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Archives:  November 2005

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

October, 2005 >>
September, 2005 >>
August, 2005 >>
July, 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.


Ethical Consumption for the Holidays--

You don't have to buy stuff to be loved.
It's better for the environment if you don't.

From the Network of Spiritual Progressives

We in Western countries are 20% of the world’s population, but we are consuming over 80% of the earth’s natural resources, causing a disproportionate level of environmental damage and unfair distribution of wealth.  The average North American consumes five times more than a Mexican, 10 times more than a Chinese person, and 30 times more than a person from India.

Advertisers make us feel that we are worthless if we don’t spend a lot of money on holiday gifts and give us this false image that we will achieve family bliss, sexual success, and love if only we spend enough money on extravagant gifts. But love cannot be bought, and many people find themselves depressed at the holidays, either because they’ve increased their debts or because they find themselves lonely or disappointed with family interactions in which gifts are substituted for real loving encounter. And the spiritual meaning of the holidays is lost in a frenzy of spending.

We at the Network of Spiritual Progressives— an interfaith organization of people committed to peace, social justice, and providing an alternative spiritual voice to that of the Religious Right, are seeking to build a New Bottom Line in which materialism and selfishness is replaced with love, caring, generosity, kindness, ecological sensitivity and awe and wonder at the grandeur of creation. To build such a world, we need to start living in accordance with our own highest ideals.   
For suggestions >>

More Light Presbyterians reminds us:

December 1, 2005, is World AIDS Day: A Day of Remembrance, Prayer and Action for More Light Presbyterians   

They provide a variety of good ideas and resources for observing this important day.  More >>

Hebron: On hatred

Maureen Jack, member of a Christian Peacemaker Team in Hebron, in the Israeli occupied West Bank of Palestine, reports on one little instance of the hostility faced by Palestinians in the West Bank from some of their Jewish neighbors.  We know this is not the whole picture, but it's an important part of the reality of the West Bank. 

What has happened to my country?

Harold Kurtz, former mission worker and Senior Associate of the Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship, writes as a veteran of World War II (along with his four brothers) and as an evangelical, saying: "Lately I feel like a stranger in the United States. I am a remnant of what has been called ‘the greatest generation,’ but it's not the thinning ranks of my generation that has me feeling lost and confused. It's the debate about torture that has been swirling around me for months. I never imagined such a debate in my country."

His family helped feed and care for German POWs who were brought to work on their farm, and he concludes by wondering, "What has happened to my country? How can my country be debating the merits of torture? Why has my country lost the will to make friends out of its enemies?"

More >>

11/22/05 -- home again!
Observing an election in Sri Lanka - the sequel

Yesterday I reported briefly on my participation in an election observation team for the presidential election held last week in Sri Lanka.  Go there >>  (to the report, not to Sri Lanka)

Today I can share the results of our work: the interim report from the international observers.

Sri Lanka election – a great success, a great failure

The interim report from the international observers describes the election as a "great success" in the reduced level of violence, and "great failure" in the absence of voting by people under the control of the LTTE – the Tamil rebels seeking autonomy from the predominantly Sinhalese government.

The 11-page report is posted here in PDF format.

Here's the BBC report on the election >>

The SOA protest:

Protesters urge closure of U.S. Army training school in Georgia

The annual vigil and protest against the School of the Americans – now known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (or School of Torturers?) – was probably the largest ever in its 16-year history. SOA Watch estimated that 19,000 people participated in the Nov. 19-20 protest . Of the demonstrators, 39 were arrested.

Catholic News Service offers a report >>

SOA Watch has posted a great slide show of the event – with music!

A suggestion: Be smarter than your WebWeaver, and click on the little arrow under the lower left corner of the opening screen. Or be like me, and just sit staring at it and wait for something to happen.

