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Archives:  February 2005

This page lists reports and commentary from all of February, 2005

Find all stories from January 2005

For items archived from December, 2004, click here.
All news from November is listed on another page.

Our coverage of the 2004 General Assembly is indexed on a special page.
For links to earlier archive pages, click here.

Looking toward Easter ...

"A Prayer at the Empty Tomb" is a short poem shared with us by Witherspooner Bill LeMosy.  It awakens reflection on conversion and compassion, justice and wisdom, faith and transformation.

On the subject of torture:
Is anything OK in post-9/11 America? 

An op-ed column in today's New York Times relates the experience of Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen who was picked up in the fall of 2002 by John Ashcroft's Justice Department and shipped off to Syria for a year of brutal treatment -- thanks to the US's pattern of outsourcing torture, now renamed "extraordinary rendition."

You may want to read this editorial comment, and then read "A Resolution and Confession on the Torture and Abuse of Prisoners," adopted by the 2004 General Assembly.

Another Jewish group supports selective divestment

This note has just come to us from Kathleen Eschen-Pipes, a Presbyterian Minister in Santa Cruz, CA.  

Yet another Israeli group comes out in support of selective divestment. Best known for its work to support conscientious objectors, New Profile seeks to civil-ize Israeli society.

Peace, Salaam, Shalom,

A Day in the Life of the Homeless in America

It's too easy to see homelessness as one of those big Social Problems that's just there, and too big to deal with. But a recent AP story reminds us of the human dimensions of "the problem," as AP reporters and photographers spent 24 hours earlier this month meeting with people who live on the streets and in shelters, following them to their jobs, watching them in court and talking with those who try to help them.

Their report begins:

From villages to large cities, homelessness has spread like dye through the weave of America's social fabric. A single day in the life of the homeless reveals hundreds of thousands without shelter, and blame goes to everything from the lack of affordable housing and unemployment to drug abuse, mental illness and a flawed foster care system.

The story is posted on TruthOut with photos; it's also on the AP site, but without the photos.

Announcing:  Partners in Transformation Awards Contest

Faith-based organizations and congregations that are (a) operating an effective social service program with demonstrable, positive results and (b) operating that program in collaboration with some organization(s) OUTSIDE the faith community (e.g., schools, government agency, police, secular nonprofits) are eligible to apply to win $5000 in this contest being sponsored by FASTEN and the Points of Light Foundation. Visit for details and a contest application.   [2-28-05]

More information >>

Washington Office suggests urging House to restore civil rights protections in the Job Training Improvement Act

The proposed job training bill would allow religious discrimination by religious organizations receiving federal funding. The Washington Office has joined many other religious groups in calling for the restoration of civil rights protections to the bill.

Americans United has issued a similar call for action.  

Protesting the Iraq war:  We're not done yet!  

A number have people have raised the question to your WebWeaver (and more broadly) about why the churches and others are not getting more vocal in their opposition to the US war in Iraq, rather than simply accepting it.

Well, some people in the community of faith will be raising their voices in the coming weeks to remind our nation and our government that the war was wrong to begin with, and hasn't improved with age.

Sojourners reminds us that "Saturday, March 19, 2005, marks the second anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. The human and financial costs of war on all sides continue to mount at an alarming pace. In these dire times people of faith are called to raise their voices for peace."

They encourage people to mark this anniversary by organizing a vigil or a memorial service in their own hometown on the weekend of March 18-20, 2005.  And they provide helpful organizing kits and more.

Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase urges support of Taco Bell rally in Louisville, March 12th  

Speaking out of his own visit with Immokalee farm workers in Florida, and having seen what many of the Mexican workers go through in his own state of Arizona to find work in the US, Ufford-Chase reminds us that "The church at its best remembers that we are customers, employees, franchisers, farmworkers, and executives; that we are created for community and that justice is a community concept. All of us are children of God, called to recognize God's image in one another, and commanded to live in ways that promote God's shalom (well-being; just-peace)."

Details on the Rally, March 12th.

Money, morals & Israel: The Presbyterian case for divesting from Israel

Vernon Broyles, associate for corporate witness for the General Assembly Council of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), recently provided a clear articulation of the background of the PC(USA) action to consider divesting from corporations providing material support for the destructive aspects of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories. Writing in Christian Century, he concludes: "It is time for us to join forces----Christian, Jewish, Muslim----to demand of our leaders a secure and lasting peace in the region. The people of Israel/Palestine must have it; peace in the region and the world requires it; and our God commands it. If we could manage that, the discussion of divestment would be irrelevant. Thank God for those who already have shown the courage to begin."

