For GA news from 6 progressive groups,
Witherspoon's report on the 217th
Doug King and Gene TeSelle offer a summary
report and commentary on the recent General Assembly. It begins:
The 217th General Assembly was a "down the
middle" Assembly. It elected a Moderator who seemed moderate and
open-minded. It approved the report of the Theological Task Force (TTF) on
the Peace, Unity, and Purity of the Church (for short, "PUP Report"),
which most regard as offering more leeway for the ordination of gay and
lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) church members. But it resolutely
refused to consider amending the Book of Order to delete the prohibition
This may be a typical "approach/avoidance"
pattern. The closer you come to doing something new, the more you
hesitate. Then it seems more comfortable to make one change at a time,
putting other issues on hold for the time being.
The full report >>
We'd appreciate your comments, additions
send a note, to be shared here!
More from the Witherspoon Luncheon
Peacemakers Anne Barstow and Tom Driver
receive the Andrew Murray award
One feature of this year’s Witherspoon Awards Luncheon was
a double-header. Anne Barstow and Tom Driver, a couple both of whom have
long been active in working for peace in the U.S. as well as in Colombia,
Haiti, and Central America, received the Andrew Murray Award in recognition
of their courageous work, especially in acting as accompaniers to people
whose lives have been under threat because of oppressive (and often
Their comments on accepting the award were appreciated by
many at the luncheon. We post them here as transcribed (and only slightly
edited) from a recording of the event.
GA action on social justice issues touched many concerns
The General Assembly acted
on a report from the Social Justice Issues committee which covered many
issues, and generally approved the committee’s recommendations.
Presbyteries and congregations were encouraged to work to
The "no2torture" initiative was adopted handedly
After adding some language to include "all foreign
government and/or combatants" to the U.S. government as those to be held
accountable for human rights, commissioners approved (by 402-55-3) a paper
focused on the issue of human rights in a time of terrorism and torture.
Perhaps one of the most far-reaching actions was the
commissioners’ vote to receive from the Advisory Committee on Social Witness
Polity (ACSWP) a major study paper and recommendations called "Just
Globalization: Justice, Ownership, and accountability." The aim of the
report is to educate Presbyterians on the sweeping influence and
implications of globalization on a number of levels — individual
discipleship, implications for congregational and presbytery mission,
international governance, trade practices and issues for development
assistance. In taking this action, however, the commissioners added a
requirement that the proposed study guide should include responses from
Another proposal condemning labor practices and accusing
Smithfield Packing Inc. of using "threats, intimidation, and violence
against workers" engendered the most passionate deliberation and most
divided vote in committee. On the floor of the Assembly, commissioners chose
overwhelmingly (323-150-7) to refer this item to ACSWP.
The highlight of the evening came after commissioners
approved a proposal in support of ongoing partnership with the Coalition of
Immokalee Workers and the campaign for fair food. Lucas Benitez, director of
the Coalition, thanked the PC(USA) for its solidarity and willingness to
walk with the Imokalee workers toward a strong resolution of their
relationship with Taco Bell.
Benitez closed with the words, "We will not rest and we
will not stop until justice comes to all of us." Not a bad line for the rest
report from Presbyterian News Service >>
Dealing with late-term pregnancies – again
Wednesday evening, June 21, the General Assembly approved an overture from
the Health Issues committee dealing with late-term pregnancies that, in the
words of Presbyterian News Service, "affirms the lives of viable unborn
You can read the report on JustPresbys >>
or on the
PC(USA) website >>
Ann Hayman, a member of the
PARO Leadership Team,
offers this comment on the GA action:
Well, folks -- this has only served to convince me that Presbyterians
should not be allowed to practice medicine in groups larger than two. The
debates concerning our abortion policies in both the Health Committee and
on the floor of GA were confused and confusing. We had several
commissioners who fought a brave battle. It is too soon to assess how much
damage was done to our Late-Term, Post-Viability Abortion Policy .
I assume that the Stated Clerk’s office will have to cull through this and
make some kind of a determination. I fear that we've lost the edge and it
will become difficult to do much with this in the realm of amicus briefs.
The new policy certainly does not speak to
much of any kind of reality I've ever encountered. Post-viability
abortions only involve compromised fetuses -- the unborn that have been
medically determined to be incompatible with life. We Presbyterians have
come out squarely for viable fetuses and healthy babies, so I'm not sure
what we have. The prevailing myth of the Assembly was that 8-month
pregnant woman who wakes up one morning and decides she's tired of being
pregnant and on impulse (whim) seeks an abortion. It just doesn't happen.
I will continue to be dismayed at the abominable and undeserved lack of
trust we manifest for both women and physicians, most of whom put their
life on the line to do this work.
Upward and onward to San Jose in 2008.
The Assembly listened to
some 2 and a half hours of debate this afternoon on the report of Committee
6, on Ecclesiology, with its recommendation that the report of the
Theological Task Force on the Peace, Unity and Purity of the Church.
A minority report from the committee called for the
acceptance of the first 4 sections of the report – the theological
background, and the rejection of recommendations 5 (offering a new
"Authoritative Interpretation"), 6 (calling for a moratorium on further
actions on the issue of ordination until the next Assembly), and 7. That was
defeated after lengthy debate by a vote of 283 to 234.
