Archive for March, 2009
This page lists our postings from all of
For an index to all our reports
the 219th General Assembly
For links to
all our archive pages, listed by months,
|Northern New York and Long Island presbyteries
continue support for inclusion and justice
Presbytery of Northern New York approved Amendment 08-B by
voice vote today, following its pattern of support for ordination of
LGBT Presbyterians in the past.
Terry de la Vega, an Elder in First Presbyterian
Church, Potsdam, NY, says: "The votes were not counted, so we
do not know the exact level of support, which was kind of
anti-climactic for me. In any case, when we gave our voice vote, Yes
was decidedly louder than No, which was good enough for our
moderator to call it. I hope and pray the momentum keeps going until
we reach 87 Yes presbyteries!"
To which we can only say Amen!
And the Presbytery of Long Island,
also meeting today, voted by 78 to 29 to approve Amendment 08-B.
That leaves the tally of presbytery votes at 64 in
favor of Amendment 08-B, and 81 opposed.
Thanks to Michael Adee of MLP,
and Tricia Dykers Koenig
of Covenant Network, for these reports.
Click here for our
earlier reports on Amendment 08-B, and links to many other sources.
closes $9.92 million 2009 mission budget gap
economic crisis, strategic planning shape package of expense cuts,
use of reserves
Net total of 44 positions are being eliminated
LOUISVILLE ― March
27, 2009 — The General Assembly Council (GAC) closed a $9.92 million
shortfall in the 2009 General Assembly Mission Budget today (March
27), making budget reductions of $3.99 million and using unspent
previous year revenue totaling $5.93 million.
In doing so, the
council reduced the mission budget from $110,885,317 ― which it
approved last September ― to $106,914,584. The overall 4 percent
budget reduction includes a 16 percent decrease in unrestricted
spending and a 1 percent increase in restricted expenditures.
The budget cuts
announced today include the elimination of 14 incumbent positions
and 19 vacant positions at the Presbyterian Center here.
personnel actions prior to this meeting which impact the 2009
budget, the GAC staff has been reduced by a net total of 44
positions, with 56 positions eliminated and 12 new ones created. The
GAC staff now numbers just over 400, not including mission
co-workers, conference center staff at Ghost Ranch and Stony Point
and other GAC-related entities.
The full report
from Presbyterian News Service >>
For a list of all
positions being cut, and a few new ones being created >>
|From National Health Ministries
A brief report from the Aging in America Conference –
and thoughts on the impending dissolution of National Health
We recently received this report from Patricia K.
Gleich (Pat), Associate for
Ministries of the PC (USA). As that program will be
disappearing, we believe they should be heard from just one last
I started putting
together this newsletter from the Aging in America Conference, which
I was fortunate to attend as the Presbyterian delegate on the
National Interfaith Council on Aging (NICA) and finish it now during
a time of great uncertainty about the future of National Health
Ministries. Decisions by the GAC this week - forced by budget
difficulties - will impact future programming of the NHM office. [WebWeaver’s
note: Pat Gleich’s fears seem to have been justified. According
to the decisions taken by the GAC and announced on March 27, 2009,
the National Health Ministries program area has been eliminated. We
find this beyond comprehension in this time when health issues are
so urgent for so many.]
And so, I write this
newsletter knowing it might be the last correspondence from the
office and my last opportunity to let what has become a vibrant and
vital e-community know how profoundly grateful I have been to work
with you. During this past almost 8 years (my first day at the
center was 9-11!) I have met and talked with many of you at
conferences, or worked with you on committees or task forces, but
for some, we have simply been e-correspondents. My life and work
have been so very enriched by these varied encounters.
And, once more, I'd
like to affirm, the crucial work related to health ministries in
congregations. Congregational health ministry provides the
connection of a community and demonstrates the compassion of that
community like nothing else.
I think our work is
even more critical now, as people are losing jobs and homes, and
sometimes even hope. If your health ministry does not include
support groups for people who are struggling, please add one. Create
a place of psychological safety for people to be appropriately angry
or sad or simply to express and have validated whatever feelings
surface. We read of situations where people who have experienced job
loss are too embarrassed to reveal it and go to great lengths hide
their situation. I would like to think that in our congregations we
find ways to let these folks know that they will not be viewed as
any less valuable or competent or worthy.
domestic violence and other unhealthy coping rise during times of
increased stress. Be certain to be vigilant with people who might
turn to uncharacteristic behaviors as they struggle to cope. This is
not to target them, or demean them, but to help them. In our
congregational care teams, we already understand that asking for
help is rarely easy. At this time, people may appreciate an
unsolicited gesture of kindness or appreciation or a barely
perceptible net of safety.
Now – back on topic
with highlights from the Aging in America Conference
NICA is getting ready
to launch an interactive website that will make it very much easier
for individuals and adults who are looking for ideas and best
practices in older adult ministry to not only find resources, but to
find "communities" for discussion or simply conversation. I'm pretty
certain that there will be an announcement about the launch of the
new website, so watch the regular NICA website at NCOA - http://www.ncoa.org/
for the update.
