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Archives:  July 2005

This page lists reports and commentary from July, 2005

September, 2005 >>
August, 2005 >>
June, 2005 >>
May, 2005 >>
April, 2005 >>
Our coverage of the 2004 General Assembly is indexed on a special page.
For links to earlier archive pages, click here.


Toward a Network of Spiritual Progressives  (continued)

Jim Wallis: "We’re the ones to change the wind."

The first day of the Spiritual Activism conference was climaxed by two keynote presentations by Jim Wallis and Rabbi Michael Lerner, both speaking out of the deep involvement in the movement to involve people of faith more actively and more effectively in the political life of the United States at this critical time.

Wallis led off, speaking mostly out of his thinking as reflected in God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It – and his wide range of encounters around the country on book tours since its publication.

After meeting 80,000 people in 21 cities around the land, he says "I am now convinced that the monologue of the religious right is over, and a new dialogue has begun." He sees that in the facts that many evangelical Christians come to his book signings and appreciate what he is saying. After all, he says, millions of evangelicals in America don’t feel represented by the Jerry Falwells of the Right. George Bush’s visit to Calvin College, a conservative Christian school where his advisor Carl Rove expected a friendly reception, showed that conservatives can stand in opposition to the administration, as many faculty and students did by sponsoring newspaper ads stating their (faith-based!) reasons for rejecting the war in Iraq.

The biggest choice confronting us today, he said, is between hope and cynicism. George Brown, Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, recently said that we can end extreme poverty in the world from 5 billion dollars. Cynics respond that they see the world as it is, they’re tried to change it, and failed, and now they’re against any more efforts. But hope, he said, is a choice, a decision made because of faith, "believing in spite of the evidence, and than watching the evidence change."

More >>


Washington Office urges action to support McCain amendment against torture 

The August congressional recess is an ideal opportunity to contact your senators while they are home from Washington. Urge your senators to support the McCain amendment (#1557, as modified) to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006 (S. 1042).

More Light Presbyterians has offered its response to the draft Theological Task Force report

The MLP board expresses appreciation for many of the draft’s theological affirmations, but also voices concern that "the Church must not hide behind false notions of peace as the absence of conflict, purity as the absence of openness about who we really are, or unity as the absence of dissent. ... The church must not delay further votes to remove prejudicial barriers to the full participation of LGBT people of faith in the life, ministry, and witness of the Church."

The full statement >>

Toward a Network of Spiritual Progressives  (continued)

Today we're adding reports:

Peter Gable introduced the central theme of the conference: the politics of meaning, as an alternative to traditional liberal politics.

Thandeka introduced the workshops and small groups which were a vital element in the conference.

The third major address on the first day of the conference was given by Peter Gable, who is President Emeritus of New College of California and associate editor of Tikkun magazine. He has worked with Michael Lerner in developing the Politics of Meaning, and is author of The Bank Teller and Others Essays on the Politics of Meaning.

The latest Peacemaking Program Update includes resources for observances of Hiroshima Day, and of 9/11.
Toward a Network of Spiritual Progressives 

More than 1200 people came together for four days last week for a first-time, remarkable gathering. Jews and Christians, Muslims and Hindus, theological liberals and evangelicals, and lots more – all were drawn by an invitation to shape a positive progressive response to the conservatives’ success in making faith and values something on which they seem to claim a monopoly.

Your WebWeaver offers reports on two of the first presentations, which set the framework for the whole event.  Michael Nagler spoke of our nation's spiritual crisis and non-violence as an alternative.  George Lakoff outlined his theory of the language of values in American politics.

We also point to other reports on the event, and a post-conference note of celebration by Rabbi Michael Lerner, who initiated the whole thing.

Your WebWeaver is in Berkeley, CA, attending the conference initiated by Tikkun, and aimed at starting the formation of a Network of Spiritual Progressives. 

There's lots to report, but it may take a few days.  PCUSA Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase spoke this morning on some of his encounters and learnings from his work on the Texas - Mexico border -- dealing with immigrants nearing death in the desert, the impact of globalization, and much more.

Reponses to the Theological Task Force draft are offered to you by Witherspoon Issues Analyst Gene TeSelle, Witherspoon membership coordinator John Harris, and retired pastor Chuck Rassieur

The Theological Task Force of Peace, Purity, and Unity has released two draft reports, which can be viewed at:   or

We will offer a few comments as soon as we've had time to read and reflect. 

