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The 214th General Assembly

We're happy to present:

The 2002 General Assembly
A Special Report to Witherspoon Society Members

by 
Gene TeSelle, Witherspoon Issues Analyst,
 
and 
Doug King, Network News editor and WebWeaver

[posted 7-1-02]

A late update, October 19, 2002

Commissioner seeks special meeting of GA

Reactions are many and varied   

Reports have been pouring forth over the past few days about the effort by Dr. Alex Metherell, who was an elder commissioner to the 214th General Assembly in June, 2002, to force an extraordinary reconvening of that assembly to deal with what he calls "a full-blown constitutional crisis" in the Presbyterian Church.

Here's a brief outline of the situation thus far, with links to reports far more complete than we can provide.

Your WebWeaver also adds a few personal reflections. 

July 15, 2002

More Light Presbyterians has a good collection of reports on the 214th General Assembly, headlined: "MLP Holds the Line against attacks on Presbyterian Tradition, Constitution"

They note that the Assembly, while not dealing directly with ordination issues, "affirmed by an 85% majority vote lesbian and gay civil rights [while] discussion noted the hypocrisy of affirming this while still not ordaining or offering same protection to PCUSA employees."

July 9, 2002

And we present ... at last ... a little GA photo album -- pictures from the Assembly, plus a special page of Witherspoon events and people.  

Come back soon, 'cause we hope to add more.

July 3, 2002

Outlook writers see Assembly as solidly moderate

Leslie Scanlon and John Bolt, reporting for Presbyterian Outlook (the July 22-29, 2002, issue) call the recent gathering in Columbus "the 70-30 Assembly." They name what many observers noted: on even the most contested plenary votes, the margin was generally 70 to 30 percent in favor of moderate actions affirming the traditions and policies of the Presbyterian Church.

Reflections on GA

One visitor comments that the Assembly's action in affirming the Theology and Worship statement on Christology may have helped avoid a narrower statement, but regrets that it offers no steps toward "a theology of religious pluralism" for our time.

July 1, 2002

As we announced earlier, Harold Barton received Witherspoon's annual Volunteer of the Year award at our awards dinner during General Assembly.  We've just added a very nice statement from his pastor in Cleveland, OH, about his extensive service to the church and the wider world, along with a photo taken when he received the award at his home church, since he was not able to be with us for the dinner.

June 25, 2002

The Assembly's actions on environmental issues:

PCUSA energy policy was updated in the face of Bush administration challenges to environmental stewardship, and a study of "takings" approved.

This is a special report from Bob Stivers, Presbyterians for Restoring Creation.

June 21, 2002 -- 4:00 PM

Witherspoon Dinner honors Kathy Lancaster

Around 100 Witherspooners and others found their way to one of the Hyatt Regency halls for our awards dinner and annual meeting on Tuesday evening, June 18.

Witherspoon President Jane Hanna presented the annual Andrew Murray Award for Christian service and witness reflecting Witherspoon's commitment to justice and peace, to Kathy Lancaster, who recently retired as editor of Church & Society magazine and Director of the Criminal Justice Program in the Division of National Ministries of the PC(USA).

Her address, which she titled "Use Words if Necessary," offered glimpses of Witherspoon's past and its mission, and presented us with challenges to live out the Gospel in our lives and our communities. 

The Assembly celebrates 35th anniversary of the Confession of 1967

Unanimously in Committee and overwhelmingly on the floor, the Commissioners approved the distribution of a new, inclusive language text of the Confession of 1967 ("C-67") to all congregations, presbyteries and seminaries, to help in their own remembrance and reflection on the need for confessing today.

June 20, 2002 -- 4:00 PM

Demands for narrow Christological statements have been met by the Assembly with an affirmation of the document, "Hope in the Lord Jesus Christ."

The Assembly also rejected an effort aimed at narrowing the first ordination vow.

Presbyteries still required to pay per capita; GA Nominating Committee now to be elected by GA

Committee 3 on General Assembly Procedures reported to the Assembly today. An overture from San Joaquin Presbytery, which would have removed the requirement that presbyteries pay their per capita assessments even if their congregations refuse to make such payments, was not approved.

But a proposal that the General Assembly Nominating Committee, whose members are currently appointed by the Moderator, should be nominated by the Moderator for election by the Assembly itself, was approved.

The Assembly has refused to remove sexuality education materials from the Presbyterian curriculum  
Marian Wright Edelman offers prayer for children

Marian Wright Edelman, the founder and president of the Children's Defense Fund, visited the General Assembly yesterday (Wed., June 19) to speak to a dinner to kick off Peacemaking Program's decade of "Building a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for All God's Children."

