By Emily Enders Odom
James E. “Jim” Atwood—an author, pastor, and a nationally-recognized voice on the subject of gun violence prevention—has been named the recipient of the 2018 David Steele Distinguished Writer Award by the Presbyterian Writers Guild (PWG).
Atwood, pastor emeritus of Trinity Presbyterian Church, in Arlington, Virginia., is 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), The Leaven of Laughter for Lent and Easter (Trafford, 2006), among other works. He and his wife, Roxana Atwood—also an honorably retired PC(USA) minister—previously served together as mission workers in Japan. They currently reside in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
“Jim Atwood started out writing books to encourage preaching with humor,” wrote Jan Orr-Harter, chair of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship Endowment Fund, in nominating him for the honor. “He ended up as the primary voice of the Christian church in sounding the alarm about the gun violence epidemic that killed 36,000 Americans in 2016. This recognition by the Presbyterian Writers Guild not only honors the urgent work of Jim Atwood, but speaks well of the whole Presbyterian Church for its focus on gun violence prevention.”
Atwood will receive the prestigious award at the Presbyterian Writers Guild’s General Assembly luncheon June 21 in St. Louis.
Named for the late David Steele—Presbyterian poet and essayist best known for his “Tuesday Morning” column in The Presbyterian Outlook—the distinguished writer award is given biennially to a Presbyterian writer who blessed the church with his or her writing over the course of a career.
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, Virginia, 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.
“Not only is Jim [Atwood] addressing a major issue like gun violence, but he is doing it from the pastorate,” says Stephen P. McCutchan, a member of the PWG Board, who—with Emily Enders Odom and Rebekah Hutto—composed the PWG’s award selection committee.
“With a grateful heart I accept this award on behalf of all who speak up and speak out against our shameful scourge of gun violence,” Atwood says.
Previous winners of the David Steele Distinguished Writer Award include MaryAnn McKibben Dana, Kathy Bostrom, Katherine Paterson, Frederick Buechner, Ann Weems, Eugene H. Peterson, Gustav Niebuhr, Marj Carpenter, Gayraud Wilmore, Eva Stimson, Kathleen Norris, Bill Tammeus, John Buchanan, Doris Betts, and the late Vic Jameson.