Archives: June 2007
This page lists all reports and commentary from
For items 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,
Save a little money -- send your
early-bird registration for the Witherspoon conference, Sept.
16-19 in Louisville.
for the conference is $180 until July 1, then goes to $190.
information about the conference >>
To register online >>
NOTE: If you have trouble making a payment
using the PayPal form on the registration page, we apologize!
Please just send a check to the registrar, whose address is on
the registration page.
A reader suggests
perspectives on recent PJC decisions
We received a note from the Rev.
pastor of Tully Memorial Presbyterian Church in
PA. Commenting on
Gene TeSelle’s recent article on recent PJC decisions in the
Synod of the Pacific and the Synod of the Trinity, he draws
attention to the complexity of the issues as they have been
adjudicated in various Synods. He notes rightly that the
disagreements will finally reach the General Assembly PJC, which
must take fully into account the Authoritative Interpretation of
the recent General Assembly.
|The Progressive Majority: Why a Conservative America is a
For anyone interested in where the American
public really stands on the big issues that distinguish
progressives from conservatives – including the issues at the
forefront of today’s political debates – "The Progressive
Majority: Why a Conservative America Is a Myth" offers hard
facts and analysis based on decades of data from some of the
nation’s most respected and nonpartisan public opinion
researchers. This is the evidence that political leaders have a
mandate to pursue bold, progressive policies.
This report by the Campaign for America’s
Future and Media Matters for America shows that in study after
study, solid majorities of Americans take progressive stands on
a full spectrum of issues, from bread-and-butter economics to
the so-called "values" issues where conservatives claim
On Health Care: 69
percent of Americans think it is the responsibility of the
federal government to make sure all Americans have access to
health coverage; 76 percent find access to health care more
important than maintaining the Bush tax cuts; three in five
would be willing to have their own taxes increased to achieve
On Energy Policy: 52
percent of Americans believe "the best way for the U.S. to
reduce its reliance on foreign oil" is to "have the government
invest in alternative energy sources"; 64 percent are willing to
pay a higher energy tax to pay for renewable energy research; 68
percent of the public thinks U.S. energy policy is better solved
by conservation than production.
On the Economy: 77
percent of Americans believe Congress should increase the
minimum wage; 66 percent believe "upper-income people" pay too
little in taxes; 53 percent feel the Bush administration's tax
cuts have failed because they have increased the deficit and
caused cuts in government programs.
On Government's Role:
69 percent of Americans believe the government "should care for
those who can't care for themselves." Twice as many people (43
percent to 20 percent) want "government to provide many more
services even if it means an increase in spending" as want
government to provide fewer services "in order to reduce
On Immigration: 62
percent of Americans believe undocumented immigrants should be
given a chance to "keep their jobs and eventually apply for
legal status." 49 percent believe the best way to reduce illegal
immigration from Mexico is to penalize employers, not more
Read the full report >>
Evangelical Presbyterian Church approves plan to welcome
congregations leaving PC(USA)
Presbyterian Layman reports:
In a series of stunning votes,
commissioners to the 27th General Assembly of the
Evangelical Presbyterian Church on Friday morning
overwhelmingly approved a plan to create non-geographic,
transitional presbyteries to receive congregations seeking
to join the denomination.
[From your WebWeaver: We’re not quite
sure what was "stunning" about the votes, but anyway ...]
The rest of the story >>
Here’s another report, from The Christian Post >>
A note from your WebWeaver:
This formation of a new "place to go" for
congregations leaving the Presbyterian Church (USA) is
regrettable in many ways, but it seems important that
Presbyterians who are not involved in this exodus pay attention
to it, and seek to understand it.
If you have first-hand observations or
comments to share, or can suggest other reports that are worth
please send a note, to be shared here.
Praying for Gaza
PC(USA) volunteer in mission in Jerusalem, has sent this note,
enclosing a very good glimpse into the realities in Gaza
... You may be aware of the current
situation in Gaza. I ask that you would hold these people in
your prayers. Personally, I find it helpful to have a specific
focus when I pray for something, so
here is an
article I included for Sabeel's quarterly magazine publication
about a hospital in Gaza that we have close connections to.
It says so much about the heart and mind of the people of Gaza,
that (in my opinion) the news networks fail to portray ...
Director of Presbyterian Action for the Institute on Religion
and Democracy, has let us know about a numerical error (which we
have corrected) in
yesterday's comment from Gene TeSelle about recent PJC decisions.
The synod PJCs were rejecting presbytery actions affirming as
absolute certain points in our Constitution which the 2006
General Assembly left to the conscience of individuals and the
discernment of sessions and presbyteries. He also points
to what he sees as more grievous errors -- about which we may
The polity struggles continue
Is some resolution emerging?
Witherspoon Issues Analyst Gene TeSelle recently
surveyed some of the ways presbyteries have begun to defy the
Authoritative Interpretation adopted by the 217th General
Assembly last summer.
He predicted that the various
Permanent Judicial Commissions would not look favorably on these
attempts by presbyteries to create their own creeds, or make
selective interpretations of the Constitution, or prejudge
matters that call for subtle discernment in particular cases.
Now two decisions by synod PJCs suggest that his prediction was
His new discussion of the issue and of the new decisions >>
Jewish Voice for Peace –
The situation in
Gaza is dire, and also confusing for many. JVP has assembled
this newsletter to help clear some of the fog surrounding
Click here for an abridged version of a longer article by
JVP's Director of Education and Policy, Mitchell Plitnick,
offering an analysis of the events in Gaza.
Plitnick argues that no reconciliation between
Fatah and Hamas is likely at this point, but that the US-Israeli
strategy of using the split to crush Hamas will, as it has in
the past, simply strengthen Hamas and other, more radical
groups. Dealing with Hamas and bringing them into the political
process would be far more effective. Neither Fatah nor Hamas
wants al-Quaida and other Islamist groups to gain influence, but
that is a possibility as long as radical Islamist see no other
possibilities. The current crisis may offer an opportunity for
real progress, if the US and Israel shift their tactics and deal
with all the Palestinian groups, and use diplomatic skills
rather than military power.
