News of the PC(USA) --
archive for 2006
Click here for all
the more recent stories on the PC(USA).
Earlier stories are indexed:
Evangelical minister Tom Taylor unanimously confirmed for top GAC mission
Presbyterian News Service, December 8, 2006
The General Assembly Council’s (GAC) Executive Committee
has unanimously confirmed GAC Executive Director Linda Valentine’s
appointment of the Rev. Tom Taylor as the GAC’s deputy executive director
Valentine praised Taylor as "intelligent, creative and deeply committed to
the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)." She said that during the search process
in which 50 candidates were considered, "Tom Taylor really stood out as
someone who would articulate a theology of mission service that matches the
realities in the church and world today."
Moreover, she added, Taylor "has been a healer in a presbytery (San Gabriel)
that is deeply polarized … is a modern thinker with an affinity for
tradition …and has a flair for communication, which is the concern most
frequently heard out in the church."
rest of the story >>
Materials for church officer training
recently posted a request from someone seeking training material for the
Vietnamese new church development that he is serving. Receiving no great
flood of suggestions, your WebWeaver sought help from Mardee Rightmyer,
Director of the Resource Center of the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta.
She quickly provided this list of ideas, for which we thank her.
As long as the church is not looking for resources in Vietnamese
(although I believe you can get the Book of Order on-line in
Vietnamese), I would recommend these resources to start with:
The newest one is Making Disciples, Making Leaders: A Manual for Church
Officers by Steve Easom. (Geneva Press) A great manual to help the
leader plan lessons. There is a good bibliography in the back of the book.
I would start with this one and build from there.
Other good books: Christian Doctrine by Shirley Guthrie (WJKPress)
For those of us who grew up in the South, this is our second Bible. A
classic on Reformed theology.
Presbyterian Polity for Church Officers by Joan Gray & Joyce Tucker
Selected to Serve: A Guide for Church Officers by Earl S. Johnson,
Jr (Geneva Press)
Good videos: "So You've Been Elected An Elder" (PDS) and the series
called "The Presbyterians," which has five videos covering The People,
History and Tradition, Polity, Belief and Doctrine, Vision & Mission (PDS)
Also, "Essential Tenets of the Reformed Faith" & "Tour of the Creeds"
(same video) by Jack Rogers
"Across the Centuries: The Book of Order Today" and "Across the
Generations: The Book of Confessions." Essential Media Services
There are dozens of other resources but these are a good start. Hope
this helps. Tell them to be sure to see if their presbytery resource
center has these to borrow rather than buy them all.
Advent messages from Moderator Joan Gray and Stated Clerk
Clifton Kirkpatrick point to signs of hope in the midst of conflicts in the
church and the wider world. [12-6-06]
Joan Gray's article is entitled "The Politics of Christmas." She reminds
us that the deepest message of Christmas is that God is in control of our
world, sovereign over our lives and the powers and principalities of every
Stated Clerk Cliff
Kirkpatrick brings us an Advent message of "Great Hope and Expectation."
In addition to reflections on the season, he brings you up-to-date on signs
of hope for our denomination.
Judge rejects property claim by California dissidents
'Summary judgment' restores Torrance church to PC(USA)
Presbyterian News Service reports that aA California court
has issued a "summary judgment" rejecting a claim to the property of
Torrance First Presbyterian Church by a breakaway faction of the Korean
The full story >>
Presbyterian couple wins social-welfare honor
Todds were longtime advocates for social and economic justice
LOUISVILLE, Presbyterian News Service – November 22, 2006
– The Rev. George and Kathy Todd, longtime advocates for social and economic
justice in the Presbyterian Church, have been named recipients of the 2007
John Park Lee Award, named in honor of the person widely considered the
founder of health and welfare ministries in the Presbyterian Church
The award will be presented Jan. 13 in New Orleans during
social justice biennial conference of the Presbyterian Health, Education and
Welfare Association (PHEWA), which has sponsored the award since 1969.
The full story >>
New directors named for PC(USA) programs
Presbyterian News Service has recently
reported that General Assembly Council (GAC) Executive Director Linda
Valentine has appointed people for a number of important leadership
positions in the denomination:
Deputy Executive Director for Mission.
