Archives: July 2005
This page lists reports and commentary from July, 2005
August, 2005 >>
June, 2005 >>
May, 2005 >>
April, 2005 >>
Our coverage of the 2004 General
Assembly is indexed on a special page.
For links to earlier archive pages,
Toward a Network of
Spiritual Progressives (continued)
Jim Wallis: "We’re the ones to change
The first day of the Spiritual Activism conference was
climaxed by two keynote presentations by Jim Wallis and Rabbi Michael
Lerner, both speaking out of the deep involvement in the movement to involve
people of faith more actively and more effectively in the political life of
the United States at this critical time.
Wallis led off, speaking mostly out of his thinking as
reflected in God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left
Doesn’t Get It – and his wide range of encounters around the country on
book tours since its publication.
After meeting 80,000 people in 21
cities around the land, he says "I am now convinced that the monologue of
the religious right is over, and a new dialogue has begun." He sees that in
the facts that many evangelical Christians come to his book signings and
appreciate what he is saying. After all, he says, millions of evangelicals
in America don’t feel represented by the Jerry Falwells of the Right. George
Bush’s visit to Calvin College, a
conservative Christian school where his advisor Carl Rove expected a
friendly reception, showed that conservatives can stand in opposition to the
administration, as many faculty and students did by sponsoring newspaper ads
stating their (faith-based!) reasons for rejecting the war in Iraq.
The biggest choice confronting us today, he said, is
between hope and cynicism. George Brown, Britain’s Chancellor of the
Exchequer, recently said that we can end extreme poverty in the world from 5
billion dollars. Cynics respond that they see the world as it is, they’re
tried to change it, and failed, and now they’re against any more efforts.
But hope, he said, is a choice, a decision made because of faith, "believing
in spite of the evidence, and than watching the evidence change."
Washington Office urges action to
support McCain amendment
The August congressional recess is an ideal opportunity to
contact your senators while they are home from Washington. Urge
your senators to support the McCain amendment (#1557, as modified)
to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006 (S.
More Light Presbyterians has offered its response to the
draft Theological Task Force report
board expresses appreciation for many of the draft’s theological
affirmations, but also voices concern that "the Church must not hide behind
false notions of peace as the absence of conflict, purity as the absence of
openness about who we really are, or unity as the absence of dissent. ...
The church must not delay further votes to remove prejudicial barriers to
the full participation of LGBT people of faith in the life, ministry, and
witness of the Church."
The full statement >>
Toward a Network of
Spiritual Progressives (continued)
Today we're adding reports:
introduced the central theme of the conference: the politics of meaning, as
an alternative to traditional liberal politics.
introduced the workshops and small groups which were a vital element in the
The third major address on the first day of the conference
was given by Peter Gable, who is President Emeritus of New College of
California and associate editor of Tikkun magazine. He has worked
with Michael Lerner in developing the Politics of Meaning, and is author of
The Bank Teller and Others Essays on the Politics
Update includes resources for observances of Hiroshima Day, and of 9/11.
Toward a Network of
More than 1200 people came together for four days last
week for a first-time, remarkable gathering. Jews and Christians, Muslims
and Hindus, theological liberals and evangelicals, and lots more – all were
drawn by an invitation to shape a positive progressive response to the
conservatives’ success in making faith and values something on which they
seem to claim a monopoly.
Your WebWeaver offers
reports on two
of the first presentations, which set the framework for the whole event.
Michael Nagler spoke of our nation's spiritual crisis and non-violence as an
alternative. George Lakoff outlined his theory of the language of
values in American politics.
We also point to
reports on the event, and a post-conference note of celebration by
Lerner, who initiated the whole thing.
Your WebWeaver is in Berkeley, CA,
attending the conference initiated by Tikkun, and aimed at starting the
formation of a Network of Spiritual Progressives.
There's lots to report, but it may take a
few days. PCUSA Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase spoke this morning on some
of his encounters and learnings from his work on the Texas - Mexico border
-- dealing with immigrants nearing death in the desert, the impact of
globalization, and much more.
Reponses to the Theological Task Force draft
are offered to you by Witherspoon Issues Analyst
Gene TeSelle, Witherspoon membership
coordinator John Harris, and
The Theological Task
Force of Peace, Purity, and Unity has released two draft reports, which
can be viewed at:
We will offer a few comments as soon as
we've had time to read and reflect.
