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Archive for December, 2001

12/27/01
The Witherspoon Society is asking members to renew their membership, and for new folks to join up.  

We are also seeking funding for a vital initiative during the coming year, including a staff person to plan and coordinate local conferences on "the whole Gospel church" and the Confession of 1967.

Please look at these two notes, and respond as generously as you can!

12/23/01

A Christmas Prayer for Peace

God, hear our prayers.
We've lost touch with you
And lost our way.
We've forgotten the lesson you came amongst us to teach.
We are violent
And we hurt one another.

God,
Father of us all
Remind us to be good.
Mother of us all
Teach us to be compassionate.

In difficult times
Help us to rebuild rather than destroy.
Teach us to hold hands like brothers and sisters.
Discourage us from fighting like enemies.
Show us the error of our ways.

Make the sun rise on a world
In which children are safe
And parents are safe.
Free us from hatred
So that our anger will not end in destruction.

Unite us O God.
Teach us to share this world.
Help us to remember that we are all your children
Regardless of race, religion, or ideology.

Help us Creator.
Stand by our side
And show us the way.
Show us the way to peace.

Amen.

This prayer was offered by Brianna Stratman in worship on Sunday morning, December 23, at St. Luke Presbyterian Church, Wayzata, MN. She is a college student and a member of the congregation.

12/22/01
For a helpful perspective on Christmas, check out Peter Sawtell's reflections on Christmas as "a profoundly subversive holiday."  
Presbyterian church defends its right to help the homeless 

Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City is in the news for successfully defending its right to let homeless people sleep on church grounds. Margaret Shafer runs the church's outreach program; her husband, Byron Shafer, is a former president of the Witherspoon Society.

Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani called the judge's decision "very inhumane." (That will make a little more sense if you read the full story. Maybe.)

Thanks to onReligion.com

Why don't the Arabs trust us?  

On December 15, the United States vetoed the U.N. Security Council Resolution to establish a monitoring force in the West Bank and Gaza (the "Occupied Territories").

David Batstone, Executive Editor of SoJoNet (Sojourners Magazine), sees this (and the long line of similar actions in the past) as a major factor leading Arab and Islamic nations and people to distrust the United States.

Florida farm workers call for boycott of Taco Bell, plan "Truth Tour" for March, 2002.
Jesse Alexander wants to add perspective to Barbara Kellam-Scott's critique of George Hunsinger's "third way" proposal.
The Covenant Network has posted its latest newsletter, which includes the announcement the Joanna Adams and Eugene Bay have been elected as new Co-Moderators. plans for the 2002 Covenant Conference, some of the addresses and sermons from the 2001 Conference, and much more.
Pat Robertson's departure from the Christian Coalition points to the paradox of conservative politics.
12/19/01
Building the federal budget for youth 

The Presbyterian Washington Office has joined other religious and civic groups in urging Office of Management and Budget to "increase investment in community-based juvenile crime prevention efforts that positively engage children and youth." This includes the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, the Title V Local Delinquency Prevention program, and the national programs under the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RHYA), which provide critical assistance to youth in high-risk situations. 

The UCC Justice and Peace Action Network, in its weekly message, calls for concerned citizens to urge the U.S. not to withdraw from the A.B.M. Treaty. 
Someone has asked recently about forming local groups of Witherspoon folk.  We have no formal program in this area, but would be glad to have people initiate such things.  Here are a few suggestions about forming local chapters.  Take a look, see what you think, and send us a note if we can help!

Resource packet for the debate on Amendment 01-A

The Witherspoon Society is making available a packet of materials to aid our church in the debate on Amendment A.  Most of the material is already on this web site, but a print form is easier to share.

You can check out the list of contents, and how to order.

That All May Freely Serve is seeking a Minister of Reconciliation and Justice, to serve in the Texas area.
12/17/01
WCC General Secretary Konrad Raiser has issued a Christmas message that proclaims God's grace in the face of "a world without mercy," ruled by competition and money. 
The three kings
a revelation from the Gentiles points us toward new openness to learning from other faiths and from environmental scientists.

by Peter Sawtell, Executive Director, Eco-Justice Ministries
    
Churches for Middle East Peace issue "A Christian Call for Peace" in the form of a petition  

We reported a year ago on a prayer vigil campaign by the group, Churches for Middle East Peace, in which the PC(USA) is an active participant.

