Archives: July 2007
This page lists reports and commentary from
earlier in July, 2007
For items from earlier in
All postings from
Our coverage of the 2006 General
Assembly is indexed on a special page.
For links to earlier archive pages,
Your Webweaver is taking off again
I'll be leaving home Monday morning (July 30) to
take part in the "Week for
Peace, Global Justice and Creation," being held at Ghost
Ranch from July 30 to August 5. It promises to be a full,
But connecting to the outside world from the
high desert of New Mexico can be problematic, so this website
may be rather quiet for the next week. But I promise I'll
be back soon with lots of reports from myself and others.
So don't go away!
Comments on the
US use of torture, and Bush’s new interrogation policy
A week ago, President Bush set broad legal
boundaries for the CIA's harsh interrogation of terrorism
suspects yesterday, allowing the intelligence agency to resume a
program that was suspended last year after criticism that it
violated U.S. and international law. (But he won’t tell us what
those boundaries are.)
We offer here a variety of reports and
comments on this important action, including a new report from
the Washington Post; a faith-based reflection from the
Rev. Carol Wickersham, of No2Torture; an analysis by Retired
Gen. P. X. Kelley, who served as commandant of the Marine Corps
from 1983 to 1987 under President Reagan; and a consideration of
a "Declaration Against Torture" put forth some four months ago
by 17 leading evangelicals, saying torture is always wrong – and
the criticisms leveled at them by other evangelicals.
Participants in Sabeel Palestine conference report on their
encounters with the Israeli occupation, and pledge to advocate
for change in their own nations.
Over forty young adults of nine nationalities
have spent 11 days learning about and experiencing the situation
of occupied Palestine. They have issued a joint statement
reporting on their experiences, their learnings, and their
commitments to work for change.
Their report >>
You can join in opposing an anti-immigrant hotline in Arizona
This note comes to us from the Rev. Trina
Zelle, who works with
Interfaith Worker Justice of Arizona – and
also serves as Co-Moderator of the Witherspoon Society
Hi Doug -- I thought I'd send you a copy of
letter we've been circulating here in protest of a
hotline set up by the County Sheriff so people can turn in
others that they suspect of being undocumented immigrants.
So far we have 40 plus signatures including the United
Methodist Bishop and many clergy. AP has already picked up a
story on it as has the local paper. We are continuing to
gather signatures and will present it to him in person early
next week. If you want to publish it on our website that's
fine. If people want to add their names to it, they can
Rev. Trina Zelle
Interfaith Worker Justice of Arizona
2510 Rural Road
Tempe, AZ 85284
Prisoner advocate Harmon Wray dies at 60
Harmon Wray, who invested 40 years of his life in
prison ministry, teaching, and advocacy for criminal justice,
died suddenly on July 24 in Nashville, TN.
An active United Methodist, he was involved in
the Southern Prison Ministry and Tennesseans Against the Death
Penalty, and served from time to time at the state and national
levels of the United Methodist Church, working on various social
More about his life and witness >>
Two takes on
Many immigrants were legal
only because there were no rules
Responding to the common argument
against any move to grant undocumented immigrants some kind of
legal status, that "my ancestors came here legally," Brian
Donohue of the New Jersey Star-Ledger labels that line
In fact, he says, "for hundreds
of years, as immigrants poured in by the hundreds of thousands
from the 1600s to the early 1900s, there were simply no federal
immigration laws to break. Unless you were a criminal or insane
(or after 1882, Chinese), once you landed here, you were legal."
The full article >>
Jonathan Nelson, Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, NYC
And here’s a hopeful
response to the needs of undocumented immigrants: one city is,
well, providing documents!
New Haven, CT, is providing
municipal ID cards "specifically designed to bring illegal
immigrants out of the shadows and give them access to community
services," regardless of their legal status.
The report continues:
"The simple straightforward
purpose here is to build a stronger community," Mayor John
DeStefano said. "You can't police a community of people who
won't talk to our cops."
The mayor said the federal government had failed to
address immigration-related issues, forcing cities to find
ways to manage them. New Haven is simply acknowledging the
people who already live there, he said.
"I think New Haven is doing something that makes sense
for New Haven," DeStefano said. "Service to one another in
community, more than waving an American flag, defines the
spirit of our soul."
