Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Executive Order on Climate Threatens God's Creation

The PC(USA) Office of Public Witness Raises Grave Concern Over Rollbacks of Climate Protections

March 30, 2017 
Washington D.C.- On Tuesday March 29, 2017, President Trump signed an executive order that will nullify the Obama administration’s efforts to curb global warming.  Although it is not a formal withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, this order forecloses on the possibility of the US meeting the 2015 commitment to roll back emissions by at least 26 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. Our concern as Presbyterians lies not only in our mandate to protect God’s creation, but in the knowledge that the ruins wrought by climate change will fall disproportionately on the backs of the poor, indigenous, and citizens of the Global South.

President Trump directed the Environmental Protection Agency to start the complex and lengthy legal process of unraveling and rewriting the Obama-era Clean Power Plan, which would have closed hundreds of coal-fired power plants, frozen construction of new plants and replaced them with vast new wind and solar farms. It was projected to prevent nearly 3,000 premature deaths and almost 100,000 asthma attacks per year by 2030. Every child has the right to a pollution free environment and we have a moral obligation to protect God’s gift of air for our children and grandchildren.  Beyond the Clean Power Plan, Trump’s order prioritizes the development of domestic coal, oil and natural gas reserves over renewable energy sources and opens federal land to coal leases.

Office of Public Witness Director, Rev. Jimmie Hawkins remarked:

The President’s Executive Order on climate change is a tragic turn for the future of this nation and for the entire planet. By this one stroke of his pen, the president has rescinded the Coal Mining Moratorium on US federal lands and substantially weakened a number of environmental protections. His signature threatens the health of children already suffering with respiratory illness, endangers seniors living in environments already polluted by industrial waste and places at risk the well-being of every living person the world around. As people of faith who believe in a God of creation who commands good and proper stewardship of this gift, we must speak with one voice that this world is worth protecting. We affirm that climate change is real and impacted by the actions of human beings. We can protect the environment and affirm the dignity of work as we come together to produce solutions which enhance all aspects of created life . But environmental justice must be a priority or we will not have a future to work towards. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,… and God saw that it was good.” (Gen 1:1; 10b)

Legal experts say it could take years for the E.P.A. administrator to carry out the process of withdrawing and revising the climate change regulations, and the process will be hit by legal challenges at every turn. More than anything, this executive order is a signal by the Trump administration that they do not intend to take seriously the threat of climate change.

The primary motivation for the order, according to the Trump Administration is to bring jobs back to coal country. As Presbyterians, we have deep care and consideration for families who rely on extractive industries for their livelihood. But the reality is that markets are already shifting to favor investment in renewable energy and this political measure is unlikely to reverse the decline of the coal industry.

In difficult times, we refer back to a report entitled “The Power to Change” Approved by the 218th General Assembly:

The challenge we face is daunting. The temptation to despair is real. Only God can give us the power to change. Our Reformed tradition reminds us that it is God who created the earth and saw that it was good, God who sustains the earth and seeks to hold its processes together, God who judges sin and greed, and God who reveals in Jesus Christ that love and justice are the essence of God’s power. God is the inexhaustible source of energy for personal, social, and ecological transformation. Although we are complicit in the evils we face, we can repent of our own sinful misuse and abuse of the Earth as we confess our sins. As recipients of God’s endless mercy, this redemptive energy frees and empowers us to be good stewards of God’s creation.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Webinar: Update on the Korean Peninsula

Please join us for our upcoming webinar:

Update on the Korean Peninsula
Thursday, March 30th
1-2 pm

Click here to register.

Tensions are rising on the Korean Peninsula.  With the testing of missiles by North Korea and the deployment of an anti missile defense system by the United States and South Korea, it is more important than ever for there to be rational voices advocating for peacebuilding and peacemaking.  Join this webinar to hear the perspectives from our partners on the ground in South Korea, learn from our World Mission Area Coordinator for Asia about the history of partnership on the Korean Peninsula, and get up to date insights into the current politics of the situation in Congress and the Administration from policy experts in DC.

Learn what you can do to work for peace and reconciliation and support our partners on the ground in the Korean Peninsula.

