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Archives:  February 2006

This page lists reports and commentary from February, 2006

All postings from
February, 2007
January, 2007

December, 2006
November, 2006
October, 2006
September, 2006
August, 2006
July, 2006
June, 2006
 
May, 2006

April, 2006
March, 2006
February, 2006
 January, 2006

Our coverage of the 2006 General Assembly is indexed on a special page.
For links to earlier archive pages, click here.

2/27/06
When is a brink a brink?

A Christian Peacemaker reports from Baghdad

Beth Pyles, an American Presbyterian who has been part of a Christian Peacemaker team in Iraq for the past few months, has sent a movingly real report from Baghdad as the explosions and shots continue in the aftermath of the bombing of the Shi'a shrine in Samara last Wednesday.

Here’s a chance for us to feel a bit of what it may be like for the people on the scene – no big-picture analysis, just the grim and frightening reality of war.

What hope does she find there? Read her letter to see for yourself.

No2Torture – a great source for information and action against torture

Over the past few months we have posted a number of reports and commentary on the painful issue of torture, especially as it has become an important element in U.S. policy. 

One group, mostly Presbyterians, has played a great role in this campaign: No2Torture was initiated by people who took part in the 2005 Peacemaking Conference at Ghost Ranch. They held an important conference and witness in Miami early in January. 

More recently, Carol Wickersham, one of the founders of No2Torture, reports that in one village of 2,000, two of the participants in the Miami gathering, Michelle Dennis and Mirjam Melin have organized a small study group using the "Out of Horror, Hope" curriculum. This group was brought together through personal invitations. The local paper also ran a portion of the piece by Evan Silverstein about the Miami event. Michelle and Mirjam also shared their insights with the local Kiwanis group – a venue others might approach.

Anti-torture efforts were the major focus of Peace Week at Beloit College. Each day there were very well attended events that included a panel of torture survivors and a lecture by Michael Spezio, who spoke in Miami, on the neuro-psychological effects of torture on victims and perpetrators. One of the major local papers carried a significant interview with Dr. Spezio.

More local and regional events are in the works. 

Visit their web site >>

And consider joining their e-mail group >>

Bill Moyers speaks out on restoring the public trust

“It is a Dick Cheney world out there”

Bill Moyers speaks on the issue of money and politics: Watching these people work is a study of the inner circle at the top of American politics. It is a Dick Cheney world out there - a world where politicians and lobbyists hunt together, dine together, drink together, play together, pray together and prey together, all the while carving up the world according to their own interests. It is time to fight again. It's not their government, it's your government.

Read his talk on TruthOut.com, or on TomPaine.commonsense

Budget for FR 2007 would move health care costs further onto the shoulders of individuals

FamiliesUSA provides an analysis of the proposed budget

On February 6, 2006, President Bush released his FY2007 proposed budget. The budget provides details about the Administration's health policy goals for this year, and will shape the congressional budget process that will take place over the next month.

In an effort to clarify what this budget--if approved--would mean for American health care consumers, Families USA has just released an analysis of the Administration's health care proposals contained in the budget.

Read their FY2007 budget analysis >>

New 'Truth Tour' targets McDonald's

Tomato pickers taking to the streets to demand better pay, working conditions

Presbyterian News Service reports a group of Florida farmworkers will embark on a weeklong regional tour through the Southeast and Midwest next month to carry their struggle for higher wages and better working conditions to fast-food giant McDonald's.

During the tour, about 30 farmworkers are expected to travel by van to Chicago from Immokalee, FL. On the way, they will take their stories of abuse and exploitation to cities including Atlanta, Nashville, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Louisville, Cincinnati, Madison, WI, and Ann Arbor, MI.

They will be joined at each stop, organizers say, by supporters including Presbyterians and other people of faith, student activists, farmers, labor groups and community leaders.

The full story >>
More on the Fair Food campaign >>

2/24/06
Witherspoon events at General Assembly

The Witherspoon Society is proud to announce its plans for our special events during the coming General Assembly in Birmingham, Alabama, June 15-22, 2006.  But we'll start early with one gathering on Wednesday the 14th.  We invite you warmly to join us for as many as possible of these times for sharing information and inspiration, and building new friendships.  Details >>

The Cost of War

How much is too much?

Ever wonder how much the wars are costing us? Us as individuals, as families, as a society (the cost to our educational system, our public housing, health care, hunger??

Check out CostOfWar.com to see for yourself. Just be ready to count pretty fast to keep up with the ticker.

Mark Engler reflects on watching the numbers fly by:

So how much will the war cost? The question occasionally appears in the media, never a new issue, never a settled one either. Still, there are some certainties about the costs of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. One is that it keeps going up. The President has now submitted a "guns over butter" budget to Congress that increases Pentagon spending to $440 billion, while taking away funds from social services at home and development assistance abroad. One of the great curiosities of this huge sum is that it does not include funding for the wars we are actually fighting. Those are appropriated separately - this year, the White House will reportedly be asking for another $120 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, roughly equal to what it spent in 2005.