What about you?
a note with your own comments,
to be shared here.
Methodist plan for Reconciliation Ministries conference
draws fire from the Right
Lake Junaluska conference center in North Carolina is
being targeted by the United Methodist committee for the Institute on
Religion and Democracy, to receive letters of protest that a group which
supports justice and inclusion for glbt people is being held in their
The conference will feature numerous religious speakers
including Beth Stroud, a United Methodist minister at the center of a church
controversy over gay rights in the church, and the Rev. Erin Swenson,
transgender Presbyterian minister.
More from The Mountaineer of Waynesville, NC
State medical care program under attack in Tennessee
Governor Phil Bredesen of Tennessee has proposed that over
300,000 people be cut off TennCare (the state’s Medicaid program) and health
care for 700,000 others be severely restricted, A group of activists — many
of whom rely on TennCare themselves — has been occupying the Governor’s
office, using the best American traditions of civil disobedience to defend
the lives and welfare of their fellow Tennesseans.
More from Gene TeSelle
The 2005 Covenant Network Conference, scheduled for
November 3 - 5 in Memphis, TN, will feature Kathleen Norris, author of such
great books as Amazing Grace, Cloister Walk, and Dakota.
The theme will be Disciples in Community
Details and registration >>
Justice Sunday II called ‘Sacrilegious’
by Interfaith Alliance President
The Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy,
President of The Interfaith Alliance, has responded to the announcement that
leaders of the religious right will host on August 14 – in a church -- another simulcast
television program, "Justice Sunday II."
"Here we go again!" Gaddy said. "And, this time the
imagery and the implications of the message advanced by leaders of the
religious right are more offensive, sacrilegious, and undemocratic than
those so integral to Justice Sunday I."
Remembering John R. Bodo
The Rev. Dr. John R. Bodo, a long-time Witherspoon member, died on June 30,
2005, at the age of 85 –
while still serving as the active pastor of
Westhope Presbyterian Church in Saratoga, CA.
Born in Hungary in 1920, he emigrated to the US in 1940. He earned a PhD
in church history from Princeton Theological Seminary, served as pastor of
numerous congregations, including First (now Nassau) Presbyterian Church of
Princeton, NJ (where he led the integration of the church neighborhood), and
Old First Presbyterian Church in San Francisco. During the 1960s he chaired
the Department of Practical Theology of San Francisco Theological Seminary
in San Anselmo, and served as chaplain and professor of religion at
Macalester College in St. Paul, MN. Since his "retirement"
he served as interim pastor for 11
One of his latest books was Prophet on the
Payroll: When Pulpit and Pew Clash, published in
1998, and based on twenty-one sermons he had preached over the last
half-century. In it, he presents biblical and
theological perspectives on many controversial public issues which continue
to engage and divide Americans.
A memorial service was held on July 6 at Old First Church, San Francisco.
Presbyterian Peacemaking Program Update includes a list of
International Peacemakers available for visits, a call for prayers for
Darfur, suggestions for dealing with violent video games, and much more.
California Here We Come
You may well have seen this proposal for a new United (Blue)
States, but just in case you’ve missed it ...
By the way, the person who forwarded this to me headed it
"Calofornia Here We Come." That may bode ill for the whole venture.
Two views from London after the bombings
[expanded from yesterday's posting]
One American in London comments on the lack of flag-waving
and calling for God’s vengeance on the "bad guys." The other exemplifies
just that attitude in an article entitled "Terror – A Tale of Two Gods."
No need for flag-waving and vengeance
Steven S. Volk, who teaches Latin American
history at Oberlin College in Oberlin, OH, wrote a long note to friends and
family in the States, on the day after the bombings.
On 7-13 we posted part of his note. Now we are
posting the full note, along with an additional comment on the
one-week memorial service held today (Thursday,
July 14) in Trafalgar Square.
You may want to
skip to his
comparisons between the British reactions to "7/7" and the US reactions
to 9/11. Or if you've read them, jump to his thoughts on
And for a very different view, don't miss
"Terror – A Tale of Two Gods."
