Reflections on Ecumenical Advocacy Days

By,  Joshua Crawford, FAN Intern

Joshua Crawford

The Pentagon City stop on the Washington Metro is an unexpected place to begin a long weekend of Christian social justice. It’s one of the most un-Washington stops in the entire system, located within an impressively massive shopping mall in Arlington that rings familiar to some locations in my old stomping ground of suburban Atlanta. While consumerism, specialty shops and food courts can be fun, I was really there to attend the 2016 national gathering of the Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD) movement, a celebration of Christian ecumenicism and social justice causes of all stripes. The gathering itself was located a few blocks away from the familiar mall, and I began my trek toward it with the urgency of a new hire trying to get to his first day on the job.

After a brief, mistaken detour into a conference room where a meeting of the World Council of Churches was ongoing (they were very friendly and pointed me in the right direction), I found my way to the right room where FAN was holding their annual Action Commission meeting. All of my FAN colleagues who I’ve already been working with, were there along with individuals who I hadn’t yet met. Some of my biggest new friends for the gathering turned out to be among the surprisingly large representation of Anglican/Episcopalian Franciscans. Both Dianne Aid, TSSF, and Francesca Wigle, long time Franciscan social justice workers, introduced me to the idea  of one day joining them as a Third Order of Franciscan within the Episcopalian tradition. I will prayerfully consider if that’s something I want to pursue in the future.

Much about FAN’s goals for the upcoming year were discussed in this meeting, and I have no doubt they will be achieved. Following this came the substance of these goals and possible future goals with exhibitions from the vast number of organizations that make up EAD. Rows of tables from organizations with a diverse array of important causes about which they care lined hallways.

I am proud to say throughout the weekend I managed to speak to every organization at least once, and while I had duly trained myself to speak about FAN’s various causes, many of the exhibitions were educational for me. I learned about Campaign for Youth Justice’s movement to oppose adult-level charges against juvenile defendants and Jubilee USA’s campaign to resolve Puerto Rico’s debt crisis. I learned about the Institute for Civility in Government’s plea to political actors to work together for the good of the country and Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries’ call for more diverse Christian congregations. It was an honor to learn from all of them, and I managed to offer my support and help to most so that their monumental tasks can one day be completed. I wish them godspeed in all of their noble endeavors.

Arguably the highest moment of the entire gathering was the plenary keynote address by the Rev. Dr. William Barber of the Moral Monday movement and the North Carolina NAACP, immediately preceded by stirring opening remarks from FAN’s own Sr. Marie Lucey. Sr. Marie’s moving admission of being a great beneficiary of white privilege throughout her life was amazing to hear and should be followed as textbook self-awareness for any white person, myself included.

Dr. Barber, not to be outdone, managed to effectively summarize the meaning of the entire EAD movement, whether speaking as himself or through the words of the prophet Ezekiel. Victims of injustice everywhere are the reasons EAD exists, and EAD must never lose sight of that, even while we are enjoying the luxury of a “hotel meeting”, conferring with one another about how and when we should move forward. EAD must alleviate pain from and bring comfort to all who suffer injustice in the same way the proverbial dry bones from Ezekiel chapter 37 are transformed back into the people of Israel with God’s help. God is the ultimate factor in all social justice, and I pray EAD will be able to perform great miracles with His help. I did receive a sense that the seeds of such work were present at this gathering, and I hope much fruit is brought forth from the work here.

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