On issues ranging from poverty to China policy to abortion, some unexpected allies have recently emerged in Washington and around the country. Common concerns are bringing former adversaries together in ways that reveal how outmoded our old political categories and divisions have become. Indeed, new configurations of issues and constituencies hold the real promise of some positive movement forward in a number of critical areas that have long been deadlocked.
The Philadelphia Roundtable
On a sunny spring day in Philadelphia, before the Presidents’ Summit for America’s Future, 59 Christian leaders who had often been at odds with one another spent nine hours together in a hotel conference room searching for common ground. They joined together, despite their differences in theological, social, and political views, because their shared Christian faith makes one thing perfectly clear: Christ called his followers to serve "the least of these." And those most in need in this country are facing a real danger in the wake of the 1996 welfare legislation.
Many of the participants, invited together by the Call to Renewal, commented that they had never before met with such a broad and diverse cross-section of church leaders and organizations (see Gathered at the Table). "This has been probably the most religiously diverse gathering of the Christian community to address the issue of poverty, certainly within this decade," said Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, general secretary of the Reformed Church in America and one of the church leaders present.
Given the wide-ranging guest list, the amazing thing about the roundtable is that it worked! There are several reasons why. First, the spirit of the day was confessional. The crisis facing poor people in America is finally bringing the churches back together. That in itself is reason for thanksgiving.