The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, religious leaders issue New Haven Declaration ahead of election

By Hannah Black | Friday, April 12, 2024

This week, hundreds of religious leaders from across the nation joined with the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II to issue a new declaration of a collective effort to clarify the nation’s critical moral issues ahead of this year’s presidential election. The declaration was released at the conclusion of the inaugural conference of The Center for Public Theology and Public Policy, which was founded by the Rev. Dr. Barber in 2022 and is housed at Yale University.

As signatories of The New Haven Declaration, faith leaders pledge to “launch a season of preaching the moral issues of living wages and union rights, healthcare and ecological justice, an end to the spilling of innocent blood, a re-imagination of criminal justice, and the protection and expansion of voting rights and equal protection guarantees.” The full declaration is available to read and sign online.

Over twenty denominations were represented, including The Episcopal Church. Among the attendees was the Reverend Margaret S. Brack, who is Rector of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church and Pastor of Faith Lutheran in Maryland. She reflected, “This conference was transformational for me because it met me at a place I didn’t expect. During the opening event, the Bishop said we can’t do lightweight ministry, we need to always be fulfilling our Call with a heavyweight ministry. God is expecting the most that we can offer. I didn’t realize I had attained where I thought God had led me and I was ‘coasting’ in a way. I realized then why I was here at this conference to realize that I needed to continue at full throttle. There is much more God needs from me and I am so grateful my eyes were opened on Sunday night. Everything else I absorbed over the two following days were the continuation of what God’s call is in my life right now. All of the speakers and info given was so important in terms of the world we live and minister in right now.”

The Reverend Whitney Altopp, DMin, Rector of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church reported, “The conference helped me learn how to reframe political discourse in faith, rather than in the political framework.  As religious leaders, our faith narratives—the narratives which prioritize our humanity and God’s love for all creation—provide the ground from which our work sprouts and flourishes.  I left inspired and equipped for actionable growth.  The Gospel keeps up with the changing political landscape!  The Baptismal Covenant gives us voice- I will, with God’s help.”

The Reverend Timothy J. Squier, PhD, Rector of Old Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church, described the conference like this: “The Public Theology & Public Policy Conference held at Yale was an amazing experience for pastors and theologians seeking to address the controversial elements that threatened American democracy.”

The inaugural conference of the Center for Public Theology and Public Policy was hosted April 7-9, 2024 in New Haven, CT amid increased scrutiny of an organized effort led by “Christian Nationalist” organizations to pit voters against one another by exploiting Christian faith.

“These are not left issues or right issues,” Bishop Barber said. “These are moral issues that we must address if we take seriously what the Bible calls the ‘weightier matters of the law – love, justice, and mercy. These are moral issues we cannot ignore if we accept the Constitution’s call to form a more perfect union.”

The first-of-its-kind, three-day event equipped faith leaders and advocates with the tools and skills they need to help their congregations and communities assess the morality of policy positions presidential and other political candidates take. The conference empowered attendees to shape a better moral consensus in America in the following ways:

  • Training and Resourcing: Leaders learned about biblical, theological, historical, and policy tools essential for shaping the moral narrative during a Presidential election year.
  • Identification of Key Issues: Sessions included in-depth discussion to Identify and discuss the key moral and spiritual issues prevalent during a Presidential election year.
  • Role Clarification: Faith-leaders gained more context around the roles that clergy and public theologians can play in ensuring that these issues are not overlooked by candidates, party platforms, and pundits.
  • Framing Morality: Attendees gained insight on contrast moral framing with dominant narratives that often concentrate on divisions, distractions, and micro-deflections.
  • Policy Advocacy: Leaders walked away with specific policy actions that can make a difference on critical issues, allowing attendees to engage in meaningful advocacy.

In addition to Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, speakers and attendees included diverse faith leaders, moral fusion movement leaders, theologians, media personalities, politicians, economists, cultural artists, social justice advocates, and activists. A full list of conference speakers is available here.

About Yale Center for Public Theology and Public Policy:

The mission of the Center for Public Theology and Public Policy is to prepare a new generation of moral leaders to be active participants in creating a just society using the academic, practical, and research tools of past and present social justice movements.