One of the other
highlights of this conference was my opportunity to present the
results of the Presbyterian Engagement in Volunteering study we did
through the Presbyterian Panel last year. Some of the highlights of
that study are contained below and the PowerPoint will also be
hosted on the Healthy Living website. I'd also like to congratulate
POAMN for earning and receiving a NICA Best Practices Award for
their "certification program" – during the conference.
Thank you for all
that you do and I hope to hear from you still.
peace & grace
|More presbyteries shift to support inclusive
Of the six presbyteries meeting on
Saturday, March 28, all six voted to ratify Amendment 08-B,
which would remove the explicit ban on ordination of LGBP
Presbyterians as elders or ministers.
Grace Presbytery (in the Dallas-Ft.Worth
area of Texas) was presented with a recommendation by Presbytery
Council to take No Action; rejecting that recommendation, they voted
for Amendment 08-B by 203 to182, with 6 abstentions.
The Presbytery of Philadelphia also
supported ordination equality for the first time in an amendment
vote, by 152 to 139.
The Presbytery of Western New York
(including Buffalo) returned to the supportive column after having
taken no action (which has the effect of a 'no') in 2002. Their
vote was 66 Yes to 48 No.
Continuing their support of an inclusive church,
two Upstate New York presbyteries voted to approve 08-B: Genesee
Valley Presbytery's vote was 93 Yes to 24 No, while the
Presbytery of Susquehanna Valley voted 59 Yes to 23 No. New
York City Presbytery also voted to approve the amendment by 76
In 2001-2, a total of 42 presbyteries voted for
justice and to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender persons in the Presbyterian Church (USA). This year, 62
presbyteries have already approved Amendment 09-B, while 81 have
rejected it. So 143 out of a total of 173 presbyteries have voted.
With 30 presbyteries yet to vote, those who support a just and
inclusive church will need to work hard, pray with passion, and urge
their friends to reflect deeply on this matter, and vote for a
church that will more faithfully reflect the inclusive, capacious
grace of God.
Hans Cornelder, editor of the
site, whose reporting on the voting has tended to emphasize the
odds (if that’s the right word for a Presbyterian enterprise such as
his!) against passage of the amendment, yesterday posted this
evaluation of the tally as the voting nears its end:
29, with 30 of 173 votes yet to come
The proposal might pass
and Chastity requirement is hanging by a thread
at the 2001/2002 margins in the presbyteries that yet
have to vote, it appears very likely that the end result
will be closer than 76-97. As a matter of fact, I think
it is not entirely impossible that the proposal will
pass. Why? Most of them had margins before that are
smaller than or comparable to presbyteries that have
|More Light Presbyterians speaks
out for ...
“Re-Imagining Marriage, Gender &
Confronting the Religious Violence of Defending Marriage”
More Light Presbyterians is wholeheartedly
committed to spiritual, ordination and marriage equality. While we
are fully engaged in the national ratification campaign for the
218th General Assembly's Ordination Amendment 08-B which offers
spiritual and ordination equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgender Presbyterians, achievements toward marriage equality are
being made in civil society.
In recent days, the New Hampshire House of
Representatives voted to approve legislation that would allow
same-sex couples to marry by a 186-179 vote and the Vermont State
Senate voted 26-4 to approve pro-marriage equality legislation.
The Presbyterian Church (USA)'s long-standing
commitments to non-discrimination in civil society based upon sexual
orientation in addition to our long history of social justice should
indeed instruct and inspire support for marriage equality in civil
society and cause us to re-think a characterization of marriage
between "a man and woman" that does not match God's creation.
In addition to sending Ordination Amendment 08-B
for ratification, the 218th General Assembly commended the study of
marriage. Marriage, from both a church and state perspective, is a
faith conversation that merits much more thoughtful and faithful
attention than simply declaring that "marriage is between a man and
a woman." Defending that narrow understanding and proscription of
marriage is an act of spiritual violence and civil injustice.
To help all of us understand that "defending
marriage" does not advance thoughtful or faithful conversations
about love, sexual ethics and marriage and it actually results in
spiritual or religious violence, I recommend Professor Jon Pahl's
recent article from the website of the University of Chicago's
Click here for his article >> Jon Pahl is Professor of
the History of Christianity in North America at The Lutheran
Theological Seminary, Philadelphia.
Michael J. Adee, M.Div., Ph.D., Executive Director
& Field Organizer
More Light Presbyterians
email@example.com , www.mlp.org
News is here!
The Winter 2009 issue of Witherspoon's
newsletter is finally ready. It includes essays on John Calvin
(whose 500th birthday we commemorate this year) by former Stated
Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick and Gene TeSelle, plus Douglas
Ottati's reflections on the state of the society and the church in
these troubled times, plus other thoughts and resources for dealing
with the current economic crisis.
For a higher quality PDF version of this issue, in case you want
to print it and share it (and we hope you will!),
For a brief list of the contents of this issue,
in your PDF browser go to page 40 - the back cover. Lean far
to the left (yes, really), and maybe you can read it.
