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Witherspoon board's response to Theological Task Force report

A place at the table is not guaranteed 

One of the major concerns expressed by the Witherspoon Society board last week, in responding to the report of the Theological Task Force on the Peace, Unity and Purity of the Church, was that little concern was expressed for including in the process of "discernment" precisely those people most directly affected by the issue of ordination in the Presbyterian Church.

Already a clear example of that problem has come to our attention. While it is not related directly to the Task Force recommendations, this incident reflects the attitudes in our church which would make it difficult – and perhaps dangerous – for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Presbyterians to take part of the conversations.   Read the report from MLP >>

Also ...

We've received two more comments on the Witherspoon statement.

Archives:  September 2005

This page lists reports and commentary from 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.

The aftermath of Katrina and Rita
bulletPresbyterian Church leaders seek special help for churches and staff devastated by hurricanes.  A letter is being sent to all congregations, all new church developments, all executive presbyters and stated clerks, asking for help for the congregations and church leaders and staff who now have in many cases lost their buildings, their money, and therefore the income on which they depend.  The letter >>
bullet Katrina.  Presbyterian pastor and poet Bobbie McGarey responds to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina with a poem.
bullet Lamentation.  Dr. Clyde Fant, who comes from Louisiana, taught at Southwestern Baptist Seminary before the fundamentalist takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention. He then served as chaplain for a number of years at Stetson University in Florida.  He wrote this, he says, because "grief and outrage have held a contest inside me. So I'm writing this. Because I have to."
bulletRestore Fair Wages for Gulf Coast Workers!

On Sept. 8, President Bush issued an executive order suspending the application of the Davis-Bacon Act in the hurricane ravaged areas of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. The law requires federal contractors to pay workers the average or "prevailing" regional wage for public construction projects. The act's suspension allows contractors to pay as little as $5.15 an hour - the current federal minimum wage - for these projects.

Workers who lost everything in the rising waters cannot be expected to support their families on $5.15 an hour. As these women and men begin to rebuild their lives and their communities, they desperately need a just wage from their government, not a pay cut.

More from Sojourners on how to take action.

Was it 100,000? Or 150,000? Or 227,000? Or 301,294 and three dogs?

Reflecting on the demonstration in Washington

How effective are demonstrations in Washington, even those as big as the one last weekend? David Corn has the temerity to raise that hard question, and suggests that a more effective way to end a war might be found in lobbying with senators and representatives in their districts. So he says, "As an alternative to a mass rally in the shadow of an unoccupied Capitol, could the anti-war movement plot a strategy of zeroing in on a number of representatives and senators and attempt to convince them that they might have to pay the ultimate price for supporting the war?"

Read the article >>

Corn is raising important questions here.
What do you think?
Just send a note,
to be shared here.

from Faithful America

Let's Put Children FIRST!

‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.’ Matthew 19:14

Few organizations do as much on behalf of children as the Children’s Defense Fund. We are proud to support their efforts, particularly the two we bring before you today. FaithfulAmerica urges you to consider two actions on behalf of children as part of your compassionate response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

1) PASS EMERGENCY HEALTH CARE - Four weeks after Katrina’s disaster, with people dislocated from their homes and communities and scattered across the country in many states and cities, the President and Congress have not acted to ensure federal Disaster Relief Medicaid to help traumatized Katrina victims who have already suffered more than enough.

Katrina survivors deserve the same sense of urgency and help provided to our fellow Americans four years ago.

ACTION: Please urge the President and Congress to support the Emergency Health Care Relief Act - Grassley-Baucus (S.1716)   CLICK HERE >>

2) HOLD A CHILDREN’S SABBATH - If you are part of a faith community, consider joining in the 14th Annual National Observance of Children’s Sabbath to lift up the crises facing children in America and God’s call to people of faith to nurture and protect the poor and vulnerable.

You can obtain a manual for your community by going HERE >>

There you will find an extensive manual containing liturgies for many faiths, bulletin inserts, newsletter articles, education pieces for all ages, sermon notes, and everything your community needs to hold a Children’s Sabbath.

Finally, be sure to visit the Children’s Defense Fund Page devoted to Katrina relief resources:

Blessings to you as you take action on behalf of those who need us to speak up right now.

Vince Isner and your Team

What’s happening in our society when torture is a matter open for debate?

In a sense, for human rights, we can gauge the progress of our society by assessing what has been settled and what is in open dispute. So, today, what are we to make of the fact that torture is controversial?

