Archive for May, 2009
This page lists our postings from all of May, 2009
For an index to all our reports
from the 218th General Assembly
For an index to all our reports from
conference on global mission and justice >>
Earlier in April,
all of June
For links to earlier archive pages,
Religious Campaign Against Torture invites you —
A RELIGIOUS PUBLIC WITNESS IN
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Noon - 1:30 PM
NRCAT is sponsoring a major event led by seven
heads of faith groups and other senior religious leaders in front of
the White House at noon on Thursday, June 11, to urge President
Obama to create a Commission of Inquiry to investigate U.S torture
practices since 9/11. Our goal is to have 1,000 people of faith join
us. We need your help make that happen.
In his speech on Guantanamo and torture last week,
the President reiterated his opposition to appointing such a
commission. We are disappointed and believe he is wrong. By making
our position visible, we seek to change his mind.
Discovering the truth makes us free, holds people
accountable, and can bring healing and transformation. The results
of the investigation will also make it possible for the Congress to
put the needed safeguards in place to assure that U.S.-sponsored
torture never takes place again.
The list of confirmed senior national religious
leaders who will provide leadership during the witness at the White
House on June 11, other details about the event and promotional
all available here.
|From School of
the Americas Watch:
introduced in congress to suspend operations at the School of the
Americas and to investigate its connection to human rights abuses in
Contact your Representative Now!
New SOA/ WHINSEC Legislation Introduced in Congress!
On May 21st, 2009, Representative Jim McGovern
introduced HR 2567 in the House of Representatives with 42 original
cosponsors! This new legislation would suspend operations at the SOA/
WHINSEC and investigate the association of torture and human rights
abuses associated with the school.
Click here to Send a Message to your Representative
We need your help generating more cosponsors and support for HR
2567! Visit the
Legislative Action Index on our website to learn more about
how you can get involved and add your cosponsor as a supporter
of this legislation. Use our
Online Action to send an automatic email or fax to your Member
of Congress or access our sample call script and the toll-free
congressional switchboard phone number to make your views heard in
Washington! You can also access the updated list of
cosponsors at the bottom of the
Legislative Action Index.
If you haven't already signed the petition to President Obama asking
that he close the SOA/ WHINSEC by executive order,
click here to sign the petition online!
For more information, please contact the Legislative Coordinator of
SOA Watch, Pam Bowman at
firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-234-3440.
|Church of Scotland and ordination of LGBT
Not ready to act – but there’s more
We recently posted news from Scotland that the Church of
Scotland had acted to permit the Presbytery of Lochcarron-Skye to
approve the appointment of the Rev Scott Rennie, who is openly gay,
to Queen’s Cross Church in Aberdeenshire. That action was set aside,
however, when the General Assembly, meeting in Edinburgh, set up a
study committee on the matter, to report back to their next Assembly
in two years.
The Rev. John Mann, a former minister of the
PC(USA) who is now serving in Glasgow as a member of the Church of
Scotland, encourages us to avoid oversimplifying this matter, and
suggests looking at
a report by The Times, which is based largely on comments
by the Rev. Lindsay Biddle, who is his spouse, and is also serving a
church in Glasgow. She, however, has not transferred her membership
to the Church of Scotland, and so is not affected by the “gag rule”
which the Church of Scotland General Assembly has imposed on its own
Lindsay Biddle appeared earlier in May on an STV
news program report on Scott Rennie and his struggle to remain in
ministry after coming to terms with his own homosexuality.
Click here for the interview, which runs a little over two
John Mann sums it up by saying, “Those of us
working for justice are taking a positive rather than fatalistic
|A response to Dale Johnson's "Red Presbyteries, Blue
Presbyteries: Analysis of the Vote on Amendment 08B"
The South makes the difference
An observation from Gordon Shull, a Witherspoon
member in Wooster, Ohio:
Dale Johnson's analysis makes it possible to
discern that the Southern presbyteries tipped the scales. With
the South, the amendment loses 78-94. Without the South, it wins
I did a similar calculation on the original
vote on G6.0106B. With the South, the amendment won 96-71.
Without the South it would have lost, 65-70.
Am I still an ecumaniac? I don't know:
ecumenicity has its price.
May 27, 2009
|Red Presbyteries, Blue
Presbyteries: Analysis of the Vote on Amendment 08B
Dale Johnson, who lives in Nashville, Tenn., is
emeritus professor of church history at Vanderbilt Divinity School.
