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Archive for June, 2009

This page lists our postings from all of June, 2009

For an index to all our reports
from the 218th General Assembly

For an index to all our reports from the
Witherspoon conference on global mission and justice >>

Earlier in April, 2010
March, 2010
February, 2010
January, 2010
December, 2009
November, 2009
October, 2009
September, 2009

August, 2009
July, 2009

May, 2009
April, 2009
March, 2009

February, 2009
January, 2009
December, 2008
November, 2008
October, 2008
September, 2008
August, 2008
July, 2008
June, 2008
May, 2008
April, 2008
March, 2008
February, 2008
January, 2008


For links to earlier archive pages, click here.

6/30/09
Network News is on its way!

The Spring 2009 issue of Network News is in the mail to Witherspoon members and other subscribers, and to current members of Voices of Sophia as well.

And it’s also right here online, in PDF format – both in high resolution (nicer to look at, slower to download) and normal resolution (faster to download, especially if you’re using a slow connection).

Click here to download the software you need to read PDF files.

Some of the features in this issue are:

bulletMitch Trigger’s report on the “Big Tent” Presbyterian gathering in Atlanta – page 5
bulletMarvin Ellison’s “The freedom to marry – at the heart of Christianity” – page 7
bulletPaul Capetz’ “John Calvin: His Significance, Then and Now” – page 9
bulletGusti Newquist’s feminist statement of faith – page 13
bulletGene TeSelle on “taking responsibility for the future” – reflections on how we deal with the coming crises in funding Social Security, Medicare, and other retirement benefits and protections – page 16
bulletSylvia Carlson’s report on a visit to the Presbyterian Church in Sudan, and dealing with differing views on the role of women – page 20
bulletFrom Homelessness to Hope – a summary of a study report approved by the 218th General Assembly – page 23
The Military Coup in Honduras – led by an SOA graduate

This early report on the coup in Honduras, on Sunday morning, June 28, comes from School of the Americas Watch.

A military coup has taken place in Honduras this morning (Sunday, June 28), led by SOA graduate Romeo Vasquez. In the early hours of the day, members of the Honduran military surrounded the presidential palace and forced the democratically elected president, Manuel Zelaya, into custody. He was immediately flown to Costa Rica.

A national vote had been scheduled to take place today in Honduras to consult the electorate on a proposal of holding a Constitutional Assembly in November. General Vasquez had refused to comply with this vote and was deposed by the president, only to later be reinstated by the Congress and Supreme Court.

The Honduran state television was taken off the air. The electricity supply to the capital Tegucigalpa, as well telephone and cellphone lines were cut. Government institutions were taken over by the military. While the traditional political parties, Catholic church and military have not issued any statements, the people of Honduras are going into the streets, in spite of the fact that the streets are militarized. From Costa Rica, President Zelaya has called for a non-violent response from the people of Honduras, and for international solidarity for the Honduran democracy.

While the European Union and several Latin American governments just came out in support of President Zelaya and spoke out against the coup, a statement that was just issued by Barack Obama fell short of calling for the reinstatement of Zelaya as the legitimate president.

Call the State Department and the White House

Demand that they call for the immediate reinstatement of Honduran President Zelaya.

State Department: 202-647-4000 or 1-800-877-8339

White House: Comments: 202-456-1111, Switchboard: 202-456-1414

Click here to send a message to President Barack Obama.

Visit www.SOAW.org and www.SOAW.org/presente for articles and updated information.

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

The Campaign for Labor Rights added this information, and calls for action, later on Sunday

SECRETARY OF STATE CLINTON DENOUNCES COUP – THE STRUGGLE IS NOT OVER – NEW DEMANDS

We just received a call from attendees at the emergency protest at the White House that Secretary of State Clinton has denounced the Honduran coup and expressed support for Pres. Zelaya.

Here is a short report, detailing new demands, from Alliance for Global Justice co-coordinator Chuck Kaufman:

We shouldn't relax though. The coup has not yet been reversed. The US needs to do more than issue a statement. They need to cut off all military aid until Zelaya is safely returned to Honduras.

They need to support bringing the coup plotters to justice. They need to replace the US ambassador who obviously knew what was going on. How fast they do that will indicate whether he told them about it in advance or not.


