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Archives:  August 2007

This page lists all our reports and commentary from August, 2007

July, 2007
June, 2007
May, 2007
April, 2007
March, 2007
February, 2007
January, 2007
December, 2006
November, 2006
October, 2006
September, 2006
August, 2006
July, 2006

Our coverage of the 2006 General Assembly is indexed on a special page.
For links to earlier archive pages, click here.

8/30/07

We've just posted a few photos from the
Ghost Ranch Week of Peace. 
We'll add more, and we welcome your contributions. 
Just send them with a note to dougking2@aol.com

8/29/07

For all our reports
from the Ghost Ranch Week of Peace

We've added a few photos to some of the reports on the seminars at Ghost Ranch.

Click here for the reports on the seminars on Building a Culture of Peace, The Israel/Palestine Conflict, and Advocating for Peace and Justice.

And click here for the earlier reports on The Presbyterian Church and the UN, Earth-Honoring Faith, Building a Culture of Peace, Peacemaking 401, and Speaking Truth to the Powerful and the Not so Powerful.

Thanks to Jan Orr-Harter of Presbyterian Peace Fellowship,
and Barbara Quintiliano for most of the photos.

8/28/07
New worship leader will help at the Witherspoon Society conference

Because the Rev. Chip Andrus, who had planned to lead worship at our conference, has had some family needs come up, we have secured the help of the Rev. David Gambrell to provide leadership for our worship.

David Gambrell is associate for worship in the Office of Theology and Worship of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). He is a candidate for the Ph.D. in liturgical studies at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, where he served as dean of the chapel and taught an adjunct course on the psalms. A life-long Presbyterian, David spent a year as a Presbyterian Mission Volunteer in Homestead, Florida, and graduated from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary in 1998. As a church musician and composer, he finds joy in the ministry of congregational song. David is also deeply committed to the intersections of worship, peacemaking, and justice.

We welcome him as part of the conference leadership team!

For more on the conference on "Becoming Neighbors: An Invitation to Global Discipleship," Sept. 16-19 in Louisville, KY >>

Note:  It's not too late to register for this event, but be sure to call the conference hotel to reserve a room if you need one.

Here are the reports from the last three of the Ghost Ranch seminars:

Building a Culture of Peace

Sara Lisherness, until recently director of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, and Jay Rock, Coordinator for Interfaith Relations of the PC(USA), led this group in exploring some of the many forms that peacemaking can take, and the ways the peacemaking journey can shape our personal lives.

The Israel/Palestine Conflict

Marthame and Elizabeth Sanders served in mission from 2000 through 2003 in the northern West Bank town of Zababdeh.  Out of that experience and their continuing involvement in that area, they helped the seminar group in building skills to respond to comments and "hard questions" about the Israel/Palestine situation and other difficult issues in the church and the society today.

Advocating for Peace and Justice

The Rev. Dr. Chris Iosso, Coordinator of the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy, helped this group gain a sense of how the church is currently thinking about issues such as the Iraq war, the New Social Creed which is now being drafted, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and much more.

For a separate page of earlier reports >>

And for a page listing all the reports of the Ghost Ranch Week for Peace >>

HIV/AIDS Travel Study Seminar to South Africa and Malawi

February 22 to March 7, 2008

Apply now

Contact Amanda Craft at acraft@ctr.pcusa.org for more information.

Participants in this travel/study seminar will:

bulletVisit South Africa and Malawi, two countries seriously affected by HIV/AIDS and responding very differently to the issues.
bulletListen to our partners in mission and ministry as they share with us the impact of HIV/AIDS at the denominational and local levels.
bulletLearn from people directly involved with ministries responding to HIV/AIDS in their countries, communities and congregations.
bulletPray and study with our partners as we seek to discern how God is calling us to respond.
bulletPlan and strategize concrete ways we can make HIV/AIDS a focus of concern for our congregations.

