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Archives:  March 2007

This page lists reports and commentary from March, 2007

For items from earlier in August, 2007
All postings from
July, 2007
June, 2007
May, 2007
April, 2007
March, 2007
February, 2007
January, 2007
December, 2006
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Our coverage of the 2006 General Assembly is indexed on a special page.
For links to earlier archive pages, click here.

3/31/07
Two PC(USA) responses to the steps toward peace in Northern Ireland 

From the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

The Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick has sent letters of appreciation to government and church leaders in Northern Ireland in the wake of this week's agreement by the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein to form a power-sharing government.   The news report plus the text of his letter >>

"A big step forward has occurred – and a long journey remains."

Rev Doug Baker, PCUSA Regional Liaison for Ireland and the United Kingdom, offers an update and analysis on the important steps that have been taken toward peace between the Protestant Democratic Unionist Party and the Roman Catholic Sinn Fein.

The new Federal Budget – questions of priorities

The Friends Committee on National Legislation has created and gathered very helpful resources on the proposed Federal Budget and questions of what priorities will shape it over the coming months.

The huge proportion of the budget that will go to military programs is given careful analysis.

Click here for earlier analyses prepared by the Presbyterian Washington Office.

National Network of Presbyterian College Women announces a national Leadership Event, July 25-29 in Washington, DC   

They say:

This is a unique opportunity for young women in college to dialogue with and learn from women of faith on Capitol Hill and from other women of faith in college. We will celebrate those women who work for justice and fairness and will equip you with the skills and motivation to get involved and make a difference in your own communities and on your campuses.     More >>  

NNPCW is also seeking applications for membership on Coordination Committee.  More >>

NAE rebuffs critics, affirming commitment to environmental concerns  

The National Association of Evangelicals recently affirmed its stance on caring for the environment—indirectly rebuffing complaints that its vice president for governmental affairs, Richard Cizik, is too engaged in environmental issues—and endorsed a statement condemning torture.

Focus on the Family chair James Dobson and two dozen other evangelical leaders had asked the NAE board to oust Cizik because of his "relentless campaign" against human-induced global warming. Other signers of the letter included Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council; Gary L. Bauer, onetime Republican presidential candidate and now head of Coalitions for America; and Paul Weyrich, a veteran political strategist.

The only NAE board member who opposed Cizik publicly was Jerald Walz, recently named vice president for operations of the Washington-based Institute on Religion and Democracy.   More >>

3/27/07
Preaching for Palm Sunday and Good Friday

If you’re struggling with what to say to your congregation as we all confront the mystery and majesty of these days, you might find some help in these readings. If you have other good sources to suggest (for Easter, too!), please let us hear from you.   Just send a note.

For Palm Sunday / Passion Sunday

Daniel B. Clendenin looks at Palm Sunday through Luke’s Gospel, seeing the political dimensions of Jesus’ actions and his arrest as a subversive.

He concludes:

On Palm Sunday Jesus invites us to join his subversive counter-procession into all the world. But he calls us not to just any subversion, subversion for its own sake, or to some new and improved political agenda. Rather, Christian subversion takes as its model Jesus himself, "who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross." Dying to self and the many demons of egoism, and living to serve others, will prove itself as sufficiently and radically subversive. And so Paul instructs us in his epistle for this week: "have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus."

The full essay >>

For Good Friday: "The Ones at the Foot of the Cross"

Preaching on Good Friday in 2003, the Rev. Dr. I. Carter Heyward focused on Jesus words of forgiveness from the cross. Among many good things she says is this:

Forgiveness is a psycho-spiritual, social, and political leap out of the past -- its wrongs and wounds -- into the shaping of the present and future. It is a refusal to get stuck in resentment over what has been done in order to generate creative energies for living today and tomorrow. Forgiveness usually has at least as much to do with the desire and capacity of those who've been wounded to move forward as with the desire or need of those who have inflicted the injury.

Heyward’s sermon >>

No Pollyanna He: Following Jesus in a Time of Fear

a sermon following the Christian Peace Witness in Washington

On the Sunday morning following the Christian Peace Witness, Rick Ufford-Chase, now executive director of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and one of the organizers of the Witness, preached at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, just a few blocks from the White House.

He led the congregation in reflecting on the Witness as an expression of hope in the midst of a society and a time dominated by fear, and imagined some of the ways that new hope may take form in the months and years ahead.  He concluded:

We have a choice. We can opt – on this morning – to continue to live into the bland and uninspiring work of institutional maintenance that characterizes so many of our churches today. We can choose to continue our commitment to place a theological veneer over a culture of emptiness, unfulfilled promises, and fear. We can choose, if we wish, to continue to create churches that bless our affluence and our power based on a corrupted reading of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Or . . .

