Archives for January, 2009
This page lists our postings from all of January
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,
For links to earlier archive pages,
|Presbytery of Cayuga-Syracuse approves Ordination
Today, January 31, the
Presbytery of Cayuga-Syracuse voted in favor of Amendment 08-B by a
vote of 33 in favor and 12 against, according to information from
Kathleen Waters, Stated Clerk.
And Western North Carolina
is the first presbytery to shift from opposing
inclusive ordination to support 08-B.
They voted by
144-108-1 in favor of amending
|The Rev. John Harris, a member of the
Witherspoon board, adds this note on his blog,
Western North Carolina Presbytery
is the presbytery in which Parker T. Williamson,
editor emeritus of The Layman, resides and
is a member. My hunch is that he would have
been present for this historic vote.
Can anyone else hear the shackles of years of
injustice been loosened?
Resources for discernment and debate on 08-B:
More Light Presbyterians has gathered a strong collection of
resources for those wanting to support Amendment 08-B.
Click here for their Answering God’s Call to Serve! Resource
The Covenant Network
also provides a
brief list of resources.
organizations committed to inclusive ordination, Presbyterian
Welcome and That All May Freely Serve have launched
“a grassroots effort to get the church talking,” by encouraging
church members to have a conversation about ordination and Amendment
08-B with another church member or a member of their Presbytery whom
they do not know well, or whose theological views may be different
than their own.
For more on Amendment 08-B,
the proposal to amend G-6.0106b >>
ACSWP ponders impact
of Obama’s election on church’s social witness ... and a long list
of issues to consider
Expects PC(USA)’s voice to be better heard by new administration
Service reports on the recent meeting in Berkeley, Cal., of the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Advisory Committee on Social Witness
Policy (ACSWP). Jerry Van Marter begins:
With the new
administration of Barack Obama seeking more counsel from mainline
denominations than its predecessor, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s
Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) approached its
lengthy agenda with renewed vigor here Jan. 22-25.
On issues ranging from
human rights to immigration to the Iraq war, the committee seemed
convinced that the PC(USA)’s voice will be now be heard more clearly
in Washington than at any time in recent memory.
The question, of course
― in Washington and Louisville ― is what can be done on a number of
fronts in light of the global economic meltdown.
Issues on which ACSWP
will be working, mostly in response to mandates from the 2008
General Assembly, include HIV/AIDS, gun violence, a theology of
compensation, immigration and detention, and “The Nature and Value
of Human Life.”
Most of these
projects and others may be hindered by recent budget and staff
reductions in the General Assembly offices in Louisville.
The full story
"Roberta's Rules of Order":
Helping Progressive Presbyterians Be More Progressive in group
Meetings and Decision-Making
Last October we posted
a book review essay
by Witherspooner Sue Spencer, recommending Roberta's Rules of
Order as a valuable alternative to the formalities of Robert's
Rules for running many of the meetings which Presbyterians love so
the author of that book,
Alice Collier Cochran, has sent a brief essay of her own, describing
her book and linking to her website. She describes some of the
resources in the book, including a
template of rules you can adopt for smaller decision-making groups.
She has also just completed a QuickStart Guide to help customize
these meeting rules using larger templates.
from the SOA Vigil, November 2008
McPhail has made the journey to Ft. Benning, GA, before, and
returned in November of 2008 to join again in the continuing effort
to move the US military establishment to close the School of the
Americas, now renamed with the catchy acronym WHINSEC.
He notes the roots of the SOA vigil in the
non-violent civil rights demonstrations of the 1960s, when people
went to jail to make known their demands for racial justice. This
leads to thoughts about the spiritual roots of civil disobedience,
and then to the growing numbers of Latinos in the vigils, lending
new dimensions to the concerns for U.S. involvement in torture,
violence, and oppression in Latin America. And the poverty in Latin
America is being lifted up as an increasing concern.
It is time, he concludes, for U.S. policy to be
shaped significantly by the realities of life in Latin America, and
not simply by perceived U.S. self-interest defined simply as
“security.” And he sees hope in the growing presence of younger
people in the vigil, many of them moved deeply by Barack Obama’s
call for the “audacity of hope.”
|ACSWP seeks moral voice in economic
Fledgling “Global Oikonomics
Project” aims at ‘well-being of all’
As the world struggles with the current economic
crisis, the Presbyterian Church, through its Advisory Committee on
Social Witness Policy (ACSWP), is beginning to add a moral and
ethical dimension – a concern for justice – to the concern for
“There needs to be a moral, justice-seeking
dimension to this work and above all an acute sense of its likely
impact on the poor,” retired San Francisco Theological Seminary dean
Lewis Mudge told his fellow members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s
Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) at their recent
meeting in Berkeley, CA.
The full story >>
Souper Bowl of Caring celebrates 20 years of service
Service reports on the upcoming Souper Bowl of Caring, which
celebrates the annual football Super Bowl by gathering contributions
of canned goods and money to feed the hungry.
Begun 20 years ago by
a seminary intern at Spring Valley Presbyterian Church in Columbia,
SC, the Souper Bowl of Caring spread across the nation and is
observed in many denominations. It has raised more than $50 million,
transforming professional football’s biggest weekend into a the
nation’s largest youth-led weekend of giving and serving.
It’s as simple as
holding soup pots at church doors following worship on Super Bowl
Sunday and asking worshippers to drop in a dollar to help those who
are hungry. Each group then donates their collection directly to the
charity of their choice — no money is sent to Souper Bowl of Caring
headquarters. Organizers simply ask that groups report their
collection amount so a national total can be determined.
|"SOA 6" sentenced to federal prison for
nonviolent direct action to close the SOA/ WHINSEC
On January 26, six human rights advocates appeared in
a federal courthouse in Georgia. The "SOA 6," ranging in age from 21
to 68, were found "guilty" of carrying the protest against the
School of the Americas (SOA/WHINSEC) onto the Fort Benning military
base. The six were among the thousands who gathered on November 22
and 23, 2008 outside the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia to demand a
change in U.S. policy towards Latin America and the closure of the
The "SOA 6" spoke out clearly and powerful in
court, making a compelling case for the closure of the school and
creation of a culture of justice and peace, where there is no place
for the SOA mindset that promotes military "solutions" to social and
economic problems. The six spent the weekend preparing for their
trials with a team of lawyers, legal workers and volunteers, and
today they stood up for all of us working for a more just world.
