Presbyterians changing history
February 5, 2014
Greetings to members of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board, mid council executives, and friends,
In her message below, Rhashell Hunter, director of the Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries/Presbyterian Women ministry area, writes powerfully of the ways in which Presbyterians have faithfully responded throughout history to God’s call to stand with our sisters and brothers for justice, freedom, and peace.
On January 24, members of the Presbyterian Mission Agency staff in Louisville took their place in the long line of Presbyterians who have boldly engaged in ministries of reconciliation by observing Orange Day, a day established by the United Nations secretary general’s UNiTE campaign to end violence against women and children. Hundreds of us wore orange—and will continue to wear orange on the weekday closest to the 25th day of every month—to advocate for an end to such violence.
I hope that you will be similarly inspired to stand up, be counted, take action, and bear witness as together we follow Jesus, the great reconciler, by building ministries of reconciliation in our broken world.
Presbyterians have been involved in movements that have changed history and improved the lives of people. Sometimes we initiate movements, and sometimes we sign on late; nevertheless, we are there.
Last summer, we commemorated the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Justice. We remembered Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s magnificent “I Have a Dream” speech, and many of us remembered a notable Presbyterian who also spoke at the Lincoln Memorial on Wednesday, August 28, 1963: Dr. Eugene Carson Blake, the stated clerk of the United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (UPCUSA).
Rev. Edler G. Hawkins served as the first African American moderator of the General Assembly in 1964, while Blake was the stated clerk. Rev. Margaret Towner was ordained as the first woman minister in 1956. And when the 175th General Assembly of the UPCUSA authorized the creation of the Commission on Religion and Race in 1963, Rev. Gayraud Wilmore became its executive director.
Elder Ann Kearns, who traveled to the March on Washington as a 16-year-old on a bus chartered for youth, said that her parents were frightened for her to go. But, she writes, “They soon realized it was the things they had taught me that caused my desire . . . things like being proud of your heritage and standing up for yourself.”
In his speech, Blake said, “We come [to the Lincoln Memorial]—late, late we come—in the reconciling and repentant spirit in which the humble Lincoln of Illinois once replied to a delegation of morally arrogant church [leaders], ‘Never say God is on our side; rather pray that we may be found on God’s side.’ ”
In March, a delegation from Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries/Presbyterian Women, partnering with the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations, will participate in the 58th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York City. The participants will discuss challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls and will review progress in their access to education, science, technology, and employment.
The Presbyterian Mission Agency Board will vote on an item this week to encourage Presbyterians to join the “We Will Speak Out” campaign, a global coalition of Christian-based organizations seeking to end sexual violence around the world. If approved, this will be a cross-ministry-area initiative in Presbyterian Mission.
The board will also vote on the Women of Faith Awards nominees. The Women of Faith Awards Breakfast—one of the most popular breakfasts held at the General Assembly—will take place on Sunday, June 15, 2014. This year’s theme is “Prophetic Women of Faith,” recognizing women who not only are compassionate but carry on the prophetic tradition in the church.
Presbyterians continue praying that we may be found on God’s side through our involvement in movements that we hope will change history and improve the lives of people, not just in the United States but all over the world.
Rhashell Hunter, Director
Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries/Presbyterian Women
in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls and will review progress in their access to education, science, technology, and employment.