News and Views
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Earlier stories are indexed
Economic and Peace studies seeking volunteers
We have received this notice from the
members and staff of the
Committee on Social Witness Policy.
The General Assembly has authorized two new
studies that will involve the Advisory Committee on Social
Witness Policy (ACSWP). One is about the economic crisis and the
other is about the peacemaking witness. We are providing links
to brief prospectuses (work outlines) and nomination forms for
those who want to be considered for work on these issues. Along
with paid and volunteer consultant writers, the ACSWP and its
predecessors have depended upon dedicated church members with
particular expertise in the areas under consideration to serve
on teams that define the work, contribute to it, and evaluate
its adequacy. This letter is to invite your consideration of
service on one of the two studies.
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.
Click 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.
Board of Pensions
appoints special committee to consider same-gender benefits
panel 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 >>
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.
Mark Koenig named director of Presbyterian ministry at the UN
Assembly Mission Council has announced that the Rev. Mark Koenig
has been selected as the new director of Presbyterian ministry
at the United Nations. Koenig brings 30 years of experience in
ministry, serving congregations, the Presbytery of the Western
Reserve, and the General Assembly Mission Council. He has been
on the staff of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, since
2002, and has served as its coordinator since 2007.
"Mark brings many gifts to this ministry,"
said Sara Lisherness, director of Compassion Peace and Justice
for the General Assembly Mission Council. "He is deeply
committed to a ministry of presence in the church, connecting
with and listening to the church. He values Presbyterian polity
and works faithfully to interpret and implement the social
witness policies adopted by the General Assembly. He is a
pastor, an educator and most of all a faithful servant to the
ministry of Jesus Christ."
Celebrating the Youth Triennium – and a call
to look ahead
by the Rev. Sue Trigger, co-pastor of
First Presbyterian Church, Rockaway, N.J.
It had been a while since I’ve been to the Presbyterian Youth Triennium,
so I decided this was the year to round up a Presbytery delegation and head
to Indiana. This was my fourth Triennium experience. It was at Triennium
that I answered the call to ministry; and it was at Triennium 15 years later
that I felt a powerful reaffirmation of that call.
There were many things about this Triennium
that were fantastic: 5010 participants from all 50 states, a well organized
event, great worship planning and keynote speakers, and more. It is far more
than a great conference; it is an event that helps shape lives. It is an
event that helps people encounter Christ in a bold, powerful way through
Bible study, reflection, and a call to consider how God is working in their
lives. It is able to reach people with an impact that few, if any, of our
congregations are able to do.
Triennium is an important link between our
youth and the PCUSA. For most of the youth, this is their first opportunity
to experience the connectional denomination. They eagerly seek out at least
one person from all 50 states to exchange pins, and in the process learn a
little bit about Presbyterians in other regions. In small groups they have
an opportunity to develop a deeper connection that, in this age of social
media, can continue into the future. It is an opportunity to learn about who
we are and what we of the PC(USA) are doing in the world. It motivates
participants to get more involved in the life of the church back home and on
a larger scale.
The PC(USA) has an incredible evangelical
tool that changes lives and inspires young people to faithful discipleship
in Christ. So why would we jeopardize such a program? Since my first
Triennium more than 20 years ago, the denomination has repeatedly cut
financial resources and the ability to staff the event. In order to keep the
program going we have had to increase the cost of the event for those who
participate. This year’s event cost $409 per person without transportation.
We are dangerously close to making Triennium available only to wealthier
youth. Those who live in low income homes and attend smaller churches with
limited resources are likely to be denied the opportunity to attend.
People – especially young people – are
seeing the church as increasingly irrelevant to their lives and therefore
are leaving organized religion. We currently offer one event that connects
with youth and helps them see the church as relevant and even inspiring.
Maintaining this event should be a priority, and yet its very survival is at
If we believe the church is a valuable tool
for carrying out Christ’s mission in the world, we should be investing in
Triennium and other ministries that reach out to our young people. One way
to do that is through the Pentecost Offering, part of which goes to the
Triennium – so generous support of that offering is one way of investing in
the future of our youth, and of our church. To do otherwise seems like
Were you at the Triennium?
We'd love to hear your comments about that great event!
