Presbyterians Today

AUG-SEP 2018

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Pr e s by te r i a n s To d ay | AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2018 41 protests. Just having conversations with people who think differently is advocacy, too," she said. Leccese came to the Office of Public Witness after working with a food nonprofit. Through government policies, she hopes to help change the way people live. "Charity is important, but we don't want to just provide charity. We work to change policies so that people don't need charity," Leccese said. Partnerships work Working partnerships are important at both the Office of Public Witness and the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations. Much of the work done at the United Nations is done in updates his calendar accordingly. Some days his work involves being arrested for protesting policies that hurt people, some days he meets with elected officials about gun control or other issues, and other days he trains church members on how to be advocates for God's justice with their local leaders. Hawkins and the other staff in Washington, D.C., are part of a coali- tion of 65 faith-based organizations that work together to witness to their faith in the halls of power. Together, when their theology aligns, ecumenical groups work to lobby members of Congress, plan events and suggest policies in line with Jesus' teachings. And, as a Christian, Hawkins has no reserva- tions about being politically active. "God is sovereign and God is over all, including politics," Hawkins said. "There is a disconnect if we separate what is happening in the world from what is happening in the church. Our job is to witness to our faith in the public square to help create a more just world." Two hundred miles away in New York City, Ryan Smith heads the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations. Smith, director of the office and the PC(USA)'s rep- resentative to the United Nations, says Presbyterians have a history of participating in politics. "We trace our history to John Calvin advocating for the improve- ment of sewer systems in Geneva in the 16th century. In Jesus' ministry, he flipped the tables in the Temple. We carry on these traditions of challenging an unjust status quo as exemplified by Jesus and Calvin," Smith said. Diversity of opinions The challenge of ecumenical and interfaith political work is that although many Christians agree on the biblical principles to love one another and to care for the poor, they may not agree on how it should be done. Some believe it should be done at the individual level with neigh- bors helping neighbors. Others think churches or other nonprofits should care for the poor, while others believe it is the government's responsibility to ensure each person's well-being. Nora Leccese, associate for domestic poverty and environmental issues in the Office of Public Witness, says the office's advocacy work involves people they agree with and people they don't. At times the denomination works independently; at other times, it works in partnership among many. The work occurs in front of cameras and behind the scenes. "Advocacy isn't just about going to COURTESY OF THE OFFICE OF PUBLIC WITNESS Nora Leccese, associate for domestic poverty and environmental issues in the Office of Public Witness, works with organizations like Bread for the World to end systemic poverty.

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