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Our reports about the 219th General Assembly, July 2010

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The Crisis in Haiti

Church World Service urges U.S. to stop sending Haitian refugees back to chaotic homeland

Church World Service (CWS), the global humanitarian agency, on March 8 sent an initial shipment of emergency food and medicine to Haiti.  The agency is also advocating for U.S. protection of Haitian asylum-seekers.
Haiti: Another U.S. coup d'etat?

Tom Driver, a member of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, looks at the recent events in Haiti through the lens of his 20 years of observing that country, most recently on a visit in 2000.  He sees the removal of President Aristide as the culmination of a long U.S. campaign to unseat him because he has not been cooperative enough with U.S. desires.

For confirmation of Driver's view, if you're surprised at his assertion of a U.S. coup d'etat, you might look at an essay by Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, and a former economic advisor to governments in Latin America and around the world. His article in the Los Angeles Times on March 4, is headlined "From His First Day in Office, Bush Was Ousting Aristide."

From the Presbyterian Washington Office:

Urge President Bush and Secretary Ridge to Protect Haitian Refugees


ISSUE: Over the past several months, violence has escalated in Haiti between armed rebels and supporters of the now deposed, democratically elected President Jean Bertrand-Aristide, plunging the small island nation into chaos. At least 100 people were killed in February alone, which has led an increasing number of persons to flee in search of refuge, often to the United States in crowded and unsafe vessels. President Bush, however, made it clear that "we will turn back any refugee that attempts to reach our shore," a policy in flagrant violation of international law as established by the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees. Indeed, in the past month the U.S. Coast Guard has repatriated over 867 Haitians without giving them a chance to adequately state their asylum claims. While it is hoped that the international peacekeeping force will stabilize the country, the U.S. still has moral and legal responsibility to protect those persons who seek refuge from the dangerous turmoil in Haiti.

ACTION: Call or write the White House and ask President Bush to provide protection for all Haitians intercepted at sea, and to offer TPS (Temporary Protected Status) for a period of 18 months to Haitians currently residing in the U.S. Thank him for contributing troops to the international peacekeeping force, so that the country can be stabilized.

Contact Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge and ask him to immediately halt all deportations and repatriations to Haiti, due to the instability of the country and the almost assured threat to the lives of all Haitians returned to the island at this time.

The number for the White House Comment Line is 202.456.1111. You can also go to the Presbyterian Legislative Action Center to compose you own e-mails

To write the President, send your letter to: The Honorable George W. Bush The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20500

To write the Secretary of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, send your letter to: The Honorable Tom Ridge Department of Homeland Security 2001 Independence Avenue, SW Washington, D.C. 20201

BACKGROUND: Haiti, one of the most impoverished nations in the world, has a history of violent uprisings and political instability. When the first democratically-elected President, Aristide, was ousted by a military coup in 1991, the Presbyterian Church (USA) was adamant in her calls for the restoration of order, justice and peace in Haiti, and for the United States to stop the forced return of Haitian refugees. Today, faced with a similar Haitian humanitarian and political crisis a decade later, the Church's response must be the same. The United States is morally and legally obligated to protect Haitian refugees, and so should offer interdicted migrants screening for asylum instead of simply repatriating them to their unstable country. In so doing, the U.S. would encourage other nations in the region to open their borders to Haitians seeking protection from the violence.

The Temporary Protected Status program was established to provide protection to people who are temporarily unable to return to their homelands because of dangerous and ongoing conflict. There is international consensus that this is the current situation in Haiti, made clear by the decision of the UN Security Council to provide peacekeeping forces to the region. Thus, all Haitians currently in the U.S. should be allowed Temporary Protected Status until it is safe to return to their native country.

By calling for fair treatment of Haitian refugees -- a chance to state their claims for asylum and the offering of Temporary Protected Status -- PC(USA) seeks to uphold standards of human rights, peace, and justice for all people, regardless of race, creed, or nationality.

GA Policy:

1992 Statement - PC(USA), p. 918

1. Calls on the president and United States government to:

a. Suspend immediately the high seas interdiction and forced return of Haitian refugees; ...

f. Support the restoration of constitutional order and democratic government in Haiti, so that the people of Haiti, with the active support of the international community, can bring peace, stability, and justice to their nation . . .

1993 Statement - PC(USA), pp. 60-61

Whereas, the situation in Haiti becomes more desperate every day, with continuing human rights abuses documented by various human rights groups and international observers; ... . . the 205th General Assembly (1993) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.):

1. Calls upon the civilian and military authorities in Haiti to stop the killing and human rights violations now going on in Haiti.

2. Calls upon the United States government, the Organization of American States, the United Nations, and the international community at large to take all necessary measures for the restoration of the democratically elected government, of President Aristide, of constitutional order, and of the rule of law in Haiti.

3. Supports the United Nations and the Organization of American States in the deployment of observers and peacekeepers into Haiti to prevent human rights abuses and to oversee a speedy transition to democratically elected government. ...

6. Calls upon presbyteries and congregations to act upon the concerns lifted up in their prayers by

a. engaging in letter writing and other means of communicating with their members of Congress, the president, and the Department of State, asking for continuous and more decisive actions;

b. providing greater financial support to human rights organizations in Haiti for humanitarian assistance;

c. identifying and sponsoring local programs in Haiti to foster peace and sustainable development through training in peaceful conflict resolution, mediation and reconciliation, and alternative economic and social activities; ...


Office of the General Assembly Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk

Interim President, Chief Justice Hon. Boniface Alexandre
Palais national de la Republique d'Haiti
Rue de la Republique
Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Your Excellency:

I am writing to you on behalf of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), which represents some 2.5 million Presbyterians, to express our deep sorrow over the crisis in which the Haitian people find themselves. Our church has been involved in ministries of compassion with the people of Haiti for many years, including our partnership with the Episcopal Church of Haiti at L'Hopital St. Croix in Leogane and other of its ministries; therefore, our prayers for you also carry the personal good wishes of many of our own members who have been a part of those ministries.

At this critical time of transition, we pray especially for you and those who join you in leadership, as you work toward a peaceful solution to the conflicts within your nation. We note with appreciation that this year marks the time, 200 years ago, when the Haitian people secured their freedom from slavery and the right to govern themselves. It is our hope and prayer that as you move toward a resolution to the current governmental crisis, you will be able to secure a future for your people that bears the marks of democracy, freedom, stability and peace for all the people of Haiti.

Please be assured that we also commit ourselves to urge our own government, as well as the leadership of the United Nations, to use all the resources at their disposal to support you in these efforts.

In Faith and Hope,

Clifton Kirkpatrick
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

cc: Rt. Rev. Jean Zache Duracin, Bishop of Haiti

Rt. Rev. Frank T. Griswold, Presiding Bishop, Episcopal Church, USA

100 Witherspoon Street
Louisville, Kentucky 40202-1396
1-888-PCUSA-2-U (1-888-728-7228)

Provided by

Rev. Elenora Giddings Ivory
Director, Washington Office
Presbyterian Church (USA) 202-543-1126
110 Maryland Avenue, NE, Suite 104
Washington, DC 20002

For more information, contact:
Elenora Giddings Ivory, PC(U.S.A.) Washington Office, 110 Maryland Avenue, NE, #104, Washington, DC 20002. 202-543-1126, fax 202-543-7755. Email


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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