Just send a note,
to be shared here.
Click here for a
comment about the
Young Adult Advisory Delegates at General Assembly.
Former GA Moderator Howard Rice dies at 78
SFTS leader was instrumental in rediscovering
by Jerry L. Van Marter, Presbyterian
News Service, and Holly Woolard, SFTS Communications Office
[posted here 8-11-10]
The Rev. Howard
LOUISVILLE — The Rev. Howard Leland Rice,
former moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General
Assembly and San Francisco Theological Seminary chaplain and
professor of ministry from 1968-97, died Aug. 8 in Claremont,
Calif., at the age of 78. He was one of the earliest
practitioners of spiritual disciplines and formation that led to
the current renewal of those practices in the church.
Rice was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis
prior to his appointment at SFTS — he arrived at the seminary
the same year as this reporter arrived as a student — and spent
his time on the San Anselmo campus either on crutches or
confined to a wheelchair. After Rice’s retirement, his diagnosis
was changed from MS to spinal cord damage. Last spring he
battled a stubborn bone infection for weeks, resulting in his
decision to accept hospice care. He passed away peacefully
surrounded by his family.
A couple extra notes from your WebWeaver:
Voices for Justice celebrates the life and witness of Howard
Rice, and many of us are grateful for all he taught us of
true spirituality – a stance toward the world of engagement and
action, passion and joy. He taught us not only through his
writing and teaching, but through his life.
One of our
Coordinating Team members recalls Howard “as an ardent supporter
of choice. When PARO would call on him to speak against
particular anti-choice OVT's, he carried with him tremendous
respect [and] persuasiveness.”
Howard for some time graced the pages of the
Witherspoon Society’s Network News with his occasional
column entitled “Wind of the Spirit Blowing.” His column
in the Spring 1999 issue was called
“Spirituality: not a cocoon, but a call to caring.”
We remember with gratitude that as early as
1982, Howard wrote an article entitled "Homophobia: The
Overlooked Sin," for Church & Society. (It was in
vol. 73, 1982, pp. 5-13. ) In it he outlined many of the
causes of homophobia within the church, and possible solutions
Rice’s dream for an inclusive Presbyterian Church
In October, 2000,
he talked with a group of More Light Presbyterians and friends,
meeting at Old First Presbyterian Church in San Francisco, about
“my dream for the Presbyterian Church. And it was as he summed
up toward the end of his talk, “a dream of a truly welcoming
Another remembrance of Howard Rice
The Rev. Howard
Leland Rice, former moderator of the Presbyterian Church
(U.S.A.) General Assembly and San Francisco Theological Seminary
chaplain and professor of ministry from 1968-97, died Aug. 8 in
Claremont, Calif., at the age of 78. He was one of the earliest
practitioners of spiritual disciplines and formation that led to
the current renewal of those practices in the church.
This remembrance of Howard Rice comes from Sylvia
Thorson-Smith, a member of the Coordinating Team of Presbyterian
Voices for Justice:
The images I have of the Rev. Dr. Howard
Rice will be etched forever in my memory.
Howard was one of a only a few former
Moderators of the PCUSA who publicly endorsed the 1991
report on human sexuality that was rejected amid a flurry of
conflict and criticism. As a leader in many church arenas,
he spoke passionately and prophetically for sexual and
gender justice. Howard rejected the either-or polarity
between spirituality and social justice. Seeing LGBT persons
as beloved children of God and advocating their equal rights
in church and society were, for him, integral responses to
gospel faith and discipleship.
As a liaison from the GA Task Force on
Human Sexuality to the GA Task Force on Abortion (1990-91),
I saw the care and skill with which Howard moderated an
intense study of one of the most conflicted issues of our
time. Amazingly, that Task Force produced a report which is
in large part consensual – a report that has been sustained
as Presbyterian policy for almost two decades. Throughout
the ’90s, Howard repeatedly testified before GA committees
who had to struggle with challenges to that policy. When he
could no longer attend General Assembly, his strong voice
continued to resonate through written testimony that was
read to committees.
Many others have memories of Howard as
their professor, mentor, pastor, counselor, friend, and
scholarly guide. My memories are focused on his active
leadership in moving the Presbyterian Church toward a more
authentic witness of the biblical mandate: to do justice,
love kindness, and walk humbly with God.