You can also read two critical responses to Broyles:

bullet from Barbara Wheeler, president of Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City, who argues that divestment will in this case be both ineffective and unwise.
bullet from Ira Youdovin, who is executive vice president of the Chicago Board of Rabbis and president of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago.

Broyles responds to their criticisms.

Religion should unify, not divide, says Madeleine Albright

The people of the world can longer afford to allow religion and religious leaders to divide them, former Secretary of State and U.N. Representative Madeleine Korbel Albright told the annual gathering of the Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes February 25.

So what do you think?  Can religion really play a uniting role in our world?
What can we do to help that happen?
Please send a note and we'll share it here!

More on the approval of Eily Marlow for ordination

More Light Presbyterians congratulates Eily Marlow on her approval for ordination, and a colleague in chaplaincy at Macalester College expresses appreciation for her ministry.

A visitor attacks Peter Hodgson's theological critique of the US war in Iraq

He calls it a "diatribe" and writes to "pontificate" in response.

Read Hodgson's essay:  Part I, "A Theological Critique of the War on Terror," and Part II, "Theological Virtues in an Age of Terror."

2/23/05 -- Bulletin
Presbytery of Milwaukee approves Eily Marlow for ordination

By a convincing (and perhaps surprising) vote of 104 to 20, the Presbytery of Milwaukee last night acted to approve Elizabeth (Eily) Marlow for ordination. Ms. Marlow has long been active in the Presbyterian Church, through the National Network of Presbyterian College Women and various other programs. She is currently serving in the chaplaincy at Presbyterian-related Macalester College in St. Paul, MN. The presbytery action was notable as a strong endorsement of a woman who has been very open and honest in affirming her orientation as a lesbian.

Interim Executive Presbyter Anne Fisher commented that she was very pleased with the tone and demeanor shown during the discussion of the action. She added that members showed a real respect for one another, and a willingness to listen seriously to differing views on a controversial question.

The Rev. David Oliver-Holder commented that her statement of faith was "outstanding." He added that after a couple very busy weeks, "yesterday, as I was reading her statement of faith in preparation for the meeting, I was amazed to find, by the second paragraph, how calm I had suddenly become. Peace in the presence of Truth. I also respond well to good theology, and hers is very good."

There's more in a press release from the Presbytery of Milwaukee

Theological Virtues in an Age of Terror:  Truth, Courage, Justice, Love, Hope

A month ago we posted Peter Hodgson's theological critique of "the war on terror."

And now the sequel!  Hodgson has also looked at the war through the lens of the traditional Christian "theological virtues" of truth, courage, justice, love, and hope.  If you're seeking ways to engage supporters of the war in the kind of moral reflection they seem to want, here's a good place to begin!

Conference on American Churches and the Palestinian meets in Austin, Texas

Palestinians speak about rights violations and about their persistent hope

Rev. David Oliver-Holder reports on a conference held February 11th and 12th on the campus of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. The conference, on the theme "To Loose the Chains of Injustice - Isaiah 58:6: American Churches and the Palestinians," was presented by Friends of Sabeel - North America, the Roman Catholic peacemaking group Pax Christi USA, and the Austin-based Interfaith Community for Palestinian Rights. The event attracted more than 220 people from all over the United States.

The 2005 Earth Day Resource: Sacred Oceans and Seas (prepared by the National Council of Churches Eco-Justice Working Group) is available online at

For a direct link:

This year's resource includes sermon notes, a bulletin insert, youth activity ideas, adult study notes, and information on God's oceans.

For copy of the printed resource, contact


A PBS film airing tonight shows the soldiers' story of fighting in Iraq

The film A COMPANY OF SOLDIERS will be broadcast next Tuesday night (February 22) on PBS at 8 PM (Central time). It is the soldiers' story of fighting in Iraq - a month in the life of the 1st Battalion of the 8th Cavalry stationed in South Baghdad. It was shot last November during one of the most dangerous times for that unit. A COMPANY OF SOLDIERS was made by October Films under the umbrella of the PBS Frontline Series and we'd like to ask you to email this to everyone you know with a request for them to send it on to everyone they know.