The "SOA 6" included:
|Father Luis Barrios, 56, from North Bergen,
NJ, was sentenced to 2 months in federal prison and a $250 fine|
|Theresa Cusimano, 40, Denver, Colorado, found
guilty and awaiting sentencing|
|Kristin Holm, from Chicago, Illinois, was
sentenced to 2 months in federal prison and a $250 fine|
|Sr. Diane Pinchot, OSU, 63, from Cleveland,
Ohio, was sentenced to 2 months in federal prison|
|Al Simmons, 64, from Richmond, Virginia, was
sentenced to 2 months in federal prison|
|Louis Wolf, 68, from Washington, DC, found
guilty and awaiting sentencing|
on the School of the Americas and the many vigils and other actions
to close it down >>
|More on Amendment 08-B
New Castle Presbytery approves Ordination
On January 24, New Castle Presbytery, which
includes Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland, voted to affirm
Ordination Amendment 08-B by a vote of 82 YES, 48 NO.
Area Presbyterians vote Yes on gay clergy
That All May Freely Serve (TAMFS) offers a brief,
helpful analysis of the current state of voting on Amendment 08-B.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) is six steps
closer to making a dramatic change after over 30 years of
debating gay and lesbian ordination. Over the last week, six
Presbyteries voted yes on a constitutional amendment that allows
gay and lesbian people to be ordained whether or not they are in
a partnered relationship.
On January 17, Des Moines, Northern Kansas,
and Newton (NJ) voted yes and on January 24, Baltimore, Albany
and New Castle (DE), voted yes.
Coming up! On January 27, five more
presbyteries will vote: Utica (NY), Carlisle (PA), Palisades
(NJ), Donegal (PA), and San Fernando (CA) and, on January 31,
four more will cast their ballots: Southern Kansas, Western
North Carolina, Huntingdon (PA), and Cayuga-Syracuse (NY).
Reflecting on allies
The Rev. Ray Bagnuolo, an out gay man now serving
as an ordained Presbyterian minister, has shared a note of
appreciation for “allies” in the struggle of lgbt Presbyterian for a
full place in the PC(USA).
His full blog/note >>
Amendment 08-B >>
|Travel to Latin America with Witness for Peace in
This announcement comes from Witness
Open doors to education and empowerment. At this
dynamic time for Latin America and the United States, travel with
Witness for Peace in 2009. Your "witness" – the true stories about
the people you meet on a Witness for Peace delegation – will have
the power to touch others and transform policy.
Read about our exciting upcoming delegations. Join
There will be delegations to places including
Cuba, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Colombia.
For more information >>
|A comment on the Israel/Palestine conflict:
I am an African, I have friends from all nations. The
real problems must be confronted, the killings must stop. The area
will be a great place if the people can live together.
The author of this note identifies herself as
Lydia Daniels, a Liberian, now a Swedish citizen for over 20 years,
living in Sweden and the UK, and working as a nurse.
earlier reports and comments on the Israeli attacks on Gaza >>
Albany presbytery votes for Amendment 08-B
In stated meeting today (January 24) the Presbytery of Albany voted
in favor of Amendment 08-B by a tally of 78 yes, 25 no, 2
A previous [motion] to postpone indefinitely
(i.e., “No Action”) was defeated by a tally of 27 yes, 76 no. Most
of the debate centered on the No Action option, and after that was
decided the meeting moved very quickly to vote on the Amendment
The debate during the afternoon was preceded by a
75 minute session in the morning devoted to statements by panelists
representing different positions, small group discussion, and
Question/Answer. Interestingly, the two panelists representing the
positions “for” and “against” started from the same Scripture
passage: Matthew 22:34-40 (“Which is the greatest commandment?”).
The historical occasion of President Obama’s inauguration last
Tuesday was much in the air, and cited by both liberals and
conservatives. God is working God’s purpose out!
Communications “Hub” for Presbyterian Rainbow
(LGBT advocacy group in Albany Presbytery)
More on the
voting on Amendment 08-B >>
Request Concerning Human Rights in the Philippines
from the Ecumenical Advocacy Network on
We urgently need your help to
restrict Foreign Military Aid to the Philippines,
to be voted on by
in only a few weeks.
This message has come to us
from the Rev. Larry Emery, pastor of
Community Presbyterian Church in Walnut Grove, CA.
Once again I am asking my fellow Pastors in the
Presbyterian Church to join me in a campaign on behalf of human
rights in the Philippines. As most of you already know, there
has been a marked rise in human rights abuses in the Philippines
since Gloria Arroyo became the President of that country in
2001. Hundreds have been killed, abducted, or arrested on
The victims come from all sectors of society –
journalists, labor organizers, lawyers, community activists,
leaders of indigenous peoples and others. This includes over
30 pastors or certified church workers who have been killed or
abducted, mostly from the United Church of Christ of the
Philippines, a partner church of the Presbyterian Church USA.
These are all people who have in some way or another questioned
or opposed the government’s political, economic and social
policies. In the case of the Pastors and church workers, they
have done so based on the understanding that the Gospel of Jesus
Christ calls us to stand on the side of the poor and the
Several church and human rights groups around the
world have issued reports about these abuses and have identified
as elements in the Philippine military as those responsible.
These groups include Amnesty International, Human Rights Now,
and a special UN Commission on Human Rights Investigator.
Attached, you will find a
Concern that is addressed to all members of the US
House of Representatives and the US Senate asking them to hold
the Philippine government accountable concerning extrajudicial
killings and other human rights violations against civil society
groups in the Philippines.
