This page lists our postings
from earlier in October,
For an index to all our reports
the 219th General Assembly
For links to
all our archive pages, listed by months,
new study guide on the Belhar
The 219th Assembly recommended
the inclusion of the Belhar
Confession, developed by the
churches of South Africa, as
part of our Book of Confessions
PVJ summary of the Assembly,
The Assembly voted 525–150 to
the presbyteries for their votes
to include it as the 12th
doctrinal statement in the
denomination’s Book of
Confessions. The Belhar
Confession was developed in the
mid-1980s by the South African
churches as their theological
response to the racism of
apartheid. That confession is
valuable, proponents say,
because it seeks to address
issues of racial justice and
reconciliation that are still
relevant today. One overture
opposed this based on the fear
that Belhar’s affirmation of
justice might be cited to oppose
the exclusion of LGBT people
from full participation in the
life of the church, just as
apartheid excluded people in
South Africa on the basis of
We are happy to provide
you with a
very helpful study guide, below, on the Belhar Confession,
prepared by the Rev. Lorelei Hillman, of Phoenix, Arizona. She is
a member of the Coordinating Team of Voices for Justice, and is
currently serving as Interim Associate Pastor of University Presbyterian
Church, Tempe, AZ.
Click here for the easy-to-print PDF version of this 6-page study guide.
And click here for
a brief comment by the Rev. John Harris, examining the reasons why "We Need
We have just received irrefutable proof of the reality of
Click here for the
Questioning the Board of Pensions action
Last Saturday, (Oct. 23) we posted the
announcement by the Board of Pensions (BoP for short) of its
naming of a special committee to study how it should respond to
a call by the 219th General Assembly to provide full
benefits to same-gender partners as well as married couples. We
soon received this comment from Arnold Rots, who was one of the
overture advocates at the Assembly for the overtures calling on
the BoP to take this action:
It is hard to tell whether the BoP is
taking evasive, obstructive action or is just trying to get
This should have been straightforward: BoP
said in 2008 "we can do it." GA said in 2010 "go do it." BoP
responded "we will." So why do they need an extra committee
to study things yet again?
Also, it is not BoP's job to function as
PC(USA) polity police, assuming the role of presbyteries and
PJCs: The question of whether ordained members should be
covered is none of its business, but it is [stated] right
there, front and center, in the committee's charge.
It all makes me wonder whether coverage
will indeed be implemented by 2012.
here to read the statements by the three advocates for
related overtures. (They're in PDF format.)
Here is the full text of the Assembly action,
which was adopted by a vote of 366 for, 287 against, and 9
That the 219th General Assembly (2010): 1.
Urge the Board of Pensions to adopt amendments to the
Benefits Plan to extend eligibility for spousal and
dependent benefits under the Plan to Benefits Plan members,
their same-gender domestic partners, and the children of
their same-gender domestic partners, on the same basis as,
and equivalent to, benefits made available to Benefits Plan
members, their spouses, and the children of their spouses.
2. Approve an increase in dues for the Benefits Plan of up
to 1 percent, effective January 1, 2012, to be allocated
among the plans of the Board of Pensions, including but not
limited to the Pension Plan, as the Board, in its sole
discretion, deems necessary to fund the cost of the
additional benefits. Should the Board not implement these
benefits for any reason, approval of the increase in dues is
rescinded. Comment: That the Board of Pensions be highly
urged to provide relief of conscience, to be implemented
simultaneously with these actions, for those congregations
for whom these actions cause a moral dilemma.
Elect to End Torture: Vote Scorecards!
Campaign Against Torture Action Fund
In the 2010 election we face a stark choice
between electing an anti-torture Congress and electing a
Congress that might repeat the mistakes of the past and again
make torture a part of U.S. interrogations. You can make the
difference in this election by taking the opportunity to educate
your friends, family, and community about the issue of torture
and your candidates’ stances on torture.
The NRCAT Action Fund has produced two
Congressional Vote Scorecards (one
for the Senate and
one for the House ) that rate every current Member of
Congress on their votes with respect to torture. Please look up
your Members of Congress and share information about their
voting records on torture with your friends and family.
