Friday, January 24, 2014

J. Herbert Nelson Remembers Franklin McCain, Civil Rights Leader

Tribute Delivered at the Service of Witness to the Resurrection
for Mr. Franklin McCain, Sr.
Friendship Baptist Church in Charlotte, NC
January 17, 2014

Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Director
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Office of Public Witness
Washington, DC

“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, they rest from their labors and their works do follow them.” -- Revelation 14:13

Franklin McCain has been written and talked about over the past few weeks on nearly every news service in this country and around the world. His commitment to justice, along with that of Joseph McNeil, Ezell Blair, Jr. (later known as Jibreel Khazan), David Richmond, and countless other young people and civil rights advocates was  reminiscent of soldiers engaging in war against earthly powers and principalities. There are no words to capture the degree to which these college students took on the role of modern day emancipators in an effort to build a new construct for living in the United States. We all are beneficiaries of their great courage.

Our scriptures remind us that those who die in the Lord – those who are engrafted into the Lord’s service and sojourners on behalf of the good Lord’s will being perfected are embraced in this moment – “they rest from their labors and their works do follow them.” As a Christian belonging to the Presbyterian Church, Frank McCain embodied the theology of John Calvin, who believed that our responsibility was to challenge powers, principalities, presidents, and potentates to lead in ways that God’s embrace and acceptance of all humanity might be understood. He called those who would follow Jesus to do the same.

I often wondered why he wore that ROTC uniform at the lunch counter on the day of the protest and arrest. A recent article revealed that he did not intend a statement. The simple answer was that he did not have time to take it off before coming to the lunch counter. It is interesting that wearing that uniform provided a statement about him that he did not even realize. His life represented a willingness to serve his country and the very system that denied him full human rights. However, his sitting down and refusing to bow to the laws that would not fully broker him in was a symbol of his righteous indignation – I am in this country and it is my home on this side of heaven, however I will not accept your terms of alienation. He and many others taught us how to love a nation and challenge it at the same time.

He was a family man who loved his wife and children. He was a brother to his fellow human beings. He was a loyal colleague to those with whom he worked. And he was a leader who knew, as Rudyard Kipling suggests, how “to walk with Kings and not lose the common touch.”

But as I take my seat, let me remind you that there are more than 12 million people who are in need of being emancipated into full citizenship in this country. We live in a nation where our children and adults are shooting themselves and one another to death in murder suicides, homicides, mass killings, and street corner crimes at the rate of over 30,000 per year. While states are suppressing the vote many of our neighbors are refusing to vote.  We have communities that are voting in numbers less than 20 percent during this crucial period in history. Moral Monday is a few days away. Have you been involved? Is your voice being heard?

Let this moment – this hour – this remembrance of our brother, who is resting from his labors, be a calling for you to stand up for the sake of justice in the world. Let our tribute to our brother’s memory today be a renewal of a commitment to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Jesus Christ has set us free. 

Frank McCain’s promise by God Almighty is sure, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, they rest from their labors and their works do follow them.” -- Revelation 14:13

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Action Alert: Tell Congress to Strengthen Welfare Response to Trafficking

January is Human Trafficking and Sex Slavery Awareness Month. Participate today in raising Human Trafficking Awareness!

Tell Congress to support and pass H.R. 1732, Strengthening the Child Welfare Response to Trafficking Act to improve the proper identification of and services to child trafficking victims.

About the bill:

This critical piece of federal legislation works to ensure that child victims of human trafficking are properly identified by state child welfare agencies and receive the comprehensive services they need to recover. H.R. 1732 amends the Social Security Act to require state foster care programs, which receive federal funds under the Social Security Act, to report on current and future efforts to address the human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation of children in their care. It also mandates data collection on the issue of human trafficking.

Additionally, the bill requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to develop and publish: (1) best practices for training child welfare employees and court employees on identifying all forms of child trafficking; (2) recommendations for how state welfare agencies can prevent human trafficking; and (3) licensing guidelines for residential facilities with regard to child trafficking victims.

What does the PC(USA) say about trafficking?

