The Common Good

Obama's New Faith-Based Council

Sojomail - February 5, 2009


The viewpoints of Bishop Williamson on the Shoah [Holocaust] are absolutely unacceptable and firmly rejected by the Holy Father, as he himself ... reaffirmed his full and indisputable solidarity with our brother recipients of the First Covenant, and affirmed that the memory of that terrible genocide should induce "humanity to reflect on the unpredictable power of evil when it conquers the human heart," adding that the Shoah remains "for everyone a warning against forgetting, against negating or reductionism, because violence committed against even one human being is violence against all." Bishop Williamson, in order to be admitted to the Episcopal functions of the Church, must in an absolutely unequivocal and public way distance himself from his positions regarding the Shoah.

- Statement by the Vatican Secretariat of State, issued in the wake of international outrage following the lifting of the excommunication of British Bishop Richard Williamson, a holocaust denier. The statement also said that the Pope had not been aware of Williamson's views when he lifted excommunications on him and three other bishops last month. (Source: Zenit)

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Hearts & Minds by Jim Wallis

Obama's New Faith-Based Council

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The launch of the President's Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, on which I will serve, recommits our nation to the necessary and positive vision of partnership between the public sector and the faith community. It is significant that both the elimination of poverty and the reduction of abortion are central goals within the administration and this new initiative. This indicates a shift toward a deeper and more constructive engagement with the faith community and civil society around substantive policy issues.

The President’s Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships offers the chance to move beyond necessary programs to fund exemplary faith-based organizations, which I support, to a broader and deeper vision of real “partnership” between the faith community and sound social policies. The “faith-based initiative” from the Obama administration seems to be inviting a partnership with, rather than a substitute, for good public policies to address poverty and social justice issues in America and around the world. To truly be successful, this initiative must utilize the unique resources and identity of the faith community while recognizing the indispensible role that government and public policy must play in tackling the root causes of poverty and the high abortion rates.

I am also pleased at the selection of Joshua DuBois to be the executive director of the White House Office for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. DuBois represents a new generation of faith leaders who believe their faith can and should change the world. He is a bright and committed young leader who has shown a great ability to reach out very broadly to the faith community, to build good relationships, to include many people in the process, and whose background and interests prepare him to focus on both good programs and good policy. With the support of a very diverse group of significant leaders from the faith community and the non-profit world on the president’s council of advisors, DuBois can build a good team to produce real results.

The Council is composed of independent faith leaders who will remain outside of the administration, doing the work that they each do, while advising the president and the White House Office for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships on matters of deep mutual concern. President Obama is himself a person of strong faith, and has shown a real desire to partner with the faith community throughout his career, from being a community organizer to becoming the president of the United States. He understands that the faith community will offer him our prayers and our support for agendas that are consistent with our own mission, as well as our challenge when we feel it is necessary to fulfill our “prophetic” responsibilities as leaders in the faith community. As a political leader, he has always welcomed diverse and strong opinions, and could become the kind of president who would understand how challenge is often the deepest form of support.

I know that many of us who have been appointed to the President’s Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships see this as an exciting opportunity to represent the faith community, to serve our nation, and advance the common good.

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Top Stories:

Progressive Faith Groups Now Trying to Shift Debate
The Washington Post
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." +Click to continue

Office Overhaul: Faith Council Named
The Washington Post
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. +Click to continue

Obama to name faith council panel
The Washington Times
"We'd like to see the faith community as a resource on policy issues," said the Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners and part of the new group. The new president wants a "robust partnership" with religious people, he added, and the council will be a mainstay of that arrangement. "This would not just be on religious liberty but on issues that impact us directly," he added. "Who knows the streets and neighborhoods in our poorest cities than the faith community?" +Click to continue

White House panel will guide faith-based programs
The Los Angeles Times
"Nobody wants to make faith a criteria of who gets services," Wallis said. "But how do you preserve the identity and mission of faith-based organizations and yet practice nondiscrimination? There is a healthy balance in there that we'll find over time." +Click to continue

Obama plans review of faith-based policies
The Associated Press
Jim Wallis, a member of the new advisory council, downplayed the significance of the hiring issue. He said it came up only once in transition meetings, and that poverty, human trafficking and the Middle East were discussed in much more detail. "I'm sure it will come up, but it's not the dominant issue," said Wallis, founder of the liberal Christian social-justice network Sojourners. +Click to continue

Obama to expand Bush faith program
“The conventional wisdom suggests that, since Bush used much rhetoric about his commitment to working closely with religious leaders and communities, that the new Democrat coming to the White House might seek to diminish the role of religion in his administration,” said the Rev. Jim Wallis, the president of the progressive Christian group Sojourners and a member of Obama’s new council. “But I believe the opposite may turn out to be true. There will be a new paradigm of religious influence under the Obama administration.” +Click to continue

"Sojourners in the news" articles are the most recent news clippings that mention Sojourners in any way -- whether favorably or unfavorably. Though we provide the text on our site for your convenience, we do not necessarily endorse the views of these articles or their source publications.


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