In May 2013, 25 Christian faith leaders gathered for a day and a half dialogue at the invitation of The Faith & Politics Institute to discuss how faith leaders can work together to promote deeper respect and greater civility in the public square. “Faith, Politics and Our Better Angels: A Christian Dialogue to Promote Civility” took place at the Frederick Douglass Museum on Capitol Hill. In attendance were representatives from a diverse range of denominations and organizations, including the National Council of Churches, the Family Research Council, the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), Concerned Women for America, NETWORK (a Catholic social justice lobby), Focus on the Family, the Episcopal Church, the Southern Baptist Convention, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, and many others.
The meeting was a follow-up to a gathering in June, 2012, after which a group of twenty Christian faith leaders committed to participate together in a ministry of reconciliation. Many of the participants in the June, 2012 gathering stayed involved in the project in the intervening year through praying together, publishing together and preparing for a second meeting together.
The purpose of the 2013 gathering was to strengthen relationships among the diverse group of faith leaders, to practice the tools and skills of respectful dialogue and to outline a plan to work together to help change the tone of political discourse. The Better Angels project is funded by the Democracy Fund of the Omidyar Network, which is dedicated to improving the quality and effectiveness of our democratic system.
Over the course of two days, the National Institute for Civil Discourse led the group of faith leaders through a series of exercises designed to improve their capacity to model and promote civil discourse.
Building Respect and Understanding
One tool that was practiced was that of paired dialogues, in which two faith leaders with different perspectives on a contentious political issue sought to listen to one another and engage one another with respect and understanding.
During 2013, the Better Angels project accomplished the following:
- Brought together 25 prominent church leaders with very diverse political views for a two day program entitled “A Christian Dialogue to Promote Civility”
- Produced and distributed resource materials which can be used by organizations and denominations to promote respectful dialogue
- Created the Christian Civility Network and facilitated regular communication between those who have attended previous Better Angels meetings as well as other key church leaders
- Obtained commitments from more than a dozen key individuals in the Network to promote dialogues, trainings and/or other programs in 2014.