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Archives:   April 2003

Van Kuiken decision attracts many reports and comments

We have already reported on the decision, but you may want to see what various groups and individuals are saying about the response of the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Presbytery of Cincinnati to the actions of the Rev. Steve Van Kuiken. He chose to act in harmony with his conscience and his understanding of Scripture and the Confessions, although those actions have been seen be some as contrary to Scripture and the confessions, as well as in violation of the Book of Order (and particularly G-6.0106b, and the definition of "marriage" s one man and one woman (W-4.9000).

And you're invited to share your own comments on this important judicial ruling.  Just send a note!

Brazilian church will be represented at GA

The United Presbyterian Church of Brazil (IPU), which this year celebrates the 25th anniversary of its founding, will be well represented at this year's General Assembly. 

Read a short account of the origins of the IPU, in a creative response to a right-wing takeover of the existing Presbyterian Church in Brazil.

Easter greetings and thanks for solidarity, from the Presbyterian Church of Colombia

We recently posted an appeal for letters in support of the Rev. Milton Mejía, who currently serves as the Executive Secretary of the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Colombia

We've just received a letter of Easter greeting and thanks from the Presbyterian Church of Colombia, via PC(USA) mission co-worker Alice Winters.

We encourage you to read this letter, and to see how important such Christian solidarity can be.

Armed with principles, "fighting" and dying for peace in Palestine

One young American woman, Rachel Corrie, was crushed to death March 16 by an Israeli army bulldozer as she attempted to prevent the destruction of a Palestinian family's home. Two young men, one American and one British, have been seriously wounded by Israeli army gunfire. All have been serving in Palestinian areas with the International Solidarity Movement, the peace group that uses such non-violent means as positioning activists as "human shields" around the occupied territories to protect Palestinian civilians.

Ali Abunimah, a Palestinian, notes that these recent incidents appear to be "part of a pattern, and that Israel is deliberately targeting internationals, so that it can carry out human-rights abuses unobserved. Whatever the truth, Americans and other foreign citizens are falling victim to Israeli tactics that have killed and injured thousands of Palestinians. A lack of accountability means that such incidents could increase."

This article was first published in the Chicago Tribune on 22 April 2003.

Thanks to Darrell and Sue Yeaney

The war against Iraq

One Iraqi: "This is your country now."

Kathy Kelly of the Iraq Peace Team reports from Amman, Jordan, on April 21, a day after leaving Baghdad. She describes the conquered people of Iraq through the eyes of Sattar, a Baghdadi who drove her to Jordan in his taxi, for her own safety. He tells of a country where people don't seem to feel "liberated," but conquered, baffled by the sudden disappearance of Saddam Hussein and the whole government apparatus.

When one sympathetic American commented that at least now he would have an easier time driving Americans from Jordan into Iraq, he responded, "You are right. This is your country now."

Actor Tim Robbins: "a chill wind is blowing in this nation."

Actors Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon were recently disinvited from an appearance at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, because of their anti-war views.

Robbins later spoke at the National Press Club in Washington, on April 15, reflecting on his perception that "a chill wind is blowing in this nation." Given the Administration's loud commitment to democracy and human rights for the people of Iraq, it might be good for us to pay attention to what's happening to democracy and human rights in the USA. Robbins laments the lost opportunities for true national unity after 9/11, and the growing pressures against free speech.

He urges the journalists in his audience to "battle back at those who would rewrite our Constitution in Patriot Act II, or 'Patriot, The Sequel,' as we would call it in Hollywood. ... Journalists can insist that they not be used as publicists by this administration."

Thanks to Kent Winters-Hazelton

Leadership Conference on Civil Rights voices serious concern over Sen. Rick Santorum's attack on gay and lesbian equality 

The Presbyterian Washington Office provides the text of a statement by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, plus a very helpful listing of past General Assembly statements on civil rights for lgbt persons.

And the Human Rights Campaign offers suggestions for sending letters and faxes to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

We have more good nominations for "Bullpuckey bingo" phrases!
Cincinnati PJC announces ruling in Van Kuiken case

The Rev. Steve Van Kuiken has been ruled "guilty" of performing same-sex marriages, and "not guilty" of ordaining lgbt elders.

More Light groups have issued a statement praising the "tremendous strides towards justice and fairness" resulting from Van Kuiken's acts of conscience.