The Rev. Tom Taylor, a Southern California pastor touted
by colleagues as bridge-builder in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), has
been named Deputy Executive Director for Mission.
Taylor, currently pastor of the 1,400-member Glenkirk
Presbyterian church in Glendora, CA, will oversee all of the GAC's mission
activities, including supervision of six program directors who will be named
to manage the council's six restructured program areas.
Taylor, a member of San Gabriel Presbytery who was ordained to the
ministry in 1995, is a graduate of the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champagne, where he also earned a law degree. He received his M.Div.
from Yale University Divinity School and is a Ph.D. candidate at Fuller
Theological Seminary, where he also teaches a social justice course.
Executive Administrator of GAC
The Rev. Curtis A. Kearns Jr., who for more than a decade
has led the National Ministries Division of the PC(USA), has been named
executive administrator of the denomination's General Assembly Council (GAC).
Director of the Peace and Justice program area
Sara Pottschmidt Lisherness, who has served with the
Presbyterian Peacemaking Program since 1992, including the last seven years
as its director, will serve as director of the Peace and Justice program
In addition to the peacemaking program, the area will
include the GAC's social justice ministries, the Presbyterian Washington
Office and the church's United Nations office in New York.
Director of the Theology, Worship and Education program
The Rev. Joseph D. Small, who has overseen the
denomination's Theology and Worship area since 1993, will direct the
Theology, Worship and Education program area. The area includes the
council's offices of theology, worship, Christian education and curriculum
More on Lisherness and Small>>
NCC member churches discuss new Social Creed
PC(USA) leads effort to commemorate 1908
creed with a new one
ORLANDO, FL - November 16, 2006 – The
National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC) has received for
study the draft of a "social creed" that commemorates and builds upon the
original Social Creed of the Churches of 1908 calling for economic and
"It is not enough to celebrate the centennial
of the 1908 social creed," said the Rev. Chris Iosso, a Presbyterian
instrumental in the ecumenical development of the new document, entitled "A
Social Creed for the 21st Century."
"It can strengthen the common witness of our
communions on a broad range of social concerns - far broader than in 1908,"
he told the NCC's General Assembly here Nov. 9.
Some of the issues addressed in the new creed
that "were not touched upon in 1908," Iosso said, are women in the
workplace, temperance (alcohol and drug abuse), prison reform, racial
justice, environment, peace and "the global framework that presses on us
Indeed, the impact of globalization on the
world's social and economic order and sustainability of the earth's
resources give the new creed a far more international focus than was in the
1908 creed, Iosso noted.
The rest of the story>>
The current draft of the
new Social Creed >>
"Constitutional Presbyterians" gather to plan for separation
The Rev. Jake Young, co-moderator of the Witherspoon
Society, attended the meeting and sends this report.
Read an earlier report from
Presbyterian News Service >>
Along with a couple other observers from a progressive
affinity group, I spent Friday and Saturday, November 3-4 at a gathering of
the "Constitutional Presbyterians" (CPs) in Greenville, SC. There were
approximately 200 registrants. Slightly less were in attendance Friday,
slightly more Saturday. (You may learn more about this group, from an
indigenous point of view,
on their own website >>
The gist of the presentations follows: "We are committed
to the unity of the church. But we are also committed to correct theology
and polity. We fear the 217th General Assembly is guilty of bad
theology and bad polity. [I find "bad" to be such a lame descriptor, but
that’s the word that was used…repeatedly.] But, we are not prepared to leave
the denomination until cases against the 217th GA’s acceptance of
recommendation 5 of the PUP report are decided by the GA PJC." So, it’s
going to come down to an ecclesial court decision.
The "Social Creed" of 1908 -- some background
We recently reported on the meeting of the
Advisory Committee on social Witness Policy, which received a draft of a new
"social creed" for the 21st century, made some changes, and
passed it along to the National Council of Churches, which will be
considering it as their statement commemorating the 1908 creed adopted by a
number of Protestant churches to articulate their vision of society and
political life in light of the Gospel.