Click here for earlier issues
click here to download (free!) Adobe Reader software to view
this and all PDF files.
vs. Gay – thoughts from Lisa Larges
Right after the
Judicial Commission of the Synod of the Pacific ruled (apparently)
against her proceeding with her candidacy for ordination, Lisa
Larges wrote a strong, passionate and insightful essay on the
church’s continuing rejection of LGBT people. She writes for a gay
audience in The Advocate, and urges them to pay attention to
religion and churches, even if they find little to attract or help
colonoscopy or head lice, the word Christian is a conversation
killer among LGBTs. So I will admit up front that whatever it is
you’re thinking right now about Christians – hypocritical,
antigay, anti-sex, anti-women, anti-choice – you’ve got plenty
of evidence to back you up. Let’s also say, while we’re still
here in the first paragraph, that whatever the church or its
representatives did to you – whatever abuse, whatever violation
of trust, whatever was said to make you believe that you were
not a child of God in your whole beautiful queer self, whatever
the silence in which you did not hear how infinitely and
immeasurably God loves you -- whatever drove you out of the
church is simply inexcusable. But unless our community changes
the “God vs. Gays” paradigm, we will never achieve full
equality. Nor will it be possible for so many of us to live out
our truths. My truth, strange as it may be, is a calling to
ministry. It’s also the truth of a lot of fierce and beautiful
gay people I know, whose stories aren’t told often enough.
And she closes:
My wish – OK,
since I’ve come out this far, I’ll say “my prayer” – is that all
who seek spiritual strength in the Christian church will find
it, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity. That
all may freely worship. That all may freely serve. That is my
So, amen anyway.
Now see what’s in between >>
Presbyterian Outlook reports on the Synod PJC decision >>
Lisa Larges' comments in response >>
|Dr. Jack Rogers announces the soon-to-be
published second edition of Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality
I am delighted to announce
that today is the official publication day for the updated and
expanded second edition of my book, Jesus,
the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church!
|Mixed decision handed down against Lisa Larges in
her long pursuit of ordination
A ruling related to allegations that a regional
church body acted improperly in considering the statement of
conscience of Lisa Larges, an openly lesbian candidate for ministry
in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), was announced earlier today by
a regional commission of the church. In its
eight page ruling, the commission rejected the procedural
process used by the Presbytery of San Francisco to certify its
applicants for ministry for candidacy for ordination in the Church.
In ruling on the procedural issue, the church commission effectively
set aside the certification of Lisa Larges. Certification would have
allowed Larges to be examined for ordination.
|Ecumenical Advocacy Days focuses on climate
100 Presbyterians join 700 in
Washington for education, advocacy
Presbyterian News Service reports on this year’s
Ecumenical Advocacy Days in Washington, D.C., which centered on the
theme of Christians’ responsibility to keep Earth from harm and to
ensure that there is "Enough for All Creation."
Fr. Sean McDonagh, a Columban Missionary priest
and opening worship speaker for the March 13-17 conference,
emphasized this call – "We must protect this planet, which is God's
gift for us," he said. "Churches and religions can play a vital role
in supplying consciousness."
Ecumenical Advocacy Days is a movement of the
ecumenical Christian community that works to strengthen the
Christian voice and to advocate for a wide variety of U.S. domestic
and international policy issues. Participants gather for a weekend
of worship, theological reflection and education.
On the concluding Monday, some met with their
state's senators and representatives to advocate for policies
related to the theme of the conference.
The full report >>
|Three more presbyteries shift to support
Three more presbyteries
voted on Saturday, March 21, to support Amendment 08-B, reversing
their past rejections of inclusive ordination.
|The Presbytery of Mackinac in Northern
Michigan approved Amendment B by a vote of 44-32. |
|Newark Presbytery voted by 42 to 8 in favor
of the new Amendment B.|
|The Presbytery of West Virginia from
92-114-4, in 2001-02, to a very convincing 93-56-2.|
In addition to these three that shifted to support
change, the Presbytery of Grand Canyon (Arizona, including Phoenix)
continued its support, in spite of an official committee
recommendation against approval.
There were also presbyteries continuing their
rejection of the change: The Western Pennsylvania presbyteries of
Redstone and Northumberland voted 'no' today, as did Abingdon
(Western Virginia) and Olympia (Washington) on Thursday.
Thanks to Steven Hammond, Pastor
of Alpena (Michigan) Presbyterian Church, John Shuck of First
Presbyterian Church, Elizabethton, Tenn., and Tricia Dykers-Koenig
of Covenant Network, for these reports.
John Shuck concludes his report:
Score? 51-79. We need a hero. We actually need 36
heroic presbyteries to go blue.
For more Witherspoon reports on the voting on 08-B, and links to
other sources >>
We welcome your reports and
on voting in other presbyteries.
Just send a
|US endorses UN gay rights text
The Associated Press reports that earlier today
(Wednesday, March 18) the Obama administration formally endorsed a
U.N. statement calling for the worldwide decriminalization of
homosexuality, a measure that former President George W. Bush had
refused to sign.