Howard Rice was a truth-teller and
wisdom-seeker of the rarest kind. Thanks Be for his
justice-loving life among us!
“Something's Going On”
Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow considers the future of the PC(USA)
in this post-modern age [8-5-10]
Recently the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, having
just completed his two-year term as Moderator of the
Presbyterian Church, was interviewed of Deborah Arca Mooney for
the Patheos website (which
describes itself modestly as “the premier online destination to
engage in the global dialogue about religion and spirituality
and to explore and experience the world's beliefs”).
Out of his own
strong involvement in social networking and the emergent church,
Reyes-Chow begins by dismissing concern about the survival of
the Presbyterian Church, saying that “a denomination that is
only interested in its survival is no longer faithfully living
church movement has much that is valuable, but he sees dangers,
too: “I think one of the things the emergent folks are buying
into culturally is an isolationism and disconnectedness that
technology has brought about. And if we follow them, then we're
buying into this idea, in an almost rebellious attitude, that
you can do everything on your own and you are not accountable to
anyone other than the folks you have deemed part of your
immediate community. A denomination, on the other hand, says to
the world that we're accountable to folks who manifest the
Spirit and the Body of Christ beyond our human constructs, and I
think that is a prophetic word for the world today.
Denominations certainly have their issues, but we do also have a
gift that we can offer.”
Asked about the
relevance of the “social media” to the changes needed in the
church, he says: “When it comes to the foundation of the social
media component, this whole ‘open source’ understanding of
people gathering together to discern the truth is actually
something Presbyterians are wired for. We believe that we gather
together and that nobody is supposed to have more authority than
anybody else. And in an open source world, that's exactly what
we do. ... What has really been wonderful about the social media
connections has been that people who stand on opposite sides of
theological issues are discovering each other as people, rather
than just an ‘issue.’ ”
About the future
of denominational structures, Reyes-Chow says: “We have to
understand that chaos is just the air we breathe, so how does
the structure keep us moving through all of that without going
through these huge highs and lows? How does it provide some
stability without being stifling? ... When we think of
institutional structures, we can't think of them as endpoints,
but rather as this constant movement, which can drive people
nuts. Our structure needs to have adaptability built into it,
which we don't have now.”
This will be a
challenge, he says, because “we have to have the structures
there that support that and manifest a healthy presence. So in a
denominational future, how we structure middle governing bodies
is going to be huge. That's the game changer for the PCUSA –
re-thinking our synods and presbyteries to model ministry in a
Looking ahead, he
adds this: “As far as ministry components, I predict a
resurgence in justice ministries again, as so many young folks
are looking at issues like trafficking, gender, invisible
children, environmental issues, etc. Folks are realizing that we
need to come alongside some of these movements and be
influencers. The last thing I'd say is that we just hired a new
director of our Washington office who is going to reinvigorate
our prophetic presence in DC. I think that piece is going to be
We encourage you to read the full text of this interview >>
And let’s talk
about it! What are your thoughts about Bruce’s views on the
future of the PC(USA)? And specifically, what does it suggest
for the future mission of a group like Presbyterian Voices for
Justice? Help us do the rethinking we need to be doing, to shape
our mission and action for the years to come!
Just send a note, to be shared here (unless you ask us to
keep it just among ourselves).
Let’s find good people to help shape the future of the PC(USA)!
General Assembly (2010) in Minneapolis created a
Commission on Middle Governing Bodies,
made up of 21
persons appointed by the moderators of the 219th and 218th
Assemblies (with at least one each from the 16 synods). The
commission was approved as amended by a 566-104-4 margin. The
deadline for the application for
consideration is no later than September 1 and the first
meeting is scheduled November 4-6, 2010. The commission has 7
specific powers and foci outlined by the assembly. Reporting
back to the 220th General Assembly (2012), the commission has
the powers "to organize" new synods and presbyteries and "to
divide, unite or otherwise combine" synods, presbyteries or
portions there of according to G-13.0103m and n. The impact of
this work will be fundamental to the structure of the
Presbyterian Church (USA). It is imperative that we recruit fine
people to serve. Please help us call the right folks to service.
for the application form for
membership on the Special Commission on Middle Governing Bodies.
