Obama Names Dozen New Members For ‘Faith-Based’ Council

In a signal that the controversy over the administration’s “faith-based” initiative is likely to continue, President Barack Obama in February took steps to reactivate his Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

On Feb. 4, Obama named 12 new members of the council and promised to add more at a later date.

This will be Obama’s second council. His first, which included mostly religious leaders, disbanded last year after recommending a package of changes to the administration’s ap­proach to “faith-based” funding. While civil liberties experts considered many of the changes – later incorporated in an Obama executive order – to be positive, other provisions drew fire.

The administration also has been criticized for refusing to keep Obama’s campaign promise to re­quire publicly funded faith-based charities to stop discriminating in hiring on grounds of religion

The current round of appointments to the advisory council include liberal and conservative denominational leaders, representatives of religious charities and three heads of secular charities.

The list included:

• Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals

• Andrea Bazán, president of Triangle Community Foundation in North Carolina

• Angela Glover Blackwell, head of Oakland, Calif.-based Policy Link, a nonprofit organization that strives to advance economic and social equity

• Brian Gallagher, president of United Way Worldwide

• Bishop Mark Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

• Lynn Hybels, co-founder of Willow Creek Community Church, a prominent evangelical congregation in South Barrington, Ill.

• The Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church

Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the Rabbinical As­sembly, the international association of Conservative and Masorti rabbis

• Susan K. Stern, special advisor on government affairs to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee

• Archbishop Demetrios Traka­tel­lis, archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church of America

• Sister Marlene Weisenbeck, a member of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, and past president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious

• The Rev. Elder Nancy L. Wilson, moderator for the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, a predominantly gay de­nom­ination

The president’s choice of council members drew some criticism for failing to include any Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists or representatives of other minority faiths.

White House spokesman Shin Inouye told Religion News Service, “We look forward to announcing the additional members at a later date, at which point the 25 members will begin the process of producing recommendations to improve the government’s partnerships with faith-based and other nonprofit organizations.”

No specific agenda for the new council has been announced.