With the support from you and many others, The Ecumenical
Advocacy Network was able to obtain over 300 signatures on a
Letter of Concern in 2007, which urged attaching Human Rights
conditions and funding restrictions to US military aid to the
Philippines. We were able to get these conditions and
restrictions in the bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2008.
While deaths and disappearances have been reduced, the original
conditions of the military aid package for FY 2008 were not met
by the Philippine government. Human rights abuses continue. With
the arrival of the new administration in Washington, we have a
new opportunity to obtain implementation of the original
conditions and additional restrictions on military aid.
In the weeks and months ahead, we will be conducting a campaign
to accomplish those goals. The first step is to send the
Concern to the House and Senate membership,
and we need your
More information, and links to
add your name in support of the Letter of Concern >>
|Obama to the Nation: “Grow
In his inaugural address,
President Obama had a lot to say, most of it pretty sober. There
have been many commentaries on his speech, but E. J. Dionne of the
Washington Post has given one that I find very helpful.
(That’s partly because it’s close to what I’ve been thinking
myself.) He begins:
President Obama intends to use conservative values for progressive
ends. He will cast extreme individualism as an infantile approach to
politics that must be supplanted by a more adult sense of personal
and collective responsibility. He will honor government's role in
our democracy and not degrade it. He wants America to lead the
world, but as much by example as by force.
And in trying to do all these things, he will confuse a lot of
One of the wondrous aspects of Obama's inaugural address is the
extent to which those on the left and those on the right both
claimed our new president as their own.
He goes on to list the values that Obama
proclaimed: "honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance
and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism." Nothing very far out there,
is there? (Well, tolerance and curiosity might be a little on the
edge.) But there’s nothing about the radical “I’ll get mine” ethic
that has undergirded much of the economic and social individualism
of recent decades; nothing about the superiority of U.S. interests
over other nations’.
This is more than just a break from the presidency
of George W. Bush. Dionne suggests that Obama is making a
sharp break with the “Reagan revolution” which held that government
is bad, or at least dangerous unless strictly limited. In its stead,
Obama is calling this nation (which he refers to, bless him, as “the
United States,” rather than “America”) to recover our commitment to
the common welfare, the community, which is a part of our
traditional values that has been sorely missed over the past few
years. And that is not something to blame on Bush; he used our
radical individualism for his own purposes, but he did not create
it. We asked for it. We got it. And now we the people seem to have
decided it’s time for a change.
But the real change, as Obama keeps reminding us,
must come from all of us. Obama and Washington can’t do that big a
job. But Yes, just maybe, we can.
Dionne’s article >>
[You may be asked to register to access this on
the Washington Post website -- but it's free.]
Inauguration Journal: Scattered Thoughts Over Four Days of
History -- by Jim Wallis
Jim Wallis of
Soujourners writes thankful reflections on the Inauguration, as one
of the numerous members of faith communities who were invited into
many parts of the transition and celebration.
He begins: “It’s a better country than I thought
it was. I honestly wouldn’t have thought this possible. I guess I
would have agreed with the older generation of African Americans in
my neighborhood: This day would never come in our lifetimes—but here
|George McGovern urges calling a time out in
McGovern, former senator from South Dakota, and the Democratic
nominee for president in 1972, writes in The Washington Post:
As you settle into the
Oval Office, Mr. President, may I offer a suggestion? Please do not
try to put Afghanistan aright with the US military. To send our
troops out of Iraq and into Afghanistan would be a near-perfect
example of going from the frying pan into the fire. There is reason
to believe some of our top military commanders privately share this
view. And so does a broad and growing swath of your party and your
The full article >>
|A view from Great Britain:
'War on terror' was wrong
The phrase gives a false idea of a unified
global enemy, and encourages a primarily military reply
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband writes in
The Guardian, UK:
Seven years on from 9/11 it is clear that we
need to take a fundamental look at our efforts to prevent
extremism and its terrible offspring, terrorist violence. ...
But ultimately, the notion is misleading and mistaken. The issue
is not whether we need to attack the use of terror at its roots,
with all the tools available. We must. The question is how. ...
|Pres. Obama orders closing of
Guantánamo, end of torture
We don’t need to
tell you again this good news. But there’s more to be said and done.
Religious Coalition Against Torture wrote to its membership list
yesterday, encouraging people to contact the White House to thank
President Obama for his action today and to urge him to ensure that
any additional interrogation techniques recommended by the Special
Task Force comply with the principle of the "Golden Rule" – that we
will use only those interrogation techniques that would be
considered moral and legal if used upon a captured American.
Click here to email the White House.
complete NRCAT note >>
Also, the Rev. Carol Wickersham of Presbyterian-based
No2 Torture has written to her organization with thanksgiving for
the President's executive orders for the closure of Guantanamo and
the cessation of the use of torture, but
also a reminder of the need for continued vigilance.
Click here for her note >>
|"Prayers for Bobby" film premieres this Saturday
and Sunday on Lifetime Cable Channel
suggests gatherings with family, friends & church
This Saturday and Sunday evenings, January 24 and
January 25, the Lifetime Cable Channel premieres the long awaited
film version of the powerful book by Leroy Aarons, Prayers for
Bobby. Sigourney Weaver plays Bobby's Mother, Mary Griffith and Ryan
Kelley plays Bobby.
We encourage you to gather family and friends from
your church to watch this poignant and powerful film together. We
encourage you to get your church's youth group, campus ministry or
seminary community together to watch this film.
Why? It's a true story. It's a family story. And,
it's a Presbyterian story. This story and film has much to teach us
in this moment as the Presbyterian Church (USA) is considering the
removal of prejudice and discrimination against lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender persons and their families in the
ratification process of Ordination Amendment 08-B.
|How can our churches be welcoming for 20- to
Presbyterian pastor Carol Howard Merritt has written Tribal
Church to help our churches understand and relate to the
generation of people age 20 to 30. John Shuck summarizes it thus:
With insight, compassion and first-hand knowledge she is helping the
church understand the unique situation this generation is facing.
