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Archive for February, 2010

This page lists our postings from all of February, 2010

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

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

2/26/2010 -- Today, focusing on Middle East issues

CONSULTATION AND ENCOUNTER:
THE PRESBYTERIANS OF IRAQ, SYRIA AND LEBANON
NOVEMBER 5 – 19, 2010

Received from the Rev. Len Bjorkman, for the Syria-Lebanon Network of the PC(USA)

You are invited to travel on a mission trip to Lebanon and Syria this fall to meet fellow-Presbyterians from Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. This venture is organized through the Iraq Partnership Network and the Syria-Lebanon Network of the PC(USA) and is sponsored and facilitated by The Outreach Foundation. The church governing bodies in the region, namely the Assembly of Presbyterian Churches in Iraq and the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon have worked closely with the networks to finalize and bless these plans.

For details on this mission/learning trip >>

For the same information in a color brochure with photos (in PDF format) >>

Middle East study team nears release of its final report

‘Time for action is now,’ nine-member panel urges

In a Presbyterian News Service report dated Feb. 2, 2010, Jerry Van Marter says that “finding consensus on how to solve the seemingly intractable conflict in the Middle East is as difficult for Presbyterians as it is for the world’s leaders.” But he says that the PC(USA)’s Special Committee to Prepare a Comprehensive Study Focused on Israel/Palestine came close as it concluded its fourth and final meeting in Louisville on Jan. 30.

For his full report >>

The news story summarizes the report’s recommendations:

The report affirms historic PC(USA) positions — an immediate cessation of violence by both sides, an immediate freeze on the construction and expansion of Israeli settlements on occupied territory, the relocation of Israel’s “separation barrier” to the internationally recognized 1967 border, a shared status for Jerusalem, equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and immediate resumption of negotiations toward a two-state solution.

The recommendations also address other contributing factors to the continued conflict throughout the Middle East, such as calling for the U.S. government, among other things, to:

bulletrepent of its “sinful behavior” throughout the Middle East, including the war in Iraq, its “continuing support of non-democratic regimes,” and its “acquiescence” in the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands;
bulleteliminate tax loopholes that permit U.S. citizens to make donations “to organizations that support human rights violations and breaches of international law and U.N. resolutions”;
bulletaccount for the percentage of U.S. foreign aid that supports such activities and redirect that aid toward the rebuilding of Gaza and the “dismantling of remaining settlement infrastructure; and
bullet“employ the strategic use of influence and the withholding of financial and military aid in order to enforce Israel’s compliance with international law and peacemaking efforts.”

Other recommendations address other governments in the region. Among others, they call for:
bulletthe main Palestinian political parties — Fatah and Hamas — to work toward immediate reconciliation;
bulletall parties in the Middle East, including Iran and Israel, to refrain from all nuclear arms proliferation;
bulletEgypt and Israel to end their blockades of Gaza;
bulletall parties in the Middle East to “cease rhetoric and actions that demonize others, including Iranian leaders’ holocaust denials, threats by Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas against Israel, and threats by Israel to transfer masses of Palestinians to Jordan;
bulletthe Iranian government to “cease its repression of democratic and religious freedoms”;
bulletLebanon to address the plight of Palestinian refugees living within its borders;
bulletSyria and Israel to resume negotiations about the status of the Golan Heights;
bulletthe government of Iraq to “provide for and strengthen the protection of its minority communities, especially its Christian community”; and
bulletcreation of an international council for Jerusalem, which is a spiritual center for all three Abrahamic faiths — Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

For the full news report >>

So – once again Presbyterians are accused of being enemies of Israel

The Simon Wiesenthal Center accuses Presbyterians of declaring war on Israel

 Leslie Scanlon, reporting for The Presbyterian Outlook, begins her Feb. 23 story:

Once again, relations between the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and American Jewish leaders have hit a rough spot – with criticism emerging of a not-yet-finished report on the Middle East that’s headed to next summer’s General Assembly.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a human rights organization, posted an alert to supporters on Feb. 22, with the headline: “Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Ready to Declare War Against Israel: Take Action Now.”