That was followed by a motion to refer recommendations 5
and 6 to the presbyteries before final action. The plea was that the process
of discernment valued so highly by the task force be allowed to be followed
in the presbyteries as well.
Finally at about 4:18 PM, the committee’s recommendation
to approve the Task Force report was approved by the full Assembly, by a
vote of 298 to 221.
The commissioners are now standing, holding hands in small
groups, praying. And now one commissioner is encouraging commissioners
to register their dissent.
Moments after the Assembly approved the Task Force's
proposed authoritative interpretation — of G-6.0108 of the Book of Order —
the Assembly voted to disapprove more than 20 proposals also pending before
the Assembly to delete G-6.0106b of the church's Book of Order. It
seemed clear that many commissioners felt they had gone as far as they could
comfortably go, and by a vote of 405 to 92 they refused to support that more
concrete step toward justice and inclusion for lgbt Presbyterians.
<< The report
from Presbyterian News Service >>
Commissioner's Resolution submitted in support of Colombia accompaniment
General Assembly will be receiving a Commissioners' Resolution which praises
efforts by the PC(USA), the Presbyterian Church of Colombia and the
Presbyterian Peace Fellowship to provide volunteers to accompany church
workers who are in danger because of their work for human rights in
The resolution also calls for continued support for the
accompaniment program, and urges changes in US policies and actions in
The text of the Resolution >>
Joan Gray elected as moderator
[6-15-06 -- 10:50 pm CDT)
Wednesday evening from the four candidates for moderator of the PC(USA),
followed by an hour of their responding to questions from commissioners and
Youth Advisory Delegates, the General Assembly has just elected the Rev.
Joan Gray as its new Moderator.
She was elected on the third ballot, by a vote of 307 to
152 for the Rev. Deborah Block, 20 for the Rev. Tim Halverson, and 19 for
the Rev. Kerry Carson.
The first round of votes was remarkably close: Block
received 143, Gray 139, Halverson 113, and Carson 109.
Witherspoon/Semper Reformanda pre-GA conversation
tackles a big question: What’s going on in the USA?
Prof. Mark Lewis Taylor of Princeton Seminary answers with analysis of the
"rise of an imperial triumvirate."
One of the first events of the
Presbyterian General Assembly on Wednesday, June14, was the gathering of
Witherspooners and many others at First Presbyterian Church of Birmingham,
to hear Dr. Mark Taylor discuss the trends and troubles that are shaping
Americans’ lives today.
He explored what he sees as the three major
elements controlling America today: the radical Christian Right,
particularly the "theo-cons" who want to create a theocracy (or even a "Christocracy")
in the US; the "neo-cons" who have been dominant in the development of
American foreign policy during the Bush administration; and the high echelon
of corporate power. These three, the "triumvirate," interact and cooperate
with each other, especially since 9/11 shattered the "myth of American
safety," and drove people to search for new narratives to restore their
confidence and self-esteem as a nation. The triumvirate has met that need by
romanticising the American past and the present American State, and thus
harnessing "our peoples’ desire for belonging."
Taylor urged that progressives, if they are
to have any influence at all in the US, must offer a similar narrative. And
we must be aware of the danger of such narratives, blending religious and
political nationalism, can only lead farther to the right – as we have seen
in the rise of National Socialism in Germany, and more recently fascism in
See the full text of
Taylor’s talk in PDF format >>
Christian Israeli urges divestment
Before Taylor spoke, the group of some 80
people heard a short, powerful presentation from Angela Godfrey-Goldstein, a
woman of Christian faith who describes herself as "half-Jewish," who is one
of the leaders of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. She spoke
of the devastation being wrought among Palestinians, as Israel has
demolished some 14,000 Palestinian homes in the last 40 years, in East
Jerusalem and the West Bank. "If that isn’t causing the terror, I don’t know
what is," she commented. "Israel is a militarized society, and change isn’t
going to come from within Israel.
Speaking of voices in the PC(USA) calling for constructive investment in
Israel/Palestine, instead of divestment, she told of a People to People
group in Israel that has worked for dialogue between Israelis and
Palestinians, and has urged the same kind of constructive investment. They
have recently changed their views, however, in the face of Israeli refusals
to give travel permits to Palestinians so the dialogue could continue. Now
they, too, see divestment as a necessary and helpful step.
Renewed PHEWA website offers expanded information
If you’re looking for resources on many
social and health issues before the General Assembly, the Presbyterian
Health, Education and Welfare Association, with a greatly improved website
may offer just what you need.
Just go to
www.pcusa.org/phewa, then click on
whatever the "PHEWA networks" link on the right side of the page. Then
choose whichever network you want. For instance, if you need information on
the Presbyterian view on abortion, click on the PARO link. (Or just click
here.) Or just click here
Former CIA Director will urge Presbyterians to oppose
The Institute for Religion and Democracy,
along with Presbyterian Action for Faith and Freedom, and The Committee to
End Divestment Now, is sponsoring an address by R. James Woolsey, former
director of the CIA, at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, June 16th, at the Medical
Forum (third floor).
