Archives: May 2005
This page lists reports and commentary from earlier in
June, 2005 >>
from April, 2005 >>
from March, 2005 >>
items from February, 2005 >>
Our coverage of the 2004 General
Assembly is indexed on a special page.
For links to earlier archive pages,
Bush visit to Calvin College is met by open letter of
protest from faculty and students
signed by more than 800 faculty members, alumni, students and friends of the
school, was published as a full-page ad in the Grand Rapids Press.
Here's the full text of the letter:
Open Letter to George W. Bush; Signed by 823
students, faculty and alumni of Calvin College
Dear President Bush:
We are alumni, students, faculty and friends of Calvin College who are
deeply troubled that you will be the commencement speaker at Calvin on May
21st. In our view, the policies and actions of your administration, both
domestically and internationally over the past four years, violate many
deeply held principles of Calvin College.
Calvin is a rigorous intellectual institution, and a truly Christian
one. Since its inception in 1876, Calvin has educated its students to use
their minds and hearts to transform the world into a "beloved community"
where no one is an outcast and all of God’s children are cared for. Calvin
teaches its students to work for peace and justice, and to be good
stewards of God’s creation.
By their deeds ye shall know them, says the Bible. Your deeds, Mr.
President—neglecting the needy to coddle the rich, desecrating the
environment, and misleading the country into war—do not exemplify the
faith we live by.
Moreover, many of your supporters are using religion as a weapon to
divide our nation and advance a narrow partisan agenda. We are deeply
disappointed in your failure to renounce their inflammatory rhetoric.
We urge you not to use Calvin College as a platform to advance policies
that violate the school’s religious principles. Furthermore, we urge you
to repudiate the false claims of supporters who say that those who oppose
your policies are the enemies of religion.
full-page newspaper ad, including all the signatures >>
Thanks to Steve Cross for tracking down this ad.
The Washington Post carries a report on the President’s
The Detroit Free Press tells
more about the
Farmworkers’ campaign for justice expands to the Fast-Food
After years of hard work and an incredible
victory for Taco Bell tomato pickers, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers has
announced their new target: the Fast Food World, including McDonalds and
Read the AP report in
York Times >>
And don’t forget the PBS NOW special on the CIW airs
this Friday, May 27, and features the CIW, Yum Brands, as well as
members and national staff from the PC(USA). Check www.pbs.org for local
times and listings and spread the word!
For sample letters you can send to Burger King,
McDonald's, and Subway, encouraging them to work with the CIW, visit
From the Rev. Noelle Damico, National Coordinator,
Campaign for Fair Food, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
email@example.com; tel. 631-751-7076
Urgent Action Alert on Iraq
From Mark Koenig, Presbyterian Peacemaking Program:
On Wednesday, May 25, Only this morning have we learned
that the House Rules Committee has permitted Rep. Lynn Woolsey to offer an
amendment on Iraq to the Defense Authorization bill. The amendment is a
sense of the Congress amendment that asks President Bush to develop a plan
as soon as practicable to withdraw American troops from Iraq. It is likely
to be voted on tonight. Please
call the following number to call your member of congress about this
amendment. (202) 224-3121.
information, and talking points in support of the amendment >>
TrueMajority urges: Tell the
Pentagon to Leave Our Children Alone
TrueMajority is encouraging people to speak out against
military recruiting through our schools, which is facilitated by provisions
in the No Child Left Behind Act. You can do this by sharing a song
that gives voice to the concern, by registering your demand that information
on your child not be released to recruiters, and by supporting a bill in
Congress that would require that parents explicitly permit the release of
their children's information to recruiters, rather than requiring them to
U.S. leads global attack on human rights -- Amnesty
Four years after the Sept. 11
attacks on New York and Washington, human rights are in retreat worldwide
and the United States bears most responsibility, rights watchdog Amnesty
International said on Wednesday. Governments are increasingly rolling back
the rule of law, taking their cue from the U.S.-led war on terror, it said.
"The USA as the unrivalled political, military and
economic hyper-power sets the tone for governmental behaviour worldwide,"
Secretary General Irene Khan said in the foreword to Amnesty International's
2005 annual report.
Read the Reuters report in
Congress by-passes the nuclear option. Maybe.