We are still asking people to:

Call the State Department and the White House

Demand:

1) Cut off all military aid to Honduras until Pres. Zelaya and Chancellor Rodas are safely returned to office;

2) Support any international movements to bring the coup plotters to justice;

3) Replace the US ambassador to Honduras

State Department: 202-647-4000 or 1-800-877-8339

White House: Comments: 202-456-1111, Switchboard: 202-456-1414


OTHER IMPORTANT UPDATES AND BACKGROUND

Compiled from a variety of sources:

bulletApparently the ambassadors of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua were beaten by hooded soldiers and briefly detained after they tried to defend Pres. Zelaya.
bulletDuring this time, the US Ambassador was unavailable for comment, whereabouts unknown
bulletWe're not sure what the current fate is Chancellor Patricial Rodas nor do we have details regarding Pres. Manuel Zelaya, who was arrested and flown to Costa Rica.
bulletThe situation that precipitated this situation was the call by Pres. Zelaya for a referendum to change the Honduran constitution. The military and the Supreme Court refused to honor or cooperate with the referendum, which has been called for for months and has wide popular support.
bulletElectricity has been cut off throughout Honduras and television stations have been shut down. The last we had heard, there has been a stand-off in the streets between popular masses and the Honduran military.

This Alert was prepared by the Campaign for Labor Rights.

Visit our website at: http://www.clrlabor.org/wordpress/

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

For background and analysis:

For a sharp analysis of the background of the situation in Honduras, see Nikolas Kozloff’s article, “Obama's Real Message to Latin America?” He expresses concern that the coup may indicate a willingness on the part of the Obama administration to return to the old “interventionist U.S. foreign policy in Central America,” by sanctioning, or at least not opposing, a military coup against a democratically elected government.

Kozloff is the author of Revolution! South America and the Rise of the New Left (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2008). You can follow his blog at www.senorchichero.blogspot.com

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

Since these earlier reports were written, it appears that the Obama administration is speaking and acting to oppose the coup. Here’s one brief report, from Sam Youngman, writing in The Hill:

It begins:

Saying the U.S. does "not want to go back to a dark past," President Obama said Monday that the military ouster of President Manuel Zelaya was "not legal."

Meeting with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe in the Oval Office, Obama said the two men has discussed the coup and "all of us have great concerns."

The president said the ouster should not be used as "a means of political transition," calling it a "terrible precedent" for the region.

"We do not want to go back to a dark past," he said. "We always want to stand with democracy."

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

But the “ghosts of past U.S. policies” hang over U.S. responses to the coup, says the N. Y. Times.

Christian Century features three pieces
on health-care reform

For the first time in 15 years, Congress and the White House are having a go at significant health-care reform. Our July 14 issue's
editorial discusses the controversy over the "public option"--the plan for a public insurer to compete with private ones. Social ethicist and single-payer advocate Gary Dorrien supports the public option but stresses that it will improve things only if its details have some teeth. Robert Francis, domestic policy director for the ELCA, explains how he and others balance the demands of representing denominational policy and participating in the larger debate.
MLP applauds introduction of Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the House 

The Presbyterian Equality Project of More Light Presbyterians applauds the introduction on June 25 of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would protect against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The measure was introduced by House Representatives Barney Frank, Tammy Baldwin and Jared Polis.

Find more background and suggestions for action on the MLP website >>

6/26/09
Getting Back to the Business of Being the Church

A news report on the recent Big Tent gathering in Atlanta highlights the remarks given by the Rev. Johnnie Monroe in accepting the John Park Lee Award which was presented to him by PHEWA (the Presbyterian Health, Education and Welfare Association).

We believe Monroe captured the state of the Presbyterian Church brilliantly in a loving and prophetic statement of our current reality in the light of God's call.

We're happy to share with you the full text of Monroe's remarks.  We invite you to read them and share your own thoughts in response.  Just send a note, to be shared here.

A sample of his comments:

Let me tell you what I see; I see a church that, like corporate companies, is seeking to balance its budget by calling out justice ministries and ministries that empower women and ministries with ‘marginalized people.’ When cuts are made we cut ministries that affect the ‘least of these.’ Is not that the way of the world? ...

In secular society we cut programs that feed the hungry and guarantee health insurance, while we spend billions of dollars perpetuating wars that we never should have been in and, as a result, babies suffer and people in this wealthy nation go to bed hungry every night. But I have come to tell us tonight that God is not pleased with the direction the denomination is moving, and we must get Back to the Business of Being the Church – we must lead the way as light to a dark wine and we must be salt to a world that has lost its taste for justice and righteousness.

But we hope you'll take time to read and ponder the whole thing.

