Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tell Congress to Stop Perpetuating Inequality

Congress has been debating cutting one poverty assistance program or another. Yet, there has been little conversation about changing the systems that create and perpetuate poverty.

Together with our ecumenical partners at the National Council of Churches and our interfaith colleagues in the Interreligious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs, we invite clergy and religious leaders' to sign this letter asking Congress to consider faithful alternatives to the budget and tax systems we currently have in place.

The letter is based on a statement, in part authored by PC(USA) Office of Public Witness staff, in collaboration with other Christian, Jewish, and Muslim organizations.

Tax and budget systems that privilege the wealthiest people while taking from the poorest feed a cycle of inequality that hurts all of us. Click here to sign and/or share the clergy and religious leaders' letter.

Together, let's send an important message to Congress:

The need is great, and the resources are abundant. For those to whom much has been given, much will be required.
-- Luke 12:48

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Join us for Second Tuesday - Sept. 11

Please join us for the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness Second Tuesday Briefing on September 11, 2012.  
Location:             Office of Public Witness, PC(USA)
                             100 Maryland Ave NE, Suite 410
                             Washington DC  20002

Date:                    Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Time:                    10:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon, lunch to follow


10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.          “The Next Free Trade Agreement: The Trans-Pacific Partnership”

Speaker:         Jessa Boehner
                        International Program Associate,
                        Global Trade Watch,
                                                Public Citizen

11:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon        “What gain have the workers from their toil?
                                                 Labor Issues, Denominational and Congregational Life”

                         Speaker:        Michael E. Livingston
National Director of Public Policy,
                                                                Director of the Washington Office,
Interfaith Worker Justice
 Please RSVP to ga_washington_office [@] so that we can have an accurate count for space and lunch.   All are welcome, and we look forward to your joining us for lunch afterwards.  Thank you for your faithful witness.

Partnering for education and vocational discernment

TO:                  Educational Institutions: colleges, universities, seminaries, and theological schools

FROM:            J. Herbert Nelson, Director for Public Witness
                        Leslie Woods, Representative for Domestic Poverty & Environmental Issues

RE:                  On Becoming Partners in Training Servant Leaders

DATE:             August 23, 2012

We celebrate with you as you begin a new academic year of education and vocational discernment. We join with you in faith and eagerness to prepare new servant leaders and ministers for the church and broader society.  Because of this commitment to formation and vocational discernment, we would like to introduce to you our Internship and Summer Fellowship for Public Witness programs.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness in Washington, DC, believes that the formation of servant leaders and advocates is essential to our ministry.  Having maintained a presence in our nation’s capital since 1946, this office serves as the prophetic social witness and advocacy office of the PC(USA), representing the General Assembly’s statements on social justice and peace to national decision-makers and to Presbyterians across the country. In 2010, we revamped our internship program to provide more opportunities for young adults (and the young in spirit) to experience a broad range of experiential, professional, and vocational learning, and to study and engage in the ecumenical and interfaith political advocacy community in Washington, DC.

Our commitment to ecumenical and interfaith political advocacy is the cornerstone of our work. Members of our staff, together with other faith partners, advocate for legislation that achieves, or at least moves us toward economic justice and poverty alleviation; comprehensive immigration reform; an end to gun violence; Middle East peace; greater support and access for persons with disabilities; a torture-free world; fair (not free) trade policies; just and sustainable food and farm policies; environmental justice, and a host of other issues.

Further, we engage the PC(USA) in this work, empowering Presbyterians at all levels of the church to exercise their rights and responsibilities as Christian citizens of a wealthy and diverse nation.  We believe that this is an excellent training ground for persons desiring to learn more about social justice work in the twenty-first century.

As you prepare your students to be responsible citizens and leaders in society and/or the church, whether ordained or lay, we hope you will consider us as a partner in your task to educate, equip, inform, and transform the minds and lives of the theological students in your care.  Our Internship and Fellowship for Public Witness programs are excellent opportunities for your students to gain new experience and new knowledge, and we are happy to comply with institutional requirements, including field education/supervised ministry requirements, so that students may receive academic credit for their service with us.

Please invite your students to visit our website or to contact our Internships coordinator, Leslie Woods at leslie [dot] woods [@], by email or by phone at (202) 543-1126.  Please distribute this information to interested students and encourage them to apply.  We look forwarding to partnering with you in the education and formation of your students.

AIDS Ministry Conference - Scholarships available!


I’m writing to invite you to attend an exciting event later this fall – “Creating AIDS Competent Churches and Church Leaders: Remembrance, Repentance, Responsibility” at Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary, Nov. 29 – Dec. 1, 2012. 

At the direction of the 219th General Assembly (2010), the Office of Public Witness (OPW) is partnering with the Presbyterian AIDS Network (PAN) to promote “Becoming an HIV and AIDS Competent Church: Prophetic Witness and Compassionate Action” policy.  We learned earlier this year that Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary (JCSTS - the PC(USA) constituent seminary in ITC in Atlanta) is launching a new academic certificate program on “Creating AIDS Competent Churches and Church Leaders.”  They are launching the introduction of this new certificate program at this conference Nov. 29-Dec. 1, 2012, in Atlanta.
In the OPW, we were so excited about this that we reached out to partner with JCSTS. In addition to contributing to part of the program, we have decided to offer partial scholarships to the general public, with a particular focus on seminary students and folks already engaged in HIV/AIDS ministry.

Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, Director for Public Witness, and I will join Margaret Aymer Oget, Randall Bailey, Mark Lomax, Guy Pujol, Beverly Wallace, Teresa Fry-Brown, Laurie Robins, and Troy Sanders as speakers at the conference. The Office of Public Witness is proud to join with Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary and the Presbyterian AIDS Network in promoting this exciting new movement in the life of the church.