The alert, regarding a report that’s not completed yet from a General Assembly Middle East study group, states that “adoption of this poisonous document by the Presbyterian Church will be nothing short of a declaration of war on Israel and her supporters.”


The Wiesenthal Center statement, noting some of the recommendations that have been approved by the study committee, says that “in 2008, church leaders supposedly seeking to balance PCUSA'a Middle East policies, instead, created a committee dominated by seven activists holding strong anti-Israel beliefs. The lone member sympathetic to Israel, quit in protest when he saw their radical agenda.”

The statement therefore warns that “adoption of this poisonous document by the Presbyterian Church will be nothing short of a declaration of war on Israel and her supporters.” And so it calls on their supporters to “protest directly to the top leadership of the PCUSA,” and to ask Presbyterian friends to “speak out against this potential rewriting of PCUSA's policy towards Israel that will destroy the era of good will that has been fostered with the Jewish community for decades.”

The Outlook report notes that the Wiesenthal Center’s call to action got results. During a number of Presbyterian meetings held in Louisville this past week, “top Presbyterian leaders ... were flooded by more than 2,700 e-mails of protest.” We can expect lots of attention to this issue, and other reports and overtures relating to Israel/Palestine, during the coming General Assembly in Minneapolis, July 3 - 10, 2010. Presbyterians, especially those committed to justice for the Palestinian people, will once again be attacked as “anti-Semitic,” and who knows what else.

But on the other hand ...

Israeli peace group sees the rise of “a new McCarthyism in Israel”

from Jewish Peace News

Jonathan Cook writes from Nazareth:

The Israeli government and its right-wing supporters have been waging a “McCarthyite” campaign against human-rights groups by blaming them for the barrage of international criticism that has followed Israel’s attack on Gaza a year ago, critics say.

In a sign of the growing backlash against the human-rights community, the cabinet backed a bill last week that, if passed, will jail senior officials from the country’s peace-related organisations should they fail to meet tough new registration conditions.

The measure is a response to claims by right-wing lobbyists that Israel’s human-rights advocates supplied much of the damaging evidence of war crimes cited by Judge Richard Goldstone in his UN-commissioned report into Israel’s Operation Cast Lead.

We'd like to hear your comments,
and suggestions of other news reports or articles
that would help in responding to these actions and concerns.

Just send a note to dougking2@aol.com,
to be shared here.

2/24/2010

Thousands of faith leaders send letter, run full-page ad for health reform

PC(USA) stated clerk, Washington Office join summit-eve appeal

by Jerry L. Van Marter, Presbyterian News Service

WASHINGTON — On the eve of the Bi-Partisan Health Care Summit in Washington, D.C., Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons and the Presbyterian Washington Office have joined thousands of faith community leaders and organizations urging the Obama administration and Congress to “complete the task at hand on behalf of the millions who are left out and left behind in our current health care system.”

In addition to the Feb. 24 letter to the President and Congress — under the umbrella groups Faithful Reform in Health Care and the Washington Interreligious Staff Community — the religious leaders are running a full-page print advertisement in The Hill and an additional online ad at The Hill's Web site, showcasing the letter and its signers.

The letter concludes: “As people of faith, we envision a society where every person is afforded health, wholeness and human dignity. Martin Luther King, Jr., famously wrote in his ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’ that ‘justice too long delayed is justice denied.’ Less well known is his admonition that ‘of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.’ Let us not delay health care justice any longer. This is your moment for political courage, vision, leadership and faith. We urge you to take heart and move meaningful health care reform forward.”

The letter was signed by more than 4,000 people of faith, 58 national religious organizations, more than 80 regional and state faith organizations, and 26 national faith leaders.

