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Archives:  September 2004

This page lists reports and commentary from all of September, 2004.

Our coverage of the 2004 General Assembly is indexed on a special page.
Click here for reports and commentary from August, 2004.
Reports from July 2004 are on their own page.
For links to earlier archive pages, click here.

More Light Presbyterians announces "Victory 2006" campaign - a strategy for local action and education to encourage fair dialogue on LGBT concerns. 
The Interfaith Alliance calls for opposition to a move to force passage of the Houses of Worship Free Speech Restoration Act (Jones bill/HR 235). This law would make it legal for churches to endorse candidates and lend support to campaigns -- just in time for November's elections.

Thanks to Betty Hale, who called our attention to this.

We've received another comment on the "new wineskins" discussion

A newcomer to the PC(USA) asks why, if they are so unhappy, evangelicals don't simply move into a more conservative Presbyterian denomination.

The Witherspoon Executive Committee will be meeting from this afternoon through Friday noon at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago.  We ask for our prayers as we gather.  And if you have concerns or suggestions to share with us, please send a note!
More on "new wineskins"

We've already received two thoughtful comments on Gene TeSelle's discussion of a proposal being advanced by some evangelical Presbyterians, under the title of "New Wineskins," for some radical changes in the way the Presbyterian Church is structured, and the way it operates.  

"New Wineskins" proposed

A group of Presbyterian evangelicals is calling for a functional, non-hierarchical, grass-roots structure for the PC(USA).  Witherspoon Issues Analyst Gene TeSelle examines some of its very interesting points, and some critical concerns.   

2004 Peace and Justice conference offered resources, actions, and hope

What has long been an important annual event in the Presbyterian Church, the Peacemaking Conference, happened again this year, August 3 - 7 in Tacoma, Washington, under the theme  “Hope for a Global Future: Let’s Pray, Let’s Act.”

It was broadened in scope this year to include issues of hunger, environmental concerns and economic justice.  And it was co-sponsored by the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, the Presbyterian Hunger Program, the Environmental Justice Program and the Self-Development of People Program.

Click here for the Presbyterian News Service report.

And we offer here two personal responses to the conference, along with a list of things to do and to study, gleaned from conference presentations.   Suzan Ireland gives her personal impressions, while Christine Gibson summarizes some of the content of the conference.  And Dick Gibson, Synod Hunger Action Enabler, Presbytery Restoring Creation Enabler, and "all around peacemaker" for the Presbytery of North Puget Sound, provides an awesome list of things to do, and resources to help you do them.

Celebrating the churches' "Social Creed" - and considering a new one

The 216th General Assembly called for conversations and studies to commemorate the centennial of the 1908 Social Creed of the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. That statement engaged churches in advocating for reforms such as an end to child labor, the six-day week, occupational safety, a living wage, and other steps aimed at moving American society closer to what a "Christ-like God" was believed to want for all Americans.

Beyond celebrating the past, the action calls for looking forward with "a survey of key Christian principles to guide 21st century Presbyterians and others in addressing major and likely future concerns, such as the lack of health insurance for 44 million Americans, the outsourcing of jobs to countries without human rights or environmental safeguards, and the impact of growing economic inequality on our democracy ..."

This is obviously a project close to the heart of Witherspoon's values. As a first step toward supporting the study, Gene TeSelle offers a background paper on the Social Creed, and Chris Iosso explores some of the details of the 1908 statement, and what such a new statement might mean for us today.

Gene TeSelle notes that the recent statement by the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, calling for resistance to "oppressive empire" of economic and political domination, seems to be a contemporary effort akin to the Social Creed of 1908.

A passionate, perceptive author laments a nation living under an "unfeeling president"

This morning's e-mail brought a copy of a brief essay by novelist E.L. Doctorow, forwarded by the Rev. Christine Baker, Director of Pastoral Care at Rochester General Hospital, Rochester, NY. She said, "This is one of the most powerful and profound writings I have ever read. If it is appropriate, please post this on the Witherspoon site."

We think it's very much appropriate, so here's a taste of it, and you can click below to read the whole thing.