The whole story >>
NCC to sponsor ecumenical work week in New Orleans
Aug. 19-25 event will include worship, labor and
To mark the second anniversary of Hurricane
Katrina, the National Council of Churches’ Special Commission
for the Just Rebuilding of the Gulf Coast is sponsoring an
Ecumenical Work Week from Aug. 19-25, 2007 in New Orleans.
release from the National Council of Churches and Presbyterian
News Service >>
earlier report on plans for this event >>
A visitor offers a criticism of Clarkson’s
criticism of Berkley’s criticism of the Religious Coalition for
The Minimum Wage increase starts today ...
but it’s not much
The Presbyterian Washington Office puts this
adjustment in perspective, and suggests urging Congress to work
toward a more just minimum wage.
Maligning the faith of others for political profit
Jim Berkley, Director of Presbyterian Action at
the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), has recently
attacked the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice for not
being "Christian" – though it intends to serve as an interfaith
Frederick Clarkson analyses Berkley’s
criticism and shows how Berkley distorts or ignores the
established views of the PC(USA), since he wants to assert
(contrary to the Presbyterian Church’s view) that all abortion
is absolutely wrong.
Berkley’s blog, entitled "A Really Crass ‘Religious’ Coalition"
Clarkson’s critique >>
Frederick Clarkson is an independent
journalist, author and lecturer who has done extensive research
and writing about politics and religion – focusing on the
Religious Right – for more than twenty years.
Thanks to Fred Clarkson and Jean Rodenbough for bringing this
to our attention.
Coming in September:
to Global Discipleship
A Witherspoon conference on global mission
September 16 - 19, 2007
For more information >>
ready-to-print brochure (PDF) >>
Presbyterian Peace Fellowship
announces two trips to the Middle East:
Advent trip to
Palestine, Israel and Jordan: Nov 24-Dec 9, 2007
Pentecost trip: May 10-25, 2008
Stated Clerk Kirkpatrick joins other religious leaders
supporting denuclearization agreement with North Korea
The Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Presbyterian Church
(U.S.A.) General Assembly stated clerk, is part of an interfaith
coalition that supports the denuclearization agreement reached
by the Bush administration with North Korea. In a joint
statement released July 17, Kirkpatrick and the coalition of
religious leaders called the agreement "an important step toward
halting the production of nuclear bomb material in that nation."
report from Presbyterian News Service >>
Your WebWeaver is on vacation, but is
keeping in touch a bit now and then, and will be posting what he
considers especially important items when he can.
Lutheran Pastor Bradley Schmeling removed from clergy roster
because he is gay
More Light Presbyterians
express disagreement with decision, support for Schmeling
The Rev. Bradley Schmeling lost another
skirmish with the nation's largest Lutheran denomination over
the fact that he is in a gay relationship.
But he and his flock at Atlanta's St. John's
Lutheran Church intend to take the battle national.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
announced Thursday it has removed Schmeling from its list of
approved ministers because of his long-term relationship with a
Schmeling and members of St. John's in Druid
Hills say they will travel to a national church conference in
August to try to change the minds of delegates on gay issues.
The rest of the report, from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
More Light Presbyterians decry Schmeling decision & stand in
MLP has responded with a statement which
We are deeply disappointed by the recent
decisions of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
Committee on Appeals to deny the appeal of Pastor Bradley
Schmeling and to remove him immediately from the clergy roster
of his denomination.
We stand in solidarity with the vision of full
participation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons
and their families in the life, ministry and witness of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and our sisters and
brothers of Lutherans Concerned North America who are faithfully
laboring to make that vision a reality within the ELCA, one of
the denominations that the Presbyterian Church (USA) is in
The complete statement >>
St. John’s congregation responds
John Ballew, president of St. John’s
congregation, has stated that they intend "to go to Churchwide
Assembly in August, to witness to our ELCA the costs of this
decision, based on an absurd policy. This is not just about us
and our wonderful pastor; this is about all those called to
minister to God’s people, who lead exemplary lives, who provide
a model for faithful, loving companionship with each other and
The full statement >>
Hold the accomplices of the School of the
Witherspoon Issues Analyst Gene TeSelle, who lives in
Nashville, TN, introduces this call to action from School of
the Americas Watch. Witherspooner Don Beisswenger, who
contributes his thoughts too, is also a resident of
Representatives Jim McGovern of Massachusetts and John Lewis
of Georgia have led an effort to cut funding for the notorious
School of the Americas. Many of us expected their bill to be
approved on June 21. Instead it lost by 6 votes.
