Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Obama Adds 9 Members to Council of Faith-Based, Community Advisors

President Obama announced on Monday nine more members of his Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, bringing the total number up to 25.

The new members include, among others, Bishop Charles E. Blake, presiding bishop of the Church of God in Christ; the Rev. Peg Chemberlin, president-elect of the National Council of Churches USA; and Harry Knox, director of the Human Rights Campaign’s Religion and Faith Program.

Notably absent from the list, meanwhile, is former NFL coach Tony Dungy, whose invitation drew considerable protest last week.

In a statement, Dungy said he “respectively declined” the invitation because of the time commitment needed but looks forward to working with the president in “furthering responsible fatherhood and other issues we both hold dear.”

“In looking at the dates of the Council meetings I would not be able to participate to the degree I would want,” the former head coach of the Indianapolis Colts explained.

The 25 members of the council, each appointed to a one-year term, will be responsible for advising the revamped White House Office for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships on how to direct government funds to religious and neighborhood groups engaged in social service work.

In February, Obama said the new office would work with nonprofit organizations "both secular and faith-based" and would help them determine how to make a bigger impact in their cities, learn their obligations under the law and cut through government red tape.

The president also said the top priority of the office will be "making community groups an integral part of our economic recovery and poverty a burden fewer have to bear when recovery is complete."

Last week, when news of the White House’s invitation to Dungy leaked, groups and individuals familiar with the former NFL coach’s opposition to same-sex marriage cried out in protest.
“Dungy ... has well-known ties with intolerant Religious Right groups,” stated Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

“It is extremely important for the advisory council to uphold civil rights and civil liberties, and I am concerned that Coach Dungy is far from the best person to do that,” added the organization’s executive director, the Rev. Barry W. Lynn.

Social conservatives, in response, rallied behind Dungy, hailing him as a man of character who has used his celebrity platform to promote adoption, prison ministry, family values, and outreach to the poor.

“Sounds like the perfect person to be part of an advisory panel on faith-based and neighborhood partnerships,” Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, noted Thursday.

“Would [Lynn] have a different opinion if Dungy supported same-sex marriage?” he asked.
Though Dungy ultimately declined the president’s invitation, the White House still managed to complete the list of 25 members that it initially said it would recruit for the diverse council of religious and secular advisors.

The council’s 25 members are:
  1. Diane Baillargeon, President & CEO, Seedco, New York , NY
  2. * Anju Bhargava, Founder, Asian Indian Women of America. New Jersey
  3. * Bishop Charles Blake, Presiding Bishop, Church of God in Christ, Los Angeles, CA
  4. Noel Castellanos, CEO, Christian Community Development Association, Chicago, IL
  5. * The Rev. Peg Chemberlin, President-Elect, National Council of Churches USA, Minneapolis, MN
  6. Dr. Arturo Chavez, President & CEO, Mexican American Catholic College, San Antonio, TX
  7. Fred Davie, Senior Adviser, Public/Private Ventures, New York, NY
  8. * Nathan Diament, Director of Public Policy, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, Washington, DC
  9. Pastor Joel C. Hunter, Senior Pastor, Northland, a Church Distributed, Longwood, FL
  10. * Harry Knox, Director, Religion and Faith Program, Human Rights Campaign, Washington, DC
  11. Bishop Vashti M. McKenzie, Presiding Bishop, 13th Episcopal District, African Methodist Episcopal Church, Knoxville, TN
  12. * Dalia Mogahed, Executive Director, Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, Washington, DC
  13. Rev. Otis Moss, Jr., Pastor emeritus, Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, Cleveland, OH
  14. Dr. Frank S. Page, President emeritus, Southern Baptist Convention, Taylors, SC
  15. Eboo S. Patel, Founder & Executive Director, Interfaith Youth Core, Chicago, IL
  16. * Anthony Picarello, General Counsel , United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC
  17. * Nancy Ratzan, National President, National Council of Jewish Women, Miami, FL
  18. Melissa Rogers, Director, Wake Forest School of Divinity Center for Religion and Public Affairs, Winston-Salem , NC
  19. Rabbi David N. Saperstein, Director & Counsel, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Washington , DC
  20. Dr. William J. Shaw, President, National Baptist Convention, USA, Philadelphia , PA
  21. Father Larry J. Snyder, President, Catholic Charities USA, Alexandria , VA
  22. Richard Stearns, President, World Vision, Bellevue , WA
  23. Judith N. Vredenburgh, President and Chief Executive Officer, Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America, Philadelphia , PA
  24. Rev. Jim Wallis, President & Executive Director, Sojourners, Washington , DC
  25. * Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Indianapolis, IN

(NOTE: Members marked with an asterisk were announced Monday.)

[By Eric Young, The Christian Post]

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