This year the group has issued a petition for peace, which you can sign on their web site.  (Or print a copy to circulate it more widely, and mail it to the address provided.)  They will send the signatures to our nation's leaders.\

We've received three interesting reports of current activities on behalf of peace:
bulletHampshire College Condemns War in All-Community Vote
bulletBarbara Lee Addresses Growing Interfaith Peace Movement
bulletNorth Carolina Rally And March For Alternatives To War
Roberta Wells Hargleroad has been named as new editor for Church & Society magazine.
Nominations are being sought for the PC(USA) annual Restorative Justice Award.  Deadline is March 15. 
Barbara Kellam-Scott is less hopeful than Gene TeSelle about finding helpful points in the 78 theses put forward by George Hunsinger. Mere tolerance seems unlikely to be offered, she points out, and if it were, it would fall far short of the justice which is the demand of the Gospel. 
Kairos student group at Union Seminary/PSCE, Richmond, will hold discussions with the Rev. Dr. Jane Spahr and the Rev. Katie Morrison, on issues of justice in the PC(USA).  Jan. 22-23, 2002.  Open to all!
The whole gospel for our whole church ... to help make the world whole.   [12-17-01]

The Witherspoon Society is developing a coordinated program designed to promote the theology of reconciling witness in the church, using the 35th Anniversary of the Confession of 1967 in 2002 as a take-off point. A conference will be taking place in February 2002, at Stony Point, New York, which will provide a first chance for discussion along these lines.

This conference, "The Hope of Reconciliation," developed in one presbytery with involvement from members of Witherspoon and other organizations, serves as an example of our intention of promoting discussion of the "whole gospel" for our whole church. We believe the church's heritage cannot be reduced to three or four 'fundamentals,' and our heritage must continue to be discussed and evaluated for its relevance to our changing world and church.

We hope you will consider participating in this event, and will encourage others to join in, too. You are welcome to circulate the information from the brochure, or ask for copies of the brochure itself (with a cover illustration and a registration form) from C-67 Conference Registrar, Box 35, Scarborough, NY 10510. The Registrar can also be reached c/o Scarborough Presbyterian Church 914-941-1142, and e-mail will be forwarded from Dr. Christian Iosso's church e-mail, ciosso@scarboroughchurch.org. The Presbytery website: www.hudrivpres.org also carries bios of the lead speakers for the February 3-4 event.

If you're a member of Witherspoon, you will soon be receiving a letter telling more about this program.
Added on 12/14/01
Amendment A slips farther behind in voting

Effort to restore ordination decisions to presbyteries and sessions trails 7-35 with 25 percent of the vote in.

The Army of God, one of whose "warriors," Clayton Lee Waagner, was recently apprehended by federal authorities as a "domestic terrorist" because of his repeated threats against women's clinics. Some are pointing out that the group in which he has been involved, the Army of God, should properly be dealt with similarly as a domestic terrorist organization.  
Peace, Unity and Purity Task Force holds first meeting

Gathering in Louisville, the group of 20 faced the reality of differences in the church, but seemed determined to know one another as persons, and to join in seeking a way forward for the church.  In their opening covenant the group committed itself (among other things) to "model a respectful, loving process of discernment and dialogue, seeking to reach consensus whenever possible, ever mindful of our responsibilities to all the members of our beloved Church."

The General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission has finally ruled that the case against the ordination of a gay elder in Stamford, CT, is moot, because the term for which he was elected has expired.
Another session has endorsed the Call to Civility.
Added on 12/12/01

Amendment 01-A Will Keep All God's Creatures in the Ark   

The Rev. John A. Shuck, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Billings, MT, has sent us this essay, in which he reflects on the benefits that passage of Amendment A would bring to all of us as a denomination, and to our congregations and members.

It would, he says, be faithful to Scripture, respectful of differing opinions among us, and in harmony with the meaning of ordination in our church.

NOTE:  The author has broken his essay into shorter paragraphs, just to make it easier to read in the web format.   

Details have been announced for the More Light National Conference, scheduled for May 24-26, 2002, in Raleigh, NC.   
Lisa Larges becomes fifth Minister Evangelist for That All May Freely Serve 

Do you want to have some impact on the life of our church?  Here's one way!!
Nominations are now being sought
for GA level committees and boards.  Consider applying, or nominating someone else.
  

Release of missionaries held in Afghanistan raises questions about truthfulness and respect for law of some "evangelists"

[Published on 12-10-01, and posted here on 12-12-01]

A recent article in the Dallas Morning News points to some of the questions that observers have been asking since the release of Dayna Curry and Heather Mercer after weeks of detention by the Taliban. They were accused of using their humanitarian activities as a "cover" for evangelism, which has long been forbidden by the Afghan government.

Some of the questions being asked:

bulletIs deception legitimate when it is for the sake of spreading the Gospel?
bulletIs it appropriate to violate the laws of a nation in which one is a guest?
bulletIs evangelism sometimes coercive, when it makes use of Western wealth and power in a very poor country?
bulletDoes the Gospel lead us to respect the faiths of other people, or does it compel us to despise other religions?

Thanks to onReligion.com
Added on 12/10/01
One Retired Missionary's Response to "An Open Letter from Our Missionaries"  

Retired missionary Bill Hopper writes in response to "An Open Letter from Our Missionaries," in which they express the fear that "If Amendment A should pass, compromising our church's commitment to the biblical and confessional understanding of chastity as faithfulness in marriage and celibacy in singleness, we will put our partnerships with sister Churches around the world in profound jeopardy."

