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Archive for July, 2009

This page lists our postings from all of July, 2009

For an index to all our reports and analyses
on the 219th General Assembly

For links to all our archive pages, listed by months, click here.

7/30/09
"We need advocacy groups!"

Does the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) still need to support advocacy work? [Hint: Yes!]

Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty , a PC(USA) minister and a member of the theology faculty at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky, recently published an essay dealing with this critical issue in Presbyterian Outlook. She begins:

This key question arises in many discussions related to restructuring at the denominational offices in Louisville, a global economic recession, reviews of the PC(USA) Washington Office as well as a review of the relationship between the Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns (ACWC), the Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns (ACREC), and the Advisory Committee for Social Witness Policy (ACSWP). These discussions are adding to perennial theological debates about the church’s social mission.

My response to the question could simply be “yes.” Recognizing the need to take seriously the current context of these conversations in church and society, I want to offer three reasons why we as a denomination cannot afford to lose advocacy groups.

Her reasons:

bulletAdvocacy groups were formed to assist our church in reaching out and looking in
bulletThere is still reason to be concerned about justice
bulletAdvocacy groups help to cultivate and equip leaders for church and society

We urge you to look seriously at this article >>

Do you have thoughts on this matter?
Please send a note,
to be shared here!

On health care reform:

Have you heard about the six senators who are out to kill health care reform?

This message comes from Credo Action,
part of the WorkingAssets program

Of course, that's not how they'd phrase it. Sens. Baucus, Bingaman, Conrad, Enzi, Grassley and Snowe say they're striving for "bi-partisan compromise." But what they're actually doing is working to make sure reform won't include a public option or mandatory employer-based insurance - two key policies needed for effective reform.

There are 100 members of the Senate, but these six, inexplicably, seem to be holding all the cards when it comes to health care.

So you probably won't be surprised to learn that all six have taken a huge amount of money from the health insurance industry and pharma. Take a look:

Senator Lifetime contributions from Insurance/Pharma

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)

 $1,203,205

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) $206,297
Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) $442,165
Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) $342,228
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) $702,595
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME)       $161,706
TOTAL:   $3,058,256


These six senators -- who, by the way, represent only 2.74% of Americans between them -- are writing bad policy, and they're doing it while they take money from the very companies who stand to benefit the most.

You may want to sign a petition to tell Sens. Baucus, Bingaman, Conrad, Enzi, Grassley and Snowe: Give back every dime you've ever received from health insurance companies and big pharma. More >>

For our other recent posts on health care reform >>

New Mission Network for Syria-Lebanon

The initial meeting of a PC(USA) partnership network with the Presbyterian Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon will be held on Sept. 8-10 in Louisville. After many months of preparation, and in coordination with three representatives of the Synod, this meeting will bring together those who've had long-term relationships with the Synod, those who share an interest in supporting the witness of the churches there, and who also wish to explore how the Synod may help us in the U.S. in many ways, such as in our ecumenical and interfaith relationships. For a copy of the letter of invitation, you may contact a member of the organizing group, Rev. Dr. Len Bjorkman <lenandjudy@stny.rr.com> in Owego, NY.

More >>

Thanks to Len Bjorkman, of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship

On women's right to choose:

Why is the Presbyterian Church not supporting the Ryan-DeLauro Bill?

This query comes to us from Witherspoon member John Tindal.

The bill, bearing the weighty title, the 'Preventing Unintended Pregnancies, Reducing the Need for Abortion and Supporting Parents Act,' has received support from such groups as the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Catholics for Choice, the United Methodist Church - General Board of Church and Society, the United Church of Christ, and the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism.

A representative of the Episcopal Church has joined some 50 other religious leaders and groups in supporting the House of Representatives' Ryan-DeLauro Bill, which, if passed, would aim to reduce the need for abortion by preventing unintended pregnancies and supporting pregnant women and families.

Maureen Shea, director of the Episcopal Church's Office of Government Relations, in a statement released on July 24, wrote: 

On behalf of the Episcopal Church, I am pleased to endorse the 'Preventing Unintended Pregnancies, Reducing the Need for Abortion and Supporting Parents Act' sponsored by Representatives Tim Ryan [Ohio] and Rosa DeLauro [Connecticut]. 

