OGR Advocacy Newsletter July 2020

July 17, 2020

Advocacy Through A Coronavirus Lens

The coronavirus pandemic has changed life for everyone around the world, but for those of us working in the Office of Government Relations, a surprising amount of our work has remained unchanged. We continue to have virtual meetings and calls with Congressional offices pushing for important pieces of legislation. Although we have canceled in-person advocacy days, we have hosted numerous trainings and webinars. OGR staff continue to engage in policy discussions virtually and to gather information from government and policy partners that we then share with our network. And of course, we continue to send out weekly action alerts encouraging you to take action on strategic and impactful legislation. Our goals remain the same: we seek to represent the policy priorities of The Episcopal Church to the government in Washington, DC. Right now, that includes helping Episcopalian constituents and lawmakers understand the implications of COVID-19 and how we can respond to protect those who are most vulnerable. Therefore, we continue to advocate for anti-poverty measures, immigration reform, refugee services, creation care, human rights, and to push for anti-racist policies across all legislation and policy initiatives.

Although coronavirus has had a profound effect on our society, it has not fundamentally changed the society we live in. We have found it useful to use coronavirus as a different lens to view that landscape, much like an astronomer uses a telescope to view the stars. A more light-sensitive lens allows an astronomer to see stars and planets that were formerly out of focus or even entirely invisible. Coronavirus illuminates different parts of our societal landscape in a similar way, so using a “coronavirus lens” gives OGR a new tool to advocate for policy positions we have long supported and a new understanding of how these policies impact people in their daily lives. 

  1. The interconnectivity and interdependence of local, regional, and global systems is highlighted. Coronavirus itself and efforts to slow its spread have cascading effects on everything from the global economy to a local school play.
  2. The potential of technological advances to enable shifts in everyday norms is tested while the gap in access to technology is underscored. With widespread cell phone, laptop, and Wi-Fi access, many schools and businesses are attempting large-scale teleworking. This would have been almost impossible a decade or two ago and remains impossible for many Americans living in low-income or rural areas today.
  3. Racial inequities, socioeconomic divisions, and weaknesses of social services are magnified. A lack of uniform access to paid sick leave, for example, makes it far harder to contain the virus and makes communities and industries with low levels of paid sick leave more vulnerable. Long-standing racial inequities become starkly apparent when Black and brown individuals suffer a disproportionately high number of COVID-19 infections and deaths compared to their white counterparts in the U.S.
  4. Long-standing racial and societal injustices are gaining potentially-transformative national attention. Ongoing racist violence has sparked a wave of protests against police violence and systemic racism. These protests have generated unprecedented public support for the Black Lives Matter movement, yet it remains to be seen whether this support will successfully be translated into effective policy and societal change.

We know that in the coming months, many of us will be in similar situations: staying closer to home, seeing fewer people, and watching a rapidly changing world. To help you stay informed and engaged during this time, our office will continue to send reflections and action alerts from our staff members detailing different aspects of our work. Chief among these are our newsletters that highlight our work over the past two months. Below you will find the action alerts we have released on various advocacy issues, recent statements and resources, information about events we have hosted, sign-on letters, and information on our new EPPN Ambassador Program.

OGR Action Alerts

In the last few weeks, we have sent alerts to the EPPN to ask Congress to take action on a variety of issues including police reform and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The effects of COVID-19 have a disproportionate impact on communities of color, especially the Black and Indigenous American communities. In light of the impact, we have pushed five priorities to the Senate to focus on in stimulus talks. Thank you to everyone who took action!

More of us are increasingly aware of the need for meaningful police reform. Drawing on a recent Executive Council resolution, we have urged Congress to adopt extensive reforms. These reforms include banning chokeholds, establishing community oversights, and adopting federal policing standards for police departments across the United States.

We have also issued action alerts urging Episcopalians to submit a comment on harmful asylum rules and urged the House to pass the Great American Outdoors Act.

