Archives: August 2007
This page lists all our reports and commentary from
Our coverage of the 2006 General
Assembly is indexed on a special page.
For links to earlier archive pages,
We've just posted
a few photos from
Ghost Ranch Week of Peace.
We'll add more, and we welcome your contributions.
Just send them with a note to
For all our reports
the Ghost Ranch Week of Peace
We've added a few photos to some of the
reports on the seminars at Ghost Ranch.
here for the reports on the seminars on Building a Culture
of Peace, The Israel/Palestine Conflict, and Advocating for
Peace and Justice.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
Contact Amanda Craft at
for more information.
Participants in this travel/study seminar
|Visit South Africa and Malawi, two
countries seriously affected by HIV/AIDS and responding very
differently to the issues. |
|Listen to our partners in mission and
ministry as they share with us the impact of HIV/AIDS at the
denominational and local levels. |
|Learn from people directly involved with
ministries responding to HIV/AIDS in their countries,
communities and congregations. |
|Pray and study with our partners as we
seek to discern how God is calling us to respond.
|Plan and strategize concrete ways we can
make HIV/AIDS a focus of concern for our congregations.
Find an application form and more details at
The Rev. W. Mark Koenig, Coordinator
Presbyterian Peacemaking Program
100 Witherspoon Street
Louisville, KY 40202
888-728-7228, ext. 5936
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.
|Rev. Janie Spahr found guilty of misconduct for lesbian
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
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
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
For more comments, see
the TAMFS website and
Janie Spahr’s own website
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
PHEWA launches initiative to revitalize dangerous New Orleans
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.
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
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:
the Vision: The Presbyterian Church and the United Nations
John Preston, one of the Seminar leaders of
the seminar on Earth-honoring
adds this comment to our earlier report on that seminar,
the importance of worship in an
For the index page listing
all our reports from the "Week
of Peace" >>
Coming to the Witherspoon conference in Louisville, Sept
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,
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
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,
The rest of Dr.
Shull's comment >>
God’s Warriors on CNN
Amanpour of CNN begins a three-part series tonight on violence
and religion. The report is called
God's Warriors. Here is a
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
Thanks to John Shuck
More seminar reports from the Ghost Ranch
"Week of Peace"
offers a very thorough and helpful summary of the seminar
"Peacemaking 401," which was led by Rick Ufford-Chase,
Executive Director of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship.
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.
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
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
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
Faith," which was led by Larry Rasmussen and John Preston.
Looking back on the Week for Peace at
by Doug King, your
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
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.
report from Presbyterian News Service >>
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
Are you thinking of joining us for the Witherspoon Society
Conference on "Becoming Neighbors: An Invitation to Global
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
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
America’s war in Iraq is increasingly
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
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
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.
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.
information from the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program
|information and resources for the
from the 2007 Presbyterian Peacemaking Conference|
|reports on the Iraqi refugee crisis|
|news from the
Nonviolent Peaceforce's work in
Sri Lanka, Guatemala, the Philippines|
Lutherans vote not to punish gay ministers
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 >>
|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
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
Religious coalition decries Bush’s new interrogation tactics
Presbyterian-founded group says new
guidelines won’t stop torture
Presbyterian News Service reports that the
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
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
• 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."
complete report >>
More on "beginning from within"
Commenting on a recent essay
by your WebWeaver, Gordon Shull of Wooster, Ohio, sent this
I liked your comments, Doug - they reminded me of a
comment by E. Stanley Jones, who was given to neat
"Religion that doesn't begin with the individual,
doesn't' begin. Religion that ends with the individual,
I don't remember where he wrote that, but the words
themselves are not easy to forget!
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 &
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
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.
|Challenged by God and responding
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.”
full sermon >>
Jordan says we are
challenged by God to "worship totally" – which for Isaiah means
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
• 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?"
8/4/07 -- from Ghost Ranch
Remembering Hiroshima at Ghost Ranch
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
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
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
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
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.
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:
to Global Discipleship
A Witherspoon conference on global mission
September 16 - 19, 2007
For more information >>
ready-to-print brochure (PDF) >>
8/1/07 -- from Ghost Ranch
"A Week for Peace, Global Justice and
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
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
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!