“Have you ever been involved in Catholic and Evangelical dialogue?
This was the question Ron Sider, the founder of Evangelicals for Social Action, a longtime professor at Palmer Theological Seminary (formerly Eastern Baptist Seminary), and author of the classic Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger (1977), asked me before the first session of this weekend’s Catholics and Evangelicals for the Common Good (CECG).
I told him that I spent the first fifteen years of my life as a Catholic and served on the board of the Lilly Fellows Program in the Humanities and Arts, an ecumenical network of Catholic and Protestant colleges designed to strengthen church-related higher education, but I had never participated in a Catholic-Evangelical dialogue for the purpose of promoting the “common good.”
CECG is now in its sixth year. This year’s meeting was held on the campus of Georgetown University in Washington D.C. The purpose of these discussions is to think together about how Catholics and Evangelicals might work together to defend a “consistent ethic of life,” alleviate poverty, promote a civil society, protect the environment, and engage in a host of other social justice initiative for the “common good.” The conversations are not focused on theology.
Most (but not all) of the discussion during the weekend centered around two documents. One of them was entitled “For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility.” It was produced in 2004 by the National Association of Evangelicals. The other was entitled Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship (2007). It was written in 2007 by the United States Catholic bishops.
Attendees at the meeting included:
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick: former Archbishop of Washington D.C.
Ronald Sider: President, Evangelicals for Social Action
Michael Gerson: Former Bush speechwriter and Washington Post columnist
John Borelli: Catholic theologians and special assistant to the president at Georgetown.
Mark Rodgers: former aid to Rick Santorum and principal of The Clapham Group.
Thomas Banchoff: Director of the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown
Stephen Monsma: researcher at the Paul Henry Institute at Calvin College.
John Carr: Director of Justice, Peace, and Human Development for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Cathleen Kaveny: John P. Murphy Foundation Professor of Law and Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame.
Paul Alexander: Director of Jesus & Politics for Evangelicals for Social Action
E.J. Dionne: Fellow at The Brookings Institution and columnist for the Washington Post.
Galen Carey: Vice President for Government Relations at the National Association of Evangelicals.
Richard Cizik: President of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good
Jack Downey: Ph.D candidate in American Catholic History at Fordham University and a visiting scholar at the Berkley Center.
Daniel Finn: Clemens Professor of Economics and Liberal Arts at St. John’s University, Collegeville, MN.
Anne-Elisabeth Giuliani: Office of Campus Ministry, Georgetown University
John Fea: Messiah College
Bryan McGraw: Assistant professor of Politics & International Relations at Wheaton College
George Monsma: Professor of Economics Emeritus at Calvin College
Timothy Shah: Associate Director, Religious Freedom Project, Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs.
Cheryl Sanders, Professor of Christian Ethics at Howard University School of Divinity and Pastor of the Third Street Church of God, Washington, D.C.
Amelia Uelmen, former Director of the Institute on Religion, Law, & Lawyer’s Work at Fordham University and Visiting Lecturer in Georgetown Law School.
My responsibility was to present a paper on the recent history of evangelical social and political engagement as a background to the discussion of “For the Health of the Nations.”
Pictured above: The Riggs Library at Georgetown, the site of our conversations.