NCC says use of torture 'unacceptable'
Council and Church World Service support Senate bill, term opposition 'abhorrent'

[This report is being posted a bit tardily, because it came after I had left for Sri Lanka, where internet connections were pretty iffy. And costly. I’ll try to catch up on a few important items like this, though, over the next few days. Doug King]

The General Assembly of the National Council of Churches USA (NCC) and Church World Service, meeting in Maryland during the second week of November, commended the U.S. Senate for "anti-torture provisions" in the 2006 Defense Appropriations bill.

But as the House of Representatives began debate on the bill, some high-ranking U.S. government officials declined to support the provisions.

"As delegates to the General Assembly of the National Council of Churches USA and Church World Service, we find any and all use of torture unacceptable and contrary to U.S. and international legal norms," the delegates said.

The full story and text of the statement >>

Coalition of Immokalee Workers urges ...
Ask McDonald's to work with the CIW to change conditions in the fields!

For months, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and allies across the country have called on McDonald's to do the right thing: Follow Taco Bell's lead and work with the CIW to establish fair wages and working conditions for the farmworkers who pick its tomatoes.  More >>

What is the U.S. Policy on Sudan?

The Presbyterian-related Sudan Advocacy Action Forum has posted its monthly update, with a brief and critical look at U.S. policy toward the Sudan, and the suggestion that divestment may be one way to offer some resistance to the genocide still going on there.  More >>

No marriage for gays? Then one church says it will offer commitment celebrations only

Since Virginia has banned same-sex marriages, Clarendon Presbyterian Church and its pastor, David Ensign, have agreed they will perform no "marriages," but only celebrations of commitment.   More >>

11/21/05 -- posted from Amsterdam, Schiphol airport
Greetings from Sri Lanka
after ten educational days of observing the national election

an en route report from your WebWeaver, Doug King

I’m writing this quickly before checking out of my hotel room in Sri Lanka, to head for the Colombo airport and the 30-hour trip home to Twin Cities.

This will not be a travelogue – fear not. Nor will it be a news report, since what the election observer team does is not a matter of gathering news, but seeking information that might help the people of Sri Lanka on election day (which was last Thursday) to minimize the possibilities of violence or other tactics that groups might use to keep this from being a "free and fair election." In other words, we were hoping to prevent the kinds of incidents that generally seem to "make news." And that hope seems to have been fulfilled – not perfectly, but with significant improvements over past elections.

More >>

Peacemaking Program Update
19 November 2005

Presbyterian United Nations Representative

The Peacemaking Program has launched a search for a person to serve as the Presbyterian United Nations Representative.  Information >>

No2Torture Public Witness

A gathering will be held in Miami, FL: all day Fri., Jan. 6, until Noon Sat., Jan. 7, 2006. The gathering will include updates on legislation and legal action, theological reflection, worship, a public witness, networking and strategizing, and prayer. To register, contact Megan Burns at or 305-643-1760

Stopping Torture

Advocate for Senator McCain's amendment providing that U.S. armed forces observe the humanitarian standards in international, national, and military law and our military's effective rules governing military interrogations.  Details >>


Support Congressional passage of the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act.  Details >>

Grants for Dialogue

Religions for Peace-USA has extended the deadline for applications to host dialogues about foreign policy issues to mid-December. Dialogue topics: the environment; poverty, hunger, or health; war and conflict; or weapons of mass destruction and terrorism. Awards are payable upon completion of your event and evaluation. Depending on event size, awards range to $500. Select "Religions for Peace" in the registration process.   Details >>

Resources for college and seminary students on war and peace

Worship Resources for Human Rights Day * December 10, 2005

Water Weekend at Presbyterian UN Office

On Feb. 3-5, 2006, the Presbyterian United Nations Office will collaborate with the Committee for Teaching About the United Nations to offer a Weekend About Water conference. For information or to register (before January 18, 2006), contact Catherine Foster at 212-697-4568 or

Eco-justice and Katrina 

Theology, International Law, and Torture

A Conference on Human Rights and Religious Commitment Princeton, NJ - January 13-15-2006
Church Folks for a Better America. Information: 609-924-5022