You can also educate your community about
their Members' of Congress record on torture by writing a letter
to the editor. On the NRCAT Action Fund website we have
advice for writing a letter to the editor about your
incumbent Members’ of Congress positions on torture. Writing a
letter to the editor is a great way to educate your community
and to encourage them to vote for an anti-torture Congress.
Critics still waiting for action from faith-based office
Religion News Service reports:
Six months after advisers turned in 164 pages
of recommendations to the White House’s faith-based office,
thorny church-state questions remain unanswered and some critics
say the office has been used to push the president’s health care
Much of the work done by the White House
Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships has been low
profile, and successors to the blue-ribbon advisory panel that
ended its work in March haven’t been named.
Outsiders say whatever progress has been made
has been done too quietly and that the White House has dragged
its feet on a promise to change Bush-era rules that allow
federal grant recipients to hire and fire based on religion.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s been six months
of silence,” said the Rev. Barry Lynn of Americans United for
Separation of Church and State, who served on a task force
charged with reforming the office.
Joshua DuBois, who was tasked by President
Obama with overhauling and expanding the office, estimated the
administration has started or finished implementing at least
half of the advisory council’s 64 recommendations.
The rest of the story >>
(But see the next item below for another side of the
Presbyterian colleges selected to participate in interfaith
Program will give
student leaders and chaplains skills to lead interfaith
community service events
News release from Evangelism & Church
Growth Ministries, PC(USA)
Ten Presbyterian Colleges and Universities
have been selected to attend the Interfaith Leadership Institute
in Washington, D.C. this weekend (October 22-24). Chaplains and
students from Agnes Scott, Carroll, Coe, College of the Wooster,
Macalester, Mary Baldwin, Marysville, Rhodes, Schreiner and
Westminster will join about 100 other delegations from colleges
The event, sponsored by Interfaith Youth Core
(IFCY), the White House and its faith based community initiative
office, will provide leadership training designed, according to
information on its website, "to give student leaders and campus
staff allies the vision, knowledge and skills necessary to lead
interfaith and community service initiatives on campus."
Interfaith Youth Core Founder Eboo Patel, voted one of America’s
best leaders in 2009, created the organization to bring people
together from different religious backgrounds, creating
opportunities for them to understand and respect each other, by
serving their communities.
The rest of the story >>
Board of Pensions appoints special committee to consider
to deliberate on GA's recommendation
Jerry L. Van Marter of Presbyterian News
Thomas C. Paisley, chair of the Presbyterian
Church (U.S.A.)'s Board of Pensions (BOP) today announced the
appointment of a special committee of the board to consider
same-gender benefits under the BOP's healthcare and pension
The nine-member special committee will be
charged with developing the BOP's response to this summer's
action by the 219th General Assembly "to urge the Board of
Pensions to extend benefits to same-gender domestic partners of
plan members and to the children of those same-gender domestic
Special committee members, drawn from several
of the BOP's committees, are Frank S. James III, Vestavia Hills,
Ala., chair; Anne S. Drennan, Newtown, Pa.; the Rev. John A.
Huffman, Newport Beach Calif.; Claude C. Lilly III, Clemson,
S.C.; Christopher M. Mason, New York City; Carol Sheffey Parham,
Annapolis, Md.; Nancy M. Rhodes, McLeansville, N.C.; the Rev.
Laird J. Stuart, San Anselmo, Calif.; and Dr. Paul B. Volker,
The rest of the story >>
A cautionary tale for Grandparents. And
At one point during a game, the coach called
one of his 9-year-old baseball players aside and asked, 'Do you
understand what cooperation is? What a team is?'
The little boy nodded in the affirmative.
'Do you understand that what matters is
whether we win or lose together as a team?'
The little boy nodded yes.
'So,' the coach continued, 'I'm sure you know,
when an out is called, you shouldn't argue, curse, attack the
umpire, or call him a pecker-head. Do you understand all that?'