This generation has been dismissed as materialistic which is a far
cry from the truth. In her third chapter which we will discuss
today, she shows how this generation is facing serious economic
struggles. They work harder for less pay with huge educational debt,
large mortgages (if they can get one), and few career prospects.
Often they feel badly about it, thinking it is their own fault.
If your congregation is anxious to attract “more
young people,” this book might offer real (and surprising) help.
From John Shuck’s blog,
Shuck and Jive >>
And see Carol Howard
Merritt’s web page >>
And you can order the book from
Amazon, using the box to the right
|Another vote for Amendment 08-B
voted strongly yesterday (106-38) in favor of amending the provision
in the Book of Order which in effect bans the ordination of lgbt
the voting on Amendment 08-B >>
Violence strikes again at Virginia Tech
A female graduate student
from China was murdered Wednesday night at Virginia Tech University,
in Blacksburg, VA, site of the mass killing of students in 2007.
Police on Thursday identified the victim of the Wednesday night
stabbing as 22-year-old Xin Yang, who had arrived on the Blacksburg
campus from Beijing on Jan. 8 to begin her studies in accounting.
According to campus police, her body had been decapitated.
The Rev. Catherine Snyder, a
member of the Witherspoon Board, is one of the numerous campus
ministers serving that campus.
Let us all pray for the
students there, and Catherine and other chaplains who will have to
deal with this terrible reminder of how close violence is in their
More on this sad
|More on voting on Amendment 08-B:
discernment process worked in Newton Presbytery
The Rev. Mitch Trigger, who is Witherspoon’s
Secretary/Communicator and co-pastor with his wife, Sue, of First
Presbyterian Church of Rockaway, New Jersey, provides this account
of the process by which Newton Presbytery came to its action on Jan.
|Presbyterians and others
address the new Administration with an Interfaith Platform on Humane
Julia Thorne, who is Manager
for Immigration Issues in the Office of the General Assembly, also
participates in an Interfaith Immigration Group in Washington, which
met with President Obama’s transition team in December. The group
has prepared a document expressing their call for “humane
immigration reform,” to be presented to the new Administration.
They are encouraging pastors and other people of
faith who share these concerns to sign on to the statement. If you
are interested in signing on please send Julia your name and the
church where you are a pastor. If you are working in a validated
ministry, or are honorably retired, feel free to sign on as well.
Elders can also sign if they can also state that they are Moderator
of Session, Chair of Peacemaking Committee, or some such thing to
show religious leadership.
You can send your name and the name of your
congregation to Julia Thorne, at
She will be happy to add your name to the list. If you have
questions, Julia invites you contact her.
The group already has
around 500 signatures, and is hoping to add many more by the middle
for the full text of the Platform (in html)
Click here for
the Platform, along with the list of groups and individual signers
Could this be the
start of somethin' great?
So what’s been happening today?
You may have
had your fill of reporters and pundits today, and I will certainly
not try to rival them.
But if you want to read a reflection that has
depth and passion and humor and insight, take a look at this essay
by bestselling author William Rivers Pitt, whose latest book
House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged
Here’s his opening paragraph:
The cover of the newest Nation Magazine depicts a painting of
Obama's inauguration rendered and submitted by a member of the
online web forum DailyKos. The painting is in no way historically
accurate, as Thurgood Marshall is depicted delivering the oath, but
in every meaningful way, the artwork is spot-on truth. Susan B.
Anthony is there, and here, as is Nelson Mandela, and Abraham
Lincoln, and Martin Luther King Jr., and Barbara Jordan, and Malcolm
X, and Henry David Thoreau, and Gandhi, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton,
and down at the front by the rail, there and here are four little
girls from Birmingham who died in fire long ago. They are all on
that podium today. We were all on that podium today.
He proceeds to offer his own thoughts, mingled
with intriguing observations from others.
it on Truthout.org >>
A new day – and a warning
A new beginning for America, a new day for the world.
Let not our hopes grow too large or our expectations too grand,
the challenges are many and the way is long, but let us move forward
I proudly supported President Obama, and I rejoice
in his inauguration.
He is a bright man and has assembled an intelligent and experienced
However, knowledge and human intelligence alone will not save us.
Progress will take all of us working together for
a better future –
for ourselves, for the world, and for our heirs.
In this time of exhilaration, I am reminded of the
cautionary poem by Robert "Red Hawk" Moore:
THE PROBLEM WITH HUMAN INTELLIGENCE
Easter Island is a remarkable place
not only for its giant stone statues,
one thousand of them, each weighing
18 tons and standing 15 feet tall, but
also for its fossil pollen record and
what it tells us about Human Beings.
Easter Island is completely treeless
but the fossil pollen tells us that
a fruit palm tree flourished on Easter Island
for thousands of years and the decline of that species
began about 1200 years ago and continued for
several hundred years until the tree became extinct.
1200 years ago is when the Humans came to
If you stand on the island’s highest point
you can see nearly the entire island so
the people knew what they were doing:
systematically they were destroying their
and the man who cut the last tree, the very thing
he depended upon for his survival,
knew it was the last tree standing and
he cut it anyway.
My prayer is for President Obama and for this nation – that we will
both know what is right, and that we will have the courage to do it
– so that our Earthly paradise will survive and prosper.
We are ones we have been waiting for!
Arthur Fullerton is a good friend of Witherspoon, living in West
And there's more ...
The full text of President Barack Obama's inaugural
The text of the
Lowery's benediction at the close of the Inauguration
Also, the White House website already has a
lengthy list of "agenda" items from President Obama
And here's indefatigable blogger John Shuck's take on this day
WITNESS IN WASHINGTON WEEKLY
The Washington Office of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)January
This week’s messages are —
Robinson's prayer at the Opening Inaugural Event ... not to be
|Gay but Equal?