From the Washington Post:
Breakthrough Pact Unlikely to End Battle
Dan Balz sees the agreement reached by 14 US Senators to
avert the "nuclear option" as a clear victory for the "center," but he sees
it as only "a cease-fire in the judicial wars," which will continue.
"For a night at least," he concludes, "politics did seem
to take a back seat to comity and cooperation. Whether the center can
continue to hold is far less clear."
Read the full story in
The Washington Post.
Read our earlier reports on Sen. Bill Frist's campaign to
overturn the Senate's system of filibusters as a means of protecting the
voice of the minority:
Jan Hus Church (New York City) seeks Social Justice Intern
Jan Hus Church is seeking a person to fill the Social Justice
Internship, which includes working with the Homeless Outreach and Advocacy
Program and involvement with the church’s Global Concern Committee’s work.
In defense of freedom of the media
posted a link to the speech by Bill Moyers’ address at the National
Conference on Media Reform in St. Louis. Our
earlier note >>
We received this note expressing appreciation of the
speech, and urging more attention to it.
I was delighted to find your publication of Bill Moyer's
speech in St.Louis on your website. That speech is one of the most direct
examinations of what the administration is seeking to do to damage the
freedom of the press in the U. S.
As a Presbyterian and surgeon, I would encourage you to
move it up to one of the headlines on your website. We need to make the
truth of what the administration is trying to do to silence dissension in
the press available to all who will read.
William B. McCullough, M. D.
Moyers' speech >>
Joan Chittister: We need better news reporting, with
less pressure for speed
Another reader has called our attention to a recent
article by Sister Joan Chittister, who takes note of the reporting problems
of Dan Rather and Newsweek, along with the efforts by Kenneth
Tomlinson, chairperson of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, to press
for "balance" in the reporting by NPR. "Balance" -- toward the right,
apparently. Too much reporting, she says, becomes shallow and even
inaccurate because of the pressure of time, and the urge to get a story out
first. Reality gets distorted by the pressures of competition as well
as political pressures.
You’ll notice that this article appears in the National
Catholic Reporter, which takes note sorrowfully that the recent "forced
removal of Jesuit Fr. Thomas J. Reese as editor of America magazine
is tragic. He was forced from his position by his Jesuit superiors after
five years of pressure from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith."
The note from Chris Baker:
I read this this morning, and felt it could use wider
distribution. She strikes a very compelling, and unsettling, nerve.
Colombia network sets ambitious goals
Five Presbyterian ‘accompaniers’ being sent to Barranquilla
Five more Presbyterians have been commissioned by the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Colombia Network to accompany Colombian
church, union and displaced leaders who are threatened by death squads for
their work in human rights.
Presbyterian News Service report >>
by Berry Craig
What Should Liberal Christians Do?
Berry Craig poses this question in light of what he sees
as the growing power and assertiveness of Christian fundamentalists in
today’s polarized political culture. "Most
importantly," he says, "liberal Christians ought to make it clear they too
are "Bible-Believing Christians."
CIA's close relationship with Sudan's government enables
genocide there to continue.
from left to right have been deeply concerned about the genocidal killing
that continues in Darfur, in the western area of Sudan. The US government
has joined many others in the UN in calling for an end to the killing – so
far, to little effect.
Nat Hentoff of The Village Voice now reports (based
on earlier reporting by the Los Angeles Times) that "the CIA, with
the blessings of the Bush administration, is closely connected to the
horrifying government of Lieutenant General Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir, the
head perpetrator of the ongoing genocide in Darfur." So while the White
House offers humanitarian aid, it has not supported stronger action against
the Sudanese government because it is working in partnership with Bashir to
gain more intelligence information in its "war on terror."
Read this report in
The Village Voice, or in
Menaul School seeks new president
The historic, Presbyterian related,
Menaul School is seeking a new
President (Head of School) to begin in July 2006. This school, begun by
Presbyterian missionaries now with a contemporary mission, is located in
Albuquerque and has a unique tradition of serving all three cultures in New
Mexico – Hispanic, Native American and Anglo.
President Dwight Eisenhower on conservatives’ efforts (in
the 1950s!) to abolish Social Security: "Their
number is negligible and they are stupid."
Earlier resources on Social Security >>
Uzbekistan: Is it about jobs, freedom or Islam?