And send us your thoughts, to be shared here!

PC(USA) speaks on energy policy and climate change

Our Presbyterian General Assembly’s recent study, The Power to Change: U.S. Energy Policy and Global Warming, has been published and is also online.  The church report is timely reading with today’s news that Obama pushes for passage of global warming legislation.

Thanks to the Rev. Bruce Gillette, Co-Pastor, Limestone Presbyterian Church, Wilmington, Delaware
Email:
bcgillette@comcast.net

Another take on Robert’s Rules

Sue Spencer wrote last October about a helpful variation on Robert's Rules, which offers a less highly regulated approach to getting business done in a group. 

She has recently discovered a haiku written by a Youth Advisory Delegate at the 2008 General Assembly, which she appreciated as making just her point:

Robert and his rules
They make sense some of the time
But tonight they don't.

Thanks to Covenant Network for reporting this, and to Sue Spencer for sharing it with us.

6/25/09
Confronting the health care crisis in a new era

We have posted numerous items on the health care crisis over the past few years -- first a long analysis of  "Medicaid and the 2006 Budget," published by the Presbyterian Washington Office in 2005.  A newer page carries a variety of good material from 2006 up to earlier in 2009.

But it's clear that the situation has shifted from hand-wringing to proposals for action.  Here are some that we think you may find helpful.

bulletThe Rev. Bruce Gillette points us toward very helpful resources for preachers -- especially since the Lectionary gospel lesson for June 28th is Mark 5:25-34, the story of Jesus healing two women.
bullet Gillette also encourages people to call their local Walgreens for their refusal (in Delaware and some other states) to serve the poor and sick on Medicaid.
 
bullet Republicans support public health insurance, too!
Well, not all of them, but still ...!
The Rev. Ralph Clingan offers this thought on the surprising support for public health insurance, even among Republicans.
PHEWA award recipient Johnnie Monroe urges church to 'stand up and cry out'

The Rev. Johnnie Monroe was presented with the prestigious John Park Lee Award by the Presbyterian Health, Education and Welfare Association (PHEWA) as part of its conference  at the Big Tent event, a first-ever gathering of 10 national conferences under a single banner, with joint worship, group meals and a plethora of workshops open to all.

A veteran pastor, social justice advocate, community leader, teacher and mentor, Monroe took the opportunity to speak about what he said was the denomination's proud past and disappointing present, focusing on recent staff cuts in the areas of justice, peace and racial ethnic ministries.

"The Presbyterian Church stood for truth and light and justice. They reminded us that we were the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Those were the days when we were proud to be Presbyterians," Monroe said, adding that Presbyterians have a long history of social consciousness and evangelism.

"But something has happened to this Bible-believing, justice-seeking denomination in recent years," Monroe continued. "Instead of making the world look like us, we have begun to look like the world. What I see is a church that is looking more like a corporation than Jesus Christ. We balance the budget on the backs of those who can least afford it."

In March, the General Assembly Council reduced the national staff by 43 - eliminating 55 positions and adding 12 new ones - as part of balancing a $10 million budget shortfall. One of the eliminated positions was that of associate for Social Welfare Organizations, held by the Rev. Nancy Troy. Troy is also the executive director of PHEWA, an umbrella group of 10 membership-based networks doing various social ministries on behalf of the denomination.   The rest of the story >> 

[Well, there's more to the story, needless to say.  And we hope to bring you more of it soon.  Doug King, your WebWeaver]

6/24/09
Witherspoon endorses letter to support Gun Show Background Check Act of 2009

The Board of the Witherspoon Society has acted to sign on to a letter from the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, urging members of Congress to support the "Gun Show Background Check Act of 2009."  The Rev. Catherine Snyder, who is a member of our board, is a pastor in Blacksburg, VA, and has been deeply involved in pastoral care with students and others at Virginia Tech since the shootings in 2007. She urged the group strongly to sign the letter, and the rest of the group is glad to do just that.

Snyder reminds us that the Presbyterian Church General Assembly, in 2008, adopted a resolution calling for just this kind of action to move toward at least some progress in limiting the availability of guns. Click here for the report of the Assembly's action.

We encourage others to urge their faith-based groups to join in on this important letter to Congress.

6/23/09

Congress to Vote on Amendment to Force the SOA/ WHINSEC to Release the Names of Graduates and Instructors.  

Click here to send an email and fax to your Representative. Start calling Congress NOW!