Gene TeSelle, Witherspoon’s Issues
Analyst, has written this background paper on the 1908 statement.
ACSWP tweaks new Social Creed, passes it on to NCC
The Advisory Committee on Social Witness
Policy (ACSWP), during a meeting in San Antonio, TX, Oct. 11-14, made minor
changes in a draft document called the "Social Creed for the 21st Century,"
before forwarding the proposal to the Justice and Advocacy Commission of the
National Council of Churches.
The Advisory Committee also appointed a panel to examine the impact of
the loss of the PC(USA)'s Church & Society magazine to recent
downsizing on communicating ACSWP's social justice-minded work to members of
In addition, the committee heard a report on immigration issues, and
reviewed a resolution calling on the United States government to forswear
the use of torture against terrorism suspects.
The whole story
See some of our earlier reports on this
updating of the "Social Creed" of 1908 >>
Constitutional Presbyterians urge separation from PC(USA) if it ceases to
be a ‘true church’ [11-8-06]
A group calling itself the "Constitutional Presbyterians"
gathered about 215 people to Greenville, SC, on November 3-4, to consider
the possibility of separating from the PC(USA), if it is felt that the
denomination has ceased to be "a true church." Some participants said that
is already the case, since the 217th General Assembly last summer
approved an authoritative interpretation on the church’s Constitution, which
might make it possible for some lgbt candidates for ordination to declare on
grounds of conscience that the provisions in G-6.0106b of the Book of Order
(the "fidelity and chastity" amendment) should not be applied to them.
Some sample overtures were distributed for introduction in
congregations and presbyteries, which would essentially invalidate the
Assembly’s authoritative interpretation.
Keynoter James C. Goodloe, IV, pastor of Grace Covenant
Presbyterian Church in Richmond, VA, argued that it congregations decide to
separate themselves from the PC(USA), they will not be leaving the
denomination, but simply acknowledging that the denomination has ceased to
be a "true church."
The Rev. J. Howard Edington, pastor of the Providence
Presbyterian Church on Hilton Head Island, SC, preaching on the second day
of the conference on Jesus cleansing the temple, said in his sermon: "Here
in your hearing I publicly want to say that I denounce those leaders of our
denomination who dare to suggest that at the PC(USA) is the true church.
A thought from your WebWeaver: I can’t recall ever hearing
any leader of the PC(USA) ever claiming that this denomination is "the true
church." The very notion seems to fly in the face of the basic teachings of
the Reformation, but clearly it’s a claim that some in the conservative wing
of the church are quite prepared to claim for themselves.
Read the report from
Presbyterian News Service >>
The headline over a report from The Christian Post
put the tone of the conference a little more sharply:
Unhappy Presbyterians Urge, Legitimize Separation
Unhappy Presbyterians urged fellow members to separate
from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in their attempt to counteract the
leeway granted for gay ordination.
The Presbyterian Office of the General Assembly announces:
Form of Government task force issues proposed outline for briefer, leaner
October 25, 2006 – LOUISVILLE – Members of the Form of
Government Task Force have met only twice since being created by this year’s
General Assembly in June, and already they are posting initial drafts of
their work online.
A progress report issued by the group at the end of its
meeting on October 22, 2006, detailed the work to date. Highlights include
"The Foundations of Presbyterian Polity," a proposed new section of the
Book of Order that "preserves the basic contents of the present Chapters
I-IV but in a reorganized and somewhat shortened form," and a proposed
outline for the remainder of the Form of Government. The task force has also
produced a sample Chapter One.
Drafts of these documents are available at
A Web site dedicated to the work of the task force will be
available in the coming weeks, featuring surveys that will allow readers to
share their comments, questions, and insights.