The full text of the Feb. 24 letter >>

2/23/2010
Presbyterians urged to register for Ecumenical Advocacy Days

from the Washington Office of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), February 22, 2009

The eighth annual Ecumenical Advocacy Days gathering will take place in Washington DC March 19-22, 2010.  The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) helped to found this event and continues to provide leadership, each year registering over 100 participants, including many youth and young adult attendees.  Presbyterians attending Advocacy Days will have several opportunities for denominational networking and community-building, including a lunchtime meeting on Saturday and a dinner on Saturday night.
 
The theme for this year's conference is "A Place to Call Home:  Immigrants, Refugees, and Displaced Peoples".  Policy makers, expert speakers and representatives from global regions will join church leaders and grassroots activists in reflecting on this theme, while a variety of workshops and training sessions will focus on shaping U.S. immigration and refugee policies and doing advocacy at home on these topics.  The program will also include visits to Capitol Hill and meetings with Members of Congress and their staffs.
 
Speakers and preachers confirmed to date include:
 
bulletThe Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and a member of President Obama's Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships;
bulletBishop Minerva Carcaño of the United Methodist Church Desert Southwest Conference; and
bulletSister Helen Prejean, Anti-Death Penalty Activist and author of Dead Man Walking.
 
In addition, D. Paul Monteiro, Associate Director of the White House Office on Public Engagement, will be speaking at the Presbyterian Dinner, Saturday, March 20th, 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
 
Ecumenical Advocacy Days is a program of the ecumenical Christian community and its recognized partners and allies which is grounded in biblical witness and shared traditions of justice, peace and the integrity of creation.  Its goal, through worship, theological reflection and opportunities for learning and witness, is to strengthen the Christian voice of citizens mobilized for advocacy on a wide variety of U.S. domestic and international policy issues.
 
Registration and more information about Ecumenical Advocacy Days is at http://www.advocacydays.org on the Web.  You may also contact Mary Cooper at the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Washington Office, Mary.Cooper@pcusa.org, if you have specific questions.
2/22/2010

Extend Unemployment and COBRA Now!

This call for action comes from Interfaith Worker Justice

Are you unemployed? Do you know someone who is? Urgent action is needed TODAY to make sure that Congress extends the lifeline for workers by extending unemployment and COBRA coverage before the end of the month

Interfaith Worker Justice has stood with workers in times of economic prosperity and continues to stand with them  in this time of economic crisis. Your response will help someone put food on the table, keep their lights on and of course, enable them to live with some dignity during this harsh economic climate.  Click Here to take action now!

Peace and solidarity,
Renaye Manley
Director of Union and Congregational Outreach
Interfaith Worker Justice

Greater Atlanta Presbytery passes overture opposing Afghanistan war

On Saturday, Feb. 20, the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta passed on overture calling for action to press for an end to the military action in Afghanistan.  It follows a similar overture submitted by Hudson River Presbytery, with a few minor amendments by the presbytery's Peacemaking Committee.

2/20/2010
Scott Anderson approved for ordination by John Knox Presbytery

By a vote of 81-25, the Presbytery of John Knox this morning approved Scott D. Anderson for ordination to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament. 

Anderson served two Presbyterian congregations as an ordained minister in the 1980s, but he set aside his ordination in 1990, after he was "outed" by two church members as a gay man.  Since then he has served in ecumenical roles in California and Wisconsin, and served as the only gay member of the Theological Task Force on the Peace, Unity and Purity of the Church.

In November, 2008, he put forward to John Knox Presbytery a "declaration of conscience" against provision G-6.0106b of the Book of Order, which effectively bans LGBT persons from consideration for ordination in the Presbyterian Church.  The Presbytery accepted his declaration, and thereby approved him as a candidate for ordination. 

Today's action caps Anderson's years of struggle to fulfill his sense of calling to ministry.  Scott writes in his note about today's Presbytery action:

It was a great experience, with fine leadership on the part of the Presbytery, and a grace-filled debate that proved once again that Presbyterians can disagree without being disagreeable.

