Archives: May 2006
This page lists reports and commentary from earlier in
All postings from
Our coverage of the 2006 General
Assembly is indexed on a special page.
For links to earlier archive pages,
Senate vote on the Federal Marriage Amendment
scheduled for next week
Clergy For Fairness has been circulating an Open Letter to
U.S. Senators, urging them to oppose the so-called Federal Marriage
Amendment for the sake of individual rights and religious liberty. The
Senate will be voting on the amendment next week, so they are calling on
their supporters for further efforts.
About 2,000 clergy members have so far signed the letter,
and they are seeking more signatures,
urging people to spread the
They also ask supporters to
encourage their congregations to oppose the amendment.
They also provide resources for
sending e-mail directly to Senators.
And finally, they provide help for
letters to the editor at local newspapers.
to find out more about what you and your faith community can do. This site
now contains additional updated resources for your use, such as:
• Talking points about the threat this amendment poses to
• Sample sermons from a variety of faith traditions.
• Ways to get more involved including tips on writing letters to the editor
and all you need for a congregational postcard campaign.
• Denominational statements opposing the Federal Marriage Amendment.
of Scotland continues to allow blessing of same-sex civil partnerships,
as dictated by individual conscience
Former PC(USA) pastor John Mann allows as how "hell has not frozen over."
He also sends a recent
booklet on same-sex partnerships, and how the Church of Scotland might
live with differing opinions about them.
Are you attending GA -- or observing from afar? Is
Les your friend or foe?
All GA documents and
other resources are being made available on "Les" -- a computer system
through which the documents can be accessed. But some people are
having trouble getting Les to provide what they need. On JustPresbys
we're trying to offer a few helpful suggestions.
hints about Learning to Live with Les:
Dealing with your computer's security settings may help.
backgrounder on the abortion issue, and the three overtures dealing with
it, is provided by Presbyterian News Service.
Presbyterian mission co-worker reports from Yogyakarta after the
Bernie and Farsijana Adeney-Risakotta live in
Yogyakarta, Central Java, just 10 miles or so miles north of the Bantul, the
town most severely affected by the earthquake that struck early on Saturday
morning, local time.
We share this report, with Bernie’s kind permission, as a way of helping
others gain some sense of what that kind of disaster means "on the ground,"
and how some people of faith are responding. Bernie is
professor of ethics and social sciences at Duta Wacana Christian University
in Yogyakarta, and Farsijana is senior researcher for Duta Wacana's Center
for Research and Social Service.
Disaster Assistance (PDA) has already sent $113,500 to help meet the
immediate needs of survivors in Indonesia as international aid began
arriving in the quake-battered island-nation on Tuesday.
Thoughts following Memorial Day
war really costs
On the day before Memorial Day, the New York Times
Magazine featured an article by Scott Anderson, tracing the lives of
some veterans of Alpha Company of 112th Infantry Regiment of the
Pennsylvania National Guard , after their grim return home to Butler, PA.
He focuses on Chuck Norris, a 37-year-old father of three,
the son and grandson of steel-mill workers, who went through a series of
low-paying jobs and was finally doing a little better as a TV repair person.
Then his Army Reserve is called up for duty in Iraq.
Norris goes through painful discoveries: What it’s like to pull bombed
vehicles away from burning bodies. How it feels to recognize that the people
you’ve come to help just want you gone ... or dead.
And he has to deal with the death of his best friend in
Iraq, Carl Morgain, who dies when his Humvee is attacked by a suicide
Anderson follows Norris and some of his friends as they
try to adjust to being home, and have a very hard time of it – sleeping
badly, terrible dreams, anxiety as they drive in fear of things along the
roadsides, can’t-get-out-of-bed depression – all the stuff of post-traumatic
There are bright spots, too, as friends gradually begin to
get together again, and finally as Norris is able to acknowledge his
friend’s death, and begin to deal with it.
The cost of this war?? Billions beyond counting. But more.
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 >>
Adding to the General Assembly committee information on
Yesterday we 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 material on other
Click here for the list of all the committees, with a link to the page
for each of them.
We would like to add more analysis and commentary on
the issues. We welcome your comments, questions, or additional
information on any of the committees. Just send a note, to be shared on the
appropriate page. Please mention which committee you're referring to, and
identify yourself. [Your WebWeaver will exercise some editorial
The General Assembly committees
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.
"SO THEY WHO RUN MAY READ . . ."
"Write the vision; make it plain upon tablets, so
he may run who reads it." (Hab. 2:2)
What Presbyterians Need To Know About the
2004 GA Divestment Action
Some members of the Presbytery of
Philadelphia set out (in the words of one of them) to "present, as
dispassionately as possible, the plain historic facts about Palestine/Israel
-- and Presbyterian involvement in the Middle East -- which lay behind the
PCUSA action to divest."
Read it here >>
statement is also available in easy-to-print PDF format<<
World Council of Churches issues statement on
"The time is ripe to do what is right"
World Council of Churches Executive Committee, meeting in Geneva, 16-19 May,
2006, issued a sober call to the nations and the
churches for actions to bring some kind of peace to Israel and Palestine
before the situation becomes far worse.