Find an application form and more details at http://pcusa.org/peacemaking/ya/ya.htm#seminar

The Rev. W. Mark Koenig, Coordinator
Presbyterian Peacemaking Program
100 Witherspoon Street
Louisville, KY 40202
888-728-7228, ext. 5936

www.pcusa.org/peacemaking

More on the PJC judgment against Rev. Jane Spahr's action in performing same-sex marriages

More Light Presbyterians comments with regret about the decision, and offers further thoughts on the conviction that "love matters most."

On the same web page you will find a long AP report, and more.

Presbyterian News Service reports on the Synod of the Pacific PJC action, overturning the acquittal by the by the Presbytery of the Redwoods' PJC of the Rev. Jane Adams Spahr for performing weddings for two lesbian couples.

8/24/07
Rev. Janie Spahr found guilty of misconduct for lesbian weddings

A very brief AP report begins:

A veteran Presbyterian minister was found guilty of violating church law for officiating the weddings of two lesbian couples, the minister's defense team said Friday.

According to her defense team, the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Synod of the Pacific ruled 6-2 that while the Rev. Jane Spahr of San Rafael "acted with conscience and conviction," her actions were still at odds with the church's constitution.

The ruling reverses a decision by the PJC of the Presbytery of the Redwoods in March 2006, which said that she acted within her rights as an ordained minister when she married two lesbian couples in 2004 and 2005.

Sources in That All May Freely Serve are saying that her case will probably be appealed to the PJC of the General Assembly.

For more comments, see the TAMFS website  and Janie Spahr’s own website .

The latest Fair Food Update offers new resources and calls for action  

1. Labor Day Sunday (Sept. 2nd) lectionary resources
2. Email Burger King and ask them to work with the CIW
3. Children write to Burger King / K-5 Curriculum

8/23/07
PHEWA launches initiative to revitalize dangerous New Orleans neighborhood

Grant fuels effort to develop strong leaders via faith-based community organizing

Presbyterian News Service reports that the Presbyterian Health, Education and Welfare Association (PHEWA) is partnering to establish a grassroots faith-based community organizing initiative aimed at revitalizing a notoriously dangerous New Orleans neighborhood.

The effort, being funded through a $20,000 grant from a private foundation, calls for developing strong leaders in the crime-infested Central City district of New Orleans and training them to tackle problems that residents of the neighborhood work together to identify.   The full report >>

Christ and Empire – looking beyond Christ and Culture

a book review by Gene TeSelle 

There’s been much discussion these days about "the new American Empire" and the need for Jesus’ followers to stand against it as he stood against the imperial powers of his own time. This new book looks at the relation between "Christ and empire" with depth and a recognition of the always ambivalent relationships between faith and political power.

For the full book review essay >>

On economic ... justice?

2005 incomes, on average, still below 2000 peak

The New York Times reported on August 21 that the latest government statistics indicate that "Americans earned a smaller average income [per capita] in 2005 than in 2000, the fifth consecutive year that they had to make ends meet with less money than at the peak of the last economic expansion." And this occurred while many Americans were having to pay a greater share of their health care costs, and found their retirement benefits being reduced as well.

A few other bits of information:

The growth in total incomes was concentrated among those making more than $1 million. The number of such taxpayers grew by more than 26 percent, to 303,817 in 2005, from 239,685 in 2000. These individuals, who constitute less than a quarter of 1 percent of all taxpayers, reaped almost 47 percent of the total income gains in 2005, compared with 2000.

The article >>

Two more seminar reports from the Ghost Ranch "Week of Peace"  

Joel Hanisek, the PC(USA)  Presbyterian representative to the UN, reports on the seminar he led:  Discover the Vision: The Presbyterian Church and the United Nations

John Preston, one of the Seminar leaders of the seminar on Earth-honoring Faith, adds this comment to our earlier report on that seminar, specifically about the importance of worship in an "earth-honoring faith" 

For the index page listing all our reports from the "Week of Peace" >>

8/21/07
Coming to the Witherspoon conference in Louisville, Sept 16-19?

If you’re thinking of joining the Witherspoon conference on global mission and justice, in Louisville, Sept. 16-19, TODAY -- TUESDAY AUG. 21 -- IS THE LAST DAY TO MAKE ROOM RESERVATIONS AT OUR SPECIAL CONFERENCE RATE.