We can choose on this day to dedicate all of our lives to the creation of a new movement of followers of Jesus Christ who know that we are called to transform the world. Someday, this weekend could be understood to have been the tipping point. The choice is ours.

The full sermon >>

Wise words of warning on the 4th anniversary of the war in Iraq

This short speech was delivered in the House of Representatives by Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, on March 19, 2007.

"Mr. Speaker, I rise with deep concern that on this very day 4 years ago, our Nation inaugurated a conflict, an unnecessary war, a war of choice, not a necessity.

The most comprehensive intelligence we have, the National Intelligence Estimate and the latest Pentagon report, tells us that Iraq has descended into a state of civil war. Over 3,000 Americans have died, and hundreds of thousands, some even say up to 1 million citizens of Iraq, have lost their lives in this unnecessary conflict.

And while we are telling our veterans of this war, the elderly, the poor, and the sick that there is no room in the budget for them, the American people have spent over $400 billion on a failed policy. We cannot do more of the same. Mr. Speaker, violence begets violence. It does not lead to peace.

President John F. Kennedy once said, ‘‘Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.’’ My greatest fear is that the young people of Iraq and of the Middle East will never forget this war. My greatest fear is they will grow up hating our children and our children’s children for what we have done. Mr. Speaker, the Bible is right. Even a great nation can reap what it sows.   
The full speech >>

More death threats in Colombia

This message is from Bob Leslie and Shelley Ritchie, accompaniers with the Presbyterian Church here in Barranquilla, Colombia.

What follows is a rough translation of a document we received late last week concerning death threats in a town of Uraba called San Jose de Apartado, an area controlled by paramilitaries and which has suffered a lot of the last years.

Brief Summary: This document tells the story of a man, a paramilitary, who was co-opted by the military and police working in the area, and eventually brain-washed and forced to do the dirty work that they deemed necessary. Ultimately this has meant death threats to 7 families living in a small town near this city, who although they are not part of the Peace Community are well known in the area, and are now on a hit list. We are not told exactly why they are so threatened but the given reason is that they attacked a person with the same last name of the member of the paramilitary group. This is the pretext, but the real reason is hidden. Nevertheless the threats are very real and our effort is to try to prevent any violence by telling this story far and wide and asking for letters to various officials who can investigate and order an end to such impunity. Please consider reading the complete text below outlining recent death threats in San Jose de Apartado, Colombia as reported by this Human Rights Network. Please email the listed individuals raising this serious matter and asking the officials to do all they can to prevent these threats from being carried out.   The rest of the document >>

More Light Presbyterians to participate in the historic
Clergy Call for Justice & Equality, April 16 - 17, Washington, DC

A note from Michael Adee, National Field Organizer for More Light Presbyterians, with a call for your participation, your voice and prayers

Calling for Justice and Equality

Clergy committed to spiritual and civil equality for LGBT persons and their families from all 50 states will converge upon Washington, DC to rally and lobby Congress on Capitol Hill on April 17.

Focusing upon lobby visits with Congress, we will meet with our representatives to call for the end of discrimination by lobbying for ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that protects LGBT persons from discrimination in the workplace. We will also lobby for the passage of hate crimes legislation that is inclusive of hate crimes against sexual orientation and gender identity.   More >>

BBC interview on creationism and evolution

A BBC interview is now posted, until Saturday night, of Eugenie C. Scott, Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education, interviewing people about their religious views regarding creationism and evolution. She interviewed Ken Ham, Lutheran theologian Ted Peters, old earth creationist Hugh Ross, cosmologist Paul Davies, and also Richard Dawkins about the importance of evolution.  
The interview >>
3/21/07
More reports from the Christian Peace Witness in Washington

The Presbyterian presence at the Peace Witness in Washington

Eva Gray Stimson has provided two excellent reports on the event, for Presbyterian News Service  

bulletThousands gather in Washington for ecumenical war protest

Six former GA moderators among Presbyterian contingent

bulletWhat church should be

Presbyterians of all ages connect faith and action in peace witness

Christian Peace Witness – in Colombia too

This is Bob Leslie writing from Barranquilla, Colombia.

I am here as an Accompanier with the Presbyterian Church (USA) through the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship. I just wanted to add a special note to Witherspoon website about an event that occurred here at the IPC (Presby. Church of Colombia) Seminary in Barranquilla last Friday night.   The rest of his report >>

Ending the war is a moral, not a political issue
Thousands of FaithfulAmericans urge lawmakers to end war now
 

Thousands of members of FaithfulAmerica.org, the online community of the National Council of Churches USA, are urging their Members of Congress to take the moral step to end the war in Iraq. "The moral imperative to end this horrendous war should far outweigh any political compromise," says the FaithfulAmerica.org letter to Representatives.    More >>

From the Pentagon to California, antiwar protests sweep across the country

ANSWER - Act Now to Stop War and End Racism – reports on the "March on the Pentagon" protest on Saturday, March 17th and on related protests held around the country.