What about you? 
Please send a note with your own comments,
to be shared here.

Methodist plan for Reconciliation Ministries conference draws fire from the Right

Lake Junaluska conference center in North Carolina is being targeted by the United Methodist committee for the Institute on Religion and Democracy, to receive letters of protest that a group which supports justice and inclusion for glbt people is being held in their facilities.

The conference will feature numerous religious speakers including Beth Stroud, a United Methodist minister at the center of a church controversy over gay rights in the church, and the Rev. Erin Swenson, transgender Presbyterian minister.

More from The Mountaineer of Waynesville, NC

State medical care program under attack in Tennessee

Governor Phil Bredesen of Tennessee has proposed that over 300,000 people be cut off TennCare (the state’s Medicaid program) and health care for 700,000 others be severely restricted, A group of activists — many of whom rely on TennCare themselves — has been occupying the Governor’s office, using the best American traditions of civil disobedience to defend the lives and welfare of their fellow Tennesseans.

More from Gene TeSelle

The 2005 Covenant Network Conference, scheduled for November 3 - 5 in Memphis, TN, will feature Kathleen Norris, author of such great books as Amazing Grace, Cloister Walk, and Dakota.

The theme will be Disciples in Community

Details and registration >>

Justice Sunday II called ‘Sacrilegious’ by Interfaith Alliance President

The Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President of The Interfaith Alliance, has responded to the announcement that leaders of the religious right will host on August 14 – in a church -- another simulcast television program, "Justice Sunday II."

"Here we go again!" Gaddy said. "And, this time the imagery and the implications of the message advanced by leaders of the religious right are more offensive, sacrilegious, and undemocratic than those so integral to Justice Sunday I."   More >>

Remembering John R. Bodo

The Rev. Dr. John R. Bodo, a long-time Witherspoon member, died on June 30, 2005, at the age of 85 while still serving as the active pastor of Westhope Presbyterian Church in Saratoga, CA.

Born in Hungary in 1920, he emigrated to the US in 1940. He earned a PhD in church history from Princeton Theological Seminary, served as pastor of numerous congregations, including First (now Nassau) Presbyterian Church of Princeton, NJ (where he led the integration of the church neighborhood), and Old First Presbyterian Church in San Francisco. During the 1960s he chaired the Department of Practical Theology of San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Anselmo, and served as chaplain and professor of religion at Macalester College in St. Paul, MN. Since his "retirement" he served as interim pastor for 11 different congregations.

One of his latest books was Prophet on the Payroll: When Pulpit and Pew Clash, published in 1998, and based on twenty-one sermons he had preached over the last half-century. In it, he presents biblical and theological perspectives on many controversial public issues which continue to engage and divide Americans.

A memorial service was held on July 6 at Old First Church, San Francisco.

The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program Update includes a list of International Peacemakers available for visits, a call for prayers for Darfur, suggestions for dealing with violent video games, and much more. 
California Here We Come

You may well have seen this proposal for a new United (Blue) States, but just in case you’ve missed it ...

By the way, the person who forwarded this to me headed it "Calofornia Here We Come." That may bode ill for the whole venture.  


Two views from London after the bombings [expanded from yesterday's posting]

One American in London comments on the lack of flag-waving and calling for God’s vengeance on the "bad guys." The other exemplifies just that attitude in an article entitled "Terror – A Tale of Two Gods."

No need for flag-waving and vengeance

Steven S. Volk, who teaches Latin American history at Oberlin College in Oberlin, OH, wrote a long note to friends and family in the States, on the day after the bombings. 

On 7-13 we posted part of his note.  Now we are posting the full note, along with an additional comment on the one-week memorial service held today (Thursday, July 14) in Trafalgar Square. 

You may want to skip to his comparisons between the British reactions to "7/7" and the US reactions to 9/11.  Or if you've read them, jump to his thoughts on today's memorial service.

And for a very different view, don't miss  "Terror – A Tale of Two Gods."