JustPresbys is back!
You may remember that in the months leading up to
the 217th General Assembly in the summer of 2005, a
number of progressive groups relating to the Presbyterian Church
(USA) joined to create a shared website. Our purpose was
First, we wanted to share progressive concerns
and views with commissioners and others attending the Assembly,
and with anyone else who was watching from afar. While some of
our groups focus on one area of concern and others are more
general in their focus, we are all committed to the wholeness of
our world, which we understand to involve justice and peace and
the well-being of all people; and we are committed to the
wholeness and health of our Church and its witness and service
in the world.
And second, we wanted to get better acquainted
with commissioners and others interested in the Assembly, and to
serve your concerns and needs in any way we could.
This website has been out of commission for a
couple months now due to various little technological
challenges. But we’re back, and we hope to add new material as
it becomes available.
This may include news and announcements from
the sponsoring groups, and reports and commentary on the 2006
GA, as well as articles looking toward the 218th
Assembly, to be held in San Jose, California, June 21 - 28,
We welcome your comments and
a note >>
A quick look at our Presbyterian "culture wars"
The Rev. John Shuck, whose
always-interesting blog we’ve mentioned before, has just
written a super-condensed survey of the state of the
Presbyterian Church (USA), putting our current struggles in
clear perspective. John is pastor of First Presbyterian
Church of Elizabethton, TN.
Here is a little introduction to church
politics in the Presbyterian Church (USA). The so-called
"Culture Wars" blaze through various church denominations. I
thought I would take this time to introduce you to one of
the movements in the Presbyterian Church. It has its cousins
in other denominations such as the Methodist and Episcopal
churches. On one hand, it is about internal denominational
politics. But on the other hand, it is a larger part of a
move toward theocracy in the United States.
of his essay >>
Church World Service responds to the Gaza crisis
Situation report from CWS, June 18, 2007
Amid tentative signs that the situation in
Gaza Strip was emerging from a crisis situation after a week of
violence and uncertainty, the European Union said it plans to
restore humanitarian aid to the beleaguered Palestinian
Authority. That follows the Fatah-allied government's move to
cut off ties with the radical faction Hamas, which now controls
the Gaza Strip.
Runs on markets in Gaza in the wake of fears
of food shortages had subsided with assurances from Israel that
some humanitarian assistance would go into Gaza, the Associated
Press (AP) news agency reported today.
Still, as Action by Churches Together (ACT)
International reported, the coming days and weeks could see a
deepening instability in economic and social conditions,
translating into thousands of families having no access to food,
cash, medical care and other needed essentials, particularly as
the new school year approaches.
Last week's fighting left more than 100 dead
and hundreds more wounded, with extensive damage done to an
already weak infrastructure. Hospitals became battlegrounds and
medical staff members were unable to report to work.
See the full report, including actions being taken, on the CWS
Is gay sex immoral?
other questions we should be asking?
Jim Boushay and Rickey Sain, writing
about a month ago in The Wednesday
Journal of Oak Park and River Forest
(IL), did a nice job of
putting the sexuality question in perspective.
On March 21, the Illinois House Human Services Committee
narrowly advanced out of committee a plan to recognize civil
unions for same sex couples. News accounts report there was
opposition from faith-based organizations.
The question of whether gay sex is immoral needs to be
asked and answered when there is discourse (pro and con)
about LGBTers. With a straight-out question, then there may
be more thoughtful opportunities to ask larger,
culture-wide, undealt-with questions about moral and ethical
action. These larger questions are the very questions not
often being asked widely and realistically. The larger moral
questions have to do with the persistence of war, terrorism,
poverty, grossest health disparities (47 million Americans
either un- or under-insured), corporate corruption and
greed, lack of sustained political accountability, the
burgeoning of the homeless, global warming, the despair of
an electorate disengaged because of excess political
manipulation and duplicity, public education regularly out
of touch with the perplexities of our times, the ongoing
salt-in-the-wounds conflict between the sacred and secular,
and all the other dysfunctions bedeviling our lives. Talk
The rest of the article >>
Thanks to Ellen Howell
Synod overturns Sacramento Presbytery effort to reverse GA’s
Presbyterian Outlook reports that efforts by the Presbytery
of Sacramento to nullify the action of the 2006 General
Assembly, which affirmed the right of conscience for candidates
for ordination. The Permanent Judicial Commission of the Synod
of the Pacific ruled that all four policies adopted by the
presbytery either violated the spirit of the Authoritative
Interpretation adopted by the Assembly, or violated basic
principles of Presbyterian Church such as connectionalism,
respect for individual conscience and for the discernment
exercised by individual congregations.
See the report on the Outlook website >>
Registration is required to see the complete story – but it’s
The full decision is posted on the Synod website >>
Working for peace
...“beginning from within”
Your WebWeaver recently joined about a dozen
other men for a five-day retreat at a nearby Trappist monastery
– observing silence for most of the time, with an hour and a
half each morning for work alongside the monks. I reflected on
this deeply good time in the Spring issue of Network News,
and would like to share my thoughts with you in our wider web
I came home thinking of how all of us – right, left and center –
might benefit from giving ourselves more time for silence, and
taking our own inwardness more seriously. As one Buddhist
teacher puts it, we need to begin peacemaking by dealing with
the wars within us.
NCC sending work team to New Orleans
We all said we would not
forget our brothers and sisters in New Orleans after Katrina.
Now HERE is a chance to make good on that commitment! You and
members of your faith community can join the National Council
of Churches as they mark the second anniversary of Hurricane
Katrina by participating in a week-long work project.
