The Common Good

Obama Appoints First Mormon to White House Faith-Based Advisory Council

Elder Steven E. Snow© 2012 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
Elder Steven E. Snow© 2012 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved. Via LDS Newsroom.

WASHINGTON — As he competes against a Mormon in the presidential election, President Obama has appointed the first Mormon member of his White House faith-based council.

Elder Steven Snow now serves as the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints official historian.

He is also a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, a priesthood order of teachers and administrators.  

“The faith-based office is made up of leaders of religions from across our great country, and Elder Snow’s appointment ensures that the LDS faith will have a seat at the table,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. Like Snow, Hatch is Mormon. 

Mitt Romney, the presumptive GOP nominee, is also a member of the LDS church.

According to the White House, the advisory council is charged with: indentifying best practices for delivering social services, improving the implementation of public policies related to faith-based groups, and recommending changes to polices, programs and practices to the president.

Recommendations from the first council, which ended its tenure in March 2010, were just sent to federal agencies in April.  

The second council has been slow in coming together.

Appointments are for one year. In May, Obama named the council's first Buddhist member. 

Here's the White House release:

Elder Steven E. Snow, Appointee for Member, President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Elder Steven E. Snow currently serves as Church Historian, Recorder, and Church History Department Executive Director for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Previously, Elder Snow served as a member of the Presidency of the Seventy, supervising the Utah Areas and the North America Central Area from 2007 to 2012.  Prior to this, he served as Executive Director of the Church’s Priesthood Department from 2006 to 2007 and as President of the Church’s Africa Southeast Area from 2001 to 2005.  Elder Snow first joined the Church’s First Quorum of the Seventy in 2001.  Prior to his work with the Church, Elder Snow was a Senior Partner at the Utah law firm of Snow & Nuffer from 1979 to 2001 and a county prosecutor in Washington County, Utah, from 1977 to 1979.  Elder Snow has also served as a member and President of the Washington County, Utah, School Board; Chairman of the Utah State Board of Regents; and Chairman of the Western Interstate Commission of Higher Education.  Elder Snow received his B.S. in Accounting from Utah State University and his J.D. from Brigham Young University. 

Obama also appointed Maria T. Nagorski, executive director of the non-profit group Fair Chance.

Read the White House release below: 

Maria T. Nagorski, Appointee for Member, President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Maria T. Nagorski is the Executive Director of the nonprofit organization Fair Chance.  Fair Chance partners with community-based nonprofits to increase their ability to address issues related to child poverty.  Previously, from 1999 to 2007, Ms. Nagorski provided leadership and training services to a variety of organizations, including the United NationsWorld Food Programme, the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood, and the International Youth Foundation.  From 1994 to 1999, Ms. Nagorski was the Founder and Executive Director of Center for Youth as Resources, a national organization focused on engaging youth in service, philanthropy, and leadership in their communities.  Concurrently, from 1985 to 1999, she was the Deputy Executive Director of the National Crime Prevention Council.  Ms. Nagorski is an active member of Leadership Greater Washington and was awarded a 2010 Purpose Prize Fellowship by Civic Ventures.  Ms. Nagorski received a B.A. in History from the University of Rochester.

Here are other members previously named to the second advisory council:

The Venerable Miaohong Hsiangju Liu, Appointee for Member, President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

The Venerable Miaohong Hsiangju Liu is a Humanitarian Project Liaison for both the International Buddhist Progress Society and Buddha's Light International Association (BLIA) in the United States and Australia, a position she has held since 1990. She has served as a special assistant to the Board of Trustees of the University of the West since 2011 and as a BLIA representative to the United Nations since 2009. She is a graduate of FoGuangShan Buddhist College, having studied Mahayana Tradition in Taiwan. She received a B.A. in International Marketing from Curtin University and a M.A. in International Marketing from Swinburne University.

Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, Appointee for Member, President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner is President of Skinner Leadership Institute, which she co-founded in 1992.  The Skinner Leadership Institute was formerly known as Tom Skinner Associates, where she was Vice President from 1981 to 1992. Previously, she was Executive Director of the Congressional Black Caucus from 1974 to 1981, where she helped to found the annual Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Prayer Breakfast.  Dr. Williams-Skinner received a B.A. from San Francisco State University, an M.S.W. and J.D. from the University of California at Los Angeles, and a M.Div. and D.Min. from Howard University School of Divinity.

Susan K. Stern, Appointee for Chair, President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Susan Stern currently serves as Special Advisor on Government Affairs to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), which is a humanitarian assistance organization helping Jews and non Jews in Israel and in more than seventy countries around the world. Ms. Stern also serves as Chair of the New York State Commission on National and Community Service and represented the agency on the Cabinet of Governor David Paterson.  Additionally, she sits on the Executive Committee of the Jewish Federations of North America.  Prior to her gubernatorial appointment, Ms. Stern was Chairman of the Board of UJA-Federation of New York and President and Chairman of National Women’s Philanthropy of United Jewish Communities.  She has also been active in other organizations, including the Leadership Council of Repair the World, the Board of Trustees for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the Dean’s Advisory Committee for the University of Michigan, the Board of Directors for the Schneider Children’s Medical Center of Israel, the President’s Advisory Committee for Hebrew Union College, the Board of Directors of the Peter J. Alderman Foundation, and serves as an Alumni Fellow to the Wexner Heritage Foundation. Prior to her involvement in philanthropic causes, Ms. Stern was the first Director of Quality Assurance at the American Dental Association.  She holds a B.A. from the University of Michigan and an M.P.H. from the University of Illinois Medical Center.

Leith Anderson, Appointee for Member, President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Leith Anderson is the President of the National Association of Evangelicals, an organization formed to facilitate Christian unity, public witness and cooperative ministry among evangelical denominations, congregations, educational institutions and service agencies in the United States.  Mr. Anderson has also served as Senior Pastor at Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota since 1977.  Mr. Anderson is the host of the radio programs, “Faith Matters” and “Faith Minute,” which are broadcast in cities across the country.  Mr. Anderson holds a B.A. in Sociology from Bradley University, an M.Div. from Denver Seminary, a D.Min. from Fuller Theological Seminary, and a D.Div. from Cornerstone University.

Andrea Bazán, Appointee for Member, President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Andrea Bazán is President of Triangle Community Foundation, a philanthropic organization dedicated to building a prosperous and culturally rich region across North Carolina.  Ms. Bazán’s career has included work in state government, academia and the nonprofit sector. Prior to joining the Triangle Community Foundation, she was the Executive Director of El Pueblo, a Latino advocacy and public policy organization.  Additionally, Ms. Bazán served as a community advocate before the North Carolina General Assembly for several years and held positions at the University of North Carolina School of Public Health and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.  She currently sits on the boards of various entities, including Meredith College, the Nasher Museum of Duke University, the Hispanics in Philanthropy Leadership Council, and the North Carolina Institute of Medicine, to which she was appointed by Governor Hunt.  For many years, Ms. Bazán served as a member and was Chair of the National Council of La Raza, the nation’s largest Hispanic civil rights organization. Her community and student mentoring work have been recognized by the YWCA, who inducted Ms. Bazán to the Academy of Women in 2010, and by Working Mother Media in New York as well as Bennett College for Women. In 2008, Ms. Bazán was named one of the 100 Most Influential Hispanics by Hispanic Business magazine.  She holds a B.A. from Millsaps College in Mississippi, an M.S.W. and an M.P.H. from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Angela Glover Blackwell, Appointee for Member, President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Angela Glover Blackwell is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Policy Link, a nonprofit organization that strives to advance economic and social equity, improving access and opportunity for all low-income people and communities of color, particularly in the areas of health, housing, transportation, education and infrastructure.  Prior to founding PolicyLink, Ms. Blackwell served as Senior Vice President at the Rockefeller Foundation, where she oversaw the Foundation’s Domestic and Cultural divisions.  Previously, she founded the nationally-acclaimed Oakland Urban Strategies Council, where she pioneered new approaches to neighborhood revitalization.  From 1977 to 1987, Ms. Blackwell was a partner at Public Advocates, a public interest law firm.  She serves on numerous boards and was co-chair of the Task Force on poverty for the Center for American Progress.  Ms. Blackwell is a frequent commentator on some of the nation's top news organizations.  She holds a B.A. from Howard University and a J.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.