Latest news from National Council of Churches
bulletNCC seeks 400,000 signatures urging President Bush to intervene in the Darfur genocide.
bulletKeep the Vote Alive! NCC supports Jesse Jackson's push to extend the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
bulletNCC: London transit bombings only strengthen our resolve
bulletThousands affirm NCC message to bring the troops home from Iraq

These stories are all listed on the NCC home page >>

Former Moderator Isabel Rogers joins coalition to support gay rights

Isabel Rogers, a retired professor at Union Seminary/PSCE, has joined a growing group of clergy, community leaders and strongly spiritual residents to form People of Faith for Equality in Virginia.

Organizers aim to be the antithesis of the vocal conservative Christian set, offering a faith-based, yet gay-friendly perspective they say is absent in Virginia's gay rights discussions. People of Faith member Brenda Lee, a lesbian, expresses the hope that "People of Faith will bring forth some understanding so that people can no longer tell young adolescents they're going to hell."

The whole story >>
(Access to the Hampton Roads Daily Press website may require registration, but it’s free.)


Here’s help in getting the Pentagon recruiters to
"Leave my child alone!"

Witherspooner Amy Ukena suggests this website, which offers practical help in writing letters to "opt out" from your school’s military recruitment lists, by sending letters both to the school and to the Pentagon, as well as supporting the proposed Student Privacy Protection Act.

Theological Task Force set to consider portions of final report
Drafts of sections to be released at end of meeting

The Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity, and Purity of the Church will hold its next meeting July 18-21, 2005, in Dallas, Texas. The group will have as its main agenda the consideration of initial drafts of portions of its final report.

The final report will be adopted at the task force’s August 24-25, 2005 meeting in Chicago. 
More >>

Messages to the Church from our Moderator and Stated Clerk:

Mission—as important as ever!

Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase reflects on his recent visit to Congo as a glimpse of the wide and deep involvement of the PC(USA) in mission – with the growing partnerships and urgent challenges to work for "the kingdom of God ‘on earth, as it is in heaven.’ "

A mountaintop experience

Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick, in his regular letter to the church, tells of his summer experience at the first-ever National Pastors’ Retreat, held in the mountains of Utah. It was, he says, "truly a time when we found a renewal of Christian community and of our calls to ministry—not by debating issues, but by being renewed together by the power of the Holy Spirit." And he wishes the same kind of renewal experience for all of us in this "off year" sabbath summer.

Jubilee Campaign Bears Fruit: G-8 Reaches Agreement on Debt Relief

The Quarterly Bulletin of the Presbyterian Washington Office offers lots of helpful detail and background on the debt relief proposals and agreements reached by the G-8 summit meeting at Gleneagles, Scotland.   The full Bulletin >>

Mennonites provide an inviting web site for peacemakers/justiceseekers

Jean Rodenbough, of Greensboro, NC, recommends this site, maintained by the Mennonite Church’s Peace and Justice Support Network. It offers plenty of down-to-earth, practical and personal glimpses of peacemaking in an historic "peace church" tradition.

A little story about kittens and a President

George Bush, taking a stroll with a senior member of Congress, meets a little girl carrying a small basket with a blanket over it.

Curious, he says to the girl, "What's in the basket?" She replies, "New baby kittens," and opens the basket to show him. "How nice," says Bush. "What kind are they?" The little girl says, "Republicans."

Bush smiles, pats the little girl on the head and continues on. Three weeks later, again taking a stroll, he sees the little girl again with the same basket.

Bush says. "Watch this, it's very cute." They approach the little girl.

Bush asks how the kittens are and she says fine. He then says, "What kind of kittens are they?" and she replies, "Democrats."

Somewhat abashed, Bush says, "Three weeks ago you said they were Republicans!"

"I know," she says. "But now their eyes are open."

War protesters aren't giving "aid and comfort to our enemies"

Berry Craig, a professor of history at the West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah, reflects on our nation's mixed responses to anti-war protests.  While some (including no less an authority than the President) view dissent and protest as acts of disloyalty, and as giving support to "the enemy," he notes that David Greenberg, an author and a Rutgers professor writing in the online magazine Slate, surveys the history of protest and concludes that "critics of war -- even when they've been wrong, or their comments distasteful -- have done far more good than harm." Greenberg argues further that "the mere expression of opposition has never materially hurt any U.S. military campaign." 

Make Poverty History: two differing views

The globe-spanning concert preceding last week’s G-8 summit has attracted wide attention and support – including our own little postings. But after such a massive event, reflection seems in order, and here are two very different examples

Bob Geldof and the Livingstone connection: Africa not yet saved?