Church World Service and partners unveil Africa Peacebuilding Program

Churches Uniting in Christ Seeking a Director

Candidates should possess passion for Christian unity and an understanding of the history of the Consultation on Church Union (COCU) and the unique nature of CUIC. Candidates need a demonstrated commitment to overcoming racism and promoting social justice as an essential aspect of the church's mission. Strong skills in administration, communication and leadership are essential. Advanced degree in theology or related field, and a minimum of five years of experience in ecumenical ministry are required. Interested candidates should submit a cover letter, curriculum vita, contact information and references to CUIC Director Search Committee c/o The Right Reverend C. Christopher Epting, 815 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10017. Deadline for receiving curriculum vitas is December 20, 2005.

For Your Children: Creating Communities of Faith in Our Families  


Travel/Study Seminar to the WCC Assembly - February 13-24, 2006 - Porto Alegre, Brazil

Ecumenical Advocacy Days * March 10-13, 2006 * Washington, DC

2006 Peacemaking Conference * Unmasking Power: Seeking the Faces of Peace -July 22-27, 2006, YMCA of the Rockies, Estes Park, C0

The Rev. W. Mark Koenig
Associate for Resources and Publications
Presbyterian Peacemaking Program
100 Witherspoon St., #1624
Louisville, KY 40202
888-728-7228, ext. 5936

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The Covenant Network conference –
a continuing struggle with the ambiguities and ambivalence of our situation
a special report by Gene TeSelle, Witherspoon Issues Analyst

This year's conference of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians, with 500 in attendance, was held in the Idlewild Presbyterian Church in Memphis. The location in the South was significant by itself. But there is also some "background." In the repressive style that is all too familiar in the region, 27 of the 80 ministers in the Presbytery of the Mid-South urged the Idlewild session to cancel their sponsorship of the event, and there was a vague threat of legal action. Well, the session rethought it, decided to continue, and were joined by nine other churches in the presbytery and two outside it as co-sponsors.

Each service of worship at Idlewild was an impressive experience, with Melva Costen leading worship several times.  Other speakers included writer Kathleen Norris, theologians Eugene Rogers, Larry Rasmussen, and Amy Plantinga Pauw -- along with PCUSA Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase, and Theological Task Force members Barbara Wheeler and John Wilkinson.

Tim Hart-Andersen, speaking for the Board of Covenant Network, emphasized that the Board has neither taken a position on the report of the TTF nor endorsed its recommendations. It has, however, noted sadly that "the final recommendations do not address all of our hopes for the church," in particular the full inclusion of its GLBT members.  He noted that the Covenant Network will continue to support overtures from presbyteries to remove G-6.0106b from the Book of Order and will ask commissioners to listen for divine guidance during the deliberations of the General Assembly in June.  The reaction of the assembled body seemed to be one of uncertainty about what had been said and emotional ambivalence in responding to it.

TeSelle's full report >>


Your WebWeaver’s taking a trip

If things get a little quiet on this page over the next few days, here’s why:

I’ve been invited by Nonviolent Peaceforce, a group based in the Twin Cities, to join an international team of volunteers to be in Sri Lanka for the next few days, serving as election observers watching the process of a national election on November 17. "NP," as they call themselves for short, is training and organizing people from many nations to intervene as a nonviolent presence in situations of conflict – and Sri Lanka is certainly that.

I leave tomorrow (Tuesday, Nov. 8) and will arrive in Colombo some 30 hours later, around 6 AM on Thursday, Nov. 10. After a couple days of briefings and orientation, we’ll be sent out to polling places around the country, and then return to Colombo for debriefing. I should be home again on Monday, Nov. 21.

I don’t know how and when I’ll be able to get on the Internet during my time there, but I’ll be posting things here as much as communication facilities and our other business permit.

I ask your prayers for the people of Sri Lanka as they strive to deal with centuries of conflict between Sinhalese and Tamils, through a democratic process.