Concerns about Louisville layoffs –
and about justice
by Doug King, PVJ
for the most recent comments on this matter!
Today (Friday, May 14) the General Assembly
Mission Council (GAMC) has approved the elimination of
forty-five staff positions to be eliminated and all staff have
already been told to prepare for layoffs as soon as the GAMC
acts on Friday morning. No announcements have been made of the
specific positions eliminated, pending notification of all the
employees being dismissed, which was planned to be done this
Reports are that twelve of the 45 are
voluntary departures, some are vacancies, but the majority will
be servants of the church given packages and, we hope, a few
days to say good-bye. Some of these staff persons will have
worked for many years at the Presbyterian Center and it will be
a sad loss of collective memory, and many gifts and skills.
Leslie Scanlon of
Presbyterian Outlook reports that the GAMC “voted
unanimously, with no debate, this morning, to approve the
budgets for 2011 and 2012 for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).”
The budgets reflect “an $11.8 million cut, as the PC(USA)’s
mission budget drops from $93.8 million this year to $82 million
for 2011 and $80.5 million in 2012.”
Presbyterian News Service report, which was not
available until we had finished preparing this
In all 73.5
positions were eliminated. Twelve were vacant
and 12 employees accepted voluntary separation
offers in recent weeks. The staff reduction
amounts to 13 percent, from roughly 390
employees to 340. Staff cuts occurred across the
GAMC — 24.5 in Mission, 11.5 in Shared Services,
8 in Communications and Funds Development and
five in the Executive Director’s office.
At its last meeting in February, the GAMC
debated the principles that would guide the GAMC leadership –
concentrated in the Executive Committee and senior staff – in
deciding what to cut. Clearly, despite a major investment in
fundraising and communications (more than 75 people), the money
is not coming in. Some of the GAMC members were aware of the
value judgments and secular “feel” to some of the February
principles, and debated them before approval.
To be sure, many of the guidelines are
reasonable, such as the basic idea that the General Assembly
agencies should do what they can do better than the
congregations and presbyteries. Regardless of those principles,
perhaps, within minutes of the end of the GAMC meeting in
February, all staff managers were given the memo to cut 15% for
2011 and another 4% for 2012.
It should be made clear that these cutbacks
apply only to the GAMC units; the Foundation, Board of Pensions,
Westminster/JohnKnox publishing, the Presbyterian Investment and
Loan Program (PILP) and the Office of the General Assembly
(Stated Clerk’s Office) have their own budgets. While they are
under the authority of the General Assembly, they are less
affected by the financial struggles of the church as a whole.
It is also worth noting – with some concern –
that the GAMC voted in February to give raises of three percent
next year to the staff who will remain. As an across the board
raise, it will of course benefit those at the top quite a bit
more than those at the bottom. Those who clean the GAMC offices,
incidentally, are the half-time employees of a cleaning service
who generally must work two jobs and do not have health
insurance. We can only hope that the Obama health-care reform
will help them.
This year, among the reports going to the
Assembly is one from the Advisory Committee on Social Witness
Policy, listed as Item 10-10, dealing with the theology of
compensation, entitled “Neither
Poverty Nor Riches: Compensation, Equity, and the Unity of the
One of its proposals is that an older 5:1
salary ratio be re-applied to the General Assembly Mission
Council staff. This would mean that the best paid staff person
could not make more than five times what the lowest paid staff
person makes. This is a change opposed by the hierarchy of the
GAMC, although the other agencies are even more unequal in their
salary structure – except for the Office of the General
Assembly, which holds more closely to the old “mission board”
spirit of solidarity. By the time the General Assembly convenes,
of course, it will be too late for those dismissed today, but
clearly if salaries were more equal, fewer people would need to
be let go.
We sympathize with the General Assembly
Mission Council as it faces hard choices. Would it be different
if more of a spirit of shared sacrifice were presented to the
wider Church? It is our experience that congregational
leadership is more likely to share cutbacks and give
proportionate raises. And while we support the World Mission
unit of the denomination, which is featured in so much of the
direct mail the GAMC sends out, we are also convinced that there
are domestic needs and justice ministries that would also
benefit from some marketing support. Otherwise we fear that
further cutbacks will make the General Assembly’s justice
ministries almost purely symbolic. Also, how much inequality
does the church want in its national staff of all agencies,
especially in the midst of this “Great Recession"?
