Obama picks new round of faith-based advisers

February 7, 2011

President Obama has named some top U.S. church leaders to an advisory
council on faith-based programs, but the list of appointments is
drawing questions about a lack of representatives from minority faiths.

The
12 names released late on February 4 include top officials of prominent
organizations—from the Episcopal Church to the National Association of
Evangelicals to the United Way. The list includes no prominent Muslim or
Hindu leaders; the White House says the list will be expanded later
with 13 additional names.

Welton Gaddy, a Baptist minister who is
president of the Washington-based Interfaith Alliance, said he was
"shocked" that the initial names for the panel did not include leaders
known outside the Christian and Jewish faiths. "I would think that it
would have been a priority to have had a Muslim leader on there and at
least one representative from the non-Abrahamic traditions," he said.

The
White House would not comment on the diversity of the panel but said
more names are to come. "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," said
White House spokesman Shin Ino­uye.

The new panel members include
the heads of four denominations—Presiding Bishop Kath­arine Jefferts
Schori of the Episcopal Church, Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Greek Orthodox Archbishop
Demetrios and Nancy Wilson, moderator of the predominantly gay
Metropolitan Community Churches.

Evangelical leaders include Leith
Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, and
Lynne Hybels, cofounder with her husband, Bill, of Willow Creek
Community Church, a suburban Chicago megachurch.

Jewish officials
include Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, executive vice president of the
Rabbinical Assembly of Con­serva­tive rabbis, and Susan Stern, special
adviser on government affairs to the American Jewish Joint Distribution
Committee.

The other appointees are Andrea Bazán, president of
Triangle Community Foundation in North Carolina; Angela Glover
Blackwell, founder of PolicyLink, a California-based nonprofit that
seeks economic equity; Brian Gallagher, president of the United Way
Worldwide;
and Sister Marlene Weisenbeck, an officer of the Leadership Con­­ference of Women Reli­gious.

The
first panel of 25 members completed its work last March. Vetting of the
next group has taken long­er than expected. Obama signed an executive
order in November that re­flects some of the first group's 
recommendations for reforming the White House Office of Faith-based and
Neigh­borhood Partner­ships.