Latest news from National Council of Churches
|NCC seeks 400,000 signatures urging President Bush to
intervene in the Darfur genocide.|
|Keep the Vote Alive! NCC supports Jesse Jackson's push
to extend the Voting Rights Act of 1965.|
|NCC: London transit bombings only strengthen our
|Thousands affirm NCC message to bring the troops home
These stories are all listed on
the NCC home page >>
Former Moderator Isabel Rogers joins coalition to support
Isabel Rogers, a retired professor at Union Seminary/PSCE, has
joined a growing group of clergy, community leaders and strongly spiritual
residents to form People of Faith for Equality in Virginia.
Organizers aim to be the antithesis of the vocal conservative Christian set,
offering a faith-based, yet gay-friendly perspective they say is absent in
Virginia's gay rights discussions. People of Faith member Brenda Lee, a
lesbian, expresses the hope that "People of Faith will bring forth some
understanding so that people can no longer tell young adolescents they're
going to hell."
The whole story >>
(Access to the Hampton Roads Daily Press website may require
registration, but it’s free.)
Here’s help in getting the Pentagon recruiters to
"Leave my child alone!"
Witherspooner Amy Ukena suggests this website, which
offers practical help in writing letters to "opt out" from your school’s
military recruitment lists, by sending letters both to the school and to the
Pentagon, as well as supporting the proposed Student Privacy Protection Act.
Theological Task Force set to consider portions of
Drafts of sections to be released at end of meeting
The Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity, and
Purity of the Church will hold its next meeting July 18-21, 2005, in Dallas,
Texas. The group will have as its main agenda the consideration of initial
drafts of portions of its final report.
The final report will be adopted at the task
force’s August 24-25, 2005 meeting in Chicago.
Messages to the Church
from our Moderator and Stated Clerk:
important as ever!
Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase reflects on his recent visit
to Congo as a glimpse of the wide and deep involvement of the PC(USA) in
mission – with the growing partnerships and urgent challenges to work for
"the kingdom of God ‘on earth, as it is in heaven.’ "
Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick, in his regular letter to
the church, tells of his summer experience at the first-ever National
Pastors’ Retreat, held in the mountains of Utah. It was, he says, "truly a
time when we found a renewal of Christian community and of our calls to
ministry—not by debating issues, but by being renewed together by the power
of the Holy Spirit." And he wishes the same kind of renewal experience for
all of us in this "off year" sabbath summer.
Jubilee Campaign Bears Fruit: G-8
Reaches Agreement on Debt Relief
Bulletin of the Presbyterian Washington Office offers lots of helpful detail
and background on the debt relief proposals and agreements reached by the
G-8 summit meeting at Gleneagles, Scotland.
The full Bulletin >>
Mennonites provide an inviting
web site for
of Greensboro, NC, recommends this site, maintained by the Mennonite
Church’s Peace and Justice Support Network. It offers plenty of
down-to-earth, practical and personal glimpses of peacemaking in an historic
"peace church" tradition.
A little story about kittens and a
George Bush, taking a stroll with a senior member of
Congress, meets a little girl carrying a small basket with a blanket over
Curious, he says to the girl, "What's in the basket?" She
replies, "New baby kittens," and opens the basket to show him. "How nice,"
says Bush. "What kind are they?" The little girl says, "Republicans."
Bush smiles, pats the little girl on the head and
continues on. Three weeks later, again taking a stroll, he sees the little
girl again with the same basket.
Bush says. "Watch this, it's very cute." They approach the
Bush asks how the kittens are and she says fine. He then
says, "What kind of kittens are they?" and she replies, "Democrats."
Somewhat abashed, Bush says, "Three weeks ago you said
they were Republicans!"
"I know," she says. "But now their eyes are open."
aren't giving "aid and comfort to our enemies"
Berry Craig, a professor of history at the West
Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah, reflects on our
nation's mixed responses to anti-war protests. While some (including
no less an authority than the President) view dissent and protest as acts of
disloyalty, and as giving support to "the enemy," he notes that David
Greenberg, an author and a Rutgers professor writing in the online magazine
Slate, surveys the history of protest and concludes that "critics of
war -- even when they've been wrong, or their comments distasteful -- have
done far more good than harm." Greenberg argues further that "the mere
expression of opposition has never materially hurt any U.S. military
Make Poverty History: two differing views
globe-spanning concert preceding last week’s G-8 summit has attracted wide
attention and support – including
our own little postings.
But after such a massive event, reflection seems in order, and here are two
very different examples
Bob Geldof and the Livingstone connection: Africa not
An African scholar writes critically of Bob Geldof’s "Make
Poverty History" campaign, comparing him to 19th-century
missionary David Livingstone, portraying Africa as a land of darkness and
suffering, without allowing the people of Africa to have their own voice.
