Nominees sought for 2020 distinguished writer award Reply

By Emily Enders Odom

The Presbyterian Writers Guild (PWG) is accepting nominations for its 2020 David Steele Distinguished Writer Award. Deadline for nominations is December 16.

The award is given biennially in even-numbered years to recognize the cumulative work and influence–regardless of genre or subject matter–of a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) writer. The award will be presented at the PWG luncheon on Thursday, June 25, 2020, during the 224th General Assembly (2020) in Baltimore.

Previous winners include the late Eugene H. Peterson, translator of The MessageThe Christian Century editor/publisher John M. Buchanan; former Presbyterian News Service director Marj Carpenter; former Presbyterians Today editor Eva Stimson; children’s author Kathleen Bostrom; Sabbath in the Suburbs author MaryAnn McKibben Dana; novelists Doris Betts and Katherine Paterson; the late poet Ann Weems; Kansas City Star columnist Bill Tammeus; African-American religious historian Gayraud Wilmore; Jim Atwood, author and nationally recognized voice on the subject of gun violence prevention; essayists Kathleen Norris and Frederick Buechner; and journalists Gustav Niebuhr and the late Vic Jameson.

The award is named for R. David Steele, a Presbyterian pastor best known for his whimsical books of poetry and thought-provoking column, “Tuesday Morning,” in The Presbyterian Outlook.

Nominations for the award should include the writer’s PC(USA) affiliation, list of published work, and a 100-word essay describing why the nominee is deserving of the award. Contact information for both the nominator and the nominee must be included with each submission.

Send nominations to Emily Odom, PWG president and chair of the DSDW Award Selection Committee–which includes PWG board members Jill Duffield and Matt Matthews–by email or by mail to 2336 Strathmoor Blvd., Louisville, KY 40205.

All nominations must be emailed or postmarked by December 16.

Distinguished Writer Atwood calls gun violence ‘the greatest moral issue’ Reply

By Eva Stimson

JimAtwood.byDella.Orr-Harter-214x400 (1)Accepting “on behalf of the one million Americans who have died at the barrel of a gun since 1979,” James E. “Jim” Atwood, 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.

Atwood, 83, is pastor emeritus of Trinity Presbyterian Church, in Arlington, Virginia, 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.

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, Florida, 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 joined the board of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence after a member of a congregation he was serving 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.”

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. It is given biennially to a Presbyterian writer who blessed the church with his or her writing over the course of a career.