Blessings --
Scott Anderson

Added later:

A friend reports that after the meeting, which was in executive session, and the vote, there was an announcement asking people to sign up to begin an appeal.

John Knox Presbytery has issued a news release with more on the action >>

2/19/2010
A poem for Lent

This comes to us from the Rev. Bobbie McGarey, a regular contributor to this site, and pastor serving First Presbyterian Church, Lawton, Oklahoma

    Falling Following

We watch the Olympic athletes make their best move
      and sometimes that is not enough.
We, not so unlike them. fall on our best faith move
     sometimes our faith is not enough.
So we walk through Lent
   Thanks be to God for God's mercy.

Overtures, reading and seeing, and looking at the same Jesus
  dare we claim to see issues before us with Jesus' eyes?
     But so do they... they claim they are seeing right.
'They is a four letter word' Let's give it up for Lent
    Thanks be to God for God's mercy.

Are we the We of Christ we were/are called to be?
   Lenten contemplating time for followers .
      Thanks be to God for God's mercy.


Bobbie's almost daily musings are found at www.southwestparish.blogspot.com

A Hymn for the First Sunday in Lent

The Rev. Carolyn Winfrey Gillette has written a hymn entitled “Our Lord, You Were Sent,” which is suggested for the first Sunday in Lent.

You can find it on her new website, which includes over 150 of the new words she has written for singing with mostly familiar hymn tunes.

For the hymn “Our Lord, You Were Sent” >>
For the home page of her website >>

Washington Report to Presbyterians surveys 2009 wrap-up and 2010 outlook for:

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

bulletForeign Assistance reform
bulletWater
bulletDebt relief
bulletTrade
bulletCluster bombs
bulletNuclear weapons
bulletCongo
bulletSudan
bulletColombia
bulletCuba
bulletHaiti
bulletIsrael/Palestine

ENERGY, ENVIRONMENT AND ECONOMIC JUSTICE
bulletEconomic justice
bulletEnergy and environment

PUBLIC EDUCATION AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE
bulletPublic education
bulletCriminal justice
Peace-oriented resources and events

Rick Ufford-Chase, co-director of Stony Point Center, and Executive Director of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, has sent to members of PPF some information about some good resources and opportunities as we enter into Lent:

bulletThere are two Lenten resources that you might find useful. One is a dvd produced by Christian Peace Witness that contains ten to fifteen minute segments to be used weekly as a tool for reflecting on war, and violence, as we move through Lent. You can order it at christianpeacewitness.org. The second is a series from the folks thinking about “Biblical Feasting” at Stony Point Center to help individuals, families and communities to give up unhealthy and unsustainable eating for Lent. Check it out at stonypointcenter.org.
bullet Christian Peace Witness is encouraging regional, faith-based witnesses against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan between Easter and Pentecost. Go to christianpeacewitness.org for more information about how to plan and register an event in your area, or to find others who are interested in doing so.
bulletThe Convocation of Peacemakers will take place at Stony Point Center in New York on April 15 to 17. Dr. Obery Hendricks will keynote what we hope will be a deep, thoughtful conversation about what it means to respond to violence, terror and war in our time. There will be worship, workshops and “Open Space” to strategize and plan together about how to impact the Presbyterian Church and the broader world. (Cost is $230 per person – minimal scholarships are available)
bulletThe Luke 6 Project, a nascent, geographically dispersed, Christian Community committed to nonviolence and spiritual discipline practiced in small groups, will meet immediately following the PPF Convocation. Please stay on if you can for this unfolding conversation about the formation of this new community. (Cost is $150 per person)
bullet General Assembly for the PC(USA) is happening in Minneapolis from July 3 to July 10. Come join the PPF in our witness if you can, which include the Peace Breakfast on Wednesday, July 7th, and the Overtures to end the War in Afghanistan that have now passed in numerous Presbyteries. Let us know if your Presbytery has passed an Overture on Peaceamaking that should be on our radar screen.
PDA’s Haiti response tops $500,000

Presbyterians contributing to earthquake response in many ways

Presbyterian News Service reports:

With the transfer of an additional $101,500 to ecumenical partners in Haiti, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has now contributed more than a half-million dollars to immediate emergency relief in the island nation following the Jan. 12 earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands.

