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A union of The Witherspoon Society and Voices of Sophia

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GA elects new moderator

Fahed Abu-Akel elected as Moderator

by Doug King

About 9:00 on Friday evening, the 214th General Assembly elected its new moderator. On the second ballot, the Rev. Fahed Abu-Akel, born in Palestine and now ministering with international students in Atlanta, was elected by 296 votes (57%), with 153 votes (29%) going to the Rev. Laird Stuart, former Co-Moderator of the Covenant Network, and 71 votes (14%) to the Rev. Jerry Tankersley, whose stated positions have been generally conservative, although his congregation, Laguna Presbyterian Church in Laguna Beach, California, has not joined the Confessing Church movement.

Dr. Abu-Akel, who is the Founder and Executive Director of the Atlanta Ministry with International Students, Inc., and is also Director of the National Christmas International House Program, which operates in 32 cities, was born in Palestine and came to the U.S. to attend college in 1966.

What does this choice mean for progressives who are committed to an inclusive church, and the continuing engagement of the Presbyterian Church in working for justice?

Certainly many people were disappointed that the candidate identified with the Covenant Network did not win, and people have been talking this evening about what this might mean.

A few thoughts that your WebWeaver has gleaned from conversations:

Jake Young, a pastor in Springfield, Illinois, saw in the vote a "clear message of our church's commitment to justice for the Palestinian people." Others saw the vote as reflecting commitment to a Palestinian state, as well.

On the other hand, I've talked with a number of people who see the vote as showing commissioners' desire to "vote the middle," supporting the one candidate who is not clearly identified with the "right" or the "left" in today's Presbyterian debates.

One conservative saw the vote as a refusal by the majority of commissioners "to keep elected the Covenant Network's candidates."

About the Middle East

During his press conference after his election, Abu-Akel was asked a number of questions about the significance of his election for people in Palestine. He responded by saying that this evenings action was "a miracle," and something that people in Palestine and Israel must hear about.

Asked by your WebWeaver how he would hope our church might bear prophetic witness to the President of the United States, he said he would want to remind the President that we are the most powerful nation in the world. "I want our nation to win," he said. "I want our nation to win the respect of the nations of the world by its political actions, its social actions, its economic actions, and not by military action, which will do no good."

Jack Adams of The Presbyterian Layman then asked what he would want to say to Yassir Arafat. Abu-Akel replied that he would urge Chairman Arafat to speak to the Palestinian people, calling on them to stop the suicide bombings, and to seek their freedom through non-violent actions.

About sexuality and ordination

Adams also asked about acts on "defiance of the Constitution," and whether there is a point at which we must say "the Constitution says this," and "we stop looking the other way." Abu-Akel's response was quick: "In our white culture we want a 'quick fix' for every problem. But we need to learn from the black community to be patient with one another, and to keep up the struggle." [Your WebWeaver has heard almost the same line twice before in the past two days, as people who feel defeated with the defeat of Amendment A are reminding themselves of the wisdom of the black tradition, and of Martin Luther King, Jr. Whether Abu-Akel's response should be taken as a message to glbt people to "be patient," or as a call to all sides of the church to be patient with one another, we'll have to wait and see.]

Hospitality as a theme

Asked how he would like his moderatorial year to be remembered, Abu-Akel said "I want to introduce the theme of hospitality. Hospitality is a gift of God, signified in Holy Communion, which is the most powerful act of the worship in our faith." He went on to say that in the early church, the followers of Jesus were first called "the hospitable people," and we need to recover that as the basic form of our mission in the world.

For another report on the election, check out Presbyterian News Service 

And for a good report on the new Moderator, look at the Outlook report as well.

You can also see Abu-Akel's responses to Witherspoon's questions a few weeks ago.


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.

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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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© 2011 by Presbyterian Voices for Justice.  All material on this site is the responsibility of the WebWeaver unless other sources are acknowledged.  Unless otherwise noted, material on this site may be copied for personal use and sharing in small groups.  For permission to reproduce material for wider publication, please contact the WebWeaver, Doug King.  Any material reached by links on this site is outside the control and responsibility of the WebWeaver and Presbyterian Voices for Justice.  Questions or comments?  Please send a note!