The essay begins:

I fault this president for not knowing what death is. He does not suffer the death of our 21-year-olds who wanted to be what they could be. On the eve of D-Day in 1944 General Eisenhower prayed to God for the lives of the young soldiers he knew were going to die. He knew what death was. Even in a justifiable war, a war not of choice but of necessity, a war of survival, the cost was almost more than Eisenhower could bear.

But this president does not know what death is. He hasn't the mind for it. ...

His conclusion provides a moral warning to the American people as a whole:

The president we get is the country we get. With each president the nation is conformed spiritually. He is the artificer of our malleable national soul. He proposes not only the laws but the kinds of lawlessness that govern our lives and invoke our responses. The people he appoints are cast in his image. The trouble they get into and get us into, is his characteristic trouble.

Finally, the media amplify his character into our moral weather report. He becomes the face of our sky, the conditions that prevail. How can we sustain ourselves as the United States of America given the stupid and ineffective warmaking, the constitutionally insensitive lawgiving, and the monarchal economics of this president? He cannot mourn but is a figure of such moral vacancy as to make us mourn for ourselves.

Originally published in the Easthampton Star, the piece is also posted on

We'd like your comments!

Please send a note and we'll post it here - if you identify yourself in some way. (Your name is a good start; we won't ask for your Social Security number or your bank account.)

Pension funds and responsible investing ... and Israel    

With all the discussion of the PC(USA) action to divest stock holdings in companies doing business supportive of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory, Gene TeSelle offers some thoughts and questions about pension funds, which have become a part of the debate.

For a report on discussions of divestment at the recent meeting of the General Assembly Council, see Leslie Scanlon's article in The Presbyterian Outlook.

World Alliance of Reformed Churches has called for resistance to "oppressive empire" of economic and political domination

The World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) issued a statement on August 12, 2004,  at the close of its 24th General Council in Accra, Ghana, in which it reflected on the failure of Christians to resist the trading in human beings as slaves, which went on for two centuries through the "castles" on the coast of Ghana. They move from that to a call for resistance to the global economic oppression of our own time, in the name of the Christ who is the "Lord over all."

Nervous about talking politics in church?

Brian McLaren, serving what looks like an evangelical, progressive congregation in Maryland, ponders how he can deal responsibly and prophetically with our coming election, without simply urging people to vote, or alienating them by taking sides on issues where they don't all agree.

He offers some helpful thoughts and strategies, which are posted on the Sojourners website.

Thanks to Utne Webwatch.

Peace Fellowship invites friends to join witness against School of the Americas, Nov. 19-21

Marilyn White (who has herself served time in prison for her participation in these non-violent actions) sends this invitation:

Help spread the word.
Join Us at Fort Benning, Georgia
November 19-21

Together We Will Shut Down the School of Assassins!

For over a decade, students, religious, labor, veterans, human rights, and social/global justice groups have been converging every November at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia, to speak out in solidarity with the people of the Americas and to engage in nonviolent direct action. We will gather again this year on November 20 and 21 to continue together in the struggle until the School of the Americas is closed and the policies it represents are changed forever!

The Saturday and Sunday events this year will be preceded by teach-ins, trainings, and caucuses on Friday, November 19. Continue to check the website ( as plans unfold and various events are announced in more detail.

PPF has arranged for housing in Columbus and transportation from the Atlanta airport for Presbyterian participants. To join our group, contact Marilyn White at or 281-554-2851. Arrange for your flight to arrive in Atlanta by noon on Friday, November 19 and to leave after 2:00 p.m. on Monday November 22.

Everyone is invited to the Presbyterian Peace Breakfast at the Holiday Inn North on Saturday, November 20 at 7:30 a.m. Please RSVP to Marilyn.

Progressives lose track of time

Perhaps the most revolutionary item on the progressive agenda doesn't even make the top ten list: Time. For all our so-called prosperity, Americans may be some of the most overworked people in the world. Americans work nine weeks, or 350 more hours per year than their European counterparts. And sometimes, when it comes to time, activists are the least progressive of all.

Betsy Hartmann surveys this problem in Zmagazine

Thanks to Utne Webwatch.

