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Archives:  May 2005

This page lists reports and commentary from earlier in May, 2005

Items from June, 2005 >>
All items from April, 2005 >>

All stories from March, 2005 >>
All items from February, 2005 >>
Our coverage of the 2004 General Assembly is indexed on a special page.
For links to earlier archive pages, click here.

Bush visit to Calvin College is met by open letter of protest from faculty and students

The letter, signed by more than 800 faculty members, alumni, students and friends of the school, was published as a full-page ad in the Grand Rapids Press. 

Here's the full text of the letter:

Open Letter to George W. Bush; Signed by 823 students, faculty and alumni of Calvin College

Dear President Bush:

We are alumni, students, faculty and friends of Calvin College who are deeply troubled that you will be the commencement speaker at Calvin on May 21st. In our view, the policies and actions of your administration, both domestically and internationally over the past four years, violate many deeply held principles of Calvin College.

Calvin is a rigorous intellectual institution, and a truly Christian one. Since its inception in 1876, Calvin has educated its students to use their minds and hearts to transform the world into a "beloved community" where no one is an outcast and all of God’s children are cared for. Calvin teaches its students to work for peace and justice, and to be good stewards of God’s creation.

By their deeds ye shall know them, says the Bible. Your deeds, Mr. President—neglecting the needy to coddle the rich, desecrating the environment, and misleading the country into war—do not exemplify the faith we live by.

Moreover, many of your supporters are using religion as a weapon to divide our nation and advance a narrow partisan agenda. We are deeply disappointed in your failure to renounce their inflammatory rhetoric.

We urge you not to use Calvin College as a platform to advance policies that violate the school’s religious principles. Furthermore, we urge you to repudiate the false claims of supporters who say that those who oppose your policies are the enemies of religion.

See the full-page newspaper ad, including all the signatures >>
Thanks to Steve Cross for tracking down this ad.

The Washington Post carries a report on the President’s commencement address

The Detroit Free Press tells more about the protest.

Farmworkers’ campaign for justice expands to the Fast-Food World

After years of hard work and an incredible victory for Taco Bell tomato pickers, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers has announced their new target: the Fast Food World, including McDonalds and Burger King!

Read the AP report in TruthOut or the New York Times >>

And don’t forget the PBS NOW special on the CIW airs this Friday, May 27, and features the CIW, Yum Brands, as well as members and national staff from the PC(USA). Check for local times and listings and spread the word!

For sample letters you can send to Burger King, McDonald's, and Subway, encouraging them to work with the CIW, visit

From the Rev. Noelle Damico, National Coordinator, Campaign for Fair Food, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); tel. 631-751-7076

Urgent Action Alert on Iraq

From Mark Koenig, Presbyterian Peacemaking Program:

On Wednesday, May 25, Only this morning have we learned that the House Rules Committee has permitted Rep. Lynn Woolsey to offer an amendment on Iraq to the Defense Authorization bill. The amendment is a sense of the Congress amendment that asks President Bush to develop a plan as soon as practicable to withdraw American troops from Iraq. It is likely to be voted on tonight. Please
call the following number to call your member of congress about this amendment. (202) 224-3121.

For more information, and talking points in support of the amendment >>

TrueMajority urges:  Tell the Pentagon to Leave Our Children Alone

TrueMajority is encouraging people to speak out against military recruiting through our schools, which is facilitated by provisions in the No Child Left Behind Act.  You can do this by sharing a song that gives voice to the concern, by registering your demand that information on your child not be released to recruiters, and by supporting a bill in Congress that would require that parents explicitly permit the release of their children's information to recruiters, rather than requiring them to opt out.

More >>

U.S. leads global attack on human rights -- Amnesty International

Four years after the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, human rights are in retreat worldwide and the United States bears most responsibility, rights watchdog Amnesty International said on Wednesday. Governments are increasingly rolling back the rule of law, taking their cue from the U.S.-led war on terror, it said.

"The USA as the unrivalled political, military and economic hyper-power sets the tone for governmental behaviour worldwide," Secretary General Irene Khan said in the foreword to Amnesty International's 2005 annual report.

Read the Reuters report in TruthOut, or AlertNet

Congress by-passes the nuclear option.  Maybe.