An African scholar writes critically of Bob Geldof’s "Make Poverty History" campaign, comparing him to 19th-century missionary David Livingstone, portraying Africa as a land of darkness and suffering, without allowing the people of Africa to have their own voice. Dr. Patricia Daley, University lecturer in Human Geography, and Fellow and Tutor in Geography at Jesus College, Oxford, is an African from Jamaica.
Read her comments >>

So many are standing together to end poverty

And an American Lutheran bishop, Peter Rogness of the St. Paul Area Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, expresses support for the way the campaign again hunger has united religious groups from both the liberal and the conservative sides of the spectrum.
His comments >>

We invite your comments!
Just send a note,
to be shared here.

What can we say after the latest terrible acts of violence, in London yesterday?

Your WebWeaver can’t find words, so will share with you a very thoughtful statement from a friend, who is also a Friend (a Quaker, that is). Phil Steger is the director of Friends for a Non-Violent World, an organization based in St. Paul, Minnesota. He has sent out a long, thoughtful note, which he summarizes thus:

This statement expresses our grief and mourning and our respect for the courage of Britons and Londoners who have thus far responded to the attacks on their capital city with awesome humanity. It calls for a nonviolent political response to the violence and then proceeds to carefully explain not only why this the more moral response, but also a response that gives us genuine hope for peace and freedom.

This is a fairly comprehensive treatment of a complex and confounding problem. It is a problem that threatens the safety and survival of whole societies, including our own. At such times, people who support peace and freedom for all people must articulate a case for what they are for and not just what they are against. This case cannot merely build on sentiments, it must also make sense.

I believe that FNVW can make a contribution to this effort. I hope we've taken a step towards doing so here and that you will find that this will help to illuminate a dark time and to lift up fallen hopes.

Read the full statement >>

Stated clerk sends condolence letter to PC(USA) partner churches in Britain

The Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), sent a letter of condolence to the PC(USA)’s partner churches in England on July 7, as news reached the United States of a series of terrorist attacks in London that killed more than 50 people and left hundreds injured.

Kirkpatrick’s letter went to the United Reformed Church, the Church of England, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Church of Scotland and Churches Together in Britain and Ireland.

Read the full text >>

The bombings in London   

Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase spent Thursday, July 7, the day of the bombings in London, with a group of sixty teenagers from the United States, South Africa, Northern Ireland, Israel, and Palestine – Jewish, Muslim and Christian – are all participants in a program sponsored by Auburn Seminary in New York called "Face to Face/Faith to Faith."

The young people were nearing the end of two weeks together at a Presbyterian camp, getting to know one another, learning and practicing the communication skills necessary to share and listen to one another’s difficult stories, and becoming a new generation of practitioners of peacemaking.

Watching them deal with this latest blow to peace, Ufford-Chase saw "the Church being Church."

UCC OKs possible divestment in Middle East

The United Church of Christ voted Tuesday to use "economic leverage" to promote peace between Israel and Palestinians and to call for the dismantling of the Jewish state's security fence.

More on divestment and charges of anti-Semitism >>

Saving Social Security

Here’s a clear-eyed look at the Social Security issue, by a writer who offers some simple "truth-telling," some critical reflection on the values at stake (and at the way most of the arguments for privatization are essentially materialistic and self-centered), and some common-sense reforms that would help greatly.

It was published in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer , but you can read it on AlterNet or on

More on the Social Security issue >>

Sojourners calls for weekend of prayer and witness to end genocide in Darfur

From Sojourners:

Join Us This Weekend to End Genocide in Darfur

Since the Darfur genocide began in 2003, up to 400,000 people have lost their lives. More than two and a half million people have been displaced, their livelihoods and villages destroyed by government forces and their proxy militias, and many thousands of women and girls have been raped. The religious community in the United States has the power to help end the genocide and quell the humanitarian crisis that has come in its wake. We only need to make our voices heard.

This weekend, people all over the country will be joining together in prayer and political witness to call for an end to the genocide in Darfur. We invite you to join us by attending a service near you.

Click here to search and sign up for an event near you.
Click here for more information on Sunday's service in Washington, DC.
Click here to learn how to organize a Darfur event.

Please join us, in your hometown or in ours, in raising our voices to give real meaning to the words Never Again.