Woolsey has spoken and written extensively on his view
that Israel's withdrawal from Palestinian territory is a mistake, and that
divestment from corporations supporting the Israeli occupation is also a
He brings an interesting and mixed background to this
presentation. You may want to attend, with full awareness of what will
be going on.
Dr. Norman Finkelstein will visit GA to observe Committee
11 deliberations on divestment [6-10-06]
Dr. Norman Finkelstein, professor of political science at
DePaul University and author of Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine
Conflict, The Holocaust Industry, and Beyond Chutzpah: On the
Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History, is a strong advocate
of full human rights for Palestinians and a just peace for Israelis and
He is planning to visit the 217th General Assembly (2006),
Presbyterian Church, U.S.A., in Birmingham, AL, and observe meetings of the
Assembly Committee #11, Peacemaking and International Issues, on Friday,
June 16, where various overtures from PCUSA Presbyteries relating to
Israel/Palestine are to be discussed.
Dr. Finkelstein is interested in making contact with any
other GA attendees who are also concerned with justice and peace for the
Palestinians. He can be reached via his e-mail address,
firstname.lastname@example.org . Further
information about him may be seen by visiting his personal web site,
See his earlier
letter to GA commissioners >>
The Voices of Sophia breakfast has had a
location change, from the Medical Forum to the Sheraton Ballroom XII.
That All May Freely Serve urges support for Heartland Overture,
and calls for resistance to "[a]busive power,
which we strongly lament is not addressed by the Report of the Theological
Task Force on Peace, Unity and Purity ..."
The statement adds:
Since TAMFS affirms elements of the authoritative
interpretation proposed by the Task Force to be appropriate constitutional
provisions (See longer response in "On
Not Growing Weary in Well-Doing".) of which governing bodies should be
aware, we believe it would be positive to raise the provisions of G-6.0108
up to presbyteries and sessions for their consideration in dealing with
candidates for ordination and/or installation.
The full text
of the TAMFS statement >>
Are you looking for the committee that will deal with an
issue of particular interest to you?
The Presbyterian News Service a few weeks
ago posted this general description of where some of the major issues will
out the list, with links to the committee pages >>
The General Assembly committees [5-28-06]
On the JustPresbys website, we have now created a separate
page for each of the GA committees, with a list of its members, leadership,
and proposed docket. On each page you will also find any information or
analysis we have posted relating to the work of the committee -- or links to
it on other pages.
We welcome your comments, questions, or additional
information on any of the committees.
Just send a note,
please mention which committee you're referring to, and identify yourself.
On dealing with sexuality
issues, it's a question of ...
Response time ... and Collateral Damage
As the 217th General Assembly approaches, this thoughtful
reflection comes from a frequent Witherspoon visitor,
Karen Ellen Kavey, of Chappaqua, New York.
She writes: "sometimes I feel as though I'm calling the Fire
Department, only to be told: 'Perhaps ....if we can get a consensus....we
can come over next Tuesday (or Wednesday)....We're continuing to discuss
it.....We'll see....' "
A Jewish professor
of political science writes in support of divestment
Commissioners preparing for the coming
General Assembly have received great heaps of letters and other
communications from people and groups wanting them to hear their point of
view. And there may be just a few among those commissioners who have not
quite kept up with the paper flood.
But one letter in the flood is worth reading,
whether you’re a commissioner or not.
Norman G. Finkelstein, who teaches political
science at DePaul University in Chicago, has long paid attention to the
Israel-Palestine conflict, and has worked for lasting peace between the two
His letter reflects both his experience and
his concerns, and explains why he supports the Presbyterian study of the
possibility of what he rightly calls "a phased, selective divestment from
companies profiting from Israel's occupation."
Remembering Justice Delayed
At General Assembly this year, we will be
in the heart of the Deep South where official segregation of races,
frequently violent, existed until forty years ago. White Birmingham, with
its Bull Connor, attack dogs, fire hoses and exclusive churches, rejected
anyone with African heritage.
Commissioners will not be able to go on tours of the local
area being held during business sessions when some of the sad history of
this city will probably be presented. Will any of this Southern
discrimination and church history be recognized officially and lamented by
our denomination at the 217th General Assembly?
Commissioners who did not grow up in the Deep South need
to familiarize themselves with our destination and its history before
leaving home. It might help them to recognize some of the current forms of
discrimination they will be dealing with there.
In reading Parting the Waters/America in the King Years
1954-63 by Taylor Branch, I am learning, as never before, what the Deep
South was like during that time. I recommend this book to others who will be
going to General Assembly. This Pulitzer Prize winner is so well written
that the pages fly by despite their number (1064!)
For those who don’t have time to read this book before
going to Birmingham, they might at least read or re-read Martin Luther King,
Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. (Just Google the title to obtain
a copy online.
For one Web site that has it >>
This letter was written in response to a statement issued
by eight well-meaning white clergy, including one Presbyterian, who wanted
Dr. King and others to be patient and wait – saying their actions were
"unwise and untimely." In his reply that became world famous, Dr. King
reminded the clergy that, "Justice too long delayed is justice denied."
