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Archives:   September 2003

Reports from August are listed on the August archive page.

All our reports from June are indexed on the July archive page.

Reports from the 215th General Assembly are indexed on another page.

Check earlier months through the general archive page.

Baltimore Presbytery approves overture to delete G-6.0106b, by a vote of 87 to 42.

This action has been reported in the Layman Online, whose report has drawn notes of correction from a member of Baltimore Presbytery, and from your WebWeaver.  (Your WebWeaver manages a mistake of his own now and then -- as noted in the next item.  So he offers his correction with all due humility.)

Talking about "gracious separation"
[corrected from 9-26-03]

In preparation for the Presbyterian Coalition's Gathering VIII, the Coalition has been discussing a paper on the subject of what they are calling "Gracious Separation." 

The Layman in its report notes that the author of the "Gracious Separation" paper is Robert L. Howard, a member of the Coalition board and immediate past chairman of the Presbyterian Lay Committee. It provides what appears to be (but is not labeled as) a summary of the proposal's main points.

Another document is posted anonymously on the website of the "Confessing Churches" movement. 

The Presbyterian Coalition has taken issue with the Layman's emphasis on the "gracious separation" proposal as one part of its conference.

Frank Baldwin, Stated Clerk of the Presbytery of Philadelphia, has offered his comments on these proposals.

Thanks to Hans Cornelder for helping unravel our confusion!

So what is a family?
Three guys?? "Secondhand Lions" says Yes.

As our church conducts another review of the "Families in Transition" study document, here's a movie worth seeing - for its own sake, and also for the food it offers for our thinking.

The new movie, "Secondhand Lions," offers a delightful - and for me deeply moving - glimpse of what "family" can mean when people are driven to create it on their own, out of the messy realities of a more traditional family. When a teenage boy, essentially abandoned by his mother, demands that his two grumpy-old-men uncles get serious and take him on as family, he saves his own life and gives new meaning and purpose to the lives of his uncles.

The movie stars Robert Duvall and Michael Caine as the uncles, and 15-year-old Haley Joel Osment as the boy.

For one good review, check out EthicsDaily, a progressive Southern Baptist website.

Your executive committee at its meeting in Albuquerque, Oct. 17-20, 2003.

Left to right: Kent Winters-Hazelton, Dave Zuverink, Jake Young, Gene TeSelle, Ken Smith, Celeste Lasich, and Kate Van Brocklin

Let's speak up on the review of the Stated Clerk.  Others will! 

We recently received a note suggesting that people may want to contribute their thoughts to current performance review of our Stated Clerk, the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick.  Included is information on where to send your comments.

We've amended slightly our recent statement of Witherspoon's policy on the issue of ordination, in response to a legitimate criticism from a friend on the conservative side of the Presbyterian Church.

You may want to look at our response to two critical notes, and the full text of the two notes.

Hudson River Presbytery takes no action against pastors of South Presbyterian Church, Dobbs Ferry

That All May Freely Serve reports that at its meeting on September 23, the Presbytery of Hudson River accepted the recommendation of its Investigating Committee that no action be taken against Joseph GIlmore and Susan DeGeorge, ministers of South Presbyterian Church, Dobbs Ferry, NY. Paul Rolf Jensen had filed a complaint against them for conducting same-sex marriages and ordaining lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people as deacons and elders.

For background, see our earlier report.

For more current details, from their own perspective, check The Layman Online.

Thoughts on Bush's speech to the UN

There's no shortage of commentary on President Bush's address to the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, September 23.

But if you're looking for a sharp analysis putting the speech in a wider context, take a look at an essay by William Rivers Pitt, the Managing Editor of

For starters, he begins with this quote:

"That's the spirit, George. If nothing else works, then a total pig-headed unwillingness to look facts in the face will see us through."
-- General Sir Anthony Cecil Hogmanay Melchett, 'Blackadder Goes Forth'

We're offering a new page listing services that might be helpful to churches or pastors.

The first listing is from a pastor who offers to help design worship bulletins, newsletters, and other church publications.


For your entertainment, we offer today a selection of "Christian one-liners." We do not vouch for their theology, and some of them you may have heard many times. But we hope you'll enjoy them anyway.