Peace, Adam, Katie, and Matt
The Sojourners Organizing Team

More on Darfur and Sudan >>

Why the West gets religion wrong

Witherspooner Dugan Frederick, of Denver, writes:  "The International Herald Tribune is an interesting website, and this particular article is important in today's world."

Your webweaver agrees.

In this essay, Phillip Blond, who lectures in philosophy and religion at St. Martin's College, Lancaster, and Adrian Pabst, a doctoral candidate at Cambridge University, argue that in secular Europe, the role of religion in public life is badly misunderstood. So "secular liberals regard religion as repressive, irrational and fundamentalist. Religious conservatives view liberal secularity as immoral, self-serving and nihilistic. Both are right about each other, but wrong about religion."

Since the secularization that began in the 1960s, the political left has "eschewed a genuine public morality in the name of personal choice and private gratification. At great political cost, it handed over to the right the language of formation, values and religion. Unable to craft for itself a new form of civic collectivity, secular liberalism remains mired in individualism and blind to cultures built around universal ideals and collective aspirations."

In reaction to liberal relativism, the political and religious right have exalted the interests of the dominant class. And "in a fanatical overreaction to the atomization of liberal society, American conservatives embraced a new Christian fundamentalism that promised its followers an eternal community - composed only of themselves."

So "what unites both liberals and conservatives is their mutual insistence on the exclusivity and absoluteness of their vision. In this both sides are composed of fundamentalists who mistake their subjective beliefs for the only objective truth.

"But true religion is not and cannot be fundamentalist. No true follower of monotheism can claim to know the mind and will of God."

But "equally, religion is not and cannot be relativist. No genuine belief in God is just a matter of personal taste or subjective opinion. True religion has always been public and political because it is about forming communities around shared values and the practices that embody them. In the West, privatizing religion initiated the abandoning of any collective public realm that expressed common substantive ideals. We should not then be surprised when Iran and other countries do not wish to follow us down this path."

If you have a chance to look at this brief essay,
we’d like to hear your comments.
Just send a note,
to be shared here.

Conservative leader says New Wineskins is on the brink of gnostic heresy

Presbyterians for Renewal executive director Michael Walker says renewal is already under way in the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the New Wineskins movement, while it’s "asking all the right questions," may be allowing the heresy of gnosticism into its statement of the basic tenets of the Reformed faith.

Speaking at PFR' s Christian Life Conference, held July 1-4 at Montreat, he acknowledged many points of agreement with New Wineskins, but said he is not ready to join with that group. Rather, he said that renewal is already happening in the PCUSA, and that this is not the time for leaving the denomination.

He sees hope for winning the war of attrition in the denomination, and thus urged churches to continue their financial support of PFR.

He also criticized the Presbyterian Lay Committee for its recent publication of "Can Two Faiths Embrace One Future," which tries to open the Old School – New School debate, which nobody is interested in today.

He saw hope in PFR’s proposed action to add a sentence to G-6.0106b: "This paragraph may not be amended prior to 2016." This would essentially impose another delay of ten more years for any further action about the ban on ordination of glbt Presbyterians.

Read the rest of the report in The Layman Online

A website for faith explorers

Dugan Frederick points us to a website called ExploreFaith, which may be interesting and helpful to Witherspooners. Supported largely by Episcopal congregations in the US, it has brief essays by such luminaries as Marcus Borg, Barbara Brown Taylor, as well others less well known. Dugan adds, "There are many interesting links for questions, thoughts, ideas for those on their respective spiritual journeys and development."

A few samples:

Marcus Borg answers the question, What is the significance of the cross and the crucifixion of Jesus?

The Rev. Margaret Gunness, a retired Episcopal priest, writes on "Do I have to believe that Christ literally rose from the dead to be a Christian?"

Seeking (fair) treatment in Iraq

A Chicago Presbyterian tells a painful tale of frustration 

Len Bjorkman, co-moderator of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, introduces this report:

Anita David, an active member of the Lakeview Presbyterian Church in Chicago, is in Iraq with the Christian Peacemaker Team from June to September. As a full-timer with CPT, she was there in the summer of 2004, and is again there during the extremely hot weather.

One of the main activities of CPT is to work with families whose members have been taken by the US military and who endeavor to find out where they are or to visit them. CPT also helps Iraqis who have been injured in the fighting.

