Archives: November 2003
Reports from all of October are listed on the
October archive page.
For links to earlier archive pages,
After the Massachusetts decision:
Some affirm "gay
marriage" as a very good and sensible thing
In the wake of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
decision that a ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional, there have been
cries of alarm from those who feel that the whole institution of marriage
is threatened. And so some kind of "defense of marriage" act or amendment
is called for to rescue us all.
But there are other views. Conservative David
Brooks argues that marriage is a good thing for those who make that
commitment, and there's no reason to exclude some couples from its
benefits (to them and to society). Andrew Korfhage explores the
details of the Massachusetts decision and sees it as part of a wider
Changing roles of religion in society
discuss controversial book on The Next Christendom: The Coming
of Global Christianity, and "Bush, the War, and Religious
Gene TeSelle summarizes some of
the criticisms and defenses of Philip Jenkins' thesis that the
Christianity of the world's South, which is "traditionalist,
orthodox, and supernatural," will soon dominate the Christian
scene as the northern nations become more "post-Christian." The
panel on Bush's religious rhetoric took a generally moderate view
of what the President has been doing with religious language, with
David Brooks observing that the President's speeches contain no
more religious language than is typical of the civil religion of
past presidents. TeSelle adds that Brooks also "emphasized what to
some observers has been obvious, that almost no theology is
reflected in the speeches."
George Bush's "resumé"
The "resumé" of George W. Bush has been circulating for a
while now, but a frequent visitor, Brian Wells, recently sent us his
version, urging strongly that we share it more widely. So here it is -
unabashedly partisan, perhaps funny, but very provocative.
Ghost Ranch Seminar----July 26-August 2
THE LIBERTY BELL
HAS A CRACK IN IT
Three Sisters national conference
More Light Presbyterians, That All May Freely Serve, and
The Shower of Stoles Project have announced plans for a national
conference, May 20 - 23, 2004, in Kansas City on the theme "From Heartland to Horizon."
Details will follow.
Energy Bill Update: Senate vote to invoke cloture failed
from the Presbyterian Washington Office
[ received 11/21/2003 10:36:41 AM Central Standard Time]
Just a few minutes ago, the Senate failed to invoke
cloture, which would have limited debate on the conference report of the
Energy Policy Act of 2003 (HR 6). 60 votes are needed to invoke cloture,
and the vote was 57 to 40.
This means that, for now, the Senate has not agreed to
ending debate and taking a vote on the conference report of the Energy
Policy Act of 2003. Senate Majority Leader Frist said that another vote to
invoke cloture would be scheduled before the Thanksgiving recess.
I will e-mail you a list of how Senators voted as soon as it becomes
For more information, contact:
110 Maryland Avenue, NE, #104,
Washington, DC 20002.
202-543-1126, fax 202-543-7755.
the FTAA negotiations in Miami
US backs off
of early hopes
Food First reports from Miami that, as the Free Trade
Area of the Americas (FTAA) negotiations wee beginning, the United States
had already retreated from its hard-line position of signing a binding
agreement with a draft proposing a "flexible" process, recognizing that
countries "may assume different levels of commitments."
This is considered a big victory for those opposing the
FTAA, even as the negotiations began, yet Food First expects that the US
will try to spin the negotiations as a success.
Negotiations end early with a scaled-back, more flexible plan
Agence France Presse reported early on Nov. 21 that
trade ministers from the hemisphere working on the Free Trade Area of the
Americas agreement have wrapped up work one day ahead of schedule, with a
deal that scales back the original plan for a free trade bloc of 34
Latin American nations work together to shift away from "free trade" to
The Washington Post reports that Latin
Americans are seeking to shift FTAA plans from trade to aid, in light of
their experience that "free trade" hurts them and their people far more
than it helps.
Civil Rights and same sex couples
The Presbyterian Washington Office has
provided very helpful background information from Presbyterian statements
on civil rights and same-sex couples.
On Episcopalians and the sanctity of marriage
This little tidbit has been floating around for some
time, but someone just sent it to your WebWeaver again, and he wants to
be sure you haven't missed it.
"The actions taken by the New Hampshire Episcopalians
are an affront to Christians everywhere. I am just thankful that the
church's founder, Henry VIII, and his wife Catherine of Aragon, his wife
Anne Boleyn, his wife Jane Seymour, his wife Anne of Cleves, his wife
Katherine Howard, and his wife Catherine Parr are no longer here to suffer
through this assault on our traditional Christian marriage. "
Thanks to Dugan Frederick
In the midst of "culture wars," we need to
keep our bearings and be ready to take risks
A regular visitor shares this comment on how we might deal
with the conflicts in our church.
George W. Bush should love Michael Jackson
William Rivers Pitt,
Managing Editor of truthout.org
and author of three best-selling books, offers a delightful and insightful
examination of why our president should send flowers to Michael Jackson.