Interested? Here's more:
Join Us in New Orleans for
Worship, Witness & Work
August 19-25, 2007
Two years after Hurricane Katrina devastated
the Gulf Coast, residents continue their efforts to rebuild. But
they need our support. The faith community was there as first
responders. We will continue to be there for the victims of this
storm until the work is done.
Come to New Orleans as we worship, witness and
work together to help those in need as they rebuild their homes,
churches, communities and lives.
And don’t forget ...
The Presbyterian Church (USA), through
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, has been coordinating work
teams in the Gulf Coast area almost since the hurricanes struck.
Right now their call is for work teams, especially teams with
skilled workers, to help in the recovery and rebuilding phases.
More on PDA
relief efforts >>
SOA survives vote in Congress by 6 votes
From SOA Watch
Last night at 11:52 PM, Congress defeated the
McGovern/Lewis amendment to cut the funding for the SOA/WHINSEC
by a margin of six votes.
The mobilizing effort was tremendous: Tens of
thousands of emails, faxes and calls flooded the halls of
Congress over the past three days. Students, clergy, union
members and veterans traveled to DC and visited with hundreds of
Congressional offices to communicate clearly that there is no
room for institutions like the SOA in the future that we want to
see. Despite this, 214 Members of Congress missed the chance to
stand up for human rights, justice and democracy, and voted to
keep the funding for the SOA flowing.
Final Reminder for June 26 -
"Day of Action to Restore Law and Justice"
From the Rev. Richard Killmer, Executive
Director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture
Wherever you may be on June 26, there will be opportunities to
tell your members of Congress that you want U.S.-sponsored
torture to end:
|WASHINGTON, DC - Rally and
Have you and your delegation members
registered with NRCAT? If not,
click here to do so.
more details >>
|NEW YORK CITY - Interfaith worship and
March co-sponsored by the Metro New York Religious Campaign
Against Torture: |
For details of the day,
go to the Metro New York
Religious Campaign Against Torture website.
|ANYWHERE IN THE NATION:
Call your Members of Congress or their staff
by phone at their DC offices on June 26 or anytime during
Torture Awareness Week, June 25 - 29. For more information about
your elected members of Congress and contact information,
Wherever we are on June 26, it is important to
call on our Members of Congress to:
|End torture and cruel, inhuman and
degrading treatment of detainees. |
|Close secret U.S. detention facilities.
|Stop extraordinary rendition - secretly
kidnapping people and sending them to countries that
|Close the detention center at Guantánamo
and give those held there access to an independent court.
Thank you for your commitment to end
immigration from the perspective of faith
"Immigration, Identity, and God's
Dr. David True offers a very helpful
theological look at the current debate (or as he calls it,
"shouting match") on immigration. He notes that "[t]his is a
strange debate; one in which the word ‘amnesty’ has become a
form of slander. Fear and loathing seem the order of the day."
One problem is that three
different languages are being used here: "the moral languages of
law and order, cultural cohesiveness, and liberation and
compassion." Further, "One of the striking things about this
debate is the nearly complete absence of talk about God. The
dominant languages have been content to focus instead on human
identity. ... The lack of God-talk reflects our failure as
people of faith to reason together about what our fundamental
convictions have to say about our situation with respect to
immigrants. More specifically, belief in God's providence ought
to cause us to at least question appeals to fear and anxiety."
This failure is because we have
reduced God’s providence "to an individualized spirituality in
which God functions as a personal fetish. ... [W]e Americans are
big fans of a personal Jesus, but we seem to lack any sense of
God's fundamental goodness, benevolence, or love expressed in a
providential care for the natural world, including the peoples
of the earth. This loss of faith or confidence makes it
difficult to resist the language of fear, which helps explain
why so many citizens of the world's sole remaining super-power
talk, organize, and vote as if we were literally under siege
from our neighbors to the south. The recovery of a fuller notion
of God's providence would aid in forming a more accurate
interpretation of our circumstances and responsibilities."
This essay is being published
shortly in the journal
But right now,
with Dr. True's kind permission, you can read
it here >>
True is Assistant Professor of Religion at Wilson
College, in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. He also serves as
one of the editors of the international journal Political
Theology. His interests include twentieth-century
figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Reinhold Niebuhr,
and Walter Rauschenbusch. Currently he is working on several
projects including an essay on immigration and another
comparing Michael Walzer and Reinhold Niebuhr. He is also
doing research for a book on the political theology of
twentieth century progressive Protestants. He earned a PhD
at Union-PSCE in theology and ethics and is an ordained
minister in the PC (USA).
U.S. Food Aid Requires Drastic Changes: Take Action Today
An Action Alert from
ActionAid USA, Oakland Institute, & Washington Office on Latin
Each year millions of tons of food are shipped
from the United States to developing countries as food aid. But
a dirty little secret is hiding in the food aid system.
U.S. food aid policy is primarily geared
towards the interests of multinational agribusiness and shipping
companies. All food provided by the U.S. food aid program must
be produced in the United States and shipped abroad at great
cost. This preference given to in-kind food produced in the U.S.
and the U.S. shipping industry makes U.S. food aid unnecessarily
expensive. In addition, the U.S. procurement requirement delays
delivery of emergency food aid by nearly five months on average.
A proposal to allow one quarter of emergency
resources to be used to purchase food grown by local or regional
producers is being considered in Congress. But Members of
Congress need to hear from constituents that this is an issue
they care about. Call your Senators and Congressional
Representatives TODAY to support the proposed change in the 2007
Farm Bill which would allow for 25% of emergency food aid
purchases under Title II to be provided in cash for local and
regional purchase rather than as commodities purchased in the
United States and shipped to developing countries.
Senate: 202-224-3121 (Operator
assistance); House: 202-225-3121 (Operator assistance)
Urge Congress to ensure food aid goes to those
in need, not corporations!
One 'I do' for gay marriage
New York State Assembly votes 85-61 to pass bill; no
action scheduled in Senate
ALBANY, NY – After more than three hours of
impassioned debate, the Assembly on Tuesday night approved a
bill to allow same-sex marriage in New York.