For news on the election, you might visit the website of the Sri Lankan organization that is coordinating the monitoring process – PAFFREL for short.

Doug King

Covenant Network gathers in Memphis

Witherspooner Gene TeSelle will soon share his report on the conference, but in the meantime ...

Jerry Van Marter of Presbyterian News Service has filed a number of reports from this conference.

Kathleen Norris to Covenant Network: Disciples must embrace the mysterious

Amy Pauw reminds the group that spirituality is communal, theologian says, and personal piety isn't sufficient as response to God’s grace

Larry Rasmussen, former professor of social ethics, asserts that the concept of righteousness is both personal and corporate.  [Sorry, this report has not been posted yet.]

Presbyterian Outlook has a number of reports by Leslie Scanlon, Outlook national reporter. 

For headlines and links to the stories, go to the Outlook home page and log in.  (Registration is now required.)

Clergy are again urged to sign letter affirming that religion and science are not in conflict.

So far the letter has 9,229 signatures. The author, Michael Zimmerman, of the College of Letters and Science in the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, is hoping to reach the goal of 10,000 ministers.

You may want to read the letter, and consider signing it and sharing it with friends.

Antiwar sermon brings IRS warning

All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena risks losing its tax-exempt status because of a former rector's remarks in 2004.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the Internal Revenue Service has warned one of Southern California's largest and most liberal churches that it is at risk of losing its tax-exempt status because of an antiwar sermon two days before the 2004 presidential election.

The full story >>

A late addition to our reports on the Witherspoon conference:

"Open Space Technology" opens a new adventure in doing workshops

What happens when you gather about 75 Presbyterians and let them loose for six hours to create their own workshops, decide their own topics, lead them or just listen as they choose, wander off to something else, and finally write up their own reports?

What we found was that lots of people had concerns and ideas and projects to talk about, and lots of others were interested enough to sit for a few minutes or an hour, working through some issue and putting together some kind of report for the whole group – some with very significant recommendations (to the Worldwide Ministries Division, or to Witherspoon, or to themselves).  Topics ranged from evangelism to advocacy for social justice, from accompaniment in Colombia to advocacy for the people of Sudan, from how Young Adult Volunteers can share their experiences to "futbol/soccer." 

It was a fascinating venture in a free-for-all-approach to things people care deeply about.  And it worked.

We offer a sampling of the workshops, and some of the points they reported to the whole group.

The rest of the story >>

Stated Clerk denounces Iranian’s anti-Israel remarks

Mr. Eric Geller has been corresponding with us over the past few months, offering his thoughtful reflections as an American Jew on the debate about Presbyterian actions regarding Israel/Palestine and divestment.  And yesterday he sent this note:


You may have read the recent horrific remarks by the President of Iran. The Presbyterian Church issued the following terrific statement following these remarks. Click here >>

Just thought you might want to see this. I think what the Iranian President said has sent some shock waves of reality throughout the world. The Presbyterian comment was great.



November 19-20 -- Another rally to close School of the Americas

Here’s one way to protest US use of torture

Thousands will rally -- yet again! -- to demand closure of US Army training school
Convergence and civil disobedience will be held at Fort Benning, Georgia, November 19-20, 2005 to close the US Army’s School of the Americas.

The latest update >>


The Washington Office reports that the House of Representatives may vote on torture in the next few days. Call the Capitol Hill switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Ask to be connected to your Congressperson's office. After reaching your Member of Congress's office, ask for the staffer who covers defense issues. If they are not available, ask if you can leave a message on their voicemail. Talking points from Amnesty International:

bulletI urge you to vote YES on a motion to instruct offered by Congressman Murtha for the Senate's Anti-Torture Amendment to be included in the Department of Defense Appropriations bill.
bulletI urge Congress to adopt the Anti-Torture Amendment in the form passed by Senate without revisions.
bulletAny attempts to create exemptions for the CIA, a presidential waiver on the ban, or other qualification would put the US government in a position of authorizing inhumane treatment, in violation of core principles that Americans embrace and US and international law.
bulletThe United States must stand without exception for the principle of human decency and against the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
bulletThe US Army Field Manual recognizes that torture and inhuman treatment is ineffective, stating that "Use of torture and other illegal methods is a poor technique that yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and induce the source to say what he thinks the interrogator wants to hear."

