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Progressive Revival

The President’s Council on Faith Based and Community
Partnerships has been filled out. It puts together
an extraordinary group of people from different backgrounds and ideologies reinforcing President
Obama’s comments yesterday in Turkey :

“One of the great strengths of the United States is …
we have a very large Christian population — we do not consider ourselves a
Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation. We consider ourselves a
nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.”

The President’s comments about us not being a Christian nation continue to be anathema to many in this county who insist just the opposite.  His comments also beg the question of what ideals and set of values do bind our nation, and will they hold together his Advisory Council?  Does the President mean the ideals and values embedded in the constitution?  Even those are contested and the different perspectives, which lead to very different understandings of how religion should function within the public square, are represented on this council.  

There are some deep ideological differences between these individuals including abortion, gay marriage and, more immediately applicable
to this group, federal funding for programs that use discriminate religious hiring practices.  Where will the much talked about common ground and common good be located and how many people will able to stand there?

My hope is that the president is engaged enough with this
group that each member continues to feel that it is politically wiser to
stay on the advisory council rather than leave it to make a political statement when the going gets tough.  And
the going will surely get tough.  There will be winners and losers among this
group once policy decisions start to be made. 

Most religious leaders I know feel invested in the President’s Council and hope that it will succeed as a new
experiment in religious pluralism
and American politics.  But answering the important question about the values that they share will have to be one of the first orders of business of this council.

Here is the list of the council members from the White House 

Each member of the Council is appointed to a one-year term.  The members of the Council are:

Diane Baillargeon, President & CEO, Seedco
New York , NY

*Anju Bhargava, Founder, Asian Indian Women of America
New Jersey

*Bishop Charles Blake, Presiding Bishop, Church of God in Christ
Los Angeles, CA

Noel Castellanos, CEO, Christian Community Development Association
Chicago, IL

*The Rev. Peg Chemberlin, President-Elect, National Council of Churches USA
Minneapolis, MN

Dr. Arturo Chavez, President & CEO, Mexican American Catholic College
San Antonio , TX

Fred Davie, Senior Adviser, Public/Private Ventures 
New York , NY

*Nathan Diament, Director of Public Policy, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America
Washington, DC

Pastor Joel C. Hunter, Senior Pastor, Northland, a Church Distributed
Longwood, FL

*Harry Knox, Director, Religion and Faith Program, Human Rights Campaign
Washington, DC

Bishop Vashti M. McKenzie, Presiding Bishop, 13th Episcopal District, African Methodist Episcopal Church
Knoxville, TN

*Dalia Mogahed, Executive Director, Gallup Center for Muslim Studies
Washington, DC

Rev. Otis Moss, Jr., Pastor emeritus, Olivet Institutional Baptist Church
Cleveland, OH

Dr. Frank S. Page, President emeritus, Southern Baptist Convention
Taylors, SC

Eboo S. Patel, Founder & Executive Director, Interfaith Youth Core
Chicago, IL

*Anthony Picarello, General Counsel , United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Washington, DC

*Nancy Ratzan, National President, National Council of Jewish Women
Miami, FL

Melissa Rogers, Director, Wake Forest School of Divinity Center for Religion and Public Affairs
Winston-Salem , NC

Rabbi David N. Saperstein, Director & Counsel, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
Washington , DC

Dr. William J. Shaw, President, National Baptist Convention, USA
Philadelphia , PA

Father Larry J. Snyder, President, Catholic Charities USA
Alexandria , VA

Richard Stearns, President, World Vision
Bellevue , WA

Judith N. Vredenburgh, President and Chief Executive Officer, Big Brothers / Big Sisters of America
Philadelphia , PA

Rev. Jim Wallis, President & Executive Director, Sojourners
Washington , DC

*Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Indianapolis, IN

NOTE: Members marked with an asterisk were announced today. The White House Office for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships will be a resource for nonprofits and community organizations, both secular and faith based, looking for ways to make a bigger impact in their communities, learn their obligations under the law, cut through red tape, and make the most of what the federal government has to offer.  Other members of the Advisory Council were announced earlier this year.

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