STOPPING TORTURE

No2Torture, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, and other human rights groups are holding a call-in week to urge Congress to reform the Military Commissions Act to stop torture, to comply with the Geneva Conventions, and to provide due process to detainees. Call your members of Congress any day this week through the Capitol Switchboard (202) 224-3121.  More >>

Almost Easter

The Rev. Bobbie McGarey shares with us her poem, celebrating the hope of Easter in the midst of a war-torn world.
Several School of the Americas prisoners of conscience report to prison today

We're encouraged to send them letters of support

Marilyn White, of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, has just sent this note:

Dear friends,

Several of the "SOA 16" report to prison today, including two of our 4 Presbyterian POCs. Due to their shorter sentences, many of them have been assigned to jails instead of camps - this is a hard life, and mail is SO important. Graymon is only 20 years old, and will be serving his 30 day sentence in a county jail. Many of you know Phil from the Colombia Accompaniment program - he will be at the LA MDC for 2 months. The other two Presbyterians, Julienne Oldfield and Don Coleman, will report in April. Please take a few minutes to write them!


Peace, Marilyn

PHILIP E. GATES #92947-020
MDC LOS ANGELES
METROPOLITAN DETENTION CENTER
P.O. BOX 1500
LOS ANGELES, CA 90053
        See his recent note about facing time in prison >>

GRAYMON WARD
VANCE COUNTY JAIL
516 BRECKENRIDE ST.
HENDERSON, NC 27536

Isabel "Dr. Izzie" Rogers dies

Former GA moderator "was an educator through and through"

Isabel Wood Rogers, lovingly known by generations of students at Union Theological Seminary-Presbyterian School of Christian Education as "Dr. Izzie," died March 18 of cancer. She was 82.

Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick said of Rogers: ""Her leadership did not begin or end with the assembly, as she continued to be a voice for social justice concerns – the environment, women's issues, and inclusive language for God and the people of God, as well as the gifts of all of God's people."

The Presbyterian News Service story and photo >>

3/18/07
Home from Washington – with a little new hope

Reflections on the Christian Peace Witness, Washington, DC, March 16, 2007
from Doug King, your WebWeaver

Last Thursday evening (though it seems like weeks ago) I joined about 35 others from the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta for a bus ride to Washington, DC, to join the Christian Peace Witness that you’ve been reading and hearing about for the past few weeks.

I want to share a few of my own impressions, and provide links to some of the accounts that have been printed or posted by others.

This event differed from most of the protests that many of us have joined over the years, because it was very explicitly Christian. The center-piece of the event was not the procession to the White House, not the arrests of the dozens who committed acts of civil disobedience (or as Rick Ufford-Chase is teaching us, acts of "divine obedience"), but the 90-minute service of worship at the National Cathedral. The reason, as the Rev. Jim Wallis explained at the end of the service, was that a number of religious leaders felt the need for a clear statement that many Christians see the war as wrong, precisely because the Administration and so many Americans, along with many Muslims and others around the world, have tended to view it as some kind of "Christian" enterprise.  The rest of the story >>
 

"Letting Go of Fear" -- a sermon

John Shuck was one of the many Presbyterians at the service and procession, and preached about his experience on Sunday morning. Focusing on "letting go of fear," he describes nonviolent action as a loving way of acting against the fear that has ruled our nation for the past few years. This kind of action, he concludes, may hold the only real hope for peace. "It was a witness to love that is always at work to reunite that which has been torn apart. If asked if I thought standing there would do any good, that the President would suddenly change his mind and change course, I would have to say, probably not. If asked if my standing there would change the world from fear and violence to love and peace, I would have to say, probably not. But I stood there not to change the world, but so that the world would not change me."


Links to other reports

3/15/07
Bearing witness in D.C.

Presbyterians and other Christians to rally against Iraq war

Thousands of Christians from around the country, including numerous Presbyterians, are expected to descend on Washington D.C. this week to demand an end to the war in Iraq.

The Christian Peace Witness for Iraq, to be held on Friday (March 16), will include worship, public prayer, and a candlelight vigil outside the White House that could land some demonstrators in jail.

More than 3,500 Protestants and Catholics, including clergy and other church leaders, have already registered for the one-day, nonviolent, anti-war witness. The event will begin with an ecumenical worship service at the Washington National Cathedral at 7 p.m.

The witness is partly the brainchild of Rick Ufford-Chase, executive director of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship (PPF) and moderator of the 216th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in 2004.