The rest of his essay >>

Mark Engler, a writer based in New York City, is an analyst with Foreign Policy In Focus and a contributor to Newsday, In These Times, the Christian Science Monitor, and TomPaine.com

Yellowstone Presbytery invites you to get involved in their Mission Partnership with Zimbabwe

This invitation comes from Teresa Kennedy, Yellowstone Presbytery Mission Committee, Montana

I am sure you are familiar with the Zimbabwe Mission Partnership project. Yellowstone Presbytery of Montana has joined the Mission Partnership, and we hope all the churches in our presbytery will become involved in a major way. It involves filling shipping crates with supplies, which the Department of Transportation then picks up and ships for free to Zimbabwe. Julia Henderson from Denver will be in Billings Saturday April 29 @ 1:00 to do a presentation about the Project at First Presbyterian Church. The Yellowstone Presbytery of Montana is inviting the whole community to become involved in this ministry (as well as our 2 local hospitals, retail stores, financial institutes, etc). There will be a "meet and greet" in the Fellowship Hall following her presentation. Please let everyone know that any are welcome to join us.

For current information:

Worldwide Ministries information page on Zimbabwe >>

The ZIMBABWE Situation -- An extensive and up-to-date website containing news, views and links related to ZIMBABWE - a country in crisis

The CIA World Factbook

Facts on Immigration

Is This What We Want? H.R. 4437 Is An Attack on Our Values

The National Immigration Forum recently called attention to a Wall Street Journal commentary written by Andrew S. Grove, a Jewish survivor of Nazi Germany and former Chairman of Intel Corporation. Mr. Grove adds his voice to the growing chorus speaking out against the Border Protection, Anti-terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act (H.R. 4437), sponsored by Representatives F. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Peter King (R-NY), which passed the House of Representatives in December of last year.

Mr. Grove writes:

This bill scares me…

Let me illustrate. The bill contains a provision punishing anyone who "assists, [or] encourages . . . a person who . . . lacks lawful authority to remain in the United States" to remain here….

This could change the nature of our society in a way that I have seen firsthand. As a Jewish child hiding from the Nazis in Hungary, I saw how the persecution of non-Jewish Hungarians who hid their Jewish friends or neighbors cast a wide blanket of fear over everyone. This fear led to mistrust, and mistrust led to hostility, until neighbors turned upon neighbors in order to protect themselves. Is this what we want?

Read the rest of the essay >>

PresbyAction Middle East Bulletin:
JERUSALEM: EYE OF THE STORM

Corinne Whitlatch, of Churches for Middle East Peace, provides a clear survey of the situation in Israel/Palestine in the wake of the Hamas victory in the Palestinian election.  She looks at the complexities and ambiguities in both Palestine and Israel, and concludes with these bits of policy advice for Presbyterian advocates for peace and justice to share with their legislators:

Toward the goal of peace, we ask you to 1) reject unilateral actions by Israel that would prejudge final status negotiations on borders and the status of Jerusalem, 2) urge the Palestinian government to commit to nonviolence, to recognize Israel and to accept previous agreements, 3) continue to engage the moderate Palestinian leadership and help the Palestinian people, 4) provide assurances that Jerusalem will be shared, and 5) promote religious freedom in the Holy Land and recognize the important role of the Christian community.

2/23/06
Network News is here.

The Winter 2006 issue of Witherspoon's newsletter is at the printer, and should be in the mail in a week or so, but you can read it here, now.

This issue includes an essay by the Rev. John Shuck, commenting on the Theological Task Force report under the title "Not Justice, Not Progress, just the Same Second-Class Status."  There are articles dealing with torture, the Hamas election victory in Palestine, and much more.

2/22/06
Three observations on the Hamas victory in the Palestinian election --

-- A Palestinian priest in Zababdeh, in the Northern West Bank, who is also the principal of the Latin Patriarchate School there, offers a realistic view of the Hamas victory, some of the reasons for it and some of the possible consequences.  And he concludes, "We should not be afraid."

-- Former Pres. Jimmy Carter urges the U.S. not to punish the Palestinians, but to maintain humanitarian aid, and to urge moderation on all parties.

-- There's a new kind of "revolutionary" in Palestine -- people getting training in non-violence as a better way of resisting the Israeli occupation.

Reports from the World Council of Churches –

The World Council of Churches is meeting in Porto Alegre, Brazil, through the 23rd of February.

The Presbyterian News Service is there and covering many events, concerns and interest on international affairs.  To find all of their reports, go to the PNS web page >>

Here's a list of some of the PNS reports, with links to them >>
 

WCC Assembly calls for care of water resources

The Ninth Assembly of the World Council of Churches, meeting in Porto Alegre, Brazil, 14-23 February, has called on churches and ecumenical partners to work together to preserve and protect water resources against over-consumption and pollution.