One word of warning is that the film graphically shows the risks and consequences of what it is to fight in Iraq - so if you haven't told your loved ones, they might be in for a shock. One senior confidential source at the Pentagon who has seen the film told us: "It is compelling stuff. It proves once again that it is our Soldiers who are our best spokespeople. It is not only courageous filmmaking (both figuratively and literally), but it's also an example of very insightful filmmaking. The film captures our Soldiers' humanity, putting a human face on a very complex set of issues - that is priceless stuff."

More details

Tomorrow, Feb. 22:  National Call-In Day to urge Congress to close School of the Americas

SOA Watch calls on you to call your Representative and Senators on Tuesday, February 22, and urge them to support legislation that would close and investigate the SOA/WHINSEC once and for all! These three calls can truly make a difference! Congressional offices count how many calls they get on a specific issue, and these counts help influence political support and policy decisions.

WCC central committee encourages consideration of economic measures for peace in Israel/Palestine -- PC(USA) action cited as example.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) central committee, meeting in Geneva, Feb. 15 - 22, has reminded the Council's member churches that "with investment funds, they have an opportunity to use those funds responsibly in support of peaceful solutions" to the Israel/Palestine conflict.

As an example, the WCC governing body mentions the "process of phased, selective divestment from multinational corporations involved in the occupation" now being implemented by the Presbyterian Church (USA). "This action is commendable in both method and manner, [and] uses criteria rooted in faith."


In its material for Week 2 of a Lenten Fast From Violence, the National Council of Churches calls on us to join in "fasting from violence against creation." This might involve concrete actions to reverse the processes that are leading to global warming, the depletion of fisheries, shrinking habitat the threatens thousands of species, the decline in air quality, and more.

Is your stuff yours? The answer isn't so simple.

Conservative arguments again "takings" clause in Constitution will challenge government's power to act for the common good

Seeking to limit government seizures, conservatives take the issue to court. The issue of "takings," or the government's authority to take private property for legitimate public use under the law of eminent domain, has been a matter of concern to the Presbyterian Church, which has affirmed the need for such authority so that governments can act for the broader public interest in protecting the environment.

Conservatives will be taking two rather obscure cases to the court, arguing that the "takings" clause in the 5th Amendment to the Constitution "is meant to protect property owners and should be used to strike down regulations that interfere with the profit of an individual or corporation. That might mean regulations allowing the government to take your house ---- or environmental regulations that are costly to businesses or health and safety standards that businesses find onerous. Even minimum-wage laws could be deemed unacceptable under this theory."

Milwaukee Presbytery opposes anti-gay marriage amendment to state constitution

At its meeting on January 25, 2005, the Presbytery of Milwaukee adopted a resolution against the proposed "marriage amendment" to the state constitution.  The resolution includes a careful listing of arguments for the position against such an amendment.
NCC provides resources and calls for action on eco-justice 

Peter Sawtell, Executive Director of Eco-Justice Ministries, reminds us of the important things being presented to us by the National Council of Church.  


Sign on to GOD'S MANDATE statement


Read and use "God's Earth is Sacred," a theological statement


Use Earth Day materials for Sunday, April 24.

Kyoto Protocol goes into effect - and can provide economic opportunity

With the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol for action against the emissions that are causing global warming, Worldwatch sees new economic opportunities as nations shift to new energy technologies, and living standards improve.  The US, of course, is staying out of it all.

Read the story on the Worldwatch site.

Lenten 'Fast from Violence' Resources

The World Council of Church is encouraging Christians to enrich their observance of Lent by focusing on how we might work together to overcome the violence in our culture. The U.S. Committee for the Decade to Overcome Violence: Churches seeking Reconciliation and Peace (2001-2010) (DOV) invites Christians to enter into the Lenten season with a focus on the growing violence in our world and the need for peace and reconciliation.

They also provide detailed ideas for "fasting from the consumption of media violence, especially geared towards young people."

Also -- We recently mentioned a call by church leaders call for Christians to fast and pray on Fridays during Lent for a just resolution of the Taco Bell boycott 

Budgets are Moral Documents!
The religious left links economic disparity and moral values

Utne Webwatch has posted a brief summary from Sojourners of some of the growing flow of articles dealing with issues in the federal budget from a progressive faith perspective.

And Sojourners editor Jim Wallis has written a brief statement affirming that indeed, budgets are moral documents. And he raises sharp questions about the moral values reflected in the President's budget proposal.