Speakers include:

Mienda Uriarte
Area Coordinator for Asia
World Mission, PCUSA

Dan Jasper
Advocacy Coordinator for Asia
American Friends Service Committee

Catherine Gordon
Representative for International Issues
Office of Public Witness, PCUSA

And a special video presentation from

Dr. Kiho Yi
Professor of Political Theory, Hanshin University
Member of the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea (PROK)
Member of the Reconciliation and Unification Committee of the National Council of Churches of Korea

 Click here to register.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Faith Groups join Indigenous People at the Native Nations Rise March on Washington to Demand Indigenous Sovereignty and Environmental Justice

By Ray Chen, Emerson National Hunger Fellow at the Office of Public Witness

Washington D.C. - Friday morning, March 10, indigenous people from across the world gathered to fight for indigenous sovereignty and environmental justice in the Native Nations Rise march. They were joined by allies of the movement, which included clergy and faith-based groups including the Office of Public Witness. This multi-day demonstration was organized by the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and other grassroots indigenous leaders. It is a part of the movement that stems from the struggle at Standing Rock to block the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, but has now “evolved into a powerful global phenomenon highlight the necessity to respect Indigenous Nations and their right to protect their homelands, environment, and future generations.” In particular, this demonstration follows on the heels of a presidential memorandum sent to the Secretary of the Army to continue the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the destruction the protest camps set-up by the Standing Rock Sioux and Indigenous and non-Indigenous allies. In addition to the actual march Friday morning, indigenous leaders also set-up a symbolic tipi camp on the National Mall from Tuesday to Friday.

Faith leaders gathered before the march to build community and stay out of the biting cold. There were delegations of faith leaders from across the country, as far as Seattle, indigenous and non-indigenous. In an address to the audience, Rev. John Floburg from The Episcopal Church in Bismark called upon the faith community to stand in active solidarity with our Indigenous brothers and sisters in the fight for Indigenous sovereignty and environmental justice. He mentioned that though he had observed general wariness from Native people towards Christians due to role of churches in the subjugation and domination of Native people, he has seen now more of an openness towards Christians as a result of Christians showing up and standing with Native people in the struggle in Standing Rock.

Faith groups joined the march at 10 AM, which started outside the headquarters of the Army Corps of Engineers. This site was important because the Army Corps continue to sanction the drilling of the dangerous oil pipeline despite the protest of thousands of people. Indigenous people wore both traditional and non-traditional dress, with signs and banners that proclaimed the existence of the first peoples of Turtle Island and their resistance to the current government efforts’ to deny their sovereignty. Representing hundreds of nations, many wore their tribal flags banners across their shoulders. Despite the cold and the sleet coming down, the tone of the crowd was celebratory but vigilant, with chanting and drums resounding throughout the streets and the smell of burning sage following the crowd. The procession stopped next at Trump Towers, outside of which demonstrators set-up a tipi and led a circle dance around it, symbolically reclaiming the land as Native land.

The march ended in Lafayette Square, across from the White House, with speeches from tribal leaders and representatives, as well as performance from indigenous artists. Specifically, Chairman David Archambault II of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation Tribal Council called for the repudiation of the Christian Doctrine of Discovery that grew out of Papal decrees in the 1400s and sanctioned widespread European domination in the following centuries in the Americas and beyond. The Doctrine of Discovery was codified into American policy through Johnson v. McIntosh (1823) and many other court cases that proclaimed the US government as an inheritor of the European Christian Doctrine of Discovery, and thus having complete dominion over any Indigenous people. Archambault specifically asked for Pope Francis to revoke the Doctrine of Discovery as part of the fight to recognize indigenous sovereignty. In 2016, the General Assembly of PC(USA) joined a growing list of denominations which have repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery. There was a call for the church go to beyond the framework for reconciliation to adopt the framework of repair that rectifies historic and modern injustices faced by Native people. This was only the first step in the long process of healing that Presbyterians need to undertake.