Dr. Patricia Daley, University lecturer in Human Geography, and Fellow and
Tutor in Geography at Jesus College, Oxford, is an African from Jamaica.
her comments >>
So many are standing together to end poverty
And an American Lutheran bishop, Peter Rogness of the St.
Paul Area Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, expresses support
for the way the campaign again hunger has united religious groups from both
the liberal and the conservative sides of the spectrum.
We invite your comments!
to be shared here.
What can we say after the latest terrible acts of violence, in London
Your WebWeaver can’t find words, so will
share with you a very thoughtful statement from a friend, who is also a
Friend (a Quaker, that is). Phil Steger is the director of
Friends for a Non-Violent World, an
organization based in St. Paul, Minnesota. He has sent out a long,
thoughtful note, which he summarizes thus:
This statement expresses our grief and mourning and our
respect for the courage of Britons and Londoners who have thus far
responded to the attacks on their capital city with awesome humanity. It
calls for a nonviolent political response to the violence and then
proceeds to carefully explain not only why this the more moral response,
but also a response that gives us genuine hope for peace and freedom.
This is a fairly comprehensive treatment of a complex and confounding
problem. It is a problem that threatens the safety and survival of whole
societies, including our own. At such times, people who support peace and
freedom for all people must articulate a case for what they are for and
not just what they are against. This case cannot merely build on
sentiments, it must also make sense.
I believe that FNVW can make a contribution to this effort. I hope we've
taken a step towards doing so here and that you will find that this will
help to illuminate a dark time and to lift up fallen hopes.
Read the full
Stated clerk sends condolence
letter to PC(USA) partner churches in Britain
The Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, stated
clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), sent a letter of condolence to
the PC(USA)’s partner churches in England on July 7, as news reached the
United States of a series of terrorist attacks in London that killed more
than 50 people and left hundreds injured.
Kirkpatrick’s letter went to the
United Reformed Church, the Church of England, the Baptist Union of Great
Britain, the Church of Scotland and Churches Together in Britain and
Read the full text >>
Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase spent Thursday, July 7, the
day of the bombings in London, with a group of sixty teenagers from the
United States, South Africa, Northern Ireland, Israel, and Palestine –
Jewish, Muslim and Christian – are all participants in a program sponsored
by Auburn Seminary in New York called "Face to Face/Faith to Faith."
The young people were nearing the end of two weeks
together at a Presbyterian camp, getting to know one another, learning and
practicing the communication skills necessary to share and listen to one
another’s difficult stories, and becoming a new generation of practitioners
Watching them deal with this latest blow to peace, Ufford-Chase
saw "the Church being Church."
UCC OKs possible divestment in Middle East
The United Church of Christ voted Tuesday to use "economic
leverage" to promote peace between Israel and Palestinians and to call for
the dismantling of the Jewish state's security fence.
More on divestment and
charges of anti-Semitism >>
Saving Social Security
Here’s a clear-eyed look at the Social
Security issue, by a writer who offers some simple "truth-telling," some
critical reflection on the values at stake (and at the way most of the
arguments for privatization are essentially materialistic and
self-centered), and some common-sense reforms that would help greatly.
It was published in the Seattle
Post-Intelligencer , but you can read it on
AlterNet or on
More on the Social
Security issue >>
Sojourners calls for weekend of prayer and witness to end
genocide in Darfur
Join Us This Weekend to End Genocide in Darfur
Since the Darfur genocide began in 2003, up to 400,000 people have lost
their lives. More than two and a half million people have been displaced,
their livelihoods and villages destroyed by government forces and their
proxy militias, and many thousands of women and girls have been raped. The
religious community in the United States has the power to help end the
genocide and quell the humanitarian crisis that has come in its wake. We
only need to make our voices heard.
This weekend, people all over the country will be joining together in
prayer and political witness to call for an end to the genocide in Darfur.
We invite you to join us by attending a service near you.
Click here to
search and sign up for an event near you.
for more information on Sunday's service in Washington, DC.
Click here to learn
how to organize a Darfur event.
Please join us, in your hometown or in ours, in raising our voices to
give real meaning to the words Never Again.