[From SOA Watch]

SOA Watch has received confirmation that Congress will vote on an amendment to the Defense Authorization Act that would require that the School of the Americas/ WHINSEC to release the names, ranks, country of origin, courses and dates attended of students and instructors at the institute.

The amendment will be offered by Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA), Representative Joe Sestak (D-PA), Representative Sanford Bishop (D-GA) and Representative John Lewis (D-GA) and we expect the vote to happen on Wednesday, June 24.

More >>

“Big Tent” Was More Than Just Words

Mitch Trigger, Witherspoon's Secretary/Communicator, was an active participant in the "Big Tent" Presbyterian gathering in Atlanta.  He offers an appreciative look at the variety of events and people that made it a good thing.

Presbyterian Pruning

The Presbyterian Church (USA) is shrinking.  John Shuck offered these reflections on his blog, Shuck & Jive

We are whittling down our denomination to the size of Gideon's army. The Presbyterian News Service published a story today about our latest loss which is the largest since reunion in 1983.

LOUISVILLE — Membership in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) fell by 69,381 in 2008, the Office of the General Assembly (OGA) has announced in its annual statistical report, continuing a trend that began in the mid-1960s.

Total membership of the denomination is now 2,140,165.

Where did they go?
Almost 104,000 people joined the PC(USA) last year, but that good news was more than offset by the 34,101 Presbyterians who died, the 34,340 who were members of the 25 congregations that left the PC(USA) for other denominations, and the staggering 104,428 who were removed from the rolls by their sessions without apparently joining any other church.
Our stated clerk, Gradye Parsons said, “Presbyterians can be evangelists!”

I tried that word "evangelist" on my folks the other day, but they didn't like it much. It reminds people of a sweaty tent-meeting filled with loud, insistent Bible-thumpers. When I tried to suggest that evangelism means "good news" they didn't buy it. Too much baggage. On the other hand, they are good about inviting people to our congregation. Just don't call them evangelists.

I have no clear idea why our denomination is losing members. I suppose if you don't want to go to church, one excuse is as good as another. Baggage is a big issue. Creeds, boring hymns, bashing gays, superstitions, and the general nausea caused by Christian "evangelism" have got to be turn offs. It can't be working in our favor when the true believers actively prevent congregations from welcoming members. I am surprised that anyone shows up at all.

More >>

Deporting fathers in the name of homeland security??

We received this note (slightly edited here) on June 21 from Dr. Grania Marcus of New York City. We believe it offers material for reflection – and stimulus for action – about the U.S. government’s continuing anti-immigrant policies, and their often anti-family consequences.

All for security??

I am a member of First Presbyterian Church in the City of New York and Co-chair of FPC's New Sanctuary Committee. I also served for 3 years as a Volunteer-in-Mission and staff member at Frontera de Cristo Presbyterian Border Ministry.

I would like you to post the following article, published by New American Media: "Deporting Fathers in the Name of Homeland Security."

The article was written by Joseph Nevins, a Professor at Vassar College and author of the book Dying to Live: A Story of U.S. Immigration in an Age of Global Apartheid (City Lights Books).

Our congregation has been a member of the New York New Sanctuary Coalition since December 2007, which is part of the national New Sanctuary Movement. There are two other New York City Presbyterian churches that have also joined, and others are considering joining. The New Sanctuary family with whom we are partnering is that of Roxroy Salmon, who is a father and grandfather facing deportation after living in the US for 32 years. [Mr. Salmon is the main subject of the Nevins article.] Our congregation and other New Sanctuary congregations are supporting him in his fight to stay in the US with his wife, 4 children and grandchild, all of whom are US citizens.

This article is very timely, since Mr. Salmon's hearing in his immigration case is July 7, 2009, and the Obama administration is currently working on immigration legislation.

In Christ,

Dr. Grania Marcus
Co-Chair, New Sanctuary Committee
First Presbyterian Church NYC

More on immigration concerns >>

6/19/09 
More reflections on hate killings – and the guns that come in so handy for doing them

In the aftermath of the killing of security guard Stephen T. Johns at the U. S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, on June 10, many people and organizations have spoken out about the wider issues of the hatred that seems to be such a strong undercurrent in U.S. society, and about the reliance on guns as a primary means to expressing that hatred.

Click here for some of the pieces we have found most helpful for more long-term thinking and action about hatred and guns.

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

A glimmer of hope in an alternative!

