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Office of Public Witness

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A public policy ministry

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. The church has a long history of applying these biblically and theologically-based insights to issues that affect the public — maintaining a public policy ministry in the nation’s capital since 1946.

Reformed theology teaches that because a sovereign God is at work in all the world, the church and Christian citizens should be concerned about public policy. In addition, Presbyterian forefather John Calvin wrote, “Civil magistery is a calling not only holy and legitimate, but by far the most sacred and honorable in human life.”

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 leaders. This involvement helps to clarify the moral and ethical issues at stake in public policy. 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.

By adopting a study entitled, “Why and How the Church Makes a Social Policy Witness”, the 205th General Assembly (1993) emphasized the importance of the church’s social witness policies and programs. Along with affirming that God alone is Lord of the conscience, the study affirms “the responsibility and authority of the church to make a social witness policy which guides that witness. 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.”

Over 60 Years …

In 1936, the former United Presbyterian Church in the USA developed the Department of Social Education and Action. Presbyterians have always been known as political advocates; however this new Department created the first organized national effort. Knowing the value of Washington representation, the Department hired Fern Colborn in 1946 to maintain an office and a secretary on Eleventh St. NW in Washington, DC. This became the first Presbyterian Washington Office. Since then, the Washington Office has been led by several directors and many dedicated issue staff.

What Does Scripture Say About Justice?

Throughout the Bible, scripture reveals God’s will to do justice. The Hebrew prophets continually remind God’s people “…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). The prophets give specific warning to those who seek only their own well-being and ignore the well-being of the marginalized and oppressed. Israel’s failure to be just and righteous is clearly seen as disobedient to God and the reason for national decay and destruction.

Jesus frequently witnessed to the priority of the poor in the reign of God. He challenged the rich young ruler, he sharply criticized the hard-heartedness of religious leaders, and he taught that those who reached out to marginalized persons were serving him (Luke 18:18-25, Matthew 19:16-24 and Luke 10:25-37). In addition, 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.”

Presbyterians in the 114th Congress

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Advocacy Training Weekend 2016

Lift Every Voice:  Racism, Class, and Power

April 15-18, 2016

Compassion, Peace and Justice Training Day
April 15, 2016
New York Avenue Presbyterian Church
Washington, DC
Learn More about CPJ Training Day

Ecumenical Advocacy Days
April 15–18, 2016
Doubletree Hotel by Hilton
Washington, DC—Crystal City

Learn more about EAD

Advocacy Training Days Speakers

Preacher: Rev. Dr. Mark A. Lomax

Rev. Dr. Mark A. LomaxThe Reverend Dr. Mark A. Lomax is the founding pastor of the First Afrikan Presbyterian Church of Lithonia, Georgia where he has served since 1993, and associate professor of homiletics at the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC) where he has served since 1998.

He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio; a Master of Divinity degree from Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio; and a Doctor of Ministry degree from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio.

He served as pastor of the Davidson United Presbyterian Church in Davidson, North Carolina and the Westhills Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, Georgia before accepting the call as a new church development from the New Church Development Commission of the Greater Atlanta Presbytery in March 1993.

Dr. Lomax has served on various Presbytery and General Assembly committees and task forces, and as Interim President-Dean of the Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary at the ITC for two and one half years. He is a published author who preaches and lectures and has ecumenical and interfaith appeal and experience.

More Information on Leadership Coming Soon!


The Washington Office has compiled travel resources for individuals or groups planning a visit to Washington, D.C. Visitors may use the resources below to find accommodation, transportation and other information related to their stay.


Note: the Presbyterian Washington Office is in the Methodist Building, which is in the white triangle area at the corner of First St. and Maryland Ave. between the United States Supreme Court and Dirksen.

Transit/transportation to and around Washington, D.C.

Places to stay

Washington, D.C., offers many nationally known hotels. Use the booking Web sites below or visit your preferred hotel’s Web site for reservations.

Special Hotel Rate (from $99–169, depending on time of year) at
Comfort Inn Downtown DC/Convention Center
1201 13th St. NW, Washington, DC 20005
Link will automatically fill in discount “LPRS Rate”

Lower-cost alternatives to hotels are also plentiful in Washington, D.C. Below are some guest houses, B&Bs and hostels in the area.

Centro Maria Residence (for young women under 30 only)
650 Jackson Street, NE, Washington, D.C. 20017
Phone: (202) 635-1697
Fax: (202) 635-7246
Send an email.

Woodley Park Guest House
2647 Woodley Road, NW, Washington, D.C. 20008
Phone: (202) 667-0218
Fax: (202) 667-1080
Toll free: (877) 232-7744
Send an email.

Kalorama Guest House at Kalorama Park
1854 Mintwood Place, NW, Washington D.C. 20009
Phone: (202) 667-6369
Fax: (202) 319-1262
Toll free: (800) 947-6450

Kalorama Guest House at Woodley Park
2700 Cathedral Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20008
Phone: (202) 328-0860
Fax: (202) 328-8730
Toll Free:  (800) 974-9101

Adam’s Inn Guest House
1744 Lanier Place, NW, Washington, D.C. 20009
Phone: (202) 745-3600
Fax: (202) 319-7958
Toll free:  (800) 578-6807
Send an email.

Andrews House (Guest House of the Church of the Savior)
2708 Ontario Road, NW, Washington, D.C. 20009
Phone: (202) 483-0799
Send an email.

International Guest House (an outreach of the Mennonite Church  USA)
1441 Kennedy Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20011
Phone: (202) 726-5808
Fax: (202) 882-2228
Send an email.

Center for Educational Design and Communication (minimum group of 6)
821 Varnum Street, NE, Washington, D.C. 20017
Phone: (202) 635-7987
Fax: (202) 526-3506
Send an email.