The little boy nodded again.
He continued, 'And when I take you out of the
game so another boy gets a chance to play, it's not good
sportsmanship to call your coach 'a dumb ass' is it?'
Again, the little boy nodded.
'Good,' said the coach. 'Now go over there and
explain all that to your grandmother.'
John Jackson’s regular
e-mail, “Everything Is Connected"
actions going to the presbyteries
A number of the most important actions taken by the 219th
General Assembly, meeting in Minneapolis in July of 2010, are now being sent
to the presbyteries for their action, to confirm or reject them as
amendments to the PC(USA) Book of Order.
Our three areas of primary interest, based partly on
questions and comments we have received from visitors to this site, are:
Amendment 10-A, which
would revise the Book of Order to remove the current ban on
lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender persons being considered as possible
candidates for ordination as elder or ministers, substituting a more
comprehensive (and meaningful) standard for the current one which in fact is
concerned only with sexual orientation.|
Amendment 10-2, which
would add the Belhar Confession to our Book of Confessions. It was
originally adopted by the synod of the Dutch Reformed Mission Church in
South Africa in 1986, and then in 1994 by united Reformed Church of South
Africa. It reflects their faith as they struggle to work for greater justice
and human well-being in a society long divided by racism. (It's here!)|
|Amendment 10-1, which
would adopt the new Form of Government that was approved by the Assembly.
(Being developed - come back soon!)|
In case you’re wondering,
The Presbyterian Coalition has
made clear that it too is taking stands on these three issues. But they are,
not surprisingly, on the opposite side of all three.
For each of these three actions, we intend to provide you
|Resources: information that you may find helpful in your
presbytery for study and discussion.|
|Conversation: discussion and commentary from our own members and
from other groups and individuals who want to join in the conversation, both
about the issues themselves, and about what you may see as helpful ways to
deal with them in debate and the process of action on them;|
|Reports: news of actions and votes in the presbyteries, as they
|Our first posts deal with
Amendment 10-A, to remove the
ban on ordination of LGBT persons.
Resources from ...
about the actions on Amendment 10-A (needing your contributions!)
discernment, debate, and voting in the presbyteries.
pastor speaks out on the “It Gets Better” YouTube project
The Rev. Ray
Bagnuolo, an openly gay Presbyterian minister, has added his
thoughtful voice to the long list of contributors to the It Gets
Better project, in which people are urging young LGBT people not
to give in to the pressures of harassment and bullying.
pointed you to the much-viewed video by Joel Burns, a member
of the City Council in Fort Worth. Now we also encourage you to
listen to the words of one who has struggled with the prejudices
and condemnation the can come from within the Presbyterian
Church – and has come through them into a strong and vibrant
for Ray’s video >>
If you hate puns, don’t click
Otherwise, you’re invited to enjoy them – and
share your own!
Just send a note
with your own contribution to the PunFest.
A vulture boards an airplane, carrying two
dead raccoons. The stewardess looks at him and says, "I'm
sorry, sir, only one carrion allowed per passenger."
Thanks to Ralph Garlin
Gets Better': Joel Burns' City Council address urges gay teens
not to give up.
You’ve probably seen this little speech of
hope already, or least heard or seen bits of it. But here’s the
whole thing, and it’s worth every one of the 12-plus minutes
that it will take. It is a call to hope for GLBT teens as they
face the bullying and harassment that driven so many to suicide
over the past few days.
Click here for the AOL News report, and scroll down just a
bit for the YouTube video itself.
Reacting to a rash of suicides committed by
gay teenagers in America who have been bullied, Joel Burns, a
Fort Worth, Texas, city councilman, delivered his speech Tuesday
to a City Council meeting. He told of the pain he experienced as
an adolescent at the hands of anti-gay bullies – and he urged
gay teens not to give in, not to give up, with the promise that
“it gets better.”
If you haven’t seen this yet, please do. And
More Light responds to anti-gay bullying and teen suicides –
as a challenge for change in our church
Presbyterians Caring & Responding to a Hurting
Grace and peace to you. Our hearts are broken
with the epidemic of anti-gay bullying resulting in teen
suicides. Our country is not a safe place for its LGBT or
questioning children, youth and adults and their families.