Sojourners also provides a web page for sending quick notes to Congress about the budget issue.

And check out Faith-based reflections on the federal budget, a clear, concise analysis of the President's proposed budget for 2006, from the Presbyterian Washington Office.

Where does US stand on UN proposal to end world poverty?

A day after President Bush's inaugural speech, in which he made sweeping statements about America's role in global security, world-renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs and his Millennium Project presented the UN with a 3,000 page report that outlines how to improve world security and cut world poverty in half by 2015. Leaders from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Rwanda, Pakistan, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Dominican Republic, and Botswana have since vocalized support and been listed on the project's Web site. So far, the US has been conspicuously silent on the subject.

Read the short article, and find links to other good sources.

Advocacy site for Sudan opens

The Sudan Advocacy Action Forum (SAAF) announces the launch of its new Web site at

Sharing news and advocacy information on Sudan, the site is a ministry of The Sudan Advocacy Action Forum, organized as a Christian grassroots effort to advocate for a just and lasting peace in Sudan.

SAAF is comprised of dedicated individuals with complementing skills who have come together to increase advocacy efforts and outreach focused on Sudan. Rapid growth of SAAF has come through the PCUSA, Reformed Church in America, and individual congregations of other denominations and non-denominational groups. While SAAF gets administrative support from the Presbyterian Church (USA), it is an ecumenical group primarily of Christians united in the same goal to work together to achieve a just and lasting peace in Sudan.

The SAAF site promises situation updates, prayer requests, lobbying and other action steps, and guidance for contributions. Individuals who want to follow Sudanese advocacy more actively can sign up for emailed reports and updates from the Website.

More on Sudan and Darfur

Jewish leaders continue to reject PC(USA)'s explanation for divestment
ADL accuses church of siding with Palestinians

Presbyterian News Service reports on a recent meeting of a representative of the PC(USA) with leaders of the Anti-Defamation League in West Palm Beach, Florida, in yet another effort to reach some understanding of the 216th General Assembly's action to consider divestment from corporations that profit by supporting Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories.

The ADL leaders apparently continued to reject the Presbyterian Church action, with Abraham Foxman, ADL national director, labeling it as "moral hypocrisy."

Read the full story.

More on George W. Bush and Napoleon

Dr. Earl H. Tilford, Jr., professor at Grove City College, objects to Berry Craig's comparison of the President's style and that of the Emperor Napoleon.

MRTI still in research phase of divestment process related to Israel, Palestine

Ecumenical partners' actions creating 'movement,' says Bill S-J

The Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) is continuing to research which corporations the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) should target for a General Assembly-mandated "process of selective, phased divestment" because of their involvement in the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

The group expects to identify which companies to engage in dialogue -- the first step in the process -- at its next meeting, scheduled for Aug. 4-6 in the Seattle area, said Bill Somplatsky-Jarman, the lead researcher for MRTI. 

Letting your voice be heard ... on staff dismissals and on divestment

Many Presbyterians have been concerned about the abrupt dismissal of two national staff people in November, 2004, and about threats to the PC(USA)'s long-standing program for responsible investment.  We've gathered some suggestions for people whom you might contact to let your thoughts be made known to those most directly involved.  

Faith-based reflections on the federal budget

The Presbyterian Washington Office has published a clear, concise analysis of the President's proposed budget for 2006, focusing on slashes in Medicaid, the Food Stamp Program, child care for low-income families, education, and community food and nutrition programs. That is coupled with the President's proposal to make his huge tax cuts permanent, to the benefit of the affluent. Added to that is increased military spending - and that's not counting the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Bulletin includes a "Faith Reflection on the Federal Budget," from the Interreligious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs. The signers of the statement raise the crucial question of the budget: "[D]oes it uphold values that will strengthen our life together as a nation and as part of the global community?"

Finally, the Bulletin reminds us of a resolution adopted by the 1997 General Assembly, which set forth "guidelines for the church and government to follow in promoting the general welfare of the poor."

Theologians warn of 'false gospel' on the environment; call Christians to repent of sins  

In an effort to refute what they call a "false gospel" and to change destructive attitudes and actions concerning the environment, a group of theologians, convened by the National Council of Churches USA, has released an open letter calling on Christians to repent of "our social and ecological sins" and to reject teachings that suggest humans are "called" to exploit the Earth without care for how our behavior impacts the rest of God's creation.