The 218th General Assembly (2008) directed the Office of Public Witness in Washington, DC, to

      a)     express concern for the escalation of trafficking within the U.S. and use the public witness channels available to them to raise issues with appropriate national and international representatives; and

      b)    partner with ecumenical and interfaith entities to build coalitions against trafficking and participate in activities such as the National Day of Human Trafficking Awareness (January 11) and the Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN).

In November 2013, the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board approved a request presented by the Office of Public Witness to affiliate with the Alliance to End Slavery and Trafficking (ATTEST) in an effort to expand the work and partnership of the denomination on issues related to Human Trafficking. ATTEST represents one of the largest coalition of Human Rights organizations working on issues related to the eradication of human (sex) and labor trafficking.

We thank one of our newest partners ATTEST for collaborating with us on this action alert.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Register Now for Advocacy Training Weekend! Deadline for Discounted Hotel Rate Coming Soon!

Register Now for the two great events of Advocacy Training Weekend!

Jesus Weeps – Resisting Violence, Building Peace

Compassion Peace and Justice Training Day - March 21
Ecumenical Advocacy Days March 21-24

A discount rate for both events will be offered at the Double Tree Crystal City. Click here for more information and to book a room:

Compassion Peace and Justice Training Day
March 21

In a world where more than 45 million people worldwide are uprooted from their homes by persecution and armed conflict, deadly conflicts over natural resources are erupting around the world, and 3,000 children are killed in the US by guns each year, what is the role of the Presbyterian Church in working towards a world where all can flourish in peace and security? The ministries of Compassion Peace and Justice of the PC(USA) are coming together for the 4th annual CPJ Training Day in Washington, DC to educate Presbyterians on the role the church is playing in resisting violence and building peace both locally and globally.

Go to our website for more information and to register –

A sampling of some workshops to be offered:

Empowered: Victims No More
Self-Development of People is a ministry committed to assisting people as they identify solutions to problems impacting them and their community. In this workshop hear from people directly impacted by violence, how they have come together and how through self-empowerment are working to rid their community of this violence while at the same time healing themselves. Learn how you can assist people in your community as they struggle for the right to live in peace without fear of violence.

When the Global Market Gets Violent 
Global partners – and their Presbyterian allies – talk about the violent risks that threaten human rights workers in settings where mining companies fight government regulations and where land is grabbed out from underneath subsistence farmers who’ve lived there for generations. Consider joining us in Joining Hands – as an individual, as a congregation, as a presbytery – as we work to better lives.  

Nonviolent Responses to the Occupation
Palestinians, Israelis, and others work in nonviolent ways to end the occupation of Palestine. This workshop will provide an overview of nonviolent efforts with a focus on the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) brings internationals to the West Bank to experience life under occupation. Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs) provide protective presence to vulnerable communities, monitor and report human rights abuses and support Palestinians and Israelis working together for peace.

After Compassion Peace and Justice Training Day join our ecumenical colleagues for

Ecumenical Advocacy Days March 21-24

Come to the 12th annual Ecumenical Advocacy Days and join hundreds of other Christians in “Resisting Violence, Building Peace.” Guided by the image of Jesus weeping over a capital city that turned from the true way of peace (Luke 19:41-42), we will expose the violence that pervades our culture and world.

As people of hope, we are consoled by the promise that “justice and peace shall embrace” (Psalm 85:10), and are reminded that justice requires peace-making and that peace requires justice-making. We will confront and imagine how to transform the violence in our world, and together will seek a vision of peace in the community, peace among the peoples, peace in the marketplace, and peace with the earth. Through prayer, worship, speakers, and advocacy training we will discover a faith-based vision for national policies that “guide our feet into the path of peace” (Luke 1:79), all culminating with Monday’s Congressional Lobby Day on Capitol Hill.

Go to our website for information on both events and to register –

Take Action for Peace with Iran: Tell Your Senators to Vote NO on More Sanctions

The Presbyterian Church (USA) is among more than 60 organizations that signed a letter to the U.S. Senate urging members not to support the “Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013” (S. 1881). The letter warns that new sanctions could “critically endanger” possibility of a diplomatic resolution to the nuclear standoff with Iran.