We have reported recently on a church in Louisville that is holding a “bring your guns” rally on June 27. But now an interfaith coalition of peace activists is planning an alternative activity at the same time as the controversial gun celebration. The sponsoring groups include Catholic, Quaker, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Buddhist, Muslim and non-sectarian groups. The theme is "Bring Your Peaceful Heart ... Leave Your Gun at Home."

Peter Smith, religion reporter for the Louisville Courier Journal, reports this in his blog, “Faith and Works”

See more of our reports and comments on the recent killings, and on gun control issues >>

Presbyterian “Big Tent” draws 1,500, offers a wide array of good things

We regret that we were not able to be there for what was apparently a very impressive event – or rather a collection of many events, large and small.

But to see a listing of Presbyterian News Service reports from many of them, click here.

Here are a few of the highlights that might be of special interest to Witherspooners >>

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

And by the way, if you can offer some reporting of your own about one or more of the events under the Big Tent, please send a note, and we'll add it here.

Access to safe, affordable credit must be part of financial reform

Information received from PICO National Network  and National People’s Action

National People’s Action and the PICO National Network applaud the Obama administration’s focus on protecting consumers. The creation of the Consumer Financial Protections Agency (CFPA) could be a positive step in the right direction. Real regulatory reform, however, must include an expansion of the Community Reinvestment Act and the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act to ensure fair and equal access to credit for all Americans.   More >>

Can you or someone you know answer the call to mission?

World Mission asks Presbyterians to identify mission service candidates

from Presbyterian News Service

Presbyterian World Mission (PWM) leaders are asking Presbyterians across the country to help them find qualified candidates for international mission service.

Nineteen mission positions were available on June 9 and more openings are to be posted over the next several days, according to Nancy Cavalcante, mission service recruitment coordinator for Presbyterian World Mission.

Filling these positions is crucial if the church is to meet the General Assembly Council's (GAC) goal of increasing the number of mission co-workers for the first time in 50 years, she said.

"We want the whole church to help us identify called and committed people who have the skills and gifts that our global partners are requesting," said Hunter Farrell, director of Presbyterian World Mission.

PWM is looking for individuals to fill openings in theological education, primary and secondary education, evangelism, community development, and other ministries. The assignments span the globe from Costa Rica to Indonesia. The preferred application deadline is Aug. 1 in order to attend orientation in January.  More >>

6/10/09
The hatred. Will it never end?
Are we called to do something?

The killing of Dr. George Tiller has led to the closing of his clinic in Kansas, according to an announcement by his family.

But wait ... Anti-abortion leader Troy Newman, the president of Operation Rescue, said today Wednesday that his group is considering trying to buy the building, and perhaps turning into a memorial museum, “a tribute to the babies.”

The conclusion? What else? “Terrorism works.”

So writes Tracy Clark-Flory, writing for Salon.com. She says:

A lesson in the effectiveness of terrorism: Dr. George Tiller's Kansas clinic is closing permanently, according to his family's lawyers. In a statement Tuesday, the family said: "We are proud of the service and courage shown by our husband and father and know that women's healthcare needs have been met because of his dedication and service." They will continue to honor his memory "through private charitable activities" – in other words, the type of activism that is less likely to get a person killed.

It's an entirely understandable response. It's also the exact one aimed for by extremists. Intimidation, harassment, threats and violence are the name of the game, and without a resolve on the part of the government and law enforcement to show that domestic terrorism doesn't work, it'll keep working. And is it ever: The Wichita area is now left with zero abortion providers, and the entire country has but two clinics that provide late-term abortions.

What have we lost?  A medical colleague pays tribute to Dr. Tiller.

Suzanne Poppema is board chair of Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health. She used to run a clinic near Seattle that provided abortions and reproductive healthcare. She begins her brief essay:

For the last 20 years, Dr. George Tiller and I were close colleagues and friends, members of a too-small community of physicians who say aloud that we perform abortions. Now he is gone, and I am furious.

But I refuse to let my anger become despair: We must turn George's terrifying end into the beginning of a new era when doctors can save lives without risking their own.

She also says:

Since I heard about George's murder, I've found myself staring at a coffee mug from his clinic. On it is this list: Kindness, Courtesy, Justice, Love, Respect. Despite the constant clamor outside his clinic, George delivered on that motto.

George had another motto too: "trust women." [Emphasis added.] As he once told an interviewer, "It is my fundamental philosophy that patients are emotionally, mentally, morally, spiritually and physically competent to struggle with complex health issues and come to decisions that are appropriate for them."

