Archives: February 2006
This page lists reports and commentary from February, 2006
All postings from
Our coverage of the 2006 General
Assembly is indexed on a special page.
For links to earlier archive pages,
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
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
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.
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.
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
Read his talk on
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
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
Tomato pickers taking to the streets to demand better pay, working
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
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
Witherspoon events at General Assembly
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.
The Cost of War
How much is
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??
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
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
Yellowstone Presbytery invites you to get involved in
their Mission Partnership with Zimbabwe
invitation comes from
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 >>
Situation -- An extensive and
up-to-date website containing news, views and links related to ZIMBABWE - a
country in crisis
Facts on Immigration
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
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
the rest of the essay >>
PresbyAction Middle East Bulletin:
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
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.
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
Three observations on the Hamas victory in the Palestinian election --
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
a new kind of
"revolutionary" in Palestine -- people getting training in non-violence
as a better way of resisting the Israeli occupation.
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 >>
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.
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
Yorker, or on
NPR journalist Robert Siegel interviews Mayer on All
Listen to the broadcast >>
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
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.
click here to go directly to the NCC letter, and to add your name.
Please join us!
A frequent visitor just sent a note
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
Or why not join us right now! >>
Chicago Presbytery passes resolution to support action for
peace with justice in Israel/Palestine
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:
For more information, please email editor Holly Stevens at
Glenagape Retreat Center, 5918 Pepper Rd, Oak Ridge, NC 27310 USA
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.
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
• 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
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.]
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
New death threats against leaders in the Presbyterian
Church of Colombia and other human rights leaders in Colombia have been
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
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 >>
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
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.
read a report from PBS on the conference.
report of the conference by George Hunsinger, organizer of the event.
(Registration is required for the Presbyterian Outlook website, but
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
40 Witherspoon Street
Princeton, NJ 08542
Why the McCain torture ban won't work
McCoy gives compelling evidence that the ban on torture, passed by Congress
in December, will have little impact against "the Bush legacy of legalized
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
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,
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.
Presbyterian Campaign for Fair Food says:
to follow Taco Bell in respecting for farmworkers’
The Campaign asks consumers to deliver letter to their
local McDonald’s manager, calling for decent wages and working conditions
Church of England votes to sell off shares in
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
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.
The Guardian's report >>
Bimonthly letters to the Church
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
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.
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
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!
FoodFirst, "We Are Fighting Back
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
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
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.
World War 4
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
• 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
• 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
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:
Project and Contract Managers
A link to the Institute is available at
A link to our Certificate Program is available at
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
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
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
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
There’s more good stuff here – funny, passionate, prophetic.
Read the whole thing >>
Boehner potential disaster for religious liberty, says
president of Interfaith Alliance
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
The rest of the news
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
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
election, coming events, and much more.
Legacy of Her Own: Coretta Scott King
Message from The Fellowship of
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.
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.
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.
"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 >>
Groups"? – Let’s get the name right
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
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
All postings from
Our coverage of the 2006 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!