We’re going to put aside the resolutions for a week – although I bet I could find one that might apply to this story – and focus on a conference held in our nation’s capital last week – the “Advocacy to Challenge Domestic Poverty Conference” sponsored by the Episcopal Church and Bishops Working for a Just World, a caucus within the House of Bishops. This first-of-its-kind gathering brought together 50 bishop and young adults from 14 dioceses representing the Episcopal Church’s 8 domestic provinces. The goal of this conference was to provide the opportunity for bishops to work with emerging church leaders discussing poverty issues and then to lobby our elected officials in Congress of issues of justice for all. Representing the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan was our Bishop Wendell Gibbs, Jean-Pierre Seguin and Zachary Baker. JP graciously shared his experience with me for this blog:
The first evening focused on contextualizing our work in D.C. within our fourth baptismal covenant to “seek and serve Christ in all persons,” with remarks from four speakers, including Jim Curry, Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of Connecticut. On Tuesday we received media training from Auburn Seminary and an outline of the federal budget pointing out the place where we would find the programs for which we would be advocating within that budget. Wednesday, after a Eucharist where the presiding bishop preached, we went as diocesan delegations to talk with our legislators. This gave us an opportunity to encourage our representatives to maintain funding for social programs and bring local issues to their attention.
The conference was designed to make tools available to young Episcopalians that have proved helpful to bishops and other church leaders. By bringing bishops and young adults together it provided a context in which both groups could learn advocacy techniques together and the younger participants could work with their more-experienced bishops. Though I do not yet know of any follow-up events, the methods I learned are immediately applicable to my work within and outside of Canterbury House U of M, my campus ministry. The relationships I formed with my fellow young Episcopalians were invaluable. As a young adult active in the church, one can sometimes feel isolated and it was inspiring to connect with so many people my age dedicated to the revitalization of both our church and our society. It meant a lot for the church to invest in the leadership development of its younger leaders. I returned with new tools and a renewed dedication to working with and advocating for the poor in our region.
You can read the full text of the Bishop Katharine’s sermon –
In his opening address, Bishop Stacy Sauls, chief operating officer of the Church affirmed that “relationship and solidarity with the poor precedes advocacy.” For the young adults attending, the experience of poverty for some of them as a result of the recent “Great Recession” was both personal and painful. Some told stories of their family’s experience with unemployment benefits and the change in status from middle class to working class.
The Episcopal News Service shared a very informative article on the conference which I recommend –
The Nuts and Bolts Blog will continue to report on the work resulting from this conference because, as Bishop James Curry said, “It really is what the church is about, equipping the saints to do work of mission. My hope is that this network can keep in contact across the issues and can build networks at home.” It is exciting to see our young adults get involved in the important work of our Baptismal Covenant. And let us follow their example – and join them in this work! I shudder when I hear people refer to our young people as “the Church of tomorrow” because if we wait until then to engage their energy and passion, it will be too late. They are “the Church of today” and this conference was one way to see this at work.
~ Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council