faith leaders

Faith Leaders Speak; the EPA Listens

Joey Longley/Sojourners

EPA staff listening to faith leaders on carbon emission standards. Joey Longley/Sojourners

The Environmental Protection Agency held listening sessions Thursday to hear from the public about a forthcoming rule about carbon emissions from existing power plants. More than 20 faith leaders spoke on behalf of those Jesus called “the least of these.” In addition to such faith leaders as Rev. Dottie Yunger and Interfaith Power & Light’s Joelle Novey, other parties, from pro-coal Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and coal lobbyist Mike Carey to the Sierra Club’s Leslie Fields and League of Conservation Voters’ Gene Karpinski, were on hand to testify.  Those testifying had three minutes apiece to voice their views on what the new rule on emissions should look like. 

Prior to the testimonies, more than 20 faith leaders assembled outside of the EPA to pray that God’s creation would be restored. Organized by Creation Justice Ministries and Greater Washington Interfaith Power and Light, the vigil featured songs of hallelujah and peace. Novey read a Jewish prayer for travelers, asking God to lead us into safety.

After the worship service, the faith leaders joined a diverse audience to testify to the EPA about the importance of battling climate change. I saw five faith leaders speak, reminding the agency that they not only have a technocratic responsibility to create a stringent rule limiting carbon emissions, but also a moral responsibility to do so. 

Moral Mondays: A Cry for the Old North State

State flag of North Carolina. Illustration courtesy Martin Bangemann/shutterstoc

State flag of North Carolina. Illustration courtesy Martin Bangemann/

It’s true that by some standards I am not North Carolinian, nor or am I Southern. I was not born there — I have no extended family there. I don’t speak with a drawl. And I don’t (gasp!) like sweet tea or Cheerwine.

But after 14 birthdays, nine years in the public education system, four years at UNC-Chapel Hill, countless pounds of barbecue, numerous trips to the Appalachians and the Outer Banks, and many lifetime milestones — including voting for the first time! — passed in that beautiful state, it is now the closest thing to home I know.



Christian Leaders Seek to Overcome Polarization

RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts speaks during the April 10, 2013 meeting. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks


WASHINGTON — Twenty-five top Christian leaders gathered in the U.S. city with perhaps the worst reputation for civil discourse Wednesday and committed themselves to elevating the level of public conversation.

Meeting in a row house three blocks from the U.S. Capitol, the group spanned the Christian spectrum, and included officials from liberal churches and the most conservative of interest groups.

“The ground of our spiritual understanding is in treating other people as the image of God, treating people with respect,” said Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

“Faith leaders have a remarkable opportunity to shift the conversation, but it’s very challenging, particularly in a larger society that wants to understand everything as a battle, as engaging the enemy, rather than with someone who might have something to teach us,” she said.

Black Pastors: Gun Violence Isn’t Just a Problem for White Suburbs

RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

African-American Church Gun Control Coalition in Washington, D.C. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

WASHINGTON — Black clergy have launched a new coalition to fight gun violence, saying they are undeterred by the recent failure of legislation on Capitol Hill and all too aware of the problem of gun violence.

At meetings held Tuesday in Washington and Los Angeles, supporters of the African-American Church Gun Control Coalition called gun violence “both a sin and a public health crisis” and committed to a three-year action plan of advocacy, education and legislative responses.

“As people of God and as faithful members we have the obligation to stir the world’s conscience and to call on our nation’s decision makers to do what is just and right,” said the Rev. Carroll Baltimore, president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, which convened the coalition.

Where Idolatry Rages, Prophets Speak Out

Photo by Brandon Hook / Sojourners

Rev. Sam Sailor of of Hartford, Conn., speaks at the vigil on April 11. Photo by Brandon Hook / Sojourners

Guns are dangerous idols. While mass shootings are happening at an alarming rate and an epidemic of gun violence plagues our nation’s cities, our society’s fanatical devotion to weapons prevents us from enacting solutions to curb the violence. The cost of worshipping these false idols continues to rise, as firearms kill more than 80 people a day

Since the Dec. 14 shooting in Newton, Conn., nearly 3,500 people have died because of a gun. Some of them were suicides. Some were gang-related gun deaths. Many use these facts to insinuate that the deaths somehow aren't equally tragic. But as Christians we know that all of them were children of God created in the Divine image.

While the idolatry rages on, prophets are beginning to speak out.

'Si, Se Puede!' Tens of Thousands Gather on National Mall for Immigration Reform

Tens of thousands gathered on at the Capitol building to call for commonsense immigration reform. Catherine Woodiwiss/Sojourners

Thousands of people flooded the National Mall on Wednesday to call on Congress for commonsense immigration reform that includes a roadmap to earned citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

Coupled with a day of lobbying on Capitol Hill and sibling rallies across the country, Wednesday’s was one of the biggest immigration rallies to date. Sponsored by the Service Employee International Union, Casa de Maryland, the NAACP, and more, the rally began with an interfaith prayer service and featured the voices of faith leaders, including UMC Bishop of Los Angeles Minerva Carcaño, Director of Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism Rabbi David Saperstein, Director Hispanic Diocese of Arlington Padre Jose Eugenio Hoyos, and Islamic Center of Maryland Imam Jamil Dasti.

White House Council Calls for Action on Modern-day Slavery

RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks.

White House advisory council of religious leaders. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks.

 WASHINGTON — A White House advisory council of religious leaders called for a global fund to address human trafficking and urged a new labeling system to help identify consumer goods that were not created with slave labor.

With a 36-page report released Wednesday, the President’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships hopes to build awareness of the estimated 21 million people worldwide who are subjected to sexual exploitation or forced labor.

“Abraham Lincoln said if slavery is not wrong then nothing is wrong, and we know that sadly 150 years later slavery still exists,” said Susan K. Stern, chair of the council and an adviser to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. “Today with this report we say, ‘Enough.’”

The 15-member council made 10 recommendations to the White House, saying what they’ve learned about the scope of trafficking has driven them to galvanize national action.

One recommendation calls for a “Global Fund to Eradicate Modern-day Slavery,” modeled on a fund that combated AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria.

Louisiana Faith Leaders Step Up to Protect Poor, Rebuke Gov. Jindal’s Draconian Tax Plan

Governor Jindal's tax plan would increase sales tax by 47%. Photo courtesy Anne Power /

Louisiana faith leaders hand-delivered a letter to Gov. Bobby Jindal this morning, denouncing his proposal to increase sales tax by 47 percent as “unjust” and “regressive.”

The state already has one of the most disproportionate tax systems in the country, with low- and middle-income families paying more than twice the rate in taxes as families whose income totals more than $1 million per year. To raise the sales tax even higher, say leaders, would deal a crushing blow to the poor.

“[W]e are concerned that your plan proposes to use the increased revenue generated by a heavier burden on poor and moderate income families,” the letter reads, “not to fund any of the important needs and services our State faces, but to decrease the tax burden for those members of our community who are most blessed with wealth and resources. That … is unacceptable.”


A Prayer at the White House

A meeting today of faith leaders with the president on immigration reform opened and closed with prayer.

This was my prayer at the end:

Thank you Lord, for this circle of leaders around the table and how you have brought us together to help welcome the stranger in our midst — to fix this broken immigration system that breaks families and lives.

Thank you for the leadership of Barack Obama in making comprehensive immigration reform such a high priority in these critical months ahead. Guide and direct him to find a genuine bipartisan political path to accomplish something so important that has been needed for so long. We thank you for both the Republicans and Democrats who are coming together to make that possible.