WASHINGTON - More than 60 leaders from different religious faiths and secular organizations are in the nation's capital for a two-day gathering to discuss the role and purpose of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Monday night, gathered around a table, ready to listen, talk and learn were the likes of Pastor Joel Hunter of Northland Church, Father Larry J. Snyder of Catholic Charities USA, Bishop Vashti M. McKenzie head of the AME Church and Judy Vrendenburgh who is President and CEO of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of America.
At the helm: Joshua DuBois, the executive director of the faith-based office.
"The name says something about our mission," DuBois told the group. We want to "connect the federal government and the community…. and form community partnerships here and around the world," he said.
A New Mission is Set
The White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships was officially established by President Obama Feb. 5. During this time, DuBois and his staff have worked to redefine the office under the administration.
We are "shifting our sense of mission. The old goal was to level the playing field," he said. "We think that's important, but we didn't think that was a goal. We decided to identify four ways to bring government in partnership with community organizations."
One of those ways is to define the role of faith as it relates to the American Recovery and Reinvestment act which the Obama administration hopes will jumpstart the economy.
"The faith community gets excited about moral issues," Wallis said. "I see the budget as a moral document."
Another way is to promote responsible fatherhood and healthy family formation.
A hot topic issue that the group will tackle is to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and the need for abortion.
The final goal is to promote inter religious dialogue.
Monday, President Obama announced a list of members to serve on an advisory council for the faith-based office.
Members include Nancy Ratzan of the National Council of Jewish Women, Dalia Mogahed of the Gallup Center for Muslim studies and Anju Bhargava, Founder, Asian Indian Women of America.
"Our faith doesn't disqualify us from helping our community if we work together and find common ground," McKenzie said. "All of us are in the trenches. We can tell you what works and what doesn't."
Will It Work?
Most of the participants CBN News spoke with were extremely pleased with what the Obama administration is doing, but they were also cautious.
When asked about the meeting Hunter said "We're all waiting with anticipation to see how this will all go… but it's exciting."
DuBois stressed throughout the meeting that his office doesn't have an agenda.
"We are open to all comers," he said. "We are the conduit for their concerns. We don't lend our voices to… a political agenda."
On Tuesday the participants will meet with Melody Barnes, director of the Domestic Policy Council as well as others from the Obama administration.