Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Feb 12th Second Tuesday Briefing

Come join the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness’

Second Tuesday Briefing and Screening of the PC(USA)

Documentary “TRIGGER”  

Tuesday, February 12, 2013
10:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon, lunch to follow

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness
100 Maryland Ave NE,  Conference Rooms 1 & 2 (Lobby Level)
Washington DC 20002

10am – 11am –   Movie Screening:  TRIGGER: the Ripple Effect of Gun Violence
In the US, more than 30,000 people are killed every year by gun violence; many more are wounded. The disaster caused by gun violence is seen in almost every community. TRIGGER: The Ripple Effect of Gun Violenceshares the story of how gun violence impacts individuals and communities, and examines the "ripple effect" that one shooting has on an individual, a family, a community and a society. TRIGGER also addresses the critical issue of gun violence prevention by moving the conversation away from the polarizing extremes that have long dominated the debate and lifting up the voice and experiences of those who seek common ground and a new way forward.

11am – 12pm –   Question and Answer Session with the Director,  David Barnhart

David Barnhart is an award winning Producer, Director, and documentary filmmaker for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Barnhart has developed story and documentary film initiatives with children living on the streets in Argentina; communities displaced by war and natural disasters in Latin America and the Democratic Republic of the Congo; with survivors in South Korea of systematic rape and torture by the Japanese military during WWII; and with survivors of the 2004 Tsunami in Indonesia.  Two of his most recent projects, “Kepulihan: Stories from the Tsunami,” and “Coming Home: Hurricane Katrina 5 Years Later” were broadcast nationally on ABC and NBC and were screened at film festivals across the country and internationally.  “Kepulihan: Stories from the Tsunami” also had the distinguished honor of being selected by the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site as part of its D.R.E.A.M Film Series. Barnhart is currently developing long-term story initiatives with survivors from the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and has just completed a project that focuses on the ripple effect of Gun Violence that is slated to be on NBC starting in November 2012.

RSVP: Annette at 543-1126 x 221 or

We look forward to seeing you and your joining us for lunch afterward – all are welcome!

Also, please note that there will be no Second Tuesday event in April.  Instead of 2nd Tuesday, we hope you and your friends will join us on Friday, April 5th , for the 3rd Annual CPJ Training Day to educate Presbyterians on the work of the PC(USA) in the face of injustices in global food systems.  Following CPJ Training Day, the ecumenical community will gather during Ecumenical Advocacy Days(April 5 – 8) 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 about both events, go to:
We encourage you to come to CPJ/EAD Advocacy Weekend, and to encourage others to do the same!

Thank you for your faithful witness. 


Monday, February 4 - National Faith Call-In to Prevent Gun Violence

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness in Washington, DC is working with an Interfaith Group of Organizations to encourage the United States Senate and House of Representatives to enact gun legislation that will reduce and prevent gun violence in the United States.


National Call-In Number

Faiths Calling – Interfaith Call-in to Prevent Gun Violence – February 4th 1-888-897-0174
Text "FaithsCalling" to 877877 for a reminder message

Ensure that the voices of faithful Americans ring throughout the halls of Congress.

Call your Senators and Representative and insist that they act to prevent gun violence.
We know that among millions of you in the faith community there are differences in viewpoint and we ask you to convey whichever policies with which you are comfortable. The major components of legislation that Congress is considering are listed below. When you call your Senators and Representative, let them know that you are calling as a member of the faith community, and emphasize those of the policies which you support.
  • Require universal background checks for all gun purchases
  • Ban semi-automatic assault weapons and high-capacity magazines
  • Make gun trafficking a federal crime
  • Improve access to mental health services
Tell them that gun violence prevention laws work.
We need your support on this important issue!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Register Now for Compassion Peace and Justice Training Day and Ecumenical Advocacy Days! April 5-8, 2013

Cynthia E. White, Director of Self-Development of People, and Rev. Noelle Damico, Associate for Fair Food, will be speaking at Compassion, Peace, and Justice Training Day!

Go to
to register and for more information.

Cynthia White

Self-Development of People works with groups of economically poor and oppressed people who have organized to address issues impacting them and their community. This will be an opportunity to learn more about the issues, how communities are coming together, and how you can help. Hear how Self-Development of People, through its many Committees across the country, is engaged with communities of need and how you can become involved in this ministry.

 Noelle Damico

The Rev. Noelle Damico is Associate for Fair Food within the Presbyterian Hunger Program. She fosters the church’s participation in the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Campaign for Fair Food, sits on the GAMC human trafficking roundtable, and writes and speaks on issues related to human rights and the gospel. She is a contributor to “Preaching God’s Transformative Justice, ” a lectionary commentary just published in August 2011 by Westminster John Knox Press

Thursday, January 24, 2013

VAWA Reintroduced - Call on Senators to Co-sponsor!

Action Alert: VAWA Reintroduced This Week – Call on Senators to Co-sponsor

On Tuesday, Jan. 22, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator Michael Crapo (R-ID) introduced S. 47, a strong, bipartisan bill that would reauthorize the landmark Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)! This bill closely mirrors the bipartisan legislation introduced by Senators Leahy and Crapo last Congress and would improve VAWA programs and strengthen protections for all victims of violence (see description of legislation below).