The conference will be held at the Hampton Inn in downtown Louisville, near the offices of the General Assembly. The address is 101 East Jefferson Street, Louisville, KY 40202.

Phone: 502-585-2200
Fax: 502-584-5657

Website: Go to www.hamptoninn.com , then enter Louisville, KY, in the form, and you should get a list of hotels, with the downtown one first.

We hope you'll join us!

More on the "New Social Creed"

Gordon Shull responds to Gene TeSelle's essay on  "The 'Social Creed' after One Hundred Years"  He begins:

In a time when political as well as religious leaders equate their wisdom and will with the will and wisdom of God, a social creed must affirm the value, nay the necessity of humility on the part of leaders in political as well as religious institutions. As Reinhold Niebuhr put it in 1948, "The future of the world literally depends, not upon the display of our power (though the use of it is necessary and inevitable) but upon the acquisition of virtues which can develop only in humility." (Reinhold Niebuhr on Politics, p. 271.)

The rest of Dr. Shull's comment >>

God’s Warriors on CNN

Christiane Amanpour of CNN begins a three-part series tonight on violence and religion. The report is called God's Warriors. Here is a preview in which she interviews a youth leader in San Francisco who calls his ministry Battlecry.com. Tonight Jewish Warriors. Muslim Warriors on Wednesday and Christian Warriors on Thursday. All reports at 9 pm Eastern Daylight Time.

Thanks to John Shuck

More seminar reports from the Ghost Ranch "Week of Peace"

Mike Bennefiel offers a very thorough and helpful summary of the seminar entitled "Peacemaking 401,"  which was led by Rick Ufford-Chase, Executive Director of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship.

Speaking Truth to the Powerful and the Not So Powerful, led by the Rev. Carol Wickersham considered these questions:  How do we speak the truth about injustice to those in power and to our next-door neighbors? What are we called to witness to and to whom, and who do we mean when we use the collective pronoun "we?"   Barbara Quintiliano shares some of the insights the group gained from wrestling with these questions -- along with a good list of resources on political activism in general, and resistance to torture in particular.

8/20/07

For a listing of all our stories from the Ghost Ranch Week of Peace >>

THE "SOCIAL CREED" AFTER A HUNDRED YEARS:

TIME FOR A NEW SOCIAL AWAKENING

by Gene TeSelle, Witherspoon Issues Analyst

NOTE:  The "new social creed" will be one main focus of the Witherspoon conference on global mission and justice, coming up Sept. 16-19 in Louisville, KY.

We are fast approaching the hundredth anniversary of the so-called Social Creed of the Churches, adopted in 1908 at the founding of the Federal Council of Churches. It was a dramatic statement by what we have come to call "the public church." Currently the Methodists and the Presbyterians, as well as the National Council of Churches, are looking ahead to an appropriate commemoration.

We cannot help noting the similarities between 1908 and 2008. Inequalities of income and wealth in the U.S. are now greater than they have been since the "Gilded Age" of the late nineteenth century. Corporate and government scandals are approaching the same level, too. Many of the principles enunciated in the Social Creed and in the general mood of the Progressive Era, such as a "living wage" sufficient to support a family, are being reasserted; but they are also regarded as unfeasible by many shapers of public opinion today.

There are also significant differences. The problems addressed by the Social Creed were national in scope; because these problems could not be addressed adequately at the local or state level, new kinds of federal legislation were advocated and eventually adopted. In our own day we see a further broadening of scope as the much-celebrated globalization of the economy brings all the workers of the world into potential competition with each other and requires a new kind of global response.     The rest of this essay >>

More from the Ghost Ranch "Week of Peace"

What went on in the Seminars?

Starting today, we'll be bringing you brief reports of the seven different seminars that ran through the "Week of Peace," each of them written by a person who took part in that seminar.

We begin today with a report from the seminar on "Earth-honoring Faith," which was led by Larry Rasmussen and John Preston.

8/16/07
Looking back on the Week for Peace at Ghost Ranch

by Doug King, your WebWeaver 

We’ve posted a number of specific items from our week at Ghost Ranch from July 30th to August 5th. But now that a couple weeks have passed, I’d like to look back briefly at the week, asking what made it so good for many of the people there, and what impact it may have in the longer term.