GA will consider "Resolution in Support of Ongoing Partnership Work with
the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the Campaign for Fair Food"
The resolution, presented by
the Advocacy Committee for Racial and Ethnic Concerns, traces the
theological foundation for the Presbyterian Church's ongoing efforts for
justice for farmworkers, some of the efforts of the past, and then reaffirms
the use of consumer action (e.g. boycotts, public protest) in the
struggle for economic justice, acknowledges that such action may be called
for in the ongoing Campaign for Fair Food, authorizes the General Assembly
Council to approve Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) participation in such
consumer actions if it is taken in accord with existing Presbyterian Church
(U.S.A.) criteria and in concert with our partners in the Alliance for Fair
Food, and calls for continuing promotion of this resolution through
preaching, education, and participation in the Campaign for Fair Food by all
settings of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) through periodic mailings to
congregations and the use of resources available on
The full text of the
Presbyterian News Service provides ...
backgrounder on the PUP Report
Recommendations on ordination standards provoke intense
Presbyterian News Service provides ...
backgrounder on ordination standards
Debate on G-6.0106b complicated by Theological Task
Force report [5-23-06]
general calendar of special events at GA
We have just posted a list of General
Assembly events that may be of interest to Presbyterians with special
concern for the peace and justice witness of our church.
Some of these events are sponsored by official agencies of
the PC(USA), and are listed with links for further information. (Their
listing here implies no endorsement by those agencies of the JustPresbys web
site.) Other events are sponsored by one or more of the groups that have
established the web site. Still others are sponsored by unofficial groups
that have no role in sponsoring the web site; their events are listed simply
because they may be of interest.
For a complete listing of official GA events, along with
many others, go to
Many of the Mission/Cultural Tours, which are being
offered to those with time to get out in the real world, will provide
information and insight into Birmingham’s history in the civil rights
struggle, and much more. They are all listed on the official GA schedule.
If you find anything missing from our
list, or listed with incorrect information, please let us know!
Just send a note.
GA has spoken often to affirm the
dignity and rights of immigrants [5-16-06]
As the national debate continues over immigration and
immigrants' right, this may well become a matter of discussion in the 217th
General Assembly. Since at least 1984, Presbyterian General Assemblies
have spoken out often to affirm the rights of immigrants, and the need for
justice in the way they are treated. Here is a small sampling of some
of those statements, especially a longer statement from the 211th General
Light Presbyterians offers legislative recommendations
More Light Presbyterians
has issued a brief statement of their recommendations for action on the
various overtures dealing with ordination -- and the Theological Task Force
report -- which will be considered by the 217th General Assembly.
Considering some of the many
"other" issues coming to the Assembly
Gene TeSelle, Witherspoon Society Issues
Analyst, offers brief analysis of overtures and reports that will be
presented to the Assembly, dealing with
This article has also been published in
the Spring 2006 issue of Network News, the Witherspoon newsletter,
which is being sent to all commissioners and advisory delegates. It is
also available online in PDF format.
here, then type in "14" in the page space at the bottom of the Adobe
Reader, and you'll find it.
An analysis and
reflection on the PUP report
Gene TeSelle, Issues Analyst of the
Witherspoon Society and emeritus professor at Vanderbilt Divinity School,
offers an in-depth analysis of the report of the Theological Task Force on
the Peace, Unity, and Purity of the Church. [5-10-06]
This report is also available in the
Spring 2006 issue of the Witherspoon Society's Network News, which is
being mailed around May 10 to all commissioners and advisory delegates
to the General Assembly. You can also find it
online in PDF
format, beginning on
The Covenant Network of Presbyterians has announced its support of the
Peace, Unity and Purity report, and its appreciation of the report as
presenting the church with "a remarkable moment of hope that will not come
again soon." [5-9-06]
Acknowledging with regret that "the Covenant Network has contributed to a
partisan spirit in the denomination by our tendency to draw apart from those
who differ with us," the group will not, as it has in the past, suggest to
commissioners how they might act on particular overtures or other issues.
The statement says, however, that the Network will
"continue to support these overtures [for the removal of G-6.0106b from the
Book of Order], trusting that the Spirit will lead the commissioners to a
faithful response to the Task Force report and the related overtures they
The full statement >>
Rita Nakashima Brock to be featured speaker at Voices of
Rita Nakashima Brock is an
award-winning author and a respected international lecturer and scholar in
religion. She directed a think tank for women at Harvard University for
several years and has worked for two decades in the field of religion in
Along with business and technology strategist Brian
Sarrazin, she founded Faith Voices, a non-profit community of diverse member
organizations. Faith Voices uses
Synanim, a powerful new technology innovation, to bring theological
educators into dialogue with policy experts and activists.
Dr. Brock will be the featured speaker at the Voices of
Sophia breakfast at General Assembly June 19th. She will be
sharing the research she did on early Christianity, at a time before
crucifixion and resurrection became the core of Christian theology, a time
she calls paradise. Tickets are available for $20 online until May 22nd
and upon arrival at GA. Tickets will not be sold at the door.
We've been asked ...
How to register,
order event tickets, and all that
The process is a bit mystifying sometimes, but for the
best guidance we can offer,
Witherspoon Society events at General Assembly
We hope you'll join us for any or
all of these events!