So asks Norman Solomon, author of the new book War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. More on the book >>

Read his essay >>

What do you think?
Please send a note with your comments!

News from the National Council of Churches:

bulletNCC launches 'For the Peace of the World' international affairs curriculum
bulletJewish-Christian trip to Israel and Palestine aimed at working together for peace
bulletNCC offers free download of 'Love for the Poor' study guide for churches
bulletNCC Governing Board calls for 'a just rebuilding' of the Gulf Coast

Find them all on the National Council of Churches home page

Resisting torture

From the Presbyterian Washington Office:

Legislation seeks to prohibit inhumane treatment of prisoners

Now’s the time to give support!

There are reports that either the Defense Appropriations bill or the Defense Authorization bill will be brought to the Senate floor as early as this week or possibly next week.  When last seen on the Senate floor on July 26, there were a slew of amendments pending or introduced. A few had already been considered.

Click here for a listing of amendments having to do with torture or treatment or treatment of prisoners.

Call for a full investigation of torture and abuse of detainees

On Saturday, Human Rights Watch released a new report based on the firsthand accounts of three former members of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division. The soldiers report that in 2003 and 2004 at Forward Operating Base Mercury (FOB Mercury) men in their battalion routinely beat and abused prisoners to help gather intelligence on the insurgency and to "relieve stress."

U.S. failure to respect human rights has increased anti-American violence, put U.S. soldiers in further danger, and harmed our nation's credibility on issues related to human rights and international law.

That's why EPIC (the Education for Peace in Iraq Center) is joining Veterans for Common Sense as well as Human Rights First in calling for the establishment of an independent commission to fully investigate the torture and abuse of detainees held in U.S. custody. They invite others to sign their Open Letter demanding an Independent Commission on Torture.

Presbyterian Foundation moves to tighten controls on PC(USA) shareholder actions

Committee formed to review requests for proxy votes, other activities

In a move that would seem to weaken efforts of the Presbyterian Church to be socially responsible in the management of its investments, the Presbyterian Foundation is claiming that it is the owner of the church’s invested money, and not the church itself. Thus it claims the right to manage those investments, and carry on shareholder actions or divestment under the guidance of its own committee, without having to follow direction from the General Assembly Council, and its Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) committee.

Read the report from Presbyterian News Service >>

Wars of evolution continue

Parents challenge the teaching of ‘intelligent design’

Eleven parents of students in Dover, PA, are in court seeking to block their school board from requiring that high school biology teachers read a four-paragraph statement to students that casts doubt on Darwin's theory of evolution. This mandatory statement notes that intelligent design offers an alternative theory for the origin and evolution of life - namely, that life in all of its complexity could not have arisen without the help of an intelligent hand. One lawyer for the parents argued in court that "This clever tactical repackaging of creationism does not merit consideration. ... Intelligent design admits that it is not science unless science is redefined to include the supernatural."

Read the story in the Washington Post, or on

Speaking of science, religion and politics ...

The Republican War on Science, a new book by Chris Mooney, argues America is headed for "economic, ecological, and social calamity" unless we take a new approach toward science.

While Mooney sees both Democrats and Republics sometimes misusing science, and sometimes respecting it, he is particularly concerned about the "cynical manipulation of science" by Bush and the New Right. As the reviewer points out, " they label conventional science as "junk science" and seek to replace it with what they call ‘sound science’ - in other words, questionable, fringe science that conveniently props up the interests of big industry and conservative Christians."

Read the review in The Christian Science Monitor ... or on

Reflections from prison

by Witherspooner Don Beisswenger

In January, 2004, Don Beisswenger, a 73 year old retired Vanderbilt Divinity School professor, was given the highest possible punishment for his act of civil disobedience on November 28th, 2003. He was one of many joining as they do each year, to demand the closing of the School of the Americas, which for years has been training military personnel from South and Central America in the uses of torture and other techniques to gain control of their people – and incidentally to serve the interests of the U.S. in their countries.

During the six months of his incarceration in the Federal Correctional Institution in Manchester, Kentucky, Don learned that a period of confinement can offer spiritual gifts to one who believes one has the moral responsibility to object to the United States government's role in supporting human rights violations.

Beisswenger translated his interpretation of this gift into the prose of his prison journal, excerpts from which have now been published in The Spire, a biannual journal of Vanderbilt University Divinity School.