Members of the task force are elder Diana Barber,
associate synod executive for leadership, Synod of Lakes and Prairies; elder
Cindy Bolbach, attorney, clerk of session, National Capital Presbytery;
elder Sharon Davison, attorney, member of committee on ministry, New York
City Presbytery; the Reverend Gemechisa Guja, new immigrant pastor, Donegal
Presbytery; the Reverend Paul Hooker, executive presbyter and stated clerk,
St. Augustine Presbytery, representative to the task force from the Advisory
Committee on the Constitution; the Reverend James H Y Kim, pastor, Grace
Presbytery; the Reverend Neal Lloyd, pastor, Rochester Presbytery; the
Reverend Paige McRight, executive presbyter, Central Florida Presbytery; and
the Reverend Stephen Smith, associate executive and stated clerk, Pacific
For more details, see the
Presbyterian News Service >>
A Proposal to Use Girardian Anthropology to Analyze
and Resolve the Present Challenge to the "Peace, Unity and Purity of the
by the Rev. Britton W. Johnston [10-12-06]
Britt Johnston and his wife participated in the
Witherspoon "Dancing with God" conference on mission at Stony Point in
September, 2005, just before leaving for a second term in Colombia as
accompaniers. Currently living in Iowa, he is a Member at Large of the
Presbytery of Santa Fe.
He has written this essay in an effort to offer some fresh
thinking for the Presbyterian debate on sexuality and ordination.
Following the "mimetic theory" of French anthropologist
René Girard, he suggests that we radically revise our thinking about
sexuality, about morality, and about human desire. Our thinking about
sexuality, he says, is shaped by our human (and religious) need to structure
our world into "differences," just as the Hebrew people saw creation as
God’s acts of differentiating – light from dark, land from water, and all
the rest. But the Biblical faith sees these differences as never to be
granted sacred status.
We must also recognize, he goes on, that our notions of
sexuality and sexual desire are culturally conditioned, and that desire is
by no means a "good thing" in itself. So liberals must recognize their error
in considering desire (of whatever kind) a legitimation for sexual
relationships (of whatever kind). And conservatives need to get over
their conviction "that so-called ‘biblical’ standards are divine absolutes."
Finally, he urges both sides to follow Calvin in regarding
ordination as less than sacred. Then perhaps conservatives could be less
anxious about "protecting" it, and liberals less determined to claim its
supposed sacredness to give full legitimacy to the place of lgbt people in
the church. For the
full essay >>
New Presbyterian executive director starts work by dealing
with staff cutbacks [9-25-06]
Louisville Courier-Journal reported on Sunday, Sept. 24, that Linda
Valentine, having recently moved into her new job as Executive Director of
the General Assembly Council, is spending most of her time reorganizing the
newly reduced staff. The report quotes Moderator Joan Grey as commenting
that "She has a great deal of fortitude and a very cheerful spirit. ... She
doesn't seem to let all this get her down."
The full report >>
Witherspoon Board reaffirms unity of the church, laments divisive moves
The Board of the Witherspoon Society,
meeting from September 13 through 16 at McCormick Theological Seminary in
Chicago, today adopted a statement expressing dismay at the actions and
statements by some Presbyterians, congregations and presbyteries that seem
to violate the spirit of "harmony and covenanted partnership" that were
fostered by the Theological Task Force and experienced by many at the 217th
General Assembly in Birmingham.
The statement concludes: "We pledge to join with all
Presbyterians in carrying out the letter and the spirit of both the AI and
our broader Presbyterian tradition: to defend our Constitution against
anarchy and misinterpretation, to seek more thorough discernment, and to
assist candidates and committees as we all try to live our way into the new
opportunities brought to us by the Theological Task Force, the actions of
the 217th General Assembly, and the Reformed heritage upon which
the Presbyterian Church (USA) stands."
The full statement >>
Charges filed against Rev. Janet Edwards in Pittsburgh
Presbytery for performing marriage for two women [9-13-06]
Michael Adee, National Field Organizer for More Light
Presbyterians, has issued a call for prayers for her, her witness, her
family and her presbytery.
statement, along with an AP report >>
And see the
Presbyterian News Service report >>
Update on Thursday, 8-31-06
Congregation Decides: Kirk of the Hills votes to leave denomination
Members cheer after overwhelmingly voting to affiliate with a more
The latest report from the Tulsa World >>
The earlier report [8-30-06]:
2,700-member Tulsa church poised to leave the PC(USA)
Kirk of the Hills congregation meeting Wednesday to "affirm" session
Members of the Kirk of the Hills Presbyterian Church in Tulsa will meet
tonight (Aug. 30) to "affirm" the unanimous decision of the church's session
two weeks ago to leave the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and affiliate with
the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC).
