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The Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy leans into the prophetic calling of the whole PC(USA)

With the Rev. Dr. Dhawn B. Martin on board as coordinator, ACSWP will chip away at its General Assembly to-do list

Submitted by the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy | Special to Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Dr. Dhawn B. Martin

LOUISVILLE — Are you eager to advocate and lean into the Great Ends of the Church, yet not quite sure where to find the theological, ethical, and Reformed resources for such advocacy? Are you concerned by how some groups use the Bible as tool of rhetoric, yet not sure where to turn for rich biblical reflection on current issues?

The Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) serves the prophetic calling of the whole Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) by providing the General Assembly with careful studies of pressing moral challenges, media for discussion and discernment of Christian responsibilities, and policy recommendations for faithful action.

The committee robustly lived into its prophetic role at the 225th GA gathering. The social witness policies detailed at the 2022 assembly included a call to approve the campaign, the Decade to End Gun Violence (2022-2032); concrete action steps to Invest in a Green Future; and directives to attend to matters of structural racism and reparatory justice in the Resolution on Race, Reparative Justice, and the PC(USA) report. Additionally, ACSWP recommended studies on how the church might minister to and resource diverse families in ever-changing cultural contexts and on how faith communities might create thriving spaces for mental health and wholeness.

As 2022 wrapped up, ACSWP shifted gears to search for a new coordinator, grateful for the two-and-a-half years the Rev. Carl Horton served as interim coordinator. This search ended successfully as the Rev. Dr. Dhawn B. Martin joined the ACSWP leadership team earlier this month. A public theologian and scholar, Martin notes that “ACSWP’s commitment to the life of mind and body, of reflective, intentional study and embodied action toward justice sparked my interest in the coordinator position.”

Prior to her new role, Martin served as director of the SoL Center, an interfaith adult education center, and as parish associate at University Presbyterian Church in San Antonio. “My experience in interfaith dialogue, as well as my years of university teaching, align with the social witness imperatives of ACSWP,” she said. Stepping into a newly configured “committee corner,” wherein the advisory and advocacy committees are now housed together, Martin anticipates “a coordination of mission and vision opportunities, opportunities through which ACSWP serves as national and regional resource to faith communities desiring to effect change across societal, civic, and governmental fora.”

“We went through a robust national search, and Dhawn rose to the top every step of the way,” said the Rev. Erica Nelson, who co-chairs the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy. “The entire search committee felt Dhawn was the best person to serve as coordinator for ACSWP and we are delighted she accepted the position. Dhawn shows a level of hard work, determination, compassion, and collegiality that is key to this work. Dhawn’s vows to serve in energy, intelligence, imagination, and love shone through during every step of the process and we look forward to her work with ACSWP and the larger denomination.”

“I am thrilled that Dhawn Martin has answered the call to serve as the coordinator of ACSWP,” said Sara Lisherness, deputy executive director for Mission Program in the Presbyterian Mission Agency. “I believe that our denominational commitment to the social witness of our church will grow in new ways with her leadership. Dhawn refers to herself as a ‘public theologian,’ continuing in our Reformed commitment to bearing witness in the public arena.

“This opportunity for ACSWP’s new approaches to societal witness engagement is possible because of the Rev. Carl Horton’s leadership, who served as the interim coordinator from 2020 to early 2023. Carl brought his vast experience in interim ministry leadership and his experience as a seasoned educator to the work of the committee during the Covid lockdown.

“As the committee had to adjust to virtual meetings, Carl’s team-building skills helped integrate new committee members. His experience as an educator and his creativity encouraged the committee to consider new approaches to social witness policy development. He did this while continuing his role as coordinator for the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program. I give thanks to God for Carl’s dedication and commitment to serve our church with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love.”

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