Premier science organization denounces ‘anti-evolution’ legislation

US scientific leaders have launched a new assault on political attempts to undermine the teaching of evolution in public schools. The American Association for the Advancement of Science, supported by 30 other scientific and educational organizations, adopted a declaration denouncing "anti-evolution" legislation that is pending in 14 states.   More >>

Memo by former Navy counsel criticizes policy toward Guantánamo detainees

Jane Mayer reports in the New Yorker on a 22-page memo written by the former general counsel of the Navy that is highly critical of the Bush administration's policy toward detainees at Guantánamo.

Read the article in the New Yorker, or on TruthOut.org

NPR journalist Robert Siegel interviews Mayer on All Things Considered.

Listen to the broadcast >>

2/18/06
NCC supports call to close Guantánamo camp, renews request to Rice for permission to visit

The National Council of Churches USA has "emphatically supported" a United Nations report released yesterday that calls upon the United States to close its Guantanamo Bay detention facility "without further delay."

The report of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights of the Economic and Social Council also recommended that the U.S. refrain from "any practice amounting to torture" and either bring detainees to trial or "release them without further delay."

In a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, NCC General Secretary, the Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, also renewed a request to allow the NCC to send "a small interfaith delegation" to Guantánamo "to monitor the physical, mental and spiritual condition of the detainees." A similar request was turned down by former Secretary of State Colin Powell in 2003 and 2004.

In an email dated February 17, Bob Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches reports that "thousands of faithful persons have added their names to this project in just 24 hours." He urges others to add their signatures by Monday, adding: "It is important for the Administration to know how the US religious community feels about this issue. Also, feel free to pass the word to your friends and colleagues. Our goal is 25,000 signatures."

Click here for the Faithful America website, where the information is currently on their front page.

Or click here to go directly to the NCC letter, and to add your name.

Please join us!

A frequent visitor just sent a note that begins:

I have been reading the Witherspoon Notes on the Internet this morning, and find it both comforting that there are real people out there thinking and dealing with real issues, and disturbing that the part of the country where I live, and the churches therein, are so removed from the larger world . 

If you like what you find here, find it helpful, like to discover you're not alone, please visit often.  And better yet, become a member of Witherspoon!  You can keep in touch more regularly, and support the work we're doing to help the Presbyterian Church remain faithful to its mission for peace and justice in the world.

Read more about the organization >>                  Or why not join us right now! >>

2/17/06
Chicago Presbytery passes resolution to support action for peace with justice in Israel/Palestine

Meeting on February 14, the Presbytery of Chicago avoided using the word "divestment," but it strongly approved a resolution affirming the action of the 2004 General Assembly calling for study of possible divestment of stocks held in companies whose business helps to support Israel’s oppressive occupation of Palestine, or which help in channeling funds to terrorist groups in Palestine.

See the report in the Chicago Tribune      [Registration required -- but it's free.]

The Church Can Help Survivors of Torture 

Andrew J. Weaver and Carolyn L. Stapleton, two United Methodist ministers, one of whom is also a clinical psychologist and the other an attorney, describe briefly the psychological symptoms experienced of survivors of torture, and suggest ways that churches can help them deal with those effects. They also provide an excellent list of resources – both publications and organizations.    The full essay >>

ACSWP approves policy documents

Papers on globalization, disabilities among those going to ’06 GA   

The Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy, meeting January 18-21, approved nearly a dozen reports which will be sent to this summer’s 217th General Assembly.

Papers covered topics including globalization, human rights, disabilities, Iraq, and more. Aming them was a report chronicling the work of ACSWP and the Office of the General Assembly in pursuing ecumenical talks in advance of the centennial of the Social Creed of the Federal Council of Churches, now called the National Council of Churches (NCC).      The full story >>

Story-telling for peace and healing

We have received this notice about a creative approach to building communities for peacemaking:

The Storyteller and the Listener Online, a noncommercial newsletter about the use of stories and personal narratives in peacemaking and healing practices, is seeking essays from members of faith communities that use extensive storytelling for purposes of peacemaking, healing, bridge building and reconciliation, beyond the traditional use of stories in the congregation for religious education. The newsletter publishes two guest essays a month, and writers guidelines are available at the site: http://storyteller-and-listener.blog-city.com/. For more information, please email editor Holly Stevens at healing_stories@mac.com.

