Office of Public Witness engages Presbyterians with national leaders


Ministry works on the front lines in Washington, D.C.

By Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, director of the PC(USA) Office of Public Witness, speaks at a news conference with faith leaders in 2017. Photo provided

WASHINGTON – The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Office of Public Witness has been on the front lines of advocacy in Washington, D.C., since 1946. Since that time, the office and its partners have worked to ensure the church’s positions on important national and international issues are communicated to those who are elected to lead the nation.

The office has just released a new video that provides Presbyterians with a snapshot of the advocacy that takes place.  OPW Director, the Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, recently responded to a few questions from the Presbyterian News Service about the work his office is engaged in.

What is the biggest misconception that people have about the Office of Public Witness?

Many believe we are a partisan arm of the church, supporting only issues of the left. We stress the fact that we are non-partisan and will work with anyone for the promotion of justice and equality, in accordance with the decisions of the PC(USA) General Assembly. We are eager to partner with others on a wide-ranging number of issues including homelessness, poverty and racism.

What do you and your staff find rewarding in this kind of work?

The fact that what we do is an expression of our faith in Jesus as Lord. In studying the gospels, we see a central calling to the work of justice for the poor, welcome to the stranger and love for the neighbor as defined by Jesus.

What is the most challenging thing about the work?

The work of justice advocacy is a heavy lift for so many. It is much more inviting to do the work of meeting the emergency needs of people and to limit healing ministry to this. To challenge and transform systems which trap individuals, families and entire communities in poverty, involves long and consistent commitment.

Have you seen progress because of the advocacy work and if so, how?

There has been a steady and consistent growth in the commitment to advocacy. More and more people are defining advocacy as a principal component to the ministry of the church, that Christians can engage in political advocacy as an expression of faith in a God of love and justice. Just as important is clearing up in the minds of Christians that the “separation of church and state” does not mean that people of faith cannot be involved in political engagement and social change.

What do people need to do to get connected with OPW?

Any level of contact is welcome. An email or phone call can be a form of first contact. Conversations on policy and strategy concerning local advocacy. We accept invitations to partner with congregations and judicatories for workshops and worship.


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