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Archives:   December 2003

Reports from all of November are listed on the November archive page.

For links to earlier archive pages, click here.

Polling by conservative group still reflects strong support for same-sex marriage

"America's Poll on Homosexual Marriage," posted and reported by the American Family Association, continues to grow in its number of responses, with almost 60% favoring the legalization of same-sex marriage, and another 8% supporting civil unions.

All this is being reported by one of the leading organizations working to defend the "traditional family."

The details, as of Monday, December 29:

I oppose legalization of homosexual marriage and "civil unions" 32.52%
(218,475 votes)
I favor legalization of homosexual marriage 59.37%
(398,849 votes)
I favor a "civil union" with the full benefits of marriage except for the name 8.11%
(54,504 votes)

To be sure, a recent poll by the New York Times and CBS News finds that 55% of Americans
favor a Constitutional amendment banning homosexual marriage.

This is archived on the NYTimes website (so it'll cost you a bit to see the full article).

It is also posted in full (and free) by "The Daily Camera."

It is probably more accurate statistically than the AFA poll, but given the anti-gay values reflected in that organization, the results are surprising and interesting.

If you haven't voted, you can do so by going to

TWO DISCUSSION STARTERS --  on gay marriage and legislative redistricting

It appears that our Issues Analyst, Gene TeSelle, has never met an issue he didn't at least like to think about. Here are two reflections, one on an issue - same-sex marriage - that is of direct concern to the PC(USA), the other - legislative redistricting in Texas and Colorado - that is a matter of "good citizenship" for all of us.

He offers these points with the hope they will generate some good conversation, and perhaps ideas for actions to be suggested at the 2004 General Assembly.

If you have thoughts, please send a note and we'll share it here!

When God goes to war

Karen Armstrong considers what's going on "when God goes to war." Noting that the major religions, including Christianity and Islam, seem to support peace and goodwill, she asks why they in fact inspire so much hatred and violence, and why their scriptures depict a God that is so "militant."

The answer, she suggests, is that "religion is the creation of human beings, who are biologically programmed for aggression. We dream of peace but slaughter our own kind, and from the very start our faith systems have reflected this tragic dualism."

Her essay is posted on The Guardian Unlimited. She is the author of A History of God.

Thanks to Dugan Frederick, of Denver, CO

We've just repaired and updated our index page and archive pages on the war in Iraq. 
SPEAKING TO POWER - a NOW with Bill Moyers special edition

NOW with Bill Moyers will present a special program on Friday, Dec. 26, tracing the theology and history of Riverside Church in New York City, along with its commitment to social justice, political witness, and religious diversity.

Check out the details, and for local listings go to

Thanks to Harold Barton

"Romanticism and the American Conscience

Brian "BJ" Jordan, of Palm Coast, Florida, sends these reflections as a "Gen-Xer" who shares his cohort's skepticism about romance, yet sees a need for a new romanticism, a new ability to care, to love beyond ourselves.

A surprising poll on marriage

Just yesterday we announced a "poll on homosexual marriage" being taken by the American Family Association, which "represents and stands for traditional family values."

We encouraged anyone who wanted to add a bit of diversity to the poll to register their own opinions on the AFA website.

As of mid-day on Saturday, Dec. 20, 2003, they report these results:

I oppose legalization of homosexual marriage and "civil unions"
      (164946 votes)

I favor legalization of homosexual marriage
     (224886 votes)

I favor a "civil union" with the full benefits of marriage except for the name 8.34%      (35466 votes)

You can check their latest reports, and add your own vote, at

You may also want to look at the statement of purpose of the American Family Association.

We just got this interesting note.  Have you had a similar problem??  Please let us know.  Just send a note!

I don't know where else to express my bewilderment, but when I tried to fill out the poll with Yes, I believe that Homosexual marriage should be legal, I received a message that I had already taken this poll.  I have not.  Any ideas as to what I should do? I would hate to think someone had registered No with my name.

