Monday, December 22, 2014

J. Herbert Nelson Celebrates 2014


Dear Friends of Justice Advocacy Work and Ministry:

I am thankful for your support of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness in Washington, DC. We could not do our work without you. I am writing you to give a few updates on our work this past year and a brief look forward.

Youth and Young Adult Emphasis
2014 Seminary Interns Sabrina Slater and Kyle Cristofalo with
Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons 
In 2014, we completed a three-year initiative to focus on youth and young adults. Thousands of youth and young adults were impacted by our efforts. We will share an impact study with the denomination during the first quarter of the year. Due to the great success of our three-year commitment, we are launching a second phase of our initiative with more of an emphasis on justice advocacy training and leadership. Training young adult justice advocates and activists to engage in coalition- and movement-building in local communities will be the new emphasis of this work. This process is already being implemented through our Internship, Summer Fellowship and Young Adult Volunteer initiatives and will continue to grow.

See our theological basis for work with young adults published in the First Quarter 2012 Advocacy as Discipleship publication, “A New Organizing Model: Young Adults are Essential for a new Era of Political Advocacy.” 

Revamped and New Educational Forum

For more than 20 years, Presbyterians have traveled to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness for our monthly Second Tuesday briefings. Given the access to technology by so many persons across the globe, we are now preparing to launch a series of online tools that will assist us in inspiring, equipping and connecting Presbyterians and others to stay abreast of the latest policy and political information. You will have an opportunity to engage our advocacy partners, staff and officials via a series of forums. We will also have specific conference calls for identified issue advocates. There will be no standard day or time for these events, but rather will be scheduled when the issue demands it and to serve people in various times zones and availability. We will hold these events at least twice a month and you should be able to participate through your telephone and/or computer. Notices of monthly events will be published on our media resources, such as our email list, Facebook, and Twitter.

Compassion, Peace and Justice Training Day and Ecumenical Advocacy Days

The U.S. makes up only five percent of the world’s population, and yet we incarcerate a quarter of the world’s prisoners. With private, for-profit prisons that incarcerate, but fail to rehabilitate, the United States’ “justice system” fails to achieve justice on multiple levels. A failing public education system, eroding worker protections, and a minimum wage that traps families in poverty has left persons vulnerable to the desperation and behaviors that lead to incarceration. Militarized police forces that racially profile, while killing innocent children of color, further exacerbate a problem where private investors are permitted to profit from the incarceration of human beings.

We erect fences to keep persons from crossing our borders while creating the very economic and political turmoil, oppression and violence that leads people to migrate in the first place. We use our purchasing power to support companies that employ slave labor and buy products that contain conflict minerals. It is time to build a movement to achieve systemic changes that releases the prisoners (literal and figurative) from the bondage of unjust laws and leadership.

Two events comprise our Advocacy Training Weekend. “Compassion, Peace and Justice (CPJ) Training Day” is a one-day Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)-focused training event that provides interaction and information regarding the work of the denomination. Held at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC, on April 17, 2015, together we will share worship, fellowship, education, networking, and training in order to better engage Presbyterians in the work of building a movement for justice.

CPJ Training Day precedes Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD), which brings together 56 ecumenical organizations to sponsor a “how-to” advocacy-training event. Together, “we will confess our personal and corporate failure to break the chains of poverty, racism, and greed institutionalized in our laws, economy, and social behaviors that collude to perpetuate human exploitation and strip people of their civil and human rights.” Advocacy Days will take place April 17-20, 2015.

Join the Advocacy Training Weekend beginning with Compassion, Peace and Justice Training Day on Friday, April 17, 2015, at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church and stay the whole weekend for Ecumenical Advocacy Days, which will start on Friday evening, April 17, at the Doubletree – Crystal City, VA (just across the river). The weekend will conclude with lobby day on Capitol Hill on Monday, April 20, 2015.

We have drawn over 300 Presbyterians to these events each year since 2011. We are hoping to bring more in 2015. Please register today and share the information found about the Advocacy Training Weekend with your friends, church groups, Presbyteries, Synods and other congregations in your community. 

Celebrating Advocacy Victories

  • Celebrating the great news on US-Cuba relations! Thanks to all of you who have been responding to our action alerts on this issue!
  • After 100 days in Sanctuary at University Presbyterian Church, Luis Lopez Acabal returned to his home and family on Friday, December 12!
  • Both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have passed the ABLE Act, which will “unlock the doors of financial freedom” for people with disabilities and their families, who must either be independently wealthy or live in poverty in order to receive the support and services they need. The President is expected to sign this bill into law – perhaps the most important stride forward in legislation for people with disabilities since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) itself. Read more from our partners at the Interfaith Disability Advocacy Coalition’s (IDAC) Facebook page.

I give thanks each day for the way God has blessed this ministry and for you, who are our partners in ministry and mission. May the joy and peace of this season be yours and may we move into a New Year with hope and thanksgiving.


J. Herbert Nelson, II