The full story >>

2/18/2010
New poll shows broad support for "fixing" Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United

Americans want limits on corporate cash in elections, would support a constitutional amendment

A national poll of 1,200 Americans commissioned by People For the American Way shows that the Roberts Court is far out of step with the American public over corporate money in elections. It also shows broad support for a wide range of proposals to "fix" the Citizens United ruling, including legislation being introduced in Congress and a proposed constitutional amendment.    The full report >>

PC(USA) Stated Clerk also called for some challenge to this Supreme Court decision >>

More on big money v. democracy >>

2/17/2010
We have a new name!

We are delighted to announce the new name of the merged organization of Witherspoon Society and Voices of Sophia: Presbyterian Voices for Justice. We offer our thanks and congratulations to Anne Barstow for offering the winning entry in our contest to find a new name -- and our thanks to all the others who have offered very good ideas as well.

We believe it is clear about who we are as a merged organization, maintaining both the “Voices” aspect of the former Voices of Sophia and the broad-reaching “Justice” concerns of the former Witherspoon Society. And it makes clear that we are Presbyterian in membership and outlook. Also, it has a short and easy acronym! We look forward to continuing our discernment of God’s “voice” for justice in church and society.

2/16/2010
The overtures are coming! The overtures are coming!!

by Doug King, WebWeaver and Communications Coordinator

The Office of the General Assembly has already received and posted some 46 overtures at last count, with many more to come, proposing a wide variety of actions to the coming 219th General Assembly, which will be meeting in Minneapolis on July 3 - 10, 2010.  We offer here a brief summary of the overtures dealing with issues of major interest to us, with links to each of them as they are posted on the Genereal Assembly website.

To list the categories briefly:

bullet Ordination
bullet Marriage
bullet Peacemaking and international issues, including:
"On strengthening the Peacemaking Program"
Afghanistan
Divestment from Caterpillar
Sudan
Christians in Muslim nations
bullet Abortion
bulletProposed new Form of Government
bulletProposal for a new synod for conservatives -- and non-geographical presbyteries as well
bullet Belhar Confession
bullet The role of Christian Educators

This is a work in process, and I would greatly appreciate comments, corrections, and suggestions, either to be posted with credit to the author, or simply to be considered in my own next revision. Please send a note, and tell me whether to post it, or just to think about it.

Doug King

A word of warning:
Add this to your list of crimes better left uncommitted:

A West Salem, Wisconsin, woman on probation for theft is accused of stealing a wallet from her probation officer.

For the full (but brief) report, from the La Crosse Tribune >>

2/12/2010
U.S. Labor Dept. reinstates decades-old farm worker protections rules

UFW applauds return to bi-partisan farm worker regulations

news release from United Farm Workers

Washington – 02/11/2010 – U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis announced today reinstatement of protections for imported farm workers that were slashed from the nation's agricultural guest worker program during the last days of the Bush administration in early 2009.

The Bush administration's changes to the H-2A agricultural guest worker program, which took effect on January 17, 2009, dramatically impacted wages and working conditions for foreign agricultural workers. Under the Bush rules, agricultural employers could more easily access cheap foreign labor with little government oversight.

"The United Farm Workers applauds Secretary Solis for restoring protections for imported farm workers that had been in effect since the Reagan administration. This is a great victory for all farm workers," said Arturo S. Rodriguez, UFW president.