Holly Stevens
Glenagape Retreat Center, 5918 Pepper Rd, Oak Ridge, NC 27310 USA
336.643.5947

2/15/06

From Long Island to the Gulf Coast –
One congregation joins in Katrina relief 

The Rev. Kent Winters-Hazelton, former president of the Witherspoon Society and Interim Pastor at First Presbyterian Church in East Hampton, NY, is just back from a week's stay in Mississippi with a group from his congregation.  Here's his report >>

Not Justice, Not Progress, Just the Same Second-Class Status:  An Evaluation of the Theological Task Force Report   

John Shuck, Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Elizabethton, Tennessee, reflects on the "Peace, Unity and Purity" report in light of his own situation of "heterosexual privilege."  That reflection leads him to assert:  "While there is much in the report that is good, its final recommendation shatters any good that can come from it. Recommendation number six will allow for neither justice nor progress for lgbt people in our denomination. It requests that we make no change to an unjust, untruthful, and discriminatory policy."

And he offers a litany of statements in our Book of Order, which state clearly our belief as a church that, for instance, "… homosexuality is not God’s wish for humanity. This we affirm, despite the fact that some of its forms may be deeply rooted in an individual’s personality structure."

The Task Force recommendations would leave such statements standing in our church's Constitution, and we would take no real steps toward justice.   Read his essay >>

PC(USA) officials urge Palestinians to work for peace in the Middle East

Letters challenge Hamas, others to end 'the current stalemate of hatred and violence'

Facing the prospect of a Hamas-led Palestinian government, the top two officials of the Presbyterian Church (USA) wrote letters last week to Palestinian leaders, urging them to work together to find non-violent ways to end the political stalemate in the region.

The letters, signed by the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, stated clerk of the General Assembly, and Elder Rick Ufford-Chase, moderator of the 216th General Assembly, were dated Feb. 9. One was addressed to Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh, Khaled Mashaal and Mahmoud Zahra, the other to Palestinian President H.E. Mahmoud Abbas.

Both affirmed the elections last month that brought Hamas to the helm of the government.

The letters described the PC(USA) as having been on the record for more than 50 years as consistent advocates of the right of Palestinians to self-determination and a viable independent state — and the right of the state of Israel to exist within secure and legitimate borders.

The full report, by Alexa Smith of Presbyterian News Service, dated Feb. 14, 2006 >>

Faithful America’s February E-zine announces many opportunities for learning and action

"Friends in High Places"

When Moses bowed before Yahweh on Mount Sinai, humbled by the monumental commission he had just received from the Lord, Moses actually tried to get out of the job... "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh?" he pleaded. "O my Lord, please send someone else." But in five words Yaweh delivered a promise which emboldened Moses and rings in our ears today. The Lord said, "I will be with you."

The story is worth reading (Exodus 3-4) - and so is this month's ezine. It is full of challenges and opportunities for putting your faith into action. You may read it and say, "Who am I? or even "Lord, please send someone else," but you, like Moses, can find strength in those ancient and powerful words: "I will be with you."

Here's what you can do today:

• Move Mountains – join in Ecumenical Advocacy Days in Washington, DC

• Help End Poverty – use a new study guide from the National Council of Churches

• Help Stop the Genocide – join a million others demanding a stronger US response to the genocide in Darfur

• Help Cool Global Warming – with the 86 evangelical Christian leaders who have joined together to launch an "Evangelical Climate Initiative"

• Save Our National Parks – speak out against National Park Service moves to ease protections of the parks

• Step Aboard the Seoul Train – get a free copy of Seoul Train, an extraordinary film that exposes North Korea’s human rights abuses

Details and links >>

WCC Assembly opens in Brazil

The World Council of Churches (WCC) is convening for its once-every-seven-years assembly in Porto Alegre, Brazil, with interfaith dialogue – and tensions – high on its agenda.

Ecumenical News International reports on the opening day of the Assembly, on February 14.

For many more reports, go to the index page of the Presbyterian News Service

For even more, go to the WCC website >>

Grants to religious groups fall, study says

White House to rebut report in March

A study released on Feb. 14 by the nonpartisan Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy shows that despite the Bush administration's rhetorical support for religious charities, the amount of direct federal grants to faith-based organizations declined from 2002 to 2004. White House officials immediately disputed the findings, and said they will release their own figures next month showing an increase in federal funding for religious groups.

Some critics of the President's Faith-Based Initiative have long contended that the administration is shifting who gets money, without increasing the total amount available to shelter the homeless, counsel prisoners and provide other social services.

The full article >>         [Registration required, but there’s no charge.]

2/13/06
Support needed for church leaders in Colombia

A call for action, from the Rev. W. Mark Koenig, Associate for Resources and Publications in the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program

New death threats against leaders in the Presbyterian Church of Colombia and other human rights leaders in Colombia have been reported.

On February 10, 2006, the Ecumenical Network of Colombia and the Intereclessial Commission of Justice and Peace in Colombia reported that new death threats have been received against Milton Mejia, General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church of Colombia (PCC), human rights workers whose offices are on the PCC campus, and Mauricio Avilez, now of Justicia y Paz. Both men are members of the Executive Committee of the Ecumenical Network of Colombia. While specific threats against Mejia and Avilez are enumerated, there are also implied threats against the entire human rights and church community working with the displaced on the north coast of Colombia. Threatened groups include ANDESCOL (the National Association of Displaced Families) and CEDERHNOS, a volunteer organization that is part of the PCC's human rights ministry.

