The Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, Director of the PC(USA) Office of Public Witness in Washington, DC, together with nearly a dozen other religious leaders, was arrested this afternoon in the U.S. Capitol Building while engaging in prayer and civil disobedience.
The group of clergy met earlier in the week with Congressional leadership and staff to send a simple message from their constituents (congregations):
The PC(USA) Office of Public Witness, along with interfaith partners in ministry, is indignant that, in order to break that stalemate, spending cuts to programs that serve the most vulnerable in the U.S. and around the world will likely be included with an increase in the nation’s credit limit. The PC(USA) has expressed grave concern about the nation’s mounting debt and deficits. The PC(USA) General Assembly shares elected officials’ concern at leaving to the next generation a legacy of debt, but neither does the PC(USA) support leaving behind a legacy of poverty, neglect, and underinvestment.You really can't hold a position that asks for less in this debate, but the group was ignored.
As a result, they returned to make their presence a little more obtrusive.
It appears that they succeeded.
Joined by Presbyterian ministers Jennifer Butler, Executive Director of Faith and Public Life, and Michael Livingston, past-President of the National Council of Churches, Reverend Nelson led religious leaders in prayerful civil disobedience, kneeling down in the Capitol Rotunda to pray for a debt ceiling deal that does not sacrifice the poor on the altar of political ideology. His participation was a matter of personal conscience and public witness. He said, “We are in a political quagmire. Due to the inability of the Congress to work together, the good of people across the globe is being compromised by the self interest of our political leaders. I am convinced that this is not the fault of Republicans, Democrats or Tea Party members alone. Too many Congresspersons of all parties are trapped in a space where commitment to the common good is diminished for the sake of personal gain and the seduction of power. In this process, the American people and others all over the world are left to suffer. Our denomination cannot stand idly by and watch while the mandate of the gospel to love our neighbors is violated in the halls of Congress.”
I am hoping that this action yields some increased public awareness. PC(USA) is not a particularly liberal denomination, despite recent progress in its support of gay rights. These are not DFHs that have been arrested. Let's hope that these religious leaders putting themselves on the line inspires more Americans to demand social justice in whatever "deal" is finally struck on Capitol Hill.
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