A few months ago we shared with you a new office game called BullPuckey Bingo, which focuses on the current jargon in office meetings.  We invited you all to send equally weary phrases that must be endured (or enjoyed) in church meetings.  We've received a couple fine nominations, and invite you to add your own.

Just go to BullPuckey Bingo and scroll down through the story for the new nominees.  Then add your own!

Candidates for Moderator respond to Witherspoon questions

One of the first acts of the 215th General Assembly will be the election of a new Moderator. To help our readers weigh this important choice, the Witherspoon Society has asked each of the three candidates to respond briefly to five questions that reflect Witherspoon concerns -- and, we believe, concerns of the wider church.

With thanks to the candidates for their cooperation in responding, we are happy to share their comments here, presented in alphabetical order. If you want more information about any of the candidates, you might use their web sites, listed at the end of their responses.

The candidates are (in alphabetical order):

The Rev. Susan R. Andrews

The Rev. Harold E. Kurtz

The Rev. James Foster Reese

Going to GA?

Please check out Witherspoon events planned to add to your week.

And consider becoming a member of Witherspoon.


Van Kuiken trial decision to be announced on Monday, April 21 at 1:00 p.m. at the Blue Ash Presbyterian Church, Cincinnati

The Rev. Steve Van Kuiken has passed along this word from the Moderator of the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Presbytery of Cincinnati.

Living Faithfully with Families in Transition

One major report coming to the 215th General Assembly will be a policy statement on "Living Faithfully with Families in Transition." It looks at the many meanings of "family" in our time and explores how these varied kinds of families can raise children faithfully and responsibly.

The Rev. Dr. Barbara Gaddis, who chaired the committee that wrote the document, offers her comments on the report.

The right wing of the church is publishing critical comments; we provide links to some of them here.

Mission co-worker in Colombia urges support for Synod executive in Colombia, under threat for his defense of human rights 

UPUSA mission co-worker Alice Winters calls our attention to serious threats against Milton Mejía, and offers specific information to help us contact the President of Colombia on his behalf.

See also the Presbyterian News Service report on threats against the Rev. Milton Mejía, and the "escape" from custody of the man who threatened him.

The war against Iraq

Is Syria next?

Recent threats against Syria have reminded many of disclosures a few weeks ago of the policy document called "The National Security Strategy," drafted by the New American Century Project, a neo-conservative group founded by Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Elliot Abrams, Donald Rumsfeld, and others in 1997, suggests that the people of the world would be better off if the United States ran the show.

Eric Black of the Minneapolis Star Tribune published a thoughtful look at the Administration's latest possible moves beyond their conquest of Iraq. He talks with informed observers who offer both positive and negative views.

See also recent comments by theologian John Cobb, warning of the threats behind the Administration's efforts to impose on the world a new "Pax Americana."

Are you having trouble maintaining your shaky grip on your sanity?  Here are 20 helpful things to do, "to keep a healthy level of insanity"
Your WebWeaver apologizes for a few days of silence.  He's been occupied in getting Witherspoon's Network News put together and delivered to the printer. 

By the way, if you'd like to see a copy, just send a note, and don't forget to include your mailing address!

Van Kuiken goes to trial

On Tuesday, April 8, the Rev. Steve Van Kuiken, pastor of Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, went on trial by the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Presbytery of Cincinnati, for his conscientious actions in ordaining glbt people called to office in the church, and providing counseling and marriage services for same-sex couples.

Paul Peterson of That All May Freely Serve - Michigan, provides an eye-witness report on activities surrounding the trial - which was itself closed to the public - describing and offering photos of the vigil outside the church.

Presbyterian News Service also provides a report from the Associated Press.

Van Kuiken has provided us with the full text of his statement to the Judicial Commission. It's long, and good, so you may want to print it out to read.

For updates on the trial you can check these websites:

bullet The Mt. Auburn congregation, which offers links to many other reports and background materials
bullet SoulForce, which plans to hold a vigil "to protest the Presbyterian Church's anti-gay policies and teachings and to support Rev. Van Kuiken."

The war against Iraq

What about "supporting our troops"?

As the US military adventure in Iraq seems to be moving toward some kind of "success," those who stand against the war are coming under increasing pressure to "support our troops."

The popular posters that proclaim "Support our troops. Bring them home!" make sense to many, but don't convince others. So what do we say or do now?

The anti-war group "Not in Our Name" has posted a strong statement on the subject.

A vigil of mourning

A small community peace group in North Carolina offers a sensitive explanation to its neighbors of the purpose of its weekly vigil and the "mourning" that is part of its protest.