Peace, Adam, Katie, and Matt
The Sojourners Organizing Team
More on Darfur and Sudan >>
Why the West gets religion wrong
Dugan Frederick, of Denver, writes: "The International Herald
Tribune is an interesting website, and this particular article is
important in today's world."
Your webweaver agrees.
In this essay, Phillip Blond, who lectures in philosophy
and religion at St. Martin's College, Lancaster, and Adrian Pabst, a
doctoral candidate at Cambridge University, argue that in secular Europe,
the role of religion in public life is badly misunderstood. So "secular
liberals regard religion as repressive, irrational and fundamentalist.
Religious conservatives view liberal secularity as immoral, self-serving and
nihilistic. Both are right about each other, but wrong about religion."
Since the secularization that began in the 1960s, the
political left has "eschewed a genuine public morality in the name of
personal choice and private gratification. At great political cost, it
handed over to the right the language of formation, values and religion.
Unable to craft for itself a new form of civic collectivity, secular
liberalism remains mired in individualism and blind to cultures built around
universal ideals and collective aspirations."
In reaction to liberal relativism, the political and
religious right have exalted the interests of the dominant class. And "in a
fanatical overreaction to the atomization of liberal society, American
conservatives embraced a new Christian fundamentalism that promised its
followers an eternal community - composed only of themselves."
So "what unites both liberals and conservatives is their
mutual insistence on the exclusivity and absoluteness of their vision. In
this both sides are composed of fundamentalists who mistake their subjective
beliefs for the only objective truth.
"But true religion is not and cannot be fundamentalist. No
true follower of monotheism can claim to know the mind and will of God."
But "equally, religion is not and cannot be relativist. No
genuine belief in God is just a matter of personal taste or subjective
opinion. True religion has always been public and political because it is
about forming communities around shared values and the practices that embody
them. In the West, privatizing religion initiated the abandoning of any
collective public realm that expressed common substantive ideals. We should
not then be surprised when Iran and other countries do not wish to follow us
down this path."
If you have a chance to look at this
we’d like to hear your comments.
to be shared here.
Conservative leader says New Wineskins is on the brink of
Presbyterians for Renewal
executive director Michael Walker says renewal is already under way in the
Presbyterian Church (USA), and the New
Wineskins movement, while it’s "asking all the right questions," may be
allowing the heresy of gnosticism into its statement of the basic tenets of
the Reformed faith.
Speaking at PFR' s Christian Life Conference, held July
1-4 at Montreat, he acknowledged many points of agreement with New
Wineskins, but said he is not ready to join with that group. Rather, he said
that renewal is already happening in the PCUSA, and that this is not the
time for leaving the denomination.
He sees hope for winning the war of attrition in the
denomination, and thus urged churches to continue their financial support of
He also criticized the Presbyterian Lay Committee for its
recent publication of "Can Two Faiths Embrace One Future," which tries to
open the Old School – New School debate, which nobody is interested in
He saw hope in
proposed action to add a sentence to G-6.0106b: "This paragraph may not
be amended prior to 2016." This would essentially impose another delay of
ten more years for any further action about the ban on ordination of glbt
Read the rest of the report in The Layman Online
A website for faith
Dugan Frederick points us to a website called ExploreFaith,
which may be interesting and helpful to Witherspooners. Supported largely by
Episcopal congregations in the US, it has brief essays by such luminaries as
Marcus Borg, Barbara Brown Taylor, as well others less well known. Dugan
adds, "There are many interesting links for questions, thoughts, ideas for
those on their respective spiritual journeys and development."
A few samples:
answers the question, What is the significance of the cross and the
crucifixion of Jesus?
Margaret Gunness, a retired Episcopal priest, writes on "Do I have to
believe that Christ literally rose from the dead to be a Christian?"
|Seeking (fair) treatment in Iraq
A Chicago Presbyterian tells a painful tale of frustration
Len Bjorkman, co-moderator of the Presbyterian Peace
Fellowship, introduces this report:
Anita David, an active member of the Lakeview
Presbyterian Church in Chicago, is in Iraq with the Christian Peacemaker
Team from June to September. As a full-timer with CPT, she was there in the
summer of 2004, and is again there during the extremely hot weather.
One of the main activities of CPT is to work with families
whose members have been taken by the US military and who endeavor to
find out where they are or to visit them. CPT also helps Iraqis who have
been injured in the fighting.