We believe 'that the beginning of new human life, because it is a gift of the power of God's love for his people, and thereby sacred, should not and must not be undertaken unadvisedly or lightly but in full accordance of the understanding for which this power to conceive and give birth is bestowed by God. [This language is from a resolution first passed by the 1967 General Convention and reaffirmed in modified form at several subsequent meetings.] 

In order to ensure that the gift of life not be 'undertaken unadvisedly or lightly,' this legislation seeks to prevent unintended pregnancies particularly for teens; it restores and expands family planning programs for low-income women; it gives childbirth support to women and new parents, as well as students so that they can continue their studies; and it provides important information and financial support for those wishing to adopt.

More >>

An interview with Honduran President Manuel Zelaya Rosales

“Democracy has a price and I'm willing to pay it”

The elected president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya Rosales, has been much in the news since he was ousted from the country in what to many appears to have been a military coup – though the situation is much more complicated than that.

A reporter for SIREL, the website of the Geneva-based International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Unions, interviewed him recently in Managua, Nicaragua, before his recent attempts to re-enter Honduras.

It may be helpful to hear more of Zelaya’s own thinking in the midst of all the other reports.   The full interview >>

Having a problem with the photos? If your browser, like mine, displays a number of photos covering some of the text, try right-clicking on one of the photos, then click something like “delete photos,” or “Do not allow photos from this site.” I make no promises, but it might get rid of the pictures so you can read what the man said.

Thanks to Gene TeSelle.

More on Honduras >>

More on guns in church. And why not in Congress?

Back in June, we passed along news about a “God and guns” rally in a Louisville church back in June – and then about a “Leave Your Gun at Home” rally presenting the other side.

Peter Smith, religion editor for the Louisville Courier-Journal, now reports the latest: The initiator of the un-gun event posted a thank-you note to the pastor who hosted the pro-gun rally, grateful for giving Interfaith Paths to Peace “a chance to tell its story literally to the world. Taylor told the BBC, New York Times and other media that he couldn't fathom why someone would promote bringing weapons into a place of worship.” And beyond that, Terry Taylor, executive director of Interfaith Paths to Peace, thanked the Rev. Ken Pagano, sponsored the God and Guns rally,

But Taylor also thanked Pagano for his graciousness in the conversation the developed between them.

Find Smith’s report on his blog >>

And then – why not let our legislators carry their guns in the halls of Congress?

E. J. Dionne, Jr., of The Washington Post, offers this brilliant suggestion:

Heck, let’s let guns into the U.S. Capitol

He begins:

Isn’t it time to dismantle the metal detectors, send the guards at the doors away, and allow Americans to exercise their Second Amendment rights by being free to carry their firearms into the nation’s Capitol building?

I’ve been studying the deep thoughts of senators who regularly express their loyalty to the National Rifle Association and have decided that they should practice what they preach. They tell us that the best defense against crime is an armed citizenry and that laws restricting guns do nothing to stop violence.

If they believe that, why not live by it? ...

He concludes:

Don’t think this column is offered lightly. I want these guys to put up or shut up. If the NRA’s servants in Congress don’t take their arguments seriously enough to apply them to their own lives, maybe the rest of us should do more to stop them from imposing their nonsense on our country.

The rest of his column >>

Nominee to be Secretary of the Army has poor record on church-state issues, says watchdog group
 
News release from Americans United for Separation of Church and State, July 29, 2009
 
Americans United for Separation of Church and State today asked the Senate Armed Services Committee to question U.S. Rep. John M. McHugh about his views on religious liberty and the rights of religious minorities.
 
McHugh, who currently represents New York's 23rd District in the House of Representatives, has been nominated by President Barack Obama to be the Secretary of the Army. His confirmation hearing is tomorrow.
 
Americans United says McHugh has a troubling record when it comes to separation of church and state.
 
"As a member of the House, McHugh repeatedly voted for or cosponsored proposals that would undermine the wall of separation between church and state," said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United. "We must have assurances that as Secretary of the Army, he will support the rights of men and women of all faiths and none."    More >> 

Thanks to the Rev. Betty Hale

7/28/09
November 20-22, 2009 -
Converge on Fort Benning, Georgia
Mass Mobilization to Shut Down the School of the Americas (SOA/ WHINSEC)!

The military coup by SOA graduates in Honduras has once again exposed the destabilizing and deadly effects that the School of the Americas has on Latin America. The actions of the school's graduates are unmasking the Pentagon rhetoric and reveal the anti-democratic results of U.S. policies. It is time for a change towards justice.