Frances Berry calls for a new way to justice and equality
Mary Frances Berry's
opinion piece in the New York Times, "Gay But Equal?"
offers a new way for us to think about and work for justice and
equality for all persons. She suggests: “To help resolve the issue
of gay rights, President-elect Obama should abolish the now moribund
Commission on Civil Rights and replace it with a new commission that
would address the rights of many groups, including gays.”
Mary Frances Berry, the chairwoman of the
Commission on Civil Rights from 1993 to 2004, is the author of
And Justice for All: The United States Commission on Civil Rights
and the Continuing Struggle for Freedom in America.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) is committed to
non-discrimination in civil society for LGBT people. The 218th
General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) called for the end
to discrimination against LGBT persons in our Church through
Ordination Amendment 08-B. This article offers a wider context for
our own Presbyterian struggles, and reminds us of the words of Dr.
Martin Luther King, Jr.: "The arc of the moral universe is long but
it bends toward justice."
May this be so in our Church, our country, and all
of God's world.
The full article >>
Thanks to Michael Adee, of More Light
|The Presbytery of Des Moines voted earlier today
to approve Amendment 08-B
In so doing, the
presbytery rejected the recommendation of their Bills and Overtures
committee for "No action."
The vote was 52 for the amendment, 37 against, and 4
abstentions. The recommendation for "No action" was defeated by
a vote of 53 against, and 40 in favor.
|With more details on the
process by which the presbytery acted, the Rev. Bill
LeMosy, of Des Moines, reports:
The arguments were standard fare on
the amendment itself. What did in the “No Action”
was the reality that it would have been a “No” vote
in disguise. I’m thinking the vote on “No Action”
was [as close as it was] because of fatigue with
three decades of debate and out of a sense that a
shift in perspective will take a least a couple more
decades – kind of a Barbara Wheeler approach.
Our process included sitting at
round tables, six per table, for the meeting itself
and for small group discussion of what the “No
Action” vote would mean. After that discussion
format, we went back into plenary, had the usual
three-minute speeches for alternating positions,
voted down the “No Action” by written ballot,
debated, and voted with another paper ballot. During
discussion of the amendment itself we heard from a
lesbian church member, a perhaps important and
helpful three-minute presentation, had an applause
outbreak that the moderator discouraged after the
fact, then voted. Before each vote the moderator had
us spend a minute of so in silent prayer.
This amendment, if approved by a majority of the
presbyteries, would revise G-6.0106b so it is not merely a ban on
ordination of lgbt persons, but rather affirms that judgments about
ordained service are to be based on the whole range of the
ordination vows, not singling out the clause dealing with sexuality.
For background and more
Thanks to Bill LeMosy and to
More Light Presbyterians
NOTE: Des Moines is the second
presbytery, along with Monmouth, to approve amendment 08-B, while
some 13 presbyteries have so far voted against it. Most of
those have voted against every effort to move toward a more just and
inclusive policy on ordination. Clearly the voting in the
other presbyteries will be very important, and we will bring you
more information and resource material as soon as we can.
For the latest listing of
presbytery votes, you might check on
If you have other results to
report, or comments on the issue itself,
send us a note, to be shared here.
And now this:
North Kansas Presbytery also votes YES on Amendment 08-B
Just in from More Light Presbyterians
Today the Presbytery of
North Kansas voted YES on the 218th General Assembly's
Ordination Amendment 08-B. The vote was 71 to 23.
Special thanks to Kent Winters-Hazelton and
others in the Presbytery of North Kansas who believe in and work
for a Church for All God's Children.
For educational resources and information to
use in your local church or presbytery about Amendment 08-B
including MLP's new Resource Packet, go to
On January 13, the Presbytery of Newton (in New Jersey)
voted YES on the 218th General Assembly's Ordination Amendment
08-B. The vote was 63-16.
|A late addition
Virtue, and Vocation’
Authors of new
Social Creed press social justice agenda with Obama
from Presbyterian News Service:
LOUISVILLE ― January
16, 2009 — Two primary authors of “A Social Creed for the 21st
Century” have sent an open letter to President-elect Obama
advocating the social policies outlined in the creed.
Speaking on behalf of
the U.S. churches that have endorsed the creed, the Rev. Christian
Iosso, coordinator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Advisory
Committee on Social Witness Policy, and the Rev. Michael Kinnamon,
general secretary of the National Council of Churches, wrote: “… we
are ready to help you achieve great deeds that will bring positive
change for the people of America and the world.”
assemblies of both the PC(USA) and the NCC, which represents 36
member churches, endorsed the Social Creed last year. The document,
patterned after the Social Creed of 1908, addresses a number of
social ills bedeviling U.S. society.
The full text of
Iosso’s and Kinnamon’s message >>
and the Word
Presbyterian Health, Education & Welfare Association
Social Justice Biennial Conference
in the Big Tent
June 11 - 13, 2009
says, "Enlarge the site of your tent…" Is our Tent large enough for
those with no tent or those who stand outside, waiting for
hospitality to be offered? Our participants will connect with those
working at the grass- roots of our denomination in justice
ministries. Listen, learn and share how congregations can be in
ministry with persons and families affected by disabilities, mental
illness, human trafficking, HIV/AIDS, domestic violence, substance
abuse, immigration, child welfare, health disparities… These are
ministry, justice, and biblical imperatives! Atlanta, with its deep
history of involvement in civil rights, is the perfect landscape to
engage in this discussion.
The Big Tent is a celebration of the
Presbyterian Church (USA) as 10 conferences of the Church come
together in Atlanta. There are some common meal, worship and
workshop times, as well as separate conference schedules.
Church in more diverse ways than ever before.