Your WebWeaver will be there, and will report as soon as he can.

Lenten readings just for our unpeaceful times
Even cracked pots can carry life and light in times of death and destruction

from your WebWeaver, Doug King

Yesterday evening some people of our congregation gathered for our regular Lenten observance of a simple supper and a time of prayer using the Taizé service.

I listened to the three scripture readings after a day of hearing about the continuing concerns about the Bush Administration’s actions in firing a number of US Attorneys, and the Attorney General’s lame efforts to deal with those concerns. And I sat there knowing I would be leaving the next day (this evening) to join thousands of others for the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq, to be held Friday in Washington, DC.

The progression through the three readings led me ...

bulletfrom the psalmist’s lament at the evil all around him, and rejoicing at God’s promise to stand against the evil-doers and the liars
bulletthrough God’s word to Jeremiah that we are clay in the hands of the divine Potter, with the hope of being useful vessels, but only if we repent and change our ways as a people
bulletto Paul’s ringing affirmation that while we are just clay pots, we can serve as life-giving vessels even in times of death and destruction.

Nothing new here, but for me it was the right Word at the right time. And I’d like to share it with you.

The passages >>

The girls' school at Aida Refugee Camp

PC(USA) mission volunteer visits West Bank town of Hebron

"I would rather live in the refugee camp than here"

by Shannon O’Donnell  

I never imagined I would have such a thought. I was traveling with a group of international participants that Sabeel was hosting for the spring "Witness Visit." We went all over the West Bank, met with mayors, priests, political leaders, and regular people to hear about their current reality.   The rest of her report >>

Also from Shannon O'Donnell:  Meeting the Real Holy Land.

Another recent report from Shannon has been published in Network News, describing her experience at a Palestinian farm and vineyard outside Bethlehem, where she finds a project dedicated to "prepar[ing] young people for a positive contribution to their future and culture by bringing values of understanding and tolerance into their life experience."  Click here for the PDF version of Network News (Winter 2007), and jump to page 5.

More on apologies

We received this good note yesterday from Dean Lindsey, a Witherspoon member in Salem, VA

In reference to the recent article "Is it Time for a Presidential Apology?" I would like to mention an outstanding book by Psychiatrist Aaron Lazare called On Apology. It's the kind of book that any preacher could use as the basis for three or four good sermons. Lazare analyzes why we have trouble apologizing and what makes for both good and bad apologies.

For instance, apologies that are conditional, make excuses or shift blame simply cannot hit the mark. Examples would be "I am sorry if my remarks hurt your feelings" or "I am sorry that I hit you, but I thought you were planning to hit me." However, a genuine apology – ordinarily it is simple and to the point – is a completely cleansing and freeing thing both for the person who apologizes and the one who receives the apology.

If the United States, or more specifically the President, could make an apology for what we have done both to ourselves and Iraq these past four years, it would be an amazing step toward healing and correcting a disastrous state of affairs which currently exists. Such an apology would require, first of all, that we recognize and acknowledge the damage we have done, and that could be painful for us all. I have considerable doubts that the President is able to make such an apology or is able to engage in the kind of self-examination that ordinarily leads to apology. However, that does not mean that the rest of us can't do anything in the meantime. I believe that we can all apologize to God, to one another, to our own soldiers, and to the people of Iraq for our silence and our indifference, among other things. As Presbyterians, we confess our sins each week. We should be accustomed to admitting our weaknesses and faults. We shouldn't have to wait for the President to do it for us.

Evangelical Christians attack use of torture by US

The Guardian reported on March 13, that the National Association of Evangelicals, which represents about 45,000 churches across America, has endorsed a declaration against torture drafted by 17 evangelical scholars. The authors, who call themselves Evangelicals for Human Rights and campaign for "zero tolerance" on torture, say that the US administration has crossed "boundaries of what is legally and morally permissible" in the treatment of detainees.

The Guardian interprets this as a further step in "the uncoupling of American evangelism [do they mean evangelicalism?] from the administration of George Bush."

The full article >>

3/12/07
Presbyterian SOA protester prepares for 60-day prison term   

Phil Gates, one of the Presbyterians arrested during the witness against the School of the Americas last November, will enter prison on March 21st. He sends a letter about ways people can support him and the other 13 who will be entering prison on that day.

Among other things, he urges us to support the bill that will be introduced by Rep. James McGovern (D- MA) this month or next. Last year, it failed by only 15 votes, and given the changes wrought by last fall’s election, he says "our hopes are high for its successful passage this time around." He includes a sample draft letter to Congress, for your use.

Is it time for a Presidential apology?

By Daniel Malotky, Associate Professor of Religion and Philosophy, and Director of Ethics across the Curriculum at Greensboro College.