More on resisting torture >>

January 6-7, 2006 -- No2Torture Public Witness, Miami, FL.  "We will study and pray, discuss and strategize, worship and witness on the beach looking towards Guantanamo, Cuba."  More information >>
More words of tribute to Chuck McLain have come from That All May Freely Serve
New Wineskins proposes two overtures to replace Book of Order with New Wineskins Constitution

The New Wineskins Initiative, on whose conference we reported in June, 2005, is moving rapidly to place their "vision" for a radically different Presbyterian Church before the 217th General Assembly.

In a letter to their supporters and those who attended their conference, David Henderson and Dean Weaver, Co-Moderators of the group, call on endorsing congregations and other friends to present one of two proposed overtures to their presbyteries.

They then remind their friends that "From the beginning the NWI has sought to work through existing mechanisms for change available within our denomination. We want to be true to our word, and faithful to pursue change from within in this season. This means overtures."

Acknowledging the support recently expressed by Presbyterian seminaries for the Theological Task Force report, and the calls for new authoritative interpretations, they assert that "the clarion call of the New Wineskins Initiative to radically rethink how we do church and serve Jesus Christ is all the more real. We are convinced that new window-dressings will not fix our present structure."

More >>

Michael Adee, National Field Organizer of More Light Presbyterians, adds his reflections and appreciation of the life and ministry of the Rev. Chuck McLain
Chuck McLain, Witherspoon board member and long-time activist, died this All Saints’ morning at age 71. 

Lisa Larges, Regional Partnership Coordinator of That All May Freely Serve, who lives in San Francisco, sent this note:

Presbyterian Minister, activist, singer, band leader, dancer, chef, and symbol to so many of us of God's gracious hospitality, the Reverend Chuck McLain died this All Saint's morning, at age 71.

Details regarding services celebrating Chuck's life will be forthcoming from Montclair Presbyterian Church where Chuck has served for many years as Parish Associate.

May we live in love as Chuck did so well.

Blessings friends,

More >>

More thoughts on the Theological Task Force report 

Witherspooner Arnold Rots offers some new thoughts and questions about the report by the Theological Task Force on the Peace, Unity and Purity of the Church – even pondering some points in the theological section.

Fair Food update 

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is recovering from Hurricane Wilma. For the latest information visit

And keep the postcards and letters to McDonald's, Burger King, and Subway coming! Let them know that as Christians and customers we want food that is produced fairly and respects human rights.
bulletSample letters at
bulletTo order postcards from CIW for all three companies, email or call 239-657-8311.

PC(USA) Campaign for Fair Food

More on resisting torture

Civilians in Iraq need you to help end state-sponsored torture by Iraqi security forces.  

Christian Peacemaker Team in Iraq spent nearly two years documenting abuse of Iraqi detainees in U.S.-run prisons in Iraq. But for the past several months, the team has received more and more reports of detentions, killings, and torture perpetrated by the new Iraqi security forces – forces trained by U.S. military and now given responsibility for security in their country. Methods of torture reported by survivors and families include beatings with cables, electric shock, electric drilling, food and sleep deprivation, beating of feet, stress positions, and suspension from the ceiling. CPT has received first-hand testimonies alleging that the Iraqi Army, Iraqi Police and new commando groups such as the Wolf and Scorpion Brigades have targeted particular communities, such as Iraqi Sunni neighborhoods as well as neighborhoods of Palestinians born in Iraq.

More background and suggestions for action >>

For earlier archives --

October, 2005 >>
September, 2005 >>

August, 2005 >>
July, 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.


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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