The congregation – which will meet in closed session – will also be asked to
"affirm the ordinations" of the Kirk's co-pastors, the Revs. Thomas W. Gray
and Roger Wayne Hardy. Both of them renounced the jurisdiction of the PC(USA)
when the session voted to bolt the denomination and have not as yet been
received as ministers by the EPC.
report from Presbyterian News Service >>
New York State judge rules that separatist congregation
can leave with its property [8-28-06]
State Supreme Court Justice John K. McGuirk ruled on
Wednesday that the First Presbyterian Church of Ridgebury, NY (which now
calls itself modestly The Church at Ridgebury) can keep its property as it
pursues its intention to leave the PC(USA). The Presbytery of Hudson River
will be considering an appeal of the decision.
See the full story in The Journal News of Westchester County >>
Moderator, stated clerk nix 'moratorium' call
Tell New Wineskins they lack authority to suspend Constitution
August 25, 2006 -- (PNS) -- General Assembly
Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick and Moderator Joan Gray responded this week
to correspondence they received from the New Wineskins Association of
Churches that calls for a moratorium on disciplining churches that seek to
leave the denomination.
The New Wineskins approved the call for a moratorium in July, and the
association subsequently empowered their moderator, the Rev. Dean Weaver, to
send a letter and details of their action to Kirkpatrick and Gray.
full story by Presbyterian News Service >>
Joel Hanisek joins Peacemaking Program staff as new
Presbyterian Representative to the United Nations
Peacemaking Program has announced that Joel Hanisek is joining their staff
as the Presbyterian Representative to the United Nations. Joel's
responsibilities include helping equip Presbyterians for discipleship in the
global arena through making connections with the UN community. A
graduate of Davidson College and Yale divinity School, he has served as the
Young Adult Intern for educational and advocacy initiatives at PUNO. He also
served on the UN Israel-Palestine Working Group — a coalition of
humanitarian nongovernmental organizations. He has also studied in Syria and
The full story >>
PC(USA) leaders gather at Montreat
to share hopes for the future of the church –
through building a new culture in the denomination
by Toya Richards Hill, Presbyterian News Service
Also on the PC(USA)
MONTREAT, NC – July 11, 2006
[posted here 7-19-06] – The hope for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) lies
in a Christ-like love for people even when you are diametrically opposed,
empowering young leaders and recognizing that being multicultural isn’t
simply absorbing those different from you into your religious culture.
Certainly not groundbreaking revelations, but deemed important enough to
the survival of the denomination that PC(USA) leaders gathered to make sense
of what’s going on in the church repeated these themes — and others — again
and again during a four-day conference here.
It was "The Hope of the Church: Celebrating Common Ground" conference
July 5-8 at Montreat Conference Center, and it united an unprecedented body
of PC(USA) heavyweights, including 16 general assembly (GA) moderators and
nearly all of the 11 PC(USA) seminary presidents.
"It’s time to build a new culture in this denomination," said Elder
Barbara Wheeler, president of Auburn Theological Seminary and a member of
the Theological Task Force on the Peace, Unity & Purity (PUP) of the Church.
A culture in which there is less symbolic position taking, and instead "a
church in which we honor each other’s struggles," she told the group of
several hundred conference attendees during a panel discussion.
The task force’s report — five years in the making — was adopted by the
recently concluded 217th General Assembly. Its recommendations — including a
controversial "authoritative interpretation" of the Constitution that gives
ordaining bodies greater flexibility in determining fitness for ordained
office — has prompted widespread speculation about how and whether the
PC(USA) can stay together.
Ultimately, everyone shares one faith, one baptism and one Lord, Wheeler
said. It was one of the conclusions reached in the laborious process of
creating the PUP report, and a conclusion that the task force has urged
others to try and arrive at as they seek to strengthen the denomination.
The PUP report has left everyone disappointed, Wheeler said of the
various groups who took issue one way or the other with the task force’s
conclusions. "But all of us … are still in the church. I think that is
deeply pleasing to God," she said.