President Bush has acknowledged on several occasions that mistakes have been made in Iraq. His statements, however, have been framed to present him as a strong leader who is willing to take responsibility for his actions. None of his public remarks has constituted an apology, and he scrupulously avoids any suggestion that the invasion as a whole was a mistake.

In these non-apologies, we confront the tragic gap between the ideal and the real. Repentance is at the heart of the faith this president so publicly espouses; the intersection of spirituality and morality, for Christians, lies in the ironically positioned capacity for admitting one's moral failure. The redemption that the President surely desires is only possible by shedding the sense of his own — and, by extension, America's — inherent righteousness by admitting wrongdoing.

The rest of the essay, from Sightings, published by The Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School >>

Finding a new place to answer call
Gay graduate of Austin Seminary leaves denomination to pursue ministry.

A message from Michael Adee, National Field Organizer of More Light Presbyterians

Karen Thompson said she is sad, but not bitter that the Presbyterian Church is still struggling with sexuality issues in ordaining ministers. God led her to the seminary, she says, though now she'll be answering his call to serve elsewhere

Please join us in prayers of blessing for Karen Thompson, Austin Theological Seminary graduate, who is leaving the Presbyterian Church (USA) to follow God's call to serve as a pastor in another denomination, the Metropolitan Community Church.

The rest of Adee’s note >>

World Council of Churches launches new Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative

The World Council of Churches (WCC) says it will launch in June an international, ecumenical peace initiative for peace in Israel and the Palestinian territories. An initial meeting will occur June 17-21 in Jordan.

"The initiative is a major step toward the WCC’s goal of mobilizing churches around the world for peace with justice in the Middle East," the WCC said in a March 7 statement. "Its launch will take place during this year's observances of 40 years under occupation
for Palestinians."

The full report, from Ecumenical News International

Who Are You to Challenge Me?  

Bruce Gagnon, Secretary/Coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, has shared with us his poem reflecting on the way the media have become the unquestioned -- and unquestionable -- authority in our society.  The media seem able to dismiss movements of protest against the war -- defining reality for us in ways that distort it until there's little left of reality or truth.

Rolling Stone publishes good discussion on Iraq:  "Beyond Quagmire"

Rolling Stone, the influential magazine that young people still read, has published a blue-ribbon discussion on Iraq in its latest issue. "Beyond Quagmire" includes the views of Middle East Policy Council President Chas. Freeman, along with those of Zbigniew Brzezinski, Juan Cole, Richard Clarke, Michael Scheuer and others. The "news" is this: the United States has lost the war, and its presence can only prolong the conflict and inflame terrorism worldwide.

Suburban Chicago elder tapped as PC(USA)'s communication and funds-development officer

Senior GAC leadership complete with appointment of Karen Schmidt

The slate of top-level leaders in the newly-restructured Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly Council (GAC) is now complete with the hiring of Elder Karen L. Schmidt as Deputy Executive Director for Communication and Funds Development.

Schmidt, a Presbyterian elder from Glen Ellyn, IL, has more than 25 years experience as a senior executive with Fortune 500 and other high-powered companies. She is a member of First Presbyterian Church in Glen Ellyn, IL, pastored by conservative evangelical leader the Rev. Jerry Andrews.

The full story from Presbyterian News Service >>

3/9/07 
Chalmers Johnson talks about his new book, "Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic" 

In his new book, CIA analyst, distinguished scholar, and best-selling author Chalmers Johnson argues that US military and economic overreach may actually lead to the nation's collapse as a constitutional republic. It's the last volume in his Blowback trilogy, following the best-selling "Blowback" and "The Sorrows of Empire." In those two, Johnson argued American clandestine and military activity has led to un-intended, but direct disaster here in the United States.

In an interview with Amy Goodman, Johnson summarizes his argument from the book.

Johnson says early in the hour that he is serious about the subtitle of his book:

This is not just hype to sell books - "The Last Days of the American Republic." I'm here concerned with a very real, concrete problem in political analysis, namely that the political system of the United States today, history tells us, is one of the most unstable combinations there is - that is, domestic democracy and foreign empire - that the choices are stark. A nation can be one or the other, a democracy or an imperialist, but it can't be both. If it sticks to imperialism, it will, like the old Roman Republic, on which so much of our system was modeled, like the old Roman Republic, it will lose its democracy to a domestic dictatorship.

More >>

Eco-Justice Notes

An environmentalist leads us on a new path through Lent

The Rev. Peter Sawtell, the Executive Director of Eco-Justice Ministries, is posting a very provocative and helpful exploration of what he calls the four core norms of an eco-justice ethic: solidarity, sustainability, sufficiency, and participation.

The one for this week, on sufficiency, asks "How much is enough?" – "one of the central questions for those who seek eco-justice in the world."