From the Washington Post:

Breakthrough Pact Unlikely to End Battle

Dan Balz sees the agreement reached by 14 US Senators to avert the "nuclear option" as a clear victory for the "center," but he sees it as only "a cease-fire in the judicial wars," which will continue.

"For a night at least," he concludes, "politics did seem to take a back seat to comity and cooperation. Whether the center can continue to hold is far less clear."

Read the full story in TruthOut or The Washington Post.

Read our earlier reports on Sen. Bill Frist's campaign to overturn the Senate's system of filibusters as a means of protecting the voice of the minority:

bulletGene TeSelle on legal views of the effort to overturn the filibuster
bulletEarlier discussions on the matter
Jan Hus Church (New York City) seeks Social Justice Intern

Jan Hus Church is seeking a person to fill the Social Justice Internship, which includes working with the Homeless Outreach and Advocacy Program and involvement with the church’s Global Concern Committee’s work.   More >>

In defense of freedom of the media

We recently posted a link to the speech by Bill Moyers’ address at the National Conference on Media Reform in St. Louis.   Our earlier note >>

We received this note expressing appreciation of the speech, and urging more attention to it.

I was delighted to find your publication of Bill Moyer's speech in St.Louis on your website. That speech is one of the most direct examinations of what the administration is seeking to do to damage the freedom of the press in the U. S.

As a Presbyterian and surgeon, I would encourage you to move it up to one of the headlines on your website. We need to make the truth of what the administration is trying to do to silence dissension in the press available to all who will read.

William B. McCullough, M. D.

Read Moyers' speech >>

Joan Chittister: We need better news reporting, with less pressure for speed

Another reader has called our attention to a recent article by Sister Joan Chittister, who takes note of the reporting problems of Dan Rather and Newsweek, along with the efforts by Kenneth Tomlinson, chairperson of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, to press for "balance" in the reporting by NPR. "Balance" -- toward the right, apparently. Too much reporting, she says, becomes shallow and even inaccurate because of the pressure of time, and the urge to get a story out first.  Reality gets distorted by the pressures of competition as well as political pressures.

You’ll notice that this article appears in the National Catholic Reporter, which takes note sorrowfully that the recent "forced removal of Jesuit Fr. Thomas J. Reese as editor of America magazine is tragic. He was forced from his position by his Jesuit superiors after five years of pressure from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith."

Read her article >>

The note from Chris Baker:

I read this this morning, and felt it could use wider distribution. She strikes a very compelling, and unsettling, nerve.

Colombia network sets ambitious goals
Five Presbyterian ‘accompaniers’ being sent to Barranquilla

Five more Presbyterians have been commissioned by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Colombia Network to accompany Colombian church, union and displaced leaders who are threatened by death squads for their work in human rights.

Read the Presbyterian News Service report >>

WSLCD? by Berry Craig

What Should Liberal Christians Do?

Berry Craig poses this question in light of what he sees as the growing power and assertiveness of Christian fundamentalists in today’s polarized political culture. "Most importantly," he says, "liberal Christians ought to make it clear they too are "Bible-Believing Christians." 

CIA's close relationship with Sudan's government enables genocide there to continue.

Religious groups from left to right have been deeply concerned about the genocidal killing that continues in Darfur, in the western area of Sudan. The US government has joined many others in the UN in calling for an end to the killing – so far, to little effect.

Nat Hentoff of The Village Voice now reports (based on earlier reporting by the Los Angeles Times) that "the CIA, with the blessings of the Bush administration, is closely connected to the horrifying government of Lieutenant General Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir, the head perpetrator of the ongoing genocide in Darfur." So while the White House offers humanitarian aid, it has not supported stronger action against the Sudanese government because it is working in partnership with Bashir to gain more intelligence information in its "war on terror."

Read this report in The Village Voice, or in

Menaul School seeks new president

The historic, Presbyterian related, Menaul School is seeking a new President (Head of School) to begin in July 2006. This school, begun by Presbyterian missionaries now with a contemporary mission, is located in Albuquerque and has a unique tradition of serving all three cultures in New Mexico – Hispanic, Native American and Anglo.    More >>

President Dwight Eisenhower on conservatives’ efforts (in the 1950s!) to abolish Social Security: "Their number is negligible and they are stupid."

His whole statement >>          Earlier resources on Social Security >>

Uzbekistan: Is it about jobs, freedom or Islam?