“The Joint Plan of Action signed between the P5+1 and Iran in November boosts American and regional security by freezing and rolling back Iran’s nuclear program for the first time in nearly a decade,” the letter points out. “The agreement also institutes unprecedented transparency for international inspectors, including daily inspection of Iran’s enrichment facilities.”

The U.S. and Iran have made huge diplomatic strides in recent weeks. But the historic deal to keep Iran’s nuclear energy program focused on peaceful ends could fail if the Senate votes for new sanctions on Iran while U.S. diplomats are negotiating the agreement.

Urge your senators to vote “no” on S. 1881 calling for new sanctions on Iran. 
Click here to send a message.

This is a critical period for negotiations—and a time when new sanctions would be particularly damaging. The White House, Senate leaders and a bipartisan group that includes a former U.S. ambassador to Israel have all warned of the consequences of these new sanctions on U.S.-Iran negotiations.

The White House says that passing this bill greatly increases the chances that the U.S. will take military action against Iran and that President Obama will veto the legislation if it comes to his desk. Now sponsors of the Iran sanctions bill are lobbying for a veto-proof majority of 67 senators to support the bill, so that Congress could potentially override the president's veto.

Every Senate vote is critical. Please ask your senators to vote “no” on new Iran sanctions legislation.  Click here to send a message today!

Even with these warnings, 49 senators have cosponsored the legislation. But even these senators can still be persuaded that this is the wrong time to hold a vote on new Iran sanctions.

Please contact both your senators today.  Click here to send a message!

Monday, January 20, 2014

17 National Religious Organizations Send Letter on Syrian Conflict

January 17, 201

President Barack Obama
The White House
Washington DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

As Christian communions and organizations throughout the United States, we write to you once again about the ongoing violence in Syria and the great suffering of the Syrian people. As the negotiations known as Geneva II approach, we appeal in particular for the United States and other involved countries to prioritize peace over their own geopolitical agendas; to stop supplying weapons to any armed actor; to press for a cease-fire; to support civil society organizations committed to peace; and to work vigorously towards a political solution.

Churches and Christian organizations within the region and many of our own churches, congregations and organizations have responded generously to the needs of millions of Syrians who are suffering as a result of the war. We remain grateful for the humanitarian assistance thus far provided by the United States government and encourage an ongoing, robust and impartial response. However, the needs are enormous and they continue to grow. In this increasingly dire situation, humanitarian agencies must have unfettered access to populations in need and the responsibility to support and shelter Syrian refugees cannot be left to neighboring countries that lack adequate capacity and means.

We are convinced that a negotiated political solution to the conflict in Syria is essential. We urge the government of Syria and the Syrian opposition delegation to move swiftly and with goodwill into that process. A political agreement will require compromise on the part of all parties involved. As negotiations begin we strongly affirm the call of the United Nations for an immediate end to the violence and all forms of human rights abuses. We believe that Syrians themselves should be the main negotiators of peace and that Syrian civil society actors committed to nonviolence, and women in particular, should be engaged in the process.

We further believe that the route to a just peace in Syria will require construction of a sustainable and inclusive political framework that upholds the rights and honors the diversity of all Syrians, regardless of ethnic or religious background or gender. This route also requires a just process, including smart restorative justice approaches, to ascertain accountability for war crimes or crimes against humanity committed by any party to the conflict.

The international community should be prepared to work with the Syrian people in support of a vigorous peace-building agenda. A second conference on security cooperation and other critical issues in the region, including the creation of a Middle East zone free of weapons of mass destruction, should follow Geneva II and involve all nations affected by the Syrian conflict.

As people of faith we will accompany the people of Syria as they seek a way out of the horrific cycle of violence in which they are caught. We will pray for wisdom and courage for you and your Administration as you seek to respond to the crisis.


American Baptist Churches

American Friends Service Committee

Christian Reformed Church in North America

Church of the Brethren

Conference of Major Superiors of Men

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding

Franciscan Action Network

Friends Committee on National Legislation

Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ

Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Mennonite Central Committee U.S.

NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby

Pax Christi International

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society
World Renew