Flying home from New York a few days ago, we found
ourselves sitting in front of a couple accompanied by six kids ... enough to
make us pay attention.
Turns out they were on their way home for a visit after
three years of working with orphans and micro-development projects in
Uzbekistan. Hearing their stories, we came to share a bit of their concern
for that isolated bit of the former Soviet Union that has suddenly turned up
in our news headlines.
So this may be overly reflective of your WebWeaver’s
immediate concerns, but we offer just a couple perspectives on what seems to
be the sudden violence there, showing that – as is often the case – the
problems are deep-rooted. And some of the roots reach to Washington.
Hamm finds that the protesters, who were "shot at like rabbits" in
Andijan, were mainly concerned with making ends meet, but despite the
bloodshed he says it would be wrong for the West to break all links with
the Karimov government. And
tackles the claim that it's all down to Islamist subversion. |
|Oil, Torture, & Uzbekistan|
The Shalom Center
explores the links between the US government and the authoritarian regime
of Islam Karimov in Uzbekistan.
They post an article by Craig Murray, who was the
British Ambassador to Uzbekistan from 2002 to 2004. He reports that
unflagging US support for the government of Uzbekistan has ---
>> ignored its notorious use of ultra-torture -- except
for sending people there whom the US wants tortured beyond even the levels
acceptable to the Bush Administration;
>> sited military bases there not for support of US
troops in Afghanistan but to ring the oil-rich Caspian with US troops, in
order to control the flow of oil into the oil-addicted US society;
>> and is downplaying or condoning well-founded reports
that thousands have been killed in recent government crackdowns, on the
grounds that those demonstrators were "Islamist extremists."
For the full story >>
Debt Cancellation: historic victories, new challenges
The Presbyterian Church has repeatedly called for various
measures by the US government (and others) to ease the crushing burden of
debt on many developing nations.
In 1996, for example, the 208th General Assembly "call[ed]
upon all governments, all multilateral lending institutions, and commercial
banks . . . to strive to insulate the poor of indebted countries from the
costs of debt repayment and to consider seriously debt forgiveness or debt
relief for the most heavily indebted and poorest countries."
See a sampling of other PC(USA) statements:
Click here, then type "debt" in
the search box at the top of the page. The first result
("International Trade and Investment") will give you plenty to start with.
A new study paper from Foreign Policy in Focus reports on
"how 100% debt cancellation for poor countries--now being debated by wealthy
nations--was transformed from an implausible demand into a winning issue,
and what barriers lie ahead for the debt relief movement."
the article on the FPIF web site >>
Or see the
printer-friendly pdf version >>
From your WebWeaver -- apologies for my absence!
My spouse and I returned last night from a week in New York City, where
we joined our son in celebrating his graduation from the School of Visual
Arts. He's opening new ways of looking at the world for me, and it's
But now, back to a few bits of news for
progressive Presbyterians -- and lots of others too!
I happened to discover a few days ago that this web site
has received over 1,000,000 visits since September, 2001. Thanks for
all your interest and support!
Religion in the media
NPR looks at the religious right
an observer of the religious right, will appear on NPR’s Fresh Air along
with Christian Right leader D. James Kennedy
Dr. Clarkson, who was one of the team that produced A
Moment To Decide in 2000 as part of his ongoing study of right-wing
religious-political movements, sends this note:
Dear Friends and Colleagues,
I will be a guest on National Public Radio show, Fresh Air
with Terry Gross on Wednesday, May 18th.
The first half of the show includes an interview with
Christian Right leader D. James Kennedy, the head of Coral Ridge Ministries.
The second half is an interview with me. The general themes are separation
of church and state, Christian nationalism, and theocratic movements in the
U.S. Kennedy was, in 1973, one of the leaders of the conservative schism
that became the Presbyterian Church in America.
To find out where and when you can hear the program in
your area, here is the station list and program schedule. Times vary.
PBS Special: Victory in the Tomato Fields
Rescheduled for Friday, May 27th
This Friday evening, May 20th, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Yum
Brands and the Presbyterian Church will be featured on the PBS news show,
Farm workers from the CIW, Yum Brands executives, church members and
national staff of the PC(USA) will discuss the boycott of Taco Bell, how the
victory for human rights was achieved, and the next steps of extending this
landmark agreement throughout the fast food industry.