Senate passes immigration bill
The Senate yesterday
passed landmark but contentious immigration legislation that would tighten
security on United States borders while allowing guest workers to enter the
country and give millions of illegal immigrants a path toward gaining US
citizenship. The vote sets the stage for a summer clash with House
conservatives, who passed a starkly different immigration measure in
Post reports >>
Some are saying that in the end, enacting no immigration bill
would be better than what’s likely to emerge from House-Senate conference
David Bacon writes that when the US Senate yesterday
passed its version of "comprehensive immigration reform," Senators from both
sides of the aisle claimed that despite the enormous controversy it has
generated, passing a bill with flaws was better than passing no bill at all.
Outside the beltway and its coterie of lobbyists, however, a groundswell of
community groups now argue that Congress would do better to pass no bill
than a bill that reconciles the proposal just passed by the Senate and that
passed last December in the House of Representatives.
Bacon is a California photojournalist who documents labor,
migration and globalization. His book The Children of NAFTA: Labor Wars
on the US/Mexico Border was published last year by University of
Bacon's article >>
Alliance for Fair Food calls on McDonald’s
to work with farmworkers to end exploitation in the fields of its suppliers
As McDonald’s shareholders gathered for the company’s
annual meeting yesterday, farmworkers from the Coalition of Immokalee
Workers (CIW) and members of the Alliance for Fair Food (AFF) were calling
on the company to commence immediate and serious dialogue with the CIW to
address exploitative wages and human rights concerns in McDonald’s tomato
Cultural diversity: punishment for sin or gift of God?
Theologian Dr. Choan-Seng (C.S.) Song argues from the story
of the Tower of Babel that diversity is a divine gift.
He concludes his brief essay:
Cultural pluralism is a challenge to the arrogance of
any one human community. But more than that, our diversity is a God-given
means by which human communities correct and enrich one another. God
created cultural diversity, for our good.
the full article >>
Presbyterians urged to fight torture
Awareness Month' includes Chicago gathering
As the Bush administration continues defending its
treatment of terrorism suspects, Presbyterians and other faith followers are
being urged to participate in "Torture Awareness Month" activities in June.
A number of human rights, civil liberties and religious
organizations have declared the month-long observance to protest the
practice of torture wherever it occurs, especially amid growing evidence
that the United States government is systematically engaging in the use of
torture and inhuman treatment against prisoners held in connection with the
war on terror.
News Service reports on many activities, with details and helpful links >>
we've just received the final list of speakers for the Chicago conference >>
Wisdom for graduates -- and the rest of us
Bill Moyers, in a baccalaureate address at Hamilton College, Clinton,
NY, May 20, 2006
If the world confuses you a little, it confuses me a lot. When I
graduated fifty years ago I thought I had the answers. But life is
where you get your answers questioned, and the odds are that you can
look forward to being even more perplexed fifty years from now than you
are at this very moment. If your parents level with you, truly speak their
hearts, I suspect they would tell you life confuses them, too, and that it
rarely turns out the way you thought it would.
[Italics contributed by your WebWeaver – at no extra
The Peace of Abraham, Hagar, &
Sharing Sacred Seasons, 2006
Jews, Christians and Muslims will be celebrating sacred
seasons at about the same time in September and October of 2006. Leaders of
the three faith communities are inviting us to celebrate together by praying
and learning with each other and by acting together to "seek peace, pursue
justice, feed the poor, heal the earth, serve the One."
Washington Office forced to discontinue Stewardship of
Public Life Networks, opens new network system: "Witness in Washington
Due to budget cuts in Presbyterian programs, the
Washington Office is creating a new
network system called "Witness in Washington Weekly" to replace the
Stewardship of Public Life Networks. It will start in late June after
the General Assembly and will be activated only when Congress is in session
or Presidential actions warrant it.
To get on the new list (even if you are
currently on one or more of the current ones!) you can
simply click here, and
follow the instructions by filling in all the fields and checking the box
that says "Witness in Washington Weekly."
A disaster for abstinence ideology
Esther Kaplan, a radio and print journalist and a community
activist, writes of sad news out of Uganda last week. The Bush
administration's $1 billion experiment in using abstinence messages as the
basis of HIV prevention has born its first fruit: In a public speech on May
18, Uganda's AIDS Commissioner Kihumuro Apuuli announced that HIV infections
have almost doubled in Uganda over the past two years, from 70,000 in 2003
to 130,000 in 2005. And despite this chilling wake-up call, Bush has
empowered Christian right activists to continue to push their
abstinence-only agenda at a UN Special Session on HIV/AIDS, to begin next
week. According to a State Department email that Kaplan obtained, the
official U.S. delegation is stacked with some of the very people who
contributed to the debacle in Uganda.