Brian Gallagher, Appointee for Member, President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Brian Gallagher is currently the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of United Way Worldwide, which is the largest privately supported NGO, has 1,800 local affiliates in more than 40 countries and territories, and engages 2.5 million volunteers.  From 2002-2009, Mr. Gallagher served as President and CEO of United Way of America.  Under his leadership, United Way focuses its attention on education, income, and health; inviting people and organizations everywhere to give, advocate and volunteer.  Mr. Gallagher began his career with United Way in 1981 as a management trainee and progressed to various United Way leadership positions throughout the United States. He holds a B.A. in Social Work from Ball State University and an M.B.A from Emory University.

Bishop Mark Hanson, Appointee for Member, President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Bishop Mark Hanson is the Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  Bishop Hanson was elected to this position in 2001 and re-elected in 2007.  Before being elected presiding Bishop, he served as bishop of the Saint Paul Area Synod from 1995 to 2001 and before that as pastor of three Minnesota congregations: Prince of Glory Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, Edina Community Lutheran Church, and University Lutheran Church of Hope in Minneapolis.  From 2003 to 2010, Bishop Hanson was the 11th President of the Lutheran World Federation, where he represented the global communion of Lutheran churches.  Bishop Hanson is on the Executive Council of the Executive Board of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.   He holds a B.A. in Sociology from Augsburg College, and was a Rockefeller Fellow at Union Theological Seminary in New York, where he received an M.Div.   Bishop Hanson was also a Merrill Fellow at Harvard University Divinity School and has been the recipient of honorary degrees from several colleges and universities.

Lynne Hybels, Appointee for Member, President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Lynne Hybels is co-founder and Advocate for Global Engagement at the Willow Creek Community Church, a religious organization committed to maximizing individual life-transformation as well as encouraging effective leadership of local churches.  For two decades, Mrs. Hybels has been involved in Willow Creek's ministry partnerships in under-resourced communities in Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East.  She has written inspirational books and articles focusing on global poverty, HIV/AIDS, and Israeli-Palestinian peace.  Under her leadership, Willow Creek is establishing an Advisory Board on Middle East Engagement.   Mrs. Hybels is currently a board member of the Africa Advisory Board at Willow Creek Community Church and recently served on the U.S. Board for World Vision.  She holds a B.A. in Social Sciences from Bethel College.


The Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Appointee for Member, President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

The Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori is the 26th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, where she serves as Chief Pastor and Primate to the Episcopal Church’s members in 16 countries and 110 dioceses.  Bishop Jefferts Schori is the first woman to head any of the 38 member churches of the world-wide Anglican Communion.  From 2001 to 2006, she served as Bishop of Nevada.  Between 1994 and 2000, she served as a priest in Oregon, working closely with the Latino community.  During this time, Bishop Jefferts Schori was a hospice chaplain, and taught at Oregon State University.  Before she pursued her studies for the priesthood, Bishop Jefferts Schori was a research oceanographer.  She holds a B.S. in Biology from Stanford University, an M.S. and Ph.D. in Oceanography from Oregon State University, an M.Div. from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, and several honorary doctorates.


Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, Appointee for Member, President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Rabbi Julie Schonfeld is the Executive Vice President of the Rabbinical Assembly, the international association of Conservative and Masorti Rabbis, founded in 1901.  Rabbi Schonfeld is a leader in world Jewish affairs and an advocate for religious freedom and pluralism.  She serves the Jewish and broader religious communities in a number of capacities including as a member of the Global Initiative for Faith, Health and Development of the Center for Interfaith Action on Global Poverty, as a member of the Summit on Religious Leadership in Response to HIV and as a board member of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies.  From 2001-2009, Rabbi Schonfeld served as Director of Rabbinic Development for the Rabbinical Assembly.  In this capacity, she spearheaded numerous landmark initiatives on behalf of the Rabbinical Assembly in areas such as career mentoring, mediation, dispute resolution, women’s advancement, professional boundaries and ethics.  From 1996 to 2001, Rabbi Schonfeld served as the rabbi of the Society for the Advancement of Judaism, an historic congregation on the Upper West Side of Manhattan where she was known for her dynamic preaching, innovative approaches to experiential education and community leadership.  She holds a B.A. in history from Yale University, and an M.A. in Hebrew Letters from the Jewish Theological Seminary.


Archbishop Demetrios Trakatellis, Appointee for Member, President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Archbishop Demetrios Trakatellis is currently the Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church of America, the Exarch (plenipotentiary representative) of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople in the U.S.A., and the permanent President of the Assembly of 65 canonical Orthodox Bishops in North and Central America.  In 1999, Archbishop Demetrios was elected by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to lead the Greek Orthodox Church in the United States.  He is the spiritual leader of more than 1.5 million Greek Orthodox faithful in the United States and holds leadership and advisory positions in organizations which promote dialogue and reconciliation.  Additionally, Archbishop Demetrios is active in interfaith and intercultural dialogues, in religious freedom and human rights advocacy, and in providing Church assistance in national and international cases of major catastrophic events, such as 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and the Tsunami in Indonesia.  From 1983 to 1993, he served as the Distinguished Professor of Biblical Studies and Christian Origins at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts and as Visiting Professor of New Testament at Harvard Divinity School from 1984 to 1985 and 1988 to 1989.   Having been elected Bishop of Vresthena in 1967 in the Archdiocese of Athens, Greece, Archbishop Demetrios served in this position with special responsibility for the education of the clergy until 1999.  In 1968, he was elected Metropolitan of Attika and Megaris, but he did not accept the post for reasons related to the canonical order of the Church.  Archbishop Demetrios graduated with distinction from the University of Athens School of Theology in 1950.  He also received a Ph.D. (with distinction) in New Testament and Christian Origins from the Harvard Graduate School of  Arts and Sciences in 1972, as well as a second doctorate, namely a Th.D. in Theology, from the University of Athens in 1977.


Sister Marlene Weisenbeck, Appointee for Member, President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Sister Marlene Weisenbeck is a member of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration.  Sister Weisenbeck is an officer and past president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, a canonically approved membership organization which exists as a support system and corporate voice for leaders of religious institutes of Catholic Sisters in the United States.  She also serves as Chairperson of the Catholic Health Association’s Sponsorship/Canon Law Committee and is a consultant in religious law.  Sister Weisenbeck was president of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration from 2002-2010.  She is also past president of the National Conference of Vicars for Religious and Chancellor for the Diocese of La Crosse.  Sister Weisenbeck holds a B.M. Ed. degree from Viterbo University, an M.M. from George Peabody College of Vanderbilt University, a J.C.L. in Canon Law from Saint Paul University-Ottawa, and a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 


Reverend Elder Nancy L. Wilson, Appointee for Member, President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Reverend Elder Nancy L. Wilson is currently the Moderator (Global Leader) for the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches which has hundreds of churches in 38 countries.  Rev. Wilson is also one of the nation's leading LGBT pastors.  She has been a pastor in multiple Metropolitan Community Church (MCC) congregations including congregations in Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, and California. Rev. Wilson is the former senior pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church of Los Angeles, considered the founding church of the Metropolitan Community Church movement.  For twenty years, she served as MCC's Chief Ecumenical Officer, representing the congregation at the National Council of Churches and World Council Churches. Rev. Wilson has been an active voice on HIV issues, prisoner treatment programs, LGBT issues, and women's rights.  She holds a B.A. from Allegheny College and an M.Div. from SS. Cyril and Methodius Seminary.

Daniel Burke writes for Religion News Service. Via RNS.

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