As election approaches, Catholics call for a broader witness for social justice by their church

Just as some moderate evangelicals have reminded our nation that "God is not a Republican ... or a Democrat," a group of Catholics, led by Martin Sheen and Sister Joan Chittister OSB of Pax Christi USA, is refuting the claim that Catholics are single issue voters and reclaiming the proud Catholic tradition of social justice teaching.

Here's their call to action:

To characterize the whole content of the Catholic faith in a single issue is inappropriate and unjust. We know from our faith history that multiple social issues make up the depth and breadth of Catholic Social Teaching. Pope Pius XI wrote that being a good Catholic involved working against financial monopolies that restrict enterprise. Pope John XXIII condemned sexism, the arms race and systemic poverty. Pope John Paul II has called repeatedly for the transformation of economic structures that oppress the poor.

Yet, despite our rich history, rarely a day goes by without our politicians, the media, and even some of our own religious leaders holding up one lone issue as the litmus test for Catholics.

Are you frustrated with individuals telling you that one issue should decide your vote? If you are, join us in sending a strong message to America that our faith and our commitment to the common good are not exhausted by any one issue. Click below to add your name to "Life Does Not End at Birth," a statement that reminds politicians, church leaders and the media that we are called to vote for candidates based on the full range of issues that impact the common good:

Help mobilize a million Catholic voices for justice by supporting the publication of this statement across the country:

The statement will appear in secular and Catholic publications nationwide, reaching the millions of Catholics still struggling with their conscience and with the teachings of the church as they decide how to vote in the 2004 election.

In peace,

Martin Sheen and Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB

In Colombia murder happens - and Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase is there to minister in our name

Rick Ufford-Chase, current Moderator of the PC(USA), is reporting on his moderatorial experiences through a web-log (blog). His latest report, on Sept. 18, came from Colombia, where he has been visiting our sister Presbyterian Church. He tells of his conversations with women and men long involved in the struggle for human rights in their strife-torn society. He goes with Milton Mejia to visit the woman who is the regional head of the government prosecutor's office, to talk about the case of Mauricio, another Presbyterian who is now in prison for his human rights work.

During the office visit, Milton receives a call telling him that Alfredo Correa de Andreis, a sociology professor in his mid-forties, has just been assassinated in the street a few blocks from where there are sitting. He had shared a prison room with Mauricio and has worked with Milton for the displaced.

So our Moderator shares in the pain of these people, brings comfort, and joins in worship that affirms hope in the midst of the terrible troubles.

You can read this "blog," and sign up to receive the ones that will follow.

Federal Marriage Amendment continues to loom as a threat to equal justice

Equal Partners in Faith urges progressive groups to take action

[Press release from Equal Partners in Faith, dated 9-17-04.]

The Federal Marriage Amendment, defeated in the Senate in July, is now on the docket for the House of Representatives. This bill seeks to enshrine discrimination into the U.S. Constitution. It will probably get more traction in the House than in the Senate. That is why EPF urges progressive people of faith to contact their representatives in the House and ask them not to support or endorse the Federal Marriage Amendment.

The stakes are very high. Equal Partners in Faith believes in "Equal Justice for Equal Souls" and the FMA eviscerates equality at the highest level of American Law. Please call your Congressperson and tell them that you and your organization strongly opposes passage of the Federal Amendment.

Click here to gain more information on this topic and what you can do.

Sylvia Rhue Director, Equal Partners in Faith

IMPERIAL DESIGNS: Theological Ethics and the Ideologies of International Politics

Gary Dorrien, Distinguished Professor at Kalamazoo College and an Episcopal priest, offers a thorough analysis of what he sees as four distinctive perspectives shaping American foreign policy - each of them with roots in some elements of modern Christian social thought. He traces the four perspectives - liberal internationalism, realism, principled anti-interventionism, and finally what is variously called unipolarism, neoconservatism, or neo-imperialism.

CrossCurrents presents the substance of his thinking in a fairly lengthy essay, and it is also appearing in a new book.

As income gap widens, more US families are struggling

Unless you earn more than $100,000, America is just not the place to live. Over the last 30 years, your share of GDP has gone down consistently. It used to be that your salary just didn't go up. Now, with automation and outsourcing, your job is much more likely to leave forever. Griff Witte of the Washington Post takes a hard look at what this really means for the Americans failed by the economy.