More >>   (including a little sample of what he wrote)

Arch Taylor looks at US interpretations and uses of the attacks on Pearl Harbor and later on Hiroshima as an example of our "subversion of values"

Witherspoon Issues Analyst Gene TeSelle reviews his book 

In Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, and Beyond: Subversion of Values, Arch B. Taylor, Jr., who served as a Presbyterian minister in Japan for over thirty years, looks at two key events — the beginning and the end of the war in the Pacific. He has had many reasons to look at the relations between the two countries during the Second World War — and at the many questions they have raised with each other, and with themselves, from then until now.   The review >>

The peace action in Washington goes on

For a wonderfully human, in-the-middle-of -the-crowd look at the peace march on Sunday, take a look at Tom Engelhardt’s observations, complete with photos of the people he interviewed along the way.

Noting that not only George Bush, but most Democrats as well managed to be out of town, he marvels at the huge variety of signs that people were carrying. One of my favorites: "Yeeha is not a foreign policy."

Go to Engelhardt’s own blog >>
Or see it on>>

Sheehan arrested in act of civil disobedience

And today, as you’ll no doubt hear over and over, Cindy Sheehan and many others were arrested in a non-violent presence outside the White House fence.

The crowd of supporters chanted "The whole world's watching" as the arrests proceeded.

One early report is from Reuters AlertNet

McCain advocates legislation to prohibit military use of torture

Sen. John McCain, decrying new allegations of prisoner abuse in Iraq by U.S. soldiers, on Sunday backed an amendment to force the American military to live up to its international obligations under the Geneva Convention and "not engage in torture" of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan.

McCain (R-Ariz.) was responding to complaints by Army Capt. Ian Fishback and two sergeants, who all served with the 82nd Airborne Division. Their description of routine harsh treatment of captives in Iraq parallels the abuse caught in photographs at the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad and was contained in a Human Rights Watch report issued Friday by the advocacy group.

He said he and Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, along with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), another committee member, were proposing an amendment to a defense bill, which would require the military abstain from torture in accordance with the Geneva Convention.

Read the report in the LA Times
Or find it on

Washington Office calls for action

The Presbyterian Washington Office has sent out a brief and helpful call to support McCain’s bills to end the US military’s use of torture.   Check it out >>

Presbyterian peacemaker Beth Pyles reports from Baghdad

Among the people, she finds deep anger toward the US, but not hatred – and great courage just to go about living and worshiping.  She is in Baghdad as a short-term member of a Christian Peacemaker Team.   Her report >>

National MLP Board celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Shower of Stoles Project

The National Board of Directors of More Light Presbyterians recognizes and celebrates the 10th Anniversary of the Shower of Stoles Project this month. This recognition is offered with mixed emotions because this marks the 10th Anniversary of the birth of the project wherein its founder, Martha Juillerat set aside her ordination as a Minister of the Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

A big day on the Mall in Washington

Have you been looking for reports on today’s demonstrations against the war? Hard to find much?

You might look at, whose main editor/writer, William Rivers Pitt, and others have been blogging their observations throughout the day.

The L A Times headlines its report, "War Protest Generates Strong Turnout."

They say "tens of thousands of protesters marched through cities across the nation [including Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, and Minneapolis] Saturday to demand the immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces." Cindy Sheehan, clearly one of the stars of the event, proclaimed, "We have to do our jobs as Americans. If nobody else will hold them accountable, we will. ... We'll be the checks and balances on this out-of-control, criminal government."

ABC News reports on the Washington anti-war demonstration today as the "largest anti-war protest since U.S. invaded Iraq." They add that Washington Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey, "noting that organizers had hoped to draw 100,000 people, said, ‘I think they probably hit that.’"

BBC reports on the U.S. rallies, and on numerous actions in Europe as well.

If you've found other good sources,
or better yet, if you've been there yourself,
please tell us about it!

New reports surface about detainee abuse
Mistreatment was routine, soldiers say

The Washington Post reports that two soldiers and an officer with the Army's 82nd Airborne Division have told Human Rights Watch of systemic detainee abuse and human rights violations at U.S. bases in Afghanistan and Iraq, recounting beatings, forced physical exertion and psychological torture of prisoners, the group said.

The organization’s 30-page report describes an Army captain's 17-month effort to gain clear understanding of how U.S. soldiers were supposed to treat detainees, and depicts his frustration with what he saw as widespread abuse that the military's leadership failed to address. The Army officer made clear that he believes low-ranking soldiers have been held responsible for abuse to cover for officers who condoned it.

