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As a young Quaker who is passionate about faith and the way it motivates social justice, I was excited to spend my summer supporting faith leaders in their advocacy.

Over the past eight weeks as an FCNL intern, I have learned so much about what it means to advocate from a faith perspective and the roles that faith leaders can play in social justice movements.

Here are a few of my takeaways:

1. Faith leaders include more than just ordained clergy

Faith leaders are skilled at bringing people together, energizing a room, and crafting convincing narratives.

As a Quaker organization, FCNL recognizes that different traditions have different leadership structures. In addition to ordained clergy, we have organized faith leader visits that include Quaker Clerks, active committee members or Elders from a house of worship, leaders of religiously affiliated nonprofits, and more.

The bottom line - if you consider yourself a faith leader, you are, and members of Congress will consider you one, too!

2. Faith leaders are sustained advocates

Faith leaders have been doing the work of social justice for decades, and Congress knows it! Fighting for change can be exhausting, but they bring deep conviction and restorative spiritual practices to their advocacy. Everyone experiences burnout, but knowing how social justice fits into your wider worldview and having the support of faith-based rituals can make long-term, consistent advocacy more sustainable.

3. Faith leaders can do nonpartisan work that others struggle with

Because so many people have had a connection to faith at some point in their lives, faith leaders have a special ability to build relationships with offices with strongly opposing views. Opening a meeting with a blessing, using faith-based language, or even just wearing religious garb can be a powerful reminder of our shared humanity, and in certain circumstances, shared faith traditions.

Staff might listen more attentively to opposing arguments when they are set in the context of faith. For example, there are several members of Congress who attended Catholic school and were taught by nuns. If a Catholic sister comes into their office, they are more likely to listen like a student, rather than as an expert, and be open to an opposing perspective.

4. Faith leaders have people power

Opening a meeting with a blessing can be a powerful reminder of our shared humanity, and in certain circumstances, shared faith traditions.

Faith leaders are skilled at bringing people together, energizing a room, and crafting convincing narratives.

Working with faith leaders in South Carolina, I was delighted to learn how many of them already knew each other. One Quaker had invited two friends she met through community service, one of whom, in turn, invited another local pastor. All in all, four out of five members of the lobby group had a previous connection to at least one other attendee.

Not only do faith leaders bring people together, but they are also skilled at storytelling and captivating staff once the visit is underway. After all, many receive formal ministry training, and sermons commonly encourage listeners to understand a concept in new ways. These sermons also energize listeners to act for change, which is often applicable both to their fellow advocates, as well as to congressional staff.

5. Faith Leaders are weighty

For all of these reasons and more, faith leaders have influential voices. A poll from the Congressional Management Foundation found that when a member of Congress had not yet arrived at a decision on an issue, one of the things most influential in their thinking was contact from their constituents. While many faith leaders might hesitate to claim that they represent their congregants, members of Congress know that faith leaders are doing the work, taking the pulse of the district, and are inspirational leaders in their community.


Has this convinced you yet? We’re here to help you think through how to be a faithful advocate the next time you lobby. FCNL’s strategic advocacy team can help you think through the power of your own story. So, if you’re ready to lobby again, let us know here.

People: Abby McElry

Abby McElroy

Intern, Grasstops - Summer 2021
Abby McElroy is the intern for grasstops, within the strategic advocacy department. She is a sophomore at Harvard College and intends to major in sociology.

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