Obama's Council on Faith Based Partnerships has fallen off the map - and we need them back. Nothing exemplifies the sad lack of contribution of this much hailed diverse group of religious leaders than the current impasse on health care with the Stupak abortion amendment.
Even before President Obama took office he was assembling a team of religious leaders from a wide range of backgrounds to advise him as he proposed to tackle difficult issues such as poverty reduction, health care, war and other moral questions of governance. Many of us were excited about the prospect of Obama's Faith Council, which included such theologically and politically diverse names as Father Snyder of Catholic Charities; Rabbi Saperstein of the Reform Action Committee; Dr. Frank Page, former President of the Southern Baptist Convention; and Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister of the Disciples of Christ.
Unlike in the past, Obama's Faith Council was allotted no money to dispense so it was relieved of the political nightmare of accusations of favoritism and could focus on policy questions. The promise of this group lay in its diversity. The idea was that if this group could come to some consensus on the important moral issues of the day, it would help inform President Obama's administration to enact policy that reflected, by proxy, the religious wisdom of the vast majority of the American population.
Unfortunately, after a much-publicized announcement and launch, the group has basically been silent. Apparently the Council is working on a "report" to give to the president sometime next year on the various areas they have been assigned to investigate. This seems like a classic blow off -- "Yes, faith leaders, why don't you go write a report. I look forward to glancing at it."
The issues that need moral guidance are on the table now! By its silence, the president's Council on Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships is acquiescing to its own irrelevancy. Most Americans and policy makers have assuredly forgotten the council exists -- but not those of us who really believed in the possibilities of the group.
The 'Urgency of Now' includes finding a way to a health care bill, addressing questions of unemployment and foreclosures, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, torture and even balancing gay marriage with freedom of religion. The time will never be more urgent for the Council's moral voice on these questions.
Cross posted from Beliefnet's Progressive Revival