Wednesday, June 14, 1:00 to 4:00 pm
Semper Reformanda Pre-GA Conversation
(sponsored by the Witherspoon Society)
Speaker: Dr. Mark Lewis Taylor, Professor of Theology and
Culture, Princeton Theological Seminary
This conversation will look at the United States as
empire. This will be addressed in Dr. Taylor’s remarks and in looking at
the document, “Covenanting for Justice in the Economy and the Earth,”
adopted by the World Alliance of Reformed Churches in Accra, Ghana in
2004. Dr Taylor is author of the recent book,
Religion, Politics, and the
Christian Right: Post-9/11 Powers and American Empire.
First Presbyterian Church, 2100 4th Avenue North, about 5
blocks from the Convention Center.
Ticket price: $15.00
Wednesday, June 14, 8:30 to 10:30 pm (immediately following Covenant
Witherspoon GA Issues Briefing
Speaker: Eugene Teselle, Witherspoon Society Issues Analyst,
This regular Witherspoon Society event for commissioners and
others provides a progressive look at the Assembly and the issues, ideas on
how to be an effective participant, and a chance to meet other progressives.
Location To be announced
Ticket price: $15.00
Saturday, June 17, 9:00 pm to 1:00 am
Witherspoon Party and Dance
Time for a break! This is a great chance to relax and
enjoy great music, dancing and conversation and also a good time to meet
others at the Assembly.
Sheraton Ballroom XII
Ticket price: $20.00
Sunday, June 18, 12:30 to 2:30 pm
Witherspoon Society Awards Luncheon
Speaker: Rev. Eugenia A. Gamble, Writer in Residence,
Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley.
Rev. Gamble’s featured address is entitled “Embodying Love.”
More about Eugenia Gamble
The Andrew Murray and Whole Gospel Congregation Awards
will be presented and the Witherspoon business meeting will follow the
Sheraton Ballroom I
Ticket price: $35.00
GAC announces sweeping restructure of GA offices $9.15 million budget cut
costs 75 jobs, including top management
The General Assembly Council has approved the most radical
restructuring of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s mission program since
1993, as it moves to reduce the 2007-2008 General Assembly mission budget by
In all, 75 national staff positions in Louisville have
been eliminated - most effective May 1 - as well as 55 overseas mission
co-worker positions. Staff cuts in Louisville account for $4 million of the
budget reduction, while the price tag for the overseas mission positions is
For details, including a
list of programs and positions being eliminated >>
Peacemaking Dinner at General Assembly [4-24-06]
The Presbyterian Peacemaking 25th Anniversary
Celebration and Dinner will take place on Monday, June 18 from 5:30 p.m. to
6:50 p.m. at the Sheraton Hotel in Birmingham, AL.
The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program is pleased to
announce that the program at the 217th General Assembly (2006) dinner will
include the Rev. Dr. Mark Lomax as a speaker, music by the Congo Choir, and
a celebration of the 25th anniversary of Peacemaking: The Believers’
Candidates for Moderator
The four ministers who have been
endorsed by their presbyteries for Moderator of the 217thGeneral
Assembly have all responded to a set of five questions from the Witherspoon
Society, to give them the opportunity to express their views on some of the
more urgent concerns of our church today. The Presbyterian News
Service has released stories on each of the candidates as they have been
endorsed by their presbyteries.
You may want to look at those
stories to learn a little of their background. [4-21-06]
overture reaffirms call for divestment from firms supporting Israeli
occupation of Palestine, or Palestinian terrorism.
Walter T. Davis, Jr., HR, a
member of San Francisco Presbytery, explains
the thinking behind the
full text of the overture is here, too.
Conversations with Peacemakers
Peace Fellowship invites you to join in conversations with outstanding
peacemakers, in the Peace Fellowship booth in the Exhibit Hall, each day of
the Assembly from Saturday through Tuesday. Details
Douglas Ottati, prof. at Union Seminary/PSCE in Richmond and Witherspoon
writer, will be signing his new book at GA
Doug Ottati, who is a regular contributor of a column of
"theological musings" in the Witherspoon Society’s Network News, has
just published a new book entitled Theology for Liberal Presbyterians and
Other Endangered Species.
He will be signing copies of his book at General
Assembly on Thursday, June 15
11:00-1:00 and 5:00-6:00 at the Cokesbury Bookstore in the Exhibit Hall.
Here’s the publisher’s notice for the book:
In this witty, accessible, and concise book, theologian
Doug Ottati contends that liberal Presbyterians and other liberal
Protestants still have much to contribute to the contemporary world.
Offering an alternative to evangelical and conservative thought that he
believes now pervades the larger culture, Ottati presents what he sees as
the foundations of liberal, theological thought. Writing out of the
Reformed tradition and a theology of grace and with a dose of humor, he
addresses current issues such as evangelism, the ordination of
homosexuals, and the war on terrorism. Ideal for individual or group
study, this book is a call to liberal Presbyterians and other liberal
Protestants to restate, rethink, and revise traditional theologies and
beliefs in the face of contemporary knowledge and realities.
We’re proud to note that many of the essays in the book
have appeared previously in Network News.
