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Next of the PC(USA)’s Matthew 25 workshops to feature the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, the Rev. Jimmie Hawkins and more

Register for the online event to learn about effective methods for eradicating systemic poverty

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

Photo by geralt via Pixabay

LOUISVILLE — Three dynamic guests, including some of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A)’s leading voices, will headline the next Matthew 25 workshop on effective methods for eradicating systemic poverty.

The online gathering, which starts at 11 a.m. Eastern Time on Aug. 28, will feature the Rev. Jimmie Hawkins of the Presbyterian Office of Public Witness (OPW), the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis of the Poor People’s Campaign and Denzel Mitchell of Richmonders Involved to Strengthen Our Communities (RISC).

Denzel Mitchell

They will share their expertise in three anti-poverty models highlighted in the workshop’s title — “Matthew 25 – Community Organizing, Policy Advocacy, and Movement Building” — and discuss why it’s important for people of faith to make their voices heard on issues affecting marginalized people, such as low-wage earners, unhoused individuals and struggling families.

“The issues of eradicating systemic poverty and eliminating structural racism demand confronting laws that keep people impoverished such as cuts to SNAP benefits and refusals to raise the minimum wage,” said Hawkins, who leads OPW and the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations. “Whether on the state or federal level, racial justice and racial equality are goals worth advocating for in the pursuit of a just and moral nation.”

The Rev. Jimmie Hawkins (Photo by Rich Copley)

The hourlong workshop will include a question-and-answer session for those audience members who want to engage with the speakers.

“We hope that all Presbyterians who are interested in learning more about some of the most effective, long-term ways to make real change in ending poverty will come to this workshop,” said the Rev. Rebecca Barnes, coordinator of the Presbyterian Hunger Program. “Those of us who have worked in this field for decades truly believe that we all have more to learn and more equipping to do related to community organizing, policy advocacy and movement-building. We cannot end poverty with short-term direct relief, financially or otherwise. We must also engage in long-term strategies that are relational and legislative. Clergy, lay leaders, youth, activists, denominational staff — this workshop should be energizing to us all!”

Registration has begun for the event, which is part of an ongoing series of workshops that began in May and lead up to a Matthew 25 Summit Jan. 16-18, 2024, in Atlanta. The workshops are providing insight into the Matthew 25 goals of eradicating systemic poverty, dismantling structural racism and building congregational vitality.

“We have created a 2023 series on eradicating systemic poverty to cover some of the main components we believe Presbyterians will find helpful in learning about and preparing ourselves to act to end poverty,” Barnes said. “With great feedback and large attendance at these workshops, so far, we have been encouraged by how many Presbyterians are developing skills to end poverty.”

The gathering will be moderated by the Rev. Dr. Alonzo Johnson, coordinator of the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People, and Jennifer Evans of PHP, who described the importance of learning about the work of congregation-based community organizations such as RISC.

The Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis

“Congregation-based community organizing brings people together across racial, religious and socioeconomic lines to pursue justice,” said Evans, Associate for Communications and National Partnerships. “Congregational leaders and organizers are trained on building people power and research and negotiating with public officials. These coalitions around the country have established a track record of highly successful campaigns and leveraged billions of dollars.”

Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign and Director of the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice at Union Theological Seminary in New York, has been active around a number of issues, from increasing the minimum wage to countering white Christian nationalism.

In January 2022, Theoharis told the Presbyterian News Service, “When those that are most impacted by injustice are able to come together and band together with clergy and people of faith and conscience, that’s when we’ve seen this nation make change for the better for everybody.”

Sign up to watch: To attend the Matthew 25 workshop in person or to receive a link to a recording of the workshop after the live program, register here.

View the online showcase: To watch previous workshops, go here.

Mark your calendar: Details will be forthcoming about an Oct. 30 Matthew 25 workshop, “When You’re in it for the Long Haul: International Accompaniment for Long-term Sustainable Development.”

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