What's the true meaning of marriage?  Gordon Shull, reflecting on the diverse realities of his own family, suggests that marriage is defined not by labels but by "attitudes and deeds that sustain the relationship. Love. Faithfulness. Respect. Thoughtfulness. Wherever we find these in a couple, we find marriage defended - no matter the gender, and no matter what we call it."  
Another bump in the road toward globalization:

In a blow to corporate-driven agenda, the U.S. has been forced to complete a scaled-down CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement) without Costa Rica.

The agreement remains a threat to workers, environment, public health, faces uphill battle in Congress, according to the Citizens Trade Campaign.

Keeping an eye on Bush's stealth attacks on the environment

BushGreenwatch provides accurate and timely information on the Bush Administration's assault on our environment and public health.

The site's creators say "We are dedicated to expanding media coverage and public awareness of the many vital environmental and public health issues affected by the administration's anti-environmental agenda, which consistently places the interests of corporate donors above the public good."

BushGreenwatch is a project of Environmental Media Services, a nonprofit communications clearinghouse, with support from, the online advocacy group.

Thanks to Utne Webwatch

Please stop by our page for Advent and Christmas greetings!
"We Got Saddam, What Now? "  

Witherspooner Brian "BJ" Jordan asks this question in an op-ed piece he submitted to a local paper in the Daytona Beach, FL area.

We also offer links to a couple other comments on the capture of Saddam Hussein, as seen from the perspective of those who have questioned or opposed the war in Iraq.

The latest issue of Perspectives, the PCUSA on-line journal, is now available.

Perspectives offers an exploration of issues facing the church as well as some reflective analysis of our life together as a denomination through the lens of scripture, our Reformed theology, and a constitutional and confessional framework.

Click on the link below to enjoy new articles in the December Perspectives.

"A Church of All and for All"
World Council of Churches

"A God's Eye View"
Susan R. Andrews

Gradye Parsons

"Christmas Message"
Konrad Raiser

Click here for a glimpse of this issue's contents.

Season's greetings from the American Empire

Sojourners offers holiday insight into the American Empire through the holiday greeting cards being sent for Christmas 2003 by President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

Peace on Earth

Your WebWeaver has been looking for a suitable Christmas gift for all our website friends.

Jack King, formerly campus pastor at Indiana University and my brother, has written a poem that does the job well.   

It comes to you with our warm greetings and prayers for peace in these troubled days.

"Changing Families" report goes through more changes

The latest draft of a much-contested policy paper on families has a new name, a new theological backbone, and a new emphasis on what it calls the "marital-biological" relationship between a man and a woman as the ideal foundation for the Christian family.  Its key assertion is that it is "preferable, on the whole," for children to be raised by a mother and a father who are married to each other and live in the same home.  It also repeats the key assertion of the original, controversial version, that "God works through all kinds of families" -- but takes pains to point out that some kinds are better than others.

Speaking of marriage and family and change ...

Subject: "Save the American Family"

The American Family Association seems to be preparing a gay marriage poll to deliver to Congress, presumably to prove how all good Americans want to outlaw any such thing. We're sure they will appreciate having a large number of people from a broader background participate.

Just go to:

Thanks, and blessings to all of us -- and all our varieties of families and singles -- at Christmas!

doug king

Pax Americana, or The New American Empire

The newest issue of Witherspoon's Network News features a number of discussions of the current policies of the U.S. government to impose our dominance on other nations.

Just posted here is a feature essay by Ross and Gloria Kinsler on "Pax Americana: an Inter-American Perspective," as seen from their long experience in Central America, with Biblical and practical reflections on how we might respond to it.

For other discussions of Pax Americana," or the "new American Empire," you might look at "Empire and Church," by Rick Ufford-Chase, and "Pax Americana: a crisis for the Church," by Kent Winters-Hazelton.

Kurt Kremlick has offered a helpful comment on these articles.

More comments on "why we shouldn't wait"

Since we posted the first few responses to Dr. Douglas Ottati's theological reflections on "why we shouldn't wait" to ordain LGBT people, the stream of comments has continued.

Here are two comments agreeing (more or less) with Ottati, followed by two more (much longer!) that take issue with his views.

Flags in church: a student reports on his research

Some time ago we posted notes in an e-mail conversation on the question of the display of U.S. flags in church sanctuaries. We recently received an interesting comment, based on empirical research, from a student at Presbyterian-related Centre College.

