The Ministry of Advocacy

By Jim Simpson

Wednesday, November 28

The United States just had a refreshingly normal midterm election. There were hopeful signs for people on all sides of the political spectrum. Voter registration increased significantly. More women will be sworn into office than ever before. Participation by minorities and younger voters increased. In line with previous midterm elections, the President’s party gave up the majority in one chamber of Congress and held onto the other chamber. State and local elections were close in many parts of the country. The Democrats made inroads but margins were narrow. The blue state/red state division is still very apparent on the electoral map.

It’s no secret that actions and rhetoric emerging from our nation’s capital have dismayed U.S. allies. The 2018 midterm elections should reassure people around the world. Americans flocked to the polls. The checks and balances built into constitutional democracy and our version of federalism were affirmed. Voter initiatives replacing partisan redistricting with independent commissions (something that California voters adopted in 2008) passed in four states and will be on the ballot in more states in 2019. Sadly, legal and extra-legal constraints on minority participation in the electoral process are still a fact of life in some parts of this country.

A notable feature of the 2018 midterm elections was the number of voter propositions and initiatives that invited the electorate to “vote their values” on public health and social service policy questions. In San Francisco, the leading advocate for Proposition C’s gross receipts tax to support homelessness services framed the debate as: “Are you for the homeless or for yourself?” Voters in three Western states decided to expand eligibility for Medicaid health coverage to low-income adults. The governors-elect in three other states had campaigned on the promise to support Medicaid expansion. Two states adopted constitutional amendments to discourage public funding for abortion. Two more states authorized medical marijuana. Several others, including California, voted on measures to address health care quality and cost.

What role do religious and moral convictions play when you vote? Are some issues so categorical that there is only one way to conscientiously vote, regardless of the circumstances? Should we vote for the common good? What weight should we give to self-interest? Is there a way for us to continue to express our values in the public square after the elections are over and the affairs of government revert to elected leaders and legislative bodies?

Institutions such as Grace Cathedral offer a place and a way to explore the larger questions. The Episcopal Church offers a means for interested Episcopalians to actively participate in faith-based advocacy in between elections.

The Episcopal Public Policy Network is a grassroots organization in Washington, D.C., connected to the Episcopal Church Office of Government Relations. EPPN is dedicated to supporting Episcopalians across the country to strive for justice and peace through the active ministry of public policy advocacy. EPPN members receive action alerts and policy updates on a regular basis. EPPN’s website allows you to communicate directly with your Congressional delegation about issues that have particular resonance for you.

EPPN’s website is a great place to learn about the policy platform of the Episcopal Church and the advocacy initiatives led by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. Even if you’re not interested in joining EPPN, the website has thoughtful and well-prepared policy briefs on the Episcopal Church’s priority issues of the environment, immigration and refugees, domestic and international poverty, peacebuilding and human rights.

I encourage you to check it out.

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