From November 20-22, 2209, thousands will vigil at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia, to stand up for justice, to shut down the School of the Americas and to end the oppressive U.S. foreign policy that the school represents.

More >>

Speak out for same-sex marriage!

We've mentioned this before, but John Shuck offers another strong nudge:

I see that Jim Berkley, formerly of the IRD, now of the LayMAN, has written his letter to the Civil Union and Christian Marriage Committee. Presbyweb posted it. Here is a snippet:

We do not love others by setting up faux “covenants” so that they may feel confident and encouraged to continue in sexual sin. We do not love others by failing to warn them about the consequences of their actions, but instead just let them continue in sin to their own destruction.
That is what he thinks of your relationships, my gay and lesbian friends, faux covenants. Allies, that is what he thinks of your friends' and family members' relationships, faux covenants.

More >>

STEADFAST HOPE

New study booklet and DVD report on efforts by Muslim, Jewish, and Christian peacemakers working for justice and reconciliation

Thanks to Len Bjorkman of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, for news of this important resource.

Steadfast Hope: The Palestinian Quest for Just Peace is a 48-page perfect-bound booklet with a free companion DVD. Steadfast Hope challenges common myths and misperceptions about the origins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, presents a compelling snapshot of the present situation on the ground, and offers a guide to the challenges that lie ahead in the quest for peace.

Steadfast Hope offers an inspiring view of the activities currently being undertaken by Muslim, Jewish, and Christian peacemakers working for justice and reconciliation. It also gives helpful guidance on how your congregation can contribute to the cause of just peace for the people who share the Holy Land.

Download the flyer to share with others!
low-resolution (smaller file)
hi-resolution (larger file)

Buy it now!

Contact the Israel/Palestine Mission Network by email at hope@israelpalestinemissionnetwork.org to order the 48-page booklet and the accompanying free DVD.
• 1–9 copies............ $10 each
• 10–19 copies......... $7 each
•  20+ copies............ $5 each

Carol Hylkema, Moderator of the Israel/Palestine Mission Network, says:

"I commend Steadfast Hope as an excellent resource for Presbyterian Women as well as pastors, educators, and congregations. It grows from the Israel/Palestine Mission Network purpose to demonstrate solidarity, educate about the facts on the ground, and change the conditions that erode the humanity of both Israelis and Palestinians."

For more information >>

More on Israel/Palestine concerns >>

Religious Collaboration for Social Justice

A new book, Journeys into Justice: Religious Collaboratives Working for Social Transformation, by Witherspoon member Nile Harper, explores ten successful religious collaboratives to discover the ways in which they changed public policies and social systems to greatly improve the lives of thousands of people. This is a book of hope based on experience.  More >>

7/22/09
An urgent late bulletin:

From No2Torture:

Please call your Senators and tell them to vote against S.A. 1559, [which would PERMANENTLY prevent the President from transferring any detainee from Gitmo FOR ANY PURPOSE, whether to stand trial in a US court or to be housed at another facility].  Remind them that the abuses that occurred in the prison in Guantanamo shamed our nation and you hope that they will not stand in the way of closing that prison. Voting against this amendment will make it possible to close Guantanamo.

More from the National Religious Campaign Against Torture >>

A Hymn for This Sunday
and A New Book of Hymns
by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette

This coming Sunday, July 26th, the lectionary’s gospel lesson is the story of the feeding of the 5000. Carolyn Winfrey Gillette’s hymn, "Where is Bread?", is inspired by this biblical story. The hymn is in the new book of hymns by Carolyn and also on the web site as well as on the Christian Reflection journal web site (with text and music together).

Since 1998, Carolyn Winfrey Gillette has been writing hymns that often have peace and justice themes.  She writes new words to well-known hymn tunes, following the example of Jane Parker Huber and other hymn writers.  Carolyn's first book of hymns, Gifts of Love:  New Hymns for Today's Worship, was published by PCUSA's Geneva Press in 2000.  Many of her hymns can be found online posted by the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, Presbyterian Hunger Program, Sojourners, Church World Service, National Council of Churches and others.  The Witherspoon Society has been the first web site to post some of her hymns online that are now in her new book: "Creator God, You Made the Earth," "For Freedom, Christ Has Set Us Free!" , "A Hymn for Peace," "You Formed Us in Your Image, Lord" and others.   More >>

The US blockade is crumbling!