Please consider contacting the Colombian Embassy in Washington DC today if possible Colombia's El Tiempo newspaper has reported reports that President Uribe of Colombia is scheduled to be in Washington on February 13 to lobby agricultural and intellectual property right provisions of the TLC/Free Trade Agreement.   More information, including contacts and addresses >>

More Light conference affirms the gifts lgbt people bring to the church ... and faces the challenges

Naomi Tutu offers keynote address

More Light Presbyterians held a regional conference in Nashville, February 10-12, with about forty or fifty in attendance. Much of the planning was done by the local MLP chapter, with participation from members, elders, and ministers in at least seven different congregations.

The dynamics of the conference were best expressed during one of the closing meetings. A straight person expressed gratitude for being made to feel welcome. In response a few GLBT participants said they had been surprised to find straight people there. This led to a statement that GLBT people are a gift from God, often with more than the usual amount of talent and grace.   The rest of the story >>

2/8/06
Speaking out against torture

We have reported before about the conference on "Theology, International Law, and Torture," which took place at Princeton Seminary on January 13-15, 2006.

The conference is still making waves, and here’s an update.

The conference approved the formation of a National Religious Campaign Against Torture. We encourage you to endorse their declaration, and, if possible, to contribute financially to the campaign.

You can read a report from PBS on the conference.

Read a report of the conference by George Hunsinger, organizer of the event.  (Registration is required for the Presbyterian Outlook website, but it's free.)

Hunsinger comments:

I believe, as you do, that the voice of religious concern can make a difference in bringing about a total ban against existing U.S. policies that permit or authorize torture.

Our groundbreaking effort brings together in a common campaign not only Catholics, Protestants and Jews, but with them also Muslims, and among the Protestants, Evangelicals. I believe that this represents an unprecedented level of religious cooperation.

Please spread the word through your networks!

National Religious Campaign Against Torture
c/o PAEF
40 Witherspoon Street
Princeton, NJ 08542

Why the McCain torture ban won't work

Alfred W. McCoy gives compelling evidence that the ban on torture, passed by Congress in December, will have little impact against "the Bush legacy of legalized torture."

He begins:

Just before Christmas, two of the world's most venerable legislative bodies engaged in erudite, impassioned debate over what the right balance should be between the imperatives of national security and international prohibitions on torture. They arrived at starkly divergent conclusions that reveal the depth of damage the war on terror is doing to this country's civil liberties.

On December 7, the House of Lords, reviewing cases in which a dozen Muslim militants were to be deported, spoke with moral clarity on the issue of torture, branding it "an unqualified evil" which should have no place in the proud, thousand-year tradition of British justice. Just a week later, the U.S. Senate amended the Defense Appropriations Bill to prohibit the "abuse" of detainees in American custody, including the many Muslims at our Guantanamo prison, but did so on the purely pragmatic, almost amoral grounds that it "leads to bad intelligence." Under pressure from the White House, the senators also loaded this legislation with loopholes that may soon allow coerced testimony - extracted through torture - into American courts for the first time in two centuries.

McCoy is the author of A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror, and a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Read his full essay >>

Resolution urges PC(USA) to invest in economic development in Palestine

Measure has been little-noticed amid firestorm over divestment action

Alexa Smith of Presbyterian News Service reports from Louisville that work teams are planning to implement a little-known commissioner's resolution from the 216th General Assembly calling for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to support economic development in Palestine.

The resolution was passed simultaneously with the Assembly's decision to use shareholder pressure against corporations whose business practices contribute to violence in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories through a process of phased, selective divestment.

The measure recommends that the PC(USA):

Promote tourism by encouraging U.S. churchgoers to visit Palestine and to spend money in Palestinian hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops and other places of business;

Build or lease low-cost housing for members of partner churches, to help them stay on their land, and hire Palestinian contractors to do the work;

Expand markets for Palestinian crafts and other products.

The full story, including helpful background this action and divestment >>

A great resource for the ordination debates

Gene TeSelle reviews Ordination Standards: Biblical, Theological, and Scientific Perspectives – a very thorough guide for studying and discussing the complex questions surrounding the debates of inclusive ordination. 

He concludes: "This is a thorough discussion guide. In fact, given its length it is a discussion all by itself. In that sense it would be suitable for solitary reading, and in the process you can learn an awful lot! But it does invite — even requires — live discussion, since various perspectives are explored without reaching final resolution."    Read the review >>

Some evangelicals call for action against global warming, others refuse

Eighty-six evangelical Christian leaders have decided to back a major initiative to fight global warming, saying "millions of people could die in this century because of climate change, most of them our poorest global neighbors." But the National Association of Evangelicals has refused to take a stand, in spite of the urging of some of its members, and in spite of its declaration last year of an Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility.     The New York Times reports on the action against global warming >>

An "evangelical mutiny"?

