Photo courtesy St. Mark's Church

Annual Eastern Washington Legislative Conference to focus on discourse for the common good


By Amber Woods

The 2018 Eastern Washington Legislative Conference, organized by the Faith Action Network, The Fig Tree, and Catholic Charities of Spokane, will take place Saturday at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.

The Eastern Washington Legislative Conference is an event which has been held for several decades. Its purpose is to help members of Eastern Washington’s faith communities stay informed about the issues before the state legislature and to educate them about how the teachings of their religions and their involvement in state affairs as citizens interconnect.  Those attending are encouraged to share this knowledge and inform their own congregations of issues, advocacy, and ways of getting involved, according to a press release.

The theme of this year’s conference is: “Framing Faithful Discourse for the Common Good.” It was chosen to address how and why religious communities are involved in public policy, as well as how to get past the impasse in communication which is present in our bi-partisan government and respond faithfully to hate. The theme will also be the topic of a panel which will take place at 9:30 a.m. The speakers will be the Rev. Walter Kendricks, Rev. Sandy Messick, Bishop Gretchen Rehberg, Rev. Gregg Sealey, and Bishop Emeritus William Skylstad, with Elise DeGooyer of the Faith Action Network as moderator.

The conference will open with a welcome message and invocation, followed by the panel discussion. The rest of the morning will be devoted to the following workshops which will occur at both 10:40 and 11:40 a.m.:

  • Environmental Legislative Priorities for State and Region, which will focus on environmental legislation being considered by the current session of the legislature: Healthy Good Packaging Act (getting toxic chemicals out of packaging); Act on Climate/Price on Carbon; A Fix for the Hirst decision (sustainable water management). Additional topics if there is time: Oil Spill Prevention, Clean Fuel Standard, Local Issues (Sewage Sludge on Ag Land Moratorium, Newport Silicon Smelter, Spokane City Water Sales and river flow.
  • Impacts of Mass Incarceration on Communities of Color
  • Breaking the School to Prison Pipeline
  • Challenges of and Responses to Homelessness, which offers a review of what is being done locally to reduce homelessness, including an overview of the coordinated response approach, lessons learned providing 24/ shelter for the City of Spokane and using a Housing First model to provide housing for those who have been homeless the longest. A look farther afield at what is happening at the State, Regional and Federal levels around homelessness and responses.
  • Challenges of and Responses to Affordable Housing,
  • Doctrine of Discovery and Implications for Issues for Tribes in the Northwest Today, which explores the legacy and ongoing impact of 500-year-old Papal Bulls and a theology of Manifest Destiny that justified the Age of Discovery and U.S. Expansion. The workshop will briefly explore and introduce this history, the continuing influence of the Doctrine of Discovery on U.S. legal framework, and shifting public policy regarding First Nations. Tribal leaders will share from their own experience the ongoing impact of this legacy of domination on indigenous communities. Together we will plant the seeds for a post-colonial theology.
  • Faithful Response to Hate

Lunch will be at 12:30 p.m., followed by a legislative overview at 1:30 p.m. and closing reflections and prayer. Breaks will occur between activities during which attendees may peruse displays from the various institutions.

St Mark’s Lutheran Church is located at 316 E. 24th Ave. in Spokane. Those wishing to attend should RSVP through The Fig Tree 1323 S. Perry St., Spokane in person, by phone: (509)535-4112, or by e-mail: info@thefigtree.org. There is a suggested donation of $20.


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