Published by Geneva Press
Progressive Presbyterians establish shared web site for GA
A number of progressive
organizations related to the PC(USA) are jointly putting their information
and commentary on General Assembly business on a web site, hosted by the
Witherspoon Society. We are honored to be invited to play this role.
The site is already up and running, at
www.justpresbys.org . Some material is already posted there,
and more will be added frequently. There will be daily updates during the
Assembly as well.
If you have comments or suggestions, just send a note to
We hope you’ll find it helpful!
"Visions of Peace and Justice in Israel and Palestine"
educational event slated for June 15th in Birmingham
This pre-assembly event will share visions and
perspectives regarding justice and peace in Israel and Palestine. It is not
a forum for or against proposed items of GA business. The program will
include a current assessment of human rights; a panel of Jewish, Muslim, and
Christian leaders sharing their visions for a just peace; a description of
Presbyterian ministry and mission; and time for general discussion.
Confirmed speakers include Mr. Mark Pelavin, Associate
Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; Mr. Salam Al-Marayati,
Director of Muslim Public Affairs Council Bishop; Dr. Munib Younan,
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.
The ticket price of $25.00 includes a boxed lunch. To
register for this or other events at GA, go to
An Open Letter to the Commissioners of the
217th General Assembly, on the Theological Task Force Report
The Rev. Aurelia Fule,
who served for many years on the staff of the Office for Theology and
Worship in Louisville, considers the report on the Peace, Unity and Purity
of the Church in light of our Reformed theological heritage. She urges that
as the General Assembly shapes its response to the report, it might be aided
by taking our Presbyterian history and the Reformed tradition more seriously
by than did the Task Force.
Israel/Palestine issues will loom large at GA
Numerous measures would rescind, refine controversial 2004 divestment action
Presbyterian News Service offers a survey of the nearly 20
overtures going to the coming General Assembly, about how the Presbyterian
Church (U.S.A.) should deal with the conflict in Israel and Palestine,
actions on divestment and more.
Read the report >>
Milwaukee Presbytery supports San
Francisco overture against torture
Carol Wickersham, one of
the initiators of the growing No2Torture network, reports (and exhorts):
Great good news! Last night [March 28] Milwaukee
Presbytery voted unanimously to concur with the overture to GA from San
Francisco Presbytery. Thanks is due to the small, but mighty, Clinton
Presbyterian Church, especially to the study group which used the "Out of
Horror, Hope" curriculum to help focus their thoughts and prayers.
Michelle Dennis, who was a part of the Miami gathering, made an eloquent
Perhaps others will be inspired? Concurring resolutions need to be to the
GA office 45 days prior to the Assembly, or by May 1. So there is time if
we move quickly. The more Presbyteries which concur, especially
representing the diversity of the church, the louder our voice is. In
addition, Presbyteries are a receptive audience to educate, and can spread
the word, especially if pastors take the issue back to their pulpits.
NOTE: We have just been informed that the
Presbytery of the James and the Presbytery of Seattle have approved
Baltimore Presbytery is sending an overture for
"Proactive, Constructive Nonviolence and Establishing Nonviolence Training"
The full text of the overture is
posted on the
Presbyterian Peace Fellowship website >>
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).
"Local option" gets a new look from the Presbyterian Right
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 >>
Here (at last -- sorry!) is the full text of the first of the
overtures being sent to the General Assembly to "delete B" and provide a new
Authoritative Interpretation that would eliminate earlier official
statements condemning same-sex relationships as a bar to ordination.
For this overture, plus the text of all the concurring
overtures (many with distinctive rationales), go to
PC(USA) web site.
Two more presbyteries support overtures for
inclusive ordination [1-28-06]
Last Saturday, January 21, the Presbytery of the Redwoods concurred with
the Heartland ordination overture by 64-16. The presbytery also concurred
with the Santa Fe overture to amend the Rules of Discipline restricting the
filing of accusations from those outside the bounds of a presbytery and that
vote concurring with Santa Fe was 73-7.
And on January 27, the Presbytery de Cristo in southern Arizona approved
a concurrence overture from the Session of St. Mark's Presbyterian Church,
Tucson, by a vote of 48 to 38.
Adee states his belief that a total of 20 overtures have now gained
approval in presbyteries, seeking to remove barriers to ordination for lgbt
Thanks to Lisa Larges, Regional Partnership Coordinator
All May Freely Serve, and Michael Adee, National
Field Organizer for More Light Presbyterians,
for these reports.