Paul Waldman, a senior fellow at Media Matters for America, sees this as one example of a growing split among religious conservatives, particularly between those whose primary loyalty is to the Republican Party, and the others who are more concerned to be faithful to their own consciences and convictions. Finally, he suggests, progressive people of faith must help their evangelical sisters and brothers to see that "the Republican Party is playing you for a fool" – using them as a political base, with no real commitment to many of their values.     More >>

2/7/06
Presbyterian Campaign for Fair Food says:
Urge McDonald’s to follow Taco Bell in respecting for farmworkers’ human rights   

The Campaign asks consumers to deliver letter to their local McDonald’s manager, calling for decent wages and working conditions for farmworkers.

Church of England votes to sell off shares in Caterpillar

The Church of England's general synod - including the Archbishop of Canterbury - has voted to disinvest church funds from companies profiting from Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian territory. The main target of the plan will be the US earth-moving equipment company Caterpillar which has supplied vehicles used by Israel to demolish Palestinian homes.

You may not be surprised to hear that the debate was contentious, and the Church’s investment managers decided in response to sell off the century-old Octavia Hill housing estates for more than 1,000 poor tenants in south London to property developers.   Read The Guardian's report >>

Bimonthly letters to the Church

An Around-the-World Glimpse at Amazing Work

Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase, in his bi-monthly letter to the church, shares glimpses of the church at work around the world, from his recent visits to south Korea, Taiwan, North India, Pakistan, Jordan, Israel and Palestine.

God, in your grace, transform the world!

Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick, in his bimonthly letter to the church, reports on the coming Ninth Assembly of the World Council of Churches, which will convene on February 14, 2006, in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

2/6/06
The Palestinian election: the third intifada

Sam Bahour, a Palestinian-American businessman living in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian city of El-Bireh, offers a thoughtful look at some of the emerging realities after the election victory of Hamas in Palestine.

He points to "3 ironies" of the situation: That this may be the world’s first democratic election held under an occupation; that Mahmoud Abbas forced an election that led to his own defeat; and that Israel's strategy of 'Unilateral Disengagement' from Gaza contributed to the Hamas victory.

Then he warns of "3 potential failures": to underestimate Hamas' pragmatism and ability to change; to overestimate Fatah’s ability to recover from its disastrous defeat; and to ignore the effects of the decades-long Israeli occupation as a political factor in Palestine.

Finally, he sees 3 challenges: to give Hamas time to change; to deal somehow with "Israeli unilateralism"; and to create " alternative political paths within the Palestinian (and Israeli) society."    The full article >>

"Divestment: A Curiously Strong Moral Activity"
by Paul Beran 

The action of the 2004 Presbyterian General Assembly, calling on the church to consider selective divestment from stocks of U.S. corporations which support in some way the Israeli occupation of Palestine, or terrorist violence against Israeli, generated heated controversy and many attacks on the Church as "anti-Semitic" and more.

We have posted some expressions of those concerns here. And now we offer a thoughtful look at the deeper meaning and potential of divestment as a "moral activity" and a way to defend human rights.

This article was first presented by Dr. Paul Beran at a conference on "Israel/Palestine: Where Do We Go From Here?" on Sunday, December 11, 2005, at Boylston Hall, Harvard University. He is a lecturer in political science at Northeastern University. From 1997-2001 he worked in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel with relief and development agencies. He and his wife, Hilary Rantisi, participated in the Witherspoon conference on mission at Stony Point, NY, last September.     The full essay >>

Bechtel defeated in Bolivia!

From FoodFirst, "We Are Fighting Back #62"

After years of international pressure, the U.S.-based Bechtel Corporation has withdrawn the $50 million lawsuit it filed against Bolivia for canceling its World Bank-sponsored water-privatization scheme.

The multinational engineering firm's decision to cancel the suit for a token payment of 30 cents represents a tremendous victory for both cash-starved Bolivia and for global civil society. For a major corporation to drop an international lawsuit because of public outcry is unprecedented.

What came to be known as the Cochabamba Water Revolt was instigated in 1999 when Bechtel's privatization of the Bolivian city's water supply led to price increases averaging more than 50%. The following year, after the government declared martial law, Bechtel was forced to leave Cochabamba.

International solidarity protests in support of the Bolivian people have been numerous and varied, including email protests by hundreds of people, an international petition signed by 300 organizations from 43 countries, and lock-downs in front of Bechtel's San Francisco headquarters. In February 2002, Dutch activists renamed the street in front of Bechtel's Netherlands headquarters after the 17-year-old who was killed in the Cochabamba water revolt. San Francisco's Board of Supervisors passed a resolution against Bechtel's actions in Bolivia in July 2002.

In other hopeful news from Bolivia, the newly-elected President Evo Morales cut his salary by more than half, and asked his cabinet to do the same as a way to increase pay for doctors and teachers.