JUNE 11 – 13,
2009 • Atlanta, GA
Click here for the conference
brochure, in PDF format
To register >>
To learn more about PHEWA >>
|Anti-abortion forces target Planned Parenthood
G. Jeffrey MacDonald, an independent journalist
specializing in religion, ethics and ideas, writing for Religion
News Service, begins his report:
Undeterred by solid Democratic gains in
November’s national elections, religious conservatives who
oppose abortion are going on the offensive with a new weapon: a
In its largest-ever state-based initiative, the
Family Research Council (FRC) is contacting every state lawmaker
in the country with a plea to eliminate funding for Planned
Parenthood, one of the nation’s largest providers of family
planning and abortion services.
argument is fairly simple: lots of organizations need public
money now, but Planned Parenthood—with a $1 billion budget and a
$114 million operating surplus—isn’t one of them.
“Planned Parenthood has proven that they don’t
need federal or state handouts,” says Tom McClusky, vice
president for government affairs at the Washington-based FRC.
“During these economic times, when states are rethinking their
investments, subsidizing abortion is probably not the kind of
thing that they want to be known for.”
The full story >>
|Study guide on immigration is recommended
The Rev. Eriberto (Eddie) Soto, Associate for Latin
American Ministries in Charleston-Atlantic Presbytery, has
recommended Strangers in the Land, a study guide from the
editors of Sojourners magazine.
A six-week guide on immigration, the church, and
the bible, it is based on Old Testament scholar M. Daniel Carroll
R.’s transformative 2008 book Christians at the Border. This
six-week devotional and study guide provides the reader a daily
excerpt from Christians at the Border, a scripture on the
same theme, a provocative question, and a prayer. Every seventh day
is arranged for use with a small group, including a story-based
group organizing model, worship suggestion, stimulating discussion
questions, and action suggestions. Price is $9.95.
For more information, and to order >>
|As January 20th approaches ...
(A poem from a Witherspoon member)
At almost 61 years I see the days
with some amazing feelings of hope
there are to be sure
many things that could hold us back
as a country, a people, a world.
but it is my prayer
not to be one of those things –
not to be a stumbling block for anyone who wishes to
serve or to learn or to live in this place of plenty
not to be one who says no you can't belong
when you might try and belong
after all you were always rooted in the same ground.
will we? after all this time? be ready
into the work God has for us? as individuals but even much more
importantly to live in community ... über community ...
as Nietzsche coined the term "übermensch" to
describe the higher state to which he felt men (and women) might
we shall see. and the good news that we live into
is that God knows. Thanks be to God.
Bobbie G. McGarey
Interim Pastor, Lawton OK
comments and reflections since the election of Barack Obama >>
participation in National Day of Service
site connects volunteers to events across the nation
by Susan Lindsey,
Senior Communications Associate
LOUISVILLE ― January
15, 2008 — To commemorate a man who lived his life in service to
others, in 1994 Congress transformed the Martin Luther King, Jr.,
holiday into a national day of community service. Presbyterians
across the nation are encouraged to join in this day of service as
individuals or in groups.
While anyone can
organize an event that helps others, people can also participate by
to the Web site to find events already planned in their
communities. Events are being held Jan. 17, 18 and 19.
The site features a
broad range of activities, sponsored by such groups as the American
Red Cross, the Urban League, Retired Senior Volunteers, college
student associations, community centers, the NAACP, peace activists,
homeless shelters, hunger programs, environmental organizations,
Goodwill and a host of other associations and individuals.
President-elect Barack Obama is calling on all Americans to offer
more than a single day of service and instead make an ongoing
commitment to serving our communities.
in service in innumerable ways every day of every week, all year
long,” said Linda Valentine, executive director of the General
Assembly Council. “We celebrate this initiative to encourage all
people to join in service on Martin Luther King Day.”
National Day of Service website >>
|Palestinian pastor Mitri Raheb
offers a different perspective on Israel’s attack on Gaza
Lutheran Pastor Mitri Raheb of Bethlehem, in
Israel/Palestine, offers a very helpful perspective on Israel’s
military assault on Gaza. He was an ecumenical delegate to the
PC(USA) General Assembly in 2004 GA in Richmond.
Here are some excerpts:
Gaza: A Different Perspective
Watching the news these days is not an easy
task, especially if you switch between Arab channels like Al
Jazeera on one hand, and Western channels like Fox on the other.
The war on Gaza is portrayed so differently that one sometimes
might wonder if these diverse narratives are actually dealing
with the same conflict. ... The most important thing, I believe,
is not what we are told and shown, but what this war is trying
to hide. Here are some of the intentions as I see them:
1) The two-state solution is the intended
victim of the war on Gaza.
Although Israel is aiming at destroying Hamas’
military capabilities (as primitive as they are), I believe that
Israel’s real intention is to polish Hamas’ political image.
This may seem an outlandish contradiction, but let’s look at
what has been happening. While Israel can’t tolerate rockets
falling into its territory, it is in its long-term strategic
interest to have Hamas control the Gaza Strip. Why? For a simple
reason: if Hamas controls Gaza and Fatah controls the West Bank,
then the two-state solution is over. ...
2) Regional power struggles continue to be
played out in Palestine.
The war on Gaza, although purely an Israeli
decision, was also triggered also by some regional powers who
were backing Hamas. ...
3) Gaza is the new poster-child for justifying
Gaza will now be marketed on a much wider
scale as a severe humanitarian crisis. Disempowering aid,
handouts and food supplies will start flowing into Gaza like
never before. Yet Gaza’s problem is, fundamentally, a political
one. What the people in Gaza really need is for the occupation
to end, for the population to be able to live freely, to export
and import, to fish and grow flowers. ...
Thanks to the Rev. Bruce Gillette
|Religious leaders meet with
Obama transition team members, urge quick ban on torture
Carol Wickersham of Presbyterian-based
No2Torture shares with us
the New York Times' report on the meeting on Jan. 14 of
leaders of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, with
members of President-elect Obama's transition team. She adds:
We are finally being heard. Let us join in
prayer with so many around the world that by the grace of God,
torture will soon end, the rule of law will be restored and
healing will begin. ALSO, those with Senators on the
Judiciary Committee should immediately call them and ask
that they press questions about accountability at the
confirmation hearing for the Attorney General which will begin
The Times' story begins:
A broad coalition of religious groups is
calling on President-elect Barack Obama to issue an executive
order on his first day in office banning the use of torture.