Caravan to Cuba crosses into Mexico with 100 tons of aid bound for Cuba

News release from Pastors for Peace, dated July 21, 2009

130 volunteers from the US, Canada, and Europe successfully challenged the US economic blockade of Cuba today when they crossed over into Reynosa, Mexico with 100 tons of humanitarian aid bound for Cuba.

Rev. Tom Smith, IFCO/Pastors for Peace  board chair said “The blockade is crumbling—like all walls eventually crumble. We have received a tremendous outpouring of support throughout the U.S. People have demonstrated their desire to end this inhumane policy towards Cuba by their generous donations and by their informed questions. People want the freedom to travel to Cuba without limitations by the U.S. government.”

"We have met people throughout the US who are willing to do more to make this change happen.” Smith continued. Thousands of people signed up for our emergency response network—standing ready to make calls to their congressional representatives and the Obama administration demanding that our aid to go through." said Smith.

The rest of the story >>
More on ending the travel ban to Cuba >>

Gun rights expansion fails in Senate

The New York Times ran a good editorial yesterday, July 21, explaining the reasons why the Thune amendment deserved rejection.

More on gun control issues >>

7/21/09

WITNESS IN WASHINGTON WEEKLY
The Washington Office of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
July 21, 2009

This week's messages are-

bullet    Act Now for Peace for Israel/Palestine - August Summer Recess District Advocacy
bullet    Resources for Health Care Reform
bullet    Save the Date: Briefing Call on Climate Change in the Senate
bullet    U.S. Workers Get a Raise: a Release from Let Justice Roll
bullet    Psalm 146: 1-7 - Praise for God's Help

Download the letter in PDF format >>

As usual, this letter contains very helpful information on resources you can use, and actions you can take to make your voice heard in Washington on issues that people of faith may care about deeply, and about which we may have insights and values worth sharing with our legislators and fellow citizens.

Washington Report to Presbyterians
July/August 2009

This report, also issued by the Presbyterian Washington Office, brings less frequent but more in-depth analyses of issues about which the PC(USA) has taken an interest and made policy statements.  This issue features:

bullet Voting Rights Act Challenged
bullet Update on Climate Legislation
bullet The Real Cost of Oil, by Sarah Pray, Coordinator
Publish What You Pay United States
bullet

Note: The PC(USA) endorsed the Publish What You Pay (PWYP) campaign and joined the PWYP coalition by action of the 218th General Assembly in 2008. The campaign calls for oil, gas and mining companies to disclose what they pay governments for the extraction of natural resources, thereby holding them accountable.

Pressure continues against Latino workers – now being expanded under Obama

Community organizations across America condemn the expansion of 287 (g)

The Rev. Trina Zelle, formerly a co-moderator of the Witherspoon Society and now working in Phoenix with Interfaith Worker Justice of Arizona, recommends this “excellent and comprehensive article” in La Frontera Times, for an understanding of what is going on through government action against migrant workers, both in Arizona and around the country.

Along with this, she suggests looking at the New Yorker’s recent article on Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona (“our out of control sheriff,” in her words).  [Click here for our earlier report about his astonishing activities.]

50 Ways to Save the Earth

A new book by Rebecca Barnes-Davies, Witherspoon member and former coordinator of Presbyterians for Restoring Creation, shows how individuals and churches can make a difference in fighting global warming.

 

The book, 50 Ways to Help Save the Earth: How You and Your Church Can Make a Difference, is available through Cokesbury . It outlines 50 ways individuals and churches can help fight global warming and participate in a part of Christian discipleship, making a connection between stewardship of the earth and faith. The book consists of seven chapters on topics related to global climate change: water, energy, transportation, food and agriculture, people, other species, and wilderness and land planning. Each chapter begins with a statement on how the content relates to global warming, followed by seven action items.

For more information, and/or to order, click the Buy from Amazon button.

A reminder:  Let the Committee on Civil Union and Christian Marriage hear from you!

We have received this helpful reminder (and example) from the Rev. Ray Bagnuolo, and we're happy to pass it along to you all.

Dear Friends -
 

We have been given the opportunity to forward input to the Committee on Civil Union and Christian Marriage, as they consider their recommendations for our church.
 
I have responded and ask you to please consider a response, as well, regardless of your position. As you might imagine, I have strong feelings about marriage being available for the LGBT community and its families, just as it is for our sisters and brothers who are not excluded by current restrictions.
 