Linda Bryant Valentine elected to head GAC
Linda Bryant Valentine, a lifelong Presbyterian and corporate
lawyer, has been tapped as the next executive director of the General
Assembly Council (GAC), the national mission program arm of the Presbyterian
By a vote of 41-13 with one abstention, the council elected Linda Bryant
Valentine at a special meeting in Chicago on May 23. If confirmed by the
upcoming 217th General Assembly in Birmingham, AL, Valentine will succeed
retiring executive director John Detterick on July 1.
Rita Nakashima Brock on "Saving Paradise"
Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock,
who will be speaking at the Voices of Sophia GA breakfast on
Monday, June 19, at 7:00 am,
will be drawing on material from her forthcoming book (with Rebecca
Parker), Saving Paradise. She has provided an excerpt from the book to VOS, which they share with
The passage begins:
For the first thousand years of Christian
art, Jesus Christ was not depicted dead. Why not? Initially, we didn't
believe it could be true. Surely, the art historians who reported this
fact were wrong. The crucified Christ was too important to Western
Christianity. How could it be that images of Jesus' death were absent from
first millennium churches?
More of the
the VOS breakfast >>
Immigration "reform" and racism
Molly Ivins agrees with Presbyterian minister
Eun-hyey Park, who wrote
here 3 weeks ago that it’s really all about race.
"By all means, reform immigration with this deep obeisance
to the Republican right-wing nut faction and their open contempt for
'foreigners,'" writes Ivins. "But do not pretend for one minute that it is
not a craven political bow to racism." Her
Remembering Justice Delayed
As we approach the
gathering of the 217th General Assembly in Birmingham, Lynne
Reade, of Fremont, California, reminds us of the place of that city in the
struggle against racism. She asks, "Will any of this Southern discrimination
and church history be recognized officially and lamented by our denomination
at the 217th General Assembly?"
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 www.pcusa.org/fairfood.
The full text of the resolution
Religious liberals gain new visibility
They are outlining different list of moral issues
The Washington Post on Saturday, May 20, carried a
thoughtful look at the growing movement among religious liberals to reassert
their concerns for public life and moral values.
The article begins:
The religious left is back.
Long overshadowed by the Christian right, religious liberals across a
wide swath of denominations are engaged today in their most intensive bout
of political organizing and alliance-building since the civil rights and
anti-Vietnam War movements of the 1960s, according to scholars,
politicians and clergy members.
In large part, the revival of the religious left is a reaction against
conservatives' success in the 2004 elections in equating moral values with
opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage.
Religious liberals say their faith compels them to emphasize such
issues as poverty, affordable health care and global warming.
Disillusionment with the war in Iraq and opposition to Bush administration
policies on secret prisons and torture have also fueled the movement.
The reporters take note of the recent four-day conference
of the Network of Spiritual Progressives in Washington, which drew over a
thousand people participants.
The full article >>
our report on last year’s founding conference of the Network of
Spiritual Progressives >>
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
Are you going to GA?
Have you learned to love Les
We have heard a few mutterings of distress over the
past couple weeks, from people who have been frustrated by "Les," the
on-line system for accessing all the documents related to the business of
the coming General Assembly – overtures, committee reports, and much more.
We don’t pretend to have mastered Les, but we have
discovered a few things that might help you in your distress.
Prayers for Colombia – and Louisville
Mission co-worker Alice Winters sends a list prayer concerns from
Colombia – including a presidential election on May 28; continuing threats
against Presbyterian pastor Milton Mejia; needs of the Reformed University
where Alice teaches; and the staff of the PC(USA) in Louisville – both those
dismissed and those striving to carry on.
listed by committee assignments
The Presbyterian News Service has just announced the list
of commissioners and advisory delegates arranged by their committee
assignments. We are posting that list on the JustPresbys web site, along
with the leadership of each committee, for your convenience.
NAFTA has helped increase flow of illegal immigrants
Two recent articles show how NAFTA and the "free trade"
introduced by the U.S. to its trade with Mexico, has increased unemployment
among most Mexicans, made their economy more export-dependent, and driven
more and more of them to head north out of economic necessity.
David Morris, vice president of the Institute for Local
Self-Reliance, based in Minneapolis and Washington, D.C., published his
article in the
Minneapolis Star Tribune; it is also posted on
the Institute’s web
Jeff Faux’ article is published
in the San Francisco Chronicle. Founding president of the
Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., he is now a distinguished
fellow for the institute.
Interfaith Alliance radio show will look at conservative
religious efforts to undermine mainline churches
This Sunday, May 21, on The Interfaith Alliance's national radio show
State of Belief, Rev. Welton Gaddy exposes the coordinated effort to
undermine mainline Protestantism – and render America's largest
denominations incapable of standing up to right wing politics.
This unprecedented look into the takeover of America’s churches reveals
the ugly truths, personal experiences, and exhaustive research of four
Dr. Bruce Prescott, Executive Director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists,
is, like Welton, a veteran of the purges that marked the conservative
takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention. The strategy, says Prescott, is
to keep mainstream denominations in turmoil over wedge issues such as gay
marriage, so that conservative leaders can be free to achieve their
political and religious goals.