Leaders of the coalition, the National
Religious Campaign Against Torture, met with officials from the
Obama transition team on Wednesday afternoon and emerged saying
they were optimistic about the prospects for such an order.
Linda Gustitus, the group’s president, said
the coalition leaders met with Michael Strautmanis, who has been
named chief of staff to Valerie Jarrett, a senior Obama adviser.
full news story >>
NRCAT leaders add this suggestion for further action:
Please take a minute
to email President-elect Obama's Transition Team and ask him to end
torture on Day One of his presidency. Just take these three easy
• Visit his
transition website at
• Fill out your
contact information. Write "torture" in the "Another issue" box.
• In the "Your
ideas" box, write something like: "Please issue an Executive Order
ending our use of torture as an interrogation technique on Day One
of your presidency. As a person of faith, I have been deeply
troubled by our country's use of torture as an interrogation
technique. Torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of
detainees is wrong, and it is contrary to American values."
Thank you for your
Presbyterian Peacemaking Program update includes information and
links to resources on:
|The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day|
|The State Children’s Health
Insurance Program (SCHIP) |
|Minimum wage legislation|
No2Torture urges ...
Now’s the time to
Write to Pres.-Elect Obama and Congress, calling on them to investigate the practices of torture,
because “Without accountability it is unlikely that the practice of
torture will stop.”
The full text
of their letter >>
leaders call for raising minimum wage
Wage events link MLK dream to end poverty wages
With the U.S.
economic crisis deepening and unemployment soaring, a group of 11
denominational and religious organization leaders are among the
inaugural signers of a call to raise the federal minimum wage to $10
The signers include
the Rev. Gradye Parsons, General Assembly stated clerk of the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Nearly 400 faith leaders from all 50
states have already endorsed “$10 in 2010,” a campaign led by
Let Justice Roll, and
more are signing on each day.
full story >>
|Interfaith Worker Justice provides
A congregational toolkit for helping unemployed workers
Friday's grim news that 524,000 jobs were lost in December and
that the unemployment rate hit 7.2 percent starkly underscores the
need for all sectors of our society to support unemployed workers
and to encourage employers to treat all workers justly in times of
Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ) has recently
to help unemployed workers. Available free of charge
from the IWJ Web site, the toolkit outlines what resources are
available to unemployed workers, suggests how to establish support
groups for unemployed workers, and offers worship aids for lifting
up unemployed workers and employers in this time of crisis.
always stood by unemployed workers in times of struggle," said
Bishop Gabino Zavala, Co-President of IWJ's Board of Directors.
"These congregational tools help us fulfill our mission of serving
Interfaith Worker Justice
Click here for
the Toolkit >>
|PDA Middle East
The Presbyterian Disaster
Assistance office has just issued this special appeal:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in
“For surely I know the plans I have
for you…to give you a future with hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
All people impacted by the current
violence in the Middle East are facing overwhelming humanitarian
needs as a result of the continuing violence. The most basic
needs—safe shelter, medical care, food, water, electricity—are well
beyond the reach of many of those caught in the crossfire.
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance is
in consultation with our partners in the region to make aid
available to those most in need.
When Jesus walked these very lands,
by his words and his ministries he told all who would listen to care
for: the children, the old, the poor, the sick, the most vulnerable.
. . . In this moment of crisis,
while leaders strive to find a path to lasting peace, our priority
must be caring for those left vulnerable by the violence.
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
GIVE to help the PC(USA) and
our partners meet the physical needs of those in all the areas where
violence leaves them vulnerable, and the emotional and spiritual
needs of the many more who have been traumatized by that violence.
Mail your church’s gift to Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Church
Remittance Processing, P.O. Box 643700, Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700,
or give through your congregation’s normal giving channels. Write
“DR000081-E1” on the check or remittance form so that we can ensure
your gift is designated to meet these urgent needs. You can also
give online at
PRAY for all those whose
lives have been and continue to be affected.
STAY INFORMED with regular
updates on the situation, how your church is responding, and to find
available worship resources at
www.pcusa.org/pda or by calling PresbyTel at 1-800-872-3283.
here for more information, prayers and reflections on this
OUT OF CHAOS, HOPE
|Praying for Gaza and Israel|
We have just received a worship service designed by Rev. W. Mark Koenig,
coordinator of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, for a service held at the
Presbyterian Center on Thursday January 8, 2009. We hope you find them
helpful as you pray and work for a just peace.
You are encouraged to use this material
items we have posted earlier) in services of prayer and worship,
or study and dialogue.
The service of worship opens:
We gather in a world of broken bodies and wounded hearts
To worship the God who satisfies our deepest hunger.
We gather in a world of violence and division
To worship the God who welcomes all strangers.
We gather in a world of symbols: crosses, crescents and stars
To worship the God whose only creed is love.
We gather in the world of the powerful and of those who desire
To worship the God who calls us to each other and into our world.
Come, let us worship the God whose love breaks down all barriers.
For the full service >>
Thanks to Rick Upchurch,
of the Collegiate Ministries office of the PC(USA),
who sent this to us.
Presbyterians call for
cease-fire in Gaza
WITNESS IN WASHINGTON WEEKLY,
published by The Washington Office of the Presbyterian Church
Urge Immediate U.S. Efforts to End Gaza Violence, Restore
The escalating Gaza violence of these past days
has been a sobering jolt from holiday celebrations. For Palestinians
and Israelis, there has been no peace.
