Speaking Out Issue advocacy
and the Episcopal Public Policy Network

God has given us a mission to care for our neighbors and all of creation. To do so, we must put aside our narrow self-interest to heal the hurting, fill the hungry, set the captives free, and bind up the wounds of creation.  I invite you to join in that mission as we advocate for government policies that serve justice, peace, and the dignity of all.

—Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori

 Speaking Out

Issue advocacy and the Episcopal Public Policy Network

By Mary Getz

Traveling around the country on behalf of the Episcopal Public Policy Network for the last six years, one of the most frequent comments that I heard was, “I didn’t even realize that the Episcopal Church did advocacy!” We certainly do! The EPPN is a network of justice-seeking Episcopalians across the country who are committed to the active ministry of public policy advocacy. The EPPN does this advocacy work in partnership with the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations. When people find out that the church is involved in issue advocacy, a barrage of questions usually follows.

Why does the Episcopal Church take part in issue advocacy? In our baptismal covenant, we promise to “seek and serve Christ in all persons” and to “strive for justice and peace.” The Bible calls us to “speak up for those who cannot” and to “defend the rights of the poor and needy,” (Prov. 31: 8-9). As seekers of justice, we answer this call through public policy advocacy. It takes us beyond the traditional avenues of Christian charity to the work of justice — changing the systems that necessitate charity.

What about separation of church and state? 

The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” That means that the government won’t establish a national religion or prohibit the free exercise of religion. It does not say that people of faith can’t contact their elected representatives to express their opinions. In fact as citizens of a democracy it is our responsibility to take part in the democratic process, and one way to do that is to contact elected officials. As people of faith, our beliefs naturally affect our views of the world around us and issues facing our legislators.

How does the EPPN determine the issue positions that it takes? 

The EPPN and the Church’s Office of Government Relations do not create issue positions. The EPPN and the Office of Government relations are bound by General Convention and Executive Council resolutions.  General Convention, composed of the House of Deputies (lay people, deacons, and priests elected by each diocese) and the House of Bishops, meets every three years. Any Episcopal congregation, person or group may submit a resolution to a diocesan convention for referral, or to a deputy, bishop, or Standing Commission of the General Convention for consideration at the triennial legislative gathering. If a resolution is approved by a majority of both houses at General Convention, it becomes church policy. Between conventions, the Executive Council sets policy for the church. 

Can I be a part of the EPPN if I don’t agree with all General Convention resolutions? 

Absolutely. The General Convention has passed resolutions on a wide variety of topics, and the EPPN endeavors to work on as many as possible.  You may be passionate about some issues, ambivalent about others, and even disagree with a few. While we provide members of the EPPN with a pre-drafted letter to send to elected officials, you can edit any part of it or choose not to take action at all. 

How can I be a part of EPPN? 

Joining EPPN is easy and free. You can join at www.episcopalchurch.org/eppn

or by calling 1-800-228-0515.  The EPPN equips you to speak out on important issues by providing instruction and advice on effective advocacy techniques, as well as resources and information about current legislation and the related church policies.  You can take action at whatever level is comfortable for you.   

Where can I get more information?  

There is more information about the EPPN, the Episcopal Church’s issue positions, and additional resources at www.episcopalchurch.org/eppn. If you don’t find what you are looking for, e-mail to eppn@episcopalchurch.org. 

Mary Getz is EPPN’s grassroots and online communications officer.