The move was the administration's latest in
reversing Bush-era decisions that have been heavily criticized by
human rights and other groups. The United States was the only
western nation not to sign onto the declaration when it came up at
the U.N. General Assembly in December.
"The United States supports the U.N.'s statement
on human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity and is
pleased to join the other 66 U.N. member states who have declared
their support of the statement," said State Department spokesman
"The United States is an outspoken defender of
human rights and critic of human rights abuses around the world,"
Wood told reporters. "As such, we join with other supporters of this
statement, and we will continue to remind countries of the
importance of respecting the human rights of all people in all
appropriate international fora."
Thanks to Paul Capetz for this
welcome bit of news.
Join Christian Peace Witness for Iraq in
12:30-1:30 p.m Opening
Diana Butler Bass
- Episcopalian, author, and Senior Fellow at the Cathedral
College of Washington National Cathedral
Noah Baker Merrill - Quaker, Cofounder of Direct
Aid Iraq, a humanitarian and peacebuilding effort working
with Iraqi refugees
2:00 p.m Nonviolence
2:00 p.m Advocacy training
4:30 Legal Briefing for Nonviolent Direct Action
7:00 p.m. Worship
Featured Preachers & Speakers include:
— Author, pastor, social activist, sociologist, and
passionate follower of Jesus
Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr.
— Minister, community activist, president of the Hip Hop
Caucus, and U.S. Air Force Reserve Veteran
Sr. Dianna Ortiz
— U.S. born survivor of torture in Guatemala, Founder of
Torture Abolition and Survivors' Support Coalition
— Peace activist and co-founder of Jonah House
— Catholic priest, poet, peace activist
Worship continues with candlelight
procession to White House
Rev. Raphael Warnock – Senior Pastor of
Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, the spiritual
home of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Thursday, April 30, 9:00
Witness and Nonviolent
Action at the Capitol
– Catholic, Kelly has been to Iraq 24 times and lived in
Baghdad throughout the “shock and awe” bombardment of March
information, and to register >>!
|More voting on Amendment 08-B
No big surprises in last weekend’s presbytery votes
|Just in -- another
Presbytery of West Jersey, meeting today, switched from
its 2001-02 vote to support Amendment 08-B, by 88 for to
Thanks to Sonnie Swentson
Recent presbytery votes have pretty much followed
their patterns in past votes, with presbyteries that have supported
inclusive ordination continuing to do so, and opponents remaining
The votes for the Amendment 08-B came in these
|Northern New England: 57-30|
|Twin Cities Area: 138-54-10|
Presbyteries voting against the amendment all did
so by a narrower margin than in the past – except for San Juan
(Puerto Rico) which acted by a voice vote. The other presbyteries
|Muskingum Valley: 44-70-2 |
|Providence (North Central South Carolina):
|Hanmi (a non-geographic Korean presbytery, in
the Synod of Southern California and Hawai'i): 1-30. Somebody
had real courage there!|
This leaves the total vote count at 46 for the
amendment, and 74 opposed. But a number of presbyteries that have
been supportive of inclusive ordination have yet to vote, so it’s
Michael Adee, of More Light Presbyterians, offers
some helpful reflections on “where we’re at” right now. See
the next item below.
Thanks to Tricia Dykers-Koenig of
and many others, for providing helpful information.
|Concerned about 08-B? Vote Tally: Fear Not. Have
Faith. Continue Praying. And Keep Working.
Michael Adee of More Light Presbyterians writes:
A recent story from the Presbyterian News Service
suggested that "the signs" in the ratification voting process on
08-B so far indicate two things: incredible shifts toward LGBT
equality are clear since 2001-2 across our Church and in many
surprising places as indicated in the number of presbyteries that
have "flipped" from opposition then to support now; and that the
current voting tally clearly shows that our Church will not ratify
the 218th General Assembly's Ordination Amendment 08-B.
I agree wholeheartedly with the first sign which
is obvious — that our Church is opening up to God's Spirit and
leading us away from discrimination against our LGBT sisters and
brothers; and there is much to disagree with the "foregone
conclusion" of the second, that 08-B cannot be passed now.
A surface read of the current 08-B tally of 43 YES
- 73 NO with 116 presbyteries having voted might lead one to such a
conclusion that 08-B cannot be passed now. But I invite all of us to
look beneath the surface. Bruce Hahne, Elder, First Presbyterian
Church, Palo Alto, CA and a recent MLP Board member, has been
crunching the numbers, doing thoughtful analysis, looking at trends,
etc., and he reports that there is much more story to be told,
beneath the surface. Hahne's analysis from today gives us more
accurate information than a surface read of the tally or a foregone
conclusion that 08-B cannot pass now.
|Lisa Larges going to court (church court, that
Lisa Larges, who has been a candidate
for ministry for over 20 years, and who remains convinced of her
call to ministry, is still being challenged by another judicial
proceeding which will come before the Permanent Judicial Commission
of the Synod of the Pacific very shortly.