EPPN Ambassador Program

Launched in June 2020, the EPPN Ambassador Program offers a chance for Episcopalians from across the country to get more engaged in amplifying our advocacy efforts. Ambassadors work on a local level to help promote our action alerts and advocacy resources to further improve our reach. To learn more about what is involved and how to apply, please check this page.

OGR Statements and Resources

We continue to lift our voice by sharing the positions of the Church through the Office of Government Relations platform to educate and inform. We have shared the following statements, many developed alongside colleagues, with our network over the past months.

EPPN Global Health Series: HIV/AIDS (May 20)
The HIV/AIDS epidemic has been combatted by the international community with ongoing scientific research, the development of antiretroviral drugs, and better policies to slow its spread. However, it remains one of the most serious global health threats today with nearly 1.8 million new infections in 2018 and millions unable to access effective health care.

EPPN Global Health Series: Malaria (May 27)
Malaria remains endemic in poor tropical and subtropical regions of the world, leaving many of the world’s most vulnerable populations at greatest risk of dying from it. The Episcopal Church has worked with Anglicans around the world to eradicate this disease from severely impacted communities.

The Episcopal Church’s Response to Racist Violence (June 2)
This resource offers Episcopalians tools to help individuals, congregations, and communities find ways to LEARN, PRAY, and ACT to address racist violence and police brutality.

9 Actions on Police Reform (June 16)
The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council recently passed resolutions addressing the issue of police violence and police reform. The Executive Council urges the Church to work for transformation of the criminal justice system at the federal, state, and local level by enacting substantial police reforms.

The Episcopal Church Encourages Support of the Dream Act (June 19)
The Episcopal Church supports legislation that protects Dreamers and offers a pathway to citizenship. Through Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that allows those brought to the United States as children to remain in the country without fear of deportation, nearly 800,000 Dreamers have been granted permission to live and work legally in the country.

Events

June marked the Episcopal Month of Action on immigration issues. Along with Episcopal Migration Ministries, the Office of Government Relations hosted three webinars that make up a series to learn and advocate with and on behalf of immigrants, DACA recipients, refugees and asylum seekers.

  • Episcopal Action on DACA: This webinar highlighted Episcopal Action on DACA week. A recording of the webinar is available here.
  • Episcopal Action on Resettlement: This webinar highlighted Episcopal Action on Resettlement week. A recording of the webinar is available here.
  • Episcopal Action on Asylum: This webinar highlighted Episcopal Action on Asylum week. A recording of the webinar is available here.

Advocacy Tools for Loving Your Neighbor: This training event was jointly hosted by The Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and explored the nature of faith-based advocacy, what issues to speak on, and the ways to make ones voice heard. This event had contributions from both Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry and Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton. A recording of the event is available here.

Absalom Jones Reimagining Policing: This three-part webinar series was hosted by the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing and discussed the ongoing mass incarceration and police brutality that has resulted in the deaths of many Black and brown men, women, and children and that has called us as people of faith to reimagine the role of policing today. Two members of our office participated in part three of this series on the role and impact of disinformation in our society today.

Sign-on letters

The Episcopal Church has continued to raise its voice along with our secular and faith-based partners where we think we can make a difference. These letters help policymakers to know and understand our values and to see how broad and diverse coalitions can come together to advocate for our positions.

Presiding Bishop:

The Episcopal Church:

The Office of Government Relations:

The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (DFMS):

Finally, like many in the Anglican Communion, we are grieved by the sudden death of Bishop Désiré Mukanirwa Kadhoro, the first Bishop of the Diocese of Goma in the Anglican Church of Congo. Bishop Désiré was a great champion of advocacy for peace and justice in DR Congo, his beloved homeland. May God rest his soul in eternal peace!

As always, we want to thank you, our EPPN members, who makes this work possible through your commitment and tireless advocacy. A special thanks to those of you who filled out the EPPN survey!  We always welcome your feedback and perspective, so please feel free to reply to this email to share your thoughts.

Very best,

The Washington Office