Before the dinner, Edelman spoke briefly to the whole Assembly, and closed her comments with a prayer for children which we're happy to share here.

We have already had inquiries about the "Up Your$" campaign announced here yesterday.  You can read a bit more about how and why Witherspoon has started this effort.

June 19, 2002 -- 4:00 PM

Dr. Doug Ottati's presentation at the Witherspoon Luncheon on Sunday, "Some Characteristics of Progressive Presbyterian Theologies," has already been reported in abbreviated form.  Now, in response to many requests, we have the full text available.  

If you want the text on paper, please stop by the Witherspoon booth if you're at GA, or contact your WebWeaver.  

It will also be published in the next issue of Network News. 

The Witherspoon Society invites Presbyterians to join us in a new effort to compensate for cuts in financial support of our church's mission, through an "Up Your$" campaign.
Christian-Muslim dialogue approved on recommendation of Committee 6
Presbyterian Outlook provides a good overview of actions from Wednesday afternoon.
View from the Booth

Three Witherspooners who have been staffing our booth in the Exhibit Hall give a picture of where the are, what they're doing, and who are some of their neighbors.

The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship breakfast featured Mike Beard, president of the Coalition to Stop Handgun Violence as its keynoter, highlighting the threats to human well-being through the continuing trafficking in handguns, both in the US and across national boundaries.

The breakfast meeting also featured brief words from 5 other witnesses for peace, along with strong arguments for Mideast peace from the new Moderator, Fahed Abu-Akel.

Network Newsprint

Those attending the Witherspoon Society Dance at the Hyatt on Tuesday evening had the opportunity to answer questions that had been written on newsprint and hung on the walls around the room.

June 18, 2002 -- 11 AM

Reports are coming in from the various Assembly committees, many of which have already finished their work.

You'll find some of those reports on the PCUSA web site, though many have not yet been posted there.

We'll have a page listing reports from the committees as fast as we can keep up with them.

Committee 09 on Christian Education has voted to override actions of an earlier Assembly, refusing to support survey of congregations on outreach to glbt people.  (A special Witherspoon report.)

June 17, 2002 -- 9 PM

Witherspoon luncheon hears Doug Ottati's call for theological reflection -- and starting points for the task
Covenant Network luncheon hears the Rev. Dr. John Walton on our task: "This matter [ordination] won't go away, because it is the work God means us to do."
Moderator and peacemaking in the Middle East

Our new Moderator, Dr. Fahed Abu-Akel, has been involved in many ways in seeking reconciliation in Israel/Palestine. Darrell Yeaney, a retired Presbyterian campus minister who has long been involved in Middle East visits, exchanges, and mission projects, has shared this added information about our Moderator's engagement in seeking peace in his homeland.

Take a break, find friends, get information!

Stop by the Witherspoon hospitality suite, room 537 in the Hyatt Regency Hotel, any time between 4 and 6 PM, and after 9 in the evening. It's a place to share concerns, get information, and just plain relax.

If you have comments or questions about the Assembly, please send a note!

June 15, 2002 -- 1 AM 

Fahed Abu-Akel elected as Moderator
[6-16-02]

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.

On Friday evening, Witherspoon's Commissioner Orientation gave commissioners a chance to get acquainted with other commissioners and resource people for their committees, and to begin talking about the issues they will be dealing with during the next two days in committee, and then in plenary sessions.
C-67 could help us shape our confessional faith for the new millennium

Dr. Douglas Ottati, speaking at the pre-Assembly Semper Reformanda theological conversation on the Friday before the Assembly, suggested a variety of ways the Confession of 1967 can be helpful in our theological reflections today -- and can lead us into new and creative paths.

Covenant Network Commissioner Convocation urges progressives to learn to live with disagreement
PHEWA reception will honor social justice ministries - and you can be there!

The Presbyterian Health, Education and Welfare Association will celebrate the work of individuals and congregations that are involved in exemplary Social justice Ministries, with a reception on Monday, June 17, from 6:30 to 7:30 PM in the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Tickets are still available for $6.

For lots more news from GA, we suggest you check out reports from the Presbyterian News Service, and on PresbyWeb.

June 14, 2002 -- 1PM

The Weaver's scribblings, # 2

Integrity, continued
[6-14-02]

Last night I noted some thoughts inspired by Mr. Robert Howard, chairman of the Presbyterian Lay Committee, urging the need for "integrity" in the leadership of the Presbyterian Church. In those reflections I suggested that "Integrity matters" might be a good slogan for this Assembly.

