Calling it an "intellectual event to celebrate the engagement of theology and politics" director Allen Geyer opened the two-day Inaugural Consultation of the Churches' Center for Theology and Public Policy.
Participants paid their own expenses to attend the sessions last Friday and Saturday at which four "decidedly eggheaded" papers were presented. It was the center's first such event since it opened here in 1976.
The gathering was held at Elderdice Hall at Wesley Theological Seminary on the campus of Amercian University, home of the center. The ecumenical study center with wide protestant and some Catholic sponsorship is decidedly not an other lobbying group, though a few of the 47 participants were paid denominational lobbyists on Capitol Hill.
The center was founded as a co-ordinating point for the "study of American political thought and the theological implications" of the system, according to Geyer.
"We have no blueprint for how to sustain this process," Geyer told the group during the final hour of the session. Pointing out the broad spectrum of objectives of the center, coupled with a lack of specific guide-lines for keeping track of the relationship between religious and political philosophy, Geye asked the group for help in focusing the center.
"You have two distinctively different groups here," said one participant, the Rev. James Schaull, of Georgetown University referring to the majority group composed of top echelon theologians, and a minority group composed of other academics, high-level bureaucrats and even a medical doctor. "It must be decided which group" the program should be tailored for, he said.
Geyer said that the center existed to promote a dialogue between the actors in government and theorizers in religion, adding:
"We have a very large and ambitious agenda which will undoubtedly strain our resources."
A State Department official said he didn't mind the comments that "went over my head" adding:
"I've enjoyed these two days. If this center could contribute to the debate - and where or not you agree with me you will love me as a person and listen to what I say - you would infuse something great in this troubled and demented town."