Others, like the Rev. Jack Rogers, echoed the theme.
The Holy Spirit is calling us to transform into an "opening, welcoming
and accepting family," said the moderator of the 213th (2001) GA. Then, once
that happens, that becomes the setting for evangelism, he said.
Recognizing that people come to the table from different places also
builds trust, something that has eroded in the PC(USA) particularly since
reunion in 1983 of the northern and southern streams of the Presbyterian
Church, said the Rev. Joan Gray of Atlanta, the current PC(USA) moderator.
"We need to pay attention to the level of trust in our church," she said.
"If we don’t have trust, we don’t have anything."
Integral also to the conference discussion was the role the next
generation of pastors plays in serving the denomination in the future, with
various seminary leaders and one former moderator leading that panel
Advocates for the poor, people of good humor, "biblical theological
sense-makers" and strong preachers were just some of the attributes called
for from the up-and-coming pastoral pool.
Hopefully the next generation "will learn to celebrate diversity," said
the Rev. Douglas Oldenburg, former president of Columbia Theological
Seminary and moderator of the 210th (1998) GA. "I, frankly, don’t want a
church all like me."
And, the Rev. Dean Thompson, president of Louisville Presbyterian
Theological Seminary, talked about the need for younger pastors to have
mentors and to "ask lots and lots of questions."
Ironically, no younger adults were included among the panelists
originally scheduled to take part in the conference, and some at the event
spoke openly about the lack of age diversity present.
But organizers quickly adjusted on site to hear from voices younger than
40 by calling on them specifically to ask questions during the panel
discussion focused on the next generation of pastors. Conference planners
also pulled from the group of under-40 participants to utilize them during a
panel that looked at where the church needs to go from here.
The Rev. Joel Tolbert, pastor of Rehoboth Presbyterian Church in Decatur,
GA, spoke of building younger people as leaders as the denomination moves
ahead. Let young people "get a shot at ruling the church," he said.
Tolbert also spoke strongly about the divisive nature of lobbyist groups
who separate themselves out within the denomination, and called on
participants to question their allegiance to these sub-groups.
The Rev. Shannon Kershner, pastor of Woodhaven Presbyterian Church in
Irving, TX, also talked about rebuilding the body that has been segmented
out and divided. "We are the body of Christ. We have got to learn to live
like it," she said.
The conference also addressed the issue of multiculturalism in the
Multiculturalism "is not about saving the church," said Elder Patricia
Brown of Cincinnati, moderator of the 209th (1997) GA. It’s about becoming
"so much more" than what we already are through others, she said.
"We tend to put people into boxes too quickly," said the Rev. William
Carl III, president of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. But, "Jesus never
separated" out people who were different, he said.
"We need to cultivate a culture of embrace," said the Rev. Syngman Rhee,
a professor at Union Theological Seminary/Presbyterian School of Christian
Education in Richmond, VA, and moderator of the 212th (2000) GA, "a culture
of mutual understanding."
"This is actually a very exciting time right now in the church," Carl
said of the multicultural age. "I’m very confident about the future."
Let’s think about this!
One of the members of the Theological Task
Force, Elder Barbara Wheeler, president of Auburn Theological Seminary,
said in the conference that "it’s time to build a new culture in this
denomination." She interpreted this as a culture in which there would be
less taking of symbolic positions, and instead a willingness to "honor
each other’s struggles."
This would seem to suggest that advocacy
groups such as the Witherspoon Society (or the Covenant Network or the
Presbyterian Lay Committee or the Presbyterian Coalition or [name your own
list!]) are part of our church’s problem.
We invite you to consider Wheeler’s point,
as an invitation to groups like Witherspoon to consider our purpose and
role in the PC(USA). Would it be better for all these groups to fade
quietly into the sunset, or to change substantially what we do and how we
Send your ideas, and let’s talk about it!
Just send a
note, and see what ideas we have to share.
Surprise announcement electrifies Assembly
receives historic $150 million gift for church growth
Report from Presbyterian News Service
A Colorado businessman and elder has contributed a
historic $150 million gift to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) aimed at
helping presbyteries start new churches, transform struggling congregations
and develop new racial-ethic congregations.
