Friday, August 29, 2014

U.S. Must Take Leadership in UN Climate Negotiations

God has called us to be good stewards of the Earth and care for all of God’s creation, but carbon pollution from our favorite form of energy is fundamentally altering our climate. Together with our ecumenical and interreligious partners, the PC(USA) is calling on political leaders in the U.S. to address issue of climate change and to engage with the international community in coming up with a sustainable response. Join your voice with others as we call on U.S. leaders to take on leadership in helping to craft a moral global framework for the UN climate negotiations.

There are three important UN climate meetings in our sights, with the final negotiation for a new international treaty taking place in 2015 in Paris, France. But the next meeting will be next month in September 2014, in New York at the United Nations.  The faith community is mobilizing around this event – the first major international climate meeting on U.S. soil. See below to find out how to get involved.

U.S. policymakers need to take a lead role during the United Nations climate treaty negotiations. Reducing carbon emissions is vital to preventing devastating  impacts of climate change and to providing meaningful support for vulnerable communities. With the UN Climate Summit taking place in just a few weeks’ time – in September in New York, now is the time to let both President Obama and Congress know that we need a strong treaty that requires all nations to take steps to control greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition to the petition for lawmakers, we affirm our own ability to make a difference through our own choices and actions. We are joining with ecumenical partners to collect individual pledges for action as a way to demonstrate our commitment to address climate change to our political leaders. Pledges for action can range from changing a light bulb to installing solar panels on your church roof, from hosting a climate vigil to preaching a sermon. Pledges for action will be highlighted during several faith events in New York in September.                    

As people of faith, we care for all of God’s creation with a special concern for vulnerable populations. Presbyterians have acknowledged the burden of climate change and environmental injustice, which first and foremost falls on those who are least equipped to handle it. The 218th General Assembly (2008) presented a policy recommendation on climate change that emphasized a commitment to stand with “the least of these.” The 219th General Assembly (2010) also approved an overture that affirmed “concern for God’s creation is, for every Christian, an essential way of living faithfully.”

Together, let us respond to the challenge of climate change with compassion; standing in solidarity with our neighbors living in or near poverty who are most severely affected by the changing climate, and striving to preserve God’s “good” Creation.

As the next UN event approaches next month, there are many things that you can do to join in the movement.  Sing the petition and make a pledge in addition to the following:

1.        Promote the faith component of the People’s Climate March, held at 11:30 Sunday, September 21, in New York. There will be a religious gathering and service approximately 1 hour prior to the march.

a.        If you live in the New York area, help provide housing for those coming to the event. Sign up here to provide housing around the People’s Climate March.

b.        Ring you own church bells in solidarity with those marching in New York. Ring time: Sept. 21, 1:00pm in whatever time zone you are located.

2.        Sign the petition urging President Obama and the Senate to work towards a strong UN climate treaty.

4.        Host a prayer vigil or feature a prayer on climate in your church on the days preceding and following the UN Climate Summit. The ecumenical advocacy community in DC, for instance, will hold a worship service focused on climate change on Sept. 17 at 12:10pm, at the Methodist Building in Washington, DC. Click here to let folks know about your prayer service or event.


People’s Climate March: Sunday, September 21, 11:30pm, Manhattan, NY, NY. The march will start at Columbus Circle, go east on 59th Street to 6th Ave; south on 6th Ave. to 42nd Street; west on 42nd Street to 11th Ave.; then south on 11th Ave. to 34th Street (near the Javits Center). A Muslim group will be holding their Dhuhr prayer from 12:50-1:00 pm – right during the March. At 1:00 pm, houses of worship around NYC will ring bells, sound shofars, chant mantras, and make other outdoor spiritual sounds in a sign of solidarity with the March – as part of a Global Climate Chorus.

Union Theological Seminary conference: Religions for the Earth, September 19-21 (invitation only)

World Council of Churches Climate Summit: September 21-22 (note that many of the sessions during this summit are open)

Interfaith Observance: Sunday, September 21, St. John the Divine (open invitation)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Washington Report to Presbyterians August 2014

The Summer 2014 Washington Report to Presbyterians went into the mail at the end of August!  

