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Day 2 of Compassion, Peace & Justice training focuses on domestic work

Ministry staff talk about how they have responded to current issues, how people can get involved

by Rich Copley | Presbyterian News Service

Christian Brooks (top, left) of the Office of Public Witness moderated Day 2 of CPJ Training April 20, 2022 with (clockwise from top right) Jessica Maudlin of the Presbyterian Hunger Program, the Rev. Shanea D. Leonard of the Office of Gender and Racial Justice, Margaret Mwale of Self-Development of People, Simon Doong of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, and the Rev. Edwin Gonzales-Castillo of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. (Screenshot)

LEXINGTON, Kentucky — Two-thirds of the way through Wednesday’s session of CPJ Training, moderator Christian Brooks of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Office of Public Witness turned the conversation to today’s headlines.

Specifically, she brought up bills that have been introduced and, in many cases, passed in state legislatures across the country targeting people, particularly children, in the LGBTQIA+ community.

“It is happening not just in the South,” said the Rev. Shanea D. Leonard, Associate for Gender Justice in the PC(USA)’s Office of Gender and Racial Justice. “In the West, in the East, and all over — even here in Kentucky, where our PC(USA) headquarters is located — there are bills that are targeted at not only health care, but education around our youth, around all kinds of facets of life, particularly around trans folks and LGBTQIA folks.

The Rev. Shanea D. Leonard

“We have gotten in my office, and other folks might have gotten as well, letters from Presbyterians who are saying, we know that our church and our General Assembly have taken a stand about this. We know that our church stands with our LGBTQIA siblings, not just an ordination and marriage, but full inclusion in our church.”

Now, with the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community under attack, it is again time for the church to speak and act, which Leonard had been doing through their office in the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s Compassion, Peace & Justice (CPJ) ministries.

Among actions taken in response to the situation:

  • Leonard worked with the office of the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to draft a statement denouncing the legislation — “This type of injustice cannot be ignored” — and urging people to contact their legislators.
  • Leonard is offering a series of Intersectional Justice Workshops starting April 26 to help inform people about the intersections of issues facing marginalized communities, including people who are LGBTQIA+.
  • The Office of Gender and Racial Justice is partnering with More Light Presbyterians to offer a livestream event April 30 addressing the attacks and issues such as pastoral care in this time.
  • Brooks added that the Office of Public Witness (OPW) supports the Equality Act, which would broadly prohibit discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity, and urges Presbyterians and others to tell their representatives to support it.

Leonard was one of five ministry-area participants in the second day of CPJ Training, a virtual event that this year focused on how Compassion, Peace & Justice ministries are focusing on civil and human rights. After Tuesday’s International workshop, Wednesday addressed domestic issues and work being done by the Gender and Racial Justice Office, as well as the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, the Presbyterian Hunger Program, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, and the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People.

After presentations from each of the panelists on their ministry areas, a question-and-answer session included questions about how people could get involved with their work.

  • Simon Doong, Associate for Peacemaking, pointed to several offerings from the Peacemaking Program, including upcoming Travel Study Seminars, the Mosaic of Peace conference in Israel-Palestine, and United States visits by International Peacemakers. Doong also discussed study materials such as the “Standing Our Holy Ground” series on gun violence.
  • Jessica Maudlin, Associate for Sustainable Living and Earth Care in the Hunger Program, mentioned ways people could engage in environmental issues such as taking the Climate Care Challenge or becoming an Earth Care Congregation.
  • Brooks encouraged people to sign up for Action Alerts from OPW that tell them when the Washington Office is asking people to engage with various issues and gives them tools to contact elected officials, including their congressional representatives.
  • Margaret Mwale, Associate for Community Development and Constituent Relations in SDOP, said Mid-Council SDOP Committees, which make grants to projects in their presbyteries or synods, are great ways to get involved in SDOP’s anti-poverty work. She also noted frequent webinars from SDOP highlight the work the committee is doing and the partners it collaborates with.
  • The Rev. Edwin González-Castillo, PDA’s Associate for Disaster Response in Latin America and the Caribbean, noted that giving to One Great Hour of Sharing is a great way to support his ministry as well as PHP and SDOP.

Doong noted that Presbyterians should also look for opportunities to work with organizations in their areas that are addressing issues they feel are important.

“There’s likely organizations in your communities already doing great work,” Doong said. “So seek them out and partner with them. See what you can do, because you don’t have to start from the ground up on your own.

“I would also just add that something that I’ve learned in my time with the peacemaking program is that justice work is hard, but justice work also can be really creative and inspiring. That gives you the motivation to keep going.”

CPJ Training organizers are also encouraging participants to sign up for Ecumenical Advocacy Days, a virtual event Monday through Wednesday, April 25-27. Like the Presbyterian event, EAD is focused on civil and human rights this year. PC(USA) staff will be involved in several EAD workshops, and CPJ Associate Director of Advocacy the Rev. Jimmie Hawkins will emcee the event.

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