The soldiers described violence against detainees held at Forward Operating Base Mercury, outside Fallujah, shortly before the notorious abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison began. These abuses included putting detainees in stress positions, exercising them to the point of total exhaustion, and sleep deprivation. And like soldiers accused at Abu Ghraib, these troops said that military intelligence interrogators encouraged their actions, telling them to make sure the detainees did not sleep or were physically exhausted so as to get them to talk.

The full report >>

Another Witherspoon member checks in from New Orleans

Soon after the Gulf Coast was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, we contacted some Witherspoon members in that area, just to let them know we’ve been thinking of them. We soon heard from a couple of them, but this response came just yesterday, Sept. 23.  Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the people of the Gulf Coast as they now deal with Hurricane Rita.

I just got e-mail service today. I and my family returned last Saturday after 20 days in Dallas where the Red Cross paid my entire motel bill. I have a little roof damage, and small minor things broken up. I have a rare location, 15 feet above sea level. The political posturing around this awful storms evoke cries for justice. Conservative, right wing, administrations have concerned themselves only with the super rich, and the poor get nothing. Why can't Americans see what is happening? Peace, and thank you for your concern and prayers.

John Spaulding

John is a retired minister, living in Jefferson, LA, which is within New Orleans.

The report of the Theological Task Force on the Peace, Unity and Purity of the Church continues to be a matter of discussion.  Our main reports are now indexed for your browsing pleasure.

From the Witherspoon conference on mission and justice:
Moving ahead in promoting fair trade

Gene TeSelle reports on suggestions from one of the many workshops in the "open space" sessions, which suggested many ways in which we might advance fair trade in the Witherspoon Society, in our congregations, in the General Assembly, and even in our own homes.

Amnesty International reports on police abuse and misconduct against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the US  

Despite progress made by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) movement in the United States since Stonewall—the June 28, 1969 police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in New York City, and ensuing protests in defiance of police abuse and repression—police misconduct against the LGBT community in the US persists.   More >>

The aftermath of Katrina

Hurricane aid used 'to test out right-wing social policies'

The Guardian UK reports on ways in which the Bush administration is using the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, and the multi-billion dollar reconstruction plans it is belatedly putting forward, to try out a variety of conservative social policies.   

These include the suspension of regulations guaranteeing the going local wage and affirmative action for minorities, while offering tax incentives for businesses in the affected region. They also include the inclusion of half a million dollars in vouchers for private schools as part of educational aid for displaced children, and waivers of many environmental regulations.

The full story on TruthOut >>
The story as originally published in The Guardian UK >>

Tell Congress: protect wages, not contractor profits and millionaire tax cuts

The Working Families e-Activist Network, AFL-CIO, urges opposition to administration plans to suspend legal protections for decent wages for construction workers hired for rebuilding in the Gulf Coast areas as they recover from Hurricane Katrina.   More >>

Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal also thought about forgiveness

Rabbi Barry D. Cytron, who directs the Jay Phillips Center for Jewish-Christian Learning, a partnership of St. John's University and the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, has writtenan op-ed column reflecting on a little-mentioned aspect of the life of Simon Wesenthal, who died earlier this week after a life dedicated to tracking down former Nazis and brining them to justice.

He notes that Wiesenthal, while in a German prison camp, was lead into a hospital room where he was brought to face a seriously wounded young German soldier, Karl, who confesses to Wiesenthal his terrible deeds in the most notorious of the Third Reich's death squadrons. He confesses to Simon his participation in wiping out a Jewish village, and then begs his forgiveness.

Wiesenthal eventually published this story in a quasi-memoir entitled The Sunflower. But before it was published, he sought responses from many writers, philosophers and theologians, ranging from the Dalai Lama to high-ranking Nazi officer Albert Speer, asking whether they would have offered comfort to this murderer of Jews, and if so, how. Cytron adds that his students, on reading this book, "tell me [these comments] are among the most meaningful words they have ever read on forgiveness."

Further, Cytron adds that "Wiesenthal insisted that the Holocaust was not just about Jewish deaths, but about humanity's. He was adamant that the Holocaust was not only about 6 million Jewish dead, but about 11 million, of many faces, faiths and nationalities."

He concludes:

At this hour in our nation's history, as we seek to make sense of our response to Hurricane Katrina, Wiesenthal's stance is especially noteworthy. Some contend that the tragedy of New Orleans was compounded many times over because some of us care less for others. Was it the color of their skin? The heft of their wallet? Their lack of political clout?