Dr. John Dorhauer, minister for the St. Louis Association of the United
Churches of Christ, has seen congregations around him descend into
in-fighting, provoked by right-wing propaganda. Dorhauer explains, "What the
politically motivated achieve is the silence of the religious conscience
voice that has historically led this country....If you take out the 45
million people that are represented by the National Council of Churches, you
are going to hollow out one of the cores of our nation's democracy."
Dr. Andrew Weaver, a United Methodist pastor and research psychologist,
has traced the campaign against mainline Protestantism largely to the
Institute on Religion and Democracy, a think-tank funded by uber-conservatives
such as Richard Mellon Scaife and The Adolph Coors Trust. Weaver says that
the IRD and so-called religious "renewal" groups are funneling money in "a
systematic effort to undermine mainline churches that still have democratic,
transparent processes." The problem in countering these efforts, he says, is
that "All of these traditions have niceness at the core; while we've been
thinking it's touch football, they've been playing tackle."
Welton offers listeners a wake-up call: "The Southern Baptist Convention
was lost not because of those trying to take it over, but because of people
arguing that it wasn't a big deal."
This issue has never before been discussed on national radio, and
continues State of Belief’s focus on how religion is being manipulated for
partisan political purposes. It may stun listeners – and it is sure to
inspire Protestant congregations to reclaim their role as a positive and
much needed healing force in our nation.
State of Belief is heard nationwide on Air America Radio
on Sundays, 5pm EST. Information about local affiliates, listening live
via the internet, or podcasting can be found at
Witherspooner Bob Lodwick named Volunteer of
the Year by Lazarus Project
The Rev. Robert C. Lodwick, a retired minister who was longtime PC(USA) area
secretary for Europe, has been named Volunteer of the Year by the Lazarus
Project, an organization based in West Hollywood Presbyterian Church (CA),
that works for the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender
Presbyterians in the life of the church. West Hollywood Presbyterian Church
is also a governing body member of More Light Presbyterians. Bob Lodwick is
a longtime friend of MLP, and active member of the Witherspoon Society.
Thanks to Jerry L. Van
Marter, Presbyterian News Service, and Ralph Carter, Rochester NY
Urgent Alert from the
Presbyterian Washington Office
SUPPORT FAIR WAGES AND A PATH TO RESIDENCY
Elenora Giddings Ivory sends a very helpful
update, as of this morning, on the U. S. Senate debate on an immigration
The Washington, DC based Rural Farm Coalition has prepared the following
Urgent Action Alert and sample letter regarding the plight of farm workers
in the current immigration debate. The Senate is currently debating an
immigration bill and many, many, many amendments are being offered even as
this message is being typed. We will not write about all of them , but have
chosen a few key ones that severely challenge key concerns expressed in
General Assembly policy. The Chambliss amendment would limit the protections
in AgJOBS legislation. It is urgent that you call both your Senators and
urge them to reject any amendments that would limit the protections in
AgJOBS. You will find talking points in a document by Farmworker Justice
Fund at the end of a letter below, that is being signed by many
organizations and will go out on Friday You can use the letter and other
material in you communications with your Senators. You can reach the Capitol
Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or go to
www.senate.gov and search for your member by name, zip code or state. As
always, the PresbyAction Center can be found on the web page of the
Presbyterian Washington Office.
Click here and enter your zip code in the GO box to the right. If
you have already contacted your Senators this week, please feel free to
forward this information to someone who may not have.
We further urge you to study the immigration bills now pending, and to urge
your Senators to support a final package that is closest to the
Kennedy-McCain bill that was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The key point here is not just a guest worker plan, but a guest worker plan
that allows for residency or a path to citizenship.
This email is about the farm worker concerns. In a separate email, I will
send information about the immigrant detention issue. If negative amendments
are passed that bring the Senate immigration bill too close to the House
bill 4437 passed in December, then advocates are beginning to think that no
bill is better then a severely compromised bill with harmful consequences.
Do you want to speak out against discrimination in marriage?
A Witherspoon member has suggested that we pass along an
opportunity – especially if you are "a clergy member or religious leader" –
to register your opposition to the so-called "Marriage Protection Amendment"
that has again been introduced in the U. S. Congress.
The organization called Clergy for Fairness is circulating
If you are a clergy member or religious leader, join the
fight to stand up for individual rights and religious liberty.
Add your name to the growing list of Americans who oppose writing
discrimination into our Constitution. In addition, read the
joint letter from national denominations and religious groups opposing
the Federal Marriage Amendment.
Immigration reform needs your voice!
As the debate
rumbles on in the U.S. Senate over immigration reform, there are reports
that the phone and e-mail messages going to Senators are running 20 to 1
If you haven’t sent a message yet to your senators, this
week is the time to do it. If you have, this is the time to do it
again, since the bills have been changing as the days pass.
For the latest information,
the Presbyterian Washington Office web site. You should find help
there on the elements in the bill that are most worth defending.
And take a look at
the information we've posted on our own site >>
GA has spoken often to affirm
the dignity and rights of immigrants
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 Assembly (1999).