The Taco Bell boycott is a strong commitment of one Florida congregation

Faith Presbyterian Church in Dunedin, Florida, is deeply involved in efforts to bring a decent life to farm workers in Immokalee who pick tomatoes that go into tacos and chalupas served by Taco Bell restaurants. The congregation, along with many other religious groups in the area, is supporting the boycott of Taco Bell.

The Saint Petersburg Times reports on the boycott, both locally and nationally.

Thanks to Presbyterian News Service for providing this story.

Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice will be held on March 5 - 8 in Washington, DC.  It is sponsored by PC(USA) and many others, with focus on themes such as Jubilee and economic justice (trade and debt), and nuclear disarmament, along with regional issues around the world. 
On getting and keeping 501(c)(3) status

The Presbyterian Washington Office informs us that the IRS has published two helpful resources on how to apply for 501(c)(3) status -- and then how to comply with the rules governing that status!

Presbytery panel recommends withdrawing validation of Parker Williamson's ministry

Presbyterian News Service reports on the COM vote in the Presbytery of Western North Carolina, recommending that the Presbytery not validate the ministry of the Rev. Parker T. Williamson as chief executive officer of the Presbyterian Lay Committee and editor in chief of its publications.

This vote would not, as suggested by earlier reports in The Layman Online, strip Williamson of his ordination. It would place him on inactive status, and if his validation were not renewed in three years, would revoke his ordination.


Presbytery's Committee on Ministry recommends not validating ministry of Parker Williamson

The Layman Online reports the Committee on Ministry of the Presbytery of Western North Carolina met and voted in an executive session Tuesday to recommend that the Presbytery "not validate" the ministry of Parker T. Williamson as chief executive officer of the Presbyterian Lay Committee and editor-in-chief of its publications. Executive Presbyter William "Bill" Taber and Walter Johnson, chair of the committee, told Layman reporter John Adams that the committee's vote was "overwhelming."

More on "why we shouldn't wait"

We've received interesting comments on Dr. Doug Ottati's essay on "why we shouldn't wait" to ordain gay and lesbian people who are called to offices in the Presbyterian Church.  So far one writer agrees strongly with Ottati, while two are less than enthusiastic.

We welcome your comments, too.  Just send a note!

On same-sex marriage -- two views 


Christian ethicist concludes same-sex marriage is okay -- but marriage is not for everyone

Titled Same-sex Marriage? A Christian Ethical Analysis, a new book by Marvin M. Ellison, co-editor of Body and Soul: Rethinking Sexuality as Justice-Love, examines the arguments for and against same-sex marriage and concludes that as a matter of justice, the institution should be open to same-sex couples. But he adds the interesting point that marriage is not necessarily ideal for all lesbian or gay people, and that marriage is not for all straight people either.


Law prof suggests that the issue of "gay marriage" could be settled by separating the civil and religious dimensions

In an article in the L A Times, Harvard law professor and noted attorney Alan M. Dershowitz urges that our nation, like many others, might ease some of the tensions about "gay marriage," while offering guarantees for the rights of lesbian and gay couples, by observing the distinction between the government's role in recognizing stable, committed relationships and supporting them by protecting "the secular rights and responsibilities that are currently associated with the sacrament of marriage: the financial consequences of divorce, the custody of children, Social Security and hospital benefits, etc."

That would leave religious institutions free to recognize and affirm committed relationships in whatever way they choose, and within whatever limits they choose. (Your WebWeaver has to note one error in the article, though: Dershowitz follows President Bush's mistaken assumption that all religious communities consider marriage a sacrament.)


We've just added an index page for the growing list of reports and comments on same-sex marriage, civil rights, and such.  Check it out!

The threat of Pax Americana 

Kurt Kremlick, a retired Presbyterian minister, sent a comment in response to the latest issue of Witherspoon's Network News, which includes a talk by Rick Ufford-Chase on "empire and church," along with another article by Ross and Gloria Kinsler on "Pax Americana: an inter-American perspective."

He expresses his own sense of urgency about what's happening in American world power today, and points to a number of resources that he has found helpful in studying this huge issue.

