Tag Archives: Office of Public Witness

When incivility becomes the norm

by J. Herbert Nelson, II | Stated Clerk of the PC(USA) General Assembly

This statement is a response to the violence on America’s streets after the election of Mr. Donald Trump as President–Elect of the United States of America. It was originally posted by the Presbyterian News Service

Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson

LOUISVILLE – I read several post-election statements and heard news accounts of violence, riots, and protests while in Central America visiting Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission partners. The news images were shocking to both our partners and me. We struggled to understand the results of the election, particularly given Mr. Trump’s stance on immigration, which was the theme of my visit. However, I was not as startled as my Central American friends. Serving as director of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) Office of Public Witness in Washington, D.C., for six years prior to becoming Stated Clerk prepared me to understand the outcomes we face in electoral politics. Although I have shared parts of this writing before with congregations and audiences, there seemed to always be a sense of skepticism among the hearers. I proclaim the message once again, because the apparent shock for many has left people raising the question, “What happened?”

I wish to affirm in this moment that many in our congregations and communities hold legitimate fear about their safety and the protection of their human rights. We hold close our Muslim, Hispanic, African American, immigrant, and LGBTQ neighbors, and those from other marginalized groups. We hold close the women who give us life and the poor for whom daily bread is not promised. The rash of hateful harassment [1] reported in the wake of the election insists upon the urgency of the call to be one who “… executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deut. 10:18–20, NRSV).

This writing is not a denial of the results of the election. President-Elect Trump is our newly elected leader. However, it is my hope that the post-election anger, pain, and frustration demonstrated on the streets will lay the foundation for a transformed political system in the years to come. Through coalition building and community organizing, we have an opportunity to create a vision of shared prosperity, safety, dignity, and justice that is truly inclusive and compelling to a broad base.

I insist, though, that no matter how robust the infusion of energy into the struggle for justice, it will never be worth the pain, suffering, and yes, death, which will be wrought by the promised policies of the incoming administration. My integrity as a spiritual leader commands me to face the reality that some of our communities are under grave threat. In my recent travels to El Salvador, I spoke with many who expressed fear for their family members’ safety in the U.S.; that the violence they fled El Salvador to escape would be brought upon them tenfold if they were deported back to their country of origin. People with preexisting conditions are troubled over what a sudden loss of healthcare would do to their wellbeing. Same-gender parents are rushing to finish their adoptions and secure their rights as a family. Survivors of sexual assault are contending with a culture that would elect to our highest office a known abuser. In this dark night, the doors of the Church are open as refuge, resource, and organizing home.

As Christians, we cannot accept a nation that normalizes violence, exclusion, and racism in our political rhetoric and public policy. We know God has called us to co-create a world where a dignified life is available to all, and anything less offers no suitable worship. In the coming months and years, “… From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded” (Lk. 12:48 NRSV). We will be asked to open our church basements to late-night meetings, our sanctuaries to provide Sanctuary to those facing deportation, and to intervene in public harassment.

Just as the doors of the Church are open, so too are the doors to the movement for justice. We invite you to join us in our steadfast commitment to stand with the marginalized and our humble desire to contribute to strategy and vision that will help create the kingdom of God.

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Witness – 4 June 2014

IMG_1043 (640x480)

Mary Mikhael, National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon
and
Catherine Gordon, Office of Public Witness, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
bore witness on Capitol Hill
to call for a peaceful approach to the crisis in Syria.

10 September 2013
Washington, D.C.

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Tell NBC to Air PC(USA) documentary: TRIGGER

As we seek ways to respond to gun violence in the United States, here is information about a video that could lead to discussion and other resources in a post from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons (daughters) of God. (Matthew 5:9)

The 219th General Assembly (2010) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) adopted a policy statement: Gun Violence, Gospel Values: Mobilizing in Response to God’s Call. The policy called for “the church [to] take responsibility to build public awareness of gun violence and the epidemic of preventable gun-related deaths, totaling more than 620,000 over the past twenty years, with hundreds of thousands more wounded. Even while taking the focused and urgent efforts below to achieve practical solutions, that the councils and congregations welcome discussion from all viewpoints, and that the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy review and summarize responses for the 220th General Assembly (2012).”

Trigger profileTrigger Documentary – Produced by the PC(USA)

NBC has first dibs through May, 2013, on airing a PC(USA)-produced documentary on gun violence. The documentary named TRIGGER :The Ripple Effect of Gun Violence is produced by award-winning producer David Barnhart. Our latest inquiry reveals that many of the local NBC affiliates are not even aware that the documentary exists. We need your help! Please call your local NBC affiliate today and request that the documentary be aired in prime time given the recent tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, and more than 30,000 people killed in the U.S. every year by gun violence.   

To find your local NBC affiliate, go to NBC’s website, search by state and choose your local station.  Once on the right website, look for a “contact us” or “feedback” link. Ask them to air TRIGGER in prime time.

Gun violence daily affects communities on levels equivalent with major natural and human disasters, and it is seen in almost every community. We may hear briefly about the victims and survivors of these shootings, but what happens after the media attention moves on and the wider public becomes numb to “just another shooting”? Drawing upon conversations with lawmakers, emergency room chaplains and surgeons, survivors and victims’ families, former ATF officials, police officers, community leaders and others, this documentary shares the story of how gun violence impacts individuals and communities and examines the “ripple effect” that one shooting has on a survivor, a family, a community, and a society. TRIGGER also addresses the critical issue of gun violence prevention (such as keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill) by moving the conversation away from the polarizing extremes that have long dominated the debate and by lifting up the voice and experiences of those who seek common ground and a new way forward. View the documentary trailer. Please call today!  Encourage your friends and church members to do the same.

Resources for responding to gun-related tragedy:

See you along the Trail.

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An intriguing beauty

Walking to and from the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness, this intriguing tree caught my eye and the eyes of many others.

Catherine, Peng and I stopped and looked at it for a time. None of us had seen anything like it. The pink-purple flowers grow directly on the bark – almost like moss.

“I wonder what it is?” mused Catherine. I pulled out my BlackBerry preparing to do a search when, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a small sign on the tree. “Bet that will tell us,” I said.

We walked, some of us stumbling, across the sidewalk and on to the grass where we could read the sign.

Eastern Rosebud (Judas Tree) said the inscription. That really did not tell me much. Maybe Peng and Catherine went on their way with a deeper understanding, but no insights shimmered for me. A few minutes ago, ensconced in my hotel for Compassion, Peace and Justice training day and Ecumenical Advocacy Days, I Googled and learned several things:

  • The Eastern Rosebud is native to eastern North America from the southern part of Ontario to northern Florida.
  • It is the state tree of Oklahoma.
  • It has a number or family members scattered around the world.
  • Legend says that Judas hanged himself from a species of the rosebud.
  • The flowers are magenta in color – various shades of magenta.

My picture fails to do it justice – but it points to its intriguing beauty.

See you along the Trail.

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