You may disagree or have some other opinions. I believe deeply in the importance of all voices being heard, even when we disagree. So, please take a few moments to write. The information can be found here on the Presbyterian News Service
 
If interested, you can read what I have sent to the committee at bagnuolo.blogspot.com. If you would like a pdf copy of my comments, just let me know. I'll be happy to send them.
 
Thank you for engaging in this conversation. It is so important....
 
To much peace,
Ray
7/17/09
THE ITALIAN TOMATO GARDEN

An Italian man lived alone in New Jersey. He wanted to plant his annual tomato garden, but it was very difficult work, as the ground was hard. His only son, Vincent, who used to help him, was in prison. The father wrote a letter to his son and described his predicament: 

Dear Vincent:

I am feeling pretty sad, because it looks like I won‘t be able to plant my tomato garden this year. I’m just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot. I know if you were here my troubles would be over. In know you would be happy to dig the plot for me, like in the old days.

 Love, Papa

How does this sad situation get resolved?  Read on!

Episcopal bishops OK prayer for gay couples

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- 07.15.09 -- Episcopal bishops authorized the church Wednesday to start drafting an official prayer for same-sex couples, another step toward acceptance of gay relationships that will deepen the rift between the denomination and its fellow Anglicans overseas.

The bishops voted 104-30 at the Episcopal General Convention to "collect and develop theological resources and liturgies" for blessing same-gender relationships, which would be considered at the next national meeting in 2012.

The resolution notes the growing number of states that allow gay marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships, and gave bishops in those regions discretion to provide a "generous pastoral response" to couples in local parishes.

Many Episcopal dioceses already allow clergy to bless same-sex couples but there is no official liturgy for the ceremonies in the denomination's Book of Prayer. The measure still needs the approval of the lay people and priest delegates at the assembly, which ends Friday.

More >>

From School of the Americas Watch:

No to the Military Coup in Honduras!

Urge your Representative to Take a Stand for Democracy!

On June 28, SOA-trained Honduran military generals overthrew the government of President Manuel Zelaya. The Honduran social movements are resisting the coup regime and engage in daily pro-democracy protests, strikes and civil disobedience. There is still hope that the legitimate government can be reinstalled but it will take pressure on the coup leaders.

Representatives Bill Delahunt (D-MA) and Jim McGovern (D-MA) introduced a resolution in the House of Representatives along with 14 original cosponsors that calls for the return to democracy and the reinstatement of Manuel Zelaya as president of Honduras.

Click here to send a message to your Representative to ask them to take a stand for democracy by co-sponsoring the resolution.

Check if your Representative has already signed on to the resolution. You can find a list of original co-sponsors of the House Resolution here:
http://soaw.org/houseresolution

Read a letter from Representative Bill Delahunt to fellow members of the House of Representatives:
http://soaw.org/houseresolution#colleague

Read the text of the House Resolution:
http://soaw.org/houseresolution#resolution

More on our special page on Honduras >>

40 years of fighting hunger

Presbyterian Hunger Program celebrates anniversary by looking back, looking forward

Presbyterian News Service reported from the Churchwide Gathering:

What began with a General Assembly action four decades ago has become a program that has raised more than $125 million for hunger relief.

The Presbyterian Hunger Program celebrated its 40th anniversary with speakers, music and a raffle at the Churchwide Gathering of Presbyterian Women July 14.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) was the first denomination to state that hunger is a grave threat and moral imperative for the church, said PHP Coordinator Ruth Farrell, adding that the program was originally charged with five focus areas surrounding hunger: direct food relief, development assistance, influencing public policy, lifestyle integrity and education and interpretation.

"Those five approaches are every bit as relevant today as they were 40 years ago," Farrell said.  The rest of the report >>

 
Since 1946, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), acting out of faith in Jesus Christ the Prince of Peace, has recognized that working for God's intended order and life abundant involves seeking international disarmament and arms control measures [PDF]. Recent events bring us to another moment to contact President Obama and our Senators asking them to work for a world without nuclear weapons. On July 6, in Moscow, President Obama and Russian President Medvedev agreed on the basic terms of a treaty to reduce the number of warheads and missiles to the lowest levels since the early years of the cold war. Plans are to complete the new treaty by December. It would then be subject to ratification by the Senate. This could lead to further talks next year on more substantial reductions.     More >>
 
From "Seeking Peace" -- updates from the
Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, July 14, 2009
7/15/09

Passing the Hate Crimes Bill in 90 Seconds

[From Human Rights Campaign]

Do you have a minute and a half today?  You must if you’re reading this.  The Matthew Shepard Act is coming to a vote on the Senate Floor THIS WEEK and we need you to make two calls… one to each Senator that will take no more than 45 seconds.  More >>

The U.S. in Honduras:
Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Good Neighbor”?