Even though the bill is not slated for
discussion in the Senate, proponents said the Assembly action
was an important first step if New York is ever to legalize such
"I'm very proud of my colleagues," said a
buoyant Daniel O'Donnell, D-Manhattan, an openly gay lawmaker
who carried the bill on behalf of Gov. Eliot Spitzer. The bill
passed 85-61, more than he'd expected.
Urge the House of Representatives to cut funding for School
of the Americas
Peacemaking Update June 19, 2007
Congress will soon vote on an amendment to close WHINSEC/School
of the Americas. This institution, funded by our tax dollars and
located at Ft. Benning, Georgia, has trained over 60,000 Latin
American Soldiers. This school has graduated many of the worst
human rights abusers in Latin American History. Rep. McGovern
(MA) and Rep. John Lewis (GA) will introduce an amendment to the
Foreign Operations appropriations bill to cut funding for the
Presbyterian General Assemblies have called for the closing
of the institution (see below). School of the Americas Watch
makes it possible to send an e-mail and free fax to Congress;
click here to send your message >>
God in Jesus Christ calls us to make peace. Recognizing that
the nations of Central America, South America and the Caribbean
have experienced "sustained levels of violence, that military
leaders of the countries have been responsible for many
incidents of violence and have been implicated in human rights
abuses, and that many of those leaders were trained at the
School of the Americas," the 206th General Assembly (1994)
called upon the United States government to
a. eliminate any and all funding for the School of the
Americas, and close the school;
b. cease any further training of the military leaders
from the countries of Central America, South America, and
the Caribbean; and
c. use the funds that have been spent on the School of
the Americas to support – both in the U.S. and in Central
America, South America, and the Caribbean – programs for
women, children, the hungry, the homeless, and other victims
The 207th General Assembly (1995) reaffirmed this action. The
mission of the School of the Americas has been taken over by the
Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation.
More PC(USA) resources >>
More on this site about School of
the Americas >>
Click here to send an e-mail or fax to your representative >>
The Rev. W. Mark Koenig, Coordinator
Presbyterian Peacemaking Program
100 Witherspoon St., #3231 Louisville, KY 40202
888-728-7228, ext. 5936
With vote to close the U.S. Army School of the Americas
new details emerge on Army spying
Aaron Shuman has recently posted a long
article detailing his charges of a long-standing effort of
government spying on the protest
movement SOA Watch.
He says that "for years, former school
instructor Ken LaPlante ran a counterintelligence operation
against SOA Watch while working as a subcontractor for the
Department of the Army. LaPlante's activities — and those of
William Willoughby, a civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army
who says he reported to LaPlante — raise questions about the use
of contractors and the infrastructure of the Army to spy on
protesters against the School of the Americas, and possible ties
to the White House. This comes as the U.S. Senate considers
legislation reauthorizing intelligence gathering."
Aaron Shuman attended the 2002 protests of the
School of the Americas as a journalist, participated in the 2004
protests, and did four months in federal prison in 2005.
His article appears on "Narcosphere,"
a site supported by
The Fund for
Authentic Journalism. The site began in 2000 as a
place for independent reporting on the "drug war," and now
provides space for journalists to post their own reports on
other subjects as well.
More on School of
the Americas >>
Act now to end funding for new nukes
Witherspoon member Mary Louise Ellenberger, a retired minister
living in Maryland, has forwarded this message to us from
Right now, Senate leaders are drafting their
spending bill that could terminate the nuclear weapons program
entirely. The House has already cut the funding for new nukes,
but it will only stick if the Senate follows suit. This is our
best shot to end funding of new nuclear weapons.
Email your Senators and tell them to support an Energy and Water
Appropriations bill that cuts all spending for new nuclear
The Senate should follow the lead of the House
by cutting all funding for the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW)
Program in their spending bill. We should be working to make the
world a safer, more peaceful place, not funding and building
more nuclear weapons.
Decisions about this bill are being made now.
be sure to email your senators today and ask that they do
everything they can to call for a bill that cuts funding to the
nuclear warhead program.
We have a real chance to end funding for
nuclear weapons, but the Senate needs to hear from as many of us
as possible. After you've taken action, be sure to send this
message onto your friends so they can get involved.
Darcy Scott Martin, TrueMajority Washington
Encouragement during Torture Awareness Month
The Rev. Carol Wickersham, of
No2Torture, reports on
bits of good news, as the courts act to limit the President's
power to label people as "enemy combatants" beyond the reach of
US laws and rights, new evidence is given of the existence of
US-run secret prisons, and much more.
She also reminds us that legislation to repeal
the Military Commissions Act and restore the constitution has
gained numerous sponsors in the Senate and the House. More are
still needed! You can do
And on June 26 thousands will gather in
Washington, DC from around the country for "The Day of Action
to Restore Law and Justice"
out this web site to get involved.
Also, this month Carol was elected to the
Board of the National Religious Coalition Against Torture, which
represents over 100 faith-based organizations.
Here are some helpful sources for information on the legislative
A note on the Presbyterians for Just
Immigration e-list provides links to much helpful information
from both governmental and non-governmental sources. Just
click here >>
PC(USA) comments on immigration reform,
Israeli-Palestinian crisis, and more
Witness in Washington Weekly, published by the Presbyterian
Washington Office, covers these vital issues in the June 18,
|Immigration Reform Is Still With Us
|Take Action on Israeli-Palestinian Peace
|How Do You Eliminate Poverty?
|Veto Threatens Stem Cell Research
|US State Department Trafficking in
Persons Report for 2007 |
|Psalm 101:1 - I will sing|
Women in leadership in the church?