The money from Stanley W. Anderson of Denver, CO, for the
new Loaves and Fishes Church Growth Fund will be distributed to presbyteries
through grants ranging from $250,000 to $1 million each. Presbyteries will
be required to apply for the grants and will have to match a portion of it.
Word of the money came through a surprise announcement Thursday that
electrified those attending the opening of the PC(USA)’s 217th General
Assembly here, prompting commissioners to stand and cheer.
Presbytery mission causes and Presbyterian seminaries will
also benefit from the money.
The rest of
the story >>
|Budget and staff cuts are regrettable at many levels
A comment by Witherspoon Issues Analyst Gene TeSelle
The General Assembly Council (GAC), on the basis of recommendations by
Executive Director John Detterick, has made drastic staff cuts and
reorganized its agencies, citing a serious budget shortfall.
We want first to express our sympathy with and concern for those who are
being terminated at various stages of their careers, and for those who
remain in positions that will be more demanding and stressful than ever.
PC(USA) membership declines, giving is up
Membership loss is largest since 1975
The Presbyterian News Service reports that membership in
the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) declined by more than 2 percent in 2005,
but total giving to the church increased by more than 5 percent, topping $3
billion for the first time.
The full story >>
Montreat conference will assess hope, future
of the PC(USA)
Seminary presidents, former GA
moderators head participants list for early-July summit
Presbyterian News Service provides more information on the
high-powered Presbyterian church leaders planning to gather at Montreat
Conference Center next month to dialogue and share visions for the future of
The North Carolina-based center is hosting "The Hope of
the Church: Celebrating Common Ground" July 5-8 as a consultation for church
leaders and laity across the U.S. Fifteen GA moderators, the 11 PC(USA)
seminary presidents or their representatives and various pastors, elders and
lay leaders will address four key questions during the event in an effort to
share ideas and network.
The four questions are: How is the church being called to
transform itself? How is the church being called to transform the world?
What is God calling the next generation of pastors to do to faithfully serve
the church in the future? What are the opportunities for ministering to a
diverse and multicultural, 21st century church?
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 Church (U.S.A.).
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.
Corporate executive Linda Valentine tapped as nominee for
GAC executive director position [5-11-06]
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 >>
Post-GA conference planned at Montreat: "a potentially pivotal moment for
"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 >>
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."
More on GAC staff reductions
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.
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 >>
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 $9.15 million.
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 >>
News from the PC(USA) (and lots of it!)
William P. Thompson, Presbyterian and ecumenical leader, dies at
'Stately clerk' had long and distinguished career
William P. Thompson, 87, a towering figure in Presbyterian
and ecumenical circles in the last half of the 20th century, died on April
27 at Plymouth Place, a Christian retirement community in suburban Chicago.
He had been in declining health for several years.
PC(USA) group will get first-hand look at Israel/Palestine
Presbytery teams will meet with officials, plan future ministries
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is sponsoring a travel
study seminar in Israel and Palestine. A group of more than 100
Presbyterians left on Wednesday (April 26) and is expected to return to the
United States on May 5.
Moderator urges GAC to seek task force on Middle East issues
Ufford-Chase proposes ‘effort to listen to one another and seek a solid
A document proposing that the 217th General Assembly
create a task force to listen to Jews, Christians and Muslims and to monitor
the politics of the Middle East for the next two years is under
consideration by the General Assembly Council (GAC).
The task force, proposed by Rick Ufford-Chase, the
moderator of the 216th GA, would "develop guidance" to honor each group’s
concerns while the denomination "considers how to move forward on these
issues," Ufford-Chase said.
WCC protests settlers' violence against Christian volunteers in Hebron
Expressing "alarm and concern," the World Council of
Churches (WCC) has made a formal protest to the Israeli ambassador in
Switzerland over two recent incidents involving violence by Israeli settlers
against Christian volunteers from the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in
Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).
For 3rd year running, PNS named country's top religious news service
Presbyterians Today, Noticias
also winners in church-press competition
For the third year in a row and the fourth time in five
years, the Presbyterian News Service has been named the best
religious news agency in North America in 2005 in a competition sponsored by
the Associated Church Press (ACP).