Flying home from New York a few days ago, we found ourselves sitting in front of a couple accompanied by six kids ... enough to make us pay attention.

Turns out they were on their way home for a visit after three years of working with orphans and micro-development projects in Uzbekistan. Hearing their stories, we came to share a bit of their concern for that isolated bit of the former Soviet Union that has suddenly turned up in our news headlines.

So this may be overly reflective of your WebWeaver’s immediate concerns, but we offer just a couple perspectives on what seems to be the sudden violence there, showing that – as is often the case – the problems are deep-rooted. And some of the roots reach to Washington.

bulletOn OpenDemocracy, Nathan Hamm finds that the protesters, who were "shot at like rabbits" in Andijan, were mainly concerned with making ends meet, but despite the bloodshed he says it would be wrong for the West to break all links with the Karimov government. And Matt Black tackles the claim that it's all down to Islamist subversion.
bulletOil, Torture, & Uzbekistan

The Shalom Center explores the links between the US government and the authoritarian regime of Islam Karimov in Uzbekistan.

They post an article by Craig Murray, who was the British Ambassador to Uzbekistan from 2002 to 2004. He reports that unflagging US support for the government of Uzbekistan has ---

>> ignored its notorious use of ultra-torture -- except for sending people there whom the US wants tortured beyond even the levels acceptable to the Bush Administration;

>> sited military bases there not for support of US troops in Afghanistan but to ring the oil-rich Caspian with US troops, in order to control the flow of oil into the oil-addicted US society;

>> and is downplaying or condoning well-founded reports that thousands have been killed in recent government crackdowns, on the grounds that those demonstrators were "Islamist extremists."

For the full story >>

Debt Cancellation: historic victories, new challenges

The Presbyterian Church has repeatedly called for various measures by the US government (and others) to ease the crushing burden of debt on many developing nations.

In 1996, for example, the 208th General Assembly "call[ed] upon all governments, all multilateral lending institutions, and commercial banks . . . to strive to insulate the poor of indebted countries from the costs of debt repayment and to consider seriously debt forgiveness or debt relief for the most heavily indebted and poorest countries."

See a sampling of other PC(USA) statements Click here, then type "debt" in the search box at the top of the page.  The first result ("International Trade and Investment") will give you plenty to start with.

A new study paper from Foreign Policy in Focus reports on "how 100% debt cancellation for poor countries--now being debated by wealthy nations--was transformed from an implausible demand into a winning issue, and what barriers lie ahead for the debt relief movement."

Read the article on the FPIF web site >>
Or see the printer-friendly pdf version >>

From your WebWeaver -- apologies for my absence!
My spouse and I returned last night from a week in New York City, where we joined our son in celebrating his graduation from the School of Visual Arts.  He's opening new ways of looking at the world for me, and it's great.

But now, back to a few bits of news for progressive Presbyterians -- and lots of others too!

I happened to discover a few days ago that this web site has received over 1,000,000 visits since September, 2001.  Thanks for all your interest and support!

Religion in the media
NPR looks at the religious right

Frederick Clarkson, an observer of the religious right, will appear on NPR’s Fresh Air along with Christian Right leader D. James Kennedy

Dr. Clarkson, who was one of the team that produced A Moment To Decide in 2000 as part of his ongoing study of right-wing religious-political movements, sends this note:

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

I will be a guest on National Public Radio show, Fresh Air with Terry Gross on Wednesday, May 18th.

The first half of the show includes an interview with Christian Right leader D. James Kennedy, the head of Coral Ridge Ministries. The second half is an interview with me. The general themes are separation of church and state, Christian nationalism, and theocratic movements in the U.S. Kennedy was, in 1973, one of the leaders of the conservative schism that became the Presbyterian Church in America.

To find out where and when you can hear the program in your area, here is the station list and program schedule. Times vary.

-- Fred

Frederick Clarkson

PBS Special: Victory in the Tomato Fields

Rescheduled for Friday, May 27th

This Friday evening, May 20th, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Yum Brands and the Presbyterian Church will be featured on the PBS news show, "Now."

Farm workers from the CIW, Yum Brands executives, church members and national staff of the PC(USA) will discuss the boycott of Taco Bell, how the victory for human rights was achieved, and the next steps of extending this landmark agreement throughout the fast food industry.