He was an elder commissioner to the 2008 General Assembly, and a
member of the Church Orders and Ministry Committee which considered
the overtures dealing with ordination,
He offers an updated analysis of the voting on
Amendment 08B, suggesting that a number of larger, more urban
presbyteries showed significant shifts toward favoring a more
inclusive ordination policy, even in the South, while smaller
presbyteries were less likely to change.
He also finds that while the "popular vote" was
very close (with
a 5.6% gain in raw vote to a 49% total for the amendment), it will
take a significant gain in popular votes to bring in a majority of
the presbyteries -- which are, after all what "counts" in the final
Johnson's essay >>
|More Light Presbyterians lament the decision to
uphold Proposition 8, and commit to keep working for marriage
May 26. This
morning, the California State Supreme Court announced its deeply
disappointing decision to uphold Proposition 8. While More Light
Presbyterians is pleased that the court recognized the legal
marriages of the 18,000 same-sex couples married in 2008, we are
profoundly disappointed by its decision to uphold the anti-LGBT,
discriminatory Proposition 8 that was narrowly passed by a ballot
It is incredible that the legal, equal and civil
rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons and their
families were not protected by either the Court or the electorate in
a state within a country that is committed to life, liberty and
pursuit of happiness for all of its citizens.
As people of faith and Christians committed to
justice, equality and ending discrimination against lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender persons and their families in both Church
and society, while we lament the failure of the state court to
maintain marriage equality in California, we are absolutely
committed to continue our work for justice. Through PEP, the
Presbyterian Equality Project, we will continue to work for marriage
equality in civil society as we work for marriage equality within
the Presbyterian Church (USA).
Marriage is an equal right, not a heterosexual
privilege. We are grateful that a growing number of Christians and
citizens are recognizing that love is not restricted by gender and
that God's gift of love is bestowed upon same gender loving couples
in addition to opposite gender couples. Everyone has the right to be
part of a family.
with hope and grace,
Michael J. Adee, M.Div., Ph.D., Executive Director
& Field Organizer, More Light Presbyterians, 369 Montezuma Avenue #
447, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501 USA (505) 820-7082,
|Church of Scotland backs away from its stand for
This report (with plenty of commentary) comes from
John Knox struck up the alleluias too soon it
appears. The Church of Scotland (behaving like all superstitious and
fearful cults--like the PCUSA) gave into its homophobic element.
I praised it yesterday for approving an openly gay man as
minister. The backlash has begun.
Instead of outright rejecting a motion similar to
the PCUSA's G-6.0106b (effectively banning gays without mentioning
them), the General Assembly decided to set up a commission.
From the BBC:
The Church of Scotland has avoided a
potentially damaging debate about whether gay people should be
allowed to become Kirk ministers.
At its General Assembly in Edinburgh, it
was decided instead that a special commission should be set up
to consider the matter and report in 2011.
There will be a two-year ban on the future
ordination of gay ministers.
"Avoided a potentially damaging debate" says the
news. Potentially damaging to whom? Those of us who have watched
commission after commission in the 35 year struggle in the PCUSA
know what these commissions end up doing.
The Church of Scotland will experience a shit
storm of fear-mongering for two years. At the end of this time, the
beleaguered commission will come up with some report. It makes no
difference what the report will say. Fundamentalist forces will
wrest control and tell the same lies and offer the same threats that
have been made here for the past third of a century. Then they will
come up with some horrific rule (just like G-6.0106b).
The Church of Scotland will be no further ahead
then than they are now.
It was fun for a day.
Our earlier report >>
Torture Is A Moral Issue:
Panel & Conference for People of Faith
Palo Alto, California
From Carol Wickersham, of Presbyterian-related
Please help spread the word about the Torture Is a
Moral Issue panel and conference on June 26-27. Speakers and
workshops will equip participants for effective action. Perspectives
will be offered by former interrogators and intelligence officers,
psychologists, ethicists, legal experts. I will offer some religious
|All in God’s Family: Creating Allies for Our LGBT
New curriculum material available
This note comes to us from Michael Adee,
Executive Director & Field Organizer of More Light Presbyterians
If you want your local congregation, campus
ministry or seminary community to be genuinely welcoming and
affirming of LGBT Families, this new curriculum is for you.
More Light Presbyterians is a founding and
sponsoring organization of IWR, the Institute for Welcoming
Resources, the faith project of NGLTF.
I encourage you to order this curriculum today.