Sadly, neither is our Church. We give thanks to God for the many
exceptions of welcoming and affirming Presbyterian churches, of
course. As long as the Presbyterian Church (USA) is not yet a
safe place for LGBT persons, younger or older, it continues to
be a contributing factor to this failure of safety. Since 1978,
our Church has been studying and debating homosexuality and
whether or not LGBT persons are part of God's good creation,
too, along with their heterosexual sisters and brothers. We
could be offering life-giving, life-saving messages to LGBT
youth and their families instead.
The 219th General Assembly's Ordination
Amendment 10-A offers our Church a clear path to ending the
discrimination against LGBT persons and the resulting sanction
of anti-LGBT prejudice and violence in our society and across
the world. 10-A offers one ordination standard for all. 10-A
returns our Church to what matters most in our life and service
together as Presbyterians: faith, character and a call to serve.
10-A will end categorical discrimination based upon marital
status, gender or sexual orientation.
You can be part of this change. May all of us
offer life-giving, life-saving messages now in our church and
presbytery. Contact Rev. Debra Peevey, our Campaign Outreach
Director, today to connect in with the Amendment 10-A work in
your presbytery at email@example.com
We thank you for being part of the change in
our Church, nation and world. Together we are creating a Church
that reflects God's heart.
This is the lead item in the latest
on-line newsletter of More
Light Presbyterians >>
Six persons named by Abuse Review Panel in physical, sexual
And if you think that
members and staff of the PC(USA) are not capable of abusive
sexual misconduct, here’s one summary, from Presbyterian
Outlook, of a recent reportby a review panel named by the
denomination to investigate charges of sexual and physical abuse
involving the children of Presbyterian missionaries serving in
Africa and Asia. The panel has publicly named six people it
determined had abused children. Some of the incidents happened
over 50 years ago, and most of the perpetrators have died.
On a happier note ...
Immokalee Tomato Pickers Secure Path-Breaking Deal with Florida
Mischa Gaus reports in Facing South,
The farmworker group Coalition of Immokalee
Workers announced this week it has reached a landmark deal with
a Florida tomato grower to govern conditions in the fields.
The agreement greatly expands the proportion
of Florida's $500 million tomato crop that will be produced
under CIW's code of conduct. That code includes a grievance-like
complaint resolution system, a participatory health and safety
program, and access for CIW to the fields for direct
The group's aim is to keep tomato pickers
themselves at the center of the battle to improve the
notoriously poor conditions in agriculture. CIW has helped
eight cases of involuntary servitude among Florida
farmworkers over the last 13 years that have resulted in
prosecutions of farm bosses and labor contractors.
Yesterday's deal with Pacific Tomato Growers,
a privately held company reported to sell $151.6 million worth
of produce a year, also brings in third-party monitors to ensure
that the penny-per-pound wage increase CIW has won over the last
five years actually reaches farmworkers. Big purchasers of
tomatoes -- McDonald's, Burger King, Taco Bell, three big campus
food service companies, and Whole Foods -- have all agreed to
pay the penny increase, but the Florida tomato growers' trade
association has refused to pass through the gains to workers.
full article >>
Cimarron Presbytery votes for Belhar Confession|
The Presbytery of Cimarron approved the Belhar Confession at its stated meeting
today in Guymon, OK. The vote was 28 to 0.
Thanks to John Mcneese
|PC(USA) Campaign for Fair Food urges support for Week of Action on Food |
Now through October 17, the PC(USA) encourages you to participate in the Churches Week of Action on Food. It occurs every year around World Food Day, which is always October 16. We encourage you to learn more and also to take action on the Campaign for Fair Food as a sign that God intends well-being for all people.