It is urgent that United States call all the
parties to restrain from using force and, rather, to trust a
diplomatic process. The current violence has caused unbelievable
suffering of innocents and both the Hamas lead government of Gaza
and the Israeli government have descended into callous behavior that
will set the peace process back for many years. Over fifty percent
of Gaza's 1.4 million residents are under the age of 14 who now have
nowhere to run from the violence, and who were already suffering
from malnutrition because of the blockade on Gaza. On behalf of
those children and the children of Israel, both Israelis and
Palestinians must halt this spiral of violence. We mourn the loss of
life on both sides and call now on the United States to exercise
bold leadership to immediately end the violence, restore the
cease-fire and lift the blockade of Gaza's borders.
statement calling for a cease-fire >>
Included with this call for action is a
by the Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the PC(USA).
He includes excerpts from
the statement on
Israel/Palestine by the 218th General Assembly (2008)
And a touch of grace and prayer is included in
this letter from Washington --
prayer for the children of Gaza"
Israel Palestine Mission Network issues statement on Gaza
Their statement, issued on January 7,
2009, begins: “The Israel Palestine Mission Network of the
Presbyterian Church (USA) condemns in the harshest terms possible
the Israeli massacre of Palestinians now underway in Gaza. This
long-planned and all-too-indiscriminate slaughter of hundreds of
civilians, the wounding of thousands, and the destruction of homes,
hospitals, schools, mosques and economic infrastructure cannot be
justified in the name of Israeli national security.”
The full statement >>
If you have
comments to offer,
or suggestions for action,
or other statements and articles that should be posted here,
to be shared here.
Epiphany: Celebrating the wonder & mystery of light, life, faith
A meditation from More Light
Today is Epiphany in Christian tradition.
mark and celebrate the mystery and wonder of Epiphany on January
6. As you know, this tradition is often referred to as the
Epiphany of the Lord. It is associated with the visit of the
Wise Men from the East, or the Three Kings as often displayed in
church Christmas pageants. Isaiah 60: 1- 6 and Matthew
2: 1- 12 are the Biblical texts that give us the story behind
The text in the Gospel of Matthew
speaks of the Wise Men as traveling or "going by another road."
Epiphany.... a sudden realization, a comprehension of
the essence or meaning of something. Epiphany, an
understanding, a revelation with an ancient root in the word "phos"
or "Light." For those of us within the national network of
More Light Presbyterians the expression of "more light"
is close to our hearts, lives, calls to ministry and being part
of the Church, the Body of Christ.
|On Gaza: Silence now is no virtue
by the Rev. John Shuck
The Rev. John
Shuck, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Elizabethton,
Tennessee, has posted a thoughtful note reflecting his own
experience and thinking about the Israeli invasion of Gaza. He
urges that it's time to move beyond following the news with concern,
and to speak and act for peace.
Starhawk, who is a
noted activist, organizer, and author of The Earth Path, as
well as Webs of Power: Notes from the Global Uprising, The
Fifth Sacred Thing; and eight other books on feminism, politics
and earth-based spirituality, also describes herself as “a Jew, by
birth and upbringing.”
She writes movingly
out of her own visit to Israel/Palestine some four years ago, and
sees the root of the problem in the Israelis’ “kind of psychic blind
spot where the Palestinians are concerned. If you are truly invested
in Israel as the Jewish homeland, the Jewish state, then you can't
let the Palestinians be real to you. It's like you can't really
focus on them. Golda Meir said, ‘The Palestinians, who are they?
They don't exist.’ We hear, ‘There is no partner for peace,’ ‘There
is no one to talk to.’ ” So Israel seeks “peace” by working to
exterminate the Arabs whom it defines as “pests.”
The only way to
peace, she says, will lie through the hard path of atonement –
acknowledging that the Palestinians are human too, with a story of
their own that needs to be heard and respected, and then acting to
resist the policies of war, and create a new climate for peace.
Her full article >>
|Congo Sabbath Initiative launched to support
women of Congo in facing sexual violence
Religious Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing has
sent this message urging people of faith to share information and
nurture concern in their congregations for the hundreds of thousands
of women in the Democratic Republic of Congo who have been victims
of brutal sexual violence during their nation’s conflicts over the
past few years.
more information >>
about the Religious Institute >>
Israel launches ground invasion of Gaza
Israeli defense minister Barak promised that the invasion "won't be
one report from the Israeli newspaper, Ha’aretz >>
There is, once again, plenty of reporting by US media on Israel’s
invasion of Gaza, which began yesterday, January 3. Most of it,
however, reflects in one way or another the Israeli point of view,
partly because Israel is allowing no foreign journalists into Gaza.
We believe it may be helpful for “the other side” to be heard –
including Palestinians, Israelis and other Jews who are committed to
peace, Christians and others.
So here’s a sample:
Palestinian Christian perspective
The Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem
presents a concise overview of the Gaza situation from a Christian
Jewish voices of dissent
Jewish Peace News presents various voices of dissent coming from inside of
Israel and other places in the Jewish world. Some of the dissent is
organized as demonstrations and petitions and some manifests on blogs and in
more traditional publications.
This collection of articles and essays includes voices of dissent coming
from inside of Israel and other places in the Jewish world. Some of the
dissent is organized as demonstrations and petitions and some manifests on
blogs and in more traditional publications.
Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) offers an online crisis resource
center on Gaza attacks.
Rabbi Michael Lerner
urges Israel – for its own sake – to build true peace in Gaza
Rabbi Michael Lerner, who is is editor of Tikkun, a
prominent progressive Jewish and interfaith magazine and chair of the
interfaith Network of Spiritual Progressives, writes in Religion Dispatches:
"Israel's attempt to wipe out Hamas is understandable, but dumb. No country
in the world is going to ignore the provocation of rockets being launched
from neighboring territory day after day. ... Israel has every right to
respond. But the kind of response matters." The present Israeli military
action, he argues, is entirely out of proportion to any possible Hamas
response. More >>
welcome your contributions!
Other sources we might include,
or your own understanding of the invasion
and the complex situation that surrounds it.
send a note,
to be shared here.
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,
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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