[Episcopal Public Policy Network] 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,
Director of Government Relations
The following are public-policy themes adopted by the 77th General Convention. Resolution text is available on the General Convention website:
IMMIGRATION AND REFUGEES
DREAM Act (Resolution D067): The Convention called for passage of federal legislation (the DREAM Act) to provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented youth and young adults, and endorsed the Episcopal Church providing scholarships for these persons to access higher education.
Equality in the Immigration Process (Resolution D011): The Convention endorsed reform of immigration law to permit same-sex legal domestic partners and spouses of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents to seek lawful permanent resident status in the same manner as other spouses.
Refugee Policy Reform (Resolution B028): The Convention called upon the United States Congress to reform and modernize the Refugee Act of 1980 to respond to changing needs and best practices in refugee resettlement that have evolved since passage of the 1980 act, including a recognition of increasingly diverse refugee communities served.
Unjust Immigration Enforcement (Resolution D059): The Convention called for a halt to the United States Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s Secure Communities program (in which local jurisdictions send fingerprints of detainees suspected of immigration violations to federal authorities), as this program in practice can lead to lengthy detention at the public expense of unrepresented immigrants who have no serious charges pending against them, and can effectively discourage victims of various crimes, such as domestic violence, from reporting those crimes.
MIDDLE EAST POLICY
Arab-Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (Resolution B019): Reaffirming the Episcopal Church’s longstanding commitment to a negotiated two-state solution in which a secure and universally recognized Israel, the homeland for the Jewish people, exists alongside a secure, viable, and independent Palestinian state with a shared Jerusalem as the capital of both, the Convention endorsed a triennium of study and advocacy around the conflict with an emphasis on bringing all Episcopalians to the table and partnering with other Christians, Muslims, and Jews. The Convention also endorsed detailed guidelines for positive investment in the occupied Palestinian territories in order to prepare for the creation of a future Palestinian state. While deputies passed another short resolution (C060) calling for recommitment to the Church’s strategy of shareholder dialogue with corporations that engage in business that supports the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, bishops tabled the resolution after some expressed fear it could create a pathway to future boycott, divestment, or sanctions against Israel. Meanwhile, the House of Deputies also strongly rejected a call to boycott, divestment, and sanctions as an amendment to C060.
Democratic Movements in the Middle East and North Africa (Resolution A015): The Convention commended the democratic movements collectively known as the “Arab Spring,” and reaffirmed a past call for the United States government to provide a full and transparent accounting of all aid to the region, and to promote accountability among recipient governments for the protection of core democratic principles and the compliance with U.S. laws that define legal uses of foreign aid.
Gaza Hospital (Resolution B017): The Convention called for advocacy for the restoration of international humanitarian funding for Al Ahli Hospital, a healthcare institution in the Gaza Strip administered by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and the Middle East, which recently saw the phase-out of funding support from the United Nations. The Convention also called upon Episcopalians to engage in fundraising support of their own to support the hospital.
Civil Liberties (Resolution A079): The Convention expressed concern that certain federal statutes and legal precedents not be used by the United States government to suppress the civil liberties of Muslims, Arabs, or Palestinians living in the United States, and commended the work of Episcopal congregations with their Christian, Muslim, and Jewish counterparts toward peacemaking and bridge-building.
Clean Air Ports (Resolution C119): The Convention urged the adoption of federal legislation to curb air pollution at United States ports, to protect the rights of port workers to organize, and to ensure they are paid a living wage.
District of Columbia Political Rights (Resolution C033): Condemning the political disenfranchisement of residents of the District of Columbia that results from a lack of representation in the United States Congress, the Convention endorsed the provision of the same political rights to residents of the District as are enjoyed by other Americans.
Environmental Sustainability (Resolutions B023, D055): Reaffirming past calls to environmental justice, the Convention expressed solidarity with persons and communities that bear the impact of climate change, endorsed public-policy responses that prioritize their needs, and supported initiatives to transition from energy dependence on fossil fuels to safe, clean, and renewable sources of power.
Healthcare (Resolution A040): The Convention reaffirmed the Church’s call for all Episcopalians to work toward universal access to healthcare.
Indigenous Peoples (Resolution A131): Expressing solidarity with indigenous peoples around the world, the Convention repudiated the “Doctrine of Discovery” and called upon the Episcopal Church to make the protection of the rights of indigenous people a public-policy priority.
Job Creation (Resolution D087): The Convention urged the United States government to adopt a multi-faceted response to the present crisis of unemployment, including: a federal jobs-creation program, long-term rebuilding of the nation’s infrastructure, movement to a greener economy, and job training.
Labor Rights (Resolution D028): The Convention expressed opposition to legislative attempts to eliminate or reduce the collective bargaining rights of public and private sector employees.