The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship considers Anita to be
"our person in Baghdad" and forwards her reports to anyone who requests
them. If you’d like to receive her reports, send an e-mail to PPF
Here is a portion of
one of Anita’s emotion-packed reports, sent after very exasperating days
of being caught in the bureaucratic maze.
NCC group calls for end of ‘dishonorable’ war
630 U.S. religious leaders want an ‘early, fixed
timetable’ for withdrawal from Iraq
by Chris Herlinger,
NEW YORK – July 5, 2005 – Church
leaders in the United States who oppose the U.S.-led war in Iraq have
stepped up calls for a change in policy, describing the war as
"dishonorable" while President George W. Bush was defending it on TV.
"It has become clear that the rationale for invasion was
at best a tragic mistake, at worst a clever deception," said an Independence
Day statement from the governing board of the National Council of Churches (NCC).
The statement calls for an "early, fixed timetable for the
withdrawal of U.S. troops" from Iraq.
The document has more than 15,000 signatories, including
about 630 U.S. religious leaders, the Rev. Bob Edgar, the NCC general
secretary, said during a June 30 telephone news conference.
"It’s clear that the administration has listened more
closely to far-right religious leaders who agree with them," Edgar said.
"It’s a hard task to get the administration to listen to a broader
evangelical and religious community."
In a nationally televised speech on June 28, Bush defended
his administration’s policy and linked the war in Iraq directly to the Sept.
11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States, saying the sacrifice
in Iraq "is vital to the security of our country."
John Thomas, general minister and president of the United
Church of Christ, said Bush has been open to hearing only the views of
conservative religious leaders. "I’m dismayed that the president seems to be
unwilling to be open to other perspectives," he said.
Larry Pickens, general secretary of the United Methodist
General Commission on Christian Unity and Inter-religious Concerns, told
journalists he believes Bush is defending "what is becoming a failed policy
text of the statement >>
Earlier report on the preparation of this statement >>
Churches move forward in blessing gay unions
UCC General Synod overwhelmingly calls for "full
On July 4, the UCC General Synod 25 overwhelmingly passed
a resolution in support of equal marriage rights for all people, regardless
of gender. It marks the first time that one of the nation’s mainline
churches has expressed support of marriages for gay, lesbian, bisexual and
Presbyterians responds to the UCC action
And the Methodists in Britain ...!
The Methodist Church in Great Britain has become the first
major Christian denomination in that country to offer the prospect of
blessings services for same-sex couples.
As the G-8 Summit begins ...
This important event is
receiving plenty of coverage, but here are a couple perspectives you might
Bishop Desmond Tutu says of aid to Africa – much has
been done, but much more is needed.
Desmond Tutu, the former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town,
South Africa, and winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1984, says that for
Africa must be increased in quantity, but must also be smarter – with 100
percent debt relief for the $40 billion owed by the world's 18 poorest
countries, measures to deal with poor governance and corruption, and tariff-
and quota-free access to rich markets.
His essay >>
The G8 and poverty: 'Beyond empty symbolism'
Adam Taylor, director of campaigns and organizing at
In the midst of all of the media attention surrounding
Live 8 concerts and the G8 Summit, we must raise a prophetic voice to say
that the "details" being decided at Gleneagles mean life and death to our
sisters and brothers around the world. We agree with our president that
our nation must "get beyond empty symbolism and discredited policies, and
match our good intentions with good results." We encourage him to hold his
own administration's funding commitments to that standard.
The rest of his article >>
on the G-8 Summit >>
A Church-State Solution?
Church-State issues loom large these days, from the White House to the
Supreme Court to many communities around the country. There seem to be two
absolutely opposing positions, as some advocate making America a "Christian
nation," while others want to keep religion and political life two entirely
Noah Feldman, writing in the New York Times, suggests the
two warring groups might best be understood as the "values evangelicals,"
who insist on the direct relevance of religious values to political life ,
versus the ''legal secularists,'' who see religion as a matter of personal
belief largely irrelevant to government and who see religious values as a
divisive factor in our national life.