Click here to view or download the complete Washington Report to Presbyterians (PDF document).


Reverend J. Herbert Nelson Joins Workers and Faith Leaders in Demanding Better Jobs for Low-Wage Workers
On Tuesday, July 29, 2014, the Reverend J. Herbert Nelson, II, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Director for Public Witness, joined with workers and other leaders in the faith community… in an action of nonviolent civil disobedience to urge President Obama to improve jobs for millions of workers. Read more.

Advocacy Training Weekend: Save the Dates April 17-20, 2015 – “Breaking the Chains: Mass Incarceration & Systems of Exploitation”
Come to Washington, DC, April 17-20, 2015, for the 13th annual National Gathering of Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice titled, “Breaking the Chains: Mass Incarceration and Systems of Exploitation.” …The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is proud to sponsor and collaborate in planning this conference that seeks to build a movement to shake the foundations of systems of human exploitation (Acts 16). We further invite you to arrive early and attend “Compassion, Peace and Justice Training Day,” an opportunity for Presbyterians to gather, reflect, educate, network, fellowship, and be in prayer together. Together we can build a movement to Break the Chains!  Read More.

The Office of Public Witness at the 221st General Assembly
The staff members of the Office of Public Witness were busy at the General Assembly (GA), which took place June 14-21, 2014, in Detroit, MI… It was a busy week for us. Even as we supported the commissioners, advisory delegates and corresponding members with our prayers and expertise, J. Herbert Nelson also made five speaking appearances. We all had a great time connecting with old allies and new partners for justice all over the place – from the Exhibit Hall to the committee rooms to the Plenary floor. Here are just a few highlights…

Meet our 2014 Summer Fellows: A Celebration of Service Learning
Kyle Cristofalo, Anne Fyffe, Alissa Rashid, and David Clifford. Click here.

Welcoming PC(USA) Young Adult Volunteers
Jenny Hyde and AmyBeth Willis. Click here.

Click here to view or download the complete Washington Report to Presbyterians (PDF document).

Meet 2014-15 YAVs

Welcoming PC(USA) Young Adult Volunteers

We are delighted to join with National Capital Presbytery in welcoming the first class of PC(USA) Young Adult Volunteers (YAVs) to the DC site. We are fortunate to be the placement for two of the five YAVs coming to serve during this inaugural year. Join us in welcoming our two Young Adult Volunteers:

Jenny Hyde hails from Massachusetts and is a recent graduate of Gordon College with a degree in International Affairs with a concentration in International Development. At college, she was very involved in Gordon’s Residence Life program and the college’s Model United Nation’s team. Whenever she has the chance, she enjoys writing everything from poetry to political op-eds. She loves kayaking, coffee, Aristotle and talking about Jesus.

“My name is AmyBeth Willis. I grew up in Murfreesboro, TN, and graduated May 2013 from Emory University in Atlanta, GA, where I studied Sociology, Religion, and Spanish.  I spent the 2013-14 year as a YAV in the desert of Tucson, AZ, working at Southside Presbyterian Church. I am passionate about the connection between my faith and justice work, especially in the realm of immigration, advocacy, and education.”

Come visit the OPW this year and meet these fabulous YAVs!

Our fundraising efforts for service learning are ongoing. YAV Placements contribute a portion of Volunteers’ living expenses to the Presbytery. In addition, each Summer Fellow receive a modest stipend to help defray the cost of living expenses, which are considerable in DC. We need your help to continuing offering these opportunities! Your gift could make the difference between a vocational dream and a lived reality. Please give generously to support our YAVs, Interns, and Summer Fellows. Give online here.

Summer Fellows 2014

Meet our 2014 Summer Fellows

The Office of Public Witness believes that the formation of servant leaders and advocates is vital to the public policy ministry and witness of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

2014 Summer Fellows (left to right) Anne Fyffe, David Clifford,
Alissa Rashid, and Kyle Cristofalo wait in Georgetown to hear
President Obama speak.