This would be a great resource and complete curriculum for your Fall
2009 Christian Education program offerings.... or anytime.
I so wish that when I was growing up in
southwestern Louisiana, trying to find my way as a gay kid and a
Christian, in a small Presbyterian church, my parents and our
family, our pastor, my Sunday School teachers and our family's
congregation could have had this kind of educational resource. There
was nothing to help my parents, our family, or our small
Presbyterian Church on how to raise gay kids, or be open to LGBT
You can make a difference now in your church for
Click here and scroll down for the media release which
explains the curriculum, the organizations who collaborated in
creating it, and how you can order it online.
|Church of Scotland GA approves church's call of
openly gay minister
After 3 1/2 hours of debate, the General Assembly
of The Church of Scotland meeting in Edinburgh on Saturday evening,
May 23, 2009, voted 326 for and 267 against the Presbytery of
Aberdeen's action (taken in January 2009) to sustain the call
(issued in November 2008) from Queen's Cross Parish Church in
Aberdeen, to the Rev. Scott Rennie, an openly-gay minister in The
Church of Scotland who is in a committed relationship with his
Christian partner, David, who is a religious education teacher.
We thank God for an inclusive church, where all
This welcome news comes to us
from the Rev. Lindsay Louise Biddle, a minister of the PC(USA), who
is now serving the Church of Scotland in Glasgow along with her
husband, the Rev. John Mann.
Click here for the Associated Press report >>
But beware: The AP, like
a number of others, makes the mistaken assumption that the Church of
Scotland is related to the Church of England, and is thus a part of
the worldwide Anglican Communion, so that this policy decision is
seen as reflecting the Anglican struggles over gay ordination.
We know that is not the case!
|The Progressive Conscience in Action
Obedience to conscience has long been a part of our
Reformed tradition, and respect for the right of conscience has been
a major element in the argument for allowing LGBT candidates for
ordination to declare “scruples,” that is to take exception to
certain requirements for ordination such as the “fidelity and
chastity” standard set forth in G-6.0106b of the Book of Order.
But we must remember that conscience has to do
with far more than our sexuality. And the Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks
Thistlethwaite, who is now a Senior Fellow in the Faith and
Public Policy Initiative at the Center for American Progress,
reminds us in a recent article that "A progressive moral vision is
deeply connected to the exercise of conscience.”
A few more excerpts:
“... For progressives, a crucial guiding principle
in regard to public policy is to secure the common good while
protecting individual liberty to the fullest extent possible ...
progressives must understand their own roots among the many
traditions on conscience, and the valuable contribution that
progressivism... Whatever the roots of conscience, many religions
emphasize its centrality to human goodness and dignity and have done
so from ancient times. Increasingly, nonbelievers have also asserted
the right of conscience as a central part of their value
formation... Conscience is at the heart of progressivism because
conscience is not just a feeling but a palpable urge toward
improvement — a call to action or engagement... Caring for others
and not just for oneself or one’s kind is, of course, a universal
value found in both religious and humanist writings..."
The full essay >>
We welcome your comments!
Just send a
to be shared here.
|From Rabbi Michael Lerner —
“Obama needs to be pushed from the progressive world in order
to be able to be who he wants to be.”
Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun
magazine, and founder of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, has
just published an article on the
Politico.com website in which he calls on progressives to press
President Obama to get past his current efforts at pragmatic
compromise, and return to the strength of his progressive
Without this, he warns, Obama “will not be able to
gain mass support for a coherent worldview that can form the basis
for an alternative to ‘let the marketplace decide,’ which has been
the guiding principle for American domestic politics, and ‘let our
power shape the world,’ which has been our primary approach to
full article >>
We welcome your comments!
to be shared here.
|From More Light Presbyterians:
"God's Whole Family" Conference Registration now
The National Welcoming & Affirming Presbyterian
September 4 - 6, 2009 Labor Day Weekend
Second Presbyterian Church, Nashville, Tennessee
"God's Whole Family" is hosted by Second
Presbyterian Church, Nashville and produced by More Light
Presbyterians for pro-LGBT Presbyterians, families, friends and
The Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, Moderator of the
218th General Assembly, PCUSA, will join us as a keynote speaker and
preacher. Bruce is pastor of Mission Bay Community Church, a
multi-cultural Presbyterian congregation in San Francisco, CA
Rev. Debra Peevey, MLP's Campaign Outreach
Coordinator for Amendment 08-B, will be with us to share
heartwarming stories of faith, courage and transformation plus
lessons learned from the campaign. Debra is a minister in the
Disciples of Christ tradition and lives with her spouse, Candy in
More information >>
To register and choose a
housing option >>
Board members bundle up
to walk through Minneapolis in May. (The
temperature was in the 50s that day. They
complained a bit. They should have stayed around a
couple days, till we hit the 90s!)
Photo by John Harris.