Why we shouldn't wait

Dr. Douglas Ottati writes a regular column of "Theological Musings" for Witherspoon's Network News. In his new column, in the current issue, he considers the reasons why "we shouldn't wait to ordain called and qualified gays and lesbians to all offices of the church, and to endorse same sex unions and / or gay marriages between persons committed to a loving relationship of mutual help and care."

Ottati is Professor of Theology at Union Seminary/PSCE in Richmond, VA

Thoughts on Advent:

"Oh my Goodness God, is this what you had in mind?"

The Rev. Bobbie McGarey, who serves the Southwest Oklahoma Parish, offers a provocative reflection on Advent -- a season where a shopper gets trampled, but where there's much more, too. 

For earlier reflections on the holy season of Advent:

bulletWhose birthday is it anyway?
bullet"Christmas is subversive"
bullet... and an index of even more good things.

We welcome your contributions of thoughts, poems, hymns, even maybe sermons -- that might enrich this season for others.  Just send a note!

Task force of the Presbytery of Western North Carolina recommends that Parker Williamson, Layman editor-in-chief, be placed on inactive status

The Layman Online reports that a task force of the Presbytery of Western North Carolina has recommended that Parker T. Williamson, chief executive officer of the Presbyterian Lay Committee and editor-in-chief of its publications, be denied validation as an active member of the presbytery. If the presbytery's Committee on the Ministry and the full presbytery concur with the task force's report, Williamson would be demoted to inactive status and no longer be granted voice or vote at presbytery meetings.

More on Miami and the shrinkage of human rights in the USA

Police actions against mostly peaceful demonstrators in Miami have drawn more attention and analysis as an example of the continuing expansion of government power against dissent - and against basic human rights.

Sojourners points to three good sources, while the LA Times on Nov. 23 published a provocative opinion piece under the headline, "Mission Creep Hits Home: American armed forces are assuming major new domestic policing and surveillance roles"

Presbyterian leaders join others in support of new "Geneva Accord" for Middle East peace.

On the day after a new Middle East peace accord was signed in Geneva, 31 U.S. Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders today announced in Washington a new collaborative effort -- "Walk the Road to Peace" -- to mobilize public and Bush Administration support for the plan.

For background:

The Independent of the United Kingdom provides a good report on the Geneva Accord under the headline, "Geneva Accord points way to Arab-Israeli settlement."

Washington Office suggests:

Now's the time to urge the President to provide new funding for child nutrition 

As the President and others in the Administration are currently shaping their FY2005 budget, people concerned about improved funding for the child nutrition programs may want to e-mail or call the White House.

According to The Layman Online -

Covenant Network will seek repeal of 1978 "Authoritative Interpretation"

At the 2004 General Assembly, the Covenant Network will seek repeal of the Authoritative Interpretation of 1978, the first action of the PC(USA) to ban the ordination of lesbian and gay people.

The Covenant Network announced this plan in September, but the Layman article explains more detail (and its own slant) on the issue and the proposed action.

40 protesters arrested at demonstration against School of the Americas

Nonviolent protest met with US military violence

bulletPresbyterian minister and Witherspooner Don Beisswenger was among those arrested.
bulletKathy Kelly, founder of Voices in the Wilderness, was hogtied and abused physically and verbally as she was arrested.
Police repression of protests in Miami took on a military style

Russell Mokhiber, editor of the Corporate Crime Reporter, and Robert Weissman, editor of the Multinational Monitor, reported on the military-style police repression of mostly nonviolent protests against the FTAA meeting in Miami on

Leif Utne, managing editor of Utne Reader, provided reports of the conference, and also of the actions in the streets, where "Miami police suppressed peaceful protesters with a shocking display of force."

So ... is this a great country or what??
A few observations about the curious characteristics of the U.S. of A.

Some of our good visitors have let me know occasionally of their outrage at our occasional postings that they view as close to treasonous because they sound a bit critical of our President's ever-growing "War on Terrorism." Well, we hope this will provide some balance!

Reports from all of November are listed on the November archive page.

For links to earlier archive pages, click here.


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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