Short Video and Supermarket E-Action
Please visit the CIW website for a fantastic new video entitled “One Penny More.” The new two-minute video highlights the connection between the tomatoes we buy in supermarkets and the farmworkers who pick them. And share this video with members of your congregation. After you watch the video, you can send an e-mail to Publix, Kroger, Ahold (Stop ‘n Shop and Giant) or Trader Joe’s asking them to support fair wages and conditions for farmworkers.
Visit the CIW’s Modern-Day Slavery Museum
The CIW’s Modern-Day Slavery Museum is on tour throughout the southeast. If it is coming to your area, please visit it and encourage others to do the same. If not, take a virtual tour of the museum through photos and the downloadable museum booklet which traces the continual presence of slavery in different forms in the fields of Florida and what we can do to end it.
PC(USA) Campaign for Fair Food
|Synod Judicial Commission affirms presbytery decision in
approving ordination of Scott Anderson|
Leslie Scanlon reports in Presbyterian Outlook:
The Permanent Judicial Commission of the Synod
of Lakes and Prairies has ruled that John Knox Presbytery did
not commit irregularities when it voted in February 2010 to
approve for ordination Scott Anderson, a gay man in a long-term
Anderson, executive director of the Wisconsin
Council of Churches, previously served as a Presbyterian
minister in California, and set aside his ordination in 1990
when his homosexuality was publicly revealed. He is now seeking
to be ordained again – and has publicly declared a “scruple,” or
conscientious objection, to the requirement in the Presbyterian
Church (U.S.A) Book of Order that those being ordained practice
fidelity if they are married or chastity if they are not.
John Knox Presbytery voted 81-25 on Feb. 20 to
ordain Anderson, although a stay of enforcement was quickly
issued to allow a challenge to the ordination to proceed.
In a decision Oct. 9, the synod Permanent
Judicial Commission ruled that John Knox Presbytery “acted
within its authority” in following an authoritative
interpretation that allows governing bodies to decide on a
case-by-case basis whether to grant objections based on
A suggestion from The Interfaith Alliance:
You may want to
tune in October 11th, 12th and 13th to "God in America" on PBS
Interfaith Alliance is
the three-part PBS series God
In America that
airs for three nights beginning Monday, October 11th and
explores how religious belief has shaped American history. While
the series is heavily focused on the early history of religion
and religious freedom in the U.S. and not on current religious
issues, the close relationship between religion, power and
politics is a continuing concern in America today, if with new
players. Current debates on where mosques (masjid) can or cannot
be built and whether or not a Mormon, Atheist or Jew can
successfully run for President are just two of the powerful
signs that we still have a great deal of work to do in our
continuing effort to form a more perfect union.
There are lessons that can be
learned from the past as we see religious and political debates
relived in this series. The
six-hour, three-night television special utilizes documentary
footage, dramatizations and interviews with historians of
religion to examine:
relationship between religion and democracy and the origins
of religious freedom in America;|
of religion in social reform movements and wars;|
guarantees of religious freedom created a competitive
religious marketplace in America;|
lives and experiences of key American religious and
For a sneak
preview of the special,
series is also mounting a national campaign that includes
viewing parties, Sacred Spaces Tours, community events and an
online “Faithbook” where you can share your beliefs with others. Visit
the web site to
learn more or to create your own Faithbook page. You can also be
part of the conversation on Interfaith
Alliance’s Facebook page, if you have a Facebook
I hope you will tune into this documentary and use it as a
starting point to think about and discuss the role of religion
in America today. In our youth program, LEADD (Leadership
Education Advancing Democracy and Diversity), we spend a great
deal of time looking at how the founders came up with the
religion clauses of the First Amendment (“Congress shall make no
law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the
free exercise thereof...”) and how debate raged over protecting
the right of every citizen to hold his or her own beliefs.
This special documentary is just one look at the issue of
religion in American life but we hope it will provoke a
discussion of how we can better live and thrive in this uniquely
pluralistic country. I was able to see a sneak preview of one
hour of the documentary, and I look forward to seeing the rest
of the miniseries. I also look forward to hearing your feedback
on the show and the discussions it spawns. Invite some friends
over, watch it with a group, discuss and let us know what you
Director of Outreach and Operations
|Stop the suicides: Help put an end to bullying in schools!|
All of us have been appalled by the suicides
occurring over the past few weeks among young gay men, in
response to the harassment they experience for more often -- and
more intensely -- than most of us have realized. But how
can we respond in some way to this horror?