The current meditation, on Sufficiency, is entitled "Enough, Already."

The first meditation, on Solidarity, bears the title "All In It Together."

The second, on Sustainability, he calls "Nothing Left for the Kids"

The final one, due out in a couple weeks, will deal with Participation.

Go to the archive index of his Eco-Justice Notes to find all these essays (and many more) listed.

A Jewish perspective on the "New Anti-Semitism" conference
from Craig Wiesner    

We recently posted a report by Geoff Browning on a conference held in the San Francisco Bay Area on the topic, "Finding Our Voice: The Conference for Progressives Constructively Addressing Anti-Semitism."  Sponsored by a number of Jewish organizations, it focused largely on what was described as "the New Anti-Semitism."

Also attending the conference was Craig Wiesner, who sometimes describes himself as a "Jew-byterian," a Jewish man whose life partner, Derrick, is a Presbyterian. He has written a detailed report-with-commentary on the event, and we encourage you to take a look at this perspective along with that presented by his friend, also a Presbyterian, Geoff Browning.

A comment from New Wineskins

Gerrit Dawson, a CoModerator of the New Wineskins Association of Churches, has sent a word of thanks to Gene TeSelle for his recent article on the New Wineskins movement

Dear Editor,

I'd like to thank Gene TeSelle for his article on the New Wineskins. I suspect he has reared a child or two. He clearly knows something about how letting go is often a more effective strategy of love than clinging or demanding. I'm very grateful for his gracious words concerning those of us who are considering changing Presbyterian affiliation to a denomination (the EPC) with whom the PCUSA is in communion but which also seems more compatible with our core beliefs. ... It's very refreshing not to be anathematized for even considering the subject of affiliation. Gene's irenic spirit draws me whereas commentaries that center on possessiveness ("not on my dime") and control ("you're dreaming if you think you can have your property") and paternalism only drive me away. This, perhaps, is a lesson that I, as an evangelical, need to heed about my own rhetoric as well. So, thank you.

Gerrit Dawson, CoModerator

New Wineskins Association of Churches

For Mr. Dawson's complete note >>

We'd like to say "thanks" to Gerrit Dawson for his gracious and thoughtful note.

3/6/07 
"Has Anyone Asked The Women?"  Or, well, how about asking the LGBT folks?

Becce Bettridge, Director of the Network of Presbyterian Women in Leadership, attended the recent New Wineskins Association of Churches' Convocation in Orlando, Florida. As she summarizes her experience, "New Wineskins [has] issued their strategy for congregations to leave the PCUSA and join with the EPC (Evangelical Presbyterian Church). New Wineskins perceives this realignment as an opportunity for PCUSA congregations to be united with a denomination they consider to be a more faithful body of believers. As I engaged in conversations with members of the EPC and listened to speakers representing the EPC, I found myself asking questions about the ordination of women as officers in the proposed New Wineskins-EPC churches."

In response to this experience, she wrote an essay entitled "Has anyone asked the women?"

One concerned Presbyterian woman, Karen Ellen Kavey of Chappaqua, New York, responded to her with a very thoughtful open letter, which she has kindly shared with us.

Peacemaking Update for 4 March 2007

There are (as usual) many good and important events and resources listed in the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program's latest update.  Among the major ones:

2007 Peacemaking Program Intergenerational Conference
Jesus: Proclaiming Peace
July 3-8
Montreat, NC


A WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIANS IN THE MIDDLE EAST
Between Easter (April 8) and Pentecost (May 27)
Presbyterians are invited to celebrate a Week of Prayer and Witness with Christians in the Middle East. Resources to observe the week are available at http://pcusa.org/worldwide/middleeast

And a major witness against the war in Iraq -- coming soon

CHRISTIAN WITNESS FOR PEACE IN IRAQ
March 16
Washington, D.C.
Worship at the National Cathedral at 7:00 PM
Candlelight procession to the White House
Prayer vigil and witness for peace in Iraq
NOTE: Registration is required for the worship at the cathedral.


Presbyterian Gathering on March 17
11 AM to 4 PM.
New York Presbyterian Church
13th and New York Avenues, NW
Future planning and worship.

If you cannot come to DC, consider:
holding an event in your community;
visiting the local offices of your Congressperson or Senators;
writing letters to your elected officials;
writing a letter to the editor; or praying for those affected by the war in Iraq.

A recent book offer tools for reflection and action in a global economy

Justice in a Global Economy: Strategies for Home, Community, and World Edited by Pamela K. Brubaker, Rebecca Todd Peters, Laura A. Stivers

Published by Westminster John Knox Press, July, 2006. List Price: $19.95 (Paperback)

In addition to the editors, contributors include John B. Cobb Jr., Wylin Dassie, Mary Elizabeth Hobgood, W. Anne Joh, Shannon Jung, Daisy L. Machado, Marcia Allen Owens, Larry Rasmussen, and Carlton Waterhouse.