By calling us to broaden our vision, Wiesenthal forces us to confront that charge. His insistence that all who suffered matter equally is a prophetic stance. Let's hope we can heed his words, as we face the truths about Katrina's victims, and ourselves.

Read the full essay >>

To order The Sunflower >>



Presbyterian responses to Hurricane Katrina
For current information >>

The Peacemaking Offering (October 2!) and Hurricane Katrina

Also:  The Peacemaking Program has written a letter reflecting on the Peacemaking Offering and the need to respond to Hurricane Katrina. The letter may be used by pastors, peacemaking committees, mission committees, worship committees and others to promote the offering.

And:  How collegiate ministries can respond to Hurricane Katrina

Groups urge hurricane relief, temporary amnesty to illegal immigrants

Tens of thousands of illegal immigrants displaced by Hurricane Katrina should be allowed to receive humanitarian relief and to remain in the United States for now, advocacy groups told Congress today. 

The National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities urged the government to allow desperate immigrants to receive all benefits bestowed on other victims of the storm.   More>>

Education Under Attack in Katrina's Wake 

The Wall Street Journal recently exposed that President Bush and his allies in Congress are plotting to take advantage of hurricane relief measures to "achieve a broad range of conservative economic and social policies, both in the storm zone and beyond." On the table are more tax cuts for the wealthy and the suspension of desegregation measures and environmental safeguards. Following last week's waiver of wage protections for federal workers, education is now targeted by two legislative initiatives that could come up for a vote as early as today.   More>>

Leaders Who Won't Choose

In Washington, it's business as usual in the face of a national catastrophe.

Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International, offers a sharp moral critique of the "frivolous" response of American political leaders to Katrina disaster. 

Sojourners is circulating a "Katrina Pledge:  A commitment to build a new America"

You too may find this a helpful way to let people articulate and focus their concerns, and commit to acting out of those concerns. 

Church leaders call for halt in budget process

Kirkpatrick, 4 others say federal spending plan would empty cupboards of poor and hungry   

The devastation and suffering left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina have given church leaders an opportunity to call again for the U.S. Congress to halt the federal budget-reconciliation process, which they say promises to gut programs for the poorest and most marginalized Americans.   The Presbyterian News Service report >>

Looking toward Birmingham and the General Assembly:

The Cumberland Presbyterian Heritage: Two Highlights

For many Presbyterians attending the 217th General Assembly, that gathering will offer some new experiences:  a meeting in the city of Birmingham, with its rich history of events in the Civil Rights movement, a joint meeting with the Cumberland Presbyterian churches, and much more. 

Witherspoon Issues Analyst Gene TeSelle, having lived for some decades in the neighboring state of Tennessee, will be providing some glimpses ahead for that encounter.

First, he provides a brief background look at the Cumberland Presbyterian churches, and finds some surprises in their development.  Also in the works is a survey of resources on the civil rights movement in Birmingham.

Five weeks in Colombia -- and going back again

Jane White reports on her 5 weeks of accompanying persecuted Presbyterians in Colombia to provide some safety. And she’s going back again.  

Presbyterian presence at the September 24 peace rally

The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship invites Presbyterians attending the peace rally in Washington, D.C. to gather at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, 1313 New York Ave. NW, from 8:30 a.m to 10:30 a.m. For information, contact the Rev. Gary Campbell at (240) 505-9613.

More on the rally >>

Coming events of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program

Israel & Palestine: Listening for Peace - October 24-26, Stony Point Center

Vigil and Action to Close the School of the Americas/ WHINSEC - November 18-20 - Fort Benning, GA.  For information on the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship delegation, contact Marilyn White at

Travel/Study Seminar to the World Council of Churches Meeting - February 13-24, 2006 -
Porto Alegre, Brazil

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

Provided by the Rev. W. Mark Koenig, Associate for Resources and Publications,
Presbyterian Peacemaking Program

Reading the Bible Upside Down 

On Saturday morning of the conference, the Rev. Tony Aja, Associate Director for People in Mutual Mission of the Worldwide Ministries Division, led a time of Bible study in which he introduced the group to the idea of reading Scripture from the perspective of the "underside," the people who are marginalized by both their church and their society.

He has kindly shared the text of his presentation, along with the specific passages he used, and the questions he raised about each one.

You may want to try this in a Bible study group in your church, and "turn things upside down" for a while.