Rick Ufford-Chase, now serving as the Executive Director of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, called it a "cowboy camp meeting" for peace, justice and care for creation. That it was. According to Jim Baird, Director of Programs at Ghost Ranch, it was the largest single group seminar ever at Ghost Ranch, with some 125 people registered.

More >>

Appeal hearing in Spahr same-sex marriage case set for Friday

Synod of the Pacific PJC to hear Redwoods Presbytery appeal

The Rev. Jane Adams Spahr, who was acquitted last year on charges that she violated the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s constitutional ban on performing same-sex marriages, is headed back to church court on Friday (Aug. 17).

The judicial proceeding comes after Redwoods Presbytery appealed the March 3, 2006, acquittal of Spahr by its Permanent Judicial Commission (PJC), which determined Spahr acted within her rights as an ordained minister when she married two lesbian couples in 2004 and 2005.

The full report from Presbyterian News Service >>

A Platform in Search of a Party  

Witherspoon member Dr. Ray Heer has shared with us the results of his concern for our nation. Rather than expressing his outrage at the situation (and our political parties) today, he has tried to put on paper "a positive vision of policies for a better future." He has put it in the form of a "platform in search of a party," since he recognizes that no existing party is likely to adopt it. It reflects, he says, his effort to let his life "be influenced by the teachings of Jesus."

8/14/07
Are you thinking of joining us for the Witherspoon Society Conference on "Becoming Neighbors: An Invitation to Global Discipleship"?

Well, it’s time to get a move on!

After August 15, the registration fee will be considered "late," and will rise from $190 to $210.  And after that date, we can no longer guarantee a room for you at the conference hotel, the Hampton Inn.

For a sample of what you’ll gain by being there, take a look at the four sermons preached by the Rev. Dr. Roberto Jordan, a leading drafter of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches that has led to their project, "Covenanting for Justice in the Economy and the Earth."

Click here for more information on the conference, and to register >>

America’s war in Iraq is increasingly being "privatized"

One of the concerns shared during the Ghost Ranch Week of Peace focused on the privatization of US fighting in Iraq.

One current report by AP begins:

Iraq contractors accused in shootings

There are now nearly as many private contractors in Iraq as there are U.S. soldiers - and a large percentage of them are private security guards equipped with automatic weapons, body armor, helicopters and bullet-proof trucks.

They operate with little or no supervision, accountable only to the firms employing them. And as the country has plummeted toward anarchy and civil war, this private army has been accused of indiscriminately firing at American and Iraqi troops, and of shooting to death an unknown number of Iraqi citizens who got too close to their heavily armed convoys.

Not one has faced charges or prosecution.

There is great confusion among legal experts and military officials about what laws - if any - apply to Americans in this force of at least 48,000.

Read the full story in the Sacramento Bee >>

(Registration necessary to read the whole story, but it's free. Or click here for the ready-to-print version.

Or go to Yahoo News >>

Part-way through this report you’ll find extensive discussion of Blackwater, which is one of the major private firms involved in Iraq. It has an estimated 1,000 employees in Iraq, and at least $800 million in government contracts. It is one of the most high-profile security firms in Iraq, with its fleet of "Little Bird" helicopters and armed door gunners swarming Baghdad and beyond.

The secretive company, run by a former Navy SEAL, is based at a massive, swampland complex in North Carolina. Until 9-11, it had few security contracts.

Since then, Blackwater profits have soared. And it has become the focus of numerous contractor controversies in Iraq, including the May 30 shooting death of an Iraqi deemed to be driving too close to a Blackwater security detail.

bulletA recent book, Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, by Jeremy Scahill, gives much more detail on the company and its operations. See a recent review in The London Review of Books >>
bulletOr order Blackwater now through Amazon.com , at $17.79
The latest information from the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program includes:
bulletinformation and resources for the Peacemaking Offering
bulletreports from the 2007 Presbyterian Peacemaking Conference
bulletreports on the Iraqi refugee crisis
bulletnews from the Nonviolent Peaceforce's work in Sri Lanka, Guatemala, the Philippines
Lutherans vote not to punish gay ministers

ELCA assembly passes on to a task force the issues of homosexuals' ordination and blessings for same-sex unions.