Witherspoon board, joined by Voices of Sophia,
meets in Minneapolis
John Harris, a member at
large of Witherspoon’s board, has posted his quick report, with
comments on Minneapolis, which will be the site of the 2010 General
See his blog >>
|More presbyteries switch to support inclusive
|A late addition:
One more switch for inclusion
Presbytery of Missouri River Valley
and Southwestern Iowa) tonight approved Amendment 08-B
by a vote of 50-41-6, becoming the 34th to switch in
favor compared to 2001-2. The presbytery
had faced a recommendation to take no action, but voted
that down; in addition, they directed a committee to
design and implement a plan for further dialogue about
this and other controversial issues, keeping the
Thanks to Tricia
Dykers Koenig of Covenant Network
Over the past two weeks two more
presbyteries have shifted their votes in support of amendment 08-B,
which opens the door further to ordination of LGBT Presbyterians by
making clear that suitability for ordination does not hinge on
On May 9, the Presbytery of Utah approved
Amendment 08-B by a voted of 28 to 25.
On May 8, the Presbytery of Northern Waters
voted Yes on 08-B by 53 to 11, which is a 25% pro-LGBT shift from
its vote in 2002.
Then on May 12, by a vote of 100 - 90 - 3, the
Pacific Presbytery became the 33rd presbytery to switch from
opposition in 2002 to support for LGBT equality and justice in 2009.
The same day, the Presbytery of East Iowa
voted Yes on 08-B, 74 to 21, which is a 25% pro-LGBT shift from its
vote in 2002.
Thus far, with the last presbytery vote scheduled
for May 30, 77 presbyteries have approved the amendment for
inclusive ordination, which is 35 more than the final count of 42 in
2002. Michael Adee, of More Light Presbyterians, who has furnished
these reports, concludes his own report: “As the prophet Isaiah
spoke, ‘surely God is doing a new thing in our midst.’ ” To which we
can only say Amen.
For a careful and insightful analysis of the
voting, you may want to look at
Bruce Hahne’s statistics and commentary.
For more on Amendment 08-B >>
labor justice? Here’s a new book worth reading.
Bobo, founder and executive director of
Justice, publishes Wage Theft in America
TeSelle, a resident of Nashville, sends this recommendation:
Kim Bobo was
heard on an interview on National Public Radio on Thursday, May
18, talking about wage theft in its various forms. She was in
Nashville to celebrate a victory by car wash workers (not a
group that you usually associate with victories). They had filed
a federal lawsuit against Shur-Brite Hi-Speed Carwash, which
recently signed a consent decree repaying them lost wages and
giving them a break room, first aid equipment, and labeling or
Another report from Nashville Public Radio >>
Here’s a brief sketch
of the book, from the
In what has been
described as “the crime wave no one talks about,” wages are
stolen from millions of workers in the United States ever year.
Between two and three million workers are paid less than the
minimum wage. More than three million are misclassified by their
employers as independent contractors when they are really
employees, allowing employers to shirk their share of payroll
taxes and to illegally deny workers overtime pay. Even the
Economic Policy Foundation, a business- funded think tank,
estimated that companies annually steal 19 billion dollars in
unpaid overtime. The scope of these abuses is staggering, and in
response, activists, unions, and policymakers are beginning to
take notice. Nationally-recognized social justice activist Kim Bobo’s Wage Theft in America is an incisive handbook for
activists, organizers, workers, and concerned citizens on how to
prevent the flagrant exploitation of America’s working people.
Bobo offers a sweeping analysis of the crisis, citing
hard-hitting statistics and heartbreaking first-person accounts
of exploitation at the hands of employers. She then offers
concrete solutions, with special attention to what a new
Presidential administration can do to address one of the gravest
issues facing workers in the 21st-century.
Senator Edward M.
Kennedy commends the book, writing:
“Kim Bobo has written an
excellent and informative book on one of the most pressing issues
facing millions of hardworking Americans. She offers bold,
practical, and progressive solutions for how policymakers and
advocates can end the growing crisis of wage theft in America.”
More on the book >>
More Light Sunday – June 7, 2009
Celebrating a Church for All
As our "Answering God's Call to Serve!" YES on
Amendment 08-B draws to a close on May 30, now more than ever it is
important for us, for our Church, to recognize and celebrate the
presence and gifts of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons
and their families in our local congregations. We believe in a
Gospel and a Church for all God's children.