Click here for the report. [Free, one-time registration is required.}

Thanks to

"One Door" opens onto all kinds of work opportunities in the PC(USA)

You can now do a PC(USA) job search including mission and volunteer opportunities, as well as ministry openings, in the US and world-wide.
Buy Pants to Support Worker Justice!

Workers at the only maquila factory in El Salvador with a democratic trade union need your immediate support.

Just Garments was founded last year after an international campaign succeeded in reversing the closing of Tainan Enterprises' factories after workers asked for contract negotiations in 2002.  After a hard struggle, Just Garments has secured its first commercial order from No Sweat for khaki pants, which markets only union-made products.

The size of No Sweat's initial order will be determined by orders placed over the next ten days on its website at The size of the order - and therefore its impact on employment at Just Garments - depends on anti-sweatshop activists and consumers placing orders by September 24, 2004.

Read more and place an order!   

Baptisms and a beauty pageant

As the Miss America Pageant approaches, Bruce Gillette shares a true and moving story of Miss New Jersey, and her baptism along with her severely autistic sister.

Farmworkers win right to organize after 5-year struggle

Precedent-setting agreement reached; Mt. Olive Pickle boycott over

After five years of a public action boycott by the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO (FLOC), it has reached a precedent setting agreement with the North Carolina Grower's Association (NCGA) and the Mount Olive Pickle Company.

This Thursday, September 16, 2004, over 8,000 "guest" farm workers in North Carolina will become the first such workers in the history of the United States to win union representation and a contract. It will be the largest union contract in North Carolina's history.

The Presbyterian Washington Office has issued its regular bi-monthly "Washington Report," with very helpful updates on:

The rising rates of poverty and of uninsured people in 2003

For the third consecutive year the poverty rate and the percentage of those uninsured have increased. In 2003 alone, an additional 1.3 million people fell below the poverty line. Of those, 733,000 were children. Now nearly 18 percent of children in the United States are living in poverty. Of the 35.9 million people living in poverty, 15.3 million (43 percent) are living in deep poverty - with cash incomes below half of the poverty line. This is the highest share on record.

Democratic reform in Indonesia - and how limiting foreign military financing could help the government control its military

A just foreign policy must respect human rights and should hold accountable those who violate them. Unfortunately, the United States is rewarding Indonesia, whose military has killed thousands of civilians in recent years and which dismantled a U.S.-backed ceasefire in Aceh (a province struggling for separation) by launching its largest military operation in 25 years. The U.N. stated this military (the TNI) was "responsible for the intimidation, terror, [and] killings" in neighboring East Timor. It also stands accused of murdering two U.S. teachers.

As the election draws near ...

The PC(USA) provides a variety of materials to guide churches and pastors in making their witness within the limits of the federal tax regulations for churches and other tax-exempt organizations.

And click here for some good information on our own website.

... and how to focus your congregation's political concerns

A quick look at how General Assembly actions can be found, and can be used to shape your political discussions and actions.

Looking back at the Assembly:    Common Ground

Witherspoon's Secretary/Communicator, Trina Zelle, reflects on our church's historic commitment to mission as a common ground which can hold us together - if we'll just get on with it. Zelle is currently serving Church of the Beatitudes United Church of Christ in Phoenix.  

The failure of preventive war

The New York Times, in an editorial on September 12, 2004, traces briefly and clearly the tragic failure of the current Administration's doctrine of preventive war.

You can read it in the Times (for which you may need to register), or at

National Council of Churches home page currently features articles on:
bullet"September 11, Plus Three" - a special report on how the NCC is working to protect bridges of understanding and cooperation among diverse peoples, faiths and nations that have been badly damaged by the tensions and fears of the past three years.
bullet Access for Persons with Disabilities? There's a guide "Equal Access Guide for Meetings, Conferences, Large Assemblies and Worship."
bullet Back to School: Helping Churches Celebrate, Support Public Education
Cutting-edge Lutheran mission under attack for calling a lesbian pastor

Central City Lutheran Mission, in San Bernardino, CA, describes itself as "a cutting edge ministry which assumes both delivery of a wide variety of social services and development of a Word and Sacrament ministry." Their simple style focuses on neighborhood leadership in a multilingual ministry, "where the poor and oppressed become subject in a pastoral project for neighborhood transformation and are not simply the objects of the church's charity or social services."