Ray Bagnuolo, an ordained Presbyterian minister
who is also an out gay man, has written a strong and loving
affirmation of Lisa and her cause. Andhe invites us all to join in
prayer with and for her in these days.
More on Bagnuolo’s blog >>
Lisa's Synod of the Pacific PJC trial is this
Friday, March 20. That All May Freely Serve has
more about this >>
Prayers for Lisa and the process are invited!
vote on Amendment 08-B
Twin Cities Area
says Yes – again
Witherspoon member Peter Soulen
reports that the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area, meeting today
at Faith Presbyterian Church, Minnetonka, Minn. approved Amendment
08-B by a vote of 138 Yes, to 54 No, with 10 abstentions. [So
Amendment B received 71.9% of the Yes votes. The 2001-02 vote for
inclusion was by a margin of 63.8%.]
again says No to inclusion
This report comes to us from
Witherspooner Gordon Shull:
You may have learned that
Muskingum Valley Presbytery defeated Amendment 08-B, today, by a
vote of 44-70. The debate was conducted fairly, with two
minutes allowed per speaker, and rigorously enforced; all who
wished to speak were heard.
attach the talk I gave.
Opposition arguments were
almost entirely based on simplistic interpretations of
scripture. Supporting arguments dealt with scripture,
experiences with gay family and parishioners, and the merits of
some features of Amendment B. One opponent urged us to give the
PUP proposal a try. Another was all in a tizzy over the
Amendment's reference to transgendered and bisexual people - as
if they require separate treatment.
My own assessment is that
people came with their minds made up. I doubt that more than a
few minds were changed by our eloquence. But I wish that
supporters had lined up a series of 2-minuters on the scriptural
This report comes to us from
Witherspooner Gordon Shull
[So we note that in Muskingum
Valley, Amendment B received 38.6% of the votes as affirmative; in
2001-02, it received just 30.4% of the votes.]
For more Witherspoon reports on the voting on 08-B, and links to
other sources >>
We welcome your reports and
on voting in other presbyteries.
Just send a
|Membership named to Belhar Confession panel
from Sharon Youngs, OGA Communications Coordinator
(March 11, 2009)
The individuals who
will serve on the Special Committee to Consider Amending the
Confessional Documents of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to
Include the Belhar Confession in The Book of Confessions have been
The 218th General
Assembly (2008) of the PC(USA) took action to initiate the process
to consider including the Belhar Confession in the church's
confessional documents by appointing a committee to study the
elections to be held Sunday in El Salvador
Here’s a look at
expectations for change and the challenges ahead
Salvadorans will go to the polls tomorrow to elect
a new president in what many expect to be a close race, increasing
tensions in the country and the possibility of conflict. A helpful
and informative memo from the Washington Office on Latin America
analyzes the current political panorama, the electoral process and
mechanisms for observation, the platforms and positions of the two
candidates, and coming challenges in electoral reform for Sunday’s
For the full memo >>
Sheriff Arpaio object of Justice Department probe
based on a report from the East Valley Tribune, that the U.S.
Department of Justice is investigating the Maricopa County (Arizona)
Sheriff's Department over allegations of discriminatory practices
and unconstitutional searches and seizures.
In a letter dated
Tuesday to Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the department's Civil Rights
Division said investigators will focus on alleged patterns of
discriminatory police practices and on allegations of discrimination
based on a person's national origin.
As we reported on Feb.
10, Arpaio has gained national notoriety for several
controversial practices, including ongoing efforts to arrest and
humiliate undocumented immigrants in the Phoenix area.
|Michelle Obama visits Presbyterian homeless
feeding program in DC
Presbyterian News Service reports:
|First Lady Michelle Obama serves food
with volunteers at Western Presbyterian Church in
As First Lady, one of Michelle Obama's priority
issues is nutrition. On March 5 she visited and served meals at
Miriam's Kitchen for the Homeless at Western Presbyterian Church in
She praised the program as a model for its
emphasis on creating a menu that severely limits sugar intake while
emphasizing the use of fresh fruits, vegetables and whole wheat
baked goods. She noted there is a high incidence of diabetes among
the poor. Serving the poor food loaded with sugar and high fat
content simply exacerbates existing health problems.
Since 1983, Miriam's Kitchen has been serving over
200 homeless people daily at Western Church. In 1994, neighbors
attempted to shut the program down citing the zoning code. However,
citing the First Amendment Constitutional right to practice
religious beliefs, a U.S. federal court issued a permanent
injunction barring the city from interfering with the congregation's
work with the homeless.
The chef at Miriam's Kitchen, Steve Badt, worked
at a high-end restaurant in New York City prior to making his
commitment to improve the nutritional health of the homeless. Badt's
work at Miriam's Kitchen has been recognized in People Magazine,
The Washington Post, The Today Show, the Food Network, CNN
Register for the Big Tent
"and the Word became flesh . . ."
June 11-13, 2009
Hyatt Regency Downtown · Atlanta, Georgia
Psalmist looks toward the day when love and faithfulness meet,
justice and peace will embrace (Psalm 85:10).