And behold, as I left my hotel this morning the first sight to greet me was a passing newspaper delivery truck, bearing a poster advertising Vineyard Church, one of Columbus' booming megachurches. Their slogan? "Integrity matters."

Truth comes to us in many forms, and I'm thankful for any confirmation I get. If the Lay Committee, Vineyard Church and I all agree, there must be something in it.

Friday morning around the Convention Center was pretty quiet. A few eager souls wandering about seeing friends and looking like they're doing fairly important things. Moderator Jack Rogers roaming the halls greeting the many people who were approaching him with obvious expressions of appreciation for his courageous witness during the year past.

But Columbus is focused elsewhere today: President Bush is coming to town to address the graduates of Ohio State University. And his image - along with a couple equally patriotic ones - is watching over the Convention Center where our Assembly will convene tomorrow. So fear not, folks. We're in good hands.





A nice welcome awaits people heading to the Convention Center. There are the usual light-pole banners welcoming the Assembly, but some of them are paired with banners for Columbus' Gay Pride Week.



All kinds of interesting messages to be found.

 

June 14, 2002 -- before dawn

WebWeaver scribblings

As we move toward the opening of another General Assembly, your WebWeaver wants to offer a bit of personal jottings from these busy days ... at least as time and energy permit.  

Whether you enjoy these muttering -- or not -- we'd like to hear from you.  Please send a note telling me whether to waste more time on this enterprise ... or not.

My flight to Columbus this morning was uneventful, except for the pleasure of meeting unexpectedly with a few friends from the Twin Cities in the terminal and on the plane.

Our arrival in Columbus, though, was special. The plane taxied to the gate with almost no delay. (That should have made me worry.) Then we sat obediently when the pilot told us there would be a slight delay because they were having trouble moving the gate out to meet the plane.

More obedient patience.

Then another announcement: They couldn't get the gate to move, so we would de-plane through the rear exit of the plane - the little ramp that drops down under the tail. Being near the rear of the plane in the cheap seats, I joined my neighbors in mild rejoicing at the thought of getting off the plane before the crowd up front.

We heard the rear door open, the roar of the engines. And then we heard it close. But eventually the door stairway opened again, and we were allowed to leave.

And as we left our wondrous big bird, through the noise of the engines and the smell of aviation fuel, I thought, "I'm leaving this bird through the place I don't want to be under when a real bird releases its load."

Well, friends, that's your WebWeaver's humble offering of profound thoughts as we gather and prepare for another General Assembly.

May our days together produce something more worthy (and more pleasing) than what comes out of the back end of the bird.

Call for integrity

As the Assembly approaches, Mr. Robert Howard, chairman of the Presbyterian Lay Committee, has issued a call for integrity on the part of unnamed "officers of the church" who are not enforcing certain church rules in the way the Lay Committee believes they should be doing.  We offer some thoughts about integrity, a crucial virtue -- and what it might mean for our church if we took it seriously.

C-67 anniversary essays collection to be presented and celebrated

The Church & Society special issue on the Confession of 1967 will be presented and celebrated at the General Assembly - on Sunday June 16, from 5:00 to 6:30, in the Exhibit Hall, National Ministries Area.

The collection of essays, which originated with the Conference on C-67 sponsored last February at Stony Point by the Presbytery of the Hudson River, with support from the Witherspoon Society and others, includes contributions by Paul Leggett, John Wilkinson, Eleanora Ivory, Gene TeSelle, Rick Ufford-Chase, Richard Hong, Curtis Jones and Chris Iosso ... and others.

You're invited to join in the celebration, meet some of the authors, and get an early look at a promising resource for study and discussion of our church's most recent confession of faith.

Copies of this issue will be available for $3 in the Cokesbury Bookstore in the Exhibit Hall.

Do you want to go back in time??

Just wander through earlier headlines and links:

bulletfrom August, 2002.
bulletfrom the 214th General Assembly
bulletfrom July, 2002
bulletfrom June, 2002
bulletfrom May, 2002
bulletfrom April, 2002
bulletfrom March, 2002
bulletfrom February, 2002
bulletfrom January, 2002

And go to the Archive index page for items from 1999 through 2001.

Can't find what you want? 
Click here to run a
Google search.

 

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,
we hope you'll help us keep Voices for Justice going ... and growing!

Please consider making a special contribution -- large or small -- to help us continue and improve this service.

Click here to send a gift online, using your credit card, through PayPal.

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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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