Sources:

World War 4 Report

The Democracy Center

The BBC

And ... see our earlier report from a conference of Presbyterians for Restoring Creation, on "sharing the waters of life"

Peace studies program offered by Mennonite college in Canada

This announcement has come to us from Mary Lou Schwartzentruber, Certificate Program Manager of the program.

Conrad Grebel University College, with the oldest Peace and Conflict Studies undergraduate program in Canada, is an educational institution informed by the vision and values of the Mennonite tradition of peaceful collaboration and is dedicated to serving students, the university community, the church and society. To supplement and complement the mandates of the College, and to encourage and facilitate the work of peace research, peace education, conflict resolution, and public policy research of groups affiliated with the College, the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPACS) was formally constituted in 1984 with the mandate to:

• conduct and foster study of and research into the phenomena of human conflict and the sources and conditions of peace;
• conduct and foster education for peace through and with community groups, churches, schools, universities, colleges, the mass media and such other agencies, organizations and groups as may from time to time be deemed appropriate;
• prepare and disseminate information on issues of peace and conflict in support of public education and public policy-making; and
• provide support for peace-making efforts at local, regional, national and international levels.

Our affiliated organizations work in the area of small arms watch/control and conflict resolution education.

IPACS, in addition to its commitment to work cooperatively with affiliated organizations, offers a Certificate Program in Conflict Management that is designed to provide practical and relevant skills training in conflict management. We offer workshops in Canada, the U.S.A. and the Middle East.

Currently, Certificates in Conflict Management in the following areas of concentration are available:
   Faith Communities
   Mediation
   Project and Contract Managers

A link to the Institute is available at http://grebel.uwaterloo.ca/ipacs. A link to our Certificate Program is available at http://grebel.uwaterloo.ca/certificate

2/3/06
Addicted to oil? It’s far deeper than that.

It’s far more serious than the President acknowledged in his State of the Union address, says Peter Sawtell, Executive Director, Eco-Justice Ministries. He offers a sharp critique of the president’s way of framing the problem, saying:

If Mr. Bush was really talking about breaking our addiction, he wouldn't look to technology for the solution. Any addict on the long path of recovery has to make very hard changes, and the President isn't asking us to change much of anything.

He isn't asking anyone to conserve – to drive less, or to turn down the thermostat. He isn't asking anyone to deal with efficiency – to improve fuel economy standards for cars, or to insulate homes. And he certainly isn't asking us to change our national self-image as an economic powerhouse.

The fact of the matter is, the phrase about our addiction to oil was a distraction. That unexpected word pushed a very short section about energy into the news, and made it sound like a dramatic change in policy. But the fairly minor proposals that Mr. Bush named have almost nothing to do with breaking an addiction to fossil fuels.

The whole essay >>

Rock star Bono tells the National Prayer Breakfast:

"It’s not about charity ... It’s about justice."

Speaking to the Washington crowd at the National Prayer Breakfast, which included no less than the President, Bono spoke about the urgent need for help to Africa as it deals with the "the leprosy of our age," AIDS.

In this gathering on Feb. 2, Bono praised the response of religious communities and of the United States to the need – when they eventually got around to paying attention. Then he went on:

But here’s the bad news. From charity to justice, the good news is yet to come. There is much more to do. There’s a gigantic chasm between the scale of the emergency and the scale of the response.

And finally, it’s not about charity after all, is it? It’s about justice.

Let me repeat that: It’s not about charity, it’s about justice.

And that’s too bad.

Because you’re good at charity. Americans, like the Irish, are good at it. We like to give, and we give a lot, even those who can’t afford it.

But justice is a higher standard. Africa makes a fool of our idea of justice; it makes a farce of our idea of equality. It mocks our pieties, it doubts our concern, it questions our commitment.

6,500 Africans are still dying every day of a preventable, treatable disease, for lack of drugs we can buy at any drug store. This is not about charity, this is about Justice and Equality.

Because there's no way we can look at what’s happening in Africa and, if we're honest, conclude that deep down, we really accept that Africans are equal to us. Anywhere else in the world, we wouldn’t accept it. Look at what happened in South East Asia with the Tsunami. 150, 000 lives lost to that misnomer of all misnomers, "mother nature". In Africa, 150,000 lives are lost every month. A tsunami every month. And it’s a completely avoidable catastrophe.

It’s annoying but justice and equality are mates. Aren’t they? Justice always wants to hang out with equality. And equality is a real pain.

There’s more good stuff here – funny, passionate, prophetic.

