Your Mission Committee has planed a monthly series about the programs and offices of our denomination’s Compassion, Peace and Justice Ministry. Today, Art and Mary Hunt are in bed with colds, and have asked me to speak about one of them – the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness – sometimes referred to as our Washington Office. This office played a big role in the recent Ecumenical Advocacy Days, which Art, Mary and I attended.
The Presbyterian Office of Public Witness is the public policy information and advocacy office of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Its task is to advocate, and help the church to advocate, the social witness perspectives and policies of the Presbyterian General Assembly. Our church has a long history of applying these biblically and theologically-based insights … — maintaining a public policy ministry in the nation’s capital since 1946.
A presence in Washington, D.C. Ministry in Washington offers a chance to translate the church’s deep convictions about justice, peace and freedom from words into reality. The political process is where decisions are made that help or harm people; decisions that help to make the kind of world God intends.
Office of Public Witness staff members visit national policy-makers and their staff, write letters, make phone calls and occasionally testify before Congress or facilitate the testimony of church members and leaders. Sometimes, they even have been arrested for their witness … The goal is to make clear to people in government what the General Assembly is concerned about, why, and what can be done to respond to those concerns.
OPW does not tell individual Presbyterians what policies they should support. Rather, it speaks the truths of carefully developed denominational policies to the powers that are willing to listen. The 1993 General Assembly study entitled, “Why and How the Church Makes a Social Policy Witness”, emphasized the importance of this effort and outlines the process by which policies are to be formed. It affirms that, “The church, if it is to remain true to its biblical roots, theological heritage, and contemporary practice, must not fall silent. It must speak faithfully, truthfully, persuasively, humbly, boldly and urgently.”
What Does Scripture Say About Justice?
Micah asked, “…What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).
Jesus frequently witnessed to the priority of the poor. He challenged the rich young ruler, he sharply criticized the hard-heartedness of religious leaders (Luke 18:18-25, Matthew 19:16-24 and Luke 10:25-37). Christ speaks of the accountability of nations to do justice in Matthew 25 and states, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
In your prayers this week, do remember the staff of the OPW: Rev. Jimmie Ray Hawkins, Director, Catherine Gordon, Associate for International Issues, Nora Leccese, Associate for Domestic Poverty and Environmental Issues, Annette Greer, Office Manager.