PCUSA Compassion Peace and Justice (CPJ) Training Day and Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD) Conference

Ralph Jones, Mary Hunt and Art Hunt attended the CPJ and EAD conferences in Washington, DC from April 21-April 24.

The CPJ training and the EAD conference combined inspirational speakers with practical training on a variety of organizing and social justices issues. This year’s theme was “Confronting Chaos, Forging Community: Challenging Racism, Materialism and Militarism.” The conference was also a remembrance that 50 years after his speech on Vietnam at Riverside Church, Dr. Marin Luther King’s dream of eliminating militarism, racism and materialism – “the giant triplets of chaos” – remains our dream, our aspiration and our motivation.

CPJ – Doctrine of Discovery

CPJ is the Friday morning “prequel” to EAD. Ruling Elder Elona Street-Stewart, who is the first Native American to serve as a synod executive in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and serves the Synod of Lakes and Prairies presented a workshop focused on the Doctrine of Discovery and the Propagation of the Christian Empire.

Did you know that beginning in the 1450s, papal bulls authorized Christian monarchies to vanquish and place in perpetual slavery/servitude any heathens, pagans, Saracens, or other non-Christian peoples? With that authority, the Portuguese developed the slave trade along the west African coast. Other Christian nations soon joined in the effort to bring all lands not Christian under church dominion. Military conquest was the authorized means.

Slavery was the result.

American Indians were very susceptible to European diseases. That’s key to the successes of our early New

England Puritan ancestors. Those who survived were often held as slaves. The “peculiar institution” developed, in part, because so many Indians died. The almost forgotten Indian history of this country needs to be heard if we are to understand the Christian roots of much of the injustice in today’s world.

EAD

On Monday, we met with staff of Senators Blumenthal and Murphy and Representative DeLauro to advocate for criminal justice reform, immigration reform and a moral budget that provides robust funding for “common good” programs like health care, nutrition and diplomacy and especially does not sacrifice people to pay for increased military expenditures. At the highest level, the Lobby Day congressional “asks” were:

We call on Congress to robustly fund human needs in the United States and abroad

We call on Congress to reject increases in Pentagon spending, especially at the expense of human needs.

For more details: https://advocacydays.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/EAD-2017-Leave-Behind.pdf

Also on Monday at noon, EAD held a Prayer Vigil outside the United Methodist Building. The Reverend Traci Blackmon was among several faith leaders who spoke on the implications of the proposed budget. She asked “How Are the Children?”, a traditional greeting of the Maasai in Kenya. In an impassioned testimony she spoke of the hardships and injustices that rain down on poor and marginalized children in the United States and around the world. Our call to action is to ask what could the world be like if everyone – our politicians, our faith leaders, our business leaders, parents, teachers, ourselves – started every conversation with “How are the Children?” Our answer today is “The children are not well”. How can we change our personal, local, state, national and international priorities to be able to answer “our children are well”? Watch her here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vayns90E4_s

The speakers were powerful voices for action in ways small and large. The videos of the plenaries are at https://advocacydays.org/2017-confronting-chaos/speakers/. Some of particular interest:

  • Tamika D. Mallory, National Co-Chair, Women’s March on Washington; Former Executive Director, National Action Network
  • Eric Mitchell, Director of Government Relations, Bread for the World
  • Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk, General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA)
  • Bishop Dwayne Royster, Political Director, PICO
  • The Rev. Traci Blackmon, Pastor of Christ The King UCC, in Florissant, Mo and acting executive of UCC Justice and Witness Ministries

As one example, Mary participated in a Climate Justice Simulation sponsored by the United Methodist Women’s national office. Climate Justice is one of their four social justice priorities. The simulated experience is based on real situations faced by three U. S. communities in their struggles to contend with and organize around environmental injustices. Through the course of the role-playing, participants gained knowledge about the local conditions that aggravate climate change, move toward more informed advocacy in solidarity with local communities, and are introduced to the work of three community organizations addressing these particular climate justice issues. The simulation curriculum is available for download online at http://www.unitedmethodistwomen.org/climate-justice/simulation-experience and could be considered for a joint adult / young adult education session.

If you have questions about the conference, please ask Ralph Jones or Mary Hunt or Art Hunt. Mary and Art will lead a discussion of the conference in the adult education on May 14.