June is Torture Awareness Month in the United States
Thousands of persons and more than three dozen faith-based
organizations have come together to endorse a statement released by the
National Religious Campaign Against Torture. FaithfulAmerica has endorsed
this statement and today they are asking you to join with the thousands who
believe that Torture is a Moral Issue by endorsing this statement as well.
"Mainstream" Jewish website comments on PCUSA
Geller, who has frequently sent comments to us about the divestment issue,
has sent an article posted recently. He describes the article as "an
interesting piece from a well-read ‘mainstream"’ website that deals with
zillions of issues of interest to Jews. Today's feature story is sort of a
summary of Jewish reaction to the whole divestment discussion ... [which]
presents a decent summary from the mainstream Jewish perspective. In fact,
someone raises an issue in the article about that panel discussion with Mark
Pelavan which is being held at the GA."
Read the article >>
This article has also been a matter of
discussion in a Presbyterian online network that deals with Israel/Palestine
One participant there comments, "I'm
not understanding why those of us that are for "divestment" are considered
Another says "It's really quite sad –
the same tired old stuff they've been saying for the past 2 years . . . over
and over again . . . quoting the same old spokesfolk like Mr. Bretton
Granatoor ad nauseum. In fact, we have encountered not a few in our area
who, through these years, have come to change their perspective, as they
have become aware of the full story."
We invite your comments.
Just send a
note, to be shared here.
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.
Globalization – it’s more than economics
review of In Search of the Good Life: The Ethics of Globalization,
by Rebecca Todd Peters
Books about globalization seem to be flooding the stores
like those inexpensive shirts pouring into our discount stores from ...
well, wherever they’re pouring in from these days. So the arrival of
another one raises the question: What does this book offer that’s
different from all the others? Well, it offers a lot, helping us to
see the values being assumed as the basis for four different approaches to
the global reach of the modern market economy. And it gives reasons
for concern, and for action.
The review >>
NOTE: If you will be at GA in Birmingham -- Dr.
Peters will be signing copies of her book in the Cokesbury bookstore, on
Sunday, June 18, from 1 to 2:30 pm.
Her book, originally published in 2004, has just been
issued in paperback, at the price of $16.95.
Mother’s Day –
a call for peace that echoes today
Julia Ward Howe
is best remembered by history buffs as the woman who wrote the words that
became "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," the fiery Civil War anthem first
published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1862. Not so widely known is
that eight years later, the woman who wrote "Let us die to make men free"
wanted to end war forever. Having seen and survived the violence and
economic devastation of the Civil War, Howe dreaded the gathering storm of
the Franco-Prussian war. In Boston 1870, she delivered a "Mother's Day
Proclamation for Peace," 274 words in which she envisioned "a great and
earnest day of counsel" in which mothers of all nationalities would arrive
"at the means the great human family can live in peace."
Presbyterian Coalition and Theological Task Force hold
discussion showing their differences on what the report could bring
Leslie Scanlon of Presbyterian Outlook begins her
Folks were civil and respectful – no one screamed and no
one threw dishes. But a blunt exchange on May 10 between board members of
the Presbyterian Coalition and five members of the Theological Task Force
on the Peace, Unity and Purity of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
revealed some enduring differences of opinion about what the task force is
trying to accomplish –and about what it will mean for the church if the
General Assembly approves the task force report in June.
The rest of the article >>
Opus Dei in The Da Vinci Code
– not just fiction
secretive Catholic group’s name means ‘work of god,’ but in Washington,
D.C., that divine task has a decidedly political bent
Opus Dei is a secretive Catholic
religious order that has been "forced a little more into the open" by the
best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code, one of whose main characters is
an Opus Dei member who murders four people to preserve the church's secret.
An article by Rob Boston,
"Breaking the Da Vinci Code," takes a more realistic look at the order.
It was founded in Spain in 1928 by Josemaria Escriva, canonized in 2002 by
Pope John Paul II. The pope had already given the order special status as a
"personal prelature," answerable to the pope alone.
Opus Dei has long been known for its traditionalist values
and reactionary political stance, often at variance with the positions taken
by the Vatican. In the U.S., an Opus Dei priest converted Senator Sam
Brownback (R-KS) from evangelical Protestantism to Catholicism; the
conversion was shepherded by Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), an Opus Dei
In 2002, at an Opus Dei event in Rome, Santorum blasted
John Kennedy's 1960 endorsement of church-state separation and described
President George W. Bush, a Methodist, as the nation's first true Catholic
Readers can look at two web sites, one by the
Opus Dei Awareness Network,
and one by Opus Dei itself.
Corporate executive Linda Valentine tapped as nominee for
GAC executive director position
LOUISVILLE – May 10, 2006 – Lifelong Presbyterian
Linda Bryant Valentine, a lawyer and former executive at Motorola Inc., has
been tapped by the Executive Director Search Committee as its candidate for
the General Assembly Council (GAC)’s top post.
The 56-year-old elder at Fourth Presbyterian Church in
Chicago would bring to the post 30 years experience as a senior executive
and corporate attorney in both the business world and the church.
full report from Presbyterian News Service >>
Considering some of the many
"other" issues coming to the AssemblyGene
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.