We can all pay tribute to George's legacy by treating abortion providers as physicians, not pariahs, and by explaining and openly supporting their work as doctors. He knew that abortion is an integral part of women's healthcare. When physicians are afraid to provide it, women die.

The rest of her article >>


And yet more hatred, more death ...

We’ve all been hearing and seeing reports today of the shooting at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. For one recent report by the New York Times >>

The shooter, it now seems clear, was one James Von Brunn, an 88-year old who has long been active in white supremacist and anti-Semitic groups and anti-government activities. The rhetoric on his website is amazing in the virulence of its racism and anti-Semitism.

Here’s a brief report (and additional links) from the Washington Post >>


Isn’t it time to say NO to this kind of hatred, and the violence that flows from it?

But how? How can we, as people of faith who have heard God’s call to love without reserve, and who know also our own human recalcitrance in the face of that call, our fear of those who are different, our resentment of so many people for so many reasons – how can we offer some alternative to the cycle of resentment and hatred and violence, leading to more resentment and more violence?

Let’s talk about this.  And more – let’s act.

If you have ideas, comments, suggestions,
please send a note,
and let’s move toward some creative responses
to what seems to be the growing threats of hatred and death.


One further thought:  Is this Obama’s fault?

No, we’re not trying to follow the example of Rush Limbaugh and friends. But recent events, and comments by a few observers and pundits, remind me of an article we posted by Witherspoon Issues Analyst Gene TeSelle, back in November, 2008. He raised the concern that the appearance of an African American (with a Muslim-sounding name, no less) in the White House might unleash strong currents of fear and hatred -- and violence -- in many Americans.

TeSelle wrote:

To express fears of assassination is not to accuse everyone of wishing, advocating, or promoting it. It is to direct attention to an atmosphere of hostility not far below the surface. ...

It may be a good time to remind ourselves of T.S. Eliot's line that, between the ideal and the reality, "Falls the Shadow." Or God's caution to Cain, "Sin lies couching at the door" (Gen. 4:7). Or Langston Hughes' 1938 poem with its complex sequence: "Let America be America again"; "America never was America to me"; and "America will be!"

The rest of TeSelle's article >>

6/8/09
Blog about gun violence

Participate in Presbyterian Bloggers Unite on July 1. The focus will be gun violence as bloggers are invited to reflect on ways that Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) communities address issues of gun violence and to offer ways to mobilize efforts. 

Presbyterian Bloggers Unite invites Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) bloggers to post their thoughts and musings on the same topic once a month. Learn more and sign up to participate.

A further thought from Witherspoon:

After recent events, this is the time to connect abortion rights, women's health and gun violence.

Here’s one point of view for the bloggers to ponder:

'What gun would Jesus carry?'

A Louisville church is sponsoring an "Open Carry Church Service" in late June, encouraging people to wear unloaded guns in their holsters, enter a raffle to win a free handgun, hear patriotic music and listen to talks by operators of gun stores and firing ranges. Click here for the report in the Louisville Courier-Journal, by religion reporter Peter Smith.

In his blog, Smith reports that Roy Fuller, adjunct professor of religious studies at the University of Louisville, has commented on the church’s gun celebration on the EthicsDaily.com web site:

... But can we all, in the spirit of Jesus' words in the Sermon on the Mount, agree that promoting the carrying of guns to church is not anything to encourage, much less celebrate, inside a Christian church?

While asking the question 'What gun would Jesus carry?' might sound flip to some, the answer might just offer guidance to modern believers who confuse constitutional rights with the call of the one who says, 'If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me (Mark 8:35).'

What would you like to say
to the bloggers' conversation online,
come July 1?
Please send a note,
and share your thoughts here!

For more of our reports on guns and such >>

6/6/09
American Christian leaders applaud Obama's speech

PC(USA)'s Parsons among leaders voicing grave concern over 'deteriorating situation in the Holy Land'

from Presbyterian News Service

A diverse group of American Christian leaders – including Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons – today praised President Obama for his speech in Cairo reaching out to the Muslim world and making Israeli-Palestinian peace a top priority of his administration.

