Dr. Bob Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of the Churches of Christ (NCC)
Rev. Jennifer Butler, Executive Director of Faith in Public Life
Opening Remarks by:
John D. Podesta, President & CEO, Center for American Progress
The Center for American Progress held an event today to discuss a new book by the Reverend Bob Edgar entitled Middle Church: Reclaiming the Moral Values of the Faithful Majority from the Religious Right.
Rev. Edgar, former Congressman and General Secretary of the National Council of Churches (NCC) in the U.S., argues that over the past forty years, the radical religious right has successfully organized a national movement while progressives of faith struggle to get their voices heard. Middle Church offers new approaches for creating dialogue on faith and politics, and organizing a progressive movement based on ecumenical spiritual principles.
Rev. Edgar called on religious progressives at today’s event to “take on the radical religious right” by forming coalitions for positive social and political change with the “Middle Church.” Most Americans are members of this “Middle Church,” those who want to address the fundamental problems facing America, but are frequently distracted by issues of personal piety.
Religious progressives, he argues, are often more silent and complacent on political issues, and have only recently started organizing like their radical rightwing counterparts. He called on progressive faith leaders to use radio and television communications to “evangelize the middle” and reshape the terms of debate by fearlessly working on the “fundamental issues” like social injustices and the environment and to ignore issues “not central to themes of scripture.”
Religious progressives should focus on mobilizing the “Middle Church,” he argued, and avoid engaging the extreme leaders of the radical right. He noted that Martin Luther King Jr. and other “faithful remnants” of the civil rights era were able to win the hearts and minds of millions of Americans, despite all the risks and dangers, by standing shamelessly and unequivocally for faith-based values and principles.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Program: 9:00 AM – 10:15 AM
Admission is free
Center for American Progress
1333 H Street NW, 10th Floor
Washington, DC 20005
Map and Directions
Nearest Metro: Blue/Orange Line to McPherson Square or Red Line to Metro Center
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For more information call 202-741-6246
Jennifer Butler: Rev. Jennifer Butler is Executive Director of Faith in Public Life. An ordained Presbyterian minister, Butler most recently served as the Presbyterian Church (USA) Representative to the United Nations (UN). During her nine years at the UN, Butler represented the denomination on a range of issues, including women’s rights, genocide in the Sudan, and the war in Iraq. As a member of the UN Executive Council of the Committee of Religious Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs), Butler was a leading spokesperson and published author on the issues of religion and human rights. Her book on the Christian Right and international policy will be published by the Pluto Press in December 2006. Butler served in the Peace Corps from 1989 to 1991 in a Mayan village in Belize, Central America. A graduate of Princeton Seminary, she holds a Master of Social Work from Rutgers University and Bachelor of Arts from the College of William and Mary. She grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, and is married to Glenn; they have one son, Eli. Butler attends church at Journey’s Crossing in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Bob Edgar: Bob Edgar is the General Secretary of the National Council of the Churches of Christ (NCC) in the USA, the leading U.S. organization in the movement for Christian unity. An ordained elder in the United Methodist Church, Dr. Edgar is a former six-term congressman from Pennsylvania, where he was the first Democrat in more than 120 years to be elected from the heavily Republican 7th District. President of Claremont School of Theology in California from 1990-2000, Dr. Edgar has directed a think tank on national security issues and currently serves on the boards of several organizations whose missions involve social justice. In his new book, MIDDLE CHURCH: Reclaiming the Moral Values of the Faithful Majority from the Religious Right (Simon & Schuster; September 2006), Dr. Edgar argues that the pivotal moral issues of our day are the same as in the times of Jesus and the prophets – social justice, waging peace, and caring for God’s creation. He urges mainstream Americans of faith to speak up for these timeless moral values and refuse to have their voices drowned out by the far religious right.
John D. Podesta: John Podesta is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Center for American Progress Action Fund and visiting Professor of Law at the Georgetown University Law Center. From October 1998 until January 2001, Podesta served as Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton, where he was responsible for directing Congressional relations and staff activities of the White House. He coordinated the work of cabinet agencies with a particular emphasis on the development of federal budget and tax policy, and served in the President’s Cabinet and as a Principal on the National Security Council. Podesta has also held a number of positions on Capitol Hill including: Counselor to former Democratic Leader Senator Tom Daschle; Chief Minority Counsel for the Senate Judiciary Subcommittees on Patents, Copyrights, and Trademarks, and Security and Terrorism; and Counsel on the Majority Staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Podesta is a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center and Knox College.
The Center for American Progress is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just and free America that ensures opportunity for all. We believe that Americans are bound together by a common commitment to these values and we aspire to ensure that our national policies reflect these values. We work to find progressive and pragmatic solutions to significant domestic and international problems and develop policy proposals that foster a government that is "of the people, by the people, and for the people."