The PC(USA) Advocacy Offices: Working for justice and working at GA

Rev. Jimmie Ray Hawkins shares an update from PC(USA) Advocacy Offices: the Office of Public Witness in Washington, D.C., and the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations (PMUN) in New York City.

For over 70 years, the PC(USA) has been active in justice advocacy. Not many Presbyterians are aware that we have two offices focused on this issue. The Office of Public Witness (OPW) is in Washington, D.C., and the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations (PMUN) is in New York City. Each office receives direction from the PC(USA) Social Witness Policy Statements, the stated clerk and the General Assembly.

In 2020, these offices were merged into the Advocacy Offices, which I oversee. They maintain their specific ministries and collaborate where they overlap. OPW’s staff includes Annette Greer, Catherine Gordon and Christian Brooks; PMUN’s staff includes Sue Rheem and Ivy Lopedito.

OPW is part of a coalition of over 70 partners from the faith community and non-profit world that interact with the federal government. In addition to generating educational material, OPW issues Action Alerts, digital notifications enabling subscribers to quickly contact their representatives on legislation. PMUN engages with the UN as well as with interfaith partners and networks on behalf of the global community. It helps to educate Presbyterians on the UN’s work. Both offices engage with young adults as summer fellows, seminarians and young adult volunteers (YAVs). These young adults work alongside full-time staff, learning justice advocacy. OPW also has adult volunteers assisting in the office.

Each office has a signature event. In March, PMUN sponsors the Commission on the Status of Women, the largest gender equality gathering at the UN. For two weeks, this group gathers to “promote gender equality and women’s empowerment worldwide.” In April, OPW sponsors Training Day (TD) specifically for Presbyterians and Ecumenical Training Days (EAD) for interfaith partnership. 2022’s theme was “The Fierce Urgency of Civil and Human Rights” with Liz Theoharis of the Poor People’s Campaign giving the final keynote. Both CSW and TD/EAD have been online for two years but hope to return in person in 2023.

2022 has been an exciting year for the Advocacy Offices. In June, I met at the White House (WH) with other faith leaders and WH staff. Senior Advisor for WH Public Engagement Josh Dickson held a roundtable on reproductive justice with denominational leaders. I shared that the PC(USA) has supported reproductive rights since 1970 and that OPW is actively generating a response against the overturn of Roe v. Wade. In May, PMUN hosted a joint Advocacy Office retreat, facilitating engagement with the UN. Both offices hosted PC(USA) seminarians for travel seminars.

OPW and PMUN both served at GA225 as well. I was the resource coordinator for the Addressing Violence in the USA Committee, and Sue Rheem served the International Engagement Committee. We organized the scheduling of the overture advocates and resource persons who gave testimony, ensuring that they were readily available at the appropriate time for committee discussion and action. Gordon and Brooks served as resource persons, available to committees that wanted their expertise. At GA and across the year, the Advocacy Offices serve PC(USA), and through them the church, as they advocate for justice.