The Mission recently called the Rev. Dr. Jenny Mason as an Associate Pastor. Mason was ordained in 1991, served for ten years in urban ministry in Chile, and has already been serving for some months on the CCLM staff. While the Lutheran Church (ELCA) exercises considerable latitude in matters of ordination and sexuality, this call has been challenged and is now under review by a special committee, and some economic sanctions have already been imposed on the Mission.

You can learn more of the situation in a statement from the CCLM.

The President's faith: open and ambiguous

The faith of any candidate for the presidency seems of great interest these days. Alan Cooperman of the Washington Post provides a careful analysis of the complexities of President Bush's statements about his faith - including "two versions of how he came to accept Jesus."

How can you make a political witness without losing tax-exempt status?

The Lawyer's Alliance provides guidance on how non-profit groups can express political convictions without jeopardizing their tax-exempt status. Some suggestions: Identify your group's position on issues, rather than discussing political positions of particular candidates. If you invite candidates to an event held by your group, send them a letter explicitly stating that this is not a campaign event. Don't link your group's website to political or campaign sites. It's better not to endorse (or even explicitly encourage participation in) particular political events, such as rallies, protests, and such.

A helpful visitor adds this note:


Thank you for the article from the Lawyer's Alliance about political activity by churches. Unfortunately, in its brevity, it may give some misimpressions about what kinds of activity are dicey. I am particularly concerned that it is not precise in its discussion of "political activity." My understanding from reading the more lengthy explanations on the PC(USA) website, is that a church endangers its tax exempt status when it endorses (or even appears to endorse) a particular political candidate or party. This does not prevent a church from engaging in activism around issues or from encouraging its members to exercise the civic duty of voting, but from endorsing candidates with similar stands on those issues. A much trickier question to my mind, is what are the boundaries for a church's prophetic witness about the behavior of an elected official, when that official is running for reelection, so that the church's critique is not perceived as a political endorsement of the official's opponent.

Peace, Salaam, Shalom,
Kathleen Eschen-Pipes
Santa Cruz, CA

Positions open
bulletMacalester Plymouth United Church in St. Paul, Minnesota, is searching for an Associate Pastor.
bulletAnd Presbyterian Welcome (in New York metro area) seeks Administrative Assistant
September 11th has been an occasion for mourning -- and for reflection on what it all means for us today.  We offer a few samples:
bulletWitherspooner Bill LeMosy wrote out his meditations after participating in a vigil on September 9.  In the silence he discerned a call for action -- for peace and wholeness.
bullet September 11th Families For Peaceful Tomorrows affirm that war is not the answer to terrorism
bulletAs September 11th Families For Peaceful Tomorrows commemorated the third anniversary of the loss of their brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers, these most directly effected Americans issued a statement saying that the answer lies in defeating fears, lies and ignorance.
bullet'I thought we were different'
bulletGeorgie Ann Geyer, who has decades of experience as observer and commentator on international affairs, observes the third anniversary of 9/11 with a thoughtful essay. She struggles with an "endlessly haunting question: Have we changed as a people so as to be willing, as the polls show us, to re-elect men and women who have misled us and lied to us every step of the way? ... Have we, the rational, "exceptional" people of our history, been overtaken by the war fever and that same identification with the demented warrior-leader as lesser peoples throughout history?"

America Right Or Wrong


Anatol Lieven, a British journalist, writer and historian, compares the way our political elites have used fear, national identity and popular ignorance to unite the country behind a war on terror that looks remarkably like ... the Dutch colonial period. He says that as every crisis is now viewed through the lens of the war on terror, "America is fast becoming irrational in its analysis and use of deadly power."


We welcome your thoughts, or suggestions of other reflections.  Just send a note!