In order to build on our incredible momentum from last Congress, please take action TODAY by contacting your Senators to co-sponsor S. 47. The goal is to get 60 co-sponsors by January 31st so that VAWA can get to the Senate floor for a bipartisan victory. We need to keep the phones ringing and emails starting right now!
** please check the following list and edit the message to your senators if they are already co-sponsor (or better yet, put in a phone call).  Make sure to thank them for their witness on this issue.
So far, the bill has the following co-sponsors in addition to its chief sponsor, Senator Leahy (D-VT): Senators Ayotte (R-NH),  Baucus (D-MT), Begich (D-AK), Bennet (D-CO), Cantwell (D-WA), Cardin (D-MD), Casey (D-PA), Collins (R-ME), Coons (D-DE), Crapo (R-ID), Durbin (D-IL), Feinstein (D-CA), Franken (D-MN), Hagan (D-NC), Heitkamp (D-ND), King (I-ME), Kirk (R-IL), Klobuchar (D-MN), McCaskill (D-MO), Mikulski (D-MD), Murkowski (R-AK), Murray (D-WA), Pryor (D-AR), Reed (D-RI), Shaheen (D-NH), Stabenow (D-MI), Tester (D-MT), Udall (D-CO), Udall (D-NM), Warren (D-MA), Whitehouse (D-RI), and Wyden (D-OR). (as of 9:30am 1/25/13)

Also on Tuesday, Representatives Gwen Moore (D-WI) and John Conyers (D-MI) introduced H.R. 11, a House companion identical to the bipartisan Senate bill.  Call on the House of Representatives to work together in a bipartisan effort reauthorize VAWA as a matter of priority.   This bill has 158 co-sponsors in the House.

Today is OrangeDay,* a monthly action on the 25th of each month when we lift up issues of violence against women.  Join the global effort to confront violence against women by taking action today!

Action Item:

Call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask the operator to connect you to your Senators. If you don’t know who your Senators are, you can look them up here. When you’re connected to their offices, tell the person who answers the phone:

1)            I am a constituent from (city and state) and my name is _________.
2)            I urge Senator____ to co-sponsor the S. 47, a strong, bipartisan bill that would reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.
3)            Thank you and I look forward to hearing that the Senator is a co-sponsor.


Description of legislation: In addition to many important improvements throughout the bill that received bipartisan support last year, this bill also contains enhanced protections for tribal, LGBT and immigrant victims, which were identified as critical priorities by advocates across the country and also received bipartisan support last year. Last year’s bill, however, also included a modest increase in the number of U visas (created by Congress in VAWA 2000) available to immigrant victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and certain other violent crimes who assist law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the crime. Increasing the number of U visas helps both victims and law enforcement.  Unfortunately, that provision led to a technical objection from House Republican leaders. 

In the interest of obtaining the swift reauthorization of VAWA, the Senate introduced the new VAWA bill without that provision in order to avoid any initial technical obstacles.  However, this new VAWA bill does recommit Congress to important immigration provisions so that all victims are protected. Senator Leahy will be working hard to include the U visa increase in the comprehensive immigration reform legislation that will soon be considered by Congress. The members of the National Task Force likewise commit to support that effort.

* On January 25 – and the 25th of each month – join people around the world in observing an Orange Day to work for an end to violence against women and girls. SayNO – UNiTE toEnd Violence against Women is a social mobilization platform on ending violence against women and girls related to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s campaign, UNiTE to End Violence against Women. The campaign invites us to wear orange and take action on the 25th of each month to end violence against women and girls. Learn more and find ideas for action.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Urge the USDA to help end modern slavery by joining the Fair Food Program

From our Friends at the Fair Food Program and the Presbyterian Hunger Program:

Dear Friends:

As our nation marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, it is appropriate to renew our commitment to ending modern slavery in our own nation.  Since 1997 Florida agriculture itself has seen nine prosecutions of cases of forced labor, involving over 1,200 people.  

The Fair Food Program is a comprehensive, proven model created by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, 11 corporate food buyers and the vast majority of Florida tomato growers that is addressing modern slavery and eliminating the conditions in which it flourishes.   

The US Department of Agriculture has lauded the Fair Food Program but has yet to commit to buying its tomatoes for market stabilization and school lunches from this established, effective program.

You are invited to join national religious leaders, including the Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the PC(USA),  the Rev. David Beckman of Bread for the World, Rabbi Jill Jacobs of T’ruah (formerly Rabbis for Human Rights-North America), in signing onto a Letter of Conscience urging the USDA to purchase its tomatoes from the Fair Food Program.  

In Deuteronomy 24:18, God implores the Hebrew people individually and intimately saying, “Remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there.”  Remember, says God.  This faith imperative to remember has been handed through the generations to us; not in a facile way of cheap identification, but as a persistent, urgent reminder that God works for freedom and wholeness in every generation.  And that we are invited by God to give shape to this work in our own time and place.

