The Faith & Politics Institute convenes members of Congress and other elected officials of all political affiliations, spiritual traditions and races and engages them in constructive dialogue around shared values necessary to advance democracy – conscience, courage, and compassion.
Since 1991, The Faith & Politics Institute has served hundreds of members of Congress by offering experiential pilgrimages, weekly reflection groups, weekend retreats and public forums. In a world that is increasingly interconnected, we are dedicated to doing this work with national political leaders because of their ties to a broad constituency and their impact on local, national and global policy. Our belief is that our commitment to a relatively small but influential group of people will ultimately reach many.
The Faith & Politics Institute is an agent for change: from leadership that is externally focused to integrated leadership that incorporates shared values; from bitter partisanship to civility and engagement; from racial division and the exploitation of divides in electoral politics to reconciliation and dialogue. The Institute does more than create and preserve safe spaces: it takes strategic steps to promote leadership that will have a positive impact on the tone and effectiveness of national political discourse.
The Faith & Politics Institute cultivates mutual respect, moral reflection, honest conversation, and increased understanding among political leaders to advance productive discourse and constructive collaboration.
The Faith & Politics Institute regularly engages national political and policy leaders through a variety of programs designed to provide meaningful reflection, engagement, and dialogue. The Faith & Politics Institute maybe be best known for its Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimages, which have captured the attention of national political leaders, the public and the media.
Led by U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), House Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (SC), and civil rights icon U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), a bipartisan delegation of Members of Congress joined The Faith & Politics Institute in March 2016 for its first pilgrimage exploring the unique role of faith in the civil rights history of South Carolina. The pilgrimage made stops in Columbia, Orangeburg, and Charleston, where participants learned of the civil rights movement from luminaries and historians. In Charleston, members and participants received lessons of forgiveness from survivors, victims’ families, and city leaders in response to the hate crime perpetrated on nine African Americans gathered for a Bible study at Emanuel AME Church in 2015.
Nearly every year since 1998, The Faith & Politics Institute has organized a pilgrimage to Alabama and other locations in the South led by Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), an iconic figure of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Over time, nearly 300 members of the U.S. House and Senate have traveled to sites in Montgomery, Birmingham, and Selma to explore the events that dramatically challenged racial discrimination and turned the course of American democracy. Political leaders have described the pilgrimage as a transformative moment in their own personal journey in their purpose-driven work.
In 2003, FPI led a delegation to South Africa to explore the role of faith in the struggle against apartheid and the courage of leaders who forged a peace process and a democratic, non-racial democracy. In 2016, we returned to South Africa to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Robert F. Kennedy’s “Ripples of Hope” speech. Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) reflected: “I met a remarkable range of men and women, leaders of this generation and the last...and was reminded in all of our conversations … that all of these men and women have fought that fight, sending forth ripples of hope that brought the mighty walls of apartheid crashing down and built a more equal nation in its place… the United States and South Africa can and should look to each other for lessons and inspirations as we continue to work to heal the damage of racial injustice, to reverse the trends of economic inequality, and to protect our experiments in democracy
The Faith & Politics Institute is governed and administered by a diverse collection of professionals dedicated to the idea that our democracy thrives when its political leaders ground their work in the values of conscience, courage and compassion.
The Faith & Politics Institute is celebrating 25 years of service to policy and political leaders in the nation’s capital. Since its founding in 1991 by Reverend Doug Tanner, then-U.S. Rep. Glenn Poshard (D-IL), Anne Bartley, and Reverend Joe Eldridge, the Institute has offered opportunities for members of Congress and other political professionals to cultivate effective public leadership through interfaith spiritual community and moral reflection.
For eight years beginning in 1997, U.S. Reps. John Lewis (D-Georgia) and Amo Houghton (R-New York), served as co-chairs of the Institute’s Board of Directors, raising the profile of the organization and broadening its reach. Congressman Lewis continues to be engaged with the Institute’s work and has been a leader of our Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimages. Congressman Houghton retired from Congress in 2005.