Center for Student Missions
5331 Colorado Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20011
Phone: (202) 829-7016
Send an email.

Hostelling International Washington, D.C./
Washington International AYH Youth Hostel

Dormitory style accommodations with separate quarters for males and females. Kitchen facilities are available.
1009 11th Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001
Phone: (202) 737-2333
Fax: (202) 737-1508
Send an email.

Hilltop Hostel Washington, D.C. (formerly India House Hostel)
300 Carrol Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20012
Phone: (202) 291-9591
Send an email.

The Pilgrimage (part of Church of the Pilgrims, a PC(USA) congregation)
2201 P Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20037
Phone: (202) 387-6615
Fax: (202) 387-6614
Send an email.

Washington Seminar Center on Capitol Hill (part of Capitol Hill Presbyterian Church, a PC(USA) congregation)
201 4th Street, SE, Washington, D.C. 20003
Phone: (202) 547-8118

First Trinity Lutheran
4th and E Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001
Phone: (202) 737-4859
Fax: (202) 628-0571
Send an email.

Washington International Student Center
2451 18th Street, NW, Washington, DC  20009
Phone: (202) 667-7681
Toll free: (800) 567-4150
Send an email.

Washington Theological Union (Room and Facilities Rental)
6896 Laurel Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20012
Phone: (202) 541-5222
Toll free: (800) 334-9922 x5222

William Penn House
515 E. Capitol Street, SE, Washington, D.C. 20003
Phone: (202) 543-5560
Fax: (202) 543-3814
Send an email.

Tourism information/ guides

Our next step: Challenging the current tide of political divisiveness

While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me.” (Acts 1:4)

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness is committed to partnering with congregations, sessions, and other governing bodies committed to engaging in effective advocacy work. I have visited 44 presbyteries in the past two years to deliver this message and explain the work of the Office of Public Witness. During this period, Presbyterians expressed in open forums and private conversations their deep frustration with the vitriolic rhetoric emanating from Washington politicians of all political parties. It is clear that there is little hope for the Washington political establishment to rehabilitate itself. The simple reason is that “negative advertising wins campaigns.” It is incumbent upon persons in local communities to call for civility through challenging three basic assumptions: 1) politicians are more powerful than local communities; 2) partisan politics is a permanent determinant of political power that cannot be challenged; 3) politics is too divisive for our congregations to discuss.

Local communities elect politicians. There is still power in community-based action. The challenge is cultivating diverse, active, and informed participants in the political process. Organizing broad-based coalitions that represent all citizens is an essential key to restoring government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Faith communities must lead these efforts with a moral, ethical, and spiritual constancy that does not push people away who may be politically curious but strangers to religion. Our efforts must be grounded in a community concept, because of the central theme of community in our theology. Houses of worship must be strong enough to engage powers and principalities in this present age through honest and open sharing. We are therefore initiating the Respectful Dialogue Initiative  in 2013 to initially train Presbyterians to conduct meaningful community-based dialogues that lead to contextual and transformational change for communities as a whole. Our process of discussion and discernment must represent an “upper room” model (Acts 1:1–14) of recognizing the urgency of the moment while being guided by the Holy Spirit. Tarrying with the Holy Spirit is vitally important in this process, because it is Holy Spirit that gives us the strength to discern God’s truth amid disagreements.

In the meantime, let your voice be heard through voting in early voting or on Election Day.

In the faith we share,

J. Herbert Nelson

What’s in it for the PC(USA)? An analysis of the newly enacted Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act

Information from the faith community

Other information

Is your presbytery focusing on justice issues through public policy? The Presbyterian Office of Public Witness can help you understand proposed legislation affecting how we live together in God’s world and how to bring the heart of the gospel to the heart of the nation’s capital. In addition, Office of Public Witness staff can assist your congregation in its public policy ministry in other ways, including:

Internship and Summer Fellowship Programs: The Office of Public Witness believes that formation of servant leaders and advocates is vital to the public policy ministry and witness of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).  Find more information about our program and for application information.

Visiting Associate Program: The Office of Public Witness started its Visiting Associate Program in 1986, under which a qualified applicant (who may wish to do sabbatical or study leave) has the opportunity to negotiate working with the permanent staff in addressing public policy issues.

Special Briefings: Office of Public witness associates offer tailored briefings to youth groups and campus ministry groups who wish to call on their Members of Congress in Washington. Please contact the Office of Public Witness for more information.

Coming to Washington?

The Office of Public Witness has compiled travel resources for individuals or groups planning a visit to Washington, D.C. Visitors may use these resources to find accommodation, transportation and other information related to their stay.


Holy Discontentment: Advocacy and Action for Syria

The Syrian conflict is likely to continue for many years to come. The resulting refugee and displacement crisis engenders holy discontentment for people who long for peace and safety among ALL of God’s people. If your or your congregation are interested in taking action to provide humanitarian assistance, refugee resettlement, or just want to learn… Read more »

Voter Suppression Discussion Guide

We Shall Not Be Moved – Advocacy in the New Age of Voter Suppression It’s critical to understand the mechanics of our democracy. “One person, one vote” reflects a core value of democracy, yet the right to vote is being restricted in many places, which raises questions for Christians about the meaning and effectiveness of… Read more »

Washington Report

From the Presbyterian (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness, Spring 2015

Young Adult Engagement Report

At the beginning of 2012, the Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, PC(USA) Director for Public Witness identified two significant challenges for the PC(USA) Office of Public Witness. The first aimed to show what this ministry does. That is, the OPW seeks to serve the whole church, not just a self-selected affinity group. The second… Read more »
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