In a letter to the president, the group also, however, expressed grave concern over the "deteriorating situation in the Holy Land" and urged the Obama administration to make real and concrete progress in achieving a just peace between Israel and the Palestinians.  The rest of the story >>

The full text of the letter, with signatories >>

Another Presbyterian voice on the death of Dr. George Tiller -- a statement from Presbyterians Affirming Reproductive Options (PARO)

Their insightful, compassionate comments include this:

Many of us knew that a sign at Dr Tiller's clinic read: "Abortion is not a cerebral or a reproductive issue. Abortion is an issue of the heart. Until one understands the heart of a woman, nothing else about abortion makes any sense at all." With thanksgiving, we celebrate the life of Dr. Tiller and his commitment to the heart of a woman.

The full statement >>

6/5/09
PC(USA) speaks out on killing of Dr. Tiller

The Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has issued a statement in response to the killing of Dr. George Tiller.  

In addition, the three top officials of the church have issued a statement, saying “There is no place in debate for a murder such as Dr. Tiller’s.”

The statement was signed by Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Bruce Reyes-Chow, Moderator of the 218th General Assembly (2008) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and Linda Valentine, Executive Director of the General Assembly Council.

Great news! Two growers agree to pass penny to farmworkers!

From the FAIRFOOD e-newsletter of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Two organic Florida growers have agreed to pass the penny per pound along to workers and adhere to strict labor standards!

Alderman Farms and Lady Moon Farms have reached agreements with Whole Foods Market to fully implement the principles of the Campaign for Fair Food, effectively breaking the stalemate established nearly two seasons ago when the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange threatened to fine any of its members that sold tomatoes under the terms of the CIW agreements. At that time, two Florida growers who had been passing on the penny-per-pound increase under the Taco Bell agreement ceased doing so.

More -- including suggestions for continued advocacy >>

PC(USA) energy policy playing well in Washington

PDA: 'Green construction' in disaster areas hampered by lack of clarity

Presbyterian News Service reports that the Obama administration's emphasis on "green jobs" and "green construction" tracks well with a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) energy policy statement approved by last summer's 218th General Assembly, one of the denomination's top disaster relief officials told the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) here recently.

But a lack of clarity over what newly emerging "green" standards entail makes it hard for agencies such as Presbyterian Disaster Assistance to promote the environmentally sound rebuilding practices, said the Rev. John Robinson, PDA's associate for U.S. disaster response.

"We're somewhat encouraged by the new administration and its green jobs initiative," Robinson told the committee on May 15. "But when disasters happen, we're not clear as a culture what the expectations of individuals and governments are for responding."

There is a growing concern in the U.S. that green construction happens, Robinson said, "but the standards and technologies are so new that there's no consensus on what green construction is."

The rest of the story >>

6/4/09
More comments and concerns after the murder of Dr. Tiller:  It was "an act of terror"

We have received more comments on this matter than any one item I can recall over the past few years.  Here is a good example, from Elizabeth Sarfaty, of Malone, New York.  She also recommends an essay by the Wiccan teacher and theologian, Starhawk, who writes:

The murder of Dr. Tiller was an act of terror. Although its immediate victim was a man, it was aimed at women's hearts and minds, designed to shatter our oneness and assert control. And it is part of a larger campaign of terror ...  More >>

Former evangelical Frank Schaeffer says Religious Right leaders are responsible for the violence

Contributed by Witherspooner Janet Arbesman

And for a good, positive background statement on “Abortion as a Moral Decision” ...

Suggested by John Shuck.

New Hampshire legislature approves same-sex marriage

The Associated Press reports: "New Hampshire became the sixth state to legalize gay marriage after the Senate and House passed key language on religious rights and Gov. John Lynch – who personally opposes gay marriage – signed the legislation Wednesday afternoon. After rallies outside the Statehouse by both sides in the morning, the last of three bills in the package went to the Senate, which approved it 14-10 Wednesday afternoon."   The rest of the story >>

6/2/09
Comments and reflections on the murder of Dr. George Tiller

Within a few hours of our posting a Witherspoon Society/Voices of Sophia statement lamenting the killing of Dr. George Tiller, we received these messages of support and appreciation:

~~~~~~~~~

I am glad to see PC USA being clear and public about this action.

Jenny Stanton, Cincinnati, Ohio.

~~~~~~~~~

Doug, I am a CEO of a Planned parenthood affiliate as well as an ordained Presbyterian minister.

Thank you and others for your support.

This came to us from the Rev. Mark R. Pawlowski, CEO of Planned Parenthood of South Central Michigan, and is posted with his permission.

~~~~~~~~~

The Rev. Eric Mount, emeritus professor of religion at Presbyterian-related Centre College in Kentucky, sent this note:

My thanks to the board for taking action, Doug.

Eric M.