Don’t miss this informative program! For details on precise times and
listings, visit www.pbs.org and search for the program "Now."
Visit www.pcusa.org/fairfood to
learn more and for sample letters you can send to McDonald’s, Burger King,
and Subway urging them to follow Taco Bell’s lead.
This announcement comes from the Rev. Noelle Damico,
National Coordinator, Campaign for Fair Food, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
To learn more about the Campaign for Fair Food, please visit
Bill Moyers responds to CPB's Tomlinson charges of liberal
bias: "We were getting it right, but not right wing"
Witherspooner Bill LeMosy sends this note: "Here's a
must-read for anybody concerned about public broadcasting. While the
neo-cons rage, the prophets still speak."
In his first public address since leaving PBS six months
ago, journalist Bill Moyers responded to charges by Kenneth Tomlinson - the
chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting - of liberal bias and
revelations that Tomlinson hired a consultant to monitor the political
content of Moyers' PBS show "Now."
Democracy Now! broadcast an excerpt of Moyers' closing address at the
National Conference on Media Reform in St. Louis, Missouri. Their web site
provides a rush transcript of the broadcast.
the excerpts here >>
the full text of the speech >>
On fair trade and CAFTA
"CAFTA is bad for the working poor both in the U.S. and in
Central American countries."
Institute, a progressive think tank, provides a detailed look at reasons why
CAFTA (the Central American Free Trade Agreement) is a bad arrangement both
for US workers and for those in Central America and the Dominican Republic.
Their report >>
Fair trade partnerships empowering business model for
Haiti’s coffee growers
The fair trade market offers small coffee farmers a chance to benefit
from globalization through direct links to markets in wealthy countries. The
experience of Recocarno, (Reseau des Cooperatives Cafeieres de la Region
Nord) a network of seven small coffee-producer cooperatives in northern
Haiti, illustrates both the potential benefits of fair trade, and the
challenges of making these benefits sustainable.
A sermon for peace
Mothers Cry for Peace
Witherspooner Arch Taylor shares with us a peace
sermon he delivered on Mother’s Day, 2005. He traces the links
between the establishment of Mother's Day and the movement for world
peace, and shows how Christ offered not only inner peace, but peace for
the nations as well. He reminds us of warnings from Air Force Gen.
Lee Butler of the religious - and idolatrous - nature of our nation's
belief in military power.
Stated Clerk says "thanks" for
conference on global mission for peace and justice
We recently received this note from Stated Clerk Clifton
I noted with real appreciation the piece on your website about the
Witherspoon Global Mission Conference and its focus on
the WARC call for "Covenanting for Justice in the
Economy and the Earth." I am really grateful to you for this. The call
to global economic justice is one of the most crucial and most difficult
challenges that we face in North America, and I do believe the call coming
out of WARC is one to which we need to pay real attention. Thanks.
And we thank him for his support!
From the Moderator:
Dialogue about the divestment
issue can happen
Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase has shared on his moderatorial blog a good
experience meeting with Presbyterians in Las Vegas who gathered to share
concerns about the General Assembly’s action last year to explore the
possibility of divestment of stock in companies that support Israel’s
occupation of Palestinian territories.
Exploring Jubilee today -- and it means
Two Presbyterians and
former mission co-workers, Ross and Gloria Kinsler, are deeply involved in
work for fair trade as a way of reflecting the biblical principle of Jubilee
in our global society.
Witherspooner Gene TeSelle has asked them to
share a bit of what they’re doing these days. They do that, and share
samples of the study guides they are creating.
How to End the War
Naomi Klein offers a sharp analysis of what the US is doing in Iraq. She
says that our "rebuilding" efforts, limited as they are, are really directed
toward making over the Iraqi nation in the image of "the radical free-market
policies that the American Enterprise Institute and the Cato Institute dream
about in Washington, D.C., but are only able to impose in relative slow
motion here at home."
Read the essay in
In These Times,
or on TruthOut.org
Felíz Cinco de Mayo!
|Social Security goes to Congress
As Congress begins to deal with the issues
surrounding Social Security, we offer some resources you may find
|Religious leaders defend Social Security|
PC(USA), 15 other groups issue
set of guidelines for reform
Washington Office of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and 15
other national religious organizations have issued a set of
"principles" for Congress to keep in mind as it decides how to
preserve and strengthen Social Security.