Donna Laubach, a PC(USA) mission co-worker in Venezuela, asked us to share this article with our readers, to “see if it helps anybody in the States to read the situation in this manner.” 

The opening paragraph:

In the wake of the Honduras coup, speculation about whether or not the US was masterminding the plot is running wild. Brushing off denials of involvement and claims that US officials had tried to dissuade the plotters from plans to overthrow President Manuel Zelaya, progressive writers have almost unanimously accused the Obama administration of complicity in the coup. ... 

And the closing paragraph:

While it's crucial that the coup plotters be brought to justice (even if that includes US citizens) and that Manuel Zelaya return to his rightful place as president of Honduras, activists need to pay even closer attention to the silent murder by economic strangulation and/or free trade agreements. We need to ensure, for instance, that Clinton not be allowed to "cut a deal" to have Zelaya returned under "conditions" (as her husband did with Aristide in 1994). We need to lobby for fair trade agreements and not free trade agreements. We need, finally, to support movements in Latin America working toward unity against empire. Zelaya's return to Honduras, without conditions, will be only one step in our struggle.

For more excerpts from in between first and last >>

For the complete article, in TruthOut.org >>
Latest news from Rita Brock and Faith Voices for the Common Good

Rita Nakashima Brock’s latest newsletter from Faith Voices for the Common Good  touches on a wide variety of concerns and actions, including: 

•          the need to support people in the military who come to a place where in conscience they believe they must refuse deployment in a particular war such as that in Iraq. The Faith Voices' Truth Commission on Conscience in War, November 15-16, will build nationwide momentum to expand CO regulations to allow objection to a particular war.

•          THE DELEGATION TO IRAN – postponed after the protests against the election results – is leaving Aug. 5! If you still want to send a letter of friendship and solidarity to the Iranian people, email it by July 20 to Rita Brock at rita@faithvoices.org who will deliver the letters in person.

•          Does Iran's Intifada Have a Future? Faith Voices board member Amir Soltani writes about this vital question.

•          What About Progressive Christianity? The abrupt departure of Rev. Dr. Brad Braxton, senior minister of the Riverside Church in New York, after less than a year of his being called, has precipitated extensive soul-searching about progressive Christianity. Is the problem that he was too conservative? Too evangelical? Or too "black"? Do too many churches treat their ministers badly? In a congregation almost evenly divided racially, is racism the core problem? And is this just a Christian problem? A number of progressive Christian thinkers have posted essays and blogs at Religious Dispatches, Rita Brock included, on what Dr. Braxton's departure says about Progressive Christianity.

Click here for a complete posting of Rita Brock’s newsletter, Tara >>   

Good News from the Episcopal Church!

From the New York Times, July 15, 2009

Episcopal Church Moves to End Ban on Gay Bishops

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The bishops of the Episcopal Church voted at the church’s convention on Monday to open "any ordained ministry" to gay men and lesbians, a move that could effectively undermine a moratorium on ordaining gay bishops that the church passed at its last convention three years ago.

The resolution passed on Monday was written in a way that would allow dioceses to consider gay candidates to the episcopacy, but does not mandate that all dioceses do so.

A similar measure was passed on Sunday by the church’s other legislative body, the House of Deputies, which is made up of laypeople and clergy. On Tuesday, the bishops’ version will probably go back to the House of Deputies for reconsideration.

The full report >>

The Episcopal Church is taking action on many other issues, as well.  Click here for a summary, and links to more information.

7/13/09
Enjoy the (jazzy) sound of rain!

Thanks to John Shuck for sending this along. Enjoy “the rain down in Africa” – and turn up the sound enough to hear the beginning.  Lots of us have done this at summer camps – but never like this!

See and hear it on Shuck and Jive>>

For a larger screen on YouTube>>

Turn up the sound ... and go with it.

Reports from the Churchwide Gathering of Presbyterian Women –

The rest of us seem to be missing some good things.