A review of Jim Wallis' best-seller, God's Politics: Why The Right Is Wrong and The Left Doesn't Get It

Jim Wallis of Soujourners has hit the best-seller lists with this prophetic/evangelical survey of the US political scene.  Robert Boehlke, Presbyterian minister and long-time professor of Christian education at one of Indonesia's major theological seminaries, summarizes the book's main points and offers some critical thoughts.  

Fasting for justice

Church leaders call for Christians to fast and pray on Fridays during Lent for a just resolution of the Taco Bell boycott 

The Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the PC(USA), has joined leaders from the Roman Catholic Church, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), and the National Farm Worker Ministry in calling for Christians to fast and pray on Fridays during Lent for a just resolution of the Taco Bell boycott.

A visitor comments on Bill Moyers' retraction of words attributed to James Watt

Thanks for publicizing the apology by Bill Moyers concerning the remarks he made about James Watt without checking his sources. I was not a fan of Watt's policies, but the particular quotation attributed to Watt by Moyers had sounded far-fetched to me, and I'm glad to know that it was not true. And in fact Moyers's speech had bothered me in general, because I know many evangelicals (myself among them) who are very much concerned about the environment indeed and feel it is God's charge to us that we care for it responsibly. Moyers's claim that evangelicals don't mind if the environment is despoiled, because it would supposedly hasten the return of Christ, is definitely not true of evangelicals as a group (if it is true of any of them); certainly I had never heard of such an idea until I read his speech, and yet I belong to a very large evangelical church.

Thanks again for your willingness to link to the apology.

Deborah Milam Berkley
First Pres., Bellevue (WA)

Maryland clergy urge Equal Access to Marriage

Forty-three of the seventy-three Christian clergy from across the state of Maryland who have endorsed a "Statement on Equal Access to Marriage" gathered on Tuesday, 2/8/05, to release it publicly at a press conference. The seventy-three clergy are from eight Christian denominations: American Baptist Church, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Metropolitan Community Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, and the United Reform Catholic Church.

That All May Freely Serve has posted the press release and statement both in Word format and in PDF format.

Napoleon Bonaparte would have loved George Bush

Berry Craig, a professor of history in Paducah, Kentucky, plays with what he sees as similarities between Napoleon and the current president of the United States, primarily in their abilities to convince the common people that their leaders, who were using them, were their best friends.

Presbyterian Washington Office provides lots of helpful issue updates:

Three current major issues:

bulletSocial Security

Last summer, the 216th General Assembly of the PC(USA) passed a resolution, Reaffirming the Importance of Our Nation's Social Insurance System (Social Security and Medicare). It reaffirms past policy; noting that Social Security and Medicare were enacted to promote the general welfare and to assure a guaranteed income and health care for U.S. workers. As noted by The Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick, in a letter to congregations: "These programs enable older Americans, people with disabilities, and their families to live life in fullness." [Read more]

bulletBorder Crossing: Minors in Jeopardy

The Arizona desert is beautiful at just about any time of year. Yet for migrants who have been driven from their homelands because of worsening economic situations, the desert is all too often deadly in its beauty. More than 3,500 migrants have died trying to cross the border since 1998; and at least 219 dead during 2004 on just the Arizona border. In the search for economic survival, many migrants leave their families and make the trek from Mexico or Central America to cross the deserts of U.S. border states. They hold out hope of making enough cash in the fields, farms, restaurants, and office buildings of America ---- not only to survive themselves, but also to have enough to send back home so that their families might also eke out a living. [Read more]

bulletThe Widow's Offering

As the tsunami crisis unfolded, the Bush Administration's announcement of its paltry donation of $15 million in aid incited enough criticism that the amount was increased ---- to $350 million! The criticism sparked a debate: Is the U.S. stingy in what it gives to the developing world? In terms of percentage of national income, the U.S. is at the bottom of the list of developed countries. [Read more]

2005 Outlook

The 109th Congress has begun its first session. The Washington Office provides its outlook for congressional action in nine issue areas. If you are committed to influencing laws and policies, here's a great place to start.

bullet Africa
bullet Civil Rights
bullet Ecology
bullet Global Security
bullet Health Care
bullet Hunger and Human Needs
bullet Latin America
bullet Middle East
bullet Women and Families
Reinhold Niebuhr, we need you now -- and NPR will help us in our need!

