The Washington Post Press Items
The Rev. Jim Wallis, a left-leaning minister, spoke next. "We're at a rally!" he exhorted the participants, many in green AFSCME shirts. "We need some rally voices!"
The brainchild of progressive evangelical leader Jim Wallis and Michael Gerson, a former speechwriter for then-President George W. Bush who now writes a column for The Washington Post, the bipartisan alliance is made up of an "orgy of strange bedfellows," Gerson said at a news conference this week introducing the group's ideas.
Three members of the council -- the Rev. Joel Hunter, the Rev. Frank Page and the Rev. Jim Wallis -- have heightened concerns among church-state separatists. Wallis persuaded President Bill Clinton to start his faith-based program, which opened the door to Bush's larger program. And Page is the former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, which strongly advocates that it is discriminatory for the government to prevent its members from sharing their faith with others.
The group will do more than steer federal social-service funds to religious organizations, said the Rev. Jim Wallis, who expects to be named to the council. "This is a much broader mission than who gets funded," he said.
Wallis, who presides over Sojourners, a progressive Christian organization based in the District, said he expects that the council will advise the president on substantive foreign and domestic issues.
Sojourners, a liberal evangelical group, intends to keep the pressure up with a march in April, the Mobilization Against Poverty, that will call on the president to cut the poverty rate in half within 10 years.
The organizations say they are only attempting to help Obama stay on the course he has promised.
Said Sojourners organizer Jim Wallis: "We're trying to help him fulfill his commitment and hold his administration accountable at the same time."
Jim Wallis of the progressive evangelical group Sojourners praised Obama for not signing the order on the day of the march and instead marking the day by issuing his first presidential statement about abortion, which called on all sides to find common ground, such as working to reduce abortions.
Through the Saguaro Seminar, Obama befriended the president of the Christian Coalition and Kirbyjon Caldwell, a Dallas area Methodist minister who became President Bush's closest spiritual adviser. Obama grew particularly close to Jim Wallis, an evangelical political activist from Washington who founded Sojourners magazine.
Progressive evangelical leader Jim Wallis wrote in 1997 that the Church of the Saviour "has had more influence around the country than any other church I know about."
Frustrated by the failure to overturn Roe v. Wade, a growing number of antiabortion pastors, conservative academics and activists are setting aside efforts to outlaw abortion and instead are focusing on building social programs and developing other assistance for pregnant women to reduce the number of abortions.
"There are certain things that we probably all can support, and then there are other things that we're going to disagree about, and you find common ground on what you can, and then you have a political battle on your other issues," said Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners.
Obama has been explicit about the need to broker political peace between Democrats and believers. "If we don't reach out to evangelical Christians and other religious Americans and tell them what we stand for, then the Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons and Alan Keyeses will continue to hold sway," he said in an important speech at a 2006 meeting organized by the progressive evangelical Jim Wallis.