From the Presbyterian Washington Office and other groups:
We Are America NATIONAL LOBBY DAY May 17
Please continue to make your voice heard and help pass
comprehensive immigration reform by participating in the We Are America
Nationwide Lobby Day. Come to Washington, DC to meet with your Senators and
Representatives or engage them in your home state through visits, calls,
letter deliveries, etc.
More details >>
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.
This report is also available in the
Spring 2006 issue of Witherspoon's Network News, which is
being mailed right about today -- we hope -- to all commissioners and advisory delegates
to the General Assembly. You can also find it
online in PDF
format, with TeSelle's article beginning on
The Rev. Hal Porter shares his
appreciation for William Thompson, former Presbyterian Moderator and Stated
Clerk, who died in April at the age of 87.
He begins: "We all had our experiences
with William P. Thompson. I shared the podium with him at a couple of events
and certainly remembered his steady hand at many Assemblies. I want to be
among the many to give thanks for his life. I offer a few remarks I made a
few years ago that speak of one aspect of his life not often mentioned."
Post-GA conference planned at Montreat: "a potentially
pivotal moment for PC (USA)"
"The Hope of the Church: Celebrating Common Ground" takes
place July 5-8 at Montreat Conference Center in the Blue Ridge mountains of
western North Carolina.
An unprecedented gathering of church leaders and laity,
the conference follows on the heels of the 217th General Assembly of the
Presbyterian Church (USA) in Birmingham, AL, and is being promoted as a
timely and important consultation about the future of the denomination. The
conference will bring together 15 General Assembly moderators and 11
Presbyterian seminary presidents, as well as pastors, elders, deacons,
seminarians, Christian educators, and concerned lay people from across the
More in the news release
from Montreat Conference Center >>
Witherspoon's Network News is in the mail
Spring 2006 issue of the Witherspoon Society newsletter is on its way to all
Witherspoon members and to all commissioners and advisory delegates to the
217th General Assembly.
It contains a variety of articles analyzing and
commenting on overtures and other matters that will come before the
Assembly, along with responses from the four candidates for Moderator to
questions presented to them by Witherspoon.
You can read it here, in
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
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
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 >>
How Biblical is the Christian Right?
Margaret M. Mitchell, Professor of New Testament and Early
Christian Literature at the University of Chicago, looks at the ways in
which the Christian Right uses the Bible in arguing for its agenda. It’s not
simply a matter of Biblical literalism, for they use a variety of approaches
to scripture, just as did the early Christian scholars whom she studies.
Of the early scholars, she says:
Biblical interpretation ... was not just a neutral quest
for the meaning of the text, but always an attempt to bring the text to
the work at hand (catechetical, apologetic, pastoral, and theological).
Early Christian biblical interpretation, from the get-go, was an
agonistic endeavor (building arguments through appeals to some texts,
read in certain ways, against others who read either the same texts
differently and/or different texts).
And so it is today:
The Christian Right represents biblical interpretation
in a conjunction of two selective circles: of what are the key issues in
the political realm and what are the central passages in the biblical
record. It represents an odd alignment of each. The canonical delineation
is striking—a focus on the Old Testament, with special prominence given to
Judges and 1 and 2 Chronicles, as well as to Genesis and Leviticus; and in
the New Testament, to selected moralizing passages of the Pauline letters
and Revelation. It is easy to see then what is missing: the prophets of
Israel and the teachings of Jesus (the Gospels). Along with them go
concern with social/political issues such as economic inequality,
peace-making, love and forgiveness, and critique of religious hypocrisy
(just to choose a few!).
The key to this selectivity is the wholesale adoption by
the Christian Right of one strand of biblical thinking, apocalyptic.
The full essay >>
Peacemaking can be done – even in a small congregation in a small,
Bonnie Reynolds sent a brief
article with a note saying it describes "a project developed and pursued by
a very small (20) people in a conservative community, much afraid of
ruffling feathers and offending others, but committed to living their
Christian Faith - I ... hope it might be used in some way to encourage
others to actively work for greater understanding."
ACLU releases documents showing years of FBI spying on
School of the Americas Watch
The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Georgia
today released new evidence that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is
using counterterrorism resources to spy on peaceful faith- and
conscience-based advocacy groups. School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch)
and its multinational faith-based network is the latest organization
uncovered by the ACLU to have been subject to Federal Bureau of
Investigation counterterrorism surveillance.
Bush setting up attack on Iran
Marjorie Cohn, writing for TruthOut.org, building on
reports by Seymour Hersh, lays out the evidence that the US military is
making preparations – including the use of nuclear weapons – for an attack
Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law,
President-elect of the National Lawyers Guild, and the US representative to
the executive committee of the American Association of Jurists.
What are women's public values?
What do they mean for policy and practice?
Women are invited to join with Rita Nakashima Brock and
many others to an online process in which "we will write a statement on
women's vision for public life – and how we might live it out in
policymaking and practice."
A little more about Dr.
Dr. Brock will speak at GA, Voices of Sophia breakfast
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.