Some of the reports:

Choosing Life

In keeping with Sunday evening's theme - "Wonder of Creation" - at the Churchwide Gathering of Presbyterian Women, Barbara Rossing spoke of the enchantment of waking to the song of a bird, gazing at a waterfall or watching a child discover a new creature.

But is all well with the world we cherish? As Rossing described the failing health of the earth, she reminded the audience, "The cruelest injustice of climate change is that it hurts the poor - those who have done the least to cause the problem - the hardest ... As Christians, we should be concerned about that."

The full report from Presbyterian News Service >>

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Calling for a ministry of meddlin'

"The good news of the gospel is that it calls us to a ministry of meddlin,'" said Margaret Aymer as she began her sermon during Presbyterian Women's Churchwide Gathering July 12.

During the plenary session themed "Wonder of Community," Aymer, a faculty member of Johson C. Smith Theological Seminary, reinterpreted the Southern expression, "Preacher, you've left off preachin' and taken to meddlin'" in the context of Mark 2:1-12.

She explored the call of the Christian community, specifically of Presbyterian Women and the Presbyterian clergy women gathered, to re-envision themselves as meddlers. She asserted that faithful Christians break barriers, like the story of the four friends in Mark who carried a paralyzed man to Jesus, breaking through the roof of a home to lower the man through a ceiling so he could have access to Jesus.

"If we are honest, at the heart of many of our conflicts is the question of access," she said. "Access to water resources, to food and shelter and adequate medical care, to energy, to human rights, to appropriate education or to a place to call home.”

The report from Presbyterian News Service >>

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For more reports, see the Gathering’s own website >>

Among other things, the Presbyterian Women’s business meeting on Sunday ratified the amended and restated certificate of incorporation that establishes Presbyterian Women as a publicly supported integrated auxiliary of the PC(USA). Voting representatives also approved the bylaws of Presbyterian Women in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Inc.

According to Catrelia Hunter, 2006–2009 moderator of Presbyterian Women, incorporation will allow PW to establish clear and separate accounting practices, and ensure good stewardship of PW funds in the current economic environment.

Since being formed in 1988, Presbyterian Women has held a covenantal relationship with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and has been the single largest contributor of undesignated funds to support the mission of the church worldwide. That covenantal relationship remains in place.

More on this action >>

A psychologist offers comments to the Christian Marriage/Civil Union committee

Witherspoon board member Mitch Trigger sends this note:

Friends, I thought I'd share with you the comments a friend of mine sent to the Christian Marriage/Civil Union committee after I requested he do so. He is a professor of psychology whose specialty is marriage and he is involved in ongoing research involving marriage. He is passionately committed to marriage equality. I hope the committee gives his comments the weight they deserve. He allowed me to share his comments with anyone I felt would benefit.

Mitch Trigger

[Note that the Committee has invited comments from others across the Church.]

The note from Prof. Matthew D. Johnson to the Committee:

Dear committee members,

Your request for input was forwarded to me, and I write in support of offering same-gendered couples the full opportunities of marriage currently available to heterosexual couples. While I feel there are profound theological imperatives for this, I write as a university professor of psychology whose career has been devoted to the empirical study of marriage. Allowing same-gendered couples to marry within the church will benefit the couples and their children. 

It is clear from the research literature that the act of a couple gathering together their friends and family and making a promise to stay committed in front of the people most important to them and in front of God is profound. This leads to greater commitment (feeling compelled to stay in the relationship) and dedication (feeling compelled to actively work on improving the relationship) to their partner. These effects are much stronger when a couple weds than when they simply live together. A wedding that lacks an endorsement from the church may well weaken the benefits of marriage for the couple. 

Strong marriages also benefit the children. A large amount of research conducted in the last two decades suggests that, on average, the presence of two parents is associated with better outcomes for children.

Unwed parents who cohabitate are more similar to married parents than to single parents on variables related to child outcomes, but children in families with married parents have the best health, behavioral and academic outcomes. 

Strengthening families regardless of the gender of the parents should be an important goal of the church, and one way to do this is to allow all couples who seek to enhance their relationship through marriage to do so with the support of the church. 