A national assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America urged its bishops Saturday (August 11) to refrain from defrocking gay and lesbian ministers who violate a celibacy rule, but it rejected measures that would have permitted ordaining gays churchwide.

Still, advocates for full inclusion of gays were encouraged, calling the resolution a powerful statement in support of clergy with same-sex partners. The conservative group Lutheran CORE was critical of the vote, saying bishops would now feel more secure in ignoring denomination policy.

The 538-431 vote came on the final day of a weeklong meeting in Chicago -- and after emotional debate over how the denomination should interpret the Bible on homosexuality. 

The report in the LA Times >>


More Light Presbyterians
has issued a brief statement praising this action, quoting Emily Eastwood, Executive Director of Lutherans Concerned who said of the vote: "The church is on the road to acceptance. The end of exclusion is in sight."

Even in Red-State Kentucky, the President is in trouble

Kentucky may be a "red state," but Kentuckian Berry Craig says it's turning a paler shade of red.  His essay >> 

American Bar Association criticizes Bush terror policies

The Associated Press reports that two American Bar Association committees have recently stated that "President Bush’s recent order on CIA interrogations of terror suspects should be overturned because it still allows harsh treatment in violation of international treaties." The ABA, meeting this week in San Francisco, is expected to adopt a resolution reflecting the views of the two committees.

The report also states that "[t]he group also is taking aim at the administration’s employment of a legal tactic - the state secrets privilege - to end lawsuits challenging aspects of the war on terrorism. Another ABA resolution expected to win approval urges federal judges not to be hasty in dismissing suits where the administration has said proceeding would lead to disclosure of state secrets."     The complete story >>

8/11/07
Speaking of water ... (as Larry Rasmussen was in his sermon at Ghost Ranch)

"Nobody owns water.
Drink some, and try to keep it."

This little thought comes from the poet Alberto Rios, who grew up in Nogales, AZ, on the border between Arizona and Sonora, Mexico. He grew up between between worlds, cultures, languages – which "showed me how to look at everything in more than one way" – and that ability is, he says, what made him a poet. This line is part of his "Words over Water" project around Tempe Town Lake, which consists of bits of thought like this one, inscribed on 600 granite tiles placed in a line six miles long around Tempe Town Lake.

I discovered this tidbit on the PBS News Hour ,with Margaret Warner interviewing the poet.

To read a transcript of the interview >>

From there you can also find sound and video clips.

8/10/07
Religious coalition decries Bush’s new interrogation tactics

Presbyterian-founded group says new guidelines won’t stop torture

Presbyterian News Service reports that the Presbyterian-founded, church-backed National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT)  is speaking out against a new executive order from President Bush that broadly outlines the limits of how suspects may be questioned in the CIA’s terror interrogation program.

The order, which Bush signed last month, bans torture, cruel and inhumane treatment, sexual abuse, acts intended to denigrate a religion or other degradation "beyond the bounds of human decency." It pledges that detainees will receive adequate food, water and medical care and be protected from extreme heat and cold.

It does not, however, say what techniques are permitted during harsh questioning of suspects.

That’s become a matter of debate in the United States and elsewhere, including with NRCAT, a coalition of more than 125 religious organizations, including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), that has called on the U.S. government to forswear the use of torture without exception.

The group recently issued a statement saying that said that as people of faith, "who value our common humanity and our religious responsibility to treat all people with decency and the due process protections of civilized law, ... we urge" President Bush to:

• Immediately stop the use of interrogation techniques that are "cruel and inhuman."
• Disclose what alternative interrogation techniques are used. Close all secret prisons.
• End the rendition of suspects to countries thought to use torture.
• Provide the International Red Cross access to detainees held in U.S. custody.

The statement also called on Congress to prohibit the use of any CIA funds for programs or activities that fail to treat all persons detained with "decency and the protections of due process."

