General Assembly 2004
Candidates for Moderator
|The Christian Century has published many articles on
the theme "How My Mind Has Changed." What would you say are the most
significant changes in your mind - and heart - in recent years?
Last year when the United States went to war against Iraq,
I was absolutely opposed to that decision. As a Christian pacifist, that
wasn't difficult at all. What was hard was the commitment my wife and I made
to become reservists with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). Responding to a
strong sense of call to do nonviolent, direct-intervention in situations of
extreme conflict like Colombia or Iraq was very difficult for us as parents
of an eight year-old.
Yet our CPT training was one of the most important
experiences of our twelve-year marriage. We spent a month with fourteen
other Christians, who ranged in age from twenty-two to seventy-seven years
old. Together we explored the roots of non-violence in scripture, trained in
techniques of conflict transformation, and role-played how to respond
effectively when confronted with soldiers or extremists who are addicted to
Violence and terror will continue to reign unless and
until we who profess Christ follow his nonviolent example. This must become
matter-of-fact, much as few of us blink when we send Christian soldiers off
to war. As challenging as this decision has been, I know that our nonviolent
witness in those situations of conflict is the greatest gift I can offer my
|What have you learned from the Theological Task
Force? How would you as Moderator help to build peace, unity, and purity
in our church? Would greater specificity about the "essentials of the
Reformed faith," as sought by several overtures this year, help in this
Most of us in the church don't know very much about the
work of the Task Force.
Still, the Task Force is important! As a church in the
reformed tradition, we must constantly rethink the way we express our faith
in light of God's continual revelation to us. Just as important, the Task
Force is modeling how to work respectfully with one another to find common
However, in spite of the best efforts of the Task Force we
are likely to remain a church deeply divided over important theological
matters. Affirming the core convictions that unite us as the people of God
is the best way to deal with that reality. We must celebrate our common
faith in Jesus Christ, one Lord and Savior of us all, and follow that Christ
into a suffering world.
|There are many who feel that adding G-6.0106b to the
Book of Order was a mistake, and most Presbyterians expect it to be
removed within a matter of years. When it is removed, how can we avoid the
tensions that we have recently seen in the Episcopal Church?
No one I know is qualified for ordination in Christ's
church. All of us fall short of what God desires for us. For instance, few
Presbyterians have sold everything they own to give the proceeds to the poor
and follow Christ. Not many of us, in a time of terrorism, are genuinely
prepared to respond to Christ's radical call to turn the other cheek and
love our enemies. Most of us can point to broken relationships in our lives
and we must confess that we often don't have the strength to make things
Ordaining our leaders is a humbling task in a church where
no one is qualified. Each of us would do well to remember our own brokenness
as we accept that challenge. With God's grace and some humility from us, we
can nurture good leaders. We can be a community of believers who support one
another as we each discern our sense of call and what God has in mind for
There is no way to avoid tension and disagreement over
this important issue. I pray that we will remain mindful that we are one
body - the body of Christ crucified and suffering but also resurrected in
|The nature and definition of marriage and the family
is a matter of considerable debate both in our national life and in our
church. How would you like to see our church deal with marriage and
family, both in pastoral care to individuals and families, and in the
national debate? |
I try to remember three things:
· Jesus constantly challenged his community's definition
of who was in and who was out. We should do no less.
· My heterosexual marriage is in no way threatened by
someone else's nontraditional, loving marriage and family.
· The goal for the church is to nurture and care for all
families, and to support them as they are called into the world to do God's
|As we move into an era of economic globalization and
of U.S. dominance in military and diplomatic affairs, what
responsibilities do we have as the PC(USA) in the life of our nation?
Eighty percent of the world's citizens live on the
underside of the global economy. For the few of us who are the winners in
the global economy, it's hard to imagine what it is like to work hard every
day without any chance of securing our families' futures.
In Matthew 25, Jesus is clear about how we will be judged,
not just as individuals, but as nations. "I was hungry and you gave me food,
thirsty and you gave me drink, sick and without clothing and a stranger and
you cared for me."
As Presbyterians of great wealth, we face hard choices.
Will we choose to take Jesus at his word? Or will we refuse to see Jesus in
the face of the homeless person in our neighborhood, the undocumented
migrant crossing our border, the Palestinian living under occupation, the
fifty-hour per week factory worker in Mexico who still can't feed her kids.
It is daunting to take up the challenge to be Christ's
church in the world. Still, I think Jesus meant it.
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!