More >>

Stand With Colombia's Churches

from Witness for Peace

Colombia's faith communities continue to stand firmly for peace amidst grueling violence. They now ask faith communities across the U.S. to join them in this year's Days of Prayer and Action for Colombia, April 16-19. Hundreds of faith communities will dedicate part of the worship service that weekend to praying for peace in Colombia. Will you join us?

Click here for our complete packet for bringing the Days of Prayer and Action to your faith community. The packet includes:

bulletBackground on Colombia
bulletLetter from Colombian church leaders
bulletSample prayers, sermons, and scripture readings
bulletBulletin insert (coming soon)
bulletAction resources: "Face the Displaced" gatherings, letter to Pres. Obama, flyer
bulletSources for more information

If you would like to see your faith community participate in the Days of Prayer and Action, please contact Ben Beachy at ben@witnessforpeace.org or your regional organizer.
Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, issues 'profound apology' to gay Christians

from The Times Online, Feb. 9, 2010

The Archbishop of Canterbury issued a “profound apology” to the lesbian and gay Christian community today. In a powerful address to the General Synod, Dr Rowan Williams warned that any schism within the Church would represent a betrayal of God’s mission. But he made clear that he regretted recent rhetoric in which he has sought to mollify the fears of the traditionalist wing of the church.

The Archbishop is from the Church’s liberal wing and a man who once espoused equal rights for gays within the Church. More recently he has adopted a conservative line for the sake of Church unity. Today he said: “There are ways of speaking about the question that seem to ignore these human realities or to undervalue them. “I have been criticised for doing just this and I am profoundly sorry for the carelessness that could give such an impression.”

The rest of the story >>

Ecumenical Advocacy Days will include workshop on ending torture

March 19-22, outside Washington, DC

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) is a co-sponsor of the Ecumenical Advocacy Days which will take place March 19-22 at the Double Tree Hotel in Crystal City, VA, near Reagan National Airport.  It is a significant gathering of Christians who come to DC to strategize and lobby on a variety of issues.  You can learn more and register at: http://www.advocacydays.org/.

On that Saturday NRCAT will sponsor an important workshop and we hope you will be able to join us:

Ending Torture - At Home and Abroad
Saturday, March 20, 2010
2:50 - 4:20 pm
Double Tree Hotel, Crystal City, VA

Workshop Description:
Come learn about three areas of work to end torture at home and abroad: 1) Ending U.S.-sponsored torture of post-9/11 detainees; 2) Ending torture in U.S. prisons; and 3) Advocating for U.S. policies and practices that help end torture by other governments.

Panelists will include:

bulletLinda Gustitus, NRCAT's President;
bulletLance Tapley, investigative journalist, who has covered an ongoing campaign to pass legislation limiting the use of solitary confinement in Maine;
bulletSteve Rickard, Executive Director of the Open Society Policy Center, who has many years of experience working for an end to torture around the world.

The session will include concrete suggestions for how people of faith can work to end torture in 2010, and Q/A with the panelists.

If you have any questions about the event, please contact John Humphries.

Sincerely,

Linda Gustitus, President
Rev. Richard Killmer, Executive Director

2/8/2010
The Debt Squeeze: Who Should Take the Fall?

Gene TeSelle, formerly president and long-time Issues Analyst of the Witherspoon Society, has written this as a sequel to his article "Taking Responsibility for the Future" in the Spring 2009 issue of Network News, pp. 16-19.

He describes some of the elements in the nation's current budget crisis: rising health care expenditures, the looming exhaustion of funding for Social Security, the ballooning national debt, and the issue of who should make the hard decisions in dealing with these crisis.  And there is also the vital question of who should benefit from whatever decisions are made.

Click here for TeSelle's essay.

He explains that it is an attempt to understand -- a work in progress, and that he would welcome corrections and additional perspectives. Just send a note >>

For another view of the U.S. budget crisis:

Wars sending U.S. into ruin – Obama the peace president is fighting battles his country cannot afford

Eric Margolis, writing for the Toronto Sun, begins:

U.S. President Barack Obama calls the $3.8-trillion US budget he just sent to Congress a major step in restoring America’s economic health.