The complete report >>

More on "beginning from within"

Commenting on a recent essay by your WebWeaver, Gordon Shull of Wooster, Ohio, sent this note:

I liked your comments, Doug - they reminded me of a comment by E. Stanley Jones, who was given to neat aphorisms:

"Religion that doesn't begin with the individual, doesn't' begin. Religion that ends with the individual, ends."

I don't remember where he wrote that, but the words themselves are not easy to forget!

-Gordon Shull

Shaking the Gates of Hell – new book takes a sharp look at globalization and faith-based resistance to it

Globalization has been a matter of concern to the Witherspoon Society for some years. It was a focus of much discussion at the Ghost Ranch Week of Peace, and will again be discussed at the coming Witherspoon conference in Louisville, Sept. 16-19.

Fortress Press, Minneapolis, provides a preview >>

Hairspray, the Song of Solomon & Presbyterians?

Michael Adee, writing in the new issue of More Light Update, reflects on the movie (now a Broadway play) Hairspray, and the Song of Solomon, and on the deeply biblical notion of embodiment. Of our bodies he writes: "The Church says it is a gift from God. Scripture refers to it as a temple. The primary metaphor for who we are as the Christian collective is this image. You have one. I have one. We all have one. And, at the same time it seems we have no earthly idea what to do with it."

The whole story >>

8/8/07 -- from Ghost Ranch and beyond

Challenged by God and sharing fearlessly

Roberto Jordan's third sermon of the Ghost Ranch "Week of Peace" focuses on Jesus' feeding of the multitude as a model of the new life into which he calls us -- a life of radical sharing.    The full sermon >>

Challenged by God and responding differently

Roberto Jordan's final sermon of the Ghost Ranch "Week of Peace" reflects on the radical call of the Letter of James to working for peace -- a commitment that sets us off sharply from the secure world of Empire.     The sermon >>

Polls find broad support for active US role in world affairs – but a less hegemonic role

A survey of various public opinion polls indicates that a majority of Americans are unhappy with America’s current role in the world, but do not want a withdrawal into isolationism. Also, "majorities of U.S. citizens see the world as more dangerous and large numbers attribute that to the Bush administration's foreign policy."   Read the article >>

On the "New Social Creed"

A visitor comments on our discussion of the New Social Creed – urging a proclamation of Jesus’ identity, and a focus on personal responsibility

For more about the Creed, and earlier drafts of it >>

For background, see Gene TeSelle’s recent article in Network News. Click here, and go to pages 9-10.

This note comes from Robert W. Smith, who says of himself, "I am a history professor at a small college in Elizabeth City, NC. I volunteer each week in serving with a local agency that distributes food to needy in this region and I incorporate service-learning in my classes where appropriate. This generally puts students into contact and service with people who are socially marginalized."

I missed your discussion but have read some of your materials. I appreciate the retention of distinctive Christian statements that reflect the origin of our belief. It seems to me, however, that the draft is light on a couple items.

If we want to change the situation in a fallen world we must proclaim Jesus’ identity and teaching. In particular we must pledge ourselves to love God and to love people created in His image. These two OT commands are reiterated by Jesus in the NT. In the draft there is an agenda but no personal pledge of specific things that a signatory/ adherent pledges to do. It seems that those who hold to this pledge will get government and society to do things but not do anything personally.

Here I suggest that there be a commitment to begin with ourselves and then involve others. That I will love everyone as I love myself. That we will pray for Divine blessing for the poor and oppressed. That we will pray for eyes to see and ears to hear what God would have us to perceive and do. That we will donate at least a third of our giving to the cause of alleviating the plight of the poor. That we will spend at least two hours each week as volunteers working to assist the socially marginalized. That I will teach my children that the greatest in the Kingdom of God are those who serve. That I will seek to encourage others to follow the example of Jesus who gave His life in the service of others.

Sincerely,

Robert W. Smith

We invite you to add your thoughts on the Creed and this response to it.
Just send a note!

8/7/07 -- still more from Ghost Ranch
The third sermon of the week:

The waters of baptism help us understand the "tipping point" in humanity's relationship with nature.