Well, the Southern Baptists offer one
Baptist Seminary Homemaking Classes for Wives to Rescue Culture,
Robert Parham, executive
director of the Baptist Center for Ethics, offers a delightful
(or appalling) look at one way to defining women’s role in the
Christian homemaking will save the Southern Baptist
Convention and the nation, according to the president of
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth,
Texas, one of the nation's largest training schools for
Paige Patterson announced at the SBC meeting in San
Antonio that his school was offering an academic program to
train women how to make a Christian home.
Yes, there is evidently a Christian way for wives to
water houseplants, wash clothes, warm leftovers and wax
Having made June Cleaver the biblical model for
motherhood, training the wives of ministers to be June
Cleaver with a Christian twist shouldn't have come as a
The SBC adopted a doctrinal statement in 1998 that a wife
had "the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and
to serve as his helper in managing the household."
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville,
Ky., has a similar, albeit less demanding, 13-hour
certificate for seminary wives.
The Seminary Wives Institute teaches women femininity,
fitness, hospitality and how to meet the needs of their
pastor-husbands. Courses teach wives ways to avoid clutter,
use day planners, organize the kitchen and manage the
household. [Your WebWeaver could use that part about
avoiding clutter, but would be disqualified by gender. Among
What is dangerous about Christian homemaking programs is
that they diminish the Christian faith and deceive naíve
Christians. Faith speaks to moral, social and spiritual
matters, not matters like boiling water. Water boils, spoons
stack in kitchen drawers and sewing machines sew the same
way for Christians and non-Christians. For Christians to
think otherwise is a frightening split from reality.
as a column in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on
Monday, June 18.
The Whale ... and liberation
liberating story was forwarded to us by Witherspooner Bill Knox.
If you read the
front page story of the SF Chronicle [in December,
2005], you would have read about a female humpback whale who had
become entangled in a spider web of crab traps and lines. She
was weighted down by hundreds of pounds of traps that caused her
to struggle to stay afloat. She also had hundreds of yards of
line rope wrapped around her body, her tail, her torso, a line
tugging in her mouth.
A fisherman spotted her just east of the Farralone Islands
(outside the Golden Gate ) and radioed an environmental group
Within a few hours, the rescue team arrived and determined that
she was so bad off, the only way to save her was to dive in and
A very dangerous proposition.
One slap of the tail could kill a rescuer.
They worked for hours with curved knives and eventually freed
her. When she was free, the divers say she swam in what seemed
like joyous circles. She then came back to each and every diver,
one at a time, and nudged them, pushed gently around-she thanked
them. Some said it was the most incredibly beautiful experience
of their lives.
The guy who cut the rope out of her mouth says her eye was
following him the
whole time, and he will never be the same.
May you, and all those you love, be so blessed and fortunate as
to be surrounded by people who will help you get untangled from
the things that are binding you. And may you always know the joy
of giving and receiving gratitude.
I pass this on to you, my friend, in the same spirit.
Democratic candidates talk about faith
This past weekend was brightened (or
burdened, depending on your point of view) by an important step
in the current Presidential campaign. Initiated largely by Jim
Wallis of Sojourners, the three leading Democratic
candidates – Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards –
appeared together on CNN, where each responded to several
questions from journalists and religious leaders about the
intersection of faith and politics. The stated topic was "Faith,
Values and Poverty," reflecting Wallis’ conviction that poverty
must be seen as the major issue in this campaign.
So, how did it go?
We bring you comments from Jim Wallis himself,
Peter Steinfels of the New York Times,
Brian Lewis wrote in the
Springfield, MO, News-Leader, and Sister Joan Chittister
-- with perhaps the most provocative of the responses.
On immigration –
What 'These People' Contribute Remains
America's Saving Grace
Pierre Tristam, writing in the
Daytona Beach News-Journal, calls the current raging
against undocumented immigrants just what it seems to be:
bigotry. That’s what led to the defeat of the immigration bill
in the US Senate. "The defeat is attributable to one thing:
Americans don't want more Mexicans and other brown-skinned
people here. ‘These people came in the wrong way, so they don't
belong here, period,’ was how one Monique Thibodeaux ... summed
it up in the Sunday paper."
But, he argues, "these people"
are largely responsible for the United States’ population growth
over recent decades, and therefore its economic growth as well.
At no point in this country's history have immigrants,
involuntary or "illegal" included, hurt the country nearly
as much as those exploiting them. Undocumented immigrants
aren't hurting the country now — not as we're constantly
reminded of record stock gains, record corporate profits,
low inflation, low unemployment and low interest rates. That
rosy economic profile hides serious fissures, to be sure.
But inequality is top-driven, never bottom-driven, and
certainly not immigrant-driven.
The full article >>
Witherspooner Scott Marrese-Wheeler, of Marshfield, Wisconsin
Selections from the
Peacemaking Update, 9 June 2007
2007 PEACEMAKING INTERGENERATIONAL CONFERENCE
Jesus: Proclaiming Peace
July 3-8 Montreat, NC
Online registration is closed. Please call Dayna Oliver at 888-728-7228,
ext. 8700 to register.
Torture Awareness Month is June 2007
But right now ... Help is needed in the US
|An urgent message from the Save Darfur
We need your
help. It's been two months since we first wrote you about
an important bill that would help end the violence by empowering
states to divest their pension funds from companies that help
fund the genocide in Darfur.
Unfortunately, this crucial bill is stuck in the Senate
Banking Committee. We need your help to push it through to a
When lives are being lost, two months is far too long to sit
on such an important bill!
Please click here now to send
your letter asking
Senator Dodd to use his position as Chair of the Senate Banking
Committee to make sure the Sudan Divestment Authorization Act
comes to the Senate floor for a vote without further
Fifteen courageous states have already passed their own
divestment policies in an effort to stop the violence in Darfur.
The Sudan Divestment Authorization Act would protect these and
other states' rights to divest from challenges by the National
Foreign Trade Council (NFTC), an organization which has already
successfully challenged Illinois' divestment policy and aims to
We can't afford to let the NFTC play this game any longer -
too many lives are at stake. Our government should be doing
everything in its power to encourage the states to help
fight the violence, not prevent them from acting!