Lending Practices (Resolutions A081, A082, A083): The Convention adopted a series of resolutions aimed at creating stricter public policies around fair lending, interest rates, and credit reporting designed to protect the rights of consumers.
Prison Reform (Resolution D026): The Convention urged the creation by Congress of a bipartisan United States Commission on Criminal Justice to examine reform of the U.S. prison system.
Same-sex Marriage (Resolution D018): Recognizing that the Episcopal Church is in a period of discernment about the meaning of Christian marriage, the Convention urged the repeal of federal laws that have a discriminatory effect on civilly married same-sex couples, and the passage of legislation to allow the federal government to provide benefits to those couples.
Tax Reform (Resolution A080): The Convention endorsed work toward an American tax code that places a proportional burden on those with higher incomes, encourages government stewardship and fiscal responsibility, and promotion of economic justice for the poor and sick.
African Drought (Resolution A018): The Convention called on the United States government, as well as private organizations like Episcopal Relief and Development and Church World Service, to intensify relief work in response to the ongoing drought in the Horn of Africa.
Cuba (Resolutions A020 and A021): Commending the work of the Presiding Bishop toward the recent easing of religious-travel restrictions for Americans visiting Cuba, the Convention called for increased mission collaboration, person-to-person visits, medical and humanitarian cooperation, and other exchange between TEC and the Episcopal Church of Cuba. The Convention also called for the release of all political prisoners currently being held in Cuban jails, an end to Cuban suppression of political dissent, and the pastoral care of four convicted Cuban spies currently serving time in American prisons for placing American lives at risk through their espionage activities.
Drone Warfare (Resolution A017): Recognizing the increased use of remotely piloted aircraft (“drones”) by the United States military and intelligence agency, the Convention called upon two interim bodies of the General Convention, along with the Bishop Suffragan for the Armed Forces and Federal Ministries, to provide a report to the next General Convention evaluating their ethical implications and providing recommendations for governmental leaders and military commanders concerning their use.
Genetically Modified Food Sources (Resolution A013): The Convention requested that the Presiding Bishop, in consultation with the President of the House of Deputies, name a volunteer task force to study, and help guide the Church’s advocacy on, the issue of genetically modified crops and organisms, looking at questions of ethics as well as the impact of such food sources on global economic life, agricultural security, the environment, and human health and nutrition.
Gender Violence (Resolution A139): Affirming the 2011 letter of the Primates of the Anglican Communion on the subject of gender violence, the Convention urged increased awareness, throughout Episcopal communities, of issues related to such violence.
Global Trade (Resolution A012): The Convention endorsed a framework for the moral evaluation of global-trade policy intended to promote the dignity and well-being of all persons, serve the poor, and safeguard the rights of all human beings.
Human Trafficking (Resolution D042): Reaffirming past policies calling for the protection of victims of human trafficking, particularly women and children, the Convention called for legislation and action oriented to recovery and reintegration of trafficking victims into society, and for greater prominence for this work within the Episcopal Church and in partnership with other Churches of the Anglican Communion.
Korea (Resolution A014): Reaffirming the Episcopal Church’s support for reunification of the Korean peninsula, the Convention recognized the peacekeeping role of the United States military on the peninsula while expressing concern about long-term effects of military tensions on human rights, the environment, and the local economy.
Maternal and Child Health (Resolution A140): The Convention urged greater public-policy emphasis on the protection of maternal and child health around the world, including new partnerships around legislative advocacy and service provision.
Millennium Development Goals (Resolution A011): The Convention reaffirmed the Millennium Development Goals, the world’s targets for the elimination of deadly global poverty, as a mission priority for the Episcopal Church in the coming triennium.
Responsibility to Protect (Resolution A016): The Convention endorsed a newly developed international norm known as the “Responsibility to Protect” that affirms the role of the community of nations in protecting populations from mass atrocities, including genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, as defined by international law.
Statelessness of Women (Resolution A138): The Convention urged the United States government to work with other international partners to end discriminatory practices that leave women and children vulnerable to statelessness, including efforts to ensure equality between women and men in nationality laws and access to documentation, and the promotion of birth registration as a basic step toward the protection of children and the prevention of statelessness.
Sudan (Resolution A019): Observing the continued violence and conflict along the unsettled border between Sudan and South Sudan, in the Blue Nile South Kordofan, and the Darfur region, the Convention commended the peacemaking work of the Episcopal Church of Sudan and called all Episcopalians to continued advocacy and prayer for peace, including support for strong U.S. government action aimed at full implementation of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
Terrorism (Resolution D005): The Convention urged the United States government to use law-enforcement protocols to bring to justice those who commit acts of terrorism.