Witherspoon affirms our unity in the
Witherspoon Society Board Statement,
September 15, 2006
"Oh how good and pleasant it is when kindred dwell in unity."
Psalm 133:1, NRSV
The members of Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity and Purity of the
Church (TTF), who met together for four years, have provided the PCUSA a
model of mutual discussion and discernment, appreciation and trust. The 217th
General Assembly, meeting in June of 2006 in Birmingham, Alabama, affirmed
the value of both the process and the substance of what the TTF had done by
overwhelmingly adopting recommendations 1 through 4, which called for
harmony and covenanted partnership in dealing with potentially divisive
While Recommendation 5 passed by a more narrow margin, a clear majority
of commissioners adopted the Authoritative Interpretation (AI) of the Book
of Order. Briefly, the Assembly’s approval reaffirmed G-6.0108 of the Book
of Order in three ways: the Constitution is authoritative; candidates for
ordination may state their "departures" regarding particular points in the
Constitution; and governing bodies have the responsibility to determine
whether a "departure" is contrary to the essentials of Reformed faith,
polity or practice.
Though there were differing assessments of the TTF’s recommendations,
from a variety of perspectives, the mood following the vote of the Assembly
was one of mutual affirmation and reconciliation consistent with the actions
just taken, (particularly in adopting Recommendations 1 – 4) in the spirit
of living together in harmony and covenanted partnership.
This unique moment of reconciliation at the Assembly makes the attitude
and the subsequent statements and actions of some Presbyterians and
presbyteries especially disheartening. It may be that many Presbyterians
have not taken the time to read or interpret the TTF’s report or the AI in
the wider context. It is our hope that misinterpretations can be corrected
by study and discussion. Pastors have a special responsibility to give an
accurate interpretation of both the Task Force report and the Book of Order.
We are also dismayed and appalled that some congregations, under the
leadership of their sessions and pastors, have chosen to act in ways that
defy and destroy the trust relationship that has been so painstakingly
developed since the TTF’s inception in 2001, and that a majority in some
presbyteries have affirmed these destructive and unconstitutional actions.
We regret that some have decided to leave the Presbyterian Church (USA) and
hope that any such action will not be permanent. We caution against giving
in to a spirit of anarchy and misinterpretation by ignoring the procedures
clearly spelled out in the Book of Order for pastors and congregations to
leave the Presbyterian Church (USA).
We pledge to join with all Presbyterians in carrying out the letter and
the spirit of both the AI and our broader Presbyterian tradition: to defend
our Constitution against anarchy and misinterpretation, to seek more
thorough discernment, and to assist candidates and committees as we all try
to live our way into the new opportunities brought to us by the Theological
Task Force, the actions of the 217th General Assembly, and the
Reformed heritage upon which the Presbyterian Church (USA) stands.
We'd like to hear from you about this statement,
how it does or does not reflect your own convictions,
and how we might implement the pledge we have made.
to be shared here.
Two comments on
the Witherspoon statement
We posted on Sept. 15 a statement by
Witherspoon’s board, expressing dismay at the words and actions of some
Presbyterian looking toward some kind of separation, and affirming the call
to discernment and unity from the 217th General Assembly.
We invited comments on the statement, and
have received three responses so far. One affirms the Witherspoon statement,
while another points to the distrust among Presbyterians as a reason for the
talk of separation. The writer of the third note asked that it not be posted
A word of gratitude
We are grateful for your continued discernment and willingness to speak.
We are disheartened by the actions of some in Eastern Oklahoma Presbytery
who have acted in a spirit of confrontation. We are encouraged by the
restraint and courage of the Presbytery in the face of actions.
We keep the church, the Presbytery and the Witherspoon Society in our
Bob and Pat Lucy
The issue of distrust
I think that the trust issue is a very important one. It seems to me that
it is much easier for some to trust our denomination than for others. In my
perspective, the average people in the pews of the PCUSA are not well
represented at the "higher levels" of the denomination or at General
Assembly. In our presbytery, my husband as a white male minister is much
less likely to be a representative to G.A. than a non-white female minister.
The ministers or specialized clergy who are more likely to represent our
presbytery are those, according to the Presbyterian Panel, who are less
likely to share my views. So, it is hard for me to trust our system when I
have experienced again and again that the beliefs of the majority in the
PCUSA (ie. those in the pews) are frequently not well represented. We seem
to be very big on diversity when it has to do with the color of one's skin
or one's gender, but much less committed to theological diversity. That, to
me, is a shame.
Farmville Presbyterian Church
We invite your comments, too!
a note, to be shared here.
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!