Sincerely,

Matthew D. Johnson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Psychology
Binghamton University
Binghamton, NY 13902-6000

National gun violence prevention groups express outrage that in wake of shootings, U.S. Senate is poised to consider legislation to dramatically weaken state concealed handgun laws

The coalition's statement concludes:

In the midst of an epidemic of gun violence, the American people require serious efforts to reform our weak gun laws, not misguided attempts to appease the powerful gun lobby. The Senate Judiciary Committee should commit today to holding a hearing on real measures to reduce gun violence—like closing the gun show loophole in the Brady background check system, which allows criminals to buy guns from private sellers at gun shows.

The full text of their news release >>

Note:  The Witherspoon board has endorsed a recent call to support the "Gun Show Background Check Act of 2009," which would in a very modest way tighten controls on the sale of guns, rather than forcing states to relax their controls.

7/11/09
If you're at the Churchwide Gathering of Presbyterian Women starting today, we hope you'll look for the Voices of Sophia / Witherspoon Society booth!

Please stop by and get acquainted with the people who will be there staffing the booth, who will include the Rev. Gusti Newquist and the Rev. Sylvia Carlson, both members of our board -- and lots of other good folks.  They will be able to provide you with information on our merger, copies of the most recent Network News, and much more.  Do stop by!

7/6/09
Honduras – update and action alert

This comes from the Alliance for Global Justice

Zelaya's plane unable to land. Runway blockaded by military. At least two young people are dead

Demand complete cut-off of aid and relations by US!

Yesterday, Sunday, July 5, 2009, Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, who was violently overthrown and removed from the country by a military coup on June 28, flew back to Honduras accompanied by UN General Assembly President Miguel D'Escoto. His plane circled the airport, where 100,000 people had gathered to await him and return him to office, but was unable to land because the military blockaded the runway. He then flew to Managua for a brief stop and meeting with President Daniel Ortega before flying to San Salvador to meet with the Secretary General of the OAS and the presidents of Argentina, Ecuador, and El Salvador who had flown there direct from an OAS meeting in Washington, DC.

More information, and suggested actions >>

Our earlier report on Honduras, and the coup leader's background in School of the Americas >>

Calling all artists, doodlers,
creative thinkers, feminists,
progressive
Reformed theologians
& independent minds

 

 

 

We are merging two progressive Presbyterian organizations
— Voices of Sophia and the Witherspoon Society —
and now we need to live into a new identity.

Sooo ... we’re looking for a new name and a new logo ...
and you can help!

Join one or both of these contests and win huge prizes!

Details >>

To print and share with others, get the PDF version of this announcement >>

Bill Moyers Journal offers a theological look at Faith and Social Justice

On its broadcast for Friday, July 3, the "Bill Moyers Journal" offered insight from three leading public thinkers who taught a unique course – "Christianity and the U.S. Crisis" – at Union Theological Seminary in New York, the oldest nondenominational seminary in the country. Renowned scholars Cornel West, Serene Jones and Gary Dorrien offer a fresh take on what our religious traditions and our core ethics and values as a nation say about America's politics, policy and the challenges of balancing capitalism and democracy. "This is a society that has stoked and celebrated greed virtually to the point of self-destruction. We can't just go on saying, 'Well if we can just patch this thing up and get back to where we were, things will be all right.' And none of us believe that, so we also have to talk about what was wrong with the system to begin with that had outcomes that you can't really justify morally," says Dorrien.

For snippets of the discussion >>

For the full transcript >>

For the video >>

More on the ordination debate

Afterthoughts on Authority

The Rev. Dr. Eric Mount, professor emeritus of religion at Centre College in Kentucky, was asked to speak on behalf of Amendment 08-B for regional gathering in his presbytery, and found the issue of biblical authority to be the central concern of the person on the other side of the debate. He had just ten minutes to develop his position, which was “that people could support the change because of the Bible and not in spite of it, and I also made reference to the ‘Wesleyan Quadrilateral,’ which includes tradition, reason, and experience as sources of authority along with the Bible.” He found the ten-minute limit a bit frustrating, so he shares with us a more complete statement of a very helpful view.

Join NNPCW's Leadership Team!

This invitation comes from the National Network of Presbyterian College Women ...

The Coordinating Committee (CoCo) of NNPCW is now accepting applications for three-year term

We are accepting applications through August 14 for membership to NNPCW's Coordinating Committee (CoCo), the 12-member decision-making body. Learn more and find out how to apply.

For an index to all our reports and analyses
on the 219th General Assembly

For links to all our archive pages, listed by months, 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.

Or send your check, made out to "Presbyterian Voices for Justice" and marked "web site," to our PVJ Treasurer:

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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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