The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship considers Anita to be "our person in Baghdad" and forwards her reports to anyone who requests them. If you’d like to receive her reports, send an e-mail to PPF co-moderator, Len Bjorkman

Here is a portion of one of Anita’s emotion-packed reports, sent after very exasperating days of being caught in the bureaucratic maze.

NCC group calls for end of ‘dishonorable’ war

630 U.S. religious leaders want an ‘early, fixed timetable’ for withdrawal from Iraq

by Chris Herlinger, Ecumenical News International

NEW YORK – July 5, 2005 – Church leaders in the United States who oppose the U.S.-led war in Iraq have stepped up calls for a change in policy, describing the war as "dishonorable" while President George W. Bush was defending it on TV.

"It has become clear that the rationale for invasion was at best a tragic mistake, at worst a clever deception," said an Independence Day statement from the governing board of the National Council of Churches (NCC).

The statement calls for an "early, fixed timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops" from Iraq.

The document has more than 15,000 signatories, including about 630 U.S. religious leaders, the Rev. Bob Edgar, the NCC general secretary, said during a June 30 telephone news conference.

"It’s clear that the administration has listened more closely to far-right religious leaders who agree with them," Edgar said. "It’s a hard task to get the administration to listen to a broader evangelical and religious community."

In a nationally televised speech on June 28, Bush defended his administration’s policy and linked the war in Iraq directly to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States, saying the sacrifice in Iraq "is vital to the security of our country."

John Thomas, general minister and president of the United Church of Christ, said Bush has been open to hearing only the views of conservative religious leaders. "I’m dismayed that the president seems to be unwilling to be open to other perspectives," he said.

Larry Pickens, general secretary of the United Methodist General Commission on Christian Unity and Inter-religious Concerns, told journalists he believes Bush is defending "what is becoming a failed policy in Iraq."

The full text of the statement >>

Earlier report on the preparation of this statement >>

Churches move forward in blessing gay unions 

UCC General Synod overwhelmingly calls for "full marriage equality"

On July 4, the UCC General Synod 25 overwhelmingly passed a resolution in support of equal marriage rights for all people, regardless of gender. It marks the first time that one of the nation’s mainline churches has expressed support of marriages for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons.   More >>  

More Light Presbyterians responds to the UCC action

And the Methodists in Britain ...!

The Methodist Church in Great Britain has become the first major Christian denomination in that country to offer the prospect of blessings services for same-sex couples.

As the G-8 Summit begins ...

This important event is receiving plenty of coverage, but here are a couple perspectives you might have missed:

Bishop Desmond Tutu says of aid to Africa – much has been done, but much more is needed.

Desmond Tutu, the former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa, and winner of the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1984, says that for Africa must be increased in quantity, but must also be smarter – with 100 percent debt relief for the $40 billion owed by the world's 18 poorest countries, measures to deal with poor governance and corruption, and tariff- and quota-free access to rich markets.   His essay >>

The G8 and poverty: 'Beyond empty symbolism'

Adam Taylor, director of campaigns and organizing at Sojourners, writes:

In the midst of all of the media attention surrounding Live 8 concerts and the G8 Summit, we must raise a prophetic voice to say that the "details" being decided at Gleneagles mean life and death to our sisters and brothers around the world. We agree with our president that our nation must "get beyond empty symbolism and discredited policies, and match our good intentions with good results." We encourage him to hold his own administration's funding commitments to that standard.    The rest of his article >> 

 More on the G-8 Summit >>

A Church-State Solution?

Church-State issues loom large these days, from the White House to the Supreme Court to many communities around the country. There seem to be two absolutely opposing positions, as some advocate making America a "Christian nation," while others want to keep religion and political life two entirely separate worlds.

Noah Feldman, writing in the New York Times, suggests the two warring groups might best be understood as the "values evangelicals," who insist on the direct relevance of religious values to political life , versus the ''legal secularists,'' who see religion as a matter of personal belief largely irrelevant to government and who see religious values as a divisive factor in our national life.

He suggests the solution might be found by giving a legitimate place to religious language and symbols in our political debates, while maintaining an absolute ban on government funding support for religious groups.

Noah Feldman is a professor at the New York University School of Law and a fellow at the New America Foundation. His book Divided by God: America's Church-State Problem -- and What We Should Do About It, from which the article is adapted, has just been published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

Read the essay,
and let us know what you think.
Just send a note.