It's not a criticism of the president, but of the media (especially CNN)
that cover things like the singer's surrender in a child-molestation case
with far more intensity than things like the president's beleaguered visit
to London, a couple wars and their attendant casualties, and so much more.
Presbyterian elder's grandson killed in Israel
... and Hymn for Peace
A tragic death - yet another one - has struck another
Presbyterian congregation, as the grandson of a Presbyterian elder is
killed in Jerusalem.
Bruce Gillette, co-pastor of the church, responded with
his thoughts on "Not From This World,"
and his co-pastor, Carolyn Gillette offered
a new hymn - a hymn of
lament and of trust. It might be just right for "Christ the King"
Sunday, Nov. 23.
Human Rights Day 2003 will be observed on December 10, marking the
56th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by
the United Nations General Assembly in 1948 to affirm the fundamental
freedoms and human rights of all people.
Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "All
human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are
endowed with reason and conscience and shall act towards one another in a
spirit of brotherhood."
It's an area of concern we feel more sharply these days, and here are some
resources for use in preparing for worship, adult classes, or other
Presbyterian Church website provides a good background essay on human
rights, and links to many helpful resources.
2002-03 Human Rights Update, developed by the Advisory Committee on
Social Witness Policy and approved by the 215th General
Assembly, is available in PDF format - all 72 pages of it.
Human Rights Watch
provides lots of good material on specific issues, such as US treatment of
prisoners being held at Guantanamo, problems in China, Sudan, Liberia,
Afghanistan ... and sadly, the list goes on and on.
The United Nations High
Commissioner for Human Rights provides more material.
You'll find the full text of the
Universal Declaration of
Human Rights on the UN website.
The AFL/CIO is planning observances around the theme of
"workers' rights are human rights."
The National Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice
provides lots of good resources, including
12 pages of
Groups Say About the Right to Organize"
Still time to act on the
energy policy bill
An urgent call has just been issued by the
Presbyterian Washington Office for encouragement to Senators to take
action to resist the current bill for energy policy, which would do great
harm to the environment; urge them to support principles of justice and
2003 Ghost Ranch seminar offered a challenging
Biblical vision for the future
Jane Hanna reports
on last summer's seminar, with Carol
Johnston, Joseph Gerson, and Jennifer Butler all looking toward our future,
through perspectives of the Bible, environmental and economic concerns, the
perspectives of other cultures, and work with the UN and non-governmental
suggestions for extra
reading: three books that deal helpfully with the issues discussed in
the seminar. You can see her comments, and order directly from
Ghost Ranch Seminar----July 26-August 2
THE LIBERTY BELL
HAS A CRACK IN IT
Free trade or fair trade: the
struggle moves to Miami
The Free Trade Area of the Americas is being negotiated this week in
Miami, with expectations (now a bit shaky, perhaps) that this extension of
"free trade" to the whole of North and South America (except for Cuba, of
course!) would be put into effect in 2004. We offer an index to a few
reports that will give some background and analysis of this important
'Confessing church' pastor
to run for stated clerk
The Rev. Linn "Rus"
Howard, the pastor of Peters Creek United Presbyterian Church in Venetia,
PA, is expected to formally announce his candidacy after Thanksgiving.
He is supporting an overture to the 216th General Assembly, calling for a
"gracious separation" in the PC(USA).
That would be interesting -- elected a stated clerk whose
avowed intent is to split the church.
Another step forward for gay marriage
Massachusetts' highest court ruled Tuesday that same-sex couples are
legally entitled to wed under the state constitution, but stopped short of
allowing marriage licenses to be issued to the couples who challenged the
The Washington Post offers a report.
The Boston Globe offers a more complete report on the court
decision and its implications.
Another - and different - overture is advanced to deal with G-6.0106b
Another overture dealing with G-6.0106b was approved by the
Presbytery of Western New York on May 20, 2003, thereby earning the
designation of "04-01"
This overture takes a new approach to the ban on
ordination of LGBT people, by affirming "a covenanted relationship between
two persons where a lifetime commitment is intended" as satisfying the
demands for legitimate relationships as well as "marriage between a man
and a woman."
This is the first pro-LGBT overture from Western New
York, and seems to reflect a way of dealing with G-6.0106b that may be
more acceptable in some "moderate" presbyteries. Genesee Valley Presbytery
will be considering the possibility of concurring with this overture in
Another overture has been approved by the
Presbytery of Baltimore,
and another will be considered in January by the
Presbytery of the Twin
The 2003 Covenant Network conference drew a record number
of participants, with over 600 registered.
Gene TeSelle reports on many of the theological ideas
presented in worship and addresses, and on the discussions of differing
ideas about strategy and timing in dealing with the PCUSA ban on LGBT
Body and Soul:
Rethinking Sexuality as Justice-Love
Not so very long ago a thoughtful,
provocative report was drafted to give guidance to the Presbyterian Church
on a wide range of questions dealing with sexuality. It was sent to the 1991
General Assembly, where a few groups on the right wing of the church focused
the debate on questions of homosexuality, and created enough alarm that the
report was rejected.
