Archives: November 2005
This page lists reports and commentary from all of November, 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,
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
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
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.
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.
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
|NCC says use of torture
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
"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
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.
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.
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.
11/21/05 -- posted from Amsterdam,
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.
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.
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 email@example.com or
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.
Support Congressional passage of the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act.
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.
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 -
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:
Communities of Faith in Our Families
Travel/Study Seminar to the WCC Assembly - February 13-24, 2006 - Porto
Ecumenical Advocacy Days * March
10-13, 2006 * Washington, DC
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
To subscribe to this e-list, send an email to
|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
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
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.
Covenant Network gathers in Memphis
Gene TeSelle will soon share his report on the conference, but in the
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
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
Clergy are again urged to sign letter affirming that
religion and science are not in conflict.
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
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
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
|I 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.|
|I urge Congress to adopt the Anti-Torture Amendment in
the form passed by Senate without revisions. |
|Any 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.
|The 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.|
|The 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."|
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,
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."
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.
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
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.
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 >>
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,
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
We're providing resources to help inform the
reflection and debate, along with updates on the voting.
Our three areas of primary interest are:
which would remove the current ban on
lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender persons being considered as
possible candidates for ordination as elder or ministers.|
which would add the Belhar Confession to our Book of
10-1, which would adopt the new Form of Government
that was approved by the Assembly. |
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Some blogs worth visiting
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
John Harris’ Summit to
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
Got more blogs to recommend?
send a note, and we'll see what we can do!