The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship will honor Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis and Rev. Dr. William Barber with the 2018 Peaceseeker Award at the Peace Breakfast on June 20 at the meeting of the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly in St. Louis. Founded in 1944, the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship is a nation-wide community of Presbyterians who seek to follow the nonviolence of Jesus by working to reduce war and violence in the world. The Peaceseeker Award is its highest honor.
Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis and Rev. Dr. William Barber will receive the award for their work with the Poor People’s Campaign: A Call for Moral Revival. This new Poor People’s Campaign picks up where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. left off 50 years ago when he turned his focus to uniting poor people across lines of race and geography and pushing their priorities onto the federal agenda.
“It is an honor for the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship to come alongside and lift up the work of the Rev. Drs. Liz Theoharis and William Barber and their work co-chairing the Poor People’s Campaign,” said Emily Brewer, Executive Director of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship. “This is a historic moment in our country that has the potential to shift the moral narrative and create a moral revolution that values people and the Earth above profit and extraction. The Poor People’s Campaign is a movement for true peace with justice for everyone.”
The campaign, which works in partnership the Kairos Center at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, brings together organizations with a longstanding commitment to confronting poverty and inequality. The campaign frames making health care accessible and affordable, addressing criminal justice disparities, protecting and expanding voting rights, and creating good jobs as moral issues, not political ones. “This is not about left versus right,” Dr. Barber said at the launch of the campaign in 2017. “There are certain things that are not left, right, but they are the center of authentic moral values—like love, like justice, like mercy, like caring for the least of these.”
The Reverend Dr. Liz Theoharis, an ordained PC(USA) minister, is the Co-Director of the Kairos Center and a Founder and the Coordinator of the Poverty Initiative. She has spent the past two decades organizing amongst the poor in the United States, working with and advising grassroots organizations with significant victories including the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, the Vermont Workers Center, Domestic Workers United, the United Workers Association, the National Union of the Homeless and the Kensington Welfare Rights Union.
She has led hundreds of trainings, Bible studies, and leadership development workshops; spoken at dozens of conferences and keynote presentations across the US and globally; and published several articles and book chapters sharing her vision that poverty can be ended and that the poor can be agents of social change. Liz received her BA in Urban Studies from the University of Pennsylvania; her M.Div. from Union Theological Seminary in 2004 where she was the first William Sloane Coffin Scholar; and her PhD from Union in New Testament and Christian Origins. She is the author of Always with Us?: What Jesus Really Said about the Poor (Eerdmans, 2017).
The Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II is a member of the national board of the NAACP and the chair of its Legislative Political Action Committee. From 2006 to 2017 he was president of the NAACP’s North Carolina state chapter. Beginning in April 2013, Barber led regular “Moral Mondays” civil-rights protests in North Carolina’s state capital, Raleigh. Barber has served as pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), in Goldsboro, North Carolina since 1993.
Rev. Dr. Barber graduated Cum Laude from North Carolina Central University (NCCU) in Durham, N.C., receiving a B.A. in Political Science. He received a Master of Divinity degree from Duke University, was a Benjamin Mays Fellow and a Dean scholar. Rev. Dr. Barber has a Doctoral degree from Drew University in Madison, New Jersey, with a concentration in Public Policy and Pastoral Care and he has receives an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from NCCU.
In 2014, he founded Repairers of the Breach, a non-profit organization “formed to educate and train religious and other leaders of faith who will pursue policies and organizational strategies for the good of the whole and to educate the public about connections between shared religious faith.” In 2016, he delivered a speech at the Democratic National Convention in support of Hillary Clinton. Rev. Dr. Barber has written one book entitled, “Preaching Through Unexpected Pain.”
It is a great honor to offer this award to the Revs. William Barber II and Liz Theoharis as they lead this historic and urgent campaign for a Moral Revival that is uniting tens of thousands of people across the country to challenge the evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation and the nation’s distorted morality.