SOAWatch has analyzed the
votes and identified 26 Representatives who could have voted
Yes but instead voted for continued injustice, impunity, and
support for military dictatorships.
Some were sponsors of the bill in previous years, and a major
question still remains: Why did these Representatives, who
earlier tried to cut funding for the SOA, switch their position?
Were they somehow intimidated? Were there tradeoffs for
something else that they wanted? Did they somehow become so
persuaded that the SOA was a good thing that they voted for it
with a good conscience?
Don Beisswenger, who "crossed the line" at the SOA and served
six months in federal prison, had these comments in response to
We worked very hard on Jim Cooper (TN-5). He is on the Armed
Services Committee and seems to be persuaded about their agenda
. While against the Iraq war, he is not strong in his
opposition. He has indicated interest in closing Guantanamo but
was not willing to take any leadership.
The South is very oriented toward militaristic solutions to
conflict, as you know, and while Cooper has a secure support
base he still may feel insecure with much of his constituency.
He genuinely believes in the need for connections with Latin
American and thinks the SOA is needed. I, and the many hundreds
who have tried over the years, have not been persuasive enough.
He does tend believe the Army's interpretation and thus thinks
there has been genuine change in the SOA. He does not seem to
see the necessity of dealing with the impunity of past
perpetrators. That seems to be forgotten, not only toward Latin
America but toward much else that is going on around the world.
But the SOA is still the flagship example, as far as I am
Bart Gordon (TN-6) has supported the legislation in the past,
and we will try to find out what happened. The power of the
military to bring reprisals may be involved.
I send my thanks to you and the others for keeping on keeping
Being from Minnesota, I still find the South confusing. It
may be that, as James Lawson says, there is a wound in the soul
of America that has never healed, a wound grounded in the
violence toward Native Americans, the history of slavery, the
condescension toward Latin America over so many years, and the
violation of women over the years. The wound festers in so many
ways. Repentance seems essential to such healing. We are
dealing, I believe, with the soul of America, not just political
of July! And consider this: just maybe ...
It's time for a Declaration of Independence from Israel
Chris Hedges, the former New York Times Mideast bureau
chief, warns that America’s foreign policy, particularly under
the Bush administration, has been subverted by an aggressive and
dangerous Israeli agenda that could launch a nightmarish
Hedges, who graduated from Harvard Divinity School, is the
author of American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War
Read this on TruthDig.com >>
... or on CommonDreams >>
medical aid for Cuba detained at Canadian border
IFCO/Pastors for Peace Action
Homeland Security officials have "detained" medical
supplies destined for Cuba at Maine/Québec border, despite
earlier successful crossings today with five tons of medical aid
collected by Canadians for Cuba.
How to Destroy an African-American City in Thirty Three Steps
Lessons from Katrina
Bill Quigley, a
human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola University New
Orleans, has laid out in a powerful way some of the things made
New Orleans such a disaster – after Katrina and still today. He
adds that "Every fact in this list actually happened and
continues to happen in New Orleans after Katrina."
This was published on June 28, 2007, by
For items from earlier in
All postings from
Our coverage of the 2006 General
Assembly is indexed on a special page.
For links to earlier archive pages,
ratified (or not) by the presbyteries
A number of the most important actions of the 219th
General Assembly are now being sent to the presbyteries for their
action, to confirm or reject them as amendments to the PC(USA) Book
We're providing resources to help inform the
reflection and debate, along with updates on the voting.
Our three areas of primary interest are:
which would remove the current ban on
lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender persons being considered as
possible candidates for ordination as elder or ministers.|
which would add the Belhar Confession to our Book of
10-1, which would adopt the new Form of Government
that was approved by the Assembly. |
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Some blogs worth visiting
Mitch Trigger, PVJ's
Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where
Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and
views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both
personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!
You can post your own news and views,
or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.
Voices of Sophia blog
Heather Reichgott, who has created
this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:
After fifteen years of scholarship
and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the
voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy,
students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers
and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God
in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God
through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through
articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and
John Harris’ Summit to
Theological and philosophical
reflections on everything between summit to shore, including
kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology,
politics, culture, travel, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New
York City and the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood by a progressive
New York City Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the
Witherspoon board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian
Church in Flushing, NY.
John Shuck’s Shuck and Jive
A Presbyterian minister, currently
serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton,
Tenn., blogs about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized
and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and
Got more blogs to recommend?
send a note, and we'll see what we can do!