Commercial Alert

People of faith – whether on the left or the right side of the spectrum – seem to agree that we want to protect our children and our families from the values of commercialism. A group called Commercial Alert has just opened a very helpful new website, which is "to keep the commercial culture within its proper sphere, and to prevent it from exploiting children and subverting the higher values of family, community, environmental integrity and democracy."

The website now includes
C An extensive archive of hundreds of articles about commercialism;
An action center where you can participate in our online campaigns; and,
Hundreds of weblogs where you can discuss articles and issues relating to commercialism.

Take a look >>

Another comment on the call for "wearing red"

Bonnie Wheeler begins, "I lost many friends in WW2. Many of my school mates put their education on hold to fight for their country..Many never came home..Those volunteers were willing to risk their lives. We lost 450,000 in that war.....Did that make FDR and Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Douglas McArthur mass murderers?"       Read the rest >>

Rodney Martin dies at 84

Rod Martin

Witherspoon Society file photo, 1994

Former PHEWA director served also as president of Witherspoon Society

Rodney T. Martin, 84, a Presbyterian elder who pioneered new models for social justice work and mentored countless young pastors and activists, died June 24 in Napa, CA, at the age of 84.

Martin served as the executive director of the Presbyterian Health, Education and Welfare Association (PHEWA) for 18 years, and after his retired served in 1994 as president of the Witherspoon Society.  He received Witherspoon's Andrew Murray Award in the year 2000.

A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, July 30, at the First Presbyterian Church in Oakland, CA.

More >>

Rod’s daughter, the Rev. Shona Martin Kilsgaard, sent a moving note to friends in the PHEWA network, the day before Rod died.


A July 4th Covenant

Covenant is a fundamental concept in the Biblical tradition, in the Reformed faith, and in American history. Here’s a short, insightful reminder of that deep thread connecting our faith and our politics.

Marcus Raskin wrote this as an open letter to the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and in response to President Bush’s call for Americans "to find a way to thank the men and women defending our freedom" over the July 4th holiday. Raskin served on the staff of the National Security Council in President Kennedy’s administration, and is a distinguished fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and professor of policy studies at The George Washington University.

He sees America as divided. (OK, no big surprise there.) There are those who believe that "You are either for us or against us," and who are united by their fear of real or imagined threats to themselves and their nation.

But there is another side of America: "It is the one that we may be justly proud of, for it has stemmed from sentiments of generosity, economic and social justice. It is the welcoming side that holds out a hand to the wretched, the tired, the left-outs of the earth ..."

He concludes: "... [M]embers of a free society recognize that personal responsibility is the foundation of the social contract. The nation, therefore, can be seen as the collective expression of this individual responsibility, not individual self-interest. Thus, the nation is a projection of our personal responsibility and respect for other people that manifests the bond between the healthy and the sick, the prosperous and the hungry, the strong and the weak. This responsibility attaches between the healthy and the sick as a bond of that shared humanity.

"This is the July 4 covenant of progressive liberals, and of a free people."

Read the full essay >>

We invite you to share your Independence Day reflections here.
Just send a note!

Religious Leaders 4th of July message to Bush:
Don't let Iraq become another historic quagmire

June 30, 2005, New York – Three religious leaders representing the Governing Board of the National Council of Churches USA announced today that about 630 religious leaders and nearly 16,000 people of faith in 44 states have endorsed a Fourth of July declaration that urges President Bush to develop an "early fixed timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops," to listen to a wider range of religious advisers and to re-evaluate his policy on Iraq.

"It's clear that the administration has listened more closely to far-right religious leaders who agree with them," said the Rev. Dr. Bob Edgar, NCC General Secretary, in an audio news conference Thursday. "It's a hard task to get the administration to listen to a broader evangelical and religious community."

The statement is an effort to give visibility to a widely held, more moderate religious point of view, one that the group says has been underreported in the national media -- and to attract the administration's attention to the urgency of having an exit strategy for Iraq. America's foreign policy, said the Rev. Dr. John H. Thomas, General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ, has made others around the world "view us as a dangerous nation."

More >>
Read the full text of the statement; you may choose to add your own signature -- just scroll down to the end of the statement.