Reflecting on the event, Office of Public Witness Director Rev. Jimmie Hawkins remarked, “The OPW and the PC(USA) marched in full support of indigenous peoples and their sovereignty. From the site of the pipeline to the halls of power, we stand in solidarity with water protectors at Standing Rock and the broader movement they’ve ignited for indigenous land and water rights. It was indeed powerful to be with so many Presbyterians who came from all over the country, both native and non-native, to assert the treaty rights of the Standing Rock Sioux.”


Similar demonstrations happened all across the US on Friday in solidarity with the Native March on Washington. Organizers of the Native Nation Rise march has hope that this march is only the beginning of the mass mobilization of Indigenous people and their allies.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Prepared Remarks by Rev. Hawkins for the #DefendClimate Rally

Wednesday, 3/15/17 

With our Lord Christ Jesus, we stand with the ‘least of these’ and advocate for the poor and oppressed in present and future generations who are often the victims of environmental injustice and least able to mitigate the impact of global warming that has fallen disproportionately on them.

As citizens of the U.S., which has historically produced more greenhouse gases than any other country, and which is currently responsible for over a fifth of the world’s annual emissions, we implore our nation to accept its moral responsibility to address global warming. 

By drastically limiting the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to protect public health and enforce environmental safety standards, this administration’s actions are no less than an attempt to gut the Clean Air Act.  The Clean Air Act is a landmark public health and environmental protection law that has drastically reduced dangerous, toxic pollutants in our air, land and water, and protected Americans for more than four decades. 

The current administration has signaled its intent to eliminate EPA protections against dangerous pollutants like smog, mercury, arsenic and methane and limits on carbon pollution from power plants. All of these standards are authorized under the federal Clean Air Act.

We oppose these reckless attacks on clean air as if our lives depended on it, because they do. Because of immoral decisions to harm our air quality, our communities will conduct thousands of funerals for preventable premature deaths. It will cause dramatic harm to the health of children, especially those already suffering with illnesses such as asthma. This is tragic, it is wrong, and we will not accept it.

As people of faith, we are called to hold the powerful to account. We still do not know the full extent of Scott Pruitt’s ties to corporate polluters. The American people deserve to know the full truth. We know that as a Baptist, Scott Pruitt, shares a faith tradition that calls us to responsible stewardship of God’s creation and Mr. Pruitt himself has publicly stated his intention to protect clean air and clean water. However, we need him to earn our trust. His track record of suing the EPA, and his public refusal to recuse himself from ongoing cases he brought against the EPA, are deeply troubling. And his statement last week to CNBC denying that carbon dioxide emissions are a primary cause of global warming is extremely troubling. He said, “I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.” This is a dangerous belief which is out of touch with environmental scientists who are signaling just the opposite. It is our prayer that we have an Environmental Protection Agency head who actually believes in science and protects the environment. We are watching him closely, and we will hold him to account if he harms clean air and clean water.

Our President has claimed he will protect clean water, yet in his short time in office, he has not only gutted a rule to protect streams from coal mining waste, he has also used his executive authority to gut protections for wetlands and drinking water sources for more than 117 million Americans.

The Clean Water Rule is critical -- polluting or destroying a water resource can obviously harm other water users, fish, and wildlife, indeed all of God’s good creation. Polluting activities need to be minimized to ensure that downstream neighbors are not harmed by upstream polluters. Too often, it is low income communities and communities of color who bear the brunt of harm caused by major polluters while seeing few of the benefits of industry. The faith community and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in particular take a firm stand against environmental racism that would be wrought by a rollback in clean water protections. We call upon this administration to fortify and strengthen the EPA and the Clean Air Act, not diminish their power and influence.

A report approved by the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) titled The Power to Change: U.S. Energy Policy And Global Warming states emphatically that we have both a spiritual and moral responsibility to address the issues related to global warming. In order to do this we believe that repentance is required. Repentance in our biblical understanding calls humanity and nations to stop the actions that are contrary to God’s desires for the sustainability of human life, while turning to a new way of living that promotes life more abundantly. God can give us the power to change.