Read the whole thing >>

Boehner potential disaster for religious liberty, says president of Interfaith Alliance

Following the election of Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) to be Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, the Rev. Welton Gaddy, president of The Interfaith Alliance, said that "The election of Congressman Boehner to be Majority Leader has the potential to be a disaster for the religious liberties of all Americans." He went on to say that "Mr. Boehner has shown an almost total disregard for the Constitution's religious liberty guarantees and more than two centuries of American history. He has been a leader in supporting government funding of religious discrimination in federal, state, and local programs such as Head Start. And he is closely aligned with those who would impose creationism or intelligent design on our public school science classrooms."

The rest of the news release >>

Capitol police apologize to Cindy Sheehan

The US Capitol Police dropped charges against activist Cindy Sheehan on Wednesday, Feb. 1, and apologized for arresting her in the House of Representatives chamber shortly before President Bush's State of the Union address.

Sheehan, who became a central figure in the U.S. anti-war movement after her son Casey was killed in the Iraq war, was taken from the Capitol in handcuffs and charged with unlawful conduct after refusing to cover an anti-war slogan on her T-shirt.

The Capitol Police said in a statement that it had reviewed the incident and determined the arrest was unwarranted.

The rest of the story >>

Peacemaking Program Update

The latest update includes links to helpful material on the Hamas victory in the Palestinian election, coming events, and much more.

2/1/06

A Legacy of Her Own: Coretta Scott King

Message from The Fellowship of Reconciliation

Of the many tributes to Coretta Scott King, who died on January 31, this message from the Fellowship of Reconciliation seems to express much of what we, too, would like to express.    Your WebWeaver

Read the FOR statement, and more >>

The graphic tribute above has been created by Witherspooner Derrick Kikuchi, of Reach and Teach - Social justice education products, in Daly City, CA.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Stated Clerk says Coretta Scott King was a ‘formidable figure’ in her own right

The Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, the stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), has issued a statement honoring the late Coretta Scott King as the keeper of her late husband’s legacy of racial equality and social change.       More >>

New York City Presbytery sends ordination overture to General Assembly .... # 21 and counting

Sessions from 12 churches joined in sending an overture to the New York City Presbytery, which was passed by a landslide affirmation yesterday, January 31, 2006. NYC's vote means that to date 21 presbyteries are sending ordination overtures to the 217th General Assembly.    Details >>

"Local option" gets a new look from the Presbyterian Right

The Layman reports that "Beaver-Butler Presbytery on Jan. 28 approved an overture that calls for changes in the Book of Order that would allow congregations, with a two-thirds majority vote, to join presbyteries and synods of their own choosing – if the presbyteries and synods vote by a simple majority to accept them."

Read the Layman’s report >>

Cindy Sheehan arrested for "protesting" in U.S. Capitol before State of the Union speech

Read the Washington Post account >>

And read Sheehan’s telling of the incident from her perspective >>

"Renewal Groups"? – Let’s get the name right

In a brief essay, John Dorhauer argues that "renewal groups" such as those that work through the Institute for Religion and Democracy [including "Presbyterian Action," of which the Rev. Jim Berkley is the Interim Director .] should be seen for what they really are: "... trained activists intent on the demise, the destabilization, and the destruction of Mainline Protestant Christianity. They use cleverly chosen wedge issues to divide otherwise united congregations and denominations. They produce, print, and circulate periodicals, pamphlets, and diatribes filled with innuendo and misinformation intended to inflame the passions of otherwise content congregants."

Dorhauer continues:

This is not to argue that the church should be a monolith of convention and homogeneity. It should reflect the rich diversity of opinion and principle of which every human family and institution is composed, be those principles liberal or conservative, orthodox or reform. And always the church should invite the kind of dialogue and debate that honors all such voices. But that advocate for reasonable debate cannot be the creation of a `renewal group' that begins the dialogue with an accusation of heresy and apostasy; that trains activists and tacticians to destroy and destabilize the church; and that circulates material meant to defame, defraud, and defy.

It is imperative that we in Mainline Protestant churches know what we are up against. To call these organizations intent on our demise `Renewal Groups' is a gross mischaracterization of their true purpose.         The full essay >>

All postings from
February, 2007
January, 2007

December, 2006
November, 2006
October, 2006
September, 2006
August, 2006
July, 2006
June, 2006
 
May, 2006

April, 2006
March, 2006
February, 2006
 January, 2006

Our coverage of the 2006 General Assembly is indexed on a special page.
For links to earlier archive pages, click here.

 

GA actions 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 of Order.

We're providing resources to help inform the reflection and debate, along with updates on the voting.

Our three areas of primary interest are:

bullet Amendment 10-A, which would remove the current ban on lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender persons being considered as possible candidates for ordination as elder or ministers.

bullet Amendment 10-2, which would add the Belhar Confession to our Book of Confessions.

bullet Amendment 10-1, which would adopt the new Form of Government that was approved by the Assembly.
 

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Some blogs worth visiting

PVJ's Facebook page

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 thoughtful community.

 

John Harris’ Summit to Shore blogspot

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 lightening up.

 

Got more blogs to recommend?

Please send a note, and we'll see what we can do!

 

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