We'd like to hear your comments!
Whether you're one of those directly affected by the staff cuts,
or concerned about the PC(USA) and its budget woes,
please share your thoughts here.
send a note!
|The recent GAMC meeting, with its
decisions on restructuring of our church's mission
agencies and its latest round of staff reductions,
has stimulated lots of thought and comment.
Here are the first to arrive -- and
more are likely to turn up soon.
We hope yours might be among them!
send a note!
vote for non-geographic presbyteries
I think it was
Mitch Trigger who mentioned
non-geographic presbyteries in his comment. Amen!
Why not an economic justice presbytery, earth
justice presbytery, gender justice presbytery, LGBT
justice presbytery? Congregations need to break out
of the present presbytery/denomination structure and
work with whomever God leads them to.
Post Falls, ID
About GAMC salaries
This could be provided across the board in church
salaries too The church that pays its pastor
$150,000.00 could be required to, after balancing
for cost of living, give some of that money to the
presbytery to help pay the salaries of pastors in
I know, I’m such
Tully Memorial Presbyterian Church
Sharon Hill, PA
time to think in new ways about our church
From Mitch Trigger, PVJ
Secretary/Communicator, on May 15, 2010
There are so many aspects of this
latest meeting and the "spin" that has come out of
the Louisville office that are unsettling that I
hardly know where to begin...
latest PNS story about the re-organization of
mission, there is this paragraph about the research
that was done:
The research 'found passion among Presbyterians
for a wide variety of mission activities,'
Valentine said. 'At the same time, it found a
lack of consensus around any of them as being
the most important. Instead, we are called to
balance numerous functions on which the church
has asked us to lead.'
guess that's a matter of interpretation. I looked at
that they brought to the GAMC with the research,
and yes, there was support for a wide range of
interests, but social justice got very strong
support. Interestingly enough, the weakest support
was from pastors - they were more interested in
evangelism, church development, and international
mission support. It's strange that except for
pastors, the respondents to the research had a
higher support for social justice than they did for
international mission support and yet international
mission support is the area that will see an
increase in its percentage of the GAMC budget for
the next 2 years.
can't believe this but I'm starting to sound like
those elements of our church that continually
complain that we have allowed a minority of the
church to control our witness and focus.
are being eliminated and the focus of areas such as
Youth and Young Adult Ministries are being
"refocused" to congregational support, rather than
doing larger programming. So what will we be left
with when we call Louisville for support? People to
mail out resources to us? We're losing people who
have been deeply involved in important areas and we
won't be reclaiming them any time soon.
you haven't already seen it,
Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow's latest comments
about his experience at GAMC are a challenge.
[For a bit of that blog, scroll down to the next
beginning to think that denominational ties DON'T
mean very much and that it MIGHT be better for
churches to connect with each other based on their
understanding of how churches are supposed to
express God's love for the world. That's what is
being asked for with the overture to allow creation
of non-geographic presbyteries. Our denominational
identity seems to have been watered down to simply a
form of government, with little consideration for
our historic support of social justice and care for
"the underdog." Too many Presbyterians know too
little about our history and our place at the
vanguard of progressive viewpoints.
“Letting go of institutional nostalgia?”
Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow has
offered some very provocative thoughts in response
to the actions of the GAMC. His title says at lot:
“Letting go of institutional nostalgia?”
Here’s part of his blog:
This past week I took part in a
series of meetings that lead to the laying off of
many people in the national offices of the
denomination to which I belong, the Presbyterian
Church (USA). While the situation leading up to
these decisions and the process itself have been
complicated, it is painfully clear that this has
been a difficult time for many people on many
As I was sitting through this
meeting and have been mulling this over, I am again
bolstered in my belief that we are in a time of
transition like we have never known. At levels of
society from civic groups to churches to government
it does not take a bunch of studies for us to know
that if we are going to truly thrive into the
future, the ways in which we engage the world and
one another have got to change. ...