Building a peace army, one person at a time

With pragmatism in mind, the Peaceforce's unarmed troops will not see action in the Middle East, though the idealist in David Hartsough wishes he could travel to Iraq and take a political stand. Instead, Hartsough is sticking to domestic anti-war protests, while the Peaceforce quietly readies to deploy its first set of workers to Sri Lanka for a three-year pilot project in a few weeks.

"Iraq would have been the ideal scenario [to start with], but part of it is timing," Hartsough says, a tenor of disappointment in his voice. "But we want to be sure that whatever we do, we do well."

Bernice Yeung provides a lengthy report in SF Weekly

And check out the Peaceforce website for more information.

Source: Sojourners 2003 (c)

The trial of the Rev. Steve Van Kuiken, pastor of Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, OH, begins on Tuesday, April 8.

For updates on the trial you can check these websites:

bullet The Mt. Auburn congregation, which offers links to many other reports and background materials
bullet SoulForce, which plans to hold a vigil "to protest the Presbyterian Church's anti-gay policies and teachings and to support Rev. Van Kuiken."
Taco Bell boycott update:  April 2003

As the farm workers broke their 10 day fast for fair food and justice on Ash Wednesday, Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick called upon all Presbyterians to continue and augment the workers' efforts to bring Taco Bell into negotiations with its tomato suppliers, to seek fair wages for their workers.

Presbyterians will hold a vigil in support of the farm workers at the YUM! Brands Annual Meeting, May 15, 2003, Louisville.  YUM! is the parent company of Taco Bell.

Presbyterians who are YUM, Inc. stockholders are urged to use their proxy votes in support of the Immokalee Farm Workers' struggle for justice, respect, and fair pay.

This just in from Robert Ludgate, UU from GA

I was looking for some antiracist info and stumbled across your humor page. It was GREAT!

and so I send you a

Thought For The Day

If you define yourself by what you have, and you lose everything....
what are you?

and couldn't resist one more.....

New slogan for the state of Missouri Tourism Board
Come see us. Missouri loves company.

Presbyterian delegation returns from Colombia and one member reports on ...


One participant, Malissa Haslam of Santa Fe, NM, reports on her feelings through the visit: pain at the suffering of the people, awe at their strength, shame at US policies there, and hope for the "subversive seeds" that may bring change to the world.

The war against Iraq

PAX AMERICANA: John Cobb sees a crisis for the Church

Theologian John Cobb highlights and clarifies the crisis that is confronting the church as well as the world through the new US determination impose an "American peace" on the world - on our terms.  Kent Winters-Hazelton, Witherspoon Society president, reports on Cobb's recent discussion.

Offense and Defense, by Seymour M. Hersh
The battle between Donald Rumsfeld and the Pentagon.

Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh's recent article in The New Yorker has been widely circulated - and indeed it's worth reading. Hersh details the way in which Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has seized control of planning for the war against Iraq from the military planners. He has insisted on waging a war with minimal commitment of ground forces and maximum reliance on air strikes - because that would be (in its way) clean and quick and politically acceptable. The result, of course, is what we have witnessed: US forces operating without enough supplies or support, the failure of an expected "uprising" of the Iraqi people, and the growth of Islamic support for the defense of Iraq - not of Saddam Hussein, but of Iraq.

How can we speak to our congregations in this time of war? 

One pastor writes to her congregation to offer a gentle, humane way to help her people deal with the war. If you're looking for words to put things in perspective, these may help.  The author, the Rev. Cathy Cummings Chisholm, is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Weyauwega, WI.

We invite you to share what's being said and done in your congregation.

Religious relief groups resist Pentagon control of aid effort

Despite being courted in recent days by high-ranking U.S. officials, the leaders of many religious humanitarian organizations remain sharply critical of Bush administration plans to make the Pentagon the central organizing body for aid and relief efforts in Iraq. They question the abilities of the Pentagon to respond to the impending humanitarian crisis, and want to see greater reliance on UN agencies. They are also concerned about their own role - whatever it may be - if they are forced to serve under the control of the US Defense Department.

Cincinnati clergy write in support of the Rev. Steve Van Kuiken, as his church trial draws near. 
Trade negotiators try to override state laws in U.S.

A news release from Public Citizen and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy warns of how US negotiators in WTO talks are being pushed to override state and local control to demands from other nations in the name of "free trade."  

Click here for the March archive page.

and here for a listing of all earlier archive pages


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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