 

Book Description

Today’s complex social and economic problems leave many people in the affluent world feeling either overwhelmed or ambivalent. Even the small percentage of us who have examined the ethics behind our financial decisions and overcome the often-deterring factors of self-interest rarely know what to do to make any difference. By providing tools for examination and concrete actions for individuals, communities, and society at large, Justice in a Global Economy guides its readers through many of today’s complex societal issues, including land use, immigration, corporate accountability, and environmental and economic justice. Beginning with a basic introduction to the impact of economic globalization, these ethicists and theologians provide both critical assessments of the current political-economic structures and examples of people and communities who are actively working to transform society. Each chapter concludes with questions for discussion and reflection.

If you have read this book and would be willing to offer your comments,
or even a more complete review, we’d be happy to hear from you!
Just send a note.

Social justice intern sought in New York City

Jan Hus Presbyterian Church is seeking a Social Justice Intern for a one-year position (with the possibility of an additional year), which will involve outreach work with homeless clients, an advocacy network made up of neighborhood churches working on affordable housing, assistance with Global Concern Program on different initiatives designed to support a more equitable, peaceful and healthy world.   Details >>

You may want to check out these topics in Presbyterians Today’s March issue.

Church property—who owns it?

A Presbyterian congregation's property is held in trust for the use and benefit of the whole denomination. Read about challenges to this policy in the March cover story.


Film review: Amazing Grace

Ed McNulty reviews Amazing Grace, a film study of William Wilberforce, a man deeply involved in the movement to abolish the slave trade in the British Empire in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.   Read the review of Amazing Grace


What Presbyterians Believe:  "Our radically connectional church"

Michael Jinkins writes that we are one body, not because we find each other’s views congenial, but because God has called us together. [Learn more.]

The Church in Society:  "Where is forgiveness?"

Vernon Broyles III, former associate for corporate witness in the PCUSA's National Ministries Division, offers monthly commentary on the issues that shape today's world, in a column titled The Church in Society.

In this month of Lent he asks about the meaning and necessity of forgiveness.

Comparing the execution of Saddam Hussein with the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission process in South Africa, he says that "only through the awful, painful gift of the victims of brutality and their families to reach out to the perpetrators with grace rather than vengeance, could the healing of that society have ever reached the stage it is now, imperfect though it still is."

So, he concludes, "Where violent people need to be restrained, so be it. But let us ask our leaders to seek a new spirit of openness that leads to reconciliation among warring peoples and a new opportunity for the healing and rebuilding that must come before attaining true peace."     The full short essay >>


A 'tidal wave of justice' began years ago, now continues through Coalition of Immokalee Workers

An article by Ronald A. Wells, titled "A ‘tidal wave of justice’," tells of minister Chris Hartmire's ground-breaking efforts in the 1960s, which set the stage for the church's support of farm workers. It mentions the more recent support for the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the Alliance for Fair Food to promote socially responsible purchasing practices among major retail food corporations.

This piece is not included in the on-line material from the magazine, so you’ll just have to find the paper version.

3/5/07
As some New Wineskins congregations move toward separation from the PC(USA) ...

This is obviously a development of concern to all of us in the Presbyterian Church (USA), and one which calls for thought and reflection on all sides.  We offer here, for starters, three essays on this movement for separation, along with a brief sketch of the background of the matter.

bulletGene TeSelle, Witherspoon's Issues Analyst, lays out the two options that seem to getting serious consideration among the conservative churches.
bulletTeSelle also gives a brief look at the background of these developments.
bullet John Harris, a member of the Witherspoon board, gives his personal view that the movement toward separation looks more like "whining" about things the conservatives don't like, than a real move for faithfulness.
bullet Historian Berry Craig views these developments through his knowledge of the Civil War, and says to those who would separate, "Leave if you must ... but not on my dime."
bulletFor more background, you might look at the Presbyterian News Service report on the New Wineskins conference in February.
bulletSee also our reports on the New Wineskins Convocation in 2005.

If you have comments of your own,
or would suggest other comments on this matter,
please send us a note,
to be shared here.

The new issue of Network News is at the printer - but you can read it here and now, in PDF format.

