With a new President, a new Congress, the 76th General Convention, and now changes in staff, this is a particularly busy year for the Office of Government Relations (OGR). As always, we are grateful to each of you for helping to live out our Baptismal promise "to strive for justice and the dignity of every human being." The EPPN has grown to a record number of some 25,000 members. We're delighted with the stories you're sending us – there is clearly quite a lot of exciting action and ministry going on around the country. Congress is now on recess but when they return, health care reform, climate change, foreign aid reauthorization, and much more will all be on the agenda. As always, your voices will be critical.
We were delighted to meet and see many of you among the 150 bishops and more-than 1,100 deputies and alternates at General Convention. Important resolutions on government policy were passed that will help guide our work in the months and years ahead. Resolutions considered at each General Convention originate from bishops, deputies, dioceses, or bodies within the Convention. Each resolution must pass through a committee, which hears public testimony on the issue, before being considered by the House of Bishops or the House of Deputies. Each House must agree on identical language in the resolution before it passes. Executive Council, in the interim, also passes policy resolutions. Listed below are some of the major resolutions from this year's General Convention. As you know, it is the resolutions of General Convention and Executive Council that are the basis for the alerts that we send out.
This fall will bring changes to the Episcopal Church's Advocacy Center of which we are a part. After almost 22 years on the staff of the Episcopal Church in New York, Rev. Canon Brian Grieves will depart in mid-October as Director of the Advocacy Center. Maureen Shea will retire on August 31 as Director of Government Relations. Their two positions will be combined into one Director of Advocacy position. However, in light of the cuts in the triennial budget approved at General Convention, the search for that position has been suspended. Linda Watt, chief operating officer for the Episcopal Church, noted that the Episcopal Church Center "is being reconfigured as a result of the budget approved by General Convention, and we recognize that there are new factors to be considered in selecting a candidate for this very important and visible ministry."
In the meantime, my colleague, Alex Baumgarten, who has been the international policy analyst for five years, will serve as interim director beginning September 1, and I will oversee the administrative work of our office. Like all of you, we are being asked to do more with less – but with your help, our voice will be stronger than ever as we live into the challenging public policy issues before the country.
This year’s resolutions on public policy issues call upon Congress to act on the following issues:
Criminal Justice: Support legislation that provides comprehensive access to DNA testing to all accused and convicted individuals in order to identify wrongly imprisoned and true committers of a crime.
Civil Rights for the LGBT community: Support the extension of federal laws to ban employment discrimination based upon sexual orientation and encouraged local, state, and federal laws prohibiting discrimination based upon gender identity, and declaring violence based upon gender expression a hate crime.
Education: Support policies and funding priorities that support equity in public education for all young people.
Environment: Commit the United States, along with other nations, in lowering the atmospheric carbon (CO2) by 25% by 2020 and 80% by 2050, supported U.S. government subsidies to renewable energy equal to non-renewable energy subsidies, urged a federal standard in which electricity suppliers must acquire 20% of energy from renewable sources, and supported U.S. government programs that promote environmental stewardship.
Equal Rights Amendment: Support the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment.
First Use Military Action: Renounce its 2002 policy that asserts the right to act, by armed force if necessary, to "forestall or prevent" threats even if "uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack."
Health Care: Pass legislation this year guaranteeing universal health care and insurance for every American citizen, including provisions that would cover persons with pre-existing conditions such as HIV/AIDS, and working towards a single payer system. Also, give the best possible care to our veterans.
Immigration: Pass comprehensive immigration reform, including conditional legal status for undocumented youth, called for an end to sudden Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids which separate families, called attention to the unacceptable conditions within immigration detention centers and declared that measures should be taken to provide humane living conditions, and asked that immigration law enforcement return to Federal Immigration Agents.
Labor Law: Pass legislation designed to better protect employees seeking to engage in collective bargaining, to simplify and streamline the procedures by which employees may choose to organize, and to assist employers and employees in reaching agreement.
Native Americans: Support federal tribal recognition for tribes included in S. 1178: Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2009, and in addition, the United Houma Nation of Louisiana, the Shinnecock Tribal Nation of New York, the Southeastern Cherokee Council Inc. of Georgia, the Native Hawaiian Nation, and the Brothertown Nation of Wisconsin.
Regulation and the Financial Crisis: Support government regulation of banking and financial institutions in order to protect the middle and lower classes hurt by the recent financial crisis.
Torture: Devise and implement truth and reconciliation-based methods of accountability to make transparent to the American people governmental practices of torture and extraordinary rendition.
Debt Cancellation: Extend cancellation of debt to additional heavily indebted impoverished countries that have not previously qualified for debt cancellation and include strong safeguards to ensure that the money will be used to combat extreme poverty. Call upon the U.S. Treasury Department to prevent the practice of vulture funds.
Haiti: Increase disaster and developmental assistance to Haiti; extend trade preferences for Haitian exports to the United States; and designate Temporary Protected Status to Haitian immigrants living in the United States.
Iraq: Consider deeply the voices and concerns of the Iraqi people in determining our continuing relationship with that sovereign nation.
Nuclear Arms: Explore a moratorium on production of new nuclear arms.
Pakistan: Together with the international community, provide basic care for the people of Pakistan who have fled their homes, both those who are refugees and those who are internally displaced
Sudan: Ensure the faithful implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) including holding the parties to the CPA accountable for its fair and transparent implementation, the fair resolution of border disputes, the equitable sharing of resources, and the carrying out of safe and fair elections.
Trafficking: Support legislation intended to assist victims of trafficking, especially women and children, recover and reintegrate into society in a respectful and safe manner.
Victims of International Gangs: Urge the US Government and UN to extend international refugee conventions and national immigration norms to provide relief to victims of criminal gangs.