The Witherspoon Society Executive Committee will be meeting this weekend in Albuquerque.

Our phone connections to the Internet will be tenuous at best, but we'll try to keep in touch.  If you have concerns you'd like us to be aware of, please send a note.

A Primer on Overtures and Concurrences

The Rev. Donald Stroud, Minister of Outreach and Reconciliation for That All May Freely Serve in Baltimore, has prepared a very helpful introduction for people who want to prepare overtures to the General Assembly, or concurrences with overtures already submitted. 

He also includes the text of an overture to delete G-6.0106b from the Book of Order, which will be proposed to the Presbytery of Baltimore on Sept. 25th.

The Supreme Court and Walmart lead the way toward justice ... and maybe someday Presbyterians will catch up?

Martha Juillerat, Director of the Shower of Stoles Project, reflects on recent developments toward a more just and inclusive society.

WTO meeting in Cancun collapses - a victory for the South?

The failure of the World Trade Organization Ministerial in Cancun has been widely reported. We offer here a perspective you may not find in the U. S. press: a view from the South.

The Mexico Solidarity Network reports on the collapse of the meeting "amid North-South divide." Then a second report (below) focuses on impact of protests and marches by "thousands of campesinos, unionists, students, anarchists and NGOs."

Senate votes to overturn FCC media ownership rules

The Presbyterian Washington Office reports on a vote in the US Senate which rejected strong efforts by the President and many Republican legislators to allow further consolidation of media ownership and control.
9/11 - Remembering ... and acting for peace

In the midst of all today's appeals (or demands?) for "patriotism," you might want to share a few moments with some of the families of those who died on September 11th, 2001. They offer sorrow, and even more, they offer hope.

September Eleventh Families For Peaceful Tomorrows have issued a "Statement On the Second Anniversary of 9/11," which begins:

Two years ago today our loved ones were tragically murdered in an act of terror that shook the United States and the world. In the time since their deaths, as we continue our personal paths of grieving, we are comforted by the thoughtful and compassionate response of people all over the world who have offered sympathy and support to the victims of these terrible attacks. But much about the US government's approach to responding to our loved ones' deaths stands in stark contrast to the common sense words and comforting actions of ordinary people. On this two-year anniversary, we stop to reflect on the dangerous course of current policies and to call for a new approach to 9/11 that is focused on bringing about true security and justice.

Read the rest of their statement.

These families also offer a number of their own very personal reflections

The Executive Committee of the Witherspoon Society has just approved a statement of our policy on issues of justice, inclusiveness, and ordination.

We invite you to take a look at it and send us your comments!

News and analysis from the WTO gathering in Cancun

WTO Ministerial is meeting this week (Sept. 10-14, 2003) in Cancun, Mexico

Free trade or fair trade ... and for whom?

As the next round of global trade talks proceeds in Cancun, Mexico, we offer links to a number of sites that may help you follow what's going on, seen from various perspectives. If you have other resources to suggest, or comments of your own, please send a note!

The Mexico Solidarity Network, in its Weekly News and Analysis for September 1-7, 2003, offered a good introduction to some of the major issues.

The President's speech on Iraq:
Comments and analysis

Click here for more on the War in Iraq

Bush's Speech:
The War in Iraq is Not Over and Neither Are the Lies to Justify It

Stephen Zunes, an associate professor of Politics and chair of the Peace & Justice Studies Program at the University of San Francisco, has published a detailed examination of Pres. Bush's Sept. 7th speech telling us how well things are going in Iraq.

For example, the President claimed that "Our coalition enforced ... international demands in one of the swiftest and most humane military campaigns in history." Zunes responds:

First of all, the initial invasion was almost exclusively an American military operation with the exception of British leadership in some southern parts of the country. It could therefore hardly be referred to as a "coalition."

More importantly, the invasion of Iraq was not an enforcement of these "international demands." The United Nations Charter clearly states that only the UN Security Council itself has the ability to authorize military enforcement of its resolutions. The Security Council, however, refused to authorize the United States to enforce these resolutions through military means despite enormous pressure by U.S. officials to do so.