Dr. Larry Rasmussen looks through the Christian rite of baptism to help us understand the water that renews and sustains all of human life -- and shows how we are now at a "tipping point" in the relation between human efforts at domination and the realities of "the great economy of creation."

The sermon >>

Two young adult internships are being advertised, one with the World Council of Churches, and the other with the Office for Women's Advocacy of the PC(USA).
8/6/07 -- more from Ghost Ranch
the Ghost Ranch Week of Peace has come to an end, and your WebWeaver will start today trying to share with you some of the highlights of a very full week.

If you were there, you may want to read the full texts of the sermons that were presented, and we'll begin posting them today.  If you weren't there, we hope you'll get some taste of what went on there.

And either way, you're invited to share your additions, comments, questions and anything else.  Just send a note!

Worship and the Word

Each evening the Seminar participants gathered for worship, which was planned by the Rev. Dr. Tom Driver, emeritus professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York, and a capable group working with him.  The preacher evening was the Rev. Dr. Roberto Jordan of Argentina, who chaired the committee that drafted the Accra Confession of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches in 2004; the one exception was the service on Thursday, for which the preacher was the Rev. Dr. Larry Rasmussen, also emeritus professor at Union Seminary.

Because of great interest from many of the seminar participants, we will present these sermons in full as quickly as we can.

For all our postings from the worship services and sermons >>

Roberto Jordan describes us as “challenged by God,” and called to interpret the signs of our times

Roberto Jordan

In his first sermon, Dr. Jordan invited the group to focus on the Exodus as a revelation of the nature of God – and which is “a paradigm for theology in countries from the South; it is a book that refers to sufferings, fears, injustices, dreams, needs, hopes… life. I could not begin our night worship for this week in any other place, because in more than one sense, today we are called to be Exodus people.”

He went on to say that “one of the challenges put before us today is to clearly express who is the God we believe in. The answer is clear: God sees, hears and comes down, not as an ‘observer’ God but as an involved God. Though it would seem many prefer a judging God, a distant God – that is not God. The God we believe is God who delivers and who liberates. God promises change, and is not indifferent to pain and injustice. God feels with passion, from God’s guts. God decides that the situation must change. For this to happen God calls Moses to draw near, not putting people off but rather calling people close up.”

The full sermon >>

Jordan says we are challenged by God to "worship totally" – which for Isaiah means doing justice

In his second sermon, Roberto Jordan looked at Isaiah 58, with the insistence to the people who are so diligent in this worship that " ‘You do not worship (=fast), you serve your own interests, you oppress your workers, you quarrel and fight, you strike with wicked fist.’ But who are those who do this? They are the powerful, who oppress. Doesn’t all this seem to bring us back to Exodus 3, and the groaning of the people in Egypt? God heard a cry and came down so as to rescue the people.

Conversion to what the New Testament calls "fullness of life" demands that we ask painful questions about our own society. "Today," he said, "these questions point to structural sin and not only personal sin:

• Who produces such situations?
• Who benefits from such situations?
• Who gains from situations that do not change?
• What do we have to say when faced with these situations?"

The full sermon >>

8/4/07 -- from Ghost Ranch
Remembering Hiroshima at Ghost Ranch

The Ghost Ranch Week of Peace is drawing toward its close this evening, and today in various ways we remembered the anniversary of the dropping of the first atom bomb on Hiroshima, on August 6, 1945.

The evening worship was a commemoration and a time of new resolve, on which I’ll report more as soon as I can (along with many other things).

But for now -- one moving moment came when the Rev. James E. Atwood, retired PC(USA) missionary to Japan,shared reflections from his visit to Japan in 2005 for the 60th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (For an earlier and longer version >>)

I spent nine years as a missionary in Japan (1965-1974). In August, 2005, I returned, on a peace pilgrimage, attending 60th-anniversary memorials of the two bombs that, in the words of Albert Einstein, "Changed everything except the way we think." In their wake, Einstein added, "We drift toward unparalleled catastrophes."

I love the Japanese people. I salute the courage of the United Church of Christ in Japan as it continues to repent its complicity with Japanese militarism in World War II. I grieve over the use of atomic weapons on the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I am impressed that the Japanese people love their "Peace Constitution."