The news report >>
The full text of the
"Honor your father
and mother ..."|
Jim Wallis of
Sojourners takes that as a theme for an open letter to
Congress on behalf of Call to Renewal, outlining a moral
perspective from which Social Security should be discussed.
PS – We know the headline is not original with
Wallis. Or us. But it still makes great sense as it reminds us
of the intergenerational responsibilities that we must not
rich pay less!|
organization United for a Fair Economy points to the great
inequity in the real Social Security tax rates for average works
compared with the wealthy.
|A Gut Punch to the
That’s what New
York Times columnist Paul Krugman
calls the President’s current proposals for "fixing" Social
|If you have thoughts of your own, or other
resources to share,
please send a note!|
A collection of thoughtful articles in
Insights, the journal of Austin Seminary (our Presbyterian seminary
in Texas), finds the popular books to be based on a misinterpretation of the
[This is in PDF format.
to download (free!) Adobe Reader software to view this and all PDF files.]
We would like to invite you to participate in
a special online event, May 9th-20th at
A Dialogue on Values and Building a Movement
Are the words progressive and
faith polar opposites? Of course not. But in America, the word "religious"
seemingly has become synonymous with conservatism. The fact is that the
religious right has spent 30 years melding Christian language with
conservative political ideology. And they have been very successful. The
influence of extreme right-wing religious organizations in politics and
public discourse has taken America backwards, and has contributed to a
divisive and coarsened politics. It has overshadowed progressives who are
also people of faith. And it has created a divide of alienation between
secular and religious progressives. We say enough is enough.
including links to join the dialogue >>
sees the realities of life in Colombia
Erik J Mason
of Santa Fe, NM, returned to the US a month ago after spending 5 weeks in
Colombia as part of the PC(USA) effort to provide North American Christians
to accompany sisters and brothers in Colombia whose lives are threatened
because of their work for peace and human rights.
He offers a moving report of the realities he experienced
Presbyterian Peacemaking Program shares news of their vital activities,
|a web page of spiritual nurture for peacemakers|
|an update on the review of the Non-Proliferation Treaty,
beginning today at the UN – along with things you can do to help
strengthen the NPT|
|coming events, including Christian Family Week, May 8-14, and
Lobby for Conscience on May 16, a day of working to gain
legislative support for the Religious Peace Tax Fund Bill. |
|Peacemaking Offering promotional material.
Reformed Churches covenant to work for justice in the
economy and the earth
The World Alliance of
Reformed Churches gathered for its 24th General Council in Accra,
Ghana, in August, 2004.
earlier on that important assembly, but as we prepare and plan for the
conference on global mission to be held next September at Stony Point,
NY, we want to call attention again to the Council’s statement of that
It provides a statement firmly rooted in the Reformed
tradition, which looks at "the signs of the times" in our world, and calls
for attention to the two major challenges of our time: structures which
oppress many of the world’s people, and our destruction of the natural
The statement then gets quite specific:
This crisis is directly related to the development of
neoliberal economic globalization, which is based on the following
-- unrestrained competition, consumerism, and the unlimited economic
growth and accumulation of wealth is the best for the whole world;
-- the ownership of private property has no social obligation;
-- capital speculation, liberalization and deregulation of the
market, privatization of public utilities and national resources,
unrestricted access for foreign investments and imports, lower taxes,
and the unrestricted movement of capital will achieve wealth for all;
-- social obligations, protection of the poor and the weak, trade
unions, and relationships between people, are subordinate to the
processes of economic growth and capital accumulation.
We encourage you to look at
on the adoption of this statement, which was not supported unanimously.
the Message Committee of the Council tells more of the story
And then we hope you’ll
look at the
statement itself. It’s worth your study! (in PDF format)
Here’s a response to
Dr. Tilford’s comments on the
death of Pope John Paul II, and the election of Pope Benedict XVI. We
trust it’s offered in fun.
pontificating, I am not surprised that he likes the new pope."
"For all of Professor Tilford
Rev. James L. Reisner
Westminster Presbyterian Church
Albany, New York
earlier in June, 2005 >>
from April, 2005 >>
from March, 2005 >>
items from February, 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!