As a result of the 2014 elections, the landscape of our Faith and Action mission field will undergo tectonic changes. To begin with, the majority party in Congress sets the cultural tone of Capitol Hill. That has a significant affect on everything we do. The tone makes an impact on how we engage the people here, what access we have to them, and how we are received by them.
There’s more to this change. The longer people serve in office, the more susceptible they are to cynicism and isolationism. The cynical ones often see religious groups as either useful tools toward political ends, or threats to social progress and freedom. Isolationists are–well, just that–isolated. They hide behind layers of staff and closed doors, inaccessible to us and just about any other outsiders. These conditions have nothing to do with party affiliation. Democrats and Republicans are equally vulnerable, and Independents catch the disease, too. The remedy is found in intervening early–as in when new members to either the House or Senate arrive on Capitol Hill. That’s the time to begin building a relationship with them that can last throughout their tenure.
I’ve learned to see elections as fresh starts when it comes to ministry in Washington. When the newly elected land here, they’re often optimistic, open, excited, and ready to develop new friendships and establish new alliances. So, my team and I will be reaching out to the new members of Congress and the new United States Senators. Even if they’re simply making a move from one body to the other (as is true of five new senators that have been U.S. Representatives), it will still be an entirely new environment for them. Members and senators do not often mix and are rarely found on each others turf. Even though the three office buildings for the House of Representatives sit at a distance just the span of the Capitol building from the three Senate buildings (and their respective chambers are on either end of the Capitol Rotunda) the two bodies may as well be in different cities. The incoming representatives-cum-senators may know the scenery, but that doesn’t mean they know the rules, the rhythms, or the culture of the “upper house.”
Of course, it’s not just the principals (members of Congress and senators) that change after an election–it’s their support staff, too. Hundreds of existing staff members will change roles, re-locate offices, and literally switch chairs in this transition. There will be plenty that will lose their jobs entirely, move into the private sector, or leave the area. New faces will replace them. In so many ways, this is a sea change outside our front doors. It’s easy to think of Washington as a static, even stagnate, place, but it’s really quite dynamic. Our robust democratic Republic constantly calls for change, and change it did this past week. That change will be literally palpable outside our front door.
Speaking of change, I thought you’d be interested in the religious affiliations of the incoming United States senators. To a one they are “Christian”–no other religions among them. Here’s how they identify themselves religiously:
Cory Gardner of Colorado: Lutheran
James Lankford of Oklahoma: Christian
Joni Ernst of Iowa: Evangelical Lutheran
Thom Tillis of North Carolina: Protestant
Tom Cotton of Arkansas: Methodist
Gary Peters of Michigan: Episcopalian
Steve Daines of Montana: Presbyterian
Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia: Presbyterian
Mike Rounds of South Dakota: Catholic
Now is a good time to begin praying for these new senators. I’ll publish a similar list of incoming House members later.