An upcoming Speaking of Faith program on NPR and its companion website will feature the work of Reinhold Niebuhr, one of the twentieth century's outstanding public theologians. "Moral Man and Immoral Society" is the title of both the program and one of Niebuhr's outstanding books ... a work that is strikingly relevant today. Anyone interested in how Christianity can speak cogently to issues now being debated in American public life should tune in beginning February 10.

The program will look at Niebuhr's foundational idea, "Christian realism" -- a pragmatic middle way between religious idealism and religious arrogance. It will examine how his theology influenced leading figures in law, culture, and politics, and how he continues to influence contemporary thinkers on the right and the left, in America and abroad. It will probe the enduring questions Niebuhr brought to the crises of his day, through public activism and such books as The Nature and Destiny of Man and Moral Man and Immoral Society. Niebuhr was also the author of "The Serenity Prayer," which is now translated and recited in virtually every language in the world.

Thanks to the Christianity section of

Get more information and links on the Public Radio web site.

How about seeing "Hotel Rwanda" as an authentic portrayal of "the Passion of the Christ"? 

Brian McLaren, the founding pastor of Cedar Ridge Community Church in Spencerville, Maryland, reflects on this film out of his own visit to Rwanda and concludes that "if we really had the mind and heart of Christ, this is the movie we would be urging people in our churches to see."

Poll: Most PC(USA) members unaware of GA divestment action

Presbyterian ministers, members divided over divestment

A recent survey by the PC(USA) Research Services office indicates that most Presbyterian laity are not aware of the 216th General Assembly's decision to "begin a process of phased, selective divestment" of companies profiting from the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. More laity -- 42 percent of members and 46 percent of elders -- oppose selective phased divestment than favor it (28 percent of members, 30 percent of elders). But pastors favor the Assembly's action by a 48 - 43 percent margin and specialized clergy favor the divestment decision by a margin of 64 -24 percent.

Read the rest of the story.

The Layman attacks one of the major evangelicals on the "Peace, Unity and Purity" task force

The Layman, in the person of Editor in Chief Parker Williamson, has accused Dr. Mark Achtemeier, one of the leading evangelical members of the Task Force on Peace, Unity and Purity of the Church, of a "departure from the Biblical tradition" in his classroom teaching at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary. Williamson writes that Achtemeier "told a seminary class on Jan. 27 that his position on homosexuality represents a 'departure from the Biblical tradition.' "

Achtemeier has responded in a letter to PresbyWeb that this charge (and much else in Williamson's article) is "categorically false." He has demanded an apology and a retraction from the Layman.

Mr. Williamson has responded that he will do no such thing.

The exchange has generated some interesting comments posted on PresbyWeb, including:

bullet Ray McCalla: "Sometimes I wonder what the folks at the Layman are up to. We all know that Dr. Achtemeier is a solid, biblical theologian and one of the brightest stars in our communion. We know that the accusations against him are false. So why would they publish material clearly designed to divide us evangelicals into the ready-to-pull-out-ers and the hang-in-there-till-the-end-ers?..."
bullet  Rus Howard:  The Layman acted responsibly.  First, they interviewed several individuals who were present in the class.  Second, they gave Mark Achetemeier an opportunity to respond ..."
bullet John McNeese:  "...God help conservative evangelicals on the [PUP Task Force], like Achtemeier and Jack Haberer, if they do not toe the line of orthodoxy laid down by Parker Williamson and the Lay Committee."
bullet Art Seaman "...I am given to believe the professor, a man of integrity, and not the Layman."
Moyers article is challenged by James Watt

We recently linked to the text of Bill Moyers' talk ("There is no tomorrow") in response to his reception of the Global Environmental Citizen Award from the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School. Arguing that evangelical Christians and their views now dominate the political scene in Washington, he warned that their expectations of the impending apocalypse lead to their passionate support of Israel as the best way to bring on the return of Christ. He added that these views also lead to a careless attitude toward the environment - since God will take care of it all anyway. He cited former Secretary of the Interior James Watt as an example of that view.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune this morning published a letter from James Watt denying that he ever said what Moyers says he said. They also published a statement from Grist magazine (which Moyers had drawn upon for his quote from Watt) retracting what they had published. This was followed by a letter from Moyers himself, apologizing for not checking his sources.  [You may need to run a search on the Star Tribune web site to find Moyers' letter.]

[For the Grist retraction, scroll down through Mr. Watt's letter.]

