored by a Washington interdenominational group called Faith in Public Life. … Organizers hope that the event, which opens the final full week before the critical Pennsylvania primary, will initiate a major reconsideration of the role that religion — particularly the social agenda of Christian churches — plays in presidential politics.

Hartford Courant, 4/14/08

The discussion represented a remarkable departure from the Democrats’ increasingly harsh tone of campaign rhetoric. Both candidates dropped biblical references and spoke of policy issues such as energy and health care in the context of their Christian faith.

Washington Post, 4/14/08

At Messiah College near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, both candidates were given ample time to answer questions from CNN hosts Campbell Brown and Joe Meacham, as well as various religious leaders in the audience… The forum was scheduled to move beyond “standard policy issues,” according to host Campbell Brown and the candidates tackled everything from personal religious experiences to abortion, euthanasia and international human rights.

Human Events, 4/14/08

The Forum was broadcast live on CNN, CNN International and CNN en Espanol. A special package of the Forum, including exclusive candidate and faith leader interviews, will be simulcast on the Church Communications Network to more than 1,000 churches nationwide this Sunday. Senator McCain was invited, but unable to attend.

The Compassion Forum was supported by The Compassion Forum Board, represented by faith leaders from across the ideological spectrum. Organizational co-sponsors were The ONE Campaign and Oxfam America.

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Compassion Forum Clings to Religion

April 14, 2008, 4:09 pm | Posted by

*Faith in Public Life planned and co-sponsored the Compassion Forum, a presidential forum at Messiah College in Pennsylvania in April 2008. Religious leaders posed questions on issues like poverty, climate change and Darfur to then-Presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Well, at least this time CNN didn’t ask the presidential candidates to disclose the biggest sin they’ve committed.

But while Soledad O’Brien’s infamous question from the June 2007 Sojourners Presidential Forum didn’t make an appearance, much of tonight’s “Compassion Forum” at Messiah College had the same vibe as that event: questions about policy and decision-making were overshadowed by the journalists’ odd stabs at what they thought religious folks really wanted to know. As at the Sojourners event, for example, the moderator asked about literal seven-day creationism.

Faith in Public Life, the group that organized and sponsored the forum, had billed it as “probing discussions of policies related to pressing moral issues that are bridging ideological divides now more than ever, including poverty, global AIDS, climate change and human rights.”

Discussions of policies weren’t probed very far, however. Instead, on the Global Day for Darfur, co-moderator Jon Meacham asked Sen. Hillary Clinton, “Many people here are concerned about Darfur and a number of other humanitarian issues. Why do you think it is that a loving God allows innocent people to suffer?”

“You know, that is the subject of generations of commentary and debate,” Clinton responded. “And I don’t know. I can’t wait to ask him. … [But] there is no doubt in my mind that God calls us to respond. … For whatever reason it exists, its very existence is a call to action.”

Call to action: AIDS

While sparks flew between the two candidates over Obama’s recent remarks about “bitter” Americans “clinging to guns and religion,” both candidates somewhat surprisingly praised President Bush, particularly for his anti-AIDS program in Africa.

“I commend President Bush for his PEPFAR initiative. It was a very bold and important commitment, but it didn’t go far enough in opening up the door to generic [drugs] and getting the costs down,” said Clinton, who also lauded Bush’s efforts after the south Asian tsunami.

“This is an area where — this doesn’t happen very often, so everybody should take note — where I compliment George Bush,” Obama said. “I actually think that the PEPFAR program is one of the success stories of this administration.”

Obama also supported abstinence education in fighting AIDS in Africa. “I also think that contraception is important,” he added. “I also think that treatment is important; I also think that we have to do more to make antiviral drugs available to people who are in extreme poverty. So I don’t want to pluck out one facet of it. Now, that doesn’t mean that non-for-profit groups can’t focus on one thing while the government focuses on other things. I think we want to have a comprehensive approach.”

Reducing abortion

Both candidates also reiterated their support for abortion rights, but said they wanted to reduce the number of abortions in the country.

“I believe that the potential for life begins at conception,” Clinton said, when asked if life begins at conception. “I am a Methodist, as you know. My church has struggled with this issue. In fact, you can look at the Methodist Book of Discipline and see the contradiction and the challenge of trying to sort that very profound question out. But for me, it is also not only about a potential life; it is about the other lives involved. … And I have spent many years now, as a private citizen, as first lady, and now as senator, trying to make it rare, trying to create the conditions where women had other choices.”

Asked the same question, Obama responded, “This is something that I have not, I think, come to a firm resolution on. I think it’s very hard to know what that means, when life begins. Is it when a cell separates? Is it when the soul stirs? … What I know, as I’ve said before, is that there is something extraordinarily powerful about potential life and that that has a moral weight to it that we take into consideration when we’re having these debates.”

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