Here's the latest letter from Don Beisswenger, a Witherspooner in prison for protesting against the School of the Americas, as he nears the end of his 6-month term.
Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase opens a "blog"

In a note dated September 7, 2004, Dave Hackett informs us that Rick Ufford-Chase has opened a direct-feed Web log - popularly known as a blog - to respond to the many people who have expressed interest in hearing about his moderatorial travels and experiences. The blog, named "U-C: What I See," is available online at

The site already has several blog entries. Rick hopes to share his thoughts and reflections every few days as he travels.

Rick invites his readers to share comments on any blog posting by clicking on the "comments" link attached to each entry. He hopes to have additional interactive features up and running soon, including a "forum" discussion group people can join and contribute their thoughts to.

Rick is an eighteen year mission worker for the church who has spent most of his career on the U.S./Mexico border. He will serve as PCUSA moderator for a two-year term.

More on non-profits and political expression

Derrick Kikuchi has posted on his website (which is well worth a visit in itself) another resource on what a non-profit tax-exempt organization can and can't do in articulating its voice during this very important election year.

You can view it at

Click here for guidelines and resources from the PCUSA

Viola Larson takes issue with some statements linked to by a "radical faith" website recently mentioned here.
9/6/04        Happy Labor Day!
We're posting the latest issue of Network News right here.

Adobe PDF  Click here to download (free!) Adobe Reader software to view this and all PDF files.

For members, your copy will be in the mail in a week or so.  If you're not a member, we hope you'll join us -- help support what we're doing, and gain the benefits of being part of a dynamic network of progressive Presbyterians.  (And besides, you don't want to be a freeloader, do you?!)

The preceding four issues of Network News are also posted now.  And we'll add more as we have time.

How can you make a political witness without losing tax-exempt status?

The Lawyer's Alliance provides guidance on how non-profit groups can express political convictions without jeopardizing their tax-exempt status. Some suggestions: Identify your group's position on issues, rather than discussing political positions of particular candidates. If you invite candidates to an event held by your group, send them a letter explicitly stating that this is not a campaign event. Don't link your group's website to political or campaign sites. It's better not to endorse (or even explicitly encourage participation in) particular political events, such as rallies, protests, and such.

Thanks to Utne Webwatch

A introductory website on radical faith

Witherspooner Dugan Frederick of Denver sends this suggestion:

In case you do not know about this website, you may be interested in this one. I find it to be excellent and full of thought-provoking information in the various links.

The website offers links to many of the current progressive theologians and issues, with the aim of offering insights from academic theological thought for those who are interested in moving beyond their traditional views to "more substantial" current views.

The site is a project of the Society of the Sacred Mission in England.

Covenant Network offers new documentary, Turning Points: Stories of Life and Change in the Church

Turning Points: Stories of Life and Change in the Church is a documentary about Presbyterians struggling with the denomination's current ordination standards. This hour-long, four-part story with a study guide is suitable for use in adult education classes, pre-presbytery workshops, session meetings -- wherever the church gathers for study and discernment of God's call to the church today.

Click here for more information.

Does the Bible Justify Violence?

In a new release from Fortress Press, biblical scholar John J. Collins asks tough questions about the relationship between the portrayals of violence in the Bible and how they have been used throughout history. This work, Does the Bible Justify Violence, is based on his Presidential Address to the Society of Biblical Literature.

Looking toward the election --

Theologian Doug Ottati considers our human tendency to prefer "utilitarian religion" -- using God as a guarantor of getting our way.

And your WebWeaver ponders the good old Calvinist doctrine of election, and what it might suggest about the mixed bag of American elections.

Ken Smith, elected at General Assembly as the new President of the Witherspoon Society, introduces himself.
Witherspoon's membership brochure is updated, and it's right here -- in Adobe pdf format.

Take a look at it if you're thinking about joining us -- and print a few to share with friends!

Adobe PDF  Click here to download (free!) Adobe Reader software to view this and all PDF files.

A serious look at big-time diversity

Someone has asked that we repost a book review that we originally posted in 2000.  Given our church's commitment to racial and cultural diversity, you may find it helpful too.

