June 28 ,  2018
Gun violence is 'the greatest moral issue,' Jim Atwood tells Presbyterian Writers Guild lunch attendees
by Eva Stimson

ST. LOUIS - Accepting "on be-half of the one million Americans who have died at the barrel of a gun since 1979," the Rev. James E. "Jim" At-wood, an author, pastor and nationally recognized voice on the subject of gun violence prevention, received the 2018 David Steele Distinguished Writer Award at the Presbyterian Writers Guild (PWG) luncheon at the 223rd General Assembly.

Calling gun violence "the greatest moral, ethical issue," Atwood said, "In the '70s and'80s, so many thought I was crazy to talk about gun violence when nobody cared." He said he was more hopeful today, as more people, including young survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., are speaking out and taking action on the issue.

"We've never had a real sustained movement, but we've got one now," Atwood said.

He also dedicated his award to the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, which has developed resources on gun violence, and to GA commissioners who have been "a consistent voice" for sane regulation of firearms for more than 60 years. Those commissioners "took risks for the gospel when they returned home," Atwood said.

"It's tough holding your biblical and theological ground when gun-lovers threaten to leave your church and take their wallets with them."

Atwood continued, "I thank God for those who refuse to be cowed by those who say the only way to stop gun violence is with more guns." And to those who say the church has no business speaking out on gun violence because it's a political issue, not a faith issue, Atwood had this response:

"Each of the 39,000 gun victims last year was born in the image of God and is a neighbor that God commands us to love. Can you think of anything more spiritual than that?"

Atwood first became an advocate for gun violence prevention - joining the board of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence - after a member of the congregation he was then serving, Grace Presbyterian Church in Springfield, Va., was shot and killed by a robber with a Saturday Night Special. Since then, he has served as interfaith coordinator of the Million Mom March, chair of the Greater Washington chapter of the anti-gun-violence group Heeding God's Call, and a member of the National Committee of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, which in 2014 selected him unanimously to receive its 2014 Peaceseeker Award.

Atwood told those at the Writers Guild luncheon, "The most effective thing you can do about gun violence is talk about it - from the pulpit, in the classroom ... and when you're in line at the grocery store."

Hundreds of Presbyterians join march to St. Louis' Justice Center
More than $47,000 raised to bail out people charged with misdemeanors

ST. LOUIS - Several hundred Presbyterians took to the streets on a hot and humid Tuesday afternoon in downtown St. Louis calling for social, racial and economic justice. Participants - including Co-Moderators Vilmarie Cintrón-Olivieri, and the Rev. Cindy Kohlmann, along with the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson, General Assembly stated clerk - joined other advocacy groups for the one-mile walk from the America's Center (St. Louis' convention center) to the City Justice Center to participate in a "bail out." Organizers say the jails are full of people being held on minor offenses, unable to pay cash bail. The marchers, working with local organizations such as the Bail Project and the St. Louis Action Council, took more than $47,000 - collected at Saturday's opening worship offering and from online contributions - to provide bail for persons who have been prescreened for release.

Local advocates say inability to pay bail has been a driving force in the increase in mass incarceration over the last 15 years, resulting in job loss, mounting fines and child custody issues. The Bail Project screens incarcerated individuals and seeks to help those whose bail is less than $5,000 so more people can receive assistance.

Before leaving the convention center, organizer Michelle Higgins told the crowd that standing for a cause is not easy.

"We who believe in freedom shall not rest, but stand up for those in pain," she said. "It's our duty to stand shoulder to shoulder with people we might not see eye to eye with but there is a trust built between us."
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 "If you are not making mistakes then you are not making decisions."
-C. Cook

Atwood, 83, is pastor emeritus of Trinity Presbyterian Church, in Arlington, Va., and the author of Gundamentalism and Where It Is Taking America (Cascade Books, 2017), America and Its Guns: A Theological Exposé (Cascade, 2012), The Leaven of Laughter for Advent and Christmas (Trafford Publishing, 2006), and other books.

The distinguished writer award is named for the late David Steele - Presbyterian poet and essayist best known for his "Tuesday Morning" column in The Presbyterian Outlook - and is given biennially to a Presbyterian writer who blessed the church with his or her writing over the course of a career.


The Hispanic/Latinx National Presbyterian Caucus and the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson, II, General Assembly Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U,S.A.) have issued a statement in response to President Trump's comments earlier this week referring to certain immigrants as "animals."

The complete text of the statement, issued May 18:

Joint Statement from the Hispanic/Latinx National Presbyterian Caucus and the Rev. J. Herbert Nelson, II, Stated Clerk

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), along with the rest of the United States, continues to experience the tearing apart of our social fabric by a president who insists on using inflammatory and divisive language about immigrants in this country. Faithful Presbyterians believe humans are created in God's very own image, and each should be afforded equal respect and dignity.

Calling certain immigrants to the U.S. "animals" demonstrates yet again President Donald Trump's xenophobia. The fact that President Trump defended his callous remark later on simply underscores his lack of statesmanship.

The PC(USA) stands with all our sisters and brothers who have immigrated to the U.S. Whatever the reasons that brought them to these shores, each person deserves to be treated as a human being and accorded that basic right.

Did you serve a Nebraska congregation as an installed pastor but are now retired? The Nebraska Presbyterian Foundation provides an annual monetary gift to retired PCUSA pastors as a thank you for your ministry and service to the church. We have many already on our recipient list but looking for anyone we may have missed. Please contact the Foundation office at 402-420-9877 or arichert@nebpresby.org for more information on the Malmsten Fund.

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 Take an in-depth look at over forty fierce, faithful, and strong women featured in the Old Testament with Preaching the Women of the Old Testament. Inside this unique resource author Lynn Japinga interprets the stories of various biblical women, including Eve, Rebekah, Dinah, Tamar, Miriam, Deborah, Jael, Abigail, Bathsheba, and Vashti. Along with providing an interpretation, Japinga demonstrates how the character's story has been read in Christian tradition and offers sermon ideas that connect contemporary issues to each story. This book is ideal for pastors who want to know more about the many women of the Old Testament and learn how to better incorporate them into their sermons.
Photos from the 223rd General Assembly