Finally, it was hardly a humane military campaign. More than 5000 Iraqi civilians were killed in the U.S.-led assault, far surpassing the number of American civilians killed in the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

Originally posted by Foreign Policy in Focus

You'll also find it on the website of Common Dreams.

The 100 Billion Dollar Error ...
... counting the cost of this administration's decisions.

"Count the cost," said Jesus. Charles Henderson, Presbyterian minister and manager of the Christianity section of, reflects on the high costs of the administration's "100 billion dollar error" in counting the costs of its war in Iraq.

He notes that "in his speech explaining the need for the extra billions for Iraq, Bush called upon the American people to make 'sacrifices.' But exactly who is being asked to sacrifice? AIDS victims in Africa? US school children studying in crumbling, overcrowded classrooms? Tens of thousands who will not have the job training they desperately need in this jobless recovery?"

Henderson concludes with this call:

"As Jesus suggested, ethics is not about moving forward with blind faith, but rather involves a careful and faithful evaluation of the consequences of one's decisions ... before making them. It is high time that the American people as well as its leaders become more faithful in this sense of the word."

Dobbs Ferry church leaders meet with investigating committee

Three leaders of South Church, Dobbs Ferry (NY) are meeting with the Investigating Committee of the Presbytery of Hudson River, NY to respond to charges put into motion by Paul Rolf Jensen.

In brief, the charges claim that Gilmore and DeGeorge have violated their ordination vows by conducting holy unions that were "in every important way" the same as marriage; and that they have ordained LGBT persons to the office of deacon and elder.

Bagnuolo concludes: "Please keep Susan, Dana, and Joe in your prayers, as they exert their courage and leadership in our struggle for full inclusion of the Body of Christ in the PC(USA)."

For more details

Check out the September issue of Perspectives, the monthly online magazine published by the Office of the General Assembly.

The September issue includes these articles:

"The Presiding Bishop's Statement"

Featured in this issue is the statement made by Bishop Griswold, the Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church, USA, following the confirmation of Canon Gene Robinson as Bishop elect of the Diocese of New Hampshire.

"We Really Do Need Each Other"

The Rev. Whit Malone, pastor of Springdale Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, reflects on the many ways in which Presbyterians are at work seeking the peace, unity, and purity of the church. His recent sermon offers reasons why this work is so important.

"A Consensus Observed"

Gradye Parsons, Director of Strategic Operations in the Office of the General Assembly, describes his experience of the use of a consensus method for making decisions in the Uniting Church of Australia.

"Prayers for Peace in the Middle East"

This issue also includes prayers for peace in the Middle East from a new collection by the National Council of Churches, along with selections on the imperative for peace from Christian, Jewish, and Islamic sacred texts.


The War in Iraq

Back to the UN?

Here's a critical but thoughtful look at the objectives and the limitations of the Bush administration's decision to seek UN participation in the US occupation of Iraq.

Phylllis Bennis, writing in Foreign Policy in Focus, points out what may be pretty obvious by now:

bulletWashington's willingness to seek UN support is not a sudden openness to multilateral action, but an effort to cut the costs - financial, political, and military - of our occupation.
bulletUN participation would be kept under the firm control of the US.
bulletShe suggests some things that should be done, including
bulletopposition to any UN resolution that would merely legitimate the U.S.-UK occupation of Iraq;
bulletlet a UN peacekeeping force return to Iraq only after the U.S.-UK occupation has ended, with a very short-term mandate;
bulletrequire the U.S. and the UK, as the belligerent powers who initiated the war, to provide for the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people.
A U.S. soldier in Iraq wonders: 'How many more must die?'

A soldier on active duty with the 101st Airborne Division near Mosul, Iraq, writes to his home-town paper about his growing disenchantment with the war he is required to fight.

He concludes:

I once believed that I served for a cause: "to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Now, I no longer believe; I have lost my conviction, my determination. I can no longer justify my service for what I believe to be half-truths and bold lies. My time is done as well as that of many others with whom I serve. We have all faced death here without reason or justification.

Thanks to the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space

The President calls on us to pray, but he's still in charge

President Bush recently proclaimed this past weekend, Friday, September 5 through Sunday, September 7, 2003, as National Days of Prayer and Remembrance. We are invited to "remember all that we lost as Americans and recognize all that we have witnessed about the character of America."

