Faith and Politics Institute
|Headquarters||110 Maryland Ave. NE, Suite 504|
The Faith & Politics Institute is a Washington, D.C. non-profit organization that serves members of Congress and congressional staff by offering experiential pilgrimages, reflection groups, retreats and public forums." Through its bipartisan and interfaith dialogues and programs, the group "works to bridge racial, religious, and political divisions among elected officials, while promoting reflective and ethical leadership. Since 1991, hundreds of members of Congress, Congressional staff, and their constituents have taken part in efforts "that encourage collaborative and visionary leadership practices and foster healing, civility, and respect."
The organization was headed by the Rev. Doug Tanner for the first 15 years of its existence, with Fr. Cletus Kiley taking over as president in 2006, succeeded in 2011 by the Rev. Mark J. Farr. In July 2012 Elizabeth McCloskey became the current CEO and president of The Faith & Politics Institute. While many Democratic and Republican Congressional Representatives work with the organization, including those on its Congressional Advisory Board, Representative John Lewis, a former leader of the Civil rights movement in America, has played a special role in its programs, including its annual Civil Rights Pilgrimage to Alabama.
The Institute was founded in 1991 to "provide bipartisan, bridge-building opportunities for political leaders to experience the spiritual power of conscience, courage, and compassion."
Plans for the group resulted from an early "reflection group" that included Rep. Glenn Poshard, Ms. Anne Bartley, Rev. Joe Eldridge, and Rev. Doug Tanner. Convinced of the importance of such opportunities for reflection, Tanner founded the Institute in 1991 "with the hope of providing opportunities for meaningful interactions and experiences among those who lead and serve our nation." Some of the Institute's earliest efforts were linked to the "Common Ground" program, providing opportunities for staffers and members to help rebuild churches burned by arsonists in the mid-1990s.
In 1997, the organization expanded its programs when then-President Rev. Doug Tanner persuaded Representative Amo Houghton and Representative John Lewis (D-GA) to serve as the co-chairmen of the group's Board of Directors. Their involvement brought in many additional members and leaders of Congress interested in dialogue across party, religious, racial, and ideological lines, creating a "spiritual community of men and women who seek a better way to do the people's business."
The Faith and Politics Institute operates as an interfaith and non-partisan organization with the mission to advance "reflective leadership among members of Congress and congressional staff to bridge the divides that arise in a thriving democracy."
The organization's website includes the following statement on its values:
The Faith & Politics Institute embraces values that are essential for a thriving democracy. Among those it holds most important are: Conscience, Courage, Compassion, Diversity, Integrity, Trust, Spiritual Engagement, Personal Reflection, Interfaith Understanding, Forgiveness, Civility, and Community.
Programs and activities
The Institute's programs encompass three general areas of leadership, including:
- Leading from Within: Reflective leadership is effective leadership—opportunities for members and staffers to strengthen their "inner dimension of leadership";
- Leading Across the Divides: Race, religion and partisanship—efforts to "foster a spirit of reconciliation across lines of race, religion and political party";
- Leading in service: Engaging the public—programs that bring together leaders and their constituents.
Activities within these three broad areas include reflection groups, retreats, pilgrimages, and public forums. The weekly reflection groups and occasional retreats are important opportunities seek to provide opportunities for men and women who work in the "fast-paced and charged atmosphere of Washington, D.C., to "connect their role with their greater calling as human beings." The public forums include lectures by well-known speakers "whose lives reflect moral courage in the political arena." The pilgrimages allow men and women from both houses of congress, along with staff members and special guests, to take part in trips that provide information, inspiration, and opportunities for reflection on the lessons to be learned from past struggles, such as the civil rights movement. The annual pilgrimage to Montgomery and Selma Alabama that includes a walk over the famous Edmund Pettus Bridge is an event led by Representative John Lewis, an early civil rights leader. Other special activities include:
- The Lewis-Houghton Leadership Awards: recognizing leaders "who have exhibited qualities of conscience, courage and compassion in their roles as public servants."
- United States-South Africa Faith and Politics Initiative: In May 2003, The Faith & Politics Institute provided program conceptualization, planning, and coordination for the Congressional visit (CODEL) to South Africa, led by Reps. Houghton and Lewis. This visit provided an opportunity to compare lessons learned from America's civil rights movement and South Africa's fight against apartheid, and established links for future dialogue.
- Saint Joseph's Day Breakfast: an annual breakfast program, including a speaker and awards ceremony, on Saint Joseph's Day. Because Saint Joseph is recognized by many as the patron saint of the worker, the Institute's St. Joseph's Day breakfast was founded "to raise awareness of the spiritual and moral issues that affect economic life in America." 
- The Congressional Reception: Every other year, this reception acknowledges both those who have supported the Institute's efforts and those who have been inspired by its programs.
The Faith & Politics Institute just concluded it's annual Congressional Pilgrimage to Alabama to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of "Bloody Sunday". The Institute brought together an unprecedented number of Senators and Members of Congress in a bipartisan fashion to reflect on the Civil Rights struggle of the past. There were over 100 lawmakers in attendance during the 3 day weekend including addresses and appearances by former President George W. Bush and President Obama in Selma, Alabama.
Through partnership efforts with other organizations, the Institute extends its reach by co-sponsoring special events that its basic missions. Some groups, like the Fetzer Institute, partner with the Institute to support a wide variety of its programs, while others focus on specific events, including:
- Congressional Conversations on Race: co-sponsored with Search for Common Ground, and founded on a belief in the need for the nation's leaders to recognize the spiritual nature of our nation's historic racial wounds, and work together toward healing.
- Civil Rights Heroes: Buried but not forgotten: in partnership with Sewall-Belmont House, the District of Columbia, GLAAD, and the National Park Service, honored women and men buried in the Congressional Cemetery, who played key roles in advancing justice and equality for all. One of the men honored was Leonard Matlovich a Vietnam war veteran Tech Sergeant, who had spoken out against discrimination against gay and lesbian service personnel.
- Muslims in America: The Faith & Politics Institute, along with the Newseum's Religious Freedom Education Project and Wesley Theological Seminary, hosted evening of storytelling and honest dialogue what it means to be Muslim-American in our contemporary context.
The Reverend Doug Tanner was founder and first president of the organization. In 2006, Fr Cletus Kiley, a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, at that time executive director of the Office of Priestly Life and Ministry of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), took over as president, with Tanner continuing to work as the group's "Senior Advisor." The current president is the Rev. Mark J. Farr, previously the Senior Faith Director of the Points of Light Institute. Farr was selected for the position in January 2011 and officially began work as president on February 28, 2011. Rob Liberatore, is the current Interim President and CEO while a national search is conducted for a new President.
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- Video: closing of F&P presentation by Fr. Cletus Kiley
- Remarks by Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi at a F&P institute reception honoring Representative John Lewis
- Video: 2010 Civil Rights Pilgrimage to Montgomery and Selma Alabama, led by Representative John Lewis of Georgia