Click here now to urge Senate
Banking Committee Chair Dodd to stop delaying and send the Sudan
Divestment Authorization Act to the Senate floor for a vote
Once you've sent your message, please help us spread the
word by forwarding this message to your friends, family and
co-workers and ask them to join you.
Keynoters announced for More Light conference
Erin Swenson and Jack Rogers
will serve as two of the keynote speakers at the National More
Light Presbyterians Conference, being held August 31 -
September 2, 2007 in Atlanta, GA. Each of them will also
offer thought-provoking educational workshops.
The Rev. Dr. Jack Rogers was Moderator
of the 213th General Assembly, is a Presbyterian minister,
Professor Emeritus of Theology at San Francisco Theological
Seminary & Fuller Theological Seminary, and author of the
best-selling Jesus, the Bible & Homosexuality, Explode the
Myths, Heal the Church.
The Rev. Dr. Erin K. Swenson is also a
Presbyterian minister, and is a pastoral counselor, transgender
educator and inspirational speaker. She was the first minister
in mainline Christianity to maintain pastoral credentials after
gender transition. She is co-founder of SAGE, the Southern
Association for Gender Education, and recently served as
Co-Moderator, National MLP Board of Directors.
For more information and to register, go to
|Outspoken political scientist Norman
tenure at DePaul
Norman Finkelstein, the political
scientist whose bid for a permanent position at DePaul
University stirred up charges of anti-Semitism, personal
vendettas and outside interference in the hiring process, was
informed Friday [June 8, 2007] that he had been denied tenure by
The full report in the New York Times >>
The Chicago Sun-Times reported on Friday >>
The Chronicle of Higher Education notes that DePaul
University’s president, the Rev. Dennis Holtschneider, affirmed
the decision against granting tenure, adding that the intense
outside interest in the case "was unwelcome and inappropriate
and had no impact on either the process or the outcome of this
A Roman Catholic priest was quoted to your WebWeaver, by a
friend, as saying:
Anyone who denies the long arm of the powerful Israeli
lobby in America need only to note today that distinguished
Professor Norman Finkelstein of De Paul University was
denied tenure. Without any doubt this was due to his
outspoken criticism of Israeli policies. This was a great
triumph for leading Zionist scoundrel Alan Dershowitz and
his crusade to have Finkelstein denied tenure. Finkelstein's
great sin has been his defense of the Palestinian people and
his criticism of Israeli policies toward them. Because
Finkelstein's family were Holocaust survivors and his Jewish
credentials impeccable his courageous stance for justice was
intolerable for the likes of Dershowitz and the Israeli
The greater shame is that of the Catholic university of
De Paul for knuckling in to the pressures from the Zionist
lobby. I have attended Finkelstein's brilliant lectures and
treasure his autographed book.
This is a disgrace and a violation of academic freedom.
The excuse given for tenure denial is limp and contrived.
Shame on De Paul.
Click here to
read Dr. Finkelstein's letter to Commissioners
to the 217th General Assembly, discussing the issue of Israel
and divestment as they prepared for the Assembly.
background on the attacks on Finkelstein because of his
criticism of Israel >>
Two calls for a
"New Marshall Plan"
Cornell president and Network of Spiritual Progressives both urge this
big step forward
Witherspooner Betty Hale recently
told us of the commencement address by Cornell's president, David Skorton,
calling for the creation of a "New Marshall Plan" to alleviate the gaps
between rich and poor nations, and much more. He urges universities to
spearhead this move, using their capacities for research and innovation to
benefit a world in crisis.
At the same time, the Network of Spiritual Progressives is
putting forth a similar call, rooted not in academia but in the growing
conviction among people of faith that the world must begin learning to
operate on the basis of generosity rather than selfishness and fear of the
Gay groups express concern about Surgeon
The Associated Press reported yesterday (June
6) that President Bush's nominee for surgeon general, Kentucky
cardiologist Dr. James Holsinger, has come under fire from gay
rights groups for voting to expel a lesbian pastor from the
United Methodist Church, and writing in 1991 that gay sex is
unnatural and unhealthy. Also, Holsinger helped found a
Methodist congregation that, according to gay rights activists,
believes homosexuality is a matter of choice and can be "cured."
The rest of the story >>
Soulforce has issued a statement on the nomination of Dr.
Missing from the immigration debate: creating economic
opportunity in Mexico
Could an influx of foreign aid to Mexico
solve America's immigration problem?
James Ridgeway, writing for Mother Jones
For all the talk about immigration reform
on the Hill, there has been notably little discussion about
what is driving Mexican immigrants to pour over the border
into the U.S., let alone any debate about measures that
might go to the root of the problem.
According to Laura Carlsen, the director
of the International Relations Center's Americas Program,
the reason behind the "massive out-migration" is fairly
clear. Put simply, she wrote not long ago, "Mexico is not
producing enough decent jobs for its people—and the United
States is hiring." It would seem, then, that one potential
answer to the United States' so-called immigration problem
would be an effective development policy toward Mexico
(whose citizens make up 56 percent of America's undocumented
population, according to the Pew Hispanic Center), including
both private investment and foreign aid. As it stands,
Mexico receives the bulk of its aid not from the U.S.
government or corporations but from immigrants themselves.
The full article >>
A book note:
The Horrors We Bless: Rethinking the Just-War Legacy, by
Daniel C. Maguire, Fortress, 2007.
The Rev. Betty Hale, of Roxboro, NC, writes:
Daniel Maguire, who is Professor of Moral Theological
Ethics at Marquette University, aims "to challenge the seductive power
of war that so grips and hobbles our imaginations." A major cause, he
argues, is "Just-war" Theory. Its original purpose – to limit, control,
and even avoid warfare – now is commonly subverted to justify and
"baptize" it. The burden of proof intended to rest upon the warrior now
rests upon the conscientious objector.