Kyle Cristofalo recently received his Master of Divinity from Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. He spent his last semester participating in Wesley Theological Seminary’s National Capital Semester and interning with us in the Office of Public Witness. Upon graduation, Kyle stayed on as a Summer Fellow. With a M.Div. concentration in Justice, Peacebuilding, and Conflict Transformation, he has spent much of his time thinking through how religious communities can engage in creative practices of peacemaking that work to overcome systems of injustice. Kyle hopes to serve the church through work in the non-profit or private sector in organizations committed to peace and justice issues. Of his time with us, Kyle said, “I am beyond grateful for my six months of service to the Office of Public Witness. From my start in January until finishing my service, I had the chance each day to be immersed in the world of faith-based justice and political advocacy--work that is at the heart of our Reformed faith. As I embark on the next part of my journey, I am confident that my time at the OPW has equipped me with the skills and resilience to serve the church and all of God's creation. I am honored to be a member of a denomination so committed to bringing God's justice and wholeness to our society and the world.”

Anne Fyffe hails from Dayton, OH, and finished her OPW Summer Fellowship just in time to return home and graduate from The Ohio State University with a degree in Public Affairs, with a specialization in Community Organization and Civic Engagement. Anne’s Summer Fellowship was the capstone project for her Public Affairs major. She plans to spend the coming year working and traveling before beginning seminary in 2015. Anne is particularly interested in issues surrounding poverty and inequality, including hunger, housing and homelessness, incarceration and recidivism, and education. During her time in the office, she worked primarily on domestic policy issues with a special focus on childhood hunger. She says, “I am thrilled to have had this experience to combine my faith and my passion for public policy. I have so enjoyed learning more about how the faith community advocates for change in Washington, DC, and how the PC(USA) is part of that.” This summer has also been an opportunity to discern further God's call on her life.

Alissa Rashid is originally from Neenah, WI, and is entering in her third year at Vanderbilt University. She is pursuing a major in Cognitive Studies. At school, Alissa is very involved in campus life serving on UKIRK council (Presbyterian campus ministry), Alternative Winter and Spring Breaks, Alternative Gift Fair, and is looking forward to serving as Head Resident of a first-year residence house beginning in August. Alissa was led to OPW thanks to the encouragement of Alan Bancroft, her UKIRK campus minister at Vanderbilt. During her Summer Fellowship, Alissa primarily worked on environmental and immigration issues while continuing to learn about the magnitude of work and issues the OPW covers. Alissa is extremely grateful for this opportunity to work and learn alongside the OPW staff this summer and for opening her eyes to honestly speaking truth in love to power.

A native of Louisville, KY, David Clifford is entering in his third year at Maryville College in Maryville, TN. He is a Political Science major with a History minor. David also plays baseball for Maryville and is a Bonner Scholar, a service-based scholarship. David met OPW Director Reverend J. Herbert Nelson when he came to speak at Maryville, inspiring him to pursue a Summer Fellowship with the OPW. Service in the OPW helped him fulfill commitments to his Bonner Scholarship and provided the financial support for him to serve. While at the Office of Public Witness, David worked on the issues of disability, labor rights, campaign finance reform, and immigration, gaining valuable experience as well as exposure to everything that the OPW does to advocate on behalf of the PC(USA) and speak truth in love to power.

For more information on Service Learning Opportunities at the Office of Public Witness, or to learn how to apply, please visit or email opw (dot) intern (dot) info @ pcusa (dot) org.

Our fundraising efforts for service learning are ongoing. YAV Placements contribute a portion of Volunteers’ living expenses to the Presbytery. In addition, each Summer Fellow receive a modest stipend to help defray the cost of living expenses, which are considerable in DC. We need your help to continuing offering these opportunities! Your gift could make the difference between a vocational dream and a lived reality. Please give generously to support our YAVs, Interns, and Summer Fellows. Give online here.