Some of the contents:

bulletWitherspoon Co-Moderator Jake Young writes about how " 'Schism happens' but being a neighbor is hard work.  (pp. 2 - 3)
bulletMission volunteer Shannon O'Donnell writes from Jerusalem about "meeting the real Holy Land." (pp. 5 - 6)
bulletGene TeSelle gives a progress report on the "New Social Creed," plus the latest draft of the document.  (pp. 9 - 10)
bulletVictoria Furio asks, "Who cares about the Iraquis?"  (pp. 14 - 16)
bulletDoug Ottati considers the coming (already?!?) presidential election, and hopes modestly for "A Pretty Good President."  (pp. 17 - 19)
bulletGene TeSelle and John Harris comment on the moves among some conservative churches toward separation from the PC(USA).  (pp. 20 - 22)  [also here in html format at New Wineskins 2007]
New complaint filed in Pittsburgh same-sex marriage case

14 accusers say Janet Edwards willfully defied ordination vows, church law   

A new complaint has been filed against the Rev. Janet Edwards, the Presbyterian minister in Pittsburgh who last year was taken to church court for marrying a lesbian couple, only to have the charges dropped because the court found they were filed four days late.

The Rev. James C. Yearsley, a Presbyterian minister who is currently serving in Florida, filed a complaint against Edwards shortly after she performed the marriage in June 2005, only to see the charges against her dismissed because a special investigating committee filed charges against Edwards after its deadline for doing so.

But now a new case may be brought against Edwards, who has been an activist for the full participation of gay and lesbian people in the church.

Yearsley announced last month that he has submitted a new grievance against Edwards that alleges she acted in "willful and deliberate defiance" of her ordination vows and of the constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Yearsley and the 13 other ministers and elders are being represented by Paul Rolf Jensen, a southern California attorney who has filed dozens of similar complaints against Presbyterian ministers and governing bodies throughout the United States.

The full report from Presbyterian News Service >>

A little background >>

3/3/07
Stated Clerk sends letters to Presidents Bush and Ahmadinejad

Urges 'direct, unconditional talks' between the U.S. and Iran  

Sharon Youngs, Office of the General Assembly communications officer, sent this news release on March 1:

Amid growing tensions between the United States and Iran, Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), sent letters late last week to Presidents George W. Bush and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, encouraging them to hold "direct, unconditional talks" between the two nations.

The Stated Clerk joins a chorus of religious leaders worldwide who are appealing for the direct talks amid deepening concern after the passing of the deadline for Iran's compliance with United Nations Resolution 1737 to end its move toward the development of nuclear weapons capability.

Late word yesterday of the possibility of direct talks happening next month is "very encouraging news to receive," said Kirkpatrick.

In his letters, the Stated Clerk lifts up the decades-long commitment of the General Assembly to "the preferential use of nonviolent means for conflict resolution and social change."

For the full texts of both letters >>

Burger King rejects request to pay extra penny to tomato pickers

Farmworkers protest decision outside hamburger company's HQ 

Fast-food giant Burger King has told the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) that it will not pay a penny more per pound to farmworkers harvesting its tomatoes.

The CIW, a Florida-based group of farmworkers receiving support from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and other faith groups, is calling on some of the nation's largest fast-food companies to do their part to improve wages and working conditions for the laborers who pick their tomatoes.

PC(USA) General Assembly Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick said in a statement to Burger King in January that workers who pick tomatoes in Florida for Burger King continue to face poverty wages and exploitative working conditions.   "They still lack rights enjoyed by workers in other industries," Kirkpatrick wrote.

Kirkpatrick said in his letter that Burger King is "morally and ethically" obligated to correct the deficiencies because the company profits from the exploitation of the workers.

The full report from Presbyterian News Service >>

3/1/07
A Lenten reflection ... or vision

The Best of the Temptations  

On the first Sunday of Lent, Lisa Larges preached a profound – and funny – sermon on Luke’s account of the temptations of Jesus. She began by lamenting what so many are experiencing these days: that it seems the Presbyterian Church would rather be right than be in love. 

She went on to explore Satan’s temptations of Jesus as inviting him to escape his human vulnerability – and he refused, because for him the Scriptures were about loving and being loved, not about being right and being invulnerable. That view of Scripture she offered is what the church needs now, for itself and for the well-being of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who are still seeking a place within that church.

Larges has just been named the Minister-Coordinator of That All May Freely Serve.

Read the sermon – for its sly humor or for its warm depth, or both.

Supreme Court Gives Gore’s Oscar to Bush

Stunning Reversal for Former Veep  

Just days after former Vice President Al Gore received an Academy Award for his global warming documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," the United States Supreme Court handed Mr. Gore a stunning reversal, stripping him of his Oscar and awarding it to President George W. Bush instead.

Read the rest of Andy Borowitz’ delightful take on the Academy Award given to our former Vice President.

For items from earlier in August, 2007
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.
 

If you like what you find here,
we hope you'll help us keep Voices for Justice going ... and growing!

Please consider making a special contribution -- large or small -- to help us continue and improve this service.

Click here to send a gift online, using your credit card, through PayPal.

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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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