Trump: Preserve Church and Charity Nonpartisanship

Johnson Amendment Should Not Be Repealed or Altered, 86 Groups Say

WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Donald Trump and members of Congress should preserve the Johnson Amendment to keep partisan politics out of 501(c)(3) organizations, 86 religious and secular groups said in a letter to Trump and Congress today.
The Johnson Amendment recently has gained national attention after Trump vowed at the National Prayer Breakfast in February to “totally destroy” the law. The provision protects charities and religious organizations from political meddling and protects the separation of church and state. Without it, Americans could not be sure their charitable donations were going solely to a charitable mission, and religious organizations could become a funnel for tax-deductible secret spending in elections.
“Without this rule, nonpartisan charities and places of worship would be open to manipulation for political ends,” the letter said. “Up to now, charities and religious organizations have been insulated from electioneering, and instead have been committed to doing good work, like alleviating poverty, ministering to the spirit, curing disease, and addressing other basic human and social needs. Changing the law jeopardizes the public’s confidence that their charitable contributions would be used for these universally valued purposes rather than mere partisan politics.”
The letter concludes, “Politicizing the charitable sector harms our communities and our relationship with the public. We urge you to reject any attempt to remove the campaign intervention ban which protects our charitable and religious sectors from being used for political purposes.”

Thursday, March 16, 2017

We Choose Welcome!


TAKE ACTION TODAY: Tell Congress & the White House that you OPPOSE the Administration’s executive order that suspends refugee resettlement & discriminates against people from certain countries

President Trump has rewritten his executive order to ban travelers from six Muslim-majority countries for 90 days; suspend refugee resettlement for 120 days; and drastically reduce the number of refugees the United States welcomes from 110,000 to 50,000, a historic low. Make no mistake – this new order is concocted to have the same impact as the original executive order, while avoiding court proceedings.

By barring individuals from Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen, this rewritten executive order remains a Muslim ban. Banning refugees from all countries for 120 days will still grind refugee processing to a halt. Refugees are already the most thoroughly vetted individuals in the United States, undergoing biographic and biometric checks, medical screenings, forensic document testing, and in-person interviews. Each step of the process is time sensitive, so any pause will cause checks to expire and force refugees who have already been approved to wait months and even years to go through multiple security checks all over again, while their lives hang in the balance.

Disastrous consequences of the initial executive order are still reverberating around the world. These orders are gut-wrenching for our community members who are waiting to be reunited with a family member, and for refugees overseas with no other options for safety than to be resettled. It is critical that all Members of Congress and President Trump hear their constituents decry these announcements and declare their support for refugees from all over the world.

Your Senators and Representatives: (202) 224-3121*
* Please call this line 3 times to be connected with your 1 Representative and 2 Senators
Sample Script: “I’m your constituent from [City, State], and I support refugee resettlement. I strongly oppose President Trump’s executive order against refugees – both the original and the rewritten version. The order will bar individuals from Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen; grind refugee resettlement from all countries to a halt; and reduce the number of refugees we welcome to 50,000, a historic low. This is morally reprehensible and does not reflect the welcome for refugees I see in my community every day. I urge you to do everything in your power to see this executive order rescinded.”

Please also share a personal story about why refugee resettlement is important to you, your community, etc. Let them know the specific ways that refugees contribute and are welcomed into your community. You can also tweet @ your Senators/Representatives with the same message!

The best ways to make your voice heard by President Trump and the White House is by tweeting @realDonaldTrump and @WhiteHouse; posting a comment on; and submitting an electronic message at

Suggested Tweets:
  • .@realDonaldTrump & @WhiteHouse Don’t stop welcoming refugees. Resettlement demonstrates the best of our values #RefugeesWelcome #GreaterAs1
  • .@realDonaldTrump & @WhiteHouse Keep America welcoming. Refugee resettlement is a proud American legacy with bipartisan support #RefugeesWelcome #GreaterAs1
  • Countering ‘alternative facts’ with real ones. FACT: #Refugees are the most vetted group to enter the US. #RefugeesWelcome #GreaterAs1
  • .@RealDonaldTrump & @WhiteHouse: Today’s EO is the same unconstitutional EO we saw last month & we are still against it. #GreaterAs1 #RefugeesWelcome

Follow @CWS_global on Twitter and “like” CWS Immigration & Refugee Program on Facebook for up-to-date alerts. Join our global home base for refugee solidarity—because we are all #GreaterAs1Please tell us if you take action (opens a new webpage)!