Bring your hopes and yearnings for peace and justice to Atlanta
and network with Presbyterians at the
Big Tent - a first ever gathering of 10 PC(USA) conferences.
The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program and the Presbyterian
Health, Education & Welfare Association will each host one of
the conferences. (Note: Early-bird
registration has been extended through March 30.)
Presbyterian Health, Education & Welfare Association's
Biennial Social Justice Conference moves from January to June to
be part of the celebration at the Big Tent. Since 1956, PHEWA
has been a prophetic arm of the PC(USA) working with
marginalized communities and those who serve those communities.
Come to learn and share. Come and discover a community of
support. Come to pray, sing and show that justice is alive and
vibrant in the PC(USA).
Download a schedule for the Social Justice Biennial Conference.
Jesus calls and empowers us to make peace with our neighbors
around the corner and across God's world.
Peacemaking Conference participants will have the
opportunity to visit significant sites in metropolitan Atlanta
where peacemaking is taking place, share stories from our own
neighborhoods, and engage in public witness, small group
discussions and conversations on current issues as we explore
how to do justice and seek peace.
Download a printer-friendly [PDF] flier about the 2009
Peacemaking Conference and a
bulletin insert [PDF] to promote the conference.
Register now and join us at the Big Tent.
From Mark Koenig of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program
|More votes on Amendment 08-B
Two more presbyteries shift to support change
Again yesterday (Tuesday, March 10) two
presbyteries shifted from opposing an inclusive church to supporting
Amendment 08-B, which would take the Presbyterian Church one more
step toward making “ordination standards” a matter of faith and
life, and not of sexual identity.
The Presbytery of Transylvania voted by 84 to 61
to approve the amendment, having voted by 50 to 83 against change in
2001-02. And Eastminster voted for the change by 60 to 39, with two
abstentions, where they voted 54 to 65 against the 2001 proposed
Lake Michigan Presbytery and New Brunswick both
continued their support for change.
One presbytery – Riverside – rejected the change,
but by a much narrower margin (45-53) than in 2001-02 (18-94).
San Gabriel voted to reject the amendment, and
Nevada rejected it by a wider margin than before
So the total presbytery vote tally now stands at
42 approving the amendment, and 69 rejecting it.
News Service’s latest report on the voting, from Jerry Van
Marter, portrays the amendment as “trailing,” but describes the
voting as “closer than last time.”
Blogger John Shuck analyzes the voting and concludes that in
numerous presbyteries the margin by which the amendment has been
rejected have been very close (and in three the vote has been tied,
which counts as a defeat that would have been reversed by one vote).
So a few more votes could be making a big difference.
Shuck also notes the most recent
The Layman’s website, which views with alarm the trend
You want more?? Here are links to some of the
sites that are providing tallies of the voting:
|Florida governor will meet with Immokalee Workers
On Monday, March 9th at the State Capitol Building in
Tallahassee, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and their allies
held a dramatic press conference and delivered over 39,000
signatures on letters to Gov. Crist, calling on him to meet with the
CIW to address modern-day slavery in the fields. We endeavored, in
the famous words of the prophet Habakkuk, to make the vision plain.
We've just learned that Governor Crist has agreed
to meet with the CIW on March 25th in Tallahassee.
Your efforts in signing and circulating the
Religious Community Letter to Gov. Crist played a critical role in
gaining this meeting. Thank you! We'll keep you posted on the
outcome of the meeting and any other important news.
Campaign for Fair Food,
|An update from PC(USA) Campaign for Fair Food
The Rev. Noelle Damico, of the Presbyterian
Campaign for Fair Food, reports on the ongoing efforts of the
Coalition of Immokalee Workers to end modern-day slavery in the
fields of Florida.
CIW is holding a press conference today (Monday,
March 9, 2009) on the capital steps in Tallahassee, urging Gov.
Crist to meet with them and to deal with their concerns about the
enslavement of farmworkers in Florida.
are congregations responding to the urgent needs of people in this
time of economic crisis?
Steve Thorngate, assistant editor and Web editor of
The Christian Century, contributes a brief blog to the
Century’s “Theolog” in which he raises the question and mentions
a few responses. You may want to check in on the conversation and
add ideas and experiences of your own.
|Capetz restoration case sent back to synod PJC
Test case on ‘scrupling’ must be tried, GAPJC
Presbyterian News Service reports that the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s highest court has remanded back to a
lower church court a case that will decide whether a former minister
who refuses to promise that he will live in celibacy may be restored
to active ministry.
The case revolves around Paul Capetz, a former
PC(USA) minister and seminary professor who was ordained in 1991 but
in 2000 set aside his ordination because of his conscientious
objection to G-6.0106b of the church’s Book of Order, which requires
of church officers “fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman
or chastity in singleness.”
rest of the story >>
reflects on Israel’s attack on Gaza
serving as Executive Director of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship,
the former Moderator of the PC(USA) has recently shared these
thoughts in a email note to PPF members.
