In Acts 1:8 Jesus says to His disciples,
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you;
and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,
and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Presbyterians have heard the call from Jesus fully commit to being faithful witnesses to the call from God to transform the world. We are called to be active in social and moral issues as we engage the world in the public square. Over the years much of our justice work out of this office has focused on direct advocacy with Congressional offices, the White House, and government agencies. This year alone we have met with members of Congress and their staffers on such vital issues as the travel ban, the Johnson Amendment and the federal budget. Over and over again, members of Congress insist that they want to hear directly from their constituents while also building a relationship with representatives of the denomination. While our presence on Capitol Hill is essential, we see the need to build political power with the church to advance a justice agenda and know we cannot do all of that necessary work from Washington D.C. Every member of Congress is elected from their district and their ultimate loyalties lie with their constituents. It is indeed true that all politics is local for politics is originated and determined locally.
It is with great enthusiasm and excitement that we share with you our Grassroots Advocacy Coordinator Program. We created this program to offer a higher level of engagement and leadership development for congregations who want to build power in their communities, states, and amplify the voice of the faith community on the national level. Our vision is that every congregation will have a robust social witness ministry that is deeply involved in local work and has strong relationships with state and national legislators. Over the course of the next year, the Office of Public Witness will connect with Grassroots Advocacy Coordinators to offer team-building workshops, issue briefs and grassroots advocacy and community organizing trainings. OPW staff will also be available to for regular consultation by phone to support Grassroots Advocacy Coordinators with the cohesion of their team and as they prepare for in-state Congressional visits, participate in local campaigns, and engage in congregational education.
If you are interested in becoming a Grassroots Advocacy Coordinator, fill out this form and we’ll be in touch with you shortly! For an introduction to the program, please join us for a webinar entitled “Grassroots Advocacy and Organizing 101, ” :
Please register here: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/4797280666033270274
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
I know there are those among you who have further questions about the relationship between faith and politics. Should Christians and people of faith be politically active? If so, how far should individual Christians go in order to make a difference and not cross lines separating church and state? These are questions which the church has struggled with over the centuries.
Our guide first and foremost is the Bible. Our biblical understanding of the mission of the church, and individual Christians, is shaped and established by what God is doing in the world. Since we are created by a loving God who cares for us, we are to care for the lives of others, as well for all of God’s created order. God is a God of liberation who covenants with faithful humanity. God first made a covenant with Israel through Abraham promising that through him all the families of the world would be blessed. Abraham responded by showing hospitality to the strangers as he fed them and granted them rest. God liberated the people of Israel from oppression: God covenanted with Israel to be their God and they to be God’s people, that they might do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with the Lord...The prophets proclaimed the Word of God as a word of justice for the people of Israel and for all nations as Amos 5:24 declares “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream”. God is incarnate in Christ Jesus who preached his first sermon from Luke 4 as borrowed from the prophet Isaiah (61:1): “good news to the poor, proclaimed release for prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, let the broken victims go free, and proclaimed the year of the Lord’s favor... “
John Calvin, in his , writes that the sufficient motivation for doing justice lies in the fact that each human being is made in the image of God: ““The Lord commands all men without exception ‘to do good’ [Hebrews 13:16]. Yet the great part of them are most unworthy if they be judged by their own merit. But here Scripture helps when it teaches that we are not to consider mens’ merit by themselves but to look upon the image of God in all men, to which we owe all honor and love. Therefore, whatever man you meet who needs your aid, you have no reason to refuse to help him.”
A secondary resource is the Constitution of the PC(USA) as it informs our faith. The Book of Order (G-1.0304: The Ministry of Members) reads:
“Membership in the Church of Jesus Christ is a joy and a privilege. It is also a commitment to participate in Christ’s mission (through): proclaiming the good news in word and deed; supporting the ministry of the church through the giving of money, time, and talents; responding to God’s activity in the world through service to others; living responsibly in the personal, family, vocational, political, cultural, and social relationships of life; and working in the world for peace, justice, freedom, and human fulfillment,…”
Historically the Book of Order has stated that
“The Church is challenged to be Christ’s faithful evangelist... participating in God’s activity in the world through its life for others by: healing and reconciling and binding up wounds ministering to the needs of the poor, the sick, the lonely, and the powerless, engaging in the struggle to free people from sin, fear, oppression, hunger, and injustice, giving itself and its substance to the service of those who suffer, sharing with Christ in the establishing of his just, peaceable, and loving rule in the world. (G-3.0300)
This is our calling, to work, serve and minister with and unto others. The Office of Public Witness invites you to renew and expand the work of your social witness ministry by building a Grassroots Advocacy Team. More information on the teams and the trainings can be found at our website: https://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/compassion-peace-justice/washington/advocacy-teams/
We look forward to working more closely with you as we lift our voices to advocate for education, investment in peace and not war, economic and racial justice, and the whole inhabited earth.
In Faith We Share,
Rev. Jimmie Hawkins