In fact, it’s another potent fix given to a sick patient deeply addicted to the dangerous drug — debt.

More empires have fallen because of reckless finances than invasion. The latest example was the Soviet Union, which spent itself into ruin by buying tanks. 

Washington’s deficit (the difference between spending and income from taxes) will reach a vertiginous $1.6 trillion US this year. The huge sum will be borrowed, mostly from China and Japan, to which the U.S. already owes $1.5 trillion. Debt service will cost $250 billion.    For his full article >>

A "What If" concerning Generosity

From Phil Leftwich, Executive Presbyter of the Presbytery of Middle Tennessee. We thank him for his permission to post this.

Friends –

I both saw and read several news articles this past weekend about a family in Atlanta who have started a foundation to set a model before us of "sacrificial giving." It began with the father and his daughter driving in the city. A Mercedes pulled alongside their car just as the teenaged daughter was reading the sign of a homeless man asking for help. She began to do some personal soul searching, and then her own spiritual journey became a discussion around the family's dinner table. Once they looked at all they owned and how little they were proportionately giving others the course became clear. They moved out of their multi-million dollar house and downsized, began giving to others in a meaningful way that has included a mission in Ghana, and have humbly stayed out of the media spotlight until this last weekend. What a change this has made in all of their lives!

The rest of the story >>

2/3/2010

More on the Supreme Court decision:
Big money vs. democracy

PC(USA) stated clerk issues statement on Supreme Court’s election finance decision

Parsons: Unlimited spending by corporations ‘challenges democratic ethos’

Presbyterian News Service reports:  

LOUISVILLE — Feb. 3, 2010 -- The Rev. Gradye Parsons, General Assembly stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), issued a statement today decrying the Jan. 21 U.S. Supreme Court decision to lift virtually all restrictions on corporate contributions to election campaigns.

“I am concerned about the pressures this decision puts on individual candidates and office holders and on the integrity of the election system as a whole,” Parsons said, noting that the decision undoes decades of federal campaign finance legislation and “historic Presbyterian wisdom about the dangers of corruption by special interests.”

Parsons’ statement outlined recent General Assembly statements on campaign finance and electoral form, concluding that “this decision is likely to reshape the political process in profound ways, and to reduce the voice of citizens, churches and other groups without unlimited money ...”

The full text of Parsons’ statement >>

The Citizens United Decision and How to Fix It

People for the American Way  is urging people to call on congressional leaders “to support and pass a constitutional amendment granting Congress the authority to limit corporate influence in elections without delay.” But they suggest other ways, too, in which some limits might be placed against the unfettered use of corporate wealth to control U.S. policies and laws.  More >>

Looking toward the 219th General Assembly

Conservative Presbyterian group proposes a non-geographical synod for conservatives

The conservative PC(USA)-related organization, Presbyterians for Renewal, is putting forward a proposal by which the General Assembly would allow for the creation of non-geographical synods upon the initiative of at least three presbyteries.

For the introduction of the proposal >>

For the proposal itself (13 pages in PDF format) >>

This includes a brief introductory statement (p. 1), a long list of “frequently asked questions” (2 - 9), the proposed amendment to the Form of Government (10 - 11), and an appendix (12 - 13).

Critical reflections on the proposal

Margaret Thomas (a past member of the Advisory Committee on the Constitution and former Associate Stated Clerk) has written a statement critiquing the proposal in her usual judicious but incisive manner.  Click here for her statement >>

Some observers have described the proposal as a simple “ploy” to allow conservative presbyteries to form their own governing bodies while retaining their property.

