A commitment of the Presbyterian Church
By Sara Lisherness
The Presbyterian Church’s commitment to justice is core to its identity and understanding as followers of Jesus Christ. Beginning with the ancient texts of the faith, God’s people have given both voice and witness to the prophet Micah’s calling to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God.
The Confessions of the church, especially the Confession of 1967 and A Brief Statement of Faith, challenge the church to follow Christ into a broken and fearful world to:
- pray without ceasing,
- to witness among all peoples
- to Christ as Lord and Savior,
- to unmask idolatries in church and culture,
- to hear the voices of peoples long silenced,
- and to work with others for justice, freedom and peace.
— A Brief Statement of Faith 10.4
The Book of Order also makes it clear that the whole church gathers in worship and its corporate life for the purpose of being sent out into the world to engage in the reconciling, healing work of God through Jesus Christ. God sends the church in the power of the Holy Spirit to share with Christ in establishing God’s just, peaceable and loving rule in the world. (W-7.4000)
The PC(USA) Compassion, Peace and Justice Ministry draws together many of the ministries responsible for fulfilling the denominational priorities for social justice ministry. It inspires, equips and connects the whole church as it seeks to live out its commitments to social justice. The Presbyterian Office of Public
Witness in Washington dares to speak truth in the halls of power, praying and advocating for a national budget that is just and attends to the needs of the most vulnerable in our society.
The Office of Public Witness provides inspiration and support for individuals and congregations called to engage in advocacy with elected officials. It connects Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly policy with issues on the legislative agenda, offers guidance to people who want to visit elected officials and encourages congregations to engage in letter-writing campaigns sponsored by partner organizations like Bread for the World.
The Presbyterian Hunger Program, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and Self-Development of People have equipped villages in Liberia and Sierra Leone to build a more just and sustainable society. The West Africa Initiative is an agriculture and development project that provides seeds, tools and training for community-based farming. The effort has been tremendously successful. The effort provides entire communities with healthy nutritious food and has also helped these communities build schools, community centers and places of worship.
A similar initiative has also been implemented in Haiti, where over 800,000 people fled Leogane and Port au Prince for the countryside after the devastating earthquake in 2010. These rural communities, already poor, were overwhelmed by the influx of people displaced from the cities. Working in partnership with Mouvman Peyizan Papay (MPP), seeds and tools have been distributed to over 10,000 families, enabling them to feed the displaced people in their midst and equip them to rebuild their economy and country. These efforts have helped both West Africa and Haiti, struggling to recover from years of civil war, multiple disasters and overwhelming poverty, to take steps in creating a hopeful future for their children and their communities.
At the 2010 Youth Triennium, the Child Advocacy Program, the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program and the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations invited participants to connect with the Red Hands Campaign, an international effort to stop the recruitment of child soldiers. Over 800 red hands made by young people at Triennium were sent to the Russian Mission at the United Nations. Just a few weeks later the Mission ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child regarding the involvement of children in armed conflict. Five more countries that received red hands have ratified the protocols. Presbyterians young and old are now connected to the campaign, which has sent over 350,000 red hands from 40 countries to world leaders.
The Presbyterian Church has been a visible witness in transforming society to reflect God’s intention for a just, peaceful and compassionate world. As we live into the future of a rapidly changing world may we honor our history and continue to claim the prophet’s call to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God.
This article originally appeared in the 2011 Fall issue of Chimes magazine, a biannual publication of San Francisco Theological Seminary.