For Rev. Tabitha Isner, a congressional campaign is a logical next step in her ministry.
“So much of a representative’s job is really about pastoral care – actively listening to constituents and validating the underlying anxieties and fears that motivate them. At a time when so many in society are feeling unheard, we need representatives that are able to demonstrate empathy and resist the drive toward tribalism. I think my ministerial training has prepared me well for that task.”
Isner was inspired to run, in part, by the ideas expressed in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) identity statement.
“Nowhere is the notion of ‘a fragmented world’ more evident than in the halls of Congress. Congress has grown increasingly gridlocked, unable to pass any legislation with bipartisan support. We need more leaders who are willing and able to work across the aisle, to be the ‘movement for wholeness’ our country so desperately needs.”
Through her candidacy, Isner hopes to inspire others to join in community improvement efforts.
“I think it’s especially important for people of deep faith to be involved because we have spent a lot of time thinking about the kind of community that God intended and the kind of efforts it will take to build such a community. If we are serious about seeking that just society with our neighbors, we must be willing to show up and work for it in practical ways.”
She plans to use her campaign, and potential congressional career, to support and inspire her constituents in finding new ways to get involved in the political process.
“I hope that my candidacy will remind the people of Alabama that we are all entitled to participate in democracy. I hope to show that there is more than one kind of Christian politician, and that it is possible to find common cause on many issues with unexpected allies. I hope my run will convince my fellow Alabamians that by working together, everyday people can not only run, but win.”
This community focus has made bipartisan cooperation a central focus of Isner’s campaign.
“There’s also a popular perception that the divide between the right and the left is simply too wide to be bridged, that compromise is not only unlikely but immoral. That breaks my heart. So a key piece of my platform is my commitment to bipartisanship, to show my community that it is indeed possible to build coalitions and support solutions that someone else suggested.”
As the campaign continues, Isner hopes to continue relying on the lessons she’s learned as a Disciple.
“I was raised to understand the teachings of Jesus as largely focused on how to take care of our neighbors and how to live in community with one another. I understood that feeding the hungry and caring for the sick and welcoming the immigrant were literal commands, meant to be carried out both on the personal level and through social institutions and structures.
“As a Disciple, I also take Christian unity very seriously. For me, that means refusing to accept the divisive story that is being told about us, and instead insisting on telling an older, deeper story about our fundamental oneness. We have more that unites us than divides us, if only we have eyes to see and ears to hear.”
Isner was ordained as a Disciples minister in 2009, after earning her Master of Divinity degree from the University of Chicago. She now lives in Montgomery, AL, and currently works in the early childhood policy field. She launched her campaign for Alabama’s Second Congressional District in early October 2017. Her husband, Rev. Shane Isner, is also a Disciples minister serving in the Alabama-Northwest Florida Region.
Over the next year, Isner will be meeting with constituents around the greater Montgomery region as she continues her campaign. The election for the contested seat will be held on November 6, 2018.