The Episcopal Public Policy Network

By Maureen Shea

Over 20,000 Episcopalians now belong to the Episcopal Public Policy Network! If you’re wondering just what the Episcopal Public Policy Network (EPPN) is you may not be alone. The EPPN is the national grassroots network of Episcopalians who call and write their members of Congress and the Administration to advocate for the public policy positions of the Church. Recent alerts have asked EPPN members to write to Congress on Israeli/Palestinian peace, opening our doors to more Iraqi refugees, the Farm Bill and its importance to hunger issues at home and abroad, empowering women, helping orphans world wide, and stopping new nuclear weapons.

With the help of the EPPN, lay and clergy leaders, bishops, and yes, the Presiding Bishop, Office of Government Relations staff bring the positions of the Episcopal Church to our nation’s lawmakers. We were very pleased when the Presiding Bishop testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on climate change on June 7. The policy positions are established by the General Convention and Executive Council, and include the full range of social justice issues – Millennium Development Goals, international peace and justice, human rights, immigration, welfare, poverty, hunger, health care, violence, civil rights, the environment, racism, and issues involving women and children both at home and abroad.

The Episcopal Public Policy Network is coordinated by Mary Getz in the Church’s Office of Government Relations (OGR). Also on staff are Alex Baumgarten, the international policy analyst, John Johnson, domestic policy analyst, Molly Keane, office administrator and immigration liaison, and I serve as director. The OGR office is located in the historic Methodist Building on Capitol Hill and we welcome visitors from around the country. OGR is part of the Peace and Justice Ministries cluster headquartered at the Episcopal Church Center in New York City.

The Government Relations staff meets directly with government leaders, works with media, recruits and mobilizes grassroots Episcopalians, builds relationships with Members of Congress and staff, and forms coalitions of both religious and secular interest groups to further the Church’s positions.

The need for the work of justice is best explained in these words of Martin Luther King, Jr. in a sermon at Riverside Church in New York:

On the one hand we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside, but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho Road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.

It is that need for restructuring that calls us to this public policy work. It is that need for restructuring that is the heart of the Millennium Development Goals – our church’s #1 mission priority for this triennium. As we celebrate our 20,000th member of the Episcopal Public Policy Network, we invite others to join in the important task of seeking peace with justice.

Maureen Shea is the Director of Government Relations for The Episcopal Church.

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