Maguire has the gift of truth-telling in such a way
that you can see. Noting how we have sanitized the idea of war, Maguire
observes: "War can even be a form of armchair spectator entertainment.
It is acceptable for people to become 'Civil War buffs,' or
'Revolutionary War buffs.' If people were to announce themselves as
'prostitution buffs' or 'necrophilia buffs,' their perverted absorption
in such human disasters would raise eyebrows."
The rest of her book-note, and a
link to order the book >>
It’s time to break the silence, and respect freedom of
Soon after we posted
comment on the death of Bill Silver, we received this note
from Tim Leadingham, a Witherspoon member living in Coulee Dam,
following quote is from Michael Adee in eulogizing Bill Silver:
The silence about homosexuality has been broken.
Misunderstandings and false witness about us are slowly and
surely going away. People understand more about same-sex
love and are more critically and responsibly reading
The bold phrase describes our pastor, Les Bishop, who was
denied membership in a presbytery simply for holding a
conscientious interpretation of scripture that the New
Testament does not blanket condemn all same-sex
relationships. He did not perform any action or propose to
do so in violation of any provision of the Book of Order.
Yet, the silence on this issue, that of freedom of
conscience in interpretation of scripture on
non-essential matters, continues.
How will "misunderstandings and false witness" ever go
the way of slavery, if we remain silent on this kind of
unjust abuse of power by the presbyteries? The Book of Order
is clear that presbyteries and higher bodies have the
responsibility to respect freedom of conscience in
interpretation of scripture in non-essential matters, which
this clearly is. Look it up, people!
For the sake of Christ Our Lord,
Amnesty International: US treats the world as "one giant
battlefield for its 'war on terror'"
Report 2007: Politics of fear creating a
dangerously divided world
Amnesty International has issued its annual
report on the state of human rights around the world. The
theme of the report is the "politics of fear" which is being
used by some many governments and leaders – the US being one of
the primary examples.
Senate committee rejects Bush's torture policy
The Senate Intelligence Committee has signaled
to the White House that an infamously abusive secret CIA program
to interrogate high-level al-Qaida types may have to be
scrapped, given "the damage the program does to the image of the
United States abroad." It is a stinging rejection of a program
that President Bush late last year called "one of the most
successful intelligence efforts in American history" and comes
as administration lawyers are reportedly crafting new, secret
rules to govern it.
Read the article in Salon Magazine >>
Stand against torture – June 26th in Washington,
This comes from NRCAT, the National
Religious Coalition Against Torture.
If you’re not near Washington, point 5
suggests possibilities for you.
Dear NRCAT Participating and Endorsing
The big day to stand with other people of
faith and human rights leaders against torture is just around
the corner – Tuesday, June 26th. Two- to
three-thousand people will gather for an 11:30 a.m. rally on
Capitol Hill and in the afternoon lobby their Members of
Congress to end torture. We hope that you will be able to come
and that you will encourage the members of your organization to
attend as well. This is a very important NRCAT effort and one we
hope will be very successful – with your support.
Rich Killmer, Executive Director, NRCAT,
More, including suggestions for action >>
LEGISLATE AGAINST HATE BY ’08
a call from The
We Need You to Recruit Religious
Leaders to Join
"Clergy Against Hate"
You can send this message to
your colleagues and other religious leaders.
June 5, 2007
Help Us Stop The Hate!
For the first time in over a decade, Americans have the
opportunity to enact meaningful hate crimes legislation.
BUT we cannot do it without you.
We need your help NOW to enlist every religious
leader—especially clergy—to join an interfaith effort by signing
the petition at
www.clergyagainsthate.org. As you read this, the
Religious Right continues its attempts to mislead the public and
defeat this critical legislation.
This legislation would finally expand the protected
categories to include sexual orientation, gender, and
disability. It would also provide federal resources when local
law enforcement is unable, or unwilling, to prosecute these
crimes. It is important to note that this is not a
penalty-enhancement bill that would impose harsher sentences.
Rather, the bill recognizes that hate crimes effect not just the
individual victim, but an entire community, and law enforcement
should have the necessary resources to combat these heinous
But we’re only one third of the way there. Now our fight
moves to the Senate and the White House. Religious Right
lobbyists, stung by their failure to block this bill in the
House, are claiming to represent all people of faith as they
attempt to derail this bill. That’s why we need your help to
drive religious leaders—especially clergy—to visit
and sign the petition to proclaim that
hate is not an American, or moral value!
Thank you, in advance, for doing your part.
The Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy
President, The Interfaith Alliance
PS. Thanks in part to our aggressive lobbying efforts on
Capitol Hill — meeting with countless members of the House and
their staffs to explain why this legislation is important to
people of faith and compassion—the House of Representatives
the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007 (S.
1105, H.R. 1492) by an impressive and bipartisan 237 to 180
Celebrating the life, death &
witness of William David Silver, a son of our Church.
From Michael J. Adee, M.Div.,
Ph.D., National Field Organizer for More Light Presbyterians
June 4, 2007
With sadness, a sense of pathos,
and with thanksgiving for the life of Bill Silver, those
of us within More Light Presbyterians recognize the life,
ministry and witness of William David Silver, and his
recent death as noted in today's
New York Times obituary.
Bill Silver is remembered as one of the pioneers
of the welcoming and affirming, More Light Movement in the
Presbyterian Church (USA), along with his friends and colleagues
who preceded him in death: David Sindt and Rosemarie
As we mark Bill's life and his passing, I ponder the divine
reunion of these three friends on the other side. What do the
lives, gifts for ministries and witness of David, Rosemarie and
Bill tell the Church today? How do their lives, and the loss of
their ministries, inform our prayers, faith journeys, our
understanding of the Gospel, Scripture, the teachings of Jesus
and our strivings to live faithfully together as the
Presbyterian Church (USA), part of God's realm on earth?