Hopper suggests that "Our Missionaries" are showing a lack of respect for our sister churches around the world, which are working out their own patterns of faithfulness in their situations just as we are attempting to do in our own.

The Salvation Army, discrimination, and the big red kettles 

The Salvation Army, the nation's largest charity, has rescinded its decision allowing regional divisions to extend health insurance benefits to the domestic partners of its employees. So what do we do with those Salvation Army kettles, collecting money to help the needy during the holiday season?  Equal Partners in Faith suggests putting coupons in the kettles, promising a contribution as soon as the Army changes its discriminatory policy. 

O Tannenbaum - O environment!  

Peter Sawtell, Executive Director of Eco-Justice Ministries, recently sent these thoughts on Christmas trees. He may sound a bit like the Grinch, but he offers helpful insights on the ways our "simple" actions are intertwined with economic and environmental realities - and consequences.

Chanukah greetings and a call for peace   

Rabbi and author Michael Lerner offers Chanukah greetings, and reflects on the Chanukah reading from Zechariah, "in which God reveals a central message of Judaism: Not by might, and not by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord who has ultimate power."

So he ponders the need for breaking the cycles of violence between Israel and the Palestinians. "So this year," he concludes, "we truly need a miracle" among all the peoples of the world.

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance allocates second round of humanitarian aid for Afghan refugees and displaced persons.

Food packets will help feed more than 100,000 people. 
Do you want to send messages to Congress, but can't find time to compose good letters on so many issues?  Here's a place to find some help!
Two glimpses of Witherspoon's past 

Issues Analyst Gene TeSelle has uncovered a couple interesting documents from Witherspoon's past.  One is a statement drafted in 1985, describing the purposes of the group and the issues on which its attention was focused.

The second document, a sort of modern poem composed around the time of the group's founding nearly 30 years ago, is a fascinating reflection of its time.  Gene would like help in finding the author of the poem.  So please check out "A Stern Prayer for Parlous Times."  

Added on 12/5/01
In Search of Alternatives to Violence will be the topic for a Ghost Ranch seminar set for July 29-August 5, 2001.  Leadership will include Bruce Gagnon, Alan Geyer, and Barbara Green.  Co-sponsored by Witherspoon Society, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, and Presbyterians for Restoring Creation.

Material for the debate on Amendment 01-A

The Witherspoon Society is making available a packet of materials to aid our church in the debate on Amendment A.  Most of the material is already on this web site, but a print form is easier to share.

You can check out the list of contents, and how to order.

A new Witherspoon Society membership brochure is available.  Request one for yourself, or to share with a friend.  Request a quantity to spread around your neighborhood!  Just send a note, telling us how many you want and where we should send them.  (If you'd like a white, unfolded version to make your own copies, mention that, too!)
Northern New York votes for Amendment A by 42 to 19

Vote totals now as 6 presbyteries approving Amendment A, 30 rejecting it.

Voting on Amendment A: 6 yes and 30 no, as of 12/5/01

For a clear and current listing of the votes, check the PresbyWeb site.

Over 130 of the commissioners to the 213th General Assembly have joined in an open letter to the PC(USA), which concludes:

Amendment 01-A honors Scripture, Confessions, and our Presbyterian heritage -- and allows Presbyterians to honor and respect one another.

We urge you to join us in supporting Amendment 01-A.

Check out the full text of the letter, and see who has signed it.  

Another open letter, from leading figures on the conservative side of the church, urges us all to defeat Amendment A.
We recently reported on PresbyNet conversation about the displaying of US flags in church sanctuaries Joe Sayre responds to the discussion by urging that we keep our focus on more important issues.
Elder Warren Aney writes to agree with Barbara Kellam-Scott in questioning the continuing insistence on affirming that "Jesus is Lord."  
Petition for peace:  American Friends Service Committee has been gathering signatures for a petition authored by a group of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates that calls on the United Nations to chart a new course in the global response to terrorism.
Added on 12/1/01
As the "war against terrorism" continues, Presbyterians and others still protest the US-based training for terrorists at Ft. Benning's School of the Americas

A special report from Anne Llewellyn Barstow

Do you want to go back in time??

To wander through earlier headlines and links:

bulletfrom November, 2001
bulletfrom October, 2001
bulletfrom September, 2001
bulletfrom August, 2001.
bulletfrom July, 2001
bulletfrom June, 2001.
bulletfrom May, 2001.
bulletfrom April, 2001.
bulletfrom March, 2001.
bulletfrom February, 2001.
bulletfrom January, 2001, click here.
bullet from all of December, 2000, click here.
bullet from November 2000
    including reports on 
bulletCovenant Network conference
bulletRe-Imagining Conference
bullet articles from the Spring 2000 issue of Network News
bullet from mid-September through October, click here.
bullet from July through mid-September, click here.
bullet from January through June 2000, click here.
 
 

GA actions ratified (or not) by  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.
 

If you like what you find here,
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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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