First what we must do is ask
ourselves soul searching questions about our very
existence. What would happen if we simply let things
go? And I am not talking about letting go in some
metaphorical or ethereal sense, but really letting
go. Let go of the security of our structures, the
confines of our finances and the stifling nature of
wanting to survive. What is the worst that can
happen? The worst thing that could happen is that we
discover - or realize - that for the most part, we
would not be missed. This would be sad, of course,
but at least we would know and would be given
permission to stop. And then . . . now this is where
life could get really interesting. No longer being
fueled by our own delusions of grandeur, the best
thing that could happen is that we are given
permission to focus all of our energy and expertise
towards discovering what may be, rather than
propping up and dressing up what was. With a sense
of possibility, grounded and formed by where we have
been, we take on the privilege and challenge of
birthing new life and we collectively become
To read the whole thing (which we recommend!) >>
Where's the "justice"?
From the Rev. Jake Young, former
president of the Witherspoon Society, on May 14,
In all our denomination’s
communications about mission, I am struck by the
utter lack of the term: "Justice." The notion is
there – sort of – and, indeed, it is practiced by
many mission co-workers such as Hunter Farrell (now
the director of Presbyterian World Mission), who
during his service in Peru engaged in serious
justice work. But why don't we name it? Has it
become – in some strange discursive
turning-of-the-tables – politically incorrect? I
need not remind you all that there are plenty of
scriptural references to "justice" (e.g. most
notably Micah 6:8).
And so I’d like to ask our current
Moderator, "Does social justice work have any place
in the emerging, technologically sophisticated
church? Why don't you ever mention justice?"
Even at the January 2008 World
Mission summit in Dallas, where I represented one of
PVJ's predecessor groups, it was like pulling teeth
to get people to discuss the biblical notion of
justice and how it is a clear part of our calling
from our Creator.
But I thank all of you in PVJ for
putting the "J" word in the very name of our
organization and please, please continue to beat the
drums of Justice for the Presbyterian Church and,
more importantly, for all creation.
Yours in seeking justice,
comment from a former mission co-worker
Although previously a part of
worldwide mission myself, I have been distressed by
the monthly mailings from the World Mission Program
Area I have received and the money spent on slick
publications and postage. It appears to me that the
PC(USA) has abandoned social, economic, racial and
gender justice issues in favor of sending one more
mission worker abroad. Do we not have any staff
working in these areas?
Wade says this is 'not your mother and father's church
by Duane Sweep, Special to
Presbyterian News Service [4-23-10]
DEERWOOD, Minn. — April 23, 2010 --- The Rev.
Byron Wade, vice moderator of the 218th (2008) General Assembly
of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), looked out on his audience
at the Clearwater 2010 conference here, and asked for a show of
hands from the "boomers."
He told them, "You are the last generation
that goes to church on a regular basis."
In an April 17 address on change in church,
Wade spoke about a church in a foreign land. The conference had
the theme, "Finding Our Way in the Wilderness."
"We're going through something in the church,"
Wade said. "Our current church is in a foreign culture. ... You
can't put the same old thing in a new culture and expect it to
The rest of
the story >>
Phil Tom moving to Washington
Phil Tom (left) with
Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow
Photo by Erin Dunigan,
Presbyterian News Service
The Rev. Phil Tom has been tapped by the White
House and Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis to serve as the
Director for the Center for Faith-based and Community
Initiatives for the Department of Labor. He is currently serving
as associate for Small Church and Community Ministry in the
General Assembly’s Evangelism and Church Growth ministry area.
He will leave at the end of May, to begin service in Washington
on April 5.
He will be serving in one of
twelve Cabinet level Faith-based offices, which are coordinated
by the White House Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnership
Last summer Phil Tom received the Rodney T.
Martin award from the Presbyterian Health, Education & Welfare
Association (PHEWA) during the group’s opening reception at the
Big Tent event in Atlanta, June 11-13. The award is named for
the late Rod Martin, who once served as executive director of
PHEWA, and after his retirement was president of the Witherspoon
Society in 1994.
Presbyterian Voices for Justice rejoices that
Phil will be serving now in a wider sphere, bringing his
insight, his creativity, and his passion for justice into the
hallowed halls of Washington.
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!