He suggests the solution might be found by giving a
legitimate place to religious language and symbols in our political debates,
while maintaining an absolute ban on government funding support for
Noah Feldman is a professor at the New York University
School of Law and a fellow at the New America Foundation. His book
Divided by God: America's Church-State Problem -- and What We Should Do
About It, from which the article is adapted, has just been published by
Farrar, Straus & Giroux.
and let us know what you think.
faith – whether on the left or the right side of the spectrum – seem to
agree that we want to protect our children and our families from the values
of commercialism. A group called Commercial Alert has just opened a very
helpful new website, which is "to keep the commercial culture within its
proper sphere, and to prevent it from exploiting children and subverting the
higher values of family, community, environmental integrity and democracy."
The website now includes
C An extensive
archive of hundreds of articles about commercialism;
C An action center where you can participate in our
online campaigns; and,
C Hundreds of weblogs where you can discuss articles
and issues relating to commercialism.
Take a look >>
Another comment on
the call for
Bonnie Wheeler begins, "I
lost many friends in WW2. Many of my school mates put their education on
hold to fight for their country..Many never came home..Those volunteers were
willing to risk their lives. We lost 450,000 in that war.....Did that make
FDR and Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Douglas McArthur mass murderers?"
Read the rest >>
|Rodney Martin dies at 84
Witherspoon Society file photo, 1994
Former PHEWA director served also as president of
Rodney T. Martin, 84, a Presbyterian elder who
pioneered new models for social justice work and mentored countless young
pastors and activists, died June 24 in Napa, CA, at the age of 84.
Martin served as the executive director of the
Presbyterian Health, Education and Welfare Association (PHEWA) for 18 years,
and after his retired served in 1994 as president of the Witherspoon
Society. He received Witherspoon's Andrew Murray Award in the year
A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday,
July 30, at the First Presbyterian Church in Oakland, CA.
Rod’s daughter, the Rev. Shona Martin Kilsgaard, sent
a moving note to friends in the PHEWA
network, the day before Rod died.
A July 4th Covenant
Covenant is a fundamental concept in the Biblical tradition, in the Reformed
faith, and in American history. Here’s a short, insightful reminder of that
deep thread connecting our faith and our politics.
Marcus Raskin wrote this as an open letter to the
Congressional Progressive Caucus, and in response to President Bush’s call
for Americans "to find a way to thank the men and women defending our
freedom" over the July 4th holiday. Raskin served on the staff of the
National Security Council in President Kennedy’s administration, and is a
distinguished fellow at the Institute for
Policy Studies and professor of policy studies at The George Washington
He sees America as divided. (OK, no big surprise there.)
There are those who believe that "You are either for us or against us," and
who are united by their fear of real or imagined threats to themselves and
But there is another side of America: "It is the one that
we may be justly proud of, for it has stemmed from sentiments of generosity,
economic and social justice. It is the welcoming side that holds out a hand
to the wretched, the tired, the left-outs of the earth ..."
He concludes: "... [M]embers of a free society recognize
that personal responsibility is the foundation of the social contract. The
nation, therefore, can be seen as the collective expression of this
individual responsibility, not individual self-interest. Thus, the nation is
a projection of our personal responsibility and respect for other people
that manifests the bond between the healthy and the sick, the prosperous and
the hungry, the strong and the weak. This responsibility attaches between
the healthy and the sick as a bond of that shared humanity.
"This is the July 4 covenant of progressive liberals, and
of a free people."
Read the full essay >>
We invite you to share your
Independence Day reflections here.
Just send a note!
Religious Leaders 4th of July message to Bush:
Don't let Iraq become another historic quagmire
June 30, 2005, New York – Three religious
leaders representing the Governing Board of the National Council of Churches
USA announced today that about 630 religious leaders and nearly 16,000
people of faith in 44 states have endorsed a Fourth of July declaration that
urges President Bush to develop an "early fixed timetable for the withdrawal
of U.S. troops," to listen to a wider range of religious advisers and to
re-evaluate his policy on Iraq.
"It's clear that the administration has listened more closely to far-right
religious leaders who agree with them," said the Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, NCC
General Secretary, in an audio news conference Thursday. "It's a hard task
to get the administration to listen to a broader evangelical and religious
The statement is an effort to give visibility to a widely held, more
moderate religious point of view, one that the group says has been
underreported in the national media -- and to attract the administration's
attention to the urgency of having an exit strategy for Iraq. America's
foreign policy, said the Rev. Dr. John H. Thomas, General Minister and
President of the United Church of Christ, has made others around the world
"view us as a dangerous nation."
Read the full
text of the statement; you may choose to add your own signature -- just
scroll down to the end of the statement.