If you are already engaged in this ministry, come to share best practices and fellowship with your colleagues in ministry. If you are new to this kind of outreach, come to learn from the veterans in the field.  If you are considering enrolling in the new academic certificate program, you’ve got to be there! Our partial scholarships will cover conference registration and hotel accommodation.  If you would like to apply for a scholarship, please fill out the application. Applications from the general public will be considered based on interest, need, and merit.  If you would like to register directly, you can register online.

I am asking you to do two things:

1.       Attend the conference! Make plans to be there. 

2.       Share the word about this conference and our partial scholarships with others who might be interested in brushing off old skills or building new ones around HIV/AIDS ministry.  A sample Facebook post is included below.

Important links:
Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary – look under “Featured News”

I hope to see you in Atlanta in November!


Leslie Woods
Representative for Domestic Poverty & Environmental Issues
PC(USA) Office of Public Witness

Sample Facebook post:

What does it meant to be a “HIV/AIDS Competent Church”?  Join others as we explore “Creating AIDS Competent Churches and Church Leaders”.  Johnson C. Smith Seminary is holding a conference on just that – Nov. 29 – Dec. 1, 2012, in Atlanta, GA.  The PC(USA) Office of Public Witness is offering partial scholarships, so visit OPW’s blog for conference links, a scholarship flyer, and the scholarship application.

Save the Date - April 5-8, 2013 - Advocacy Training Weekend

Save the Dates! Registration Opening Soon!

This dynamic weekend in Washington, D.C., incorporates two events:
Compassion, Peace, and Justice Training Day on Friday, April 5,
and Ecumenical Advocacy Days, April 5-8.
The ministries of Compassion, Peace and Justice are coming together for the 3rd Annual CPJ Training Day to educate Presbyterians on the work of the PC (USA) in the face of the injustices in global food systems.  Following CPJ Training Day, the ecumenical community will gather during Ecumenical Advocacy Days to seek the abundance and equality that we find reflected in the biblical image of God’s great banquet table.  Inspiring speakers will offer a faith-based vision for fair and humane food policies and practices, along with grassroots advocacy training.  All culminating with Monday’s Lobby Day on Capitol Hill.  For more information on both events contact Catherine Gordon at catherine [dot] gordon [@]

Monday, August 6, 2012

Want to Learn More About HIV/AIDS Ministry?

The 219th General Assembly (2010) adopted the resolution, “Becoming an HIV and AIDS Competent Church: Prophetic Witness and Compassionate Action,” in exercise of its responsibility to help the whole church address matters of “social righteousness.” The Assembly's action "challenge[d] the PC(USA) to become an HIV and AIDS competent denomination at all levels of the church and in all its ministries, combining emphasis on compassionate care with action to dismantle the social inequalities that create marginalized populations at great risk."

In response to this challenge, Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary, the PC(USA) constituent seminary of the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, has developed an educational conference on "Creating AIDS Competent Churches and Church Leaders: Remembrance, Repentance, and Responsibility."  The conference, to be held November 29 - December 1, will include workshops on biblical and theological foundations, education, pastoral care, preaching, asset mapping, and advocacy. Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson and Leslie Woods from the Office of Public Witness will join Margaret Aymer Oget, Randall Bailey, Mark Lomax, Guy Pujol, Beverly Wallace, Teresa Fry-Brown, Laurie Robins, and Troy Sanders as speakers at the conference. The Office of Public Witness is proud to join with Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary and the Presbyterian AIDS Network in promoting this exciting new movement in the life of the church.

A limited number of partial scholarships are available from the Office of Public Witness. The application can be accessed here and should be returned by September 30 to Download a save the date flier to share with your friends and congregation here.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Human Cost of Sequestration

The Sequester will enact $1.2 trillion in across the board spending cuts - half of which will come from defense spending and half from non-defense - and is set to go into effect this January, 2013. If the Sequester goes ahead unchecked, the massive spending cuts will seriously compromise programs that serve those who most need the services of our nation's safety net.

While the exact consequences of sequestration for safety net programs is not yet known, it is clear that they will be severe for those who need those programs the most. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) estimates that sequestration will result in 100,000 fewer children receiving Head Start and Early Head Start services and 80,000 fewer children receiving child care assistance. An estimated 12,000 fewer veterans will be served through the Jobs for Veterans program. Hundreds of thousands of people will lose nutritional benefits through the WIC program. The HHS Health Care for the Homeless program will be able to serve nearly 12,000 fewer people and nearly 187,000 people will lose Section 8 tenant-based rental assistance.

Our approach to upcoming sequestration needs to be rooted in our values – a balanced approach that addresses the deficit crisis with justice and compassion. On the one hand, we need to be good stewards of the resources we already have, making judicious cuts to defense, earmarks, and other wasteful spending, while preserving that which is most important for the good of all. On the other hand, we must increase revenue, in order to ensure that this nation can meet our need to operate a fair and just economy, which serves all of our human community. The nation’s deficit crisis cannot be solved through spending cuts alone – new revenues must be part of the solution. The need is great and the resources are abundant. The budget choices we make must reflect this reality.

As churches across the country observe Homelessness and Affordable Housing Sunday on August 5, the Office of Public Witness invites you tell you Member of Congress that we need faithful alternatives to the Sequester.  Members of Congress head home for August recess this weekend, so check your members’ websites to find out where they will have town halls and campaign events.  Tell them: if the Sequester goes into effect, hundreds of thousands of our sisters and brothers will lose the services our nation's safety net provides.

The Presbyterian Network to End Homelessness has released a new resource for Homelessness and Affordable Housing Sunday.  Visit for the PNTEH packet and many other helpful resources.