I expect that I am not alone in my bewilderment about
how to respond to the violence of Israel’s attack on Gaza in
December and January. The roots of this conflict are deep, and it is
difficult to understand the complexities of the many players in this
struggle. For me, the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship’s consistent
commitment to nonviolence offers the only viable path to develop a
grounded response to the ongoing conflict.
That commitment means we can be clear that the violence of the
oppressive occupation of Gaza and the West Bank by the State of
Israel must come to an end. ...
The violence of illegal land seizures beyond the
1967 boundaries for the establishment of Settlements in the West
Bank must also come to an end. ...
The full note
note from Rick and the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship:
for the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq in Washington
D.C. on April 28 and 29!
will begin with the Opening Convocation at National City
Church on the afternoon of the 28th, followed by the
worship service and candlelight procession that evening
at the Convention Center.
will include Tony Campolo, Sr. Dianna Ortiz, Rev. Lennox
Yearwood Jr., Elizabeth McAlister and Daniel Berrigan.
following morning, Thursday the 29th, there will be a
nonviolent action to lift up our continuing commitment
to see the war in Iraq brought to an end.
Registration is now open for the event at
please contact us at
if you are interested in sharing floorspace with us at a
church near a metro stop.
|School of the Americas Watch announces
delegations to Latin America for 2009
Sullivan, who serves as SOA Watch’s Latin America Coordinator, sends
the latest information on SOA Watch delegations to Latin America
Immigrant busts faulted
recently reported on the abusive and humiliating treatment of
undocumented immigrants by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, of Arizona's Maricopa
County. The Wall Street Journal (yes, really) reports on
anti-immigrant campaign as an outgrowth of an Immigration and
Customs Enforcement program that trains local police to arrest
illegal immigrants suspected of committing serious crimes. According
to the Journal, this so-called 287g program, which has been
seen as a symbol of the Bush administration's crackdown on illegal
immigration, “has expanded without appropriate oversight, leading to
the arrest of thousands for minor infractions, according to a study
scheduled to be released Wednesday.”
full story is posted on
Or read it directly on the
Wall Street Journal website >>
Another presbytery shifts to support inclusive ordination
Presbytery voted earlier today in favor of Amendment 08-B by a vote
of 25 yes, 23 no, 1 abstain.
This is another
major shift, for a presbytery which has voted consistently against
equality in the past.
The total tally now stands at 37 yes – 57 no.
Thanks to John Shuck for this good news
Click here for a full page
of reports and commentary on this major concern in the PC(USA) >>
Witherspooner Bill Coop has shared with us his message to Leon
Howell’s widow, Barbara
|Presbytery voting on Amendment 08-B continues
The past week was not a good one for those seeking
a welcoming, inclusive church.
Thirteen presbyteries voted during the past week
on the constitutional amendments proposed by the 2008 General
Assembly. Of those, ten have been clearly opposed to removing the
effective ban on ordination for lgbt Presbyterians which was added
to the Book of Order a few years ago in the form of provision
Proponents of the new pro-inclusion amendment had
some hope that one presbytery, Indian Nations, might well shift this
year to supporting the change, since its last vote, in 2001-02, was
split 52 to 52 on a pro-inclusion amendment. That tie vote was
counted as a rejection of the proposed change, but it was pretty
close. This year, though, opponents of change were ready to resist.
They moved that the vote should be taken on 08-B
without presentations or discussion. Their motion was passed, in a
clear rejection of the call by the 2008 General Assembly for a
careful process of discernment throughout the church.
So the week ended with 11 presbyteries rejecting
the amendment, and 2 (Hudson River and Milwaukee) continuing their
strong support for change – both by even higher margins than in
2001-02. As Bruce Hahne notes, though, most of those rejecting the
amendment still saw an increase in the number of commissioners
supporting it. The tide is clearly turning!
That leaves the total tally so far at 36
presbyteries approving the amendment, and 57 rejecting it.
Bruce Hahne, who is keeping a careful tally of the
voting, complete with analysis and commentary, offers a list of four
tactics that appear to be used in various situations by opponents of
|Here are some popular tactics that
can be used by anti-equality groups to game the voting
system so that pro-equality overtures have a reduced
probability of success at the presbytery level:
|"Stifle the Spirit" tactic: Don't
allow discussion of the equality overture, just go
directly to a vote. Variation: schedule only a token
time interval for discussion.|
|"Public intimidation" tactic:
Don't use secret ballots -- make people stand up in
the middle of presbytery meeting to have their vote
counted. Works particularly well in presbyteries
with a strong majority on either side.|
|"Endurance test" tactic: Schedule
the vote on the overture at the end of a 7-hour
meeting so that younger voters with kids at home
have to leave before the vote.|
|"Consent calendar" tactic: Put a
"no" vote on the overture onto the consent calendar
to try to sneak it through. Even if pro-equality
supporters catch this trick, they then have to go
through procedural hoops on the floor of presbytery
to get the item removed from the consent calendar.|
For more information and comment:
WITNESS IN WASHINGTON WEEKLY
The Washington Office of the Presbyterian Church
This week's messages
Around the World – Support the International Violence Against
Year 2010 Budget
|This section on the proposed federal
budget includes brief, very helpful comments
specifically on the proposals dealing with health care
reform, climate change, and "everything else" -- plus a
nice clarification of the deficit spending question.