Don’t miss this informative program! For details on precise times and listings, visit and search for the program "Now."

Visit to learn more and for sample letters you can send to McDonald’s, Burger King, and Subway urging them to follow Taco Bell’s lead.

This announcement comes from the Rev. Noelle Damico, National Coordinator, Campaign for Fair Food, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

To learn more about the Campaign for Fair Food, please visit or contact:; Tel. 631-751-7076.

Bill Moyers responds to CPB's Tomlinson charges of liberal bias: "We were getting it right, but not right wing"

Witherspooner Bill LeMosy sends this note: "Here's a must-read for anybody concerned about public broadcasting. While the neo-cons rage, the prophets still speak."

In his first public address since leaving PBS six months ago, journalist Bill Moyers responded to charges by Kenneth Tomlinson - the chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting - of liberal bias and revelations that Tomlinson hired a consultant to monitor the political content of Moyers' PBS show "Now." Democracy Now! broadcast an excerpt of Moyers' closing address at the National Conference on Media Reform in St. Louis, Missouri. Their web site provides a rush transcript of the broadcast.

Read the excerpts here >>

Or read the full text of the speech >>

On fair trade and CAFTA
"CAFTA is bad for the working poor both in the U.S. and in Central American countries."

The Oakland Institute, a progressive think tank, provides a detailed look at reasons why CAFTA (the Central American Free Trade Agreement) is a bad arrangement both for US workers and for those in Central America and the Dominican Republic.

Their report >>

Fair trade partnerships empowering business model for Haiti’s coffee growers

The fair trade market offers small coffee farmers a chance to benefit from globalization through direct links to markets in wealthy countries. The experience of Recocarno, (Reseau des Cooperatives Cafeieres de la Region Nord) a network of seven small coffee-producer cooperatives in northern Haiti, illustrates both the potential benefits of fair trade, and the challenges of making these benefits sustainable.

More >>

A sermon for peace

Mothers Cry for Peace

Witherspooner Arch Taylor shares with us a peace sermon he delivered on Mother’s Day, 2005.  He traces the links between the establishment of Mother's Day and the movement for world peace, and shows how Christ offered not only inner peace, but peace for the nations as well.  He reminds us of warnings from Air Force Gen. Lee Butler of the religious - and idolatrous - nature of our nation's belief in military power. 


Stated Clerk says "thanks" for Witherspoon’s planned conference on global mission for peace and justice

We recently received this note from Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick:

I noted with real appreciation the piece on your website about the Witherspoon Global Mission Conference and its focus on the WARC call for "Covenanting for Justice in the Economy and the Earth." I am really grateful to you for this. The call to global economic justice is one of the most crucial and most difficult challenges that we face in North America, and I do believe the call coming out of WARC is one to which we need to pay real attention. Thanks.

And we thank him for his support!

From the Moderator:

Dialogue about the divestment issue can happen

Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase has shared on his moderatorial blog a good experience meeting with Presbyterians in Las Vegas who gathered to share concerns about the General Assembly’s action last year to explore the possibility of divestment of stock in companies that support Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.

Exploring Jubilee today -- and it means Fair Trade

Two Presbyterians and former mission co-workers, Ross and Gloria Kinsler, are deeply involved in work for fair trade as a way of reflecting the biblical principle of Jubilee in our global society.

Witherspooner Gene TeSelle has asked them to share a bit of what they’re doing these days.  They do that, and share samples of the study guides they are creating.

How to End the War

Journalist Naomi Klein offers a sharp analysis of what the US is doing in Iraq. She says that our "rebuilding" efforts, limited as they are, are really directed toward making over the Iraqi nation in the image of "the radical free-market policies that the American Enterprise Institute and the Cato Institute dream about in Washington, D.C., but are only able to impose in relative slow motion here at home."

Read the essay in In These Times, or on

5/5/05       Felíz Cinco de Mayo!
Social Security goes to Congress

As Congress begins to deal with the issues surrounding Social Security, we offer some resources you may find helpful.

bulletReligious leaders defend Social Security
PC(USA), 15 other groups issue set of guidelines for reform

The Washington Office of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and 15 other national religious organizations have issued a set of "principles" for Congress to keep in mind as it decides how to preserve and strengthen Social Security.
The news report >>            The full text of the statement >>


bullet "Honor your father and mother ..."