Action by Presbytery of the Pacific

A small number of conservative congregations (some of them with large memberships) presented the proposed overture to the Presbytery of the Pacific in its assembly last Saturday, Jan. 30. After a “lively” debate, it was rejected by a substantial margin. One member of the Presbytery has referred to the proposal as “Presbyterian apartheid.”  More on the Presbytery of the Pacific action >>

An added perspective --

While we were busy preparing to post the material just above and below this box, the indefatigable John Shuck was doing the same story ... his way >>

Overture suggested to further peacemaking education in colleges, campus ministries, and seminaries

The Rev. Len Bjorkman, a Witherspoon member and long-time leader in the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, has draft an overture which would support more effective peacemaking programming in Presbyterian-related campus ministries, colleges, and seminaries.

Click here for the full text of his draft – and you might consider putting it up for consideration in your own presbytery.

For more information, you can contact Len at LenandJudy@stny.rr.com

ACSWP readies papers for General Assembly

Policy group working on gun violence, HIV/AIDS, public education, others

Presbyterian News Service reports:

LOUISVILLE — The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy feverishly worked last weekend on a half-dozen reports it is preparing for the upcoming 219th General Assembly later this year in Minneapolis.

The committee — which develops policy statements, resolutions and other reports on topics that are referred to it by the General Assembly — is trying to finish work on papers on public education, HIV/AIDS, the theology of compensation in the church, gun violence, human rights and a study on the nature and value of human life.   The full PNS report >> 

Updates on Haiti

For Haiti, A Modest Proposal

The earthquake devastation in Haiti creates a painful context for news that Goldman Sachs has approved a bonus pool of $20 billion. Two of the nation's leading theologians -- George Hunsinger and Michael Kinnamon -- have issued a "Modest Proposal" for restoring some balance.

They write:

Even before the recent earthquake alerted us to Haiti’s misery, Goldman Sachs was uncomfortable about the attention its bonus system was attracting. Last September Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, acknowledged that "Compensation continues to generate controversy and anger." "In many respects," he added, "much of it is understandable and appropriate." The New York Times reported (October 12, 2009) that Goldman Sachs has considered improving its image by making a sizable charitable donation.

Now Haiti's disaster, on the front of every newspaper, has given Goldman Sachs an unequalled opportunity. A simple act of generosity could bring it front-page publicity, one that would do much to allay the controversy on everyone's lips. By donating just half of their bonuses to Haitian relief, they will outmatch the Haitian GDP, and improve not only their image but their tax liability. Church World Service, an efficient and experienced relief organization, for example, administering the Goldman Sachs billions, could ensure that reconstruction is not just a return to pre-earthquake squalor, but an enduring monument to the bankers' unprecedented liberality. In this simple way Goldman Sachs alone would surpass the $100 million that President Obama has pledged to Haiti, by a monumental factor of 100.   The rest of their article >>

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

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

 

GA actions going to the presbyteries   

A number of the most important actions of the 219th General Assembly are now being sent to the presbyteries for their action, to confirm or reject them as amendments to the PC(USA) Book of Order.

We're providing resources to help inform the reflection and debate, along with updates on the voting.

Our three areas of primary interest are:

bullet Amendment 10-A, which would remove the current ban on lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender persons being considered as possible candidates for ordination as elder or ministers.

bullet Amendment 10-2, which would add the Belhar Confession to our Book of Confessions.

bullet Amendment 10-1, which would adopt the new Form of Government that was approved by the Assembly.
 

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Some blogs worth visiting

PVJ's Facebook page

Mitch Trigger, PVJ's Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!

You can post your own news and views, or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.

 

Voices of Sophia blog

Heather Reichgott, who has created this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:

After fifteen years of scholarship and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy, students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and thoughtful community.

 

John Harris’ Summit to Shore blogspot

Theological and philosophical reflections on everything between summit to shore, including kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology, politics, culture, travel, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood by a progressive New York City Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in Flushing, NY.

 

John Shuck’s Shuck and Jive

A Presbyterian minister, currently serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tenn., blogs about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and lightening up.

 

Got more blogs to recommend?

Please send a note, and we'll see what we can do!

 

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