2014 Saturday Lunch Plenary: Gun Violence and the American Politic
Sponsored by Heeding God’s Call
Heeding God’s Call is a faith-based movement to prevent gun violence that unites people of faith in the sacred responsibility to protect our brothers, sisters and children:
– Helping local faith communities organize advocacy campaigns to encourage gun shops to adopt a code of conduct to deter illegal purchasing and trafficking of handguns;
– Providing support and resources for faith communities to form multi-racial, ecumenical and interfaith partnerships working together, on both social and legislative levels, to prevent gun violence;
– Serving as a ‘connection point’ for congregations and partnerships to connect with, learn from and support the work of gun violence prevention organizations and efforts already in place; and
– Advocating for faith communities to make commitments to raise voices and take action to prevent gun violence.
Rev. Dr. James Atwood, PCUSA (Ret.)
Jim Atwood was the Pastor of The Wallace Presbyterian Church, Wallace, NC for five years before he and his wife, Roxana went to Japan as missionaries with the United Church of Christ in Japan where Jim was the Director of the Student Christian Fellowship in Tokyo. After nine years in Japan, he returned to the States as the Pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church of Springfield, VA. In 1984, he became Pastor of Trinity Presbyterian in Arlington, VA from which he retired in 1999.
Shortly after moving to Springfield, a charter member of Grace Church was shot and killed by a teenager who went to the local bowling alley complaining that he had no money. His friend reached in his jacket and gave him a Saturday Night Special saying, “Here, go get yourself some money. When you get some give me 20 bucks and you can keep the gun.” The young man made his way to a local motel where he robbed and killed the owner, Herb Hunter. The next day Jim volunteered his services to the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.
For the next 38 years he has been a member of their Board, serving two terms as Chair; he was Interfaith Chair of The Million Mom March in 2000; he wrote three resolutions on gun violence which became policy for the Presbyterian Church; and more recently was a member of the writing team for the denomination’s comprehensive study on Gun Violence, Gospel Values: Mobilizing in Response to God‘s Call which was adopted unanimously by the PCUSA General Assembly in 2010. He is also a member of the National Committee of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and Heeding God’s Call of Greater Washington.
He regularly teaches in Presbyterian and ecumenical settings and is a frequent speaker at clergy and civic forums throughout the country. In June of 2012, he published America and Its Guns: A Theological Expose which has been widely acclaimed. Although he has been an avid deer hunter for over 50 years, his book graphically shows how an absolute, unwarranted fascination with guns and violence can easily morph into idolatry. His book which contains specific suggestions for action is a clear wake up call to the faith community which he believes is the nation’s best hope to unmask the extremism of the Gun Empire.
Jim lives in Harrisonburg, Va. with his wife, Roxana who is also a retired Presbyterian Pastor. They have two children and four grandchildren.
Movita Johnson, M.S.W., Executive Director, MECA, Inc.
Movita Johnson-Harrell is a wife, mother and grandmother. She graduated in May of 2004 from the University of Pennsylvania with her Masters of Social Work. As the executive director of MECA, Inc. for almost two decades, she has advocated and cared for disenfranchised groups that include the chronically mentally ill, dually diagnosed (mental illness and substance abuse disorders), and the homeless. She is a Department of Public Welfare approved trainer and administrator. In April of 2011 she created the CHARLES Foundation, (Creating Healthy Alternatives Results in Less Emotional Suffering) after her 18-year-old son, Charles Johnson, was murdered in a case of mistaken identity on January 13, 2011. Since implementing the foundation Movita has worked with Heeding God’s Call, The Focused Deterrence Strategy, The District Attorney’s Office, CeaseFire PA and Delco United and many other initiatives to eliminate gun violence in Pennsylvania.
Eugenio Weigend, Ph.D. Cand., EGAP tecnologico de Monterrey
Due to the request of the speaker, this presentation is not available on our website, though the speaker has welcomed those who are interested to contact him directly. Please reach out to us at EAD so we can put you in touch with him.
Eugenio Weigend is currently a visiting scholar at Georgetown University. He is a PhD candidate from EGAP Tecnologico de Monterrey and has focused his work on Public Security and National Security in Mexico. His work includes violence in democracy, arms trafficking, organized crime and police reform. He is co-author of the Security Index of Mexican States and Tecnologico de Monterrey’s manifesto for public security. He has a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from EGAP Tecnologico de Monterrey and a Master’s Degree in Public Affairs from Brown University.
Bryan Miller, Executive Director, Heeding God’s Call
Bryan Miller is Executive Director of Heeding God’s Call, the faith-based and grassroots movement to prevent gun violence. Bryan left a twenty-five year career in international business to devote his life to gun violence prevention after his brother was one of three law enforcement officers killed in a massacre at Washington, D.C. police headquarters by a lone gunman wielding a concealed assault pistol. Bryan was Executive Director of New Jersey’s leading organization devoted to reducing gun violence, Ceasefire NJ, for fifteen years, during which tenure the state gained one of the country’s most effective systems of gun regulation and become one of the safest from gun violence. Bryan chaired the Presbyterian Church USA Study Team that drafted and promoted the ‘Gun Violence, Gospel Values: Mobilizing in Response to God’s Call’ Overture adopted unanimously at the 2010 PCUSA General Assembly. Under Bryan’s leadership, Heeding God’s Call was instrumental in the shuttering of a notorious Philadelphia gun shop by federal authorities and has established volunteer chapters in Philadelphia and environs, Harrisburg, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Heeding God’s Call seeks to get people of faith out of the pews and into ‘living their faith on their feet’ through gun violence prevention activism. Bryan worships at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church in the Philadelphia suburbs.