|Looking back to look ahead:|
The Civil Rights movement
with a special look at Birmingham
Witherspoon’s Issues Analyst, Gene TeSelle, has gathered good materials
for background reading on the civil rights movement, and presents some books
that relate especially to Birmingham. So before many of us head for
Birmingham and the 217th General Assembly in Birmingham, you may
want to dip into some of these as a way to experience the city with new
|Presbytery of Boston
passes ordination overture to remove barriers to full membership & ministry
for LGBT persons and their families |
With an appeal from the
Gospel of Matthew, the Presbytery of Boston has approved a Delete-B/Remove
AI overture calling for an end to discrimination against lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender Presbyterians. Michael Adee, National
Organizer of More Light Presbyterians, estimates this is the eighteenth
presbytery approving an ordination overture to the General Assembly in
the text of the overture >>
|Cincinnati Presbytery passes
overture to amend 1978 GA Policy Statement on homosexuality - a call from
the Midwest for change! [1-14-06]|
Today the Cincinnati Presbytery has sent an overture to the
GA that would seek to delete seven of the most insulting statements in the
GA's 1978 Policy on Homosexuality. The vote was 79 to 74 with 4
abstentions. Three reports,
plus the text of the overture
Overture on torture issue proposed by San Francisco church
Church of San Francisco has produced a new overture on the torture issue
which will be voted on by Presbytery at its January 10th meeting. The issue
does not end with the legislation recently sponsored by Senator McCain. The
proposed overture calls for investigation and creation of a public record of
what we have done and accountability wherever the law has been broken. The
evasions and hiding behind legalisms will continue until the whole horrible
apparatus is exposed to daylight and the consequences of law breaking are
made to fall on the guilty.
The text of the overture >>
Introduction and background information >>
"Delete B" overtures are multiplying
Chicago Presbytery passes "Delete B" Ordination Overture by large margin
The Rev. David Murad of Chicago Presbytery reports that the Presbytery
voted on December 13 to "delete b" by a vote of 147-50. Michael Youngblood
of Evanston Northminster and Michael Kirby of Chicago Good Shepherd
presented the overture.
More >> [including a full listing of "delete B" overtures so
Birmingham pastor urges us to sign Birmingham
Pledge to end racism [12-8-05]
As the 2006 General Assembly in Birmingham draws near, we are glad that
John Bush, interim minister of the First Presbyterian Church, has called our
attention to the Birmingham Pledge against racism.
Thank you for making a difference!
I've signed the Birmingham Pledge and I'm sending it to you so that you
can help end racism one person at a time too. The Birmingham Pledge is a
personal commitment to recognize the worth and dignity of every
individual. Tens of thousands of people from all over the United States
have signed the Birmingham Pledge and I hope you will join me. If you have
not already done so, you can sign the Pledge by clicking this link
Redstone Presbytery submitting three overtures on
The Presbyterian Layman reports
that Redstone Presbytery, in central Pennsylvania, will send three overtures
to the 2006 General Assembly, which will "test the 217th General Assembly's
commitment to a Biblical perspective on marriage, abortion and counseling."
One of them affirms that marriage is only between a man and a woman, and
that no other sexual relationship is legitimate. The second would require
that pastoral counseling and study materials offered by the PC(USA) must be
consistent with that narrow definition, and insist on guiding people to seek
forgiveness and change from their "sexual sin."
The third would once again oppose late-term abortions,
while couching the opposition in apparently pastoral concern: "When late
term pregnancies must be terminated, we urge decisions intended to deliver
the baby alive. We look to our churches to provide pastoral and tangible
support to women in problem pregnancies and to surround these families with
a community of care. We affirm adoption as a provision for women who deliver
children they are not able to care for, and ask our churches to assist in
seeking loving Christian adoptive families."
|PHEWA seeks nominations for
social-justice ministry awards
Deadline is Jan. 1 for awards to be presented during General Assembly
by Jerry L. Van Marter, Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE - Oct. 21, 2005 – The Presbyterian Health, Education and Welfare
Association (PHEWA) is seeking nominations for five social-justice ministry
awards to be presented during next summer's 217th General Assembly in
"There are a lot of good people out there doing remarkable work with folks
that find themselves marginalized or forgotten," PHEWA Executive Director
Nancy Troy said. "These awards recognize those ministries, and by doing so
help to remind us of God's call to love kindness and to do justice."
The deadline for nominations is Jan. 1.
The Community Transformation Award is presented by the Presbyterian
Association for Community Transformation (PACT) to a congregation that,
through ecumenical or interfaith community ministry or a special project,
has been faithful and creative in ministry to and with its community.
The Nancy Jennings Award, presented by Presbyterians for Disability
Concerns (PDC), goes to a person, congregation or other PC(USA) entity that
affirms, supports and advocates for the gifts, rights and responsibilities
of people with disabilities in the life of the church.
The David Hancock Award is presented by Presbyterians for Addiction
Action (PAA) to a church or church professional for a significant
contribution in the area of addiction prevention, intervention or recovery.
The Margaret A. Fuad Award, also presented by PAA, honors a lay
person who, as a volunteer or activist, is instrumental in getting his or
her church and community involved in issues related to drug and alcohol
abuse through education, awareness or treatment.
The Florence Iversen Kraft Award goes to a congregation that has
demonstrated outstanding leadership in ministry with those who suffer from
serious mental illness and their families; it is presented by the
Presbyterian Serious Mental Illness Network (PSMIN).
Nominations should include the nominee's name; contact information for the
person making the nomination, with address, phone number and email address;
and a two-page description of the ministry.
Mail nominations to PHEWA, 100 Witherspoon Street, Room 4617, Louisville, KY
40202; or fax them to (502) 569-8034.
PHEWA, a ministry of the PC(USA)'s National Ministry Division, is a
volunteer organization dedicated to social welfare and justice ministries.
