Presbyterian Voices for Justice 

A union of The Witherspoon Society and Voices of Sophia

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From the 212th General Assembly, Long Beach

Witherspoon luncheon hears call to action from Congresswoman Maxine Waters

June 26, 2000
by Doug King

The Annual Witherspoon Society Luncheon was held on Sunday, June 25, at the Westin Hotel in Long Beach. Some 250 people were present to hear Rep. Maxine Waters, Democrat from the 35th District of California, say that after hearing the presentation of awards and other announcements, she thought maybe she had "gone to liberal heaven."

For the opening prayer, offered by Witherspoon  board member Vicki Moss, click here.

New moderator Syngman Rhee drops in

The Rev. Syngman Rhee, who just the day before was elected Moderator of the 212th General Assembly, stopped at the Witherspoon luncheon long enough to eat, meet the guest speaker Rep. Waters, and speak to group. He praised Witherspoon for its "continuing efforts to bring peace and justice in our own communities, within our own church, and around the world." He closed with a pledge that "as moderator, I'll be delighted to work with you continually, in order that the peace of God and the justice of God may prevail in our own church, and in our land, and throughout the world."

Waters calls for a more just "criminal justice system"

[The full text of her address will be published here as soon as it is available.]

Ms. Waters touched on many issues: the death penalty, Elian Gonzalez and relations with Cuba, the need for change in the criminal justice system, the World Trade Organization, the troubles of the Democratic Party, and more.

Speaking of her own party, she said the Democrats have become a "which way" party which is unsure of its basic direction. Many of the party's members and supporters are lower or lower middle class, workers, union members -- yet the party leadership is moving more and more to the right -- partly because the Right has gained enough power to scare the politicians of both parties.

As one example she cited Vice President Al Gore's move to support some kind of asylum for Elian Gonzalez. That odd move lost him 11% of his support in polls, she said, and that support has not come back to him.

So the growing power of the Right is a matter of real concern, she said. And she had noticed that the same concern was felt in the Witherspoon Society.

In looking at the criminal justice system she pointed to penalties for drug use which are disproportionately harsh on the drugs more commonly used in African-American communities (crack cocaine), and much lighter on "white" drugs such as powder cocaine. When we realize that the flood of cocaine came largely through the "Iran-Contra" efforts of the CIA, and that big dealers generally get off easy while street dealers are punished severely, we see a system which discriminates harshly against people of color.

One way to deal with the problem, rather than adding harsher sentences and building more prisons, is to improve services to people caught in the drug culture -- services of treatment, education, rehabilitation, and more.

Waters urged Witherspooners to get involved in this issue, as they have in Jubilee 2000, which has been "a wonderful coming together of churches in the U.S. and around the world, so that politicians sat up and took notice." "As you have dealt with debt relief," she went on, "you can help us confront the drug issue."

She concluded by affirming that, in spite of this country's move toward the right, and in spite of the time and energy we have lost in our efforts for peace and justice because of the power of the right (and the religious right), it feels less lonesome being in touch with groups like Witherspoon. We need to work together, she said, especially as even the Democratic Party struggles with the question of "Which way America?" If Ralph Nader gets the support of 11% of the voters in California polls, it can only be because he is saying something that some people really want to hear. And we need to be saying and working for those same things.

Awards presented to Rod Martin, Blase and Theresa Bonpane

The Andrew Murray Award was presented by Lois Baker of Houston, Texas, a long-time peace activist, to Rod Martin, former president of the Witherspoon Society, and Executive Director of the Presbyterian Health, Education and Welfare Association (PHEWA) from 1972 through 1990.

Baker said she thinks of Rod Martin as a truly "big man" -- not just physically, which he is, but morally. He is a man whose love has always embraced others, whose passion for justice has been steady and powerful.

Because Rod's health made it impossible for him to be present, one of his daughters, Shona Kiilsgaard, received it for him. Shona is pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Pismo Beach, California.

The Witherspoon Congregation Award this year became the Organization Award, as it was presented to Blase and Theresa Bonpane, who share leadership of the Office of the Americas in Los Angeles. The Rev. Hank Bremer, former Treasurer of Witherspoon and a long-time friend of the Office of the Americas, presented the award. Blase and Theresa spoke briefly of their commitments to peace and justice in Latin America and elsewhere.


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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