Chinook Down in Afghanistan

Bill Peach writes in anguish after the latest American deaths in Afghanistan.  He expresses the weary numbness of Americans today:

"The voices of dissent against the war in Iraq are quiet and reluctant. We understand the wrongness, but find no meaningful definition of rightness. Very few, if any, of us can claim the moral astuteness of knowing the moment or the intersection of our wrong turning."

He concludes: "War, with its heroism and gallantry, and its eventual necessity for the survival of civilization, is not pro-life, nor Christian, nor moral."

The full note >>

Help End World Poverty

Twenty years ago, the organizers of the Live Aid concerts asked each of us to give some of our money to end a famine. This time, for the Live 8 concerts they are asking us to give a moment of our time to end poverty forever. [1] You see, next week in Scotland the leaders of the G8, the world’s richest nations, are discussing what can be done to end the kind of extreme poverty that forces nearly 1 billion people to struggle on a dollar a day. 30,000 children die every day straining to find food, clothing, shelter, and medical assistance on that tiny amount of money. [2]

As President Bush prepares for this meeting a coalition of groups from the left and the right (especially faith-based groups) have been pressuring him to take a lead in ending poverty. [3] TrueMajority has joined these groups under a banner known as The One Campaign to ask the President to make sure they leave with a deal that includes:

1. Debt Cancellation: The U.S. announced an agreement to cancel the debt crushing 18 countries. This agreement is a good step forward, but many of the world’s poorest nations were left out of the first round agreement. Cancellation must include all impoverished countries if their people are ever going to be able to lift themselves out of poverty.

2. More and Better Aid: Directing an additional 1% of the U.S. budget towards basic resources like education, health, clean water, and food would transform the lives and hopes of an entire global generation, and every generation that follows.

3. Trade Justice: Poor countries have the desire and ability to work their way out of poverty but the deck is stacked against them in favor of wealthy consumer countries. A fair trade system would give people in poor countries the chance to participate in the world economy and earn their way out of poverty.

Experts like Columbia University Professor Jeffrey Sachs believe that if the richer nations take these step we can, in less than the twenty years of a single generation, wipe out the kind of poverty that kills 30,000 children a day. [4]

After the July 2 Live 8 concerts the leaders of the world's richest nations have a chance to make poverty history. Take action and join activists on the left AND the right in telling President Bush that he should lead the way.


[1] You can check out information about the Live 8 concerts at

[2] Get the facts at

[3] Everyone from The Christian Coalition to MoveOnPAC has signed on. You can check them out in the "Partner" and "Press Room" sections of

[4] Prof. Sachs leads a group called The Earth Institute. You can find them at

Calling on G8 summit to Make Poverty History

Thousands of protesters are taking part in a Make Poverty History march in Edinburgh, as musicians perform in Live 8 concerts around the globe.

Read today's report from BBC or on

Police estimated about 120,000 people walked through the Edinburgh city centre to highlight their message to G8 leaders meeting at Gleneagles next week.

Saturday's march was one of a number of events planned in the run-up to Wednesday's G8 summit at Gleneagles, when campaigners hope world leaders will make a commitment to tackle poverty in Africa.

The events also coincide with the series of Live 8 concerts being held on Saturday in cities around the world, including London.


UK religious leaders unite in G8 plea

Leaders from the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths have urged Tony Blair to play "the fullest part" in helping the world's poorest countries.

The prime minister must use the UK's G8 presidency to help "halve extreme poverty", they say in a letter, adding that the G8 leaders must cancel the debt of the poorest nations.

The letter is from by the Archbishops of Canterbury and Westminster, the Chief Rabbi, the Council of Mosques and Imams chair and the Free Churches head.

CAFTA has passed the Senate

Read the report of the heated debate and the fairly close vote in the New York Times or on

But Oakland Institute and other groups urge:

Act now to defeat CAFTA

While the CAFTA bill has been passed by the Senate, which "is knee-jerk free trade," a number of progressive groups are urging people to contact their Representatives, who may still pay attention to the concerns of constituents for the threat to the working poor in the U.S. and in Central America.

The Oakland Institute provides a long paper detailing the reasons for opposing CAFTA.

Take Action Here >>

September, 2005 >>
August, 2005 >>

June, 2005 >>
May, 2005 >>
April, 2005 >>

March, 2005 >>
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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