Gene TeSelle provides a thoughtful look at an urban anthropologist's analysis of a very racially diverse neighborhood in New York City. Roger Sanjek's The Future of Us All: Race and Neighborhood Politics in New York City draws on a ten-year study to provide a realistic picture of the difficulties in building a multicultural community in the face of political and other pressures.  But he also shows that it can be done. 

From this ten-year study he draws a realistic picture of the difficulties in building a multicultural community in the face of political and other pressures.  But he also shows that it can be done.

The Ghost Ranch seminar:

The Liberty Bell is still cracked,
but we can do things to make repairs.

Jane Hannah reports on the seminar held at Ghost Ranch, July 26 - August 2, 2004, under the title "The Liberty Bell is Still Cracked." Three well-informed presenters addressed the global economy, corporate power and decisions, environmental impacts, our personal lifestyle, and public policy advocacy. The group recognized that all those topics are interconnected, and concluded that "to be effective change agents, we must be simultaneously informed and pro-active at those points where unjust structures reinforce and perpetuate each other."

And you can plan now for another great Ghost Ranch week next summer!

July 25 - 31 -- on the topic, "PATHS TO A JUST AND PEACEFUL WORLD."   In partnership with The Witherspoon Society, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and Presbyterians for Restoring Creation.

Presbyterian Church creates website dealing with Israel and Jewish relations

Responding creatively to the concerns expressed by Jewish individuals and organizations, by Presbyterians and others about what have been called "anti-Semitic" actions by the 216th General Assembly, the PC(USA) has established a very helpful website.

It includes comments by Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase and Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick, along with links to the GA actions (it doesn't hurt sometimes for folks to know what was really said - and not said), answers to frequently asked questions, comments from a number of Presbyterians, and links to many other good resources.

Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase is speaking out on border deaths and the issues around Israel and Judaism

The Moderator of the 216th General Assembly, Rick Ufford-Chase, has recently been published in Christian Century - a powerful statement entitled "Dying to Get In," on the crisis on the Mexican border, as more and more would-be migrants die in the heat of the desert trying to find a decent life for themselves in the U.S. He cites "No More Deaths" ( as one sign of hope on the border, as church people organize to offer help to migrants by going to them in the desert.

He has also written about the loud criticisms of the General Assembly actions in relation to Israel and Judaism.

The PC(USA) website has posted one of his responses, and the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta has one as well.

For one helpful survey of Jewish reaction, you might check out the Atlanta Jewish Times.

Measured words of praise for the GA actions on Israel and for even-handed reporting of the situation -- and the debate. 

Kathleen Eschen-Pipes begins her note: 

I join in applauding the recent decisions of the General Assembly regarding Israel and Palestine. I am particularly relieved that the Mission Responsibility Through Investment committee will be divesting my pension funds from companies that profit from the suffering of innocent Israelis and Palestinians.

There's more good, thoughtful commentary.

Not just in New York:
Another demonstration against Bush

The hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in New York City are getting lots of attention - from the media as well as from the police.   But similar actions are going on around the country. Gene TeSelle reports on three demonstrations this week in Nashville.

Labor unions call for a Million Worker March in DC on Sunday, October 17.

Buses to Washington will be organized, and local demonstrations will also be planned. Their web site is

From their call: "This mobilization is being proposed in response to the attacks upon working families in America and the millions of jobs lost during the Bush administration and with the complicity of Congress. The working class has not suffered such hardships since the Great Depression."

All our August stories are listed on the August archive page.
Click here for all our reports from July 2004.
All June reports are on the June 2004 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 have now been acted upon by the presbyteries, confirming most of them as amendments to the PC(USA) Book of Order.

We provided resources to help inform the reflection and debate, along with updates on the voting.

Our three areas of primary interest have been:

bullet Amendment 10-A, which  removes the current ban on lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender persons being considered as possible candidates for ordination as elder or ministers.  Approved!

bullet Amendment 10-2, which would add the Belhar Confession to our Book of Confessions.  Disapproved, because as an amendment to the Book of Confessions it needed a 2/3 vote, and did not receive that.

bullet Amendment 10-1, which  adopts the new Form of Government that was approved by the Assembly.   Approved.

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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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