We regret our minor role in perpetuating what is apparently a long-standing distortion of Mr. Watt's views.

Given the Layman's refusal to retract what it said about Mark Achtemeier, Moyers' response makes an interesting contrast. 

Fortress Press releases text for a new generation of theologians

Constructive Theology: A Contemporary Approach to Classical Themes presents an exciting and engaging way for today's students to encounter theology.

Coordinated by Serene Jones of Yale Divinity School and Paul Lakeland of Fairfield University, nearly fifty of North America's top teaching theologians (members of the Workgroup on Constructive Christian Theology) have devised a text that allows students to experience the deeper point of theological questions, to delve into the fractures and disagreements that figured in the development of traditional Christian doctrines, and to sample the diverse and conflicting theological voices that vie for allegiance today. 

We recently posted a letter by Veterans for Peace to former President Jimmy Carter, expressing concern about the US' continuing use of depleted uranium ammunition, with all its long-term health effects.

Dr. Earl Tilford, speaking as a career military man, expresses his disagreement with the notion that depleted uranium should be a concern.

Veterans for Peace exchange letters with former President Jimmy Carter on the US' continuing use of depleted uranium ammunition, with all its long-term health effects

We have received this note from Witherspooner Gary Campbell

I thought you might want to share with members of Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, Witherspoon Society and Binational Servants the following message from Veterans for Peace National Administrator Woody Powell with exchange of letters between VFP member Bill Compher and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

Read the text of the two brief notes.   

From School of the Americas Watch

Two weeks until the DC Lobby Day, actions and national call-in day: tell Congress to close the SOA/ WHINSEC!   Monday, February 21 and Tuesday, February 22 

NCC Middle East delegation concludes visit, issues statement

'Barriers do not bring freedom'

An 11-member delegation from the National Council of Churches USA has recently returned from a two-week visit to the Middle East. Delegation members asked those with whom they met: "Is there a new window of opportunity for peace?" In the statement entitled "Barriers Do Not Bring Freedom," the delegation concludes, "A sliver of hope for peace does exist, but we feel strongly the moment must be seized now or the future will remain dim."

Read the rest of the story, including the members of the delegation, and the full text of their statement.

We recently posted a note encouraging people to support fair trade, and to urge the Presbyterian Church to do the same.

Witherspooner Harold Barton responded to our note by adding this good point:

Yes, we should encourage our Church to buy fair trade items, but [we should] also consider using recycled paper products.

God bless, Paz, Harold

Presbyterian Church surpasses tsunami appeal goal  

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) has received $3.26 million in individual contributions for tsunami relief aid following the devastating Dec. 26 disaster in Southeast Asia, and expects to receive over $500,000 more from congregations and presbyteries.

The total means the disaster response arm of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has surpassed its tsunami aid goal of $2.5 million, which it set in an appeal issued in early January.

PDA is dispatching a three-person team of South Asians to begin working in Sri Lanka with the fishing industry and looking at issues related to vulnerable women and widows.  

The staff firings: procedural vs. substantive "due process"

Gordon Shull of Wooster, Ohio, has commented before on the dismissal of two national staff members. We recently reported on the action of the General Assembly Council concluding that the dismissal was carried out according to proper procedures. Dr. Shull responds to this statement by pointing out that the important questions which he raised earlier have not been touched -- and notes that what may looks like a "whitewash" will not serve the church well.

Urging our church to encourage fair trade
Help us find the ways!   

At the Ghost Ranch seminar last summer, co-sponsored by the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and the Witherspoon Society, participants talked about asking the General Assembly to adopt procurement policies that encourage fair trade. We are now in conversation with GA agencies, and are looking for ways to encourage our church to support fair trade in its purchasing.  We'd like to hear your ideas!
Out with the old deadly sins, in with the new

The British public no longer believes that the Seven Deadly Sins have any relevance to their lives and think they should be brought up to date to reflect modern society.

According to a new poll, the original list of cardinal sins - anger, gluttony, sloth, envy, pride, lust and greed - do not have the power they once had.

The poll, commissioned by the BBC, found that people now believe cruelty - not one of the original seven - is Britain's worst sin. Almost four in ten selected cruelty as the worst modern-day sin, followed by adultery, bigotry, dishonesty, hypocrisy, greed and selfishness.

Read the story in The Scotsman for some interesting and varied comments.

What do you think of the New Improved Sins?  Just send a note to be shared here!