It seems quite extraordinary that the same conversations from
the early 1970's about recognition, acceptance and equality for
lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and same gender loving
persons and their families continue today. When will these
conversations mature into action, acceptance and justice?
Signs of hope surround us in the midst of our striving
together for full participation in the life, ministry and
witness of the Presbyterian Church (USA). It is no longer 1975
when Bill sought recognition of his call and gifts for ministry.
The silence about homosexuality has been broken.
Misunderstandings and false witness about us are slowly and
surely going away. People understand more about same-sex love
and are more critically and responsibly reading their Bibles.
The welcoming and affirming More Light Movement which began
necessarily as a sanctuary movement is now an advocacy movement
that continues to extend safe space while working for spiritual,
ordination and marriage equality. Churches all over the country
are stepping up to affiliate, minister and witness as welcoming
and affirming More Light Churches. Calls to end discrimination
against LGBT people are made at every General Assembly. The
Presbyterian Church (USA) is poised to become a just, loving,
welcoming and affirming Church.
Of course, part of the pathos is that we have lost Bill,
David, Rosemarie and countless other persons who deserved to be
loved, accepted, welcomed and affirmed in the Church that
baptized, taught them faith and raised them.
So, it is with gratitude that we recognize the life and
recent death of Bill Silver. Our care, condolences and
prayers are with his sister Betsy, brother Jim, and other family
with hope and grace,
Michael J. Adee, M.Div., Ph.D., National Field Organizer
More Light Presbyterians(505) 820-7082,
A response to Ambassador Chas W.
Freeman’s essay on "Can American Leadership Be Restored?"
Click here for a
summary of Freeman's essay >>
... or here
for the complete paper >>
We have received a comment from Prof. Dr. Earl
Tilford, a Presbyterian elder, retired military officer, and
professor of history at Grove City College in Pennsylvania.
You may be interested to read
Dr. Tilford’s earlier exchange (if that’s the word for
it) in the spring of 2006 with Beth Pyles, a Presbyterian
member of the Christian Peacemaker Team in Iraq, after the
kidnapping and killing of one of their group, Tom Fox.
Dr. Tilford begins by
quoting from Ambassador Freeman:
of the problem of 'terrorism' is 'the brutal oppression of
the Palestinians by an Israeli occupation that is about to
mark its fortieth anniversary and shows no sign of ending.'
We must unshackle ourselves from Israel and its increasingly
aggressive policy towards the Palestinians."
You asked for a comment. Here it is. Fiddlesticks. I'm being
of the note >>
The Spring 2007 issue of
Network News is in the mail -- and is posted here.
Among the major articles:
|four pieces dealing with our
never-ending war in Iraq (pp. 5-14)|
|"Four steps toward a just peace" --
Shannon O'Donnell reports from Jerusalem (15-17)|
|Reflections after the Virginia Tech
|Easter hope in a Good Friday world,
Theological musings by Dr. Paul Capetz (20-21)|
|Learning to live with G-6.0108 and the
Authoritative Interpretation, by Gene TeSelle
|List of contents (back cover)|
Can American Leadership Be
Former Ambassador Chas W.
Freeman, Jr. (USFS. Ret.), speaking to the Washington Institute
of Foreign Affairs on May 24, 2007, asked how the US managed so
quickly to lose its global leadership, and how it might be
How did we lose it? He mentions things like our betrayal of our
own values of democracy and human rights, our proclamation of an
endless war against a foe that is largely of our own imagining
(“a nonexistent ideology of ‘Islamofascism’”), and aiming for
More points from
his talk >>
We welcome your
Just send a note, to be shared here.
Is South Korea a Model for Iraq?
A Legislative Action Message from the Friends Committee on
Can you imagine a U.S. presence in Iraq for
the next half-century?
The president can. The White House press
secretary announced this week that President Bush wants to
establish a permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq similar to
the half-century long U.S. military role in South Korea. This
public acknowledgement confirms what we at FCNL have long
suspected: President Bush wants to establish a permanent
military presence in Iraq.
A Violation of Law and Reality
Establishing permanent U.S. military bases in
Iraq would be a violation of U.S. law –
Congress has twice passed, and the president has signed,
legislation which prohibits the U.S. from spending money to
establish a permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq. That is
the law, at least for now. Originally proposed by FCNL, your
grassroots lobbying made that provision the law.
The White House announcement that this
administration wants to establish a permanent U.S. military
presence in Iraq also reaffirms that this administration is
simply not prepared to acknowledge the reality of what is
happening in Iraq. The impression among Iraqis that the U.S. is
planning a permanent military occupation of their country feeds
the violent groups fighting the Iraqi government, helps them to
recruit fighters, and undermines U.S. credibility throughout the
Middle East region. Almost every opinion poll conducted in Iraq
in the last three years – including one
commissioned by the State Department – has
confirmed that a majority of Iraqis fear the U.S. plans to
permanently occupy their country, and majorities want the U.S.
to leave Iraq.
The White House announcement, by itself, could
further destabilize Iraq and the region, by setting off a new
wave of anti-government violence; it could recruit more
supporters for violent extremist groups such as Al Qaeda.
Democrats Court Religious Leaders
In California, at least,
Democratic party leaders are beginning to connect with
religious leaders, seeking to hear their concerns. Even the
evangelicals in the conversation are talking not so much
about poverty and the worldwide AIDS epidemic, and religious
liberals are also getting involved.
Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church
dismissed to EPC
Tennessee congregation gets its property
too in leaving PC(USA)
LOUISVILLE – June 1, 2007 – East Tennessee Presbytery has voted
to dismiss Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church (SMPC) - property
and all - from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), clearing the
way for the large congregation to affiliate with the Evangelical
Presbyterian Church (EPC).
Dismissal of the 1,800-member church in Signal
Mountain, TN, was approved during a specially called presbytery
meeting on Tuesday (May 29) at Farragut Presbyterian Church in
report from Presbyterian News Service >>
For items 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,
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!