It has 10 constituent member networks that strive to implement General
Assembly policies in community ministries and faith-based community
organizing, addictions, domestic violence, HIV/AIDS, reproductive options,
specialized pastoral ministries, child advocacy, disabilities, health and
wholeness, and serious mental illness.
For more information about PHEWA, visit its Web site at
New Wineskins proposes two overtures to
replace Book of Order with New Wineskins Constitution
The New Wineskins
Initiative, on whose conference we reported
in June, 2005, is moving rapidly to place their "vision" for a radically
different Presbyterian Church before the 217th General Assembly.
In a letter to their supporters and those who attended
their conference, David Henderson and Dean Weaver, Co-Moderators of the
group, call on endorsing congregations and other friends to present one of
two proposed overtures to their presbyteries.
They then remind their friends that "From the beginning
the NWI has sought to work through existing mechanisms for change available
within our denomination. We want to be true to our word, and faithful to
pursue change from within in this season. This means overtures."
Acknowledging the support recently expressed by
Presbyterian seminaries for the Theological Task Force report, and the calls
for new authoritative interpretations, they assert that "the clarion call of
the New Wineskins Initiative to radically rethink how we do church and serve
Jesus Christ is all the more real. We are convinced that new
window-dressings will not fix our present structure."
Looking toward Birmingham:
The Cumberland Presbyterian Heritage: Two Highlights
For many Presbyterians attending the 217th
General Assembly, that gathering will offer some new experiences: a
meeting in the city of Birmingham, with its rich history of events in the
Civil Rights movement, a joint meeting with the Cumberland Presbyterian
churches, and much more.
Witherspoon Issues Analyst Gene TeSelle, having lived for
some decades in the neighboring state of Tennessee, will be providing some
glimpses ahead for that encounter.
First, he provides a brief background look at the
churches, and finds some surprises in their development. Also in
the works is a survey of resources on the civil rights movement in
|Presbytery of Twin Cities Area votes strongly for
overture to delete B
In the first presbytery vote on a delete-B overture since
the PCUSA's Theological Task Force released its widely-criticized report,
the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area voted overwhelmingly on September 13
to send a delete-B overture to the 2006 General Assembly. The vote was 103
in favor, 34 opposed (75% in favor) on the delete-B overture, and 101 in
favor, 41 opposed on the parallel overture to delete the PCUSA's
discriminatory "authoritative interpretation" from the 1970's.
Presbytery passes overture to limit abuses of disciplinary system
In response to the rising number of disciplinary
accusations that have been filed in recent years, often by persons who have
not been directly affected by the alleged offenses, the overture would
amend D-10.0102 so that the
must involve some claim of personal harm, or must be brought by a person
with standing in the governing body which receives the complaint.
Proposed Overture. On Amending D-10.0102, Accusation of Another – From
the Presbytery of Santa Fe.
The Presbytery of Santa Fe overtures the 217th
General Assembly (2006) to direct the Stated Clerk to send the following
proposed amendment to the presbyteries for their affirmative or negative
vote: (Text to be added or inserted is shown in italics.)
Shall D-10.0102 be amended as follows:
"D-10.0102 – The written statement may be submitted by
"a. a person under jurisdiction of a governing body of the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) who alleges having
been personally harmed by an alleged offense making an accusation against
"b. a member of a governing body receiving information
from any source that an offense may have occurred which
the member thinks should be
investigated for the purpose of discipline; or
"c. a person under jurisdiction of a governing body of the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) coming forward in self-accusation."
Under the current Book of Order, any Presbyterian
wherever located may accuse any other Presbyterian of committing an Offense
as defined in D-2.0203b. If the accusation is in writing and submitted
according to D-10.0101 *, the accusation automatically
requires the appointment of an Investigating Committee by the Presbytery or
Session receiving the accusation and makes other requirements of them
(D-10.0103 and following.)
This procedure can be abused if any single Presbyterian
chooses to accuse numerous other Presbyterians of Offenses. This has
happened in recent years, resulting in much unnecessary judicial action
costing both the church and individuals time and money.
At present, no appropriate limits are in place to control
those who can make accusations against individuals in disciplinary matters
although such limits do exist in Remedial Cases that involve governing
The Proposed Overture seeks to correct this problem while
protecting the right of any individual who has been personally harmed to
seek church discipline. If the person who claims personal harm is
Presbyterian, he or she has direct access under subsection a. If the person
is not Presbyterian, any member of the proper governing body may act on that
person’s behalf under subsection b. but is not automatically required to do
In addition, any member of the proper governing body
continues to be able to submit a written statement from any source that an
Offense may have occurred without regard to whether any personal harm
This Proposed Overture arose out of necessity to protect
our church’s disciplinary system from abuse while continuing to provide
access to those seeking justice through our church.
* (Section D-10.0101, immediately preceding the section to
be amended provides additional details about the written statement: "D
–10.0101 - Procedure preliminary to a disciplinary case is initiated by
submitting to the clerk of session or the stated clerk of the presbytery
having jurisdiction over the member (D-3.0101) a written statement of an
alleged offense, together with any supporting information. The statement
shall give a clear narrative and allege facts that, if proven true, would
likely result in disciplinary action. Such allegations shall be referred to
an investigating committee. (D-10.0201)" )
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!