~~~~~~~~~

Witherspoon board member Molly Casteel recommended a good article posted on the Religion Dispatches web site, by Frances Kissling, who is a visiting scholar at the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania and former president of Catholics for a Free Choice. She traces the long trail of violence that has been a part of the anti-abortion movement for years, and notes how much of the rhetoric of the movement seems to incite such actions.

She concludes:

Let us hope that no one compares his murder to abortion. In fact, if there is one thing those in the religious community must do to prevent a return to the days when such comparisons were discussable in polite company, it is to make clear that the world's religions do not consider abortion murder.

Dr. Tiller saved women's lives; this is not a debatable point.

To read the article >>

~~~~~~~~~

Dear Doug, Thanks for the statement on the murder of Dr. Tiller. I have made a contribution to Medical Students for Choice in his memory.

Dean Lewis

Dean Lewis is a long-time Witherspoon member, and was for many years on the national staff of the PC(USA), dealing with social justice issues.

~~~~~~~~~

Board member Sylvia Thorson-Smith sent this note and another suggestion for reading:

A good friend in Wichita just sent me this 2004 Rolling Stones article, which details the verbal and physical harassment by "our own state's [KS] domestic terrorist, Operation Rescue's Troy Newman." It's shocking to see that Tiller had massive security (except at church, obviously and sadly). Read how Operation Rescue has targeted employees at the Wichita clinic, hoping to succeed with what they call "Operation Rebuke" in Wichita and move on to the rest of the nation.

We invite your comments and reflections,
to be shared here.
Please just send a note!

PHEWA conference looks to expand PC(USA)'s social outreach ministries

Presbyterian News Service reports on plans by the Presbyterian Health, Education and Welfare Association (PHEWA) – a voluntary membership organization encompassing 10 social welfare networks – for its biennial conference, which will be part of the Big Tent event June 11-13 in Atlanta. In addition to plenary activities and celebrations, each of PHEWA's 10 networks will hold meetings.

Participants in the PHEWA conference can expect to learn about how their congregations can be involved in ministry, justice and biblical initiatives. The conference will address a wide range of issues, including disabilities, mental illness, human trafficking, HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, substance abuse, immigration, child welfare and health disparities.

The full article >>

More on "The Big Tent" >>

6/1/09
A statement from Witherspoon/Voices of Sophia ...

Lamenting the murder of Dr. George Tiller ...

And reaffirming our Church’s stance on choice

The merged board of the Witherspoon Society and Voices of Sophia expresses our deep sadness over the slaying of Dr. George Tiller in Wichita, Kansas, on May 31. We condemn the act of violence that took Dr. Tiller's life as he was worshiping with his family at Reformation Lutheran Church, and we repudiate violent solutions to disagreements over the practice and legality of abortion. We affirm the positions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) which support the right of women to make decisions about the termination of a pregnancy and stand against violence and threats of violence at all women's health clinics. We call on the church to reaffirm its commitment to reproductive rights and to remain diligent in prayers for Dr. Tiller's family and staff, and all who endure similar threats of violence.

This wording is taken directly from the 1992 policy and a 1995 statement on abortion violence, adopted by the Presbyterian Church (USA).

We also encourage you to read “The Murder of Dr. Tiller, a Foreshadowing,” an article posted on The Huffington Post, which offers stark warnings about the resurgent threats of violence against abortion providers, and more general attacks on those who stand for reproductive rights.

We invite your comments and reflections,
to be shared here.
Please just send a note!

For an index to all our reports
from the 218th General Assembly

For an index to all our reports from the
Witherspoon conference on global mission and justice >>

Earlier in April, 2010
March, 2010
February, 2010
January, 2010
December, 2009
November, 2009
October, 2009
September, 2009

August, 2009
July, 2009
May, 2009
April, 2009
March, 2009

February, 2009
January, 2009
December, 2008
November, 2008
October, 2008
September, 2008
August, 2008
July, 2008
June, 2008
May, 2008
April, 2008
March, 2008
February, 2008
January, 2008


For links to earlier archive pages, click here.

Some blogs worth visiting

 

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.

 

Witherspoon’s Facebook page

Mitch Trigger, Witherspoon’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.

 

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!

 

Plan now for our 2010 Ghost Ranch Seminar!

GHOST RANCH SEMINAR

July 26-August 1, 2010

WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER
CONFRONTING THE STRUCTURES OF INJUSTICE

 

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