PC(USA) Stated Clerk invites participation in Freedom Rising initiative

Nelson says program offers ‘support, development and healing’ for pilot cities

by Gregg Brekke | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE – The Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A), has penned a letter to PC(USA) congregations inviting participation in the Freedom Rising initiative.

The 222nd General Assembly (2016) of the PC(USA) approved the initiative, originally called “On Taking Specific Action to Address the Worsening Plight of the African American Male,” the overture has been renamed in honor of one of its primary authors, Eugene “Freedom” Blackwell, who died of cancer just two months after the overture’s passage.

In his letter, Nelson asks congregations to dedicate the discretionary 25 percent of their Peace & Global Witness Offering to contribute to the $5 million goal set by the General Assembly for funding local program and initiatives.

The full text of Nelson’s letter is below:


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ,
and has given us the ministry of reconciliation
” (2 Corinthians 5:18, NRSV).

In each time and place there are particular problems and crises through which God calls the church to act” (Book of Confessions, The Confession of 1967, 9.43).

The words of Paul to the church in Corinth and the Confession of 1967 are words that compelled the 222nd General Assembly (2016) to establish the Freedom Rising initiative (Minutes, 2016, Part I, pp. 570ff). The assembly called upon the church to respond to a crisis of special magnitude: the oppression of racism damaging the lives of African American males. Freedom Rising is a starting point with five pilot cities.

In recent weeks, with the events of Charlottesville, Virginia, we have been reminded, again, that our culture systematically devalues black lives. So, as the church seeks the reconciling ministry to which it is called, I commend this initiative to you for your support. One way to support this initiative is to use the locally retained portion of the Peace & Global Witness Offering.

This initiative will pilot in five cities—New York, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Charlotte, and Baltimore. The response, working with programs and agencies in each city, will offer support, development, and healing in each city. The action of the General Assembly set a goal of $5 million to fund the pilot initiatives.

Each pilot city is seeking to address some of the most pressing problems affecting African American males, such as high unemployment, mass incarceration, and substance abuse. For example, Pittsburgh is working on a program of church-based mentoring for young African American boys, while Cleveland is seeking to address structural racism around employment and business opportunities for African American men.

The initiative bears the nickname of a Pittsburgh pastor who started House of Manna Faith Community in one of the city’s predominantly African American neighborhoods. Eugene “Freedom” Blackwell died of cancer just two months after the overture’s passage. Supporting Freedom Rising kindles the flame of commitment that Blackwell ignited.

You may already have a plan for using your retained 25 percent of the Peace & Global Witness Offering. If so, please continue. We are grateful for your commitment to your thoughtful use of these funds. If you do not have a current plan, you are invited to be a partner in this initiative for the next five years. Consider sending your 25 percent of the Peace & Global Witness Offering to the Freedom Rising Fund.

Learn more about the Peace & Global Witness Offering and how your congregation can participate and support Freedom Rising here.

In the faith we share,
Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson

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