Jim Wallis of Sojourners takes that as a theme for an open letter to Congress on behalf of Call to Renewal, outlining a moral perspective from which Social Security should be discussed.

PS – We know the headline is not original with Wallis. Or us. But it still makes great sense as it reminds us of the intergenerational responsibilities that we must not ignore.

bullet Surprise!  The rich pay less!

The organization United for a Fair Economy points to the great inequity in the real Social Security tax rates for average works compared with the wealthy.

bulletA Gut Punch to the Middle (class)

That’s what New York Times columnist Paul Krugman calls the President’s current proposals for "fixing" Social Security.     More >>

bulletIf you have thoughts of your own, or other resources to share, please send a note!
Left Behind?

A collection of thoughtful articles in Insights, the journal of Austin Seminary (our Presbyterian seminary in Texas), finds the popular books to be based on a misinterpretation of the Bible. 

[This is in PDF format.  Click here to download (free!) Adobe Reader software to view this and all PDF files.]

We would like to invite you to participate in a special online event, May 9th-20th at :

A Dialogue on Values and Building a Movement

Are the words progressive and faith polar opposites? Of course not. But in America, the word "religious" seemingly has become synonymous with conservatism. The fact is that the religious right has spent 30 years melding Christian language with conservative political ideology. And they have been very successful. The influence of extreme right-wing religious organizations in politics and public discourse has taken America backwards, and has contributed to a divisive and coarsened politics. It has overshadowed progressives who are also people of faith. And it has created a divide of alienation between secular and religious progressives. We say enough is enough. 

More -- including links to join the dialogue >>

An "accompanier" sees the realities of life in Colombia

Erik J Mason of Santa Fe, NM, returned to the US a month ago after spending 5 weeks in Colombia as part of the PC(USA) effort to provide North American Christians to accompany sisters and brothers in Colombia whose lives are threatened because of their work for peace and human rights.

He offers a moving report of the realities he experienced there.

The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program shares news of their vital activities, including
bulleta web page of spiritual nurture for peacemakers
bulletan update on the review of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, beginning today at the UN – along with things you can do to help strengthen the NPT
bulletcoming events, including Christian Family Week, May 8-14, and Lobby for Conscience on May 16, a day of working to gain legislative support for the Religious Peace Tax Fund Bill.
bulletPeacemaking Offering promotional material.    
Reformed Churches covenant to work for justice in the economy and the earth

The World Alliance of Reformed Churches gathered for its 24th General Council in Accra, Ghana, in August, 2004. We reported earlier on that important assembly, but as we prepare and plan for the Witherspoon Society’s conference on global mission to be held next September at Stony Point, NY, we want to call attention again to the Council’s statement of that commitment.

It provides a statement firmly rooted in the Reformed tradition, which looks at "the signs of the times" in our world, and calls for attention to the two major challenges of our time: structures which oppress many of the world’s people, and our destruction of the natural world.

The statement then gets quite specific:

This crisis is directly related to the development of neoliberal economic globalization, which is based on the following beliefs:

-- unrestrained competition, consumerism, and the unlimited economic growth and accumulation of wealth is the best for the whole world;

-- the ownership of private property has no social obligation;

-- capital speculation, liberalization and deregulation of the market, privatization of public utilities and national resources, unrestricted access for foreign investments and imports, lower taxes, and the unrestricted movement of capital will achieve wealth for all;

-- social obligations, protection of the poor and the weak, trade unions, and relationships between people, are subordinate to the processes of economic growth and capital accumulation.

We encourage you to look at a report on the adoption of this statement, which was not supported unanimously.

The Report of the Message Committee of the Council tells more of the story

And then we hope you’ll look at the statement itself. It’s worth your study!  (in PDF format)

Here’s a response to Dr. Tilford’s comments on the death of Pope John Paul II, and the election of Pope Benedict XVI. We trust it’s offered in fun.

"For all of Professor Tilfords pontificating, I am not surprised that he likes the new pope."

Rev. James L. Reisner
Westminster Presbyterian Church
Albany, New York

Items from earlier in June, 2005 >>
All items from April, 2005 >>
All stories from March, 2005 >>
All items from February, 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.

If you like what you find here,
we hope you'll help us keep Voices for Justice going ... and growing!

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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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