Thanks to PresbyWeb for pointing us to this article.

Some resources for Black History Month

Negro History Week was established in the 1920s by Carter G. Woodson. February was chosen as the month in which both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln were born. Extended to a month-long celebration in 1976, Black History Month is an opportunity to emphasize the history and achievements of African Americans.

Web sites you may want to visit:

bullet InfoPlease
bullet The Gale Group
bullet Education World

Thanks to Edgehill United Methodist Church, Nashville, TN
From Gene TeSelle, February 6, 2005

Do you have other resources (on-line or otherwise) to suggest?
Please send a note and we'll share it here.

Greetings from a new John Witherspoon

We've recently received an interesting note from someone who is portraying John Witherspoon in the musical "1776."  In the process he's enjoyed learning good things about -- partly from our web site.

New York man charged with mail threats to PC(USA)
FBI arrest made on Feb. 3.

A young New York man was arrested on February 3 and charged with sending a letter to denominational officials threatening Presbyterian Church (USA) congregations with arson.

Jeffrey A. Winters, 25, of Queens, NY, was arrested "without incident" after a search of his apartment, according to the Kentucky Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). He is charged with interstate communication of a threat to injure another person.

The arrest is tied to an anonymous handwritten letter received at the Presbyterian Center on Nov. 9 threatening "arson attacks against Presbyterian Churches with people inside" and accusing the denomination of anti-Semitism.

Two great chances to learn more about the US-Mexico border  

Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase announces two coming opportunities to explore issues of immigration, economics, and more on the US-Mexico border, in April and October.

Social Security & Social Justice

As the debate over the future of Social Security grows more urgent, we offer some resources from the Presbyterian Church and other sources.

If you have other material that would be helpful, or comments of your own, please send a note to be shared here.

One of those resources is on the PC(USA) web site: a very helpful page indexing denominational and other resources on Social Security & Social Justice, including statements of the Bush administration's "the sky is falling" point of view, and the contrary assertion that "it's just rain!" Beyond that, they link to church statements and other explorations of the issue. The whole thing is provided by the Presbyterian Hunger Program.

With Liberty and Justice for All...

New York court rules that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right

[A statement from That All May Freely Serve]

"In a historic 62-page decision, a New York judge ruled on Friday that the Empire State marriage laws impermissibly discriminate against same-sex couples. Justice Doris Ling-Cohan wrote that the liberty interest at stake for the five plaintiff couples was nothing less than the fundamental right to choose one's spouse, ruling that New York City, in turn, would have to present a compelling reason for restricting marriage to heterosexual couples."

An open letter on the integrity of science

The Rev. Herbert Valentine, former Moderator of the PC(USA), has forwarded an open letter which makes clear that Christians are not all standing against science. It may be a good way to tell the Religious Right that they do not represent the Christianity that many of us know.  The author is seeking people who will add their names in support of the letter.

An Open Letter to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In an "open letter" to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., nearly 40 years after his death, a large number of progressive clergy recall his vision and his challenge to patterns of racism and injustice. Yet today they are compelled to point to the continuation of white racism, and the sad fact that "many black people now have difficulty seeing their connections to other black people. We have embraced societal distinctions that separate us by age, education, gender, sexuality and class."

Review team calls Detterick's actions 'fully compliant'

Committee upholds process for staff firings

The General Assembly Council (GAC) Personnel Subcommittee has found that Executive Director John Detterick acted properly when he terminated two high-level PC(USA) employees in November.

This report includes statements by the GAC subcommittee and by the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy, which states "ACSWP believes there can be very little healing and reconciliation without justice in matters of personnel policy."

Towards an ethics of solidarity

Religion, conflict & peace discussed at World Social Forum

At the World Social Forum meeting in Porto Alegra, Brazil, as a kind of alternative to the gathering of the rich and powerful in Davos, Switzerland, a global ecumenical coalition (including the World Council of Churches) has sponsored a panel to explore the role of religion in conflicts, and to identify resources within religion for overcoming violence. The emphasis was on an ethic and spirituality that are relational rather than individualistic. Solidarity and accompaniment were affirmed as hopeful signs in an religiously pluralistic world.

Items archived earlier in March, 2005 >>

Find all stories from January 2005
For items archived from December, 2004, click here.
All news from November is listed on another page.

Our coverage of the 2004 General Assembly is indexed on a special 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.

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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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