Presbyterian Voices for Justice 

A union of The Witherspoon Society and Voices of Sophia

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Protestant Justice Action:
JusticeWorks Conference
March 28-30. 2003

Main Assumptions

JusticeWorks: Key Assumptions

Presented by the Rev. Michael Kinnamon

Protestants for Justice Action, March 27, 2003

1. According to the Psalmist (146:5-9), the God who made heaven and earth executes justice for the oppressed, gives food to the hungry, sets prisoners free, opens the eyes of the blind, lifts up those who are bowed down, watches over strangers, and upholds the orphan and widow. Surely we who worship this God are called, in turn, to promote economic justice, to care for the environment, to combat racism, to insist that all God's children be treated with dignity, and to work for peace. This, as we see it, is not a left-wing political agenda, but a gospel agenda that shapes, or ought to shape, the life of the church.

2. Nearly all of us who gather here are Christians; we have special concern, therefore, for the church and its mission. I suspect, however, that we all rejoice in the partnerships we have with people of other faiths or no faith. We take our primary cues from the ministry and message of Jesus Christ, but we have no pretensions that the church is the only instrument God uses to effect social change.

3. Over the years, the mainline churches have at times, through many of you, given effective, faithful witness. But, in our judgment, the church's witness has often been too timid, too muted - and increasingly so in the face of financial cutbacks and internal controversy. The Disciples of Christ, for example, have in recent years eliminated key national staff positions through which their church was held accountable to its stated justice commitments. According to the book The Quiet Hand of God, both the United Methodist Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America spend roughly 2/10 of one percent of general church revenues to support the work of their departments on church and society. All of us struggle with a resolution process that seems to have little effect on congregational life. To put it simply, our social witness is not adequate to the imperative of the gospel.

4. We on the planning committee have noticed that not all Christians agree when it comes to issues of human sexuality, war and peace, reproductive choice, reparation for slavery, or environmental protection! As a result, it is often easier to work in like-minded coalitions than in the church where the same pew may well hold hawks and doves. Many of our colleagues have even given up on the church; but I hope I speak for all of us here when I say that we haven't! This gathering will not dismiss or demean those sisters and brothers with whom we disagree; but neither will we refrain from giving bold account of our hope for that day, foreseen by Isaiah, when no child dies young, when no one labors in vain, and when all God's children live in peace (Isaiah 65:17-25). And we demonstrate the validity of our hope by working to make it so.

5. Whenever possible, our work for justice should be done ecumenically. Not only is this more efficient, but life together, across old boundaries of confession and doctrine, is itself a witness to God's reconciling power. This does not mean that we devalue the distinctive insights that come from being Baptist or Disciples or Episcopalian or Lutheran or Methodist or Presbyterian or UCC. Nor is it our intent to anticipate a new denomination of the socially committed. Living ecumenically means that we lift up our voice, together if possible, without pretending that it's the only one.

6. Much of our witness has been carried out, for obvious reasons, in single-issue coalitions. The planning committee gives thanks for these groups, even as we hope that this conference will help integrate their efforts. We believe that beneath our separate agendas is a coherent social ethic that should lead those whose primary concern is justice for the disabled or universal health care to stand in solidarity with those whose primary concern is international debt relief or peace in the Middle East. The worst thing we could do would be to compete for attention and resources in the face of the web of oppression that ensnares us all.

7. Renewal of the church's social witness must include, in a major way, those who are preparing for ministry. How many of you are seminarians or recent seminary graduates? The rest of us celebrate your presence and the promise you represent. Of course, we also celebrate the presence of those who have given long-time leadership to the church's social witness, many of you since the heady days of the 1960s. But this is a new century. We need new insights, new methods, new energy, and new leaders.



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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