But the document is still as good and relevant as it
was then -- and is still ordered and used by many Presbyterians and
Now Marvin M. Ellison and Sylvia Thorson-Smith, two
members of the original drafting committee, have gathered an excellent
set of essays that take another look at many of the issues in the
report, drawing on its wisdom for our own time.
We've posted a
little review by your WebWeaver.
Diversity in Community:
Race, Class, Gender, Religion
A new ACSWP video encourages congregations to become
involved connecting diversity and seeking justice in their communities.
A gathering in Chicago
A few individuals from various groups -- right and left
-- in the Presbyterian Church gathered in Chicago recently at the
invitation of the Stated Clerk and the GAC Executive Director for 48 hours
of conversation and reflection. Witherspoon president Kent
Winters-Hazelton was among them, and offers his perceptions of the event
-- which differ a bit from those recently put forth by the Layman
Presbyterian Peace Fellowship announces special events at School of America protests
The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship invites everyone to
two special events during the protests at the School of the Americas at
Fort Benning, Georgia -- Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 22-23.
Witherspooners Jane Hanna and Betty Kersting plan to be at
the protest. Anybody else?
Send a note and let us
The tangle of God and Country in our schools
Faith, religion and patriotism get tangled up in American
public life, and especially in our schools, where the Pledge of Allegiance
takes on religious dimensions, and school prayer and "creationism" are
leading concerns of the right.
writing in the Christian Science Monitor (Nov. 4, 2003) offers
exploration of this interesting tangle.
Thanks to Bruce Gillette, who forwarded this essay, and
added an interesting line from the Confession of 1967:
|Although nations may serve God's
purposes in history, the church which identifies the sovereignty
of any one nation or any one way of life with the cause of God
denies the Lordship of Christ and betrays its calling.
ACSWP readies four policy papers for next
summer's General Assembly
The Advisory Committee on Social
Witness Policy (ACSWP) has received updates of a number of proposed
policy documents, including four papers it is scheduled to present to next
year's General Assembly. They include discussions of a further revision of
last year's paper on "Living Faithfully with Families in Transition," as
well as terrorism, immigration, and limited water resources.
on truth and lies from a "Christian" White House
Greg Garret, who teaches at Baylor University, reflects on
the varieties of lying in light of his 6-year-old son's simple definition:
"A lie is when you don't tell the truth."
He concludes: "Other writers can talk about how policies
of the Bush White House starve the hungry, harm the widow and orphan and
discomfort the prisoner. That is not my aim today. I am simply trying to
teach my son to tell the truth, and I'd appreciate it if the president of
the United States would give me a little backup."
"Greentrade" - an alternative to globalization's attacks on
World Trade Organization and
Area of the Americas are pursuing policies that
threaten existing environmental protections and give vast new powers to
corporations - all through secret negotiations.
Friends of the Earth offers a variety of good resources, background
papers, and more, on these critical issues.
U.S. Supreme Court refuses to
hear final appeal of 'Ten Commandments Judge' Roy Moore
Action ends long-running case with
victory for church-state separation, says Americans United
appear to reject President Uribe's right-wing government policies
The U. S. Office on Colombia sees the defeat of a
referendum as a defeat for President Alvaro Uribe's rightist policies,
which are closely linked with U.S. power. Center-left candidates won
in many of the local elections.
Conference update has been posted for the national conference, coming
up next week (November 6 - 8) in Washington, DC.
Are these really kids'
"letters to God"? We don't know. We don't really care. They're pretty
I read the bible. What does begat mean? Nobody will tell me.
Reports from all of October are listed on the
October archive page.
For links to earlier archive pages,
ratified (or not) by the presbyteries
A number of the most important actions of the 219th
General Assembly are now being sent to the presbyteries for their
action, to confirm or reject them as amendments to the PC(USA) Book
We're providing resources to help inform the
reflection and debate, along with updates on the voting.
Our three areas of primary interest are:
which would remove the current ban on
lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender persons being considered as
possible candidates for ordination as elder or ministers.|
which would add the Belhar Confession to our Book of
10-1, which would adopt the new Form of Government
that was approved by the Assembly. |
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Some blogs worth visiting
Mitch Trigger, PVJ's
Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where
Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and
views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both
personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!
You can post your own news and views,
or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.
Voices of Sophia blog
Heather Reichgott, who has created
this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:
After fifteen years of scholarship
and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the
voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy,
students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers
and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God
in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God
through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through
articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and
John Harris’ Summit to
Theological and philosophical
reflections on everything between summit to shore, including
kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology,
politics, culture, travel, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New
York City and the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood by a progressive
New York City Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the
Witherspoon board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian
Church in Flushing, NY.
John Shuck’s Shuck and Jive
A Presbyterian minister, currently
serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton,
Tenn., blogs about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized
and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and
Got more blogs to recommend?
send a note, and we'll see what we can do!