Decisions near on budget cuts, layoffs
PC(USA) leaders trying to trim $9.15 million from spending blueprint ‘in
a pastoral manner’
From Presbyterian News Service, April 18, 2006 – A
16-person staff team is scheduled to finish its work on a drastically
reduced General Assembly mission budget for 2007-2008 today (April 18). That
will pave the way for General Assembly Council (GAC) Executive Director John
Detterick to add finishing touches and start sending it out to GAC members
by Friday, April 21.
A detailed budget, including proposed program and staff
cuts needed to balance it, will be given to council members when they arrive
on April 26 for their four-day meeting here.
The Mission Work Plan (MWP), approved by the GAC in
February, includes four goal areas —Evangelism and Witness, Justice
and Compassion, Spirituality and Discipleship, and Leadership and Vocation
— and eight objectives. It is the sole basis for the budget decisions
now being made.
Because the GAC’s budget deliberations next week will
include staff cuts, it will be meeting for about 10 hours in closed session.
Final action on the mission budget is due on Saturday, April 29.
Presbyterian Center staff — who now number about 600 — will be
notified of their employment status on Monday, May 1.
The rest of the story
Messages from Moderator and Stated Clerk
In his bimonthly message to the church,
Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase
tells of experiencing truly multicultural worship at Pasadena Presbyterian
Stated Clerk Clifton
Kirkpatrick reflects on the various important anniversaries that will be
celebrated at the coming General Assembly, including the 300th
anniversary of organized Presbyterian life in America.
But then again ...
under scrutiny for performing same-sex marriage
Pittsburgh Presbytery is investigating one of its
ministers, the Rev. Janet Edwards, for officiating at a same-sex union last
year. Edwards said she doesn't think she violated her ordination vows or the
Book of Order by performing the same-sex union.
"Marriage is a sacred union between people who are committed to each other,
without regard to gender," said Edwards, who advocates the full inclusion of
gay persons in the Pittsburgh Presbytery.
The case is presently being studied by an investigative
committee, which will decide whether to bring charges against her.
Edwards is a distant descendant of the great 18th
century preacher and theologian, Jonathan Edwards, most known for his
sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." Janet Edwards notes that for
her ancestor, the threat of divine judgment hung over every person, and no
one group is singled out for that judgment.
whole story >>
2 new Web sites offer splashes of diversity
Latest website offerings highlight multicultural and Asian-American
Two new Internet Web sites reflecting the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s
commitment to racial-ethnic diversity are now up and running on the
denomination's Web site.
One of the sites,
www.pcusa.org/diversity, is dedicated to multicultural ministry; it was
launched by the PC(USA)'s Office of Evangelism and Racial and Cultural
www.pcusa.org/asianamerican, is dedicated to Asian-American ministry; it
is sponsored by the PC(USA)'s Office of Congregational Leadership
(Asian-American), part of the Theology and Worship program area of the
Congregational Ministries Division (CMD).
rest of the story >>
Jim Andrews dies in traffic accident
stated clerk helped bring about Presbyterian reunion
The Rev. James E. Andrews, who served as stated clerk of the General
Assembly for 23 years, was struck and killed by a car on March 7 while
walking near his Decatur, GA, home. He was 77.
See the Presbyterian
News Service report >>
Bimonthly letters to the Church
An Around-the-World Glimpse
at Amazing Work
Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase, in his bi-monthly letter to
the church, shares glimpses of the church at work around the world, from his
recent visits to south Korea, Taiwan, North India, Pakistan, Jordan, Israel
God, in your grace, transform the world!
Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick, in his bimonthly letter
to the church, reports on the coming Ninth Assembly of the World Council of
Churches, which will convene on February 14, 2006, in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
Theological Task Force members in their own
Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity and Purity has spoken collectively in
its final report. Presbyweb has offered to post an op-ed article by the
members individually. They are posting the 16 articles they have received in
alphabetical order, one or two at a time.
Click here for all
the more recent stories on the PC(USA).
Earlier stories are indexed:
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!