Learn more and sign-on to the Letter of Conscience to ensure our federal government upholds the highest standards for human rights and stays true to its commitment of liberty and justice for all. 


The Rev. Noelle Damico, PC(USA) Campaign for Fair Food

Photo:  Courtesy of Scott Robertson

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

God is Love: A Statement on Gun Violence in the United States

God is Love

A Statement on Gun Violence in the United States

This statement was given by Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson at a press conference held in Washington, DC, on January 15, 2013. Religious leaders and Faith Against Gun Violence came together to press for tighter gun regulations to stop gun violence in the United States. 

First, let me give honor and praise to our Creator for the opportunity to speak with the press today regarding the eradication of gun violence in the United States. I am the Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, Director of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness in Washington, DC. I represent nearly two million members of our denomination. I also represent today the National Council of Churches which includes 37 Christian denominations and their over 100,000 congregations and 45 million persons in the United States. Our collective presence of interfaith leaders gathered today is a witness to our belief in the need for faith leaders to bind ourselves together on both national and local levels. We are aware that pressure from the gun lobby and gun owners continues to mount around this issue. But we believe that political leaders in Washington can resolve this problem and achieve meaningful gun reform if only they have the will.

As we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on his birthday today, it is imperative for us to be reminded that he was a man who advocated for peace and justice. I am convinced that if he were here today, this issue would be the priority of his leadership. In the United States today, since 1997 we are witnessing gun deaths of more than thirty thousand persons per year. From the Revolutionary War in 1775 to the Persian Gulf War in 1991 which totaled 116 years there were 650,858 persons killed in combat. In the eighteen years from 1979 to 1997 we have experienced 651,697 deaths by guns. There were 839 more persons killed by guns during this 18 year period in the United States than in 116 years of foreign wars involving the United States.[i] No longer can faith communities stand idly by and commit to performing burials while bowing to lobbyists whose motivations are driven by a false standard of profit and power. We stand today on the premise that faith does have something to say about life and death. Therefore, it is imperative that we declare that our Creator affirms life abundantly while giving leadership to those of us who will challenge the false choice between guns and freedom.

We have gathered to call for 1) a ban on all assault weapons. These are weapons of war and there is no reason for common citizens to purchase or possess them. We do not use AK-47’s to hunt deer! Therefore, we are calling for the reinstatement of the assault weapons ban which lapsed in 2004. 2) We are calling for universal background checks. Presently, there is no federal provision for background checks and some states that do not require them at all. Therefore, persons that are mentally ill or do not know how to fire a gun or possess criminal records can make gun purchases. 3) Gun trafficking should be made a federal crime. Currently, prosecutions only happen through a law that prohibits selling guns without a federal license, which carries the same punishment as trafficking chicken or livestock. We must empower law enforcement to investigate and prosecute straw purchasers, gun traffickers, and their entire criminal networks.

We must not minimize the struggle of families who mourn the loss of those children and teachers killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The Newtown community tragedy brought this issue of gun violence to the forefront in public debate. However, it is a greater tragedy that we live in a culture of violence that self-perpetuates and makes gun violence acceptable.  According to one journalist, each evening on the eleven o’clock news many television stations wait until two to three minutes before the broadcast to determine the lead story, because they are waiting for the possibility of a late night shooting. The common term in the media for this is “if it bleeds, it leads.” Newtown is representative of a long list of tragic community killings through gun violence. Our purpose here today is to declare that our faith perspectives and holy books call us, first and foremost, to love one another, not to protect ourselves against one another.

In inner city and some rural communities today, the criminal element connected to guns is rampant due to a lack of economic opportunity – dismal job prospects; low wages; and historic, flawed, and failing public education. Without opportunities, children are forced to choose gangs, guns, and incarceration over graduation. All of these dismal realities of community life are perfect for drugs, trafficking, prostitution, and other public safety issues stemming from illegal activities that create an environment for guns to neutralize the affects among criminals in a community. If the real truth is exposed, we would realize that none of us are safe in this country. Shopping malls, political rallies, temples, mosques, churches, schools, including college campuses, and a host of other public venues are all potential sites for gun violence at any given time. The challenge of eradicating gun violence is that there must be a change of heart and Spirit in our nation. This issue of creating peace for our nation is tied to justice and how we treat our neighbors and whether each person has an opportunity for economic livelihood.

If Dr. King were alive today, he would remind us that the United States is a great nation, when it measures its greatness on its moral and ethical actions. “Let us be first in love,” he would declare. Guns must be brought under tighter legislative restrictions for the purpose of saving lives and restoring the integrity of our commitment to promote life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We stand together today, because we know beyond all else that God is love. Let our love bind us together to challenge the onslaught of gun violence in our nation. Tell Congress and our President to pass legislation that will tighten gun laws in this country. God is love!

View the video of this morning's remarks: 

[i] James Atwood, America and It’s Guns: A Theological Expose (Eugene Oregon: Cascade Books, 2012) Appendix p. 227-228.