To register and order tickets online, go to
To order tickets, you can also go to
http://www.pcusa.org/ga217/tixform.pdf You can download the PDF
form, print it, fill it out, and fax or mail it. Deadline is May 22.
Updates from the Campaign for Fair Food
Call on Chipotle to Work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers
CIW and PC(USA) Featured in Sojourners May Issue
|Check out what’s new at
TheThoughtfulChristian.com this week!
The Music and Message of U2
Spiritual Disciplines for Vacation
Click on any of the links above to be redirected to the site for more
information. Stay tuned next week for "Medical Ethics 101."
|Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase encourages people
to join in the No2Torture conference in Chicago, June 2 - 3
I want to add my voice to the invitation to participate in
No2Torture gathering on June 2 and 3 as a part of the beginning of
Torture Awareness month. This is an opportunity to come together to pray,
learn, discuss and strategize as an act of solidarity with those who suffer
and as a witness to our faith.
Our first event in Miami in January was one of the most
significant events I've participated in during my moderatorial term. There
was a strong sense of unity among folks who probably found themselves
surprised to be in the same room with one another. I do believe that
gatherings like this one are one of the building blocks for the new kind of
church that builds a solid consensus and finds its voice in the broader
While you are together in Chicago, I will be participating
in a 75 mile desert trek following the route of migrants who cross our
border. Another important witness, though I'm sorry not to be able to be
I am very pleased that Jean Marie Peacock will be there as
the Vice Moderator of the General Assembly. I will be with you in Spirit,
while in body at the border, a different witness but to the same Lord,
tortured and made whole.
Moderator, 216th General Assembly, PC(USA)
calendar of special events at GA
just posted on the JustPresbys web site 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 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.
Tax resistance in the news
Pacifist couple pay taxes but
omit portion that finances wars
Witherspooner Harold Barton sent us a note, along with a
newspaper article from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which told of
a couple – including Presbyterian minister Charley Hurst – who are refusing
to pay the portion of their federal taxes which would go to support the U.S.
military, including the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. (The
article appeared, of course, in the April 15 edition.)
Harold asks what the Witherspoon Society thinks of tax
resistance. As far as your WebWeaver can discover, this group has never
taken any particular stand on the issue. But what do you think?
Just send a note,
and we’ll share thoughts here.
More on GAC staff reductions
Exclusion from meetings raised ire of corresponding and at-large members
A report, published before the staff cuts were
announced, described how the GAC
sessions to decide on reductions in program and staff were closed to
corresponding and at-large members, after a brief debate, by a vote of 26
to 23 . As a result, only 72 voting council members took part in the
downsizing debate, while 18 others were left out.
Presbyterian Washington Office reports on the impact of
staff reduction on their work
Over the last ten years, the Washington Office staff has
gone from 7 ½ positions to 4 with these last reductions. They will
need to go through some "regrouping" to see which parts of their program
can be continued.
Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase
comments on the immigration debate, out of his18 years of experience on
Amnesty International says torture continues "widespread" in US custody
Human rights group says US "creating climate" in which abuse
Amnesty International, in a report for the United Nations'
Committee against Torture, says that torture and inhumane treatment are
"widespread" in U.S.-run detention centers in Afghanistan, Iraq, Cuba and
elsewhere despite Washington's denials.
The London-based human rights group also alleged abuses
within the U.S. domestic law enforcement system, including use of excessive
force by police and degrading conditions of isolation for inmates in high
security prisons. It said that while Washington has sought to blame abuses
that have recently come to light on "aberrant soldiers and lack of
oversight", much ill-treatment stemmed from officially sanctioned
interrogation procedures and techniques.
Read the Reuters report >>
Update on the Darfur peace talks, May 3, 2006
Andress, Moderator of the Sudan Advocacy Action Forum, reports on
behalf of Presbyterians and others concerned for the genocidal violence
continuing in Sudan.
The African Union (AU)-established and UN-supported deadline of April
30 to sign a peace agreement was not met. The Sudanese Government accepted
the draft, while the rebel movements rejected it, arguing it was one sided
favoring the government positions and worse than a draft presented 3
The full report >>
GAC releases names of those laid off
Most departed May 1; others set for October 1
General Assembly Council Executive Director John Detterick today (May 2)
formally released the names of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) national staff
employees who have lost their jobs in the "reduction in force" needed to
reduce the 2007-2008 General Assembly mission budget by $9.15 million.
Seventy-five employees lost their jobs May 1, the largest single layoff
at the Presbyterian Center since 1993, when 140 jobs were eliminated.
Fifty-nine staff members concluded their service immediately. Sixteen
others received notice that their jobs will end October 1, when the
transition to a radically new organizational structure in Louisville will be
complete. The list of
people dismissed >>
One visitor comments on the staff reduction:
The GAC release of terminated staff and
additional staff lay-offs planned for October offers further evidence of
the decline of Presbyterian mission and vitality. How else can this news
be received? I wonder how much energy we retain for in-house arguments,
when outside our narrow little world(which is shrinking rapidly) the
peoples of the world observe our increasing irrelevance. We continue as
Presbyterians to grow disconnected from younger generations, we have less
and less to say and do about issues of poverty and injustice and war, and
spend what little energy we have discussing what goes on in the bedrooms
of individuals. My question is, Why would gay/lesbian/transgendered
persons want to affiliate with such a dispirited group as Presbyterians?