Chinook Down in Afghanistan
Bill Peach writes in anguish after the latest American
deaths in Afghanistan. He expresses the weary numbness of Americans
"The voices of dissent against the war in Iraq are quiet
and reluctant. We understand the wrongness, but find no meaningful
definition of rightness. Very few, if any, of us can claim the moral
astuteness of knowing the moment or the intersection of our wrong turning."
He concludes: "War,
with its heroism and gallantry, and its eventual necessity for the survival
of civilization, is not pro-life, nor Christian, nor moral."
Help End World
Twenty years ago, the organizers of the Live Aid concerts
asked each of us to give some of our money to end a famine. This time, for
the Live 8 concerts they are asking us to give a moment of our time to end
poverty forever.  You see, next week in Scotland the
leaders of the G8, the world’s richest nations, are discussing what can be
done to end the kind of extreme poverty that forces nearly 1 billion people
to struggle on a dollar a day. 30,000 children die every day straining to
find food, clothing, shelter, and medical assistance on that tiny amount of
As President Bush prepares for this meeting a coalition of
groups from the left and the right (especially faith-based groups) have been
pressuring him to take a lead in ending poverty. 
TrueMajority has joined these groups under a banner known as
The One Campaign to ask the President to
make sure they leave with a deal that includes:
1. Debt Cancellation: The U.S.
announced an agreement to cancel the debt crushing 18 countries. This
agreement is a good step forward, but many of the world’s poorest nations
were left out of the first round agreement. Cancellation must include all
impoverished countries if their people are ever going to be able to lift
themselves out of poverty.
2. More and Better Aid:
Directing an additional 1% of the U.S. budget towards basic resources like
education, health, clean water, and food would transform the lives and hopes
of an entire global generation, and every generation that follows.
3. Trade Justice: Poor countries
have the desire and ability to work their way out of poverty but the deck is
stacked against them in favor of wealthy consumer countries. A fair trade
system would give people in poor countries the chance to participate in the
world economy and earn their way out of poverty.
Experts like Columbia University Professor Jeffrey Sachs
believe that if the richer nations take these step we can, in less than the
twenty years of a single generation, wipe out the kind of poverty that kills
30,000 children a day. 
After the July 2 Live 8 concerts the leaders of the
world's richest nations have a chance to make poverty history. Take action
and join activists on the left AND the right in telling President Bush that
he should lead the way.
 You can check out information about
the Live 8 concerts at
 Get the facts at
 Everyone from The Christian
Coalition to MoveOnPAC has signed on. You can check them out in the
"Partner" and "Press Room" sections of
 Prof. Sachs leads a group called The
Earth Institute. You can find them at
Calling on G8 summit to Make Poverty History
Thousands of protesters are taking part in a Make Poverty History march
in Edinburgh, as musicians perform in Live 8 concerts around the globe.
Read today's report from
BBC or on
Police estimated about 120,000 people walked through the Edinburgh city
centre to highlight their message to G8 leaders meeting at Gleneagles next
Saturday's march was one of a number of events planned in the run-up to
Wednesday's G8 summit at Gleneagles, when campaigners hope world leaders
will make a commitment to tackle poverty in Africa.
The events also coincide with the series of
concerts being held on Saturday in cities around the world, including
UK religious leaders
unite in G8 plea
Leaders from the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths have urged Tony
Blair to play "the fullest part" in helping the world's poorest countries.
The prime minister must use the UK's G8 presidency to help "halve extreme
poverty", they say in a letter, adding that the G8 leaders must cancel the
debt of the poorest nations.
The letter is from by the Archbishops of Canterbury and Westminster, the
Chief Rabbi, the Council of Mosques and Imams chair and the Free Churches
CAFTA has passed the Senate
Read the report of the heated debate and the fairly close vote in the
Times or on
But Oakland Institute and other groups urge:
Act now to defeat CAFTA
While the CAFTA bill has been passed by the Senate, which
"is knee-jerk free trade," a number of progressive groups are urging people
to contact their Representatives, who may still pay attention to the
concerns of constituents for the threat to the working poor in the U.S. and
in Central America.
The Oakland Institute provides a long paper detailing the
Take Action Here >>
June, 2005 >>
May, 2005 >>
April, 2005 >>
March, 2005 >>
Our coverage of the 2004 General
Assembly is indexed on a special 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!