A call to prayer such as this is a reminder that the God to whom we pray is sovereign, that the world and its unfolding are not in our control. Yet the President reveals his deepest religious convictions, perhaps, with the concluding line of his proclamation: "This conflict was begun on the timing and terms of others. It will end in a way, and at an hour, of our choosing."

You'd think the last few months might have helped him learn otherwise. Not yet, apparently.

Latin American bishops call Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) a neo-colonialist trap

The Catholic bishops of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, along with Bolivia and Chile, met recently in Montevideo, Uruguayan capital, to discuss the challenges of integration in Latin America and the "ethical and moral" aspects of the creation of the FTAA.

The report summarizes their statements thus: "The main objections to the FTAA raised by the bishops were that it will benefit the richest countries -- like the United States and Canada -- at the expense of the less competitive members, and that it will consolidate the hold of 'unfettered neo-liberalism' on the entire region."

A Republican leader says his party is "missing the point on gays"

Alan Simpson, a former Republican senator from Wyoming and honorary chairman of the Republican Unity Coalition, a gay-straight alliance of Republican leaders, says the push by conservatives to advance a constitutional amendment defining marriage is a betrayal of their own party's principles.

He declares:

As someone who is basically a conservative, I see not an argument about banning marriage or "defending" families but rather a power grab. Conservatives argue vehemently about federal usurpation of other issues best left to the states, such as abortion or gun control. Why would they elevate this one to the federal level?

Check out his article in the Washington Post.

Theological Thoughts on Yard Work

A bit of wisdom arrived on your Webweaver's desk just after he finished mowing his lawn (well, crab grass and dandelions, mostly) in 90-degrees-plus weather.

He'll take this seriously, and will gladly welcome any alternatives!

Paul Hill, convicted of murdering abortion provider Dr. John Britton and his escort, is to be executed tonight in Florida

One Witherspoon member has sent this letter to Gov. Jeb Bush urging him to reconsider:

From: ....


Subject: No on execution of Paul Hill from a Right to Choose supporter

Dear Governor Bush,

I have just read that the man convicted of murdering a physician who performed abortions is to be executed tomorrow unless you will stop this.

I believe in a woman's right to choose - but I am against the death penalty.

I urge you to stay the execution, reconsider, and hopefully change this sentence to life in prison.



If you want to send a similar e-mail note, just click on Gov. Bush's address above, and write your own expression of concern.

Added later:  Two Ten folks have told us they've sent notes!

Opposing nuclear weapons is greeted by security concern from police  

Bruce Gagnon, Coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, and one of the co-leaders of the 2002 Ghost Ranch Seminar sponsored by the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and the Witherspoon Society, recently shared a report of his experience of "security" in Louisville, Kentucky.  Apparently his concern about the threat of nuclear weapons was overheard, and taken as worthy of police action. 

One more example of "security" as a threat to what we used to consider assured as American civil liberties.

Now's the time to support freedom to travel to Cuba 

In early September, Congress will vote on whether to give Americans their freedom back -- their freedom to travel to Cuba.  Here are suggestions for speaking up.

Overtime pay vote expected any day. 

We've received a note from Working Families e-Activist Network, urging people to contact their Senators to support the Harkin Amendment that would block the Bush overtime pay cuts.

They provide more information, and links to send messages to the Senate.

Gay rights growing in corporations, if not in government or church

Writing for the Newsweek website, Martha Brant notes that "While politicians furiously debate gay rights, Corporate America is moving ahead" in areas such as nondiscrimination policies and same-sex partner benefits.     Thanks to Ralph Carter

WCC wants U.S. out of Iraq

The World Council of Churches' Central Committee has called for US forces in Iraq to be replaced by UN personnel.

It called for the U.N. Security Council "to insist on the establishment of a legitimate, sovereign, elected and inclusive government as early as possible, and (to order) the immediate and orderly withdrawal of the occupying forces."

Reports from the 215th General Assembly are indexed on another page.

Reports from August are listed on the August archive page.

All our reports from June are indexed on the July archive page.

Check earlier months through the general archive page.


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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