Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A New Generation of Justice Advocates

Director for Public Witness, J. Herbert Nelson, recently wrote about our internship and fellowship ministries for the Executive Director's weekly update.  See the message below.

A new generation of justice advocates: Youth and young adults on fire for justice-advocacy work

August 8, 2013
Greetings to members of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board, mid council executives, and friends,
From the opening worship to the closing block party celebrating the 30th anniversary of the formation of the PC(USA) and the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Presbyterian Center in Louisville, Big Tent was fantastic. I heard that sentiment from scores of Presbyterians who attended the national gathering last week in Louisville.
Among the participants at Big Tent were hundreds of youth and young adults—that population so vital to church and society that is currently one of the directional goals for the denomination’s mission. J. Herbert Nelson, director of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Office of Public Witness in Washington, DC, has written a timely—and hopeful—message highlighting the church’s commitment to training young adults in justice advocacy at the highest levels of society. I hope you will read it with great interest. 
Faithfully yours,
Linda Valentine
“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26)
In January 2012, the PC(USA) Office of Public Witness (OPW) made a three-year commitment to focus on developing youth and young adult justice advocates. Our office committed to visiting venues in which youth and young adults gather. The purpose is to share the good news of the gospel that Jesus Christ is calling each one of them to a new and exciting way of life that includes the work of justice advocacy. In John 14:26, the New Revised Standard Version uses the word advocate to describe the Holy Spirit. (The Revised Standard Version had used counselor.) The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) indicates that the word advocate comes from two Latin words, ad and vocare, meaning “called or summoned to another.” More specifically, the OED continues, advocate means “called or summoned to plead another’s cause in court.” In this text, Jesus reminds us that God sent us an advocate, one called to plead our case in the court of judgment. The Spirit is an advocate. We who are filled with the Spirit are therefore called to a similar task as we work for the coming kingdom of God. In our discipleship, we stand between humanity’s brokenness and the need for redemption through the lives we lead for Jesus Christ in the world. It must be noted that we do not serve as redemptive voices because of our righteousness. Instead, we serve by God’s grace. 
God’s grace in our efforts to work with young adults is most evident through our internship program. We are producing young adults for various fields of committed service to the kingdom of God in both sacred and secular venues. Through our OPW fellowship program we are producing church workers, university development officers, community activists, government leaders, and others who are equipped to carry the Spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ as public theologians. Recently I had an opportunity to preach for two weeks at the Montreat Youth Conference. It was gratifying to hear the affirmation of over 1,400 young people and their leaders who expressed excitement regarding our work in Washington, DC. Inquiries regarding our internship and fellowship programs were numerous. Graduating seniors who will attend DC-area universities even expressed their interest in volunteer possibilities. Additionally, we are witnessing a growing number of high school and campus ministry groups scheduling visits to our office for information and issue briefings. In short, youth and young adults are on fire for justice-advocacy work.
We are thankful to all who have contributed to the internship and summer fellowship programs. Our cost for an intern/fellow is approximately $6,500. Your contributions are providing meaningful opportunities for young people. We pray for your continued prayers and support for the ongoing work of the PC(USA) Office of Public Witness.
J. Herbert Nelson
The Presbyterian Church Office of Public Witness advocates for the approved General Assembly policies having implications for the federal government. The office is located at 100 Maryland Avenue, Washington, DC 20002.