We welcome your thoughts on this difficult and painful
Just send a note,
to be shared here!
debate: It’s really all about race
Eun-hyey Park, who lives and works in Louisville, KY, comments on an
interview with Kentucky senators and representatives in which they seem
totally unaware of "the dynamics of race, and the history of racism in
"legal" immigration policy in our nation's history (e.g. the Chinese
exclusion act of the late 19th century)." But much of the concern
about "illegal immigrants" seems to reflect above all concerns about race.
Candidates for Moderator respond to Witherspoon questions
One of the first acts of the
217th General Assembly will be the election of a new Moderator. To help our
readers weigh this important choice, the Witherspoon Society has invited
each of the four candidates to respond briefly to five questions that
reflect Witherspoon concerns – and, we believe, the concerns of the wider
These responses will also appear in the
Spring 2006 issue of Network News, which should be in the mail by
early next week. It will also be posted here in PDF format. But
you can see them now on the
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 Educational Event begins in Israel/Palestine
On Wednesday, April 26, Sara Lisherness, associate
director of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, greeted the Presbyterians
gathered for dinner at the Strand Hotel in Jerusalem with the words, "Christ
be with you. We are here."
"And there are one hundred of us," observed Barbara Battin,
conference coordinator. After three years of planning and multiple hours of
travel, the travel/study conference in Israel/Palestine has begun.
Over the next few days participants from thirty-three
presbyteries will pray and worship together, visit a number of sites, and
listen to a variety of speakers. They will join in presbytery teams to
process what they see, hear, and experience and to plan for ministry
Find periodically updated reports from the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program
From the Presbyterian Washington Office:
Toll-free Call In Days - Stop Budget Cuts
The fight to stop the budget
cuts is working! Please don't let up now.
Call your Representative toll-free at 800-459-1887 starting today, and
"As a Presbyterian, I am calling to urge Representative _____ to oppose
any proposal that forces cuts in human needs programs by setting spending as
low as the Administration's budget proposal. Funding set this low is a
direct threat to children, seniors, and working families who need food,
housing, Head Start, and education. Please support funding levels high
enough to prevent cuts. Don't cut services to pay for more tax cuts for
those to whom much has been given."
Say No! To Torture
All are welcome to attend a gathering on June 2-3 at First
Presbyterian Church, LaGrange, Illinois (Chicago west suburbs) to learn,
pray, strategize and network. Presenters include:
Rear Adm. John Hutson (US Navy,
ret.), President and Dean of Franklin Pierce Law School, former Executive
Assistant to the Judge Advocate General of the Navy
Catherine Gordon, Associate for
International Issues, Washington Office of the PC (USA)
The Rev. Jean Marie Peacock,
Vice-Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA)
Ruth Barrett Rendler, Deputy
Director of the Center for Victims of Torture (CVT)
Luis Rivera, Assoc. Professor of
Theology, McCormick Seminary
The Rev. Carol Wickersham, No2
Torture Organizer, Sociology Faculty Beloit College
The gathering is free (an offering will be received) and
open to all who wish to make common cause; however, all participants must
register. People are welcome to bring sleeping bags to stay at the church,
or to reserve a room at a nearby motel. Meals and child care are provided.
For more information, or to register, go to
Who Is Jesus Christ for Us Today?
George Hunsinger, professor at Princeton
Seminary and a leading voice in the Presbyterian movement to oppose torture,
asks in a sermon, "Who is Jesus Christ for us today?" His answer is
that Christ today is found among the victims of U.S. torture.
He closes with an updated interpretation of I John 4:20:
"Those who say, 'I love God,' and torture their brothers or sisters, are
liars; for those who torture a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot
love God whom they have not seen -- and the same holds true for those
who turn a blind eye to torture or otherwise condone it."
The full sermon >>
The Imperial Presidency -- not unrelated to torture
Not many months ago we were expressing concern about the "New American
Empire." Now Jim Hightower, Texan and the author of Let's Stop Beating
Around the Bush, reminds us that an imperial presidency must go along
with the empire.
He provides a quick survey of President Bush’s continuing
efforts to expand the powers of the presidency – to include spying on,
imprisoning and torturing American citizens in the name of ‘security.’
He invites us to consider whether this is really the
America we want, with no limitation on presidential powers.
The article >>
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. |
If you like what
you find here,
we hope you'll help us keep Voices for Justice going ... and
Please consider making a special
contribution -- large or small -- to help us continue and improve
Click here to send a
gift online, using your credit card, through PayPal.
Or send your check, made
out to "Presbyterian Voices for Justice" and marked "web site," to
our PVJ Treasurer:
4007 Gibsonia Road
Gibsonia, PA 15044-8312
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!