This call for action has come from the
Human Rights Campaign, “America’s largest civil rights
organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and
In just the last few weeks since school
started again, too many teenagers have taken their own lives
following bullying and harassment because of their perceived
sexual orientation or gender identity.
How many more young lives will be lost before
Ask Secretary of Education Arne Duncan:
Include gender identity and sexual orientation in anti-bullying
Dear Secretary Duncan:
I know you are as shocked and saddened as
I am about the recent rash of teen suicides following
bullying and harassment based on anti-LGBT bias.
We are counting on you to speak out
immediately before more lives are lost.
Every school in America should include
sexual orientation and gender identity in anti-bullying
programs. It will save lives – and saving lives shouldn’t be
up for political debate.
You must act to end this tragedy.
To send this letter >>
from HRC on this concern >>
|Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons sends letter to Congress
supporting DREAM Act|
allow immigrant high school graduates to go to college, work or
join U.S. military
Jerry L. Van Marter, Presbyterian News Service
Louisville, September 30, 2010 — The Rev.
Gradye Parsons, stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
General Assembly, has written a letter to members of the U.S.
Congress urging them to pass the DREAM Act (S.729/H.R.1751).
The legislation would allow the children of
illegal immigrants to continue their education, work or join the
U.S. military if they graduate from high school.
"The denomination is extremely concerned over
the fate of millions of young people who have lived in the
United States for most of their childhood, yet have no right to
legal work authorization or higher education," Parsons wrote in
his Sept. 27 letter.
More, including the full text of Parsons’ letter >>
|Presbyterian Office of Public Witness invites internship
applicants and church partnerships|
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The
Office of Public Witness (OPW) of the Presbyterian Church
(U.S.A.) today unveiled its Internship for Public Witness, a new
program designed for the formation of servant leaders in public
participating in the Internship program will enjoy exposure to a
wide range of formative experiences. Working with OPW staff,
interns will have the opportunity to follow an issue or issue
portfolio of interest through the legislative and
decision-making process. In addition, they will also be exposed
to other components of public policy ministry, which may include
church relations, communications, resource development, and
Interested in applying? You can download the complete
|Two novels -- Gilead and Home -- lead us on
“excursions into difficulty”|
What can two novels about an elderly preacher teach us
about life and love, about parenting and letting children go, about our
human roles in the working out of divine providence? Peter Hodgson, Charles
G. Finney Professor of Theology, Emeritus, at Vanderbilt Divinity School,
reflects on the two novels by Marilynne Robinson, Gilead and Home.
They are two accounts of the end-of-life season for the Rev. John Ames, 76
years old and still pastor of the Congregational church in Gilead, Iowa.
Hodgson focuses his comments on the question of the human
role in raising children, but finally enabling them to live on their own,
and trusting them to the care of God. But beyond that is the call to all of
us to care for the world in which our children will live on. So, he says,
Robinson reminds us that “salvation is in fact a long and difficult journey
on which we human beings play a continuing role.”
For this essay in HTML >>
For the same
essay in easy-to-print-out PDF format >>
For an index to all our reports
the 219th General Assembly
For links to all our archive pages, listed by months,
Some blogs worth visiting
Mitch Trigger, PVJ's
Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where
Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and
views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both
personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!
You can post your own news and views,
or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.
for Life" website
Long-time and stimulating blogger John Shuck,
a Presbyterian minister currently
serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton,
Tenn., writes about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized
and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and
Click here for his blog posts.
Click here for podcasts of his radio program, which "explores
the intersection of religion, social justice and public life."
John Harris’ Summit to
Theological and philosophical
reflections on everything between summit to shore, including
kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology,
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
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
Got more blogs to recommend?
send a note, and we'll see what we can do!