While we do recognize and give thanks for the
extraordinary, history-making progress made during the Amendment
08-B Campaign, we also reckon with the reality that its ratification
was narrowly defeated. This is a time of mixed emotions, celebration
So, we celebrate that a record number of 77
presbyteries so far have affirmed fair and equal ordination
standards; and we lament that 92 have held to the status quo of
discrimination against faithful LGBT Presbyterians simply seeking to
answer God's call to serve. So, it is time for us to gather in
community in every possible congregation, MLP Chapter, campus or
seminary group for a time of reflection, prayer, healing and
More Light Sunday 2009 is that perfect opportunity
to be together in community. 2009 is the sixth year of the annual
tradition of celebrating the presence, faith and gifts that lesbian,
gay, bisexual and transgender persons, their parents and families
bring to the life, ministry and witness of the Presbyterian Church
|Voting on 08-B goes on, with surprises happy and
While your Web-Weaver has been in
the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Georgia for his son’s
wedding (ask me about it sometime – a wondrous experience in the
diversity of life these days!), a few presbyteries have taken their
actions on the proposed amendment to the Presbyterian Church’s Book
of Order, which would have eliminated definitively the old G-6.0106b
ban on ordination of anyone living in a same-sex relationship.
It is now clear that the amendment will not be
passed, but the voting is still significant as a statement of
progress that is being made in our church. So here are reports from
some of the voting last week:
The Presbytery of Middle Tennessee voted on
May 7, according to Gene TeSelle, "95 for, 139 against, and 1
More from Middle Tennessee >>
The Presbytery of Northern Waters (northern
Minnesota and Wisconsin) met on May 7, and voted in favor of 08-B,
by 52 to 11. Just in from our presbytery meeting.
Thanks to the Rev. David
Oliver-Holder, of Bayfield, Wisconsin, for this report.
Utah makes the shift for inclusion and equality
The Presbytery of Utah, meeting on Saturday, May
9, voted in favor of amendment B, by 28 to 25. This was a major
shift from a vote of 21-32 against equality last time. The
Presbytery of Utah thus became the 32nd presbytery to shift from
opposing inclusion in 2002, to supporting equality in 2009.
Tricia Dykers Koenig of Covenant Network
adds these reports:
I've seen a report that Dakota Presbytery
(non-geographical Native American) disapproved unanimously in a
voice vote last weekend .... That brings the presbytery tally to
74-90. The Presbytery of Sheppards and Lapsley, which approved 08-B
in February, at today's meeting was facing a motion from two
Sessions to rescind their previous vote – but the motion was
withdrawn, so the prospect of a cycle of do-overs was avoided,
thanks be! ...
Utah's approval of 08-B reaches a milestone record
of 75 presbyteries that support ordination standards based upon
faith and character, not marital status or sexual orientation. We
rejoice that 75 presbyteries call for the end of discrimination
against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Presbyterians who are
gifted and called by God to serve as Ministers, Elders and Deacons.
We now stand at 75 supportive presbyteries which
is already 33 more than the final count of 42 in 2002 with more
presbyteries yet to vote. The last presbytery vote is scheduled for
May 30. As the prophet Isaiah spoke, "surely God is doing a new
thing in our midst."
More on the voting on Amendment 08-B, along with background and
|Wall Street Journal supports Obama!!
The WSJ on May 7 published a brief article by Steven
Waldman, defending the President against the outraged Religions
Right on his decision not to continue the "National Day of Prayer"
as it had been taken over by far-right evangelicals. Waldman is the
Editor-in-Chief, President and Co-Founder of
Beliefnet. He's also the
author of the Founding Faith: Politics, Providence and the Birth of
Religious Freedom in America.
Conservative religious groups are criticizing
President Obama for what the Associated Press called his "muted"
observance of National Prayer Day Thursday. "At this time in our
country's history, we would hope our President would recognize
more fully the importance of prayer," said Shirley Dobson,
chairwoman of National Day of Prayer Task Force, which organizes
the prayer day festivities. The Family Research Council said
Obama's decision to not have a big White House prayer event
constituted a "de-emphasis on prayer."
I think this is actually a case of religious
conservatives having cut off their noses to spite their faces.
Putting aside for a moment the question of whether it's
appropriate for the White House to be involved in encouraging
prayer, this particular occasion has evolved in a way that
almost guaranteed its demise.
For the full text of the President’s proclamation >>
For an index to all our reports
from the 218th General Assembly
For an index to all our reports from
conference on global mission and justice >>
Earlier in April,
all of June
For links to earlier archive pages,
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
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
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!
Plan now for our 2010 Ghost Ranch
GHOST RANCH SEMINAR
July 26-August 1, 2010
WE’RE ALL IN
CONFRONTING THE STRUCTURES OF INJUSTICE
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