I had to add my voice for peace in a day when the whole world is threatened with nuclear extinction — yet few really want to talk about it.

I was privileged to represent the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship in an eight-member delegation from the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), a group formed to support those in Japan and the United States who resist calls for the repeal of Article IX of the Japanese constitution.

That provision, written by representatives of American Occupation Forces in the early days of Japan’s post-war reconstruction, reads:

1. Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes.

2. In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.Our own country is still deeply divided over the use of these horrible weapons.

As doves circled over the assemblies in Hiroshima in 2005, I was glad to be standing with thousands of others and making the vow: "No more Hiroshimas. No More Nagasakis. No more nuclear weapons. No more war."

Dear Lord, let it be so.

Procession moves down a Los Alamos street


Praying at Los Alamos

Earlier in the day, about 30 seminar participants traveled from Ghost Ranch to Los Alamos, site of the development of those first nuclear bombs. There we joined in an action of prayer and protest which was organized by Paz Christi, as it is each year. (And for how many more years??)

The group, totaling around 150, donned sackcloth (well, old burlap bags) as a sign of penitence, and walked quietly along on of the city’s main streets, until we spread out and each sat down on the ground, where we spent 45 minutes simply being silent and prayerful. The group then walked quietly back to the park where we had gathered, joined in prayer, and then gathered for a rally at which Fr. Roy Bourgeois of SOA Watch was the keynote speaker. We Presbyterians left before the rally began, to be back at Ghost Ranch in time for dinner and the evening worship. For this Presbyterian it was a good, good time. Deeply sad, but good. It was also the first protest march I’ve seen that was blessed as it began by a Native American shaman "smudging" us with sage smoke. May it help to bring an end to the insanity of the nuclear arms race – a race in which one runner has far outdistanced the rest of the field, but no one will ever win.

Coming in September:

BECOMING NEIGHBORS:
An Invitation
to Global Discipleship

A Witherspoon conference on global mission and justice

September 16 - 19, 2007
Louisville, Kentucky

For more information >>

For a ready-to-print brochure (PDF) >>

8/1/07 -- from Ghost Ranch

"A Week for Peace, Global Justice and Creation"

Moon over Chimney Rock
at dawn

I arrived at Ghost Ranch Monday evening to find green grass, water in lakes and streams -- something I've never seen here before.  And there were over 100 people gathering for a week of seminars, worship, conversation -- and struggling with issues of peace and justice and caring for creation.

Monday evening saw all the week’s participants gathering for orientation (with the reminder that at an elevation of 6,500 feet, everyone needs to take time to adjust, drink lots of water, and all the other eternal verities of Ghost Ranch). A couple hours later, trudging up the long hill to my cabin at the tippy-top of the Mesa, I realized that those verities are still true.

The seminar really got under way Tuesday morning, with some 120 participants splitting into sever different seminars, each with its own angle of vision into the interwoven issues of justice, stewardship of creation, and peacemaking. I’m trying to recruit one participant from each of the seminars to give us some kind of report or reflection on their work, and I’ll post them as soon as I can.

All postings from
July, 2007
June, 2007
May, 2007
April, 2007
March, 2007
February, 2007
January, 2007
December, 2006
November, 2006
October, 2006
September, 2006
August, 2006
July, 2006

Our coverage of the 2006 General Assembly is indexed on a special page.
For links to earlier archive pages, click here.

 

GA actions 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 of Order.

We're providing resources to help inform the reflection and debate, along with updates on the voting.

Our three areas of primary interest are:

bullet Amendment 10-A, which would remove the current ban on lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender persons being considered as possible candidates for ordination as elder or ministers.

bullet Amendment 10-2, which would add the Belhar Confession to our Book of Confessions.

bullet Amendment 10-1, which would adopt the new Form of Government that was approved by the Assembly.
 

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Some blogs worth visiting

PVJ's Facebook page

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 thoughtful community.

 

John Harris’ Summit to Shore blogspot

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 lightening up.

 

Got more blogs to recommend?

Please send a note, and we'll see what we can do!

 

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