And as is often done in the Washington
Office communications, there is a useful listing of
relevant General Assembly statements from recent years.
• Urge the
Administration and Congress to
Psalm 119:73-80 --
The Glories of God's Law
Interfaith Worker Justice urges
an end to continuing raids on immigrant workers
Yesterday, the Senate
confirmed Hilda Solis as Secretary of Labor. We commend President
Obama's choice of Ms. Solis, a Congresswoman from Los Angeles who is
the daughter of immigrant workers and is a longtime fighter for the
rights of workers. Well done, Mr. President!
Yesterday there was
also the first workplace immigration raid under the Obama
administration at a factory in Bellingham, Washington, that rebuilds
Japanese car engines and transmissions. Immigration authorities
arrested and chained 28 workers, including three mothers.
Workplace raids hurt
our communities, businesses, and all workers. With the economic
crisis, this is a terrible time for raids.
Call the White House
Or e-mail the White
Or fax a letter to
Tell President Obama
• Thanks for
the wonderful appointment of Hilda Solis as Secretary of Labor
• Thanks for
your leadership in facing the economic crisis, passing the stimulus
and working to create jobs in our communities.
• Stop all
workplace raids and pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Please e-mail me at
to let us know that you called or wrote a letter.
In Peace and Justice,
Public Policy Director
Interfaith Worker Justice
immigration issues from Witherspoon >>
|Evolution Weekend 2009 shows growth in
participation and media coverage
reported before on the continuing effort of
TheClergyLetterProject.org to encourage reasonable discussion on
the perceived tensions between science and faith – especially the
efforts of various conservative religious groups to require the
teaching of “creation science” in the schools.
Michael Zimmerman, of Butler University, reports
on recent observances of “Evolution Weekend,” and a couple related
Zimmerman’s note to members of the group:
Now that Evolution Weekend 2009 has successfully
passed, it seems a good time to catch up on events – as well as to
present a fair bit of additional news.
I think it is fair to say that the success of
Evolution Weekend 2009 exceeded even my most optimistic
expectations. Our latest count shows that 1,045 congregations from
15 countries participated (www.evolutionweekend.org).
Because the media coverage was so extensive, with reports ranging
from NPR to Fox News, we reached a huge number of folks. Most
importantly, because of your efforts, the nature of the discussion
about the relationship between religion and science has begun to
change. Please check out some of the media coverage on our web site
If you have links to reports that are not listed there, please send
them to me.
|Leon Howell – former editor of
Christianity & Crisis and a very good friend of Witherspoon –
We received word last week of
the death of Leon Howell, journalist and leading thinking in the
progressive wing of U.S. Christianity. His family said that Leon
died at home in his sleep early Thursday, February 26, in Silver
A memorial service will be held at 11:00 am on
Tuesday, March 3 at Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church, One Chevy Chase
Circle NW, Washington DC 20015.
A Witherspoon comment:
Jane Hanna, former president of the Witherspoon
Society, has worked with Leon over the past few years as he has
frequently led summer seminars at Ghost Ranch, which featured Leon
in conversation and debate with various informed guests, on moral
and ethical issues confronting our society today.
Jane wrote of Leon Howell: “Frank [her
husband] and I truly mourn his passing as we loved him greatly and
just felt the week of ‘Discerning the Signs of Times’ seminar each
summer to be one of each year's highlights. We will miss him greatly
and although plans are already underway to continue the seminars
into the future, his absence will very much be felt. Leon leaves as
many friends from around the world as anyone I know. There is a lot
of sadness with his passing.”
For an index to all our reports
the 219th General Assembly
For links to
all our archive pages, listed by months,
ratified (or not) by the presbyteries
A number of the most important actions of the 219th
General Assembly are now being sent to the presbyteries for their
action, to confirm or reject them as amendments to the PC(USA) Book
We're providing resources to help inform the
reflection and debate, along with updates on the voting.
Our three areas of primary interest are:
which would remove the current ban on
lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender persons being considered as
possible candidates for ordination as elder or ministers.|
which would add the Belhar Confession to our Book of
10-1, which would adopt the new Form of Government
that was approved by the Assembly. |
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Some blogs worth visiting
Mitch Trigger, PVJ's
Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where
Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and
views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both
personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!
You can post your own news and views,
or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.
Voices of Sophia blog
Heather Reichgott, who has created
this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:
After fifteen years of scholarship
and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the
voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy,
students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers
and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God
in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God
through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through
articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and
John Harris’ Summit to
Theological and philosophical
reflections on everything between summit to shore, including
kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology,
politics, culture, travel, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New
York City and the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood by a progressive
New York City Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the
Witherspoon board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian
Church in Flushing, NY.
John Shuck’s Shuck and Jive
A Presbyterian minister, currently
serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton,
Tenn., blogs about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized
and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and
Got more blogs to recommend?
send a note, and we'll see what we can do!