... and more on Dancing with God

Cindy Sheehan goes to Washington

Following up on her weeks-long vigil at George W. Bush’s Texas "White House," Cindy Sheehan is going to Washington this week, in advance of the massive demonstration planned for September 24th. She urges others who want peace and honesty, to join her there.

She writes:

It is time for all of us to stand up and be counted: to show the media, Congress, and this inept, corrupt, and criminal administration that we mean business. It is time to get off of our collective behinds to show the people who are running our country into oblivion that we will stand for it no longer. That we want our country back and we want our nation's young people back home, safe and sound, on our shores to help protect America. That it is time for a change in our country's "leadership." That we will never go away until our dreams are reality.

Read the whole thing >>

More on the peace rally in Washington on Sept. 24


Presbyterian Washington Office urges:
Stop U.S. Production of New Antipersonnel Landmines

For the first time in nearly a decade, the Bush Administration is making plans to begin production of a new generation of antipersonnel mines. This initiative would erase many of the positive steps the United States has taken in the past toward banning antipersonnel mines.

Moderator reflects on the human aftermath of Katrina

In a "blog" note posted on Wednesday, Sept. 14, Rick Ufford-Chase reported on the effects of Hurricane Katrina through the eyes of his Vice-Moderator, the Rev. Jean Marie Peacock, who is associate pastor of a congregation in New Orleans.

Not long after his conversations with her, Jean Marie Peacock joined the Witherspoon conference on mission for peace and justice at Stony Point Center. She talked with us freely and movingly about what has been happening in the storm-ravaged Gulf Coast area, and about the many ways Presbyterians are responding to the overwhelming needs there.

Witherspoon board's response to Theological Task Force report

A place at the table is not guaranteed

One of the major concerns expressed by the Witherspoon Society board last week, in responding to the report of the Theological Task Force on the Peace, Unity and Purity of the Church, was that little concern was expressed for including in the process of "discernment" precisely those people most directly affected by the issue of ordination in the Presbyterian Church.

Already a clear example of that problem has come to our attention. While it is not related directly to the Task Force recommendations, this incident reflects the attitudes in our church which would make it difficult – and perhaps dangerous – for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Presbyterians to take part of the conversations. Read the report from MLP >>

Also ...

We've received two more comments on the Witherspoon statement.

More Light Presbyterians announces three regional conferences for Fall 2005

October 21-23, 2005 Louisville, Kentucky

November 4-6, 2005 Ghost Ranch Santa Fe, 401 Old Taos Highway, Santa Fe, NM

November 11-13, 2005 Camp Crestfield-Slippery Rock, PA (Just off Interstate 79-One hour north of Pittsburgh)

More >>

The Rights of Detainees: Who Is Protecting Whom From What?

Princeton theologian George Hunsinger summarizes much of the concern being expressed about continuing U.S. detention and mistreatment of "suspected terrorists." This behavior clearly contravenes U.S. and international law, and is becoming an increasing concern among conservatives as well as moderate and liberal citizens.

He concludes: "Are we still looking at a ‘few bad apples’? Or at the cover-up of a hidden culture (or subculture) of torture? As the Pew Research Center poll suggests, an increasing number of Americans are beginning to ask: Who is protecting whom from what?"

More >>

Presbytery of Twin Cities Area votes strongly for overture to delete B

In the first presbytery vote on a delete-B overture since the PCUSA's Theological Task Force released its widely-criticized report, the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area voted overwhelmingly on September 13 to send a delete-B overture to the 2006 General Assembly. The vote was 103 in favor, 34 opposed (75% in favor) on the delete-B overture, and 101 in favor, 41 opposed on the parallel overture to delete the PCUSA's discriminatory "authoritative interpretation" from the 1970's.

bullet The rest of the story, from More Light Presbyterians >>
bulletThe text of the overture >>
bullet Introduction of the overture >>
More on Dancing with God

We now have the full text of Marian McClure's meditation in the opening worship -- on how God's grace turns us around, and enables us to work for the truest kind of justice.

And we have the text of Philip Wickeri's keynote address on "Ecumenical Mission in an Age of Empire."

Witherspoon board responds to Task Force report

The board of the Witherspoon Society met during our conference at Stony Point, and drafted our official response to the report of the Theological Task Force on the Peace, Unity and Purity of the Church.  The statement expresses appreciation for elements of the report, including the recommendation for a new Authoritative Interpretation, if it were supplemented with an important addition.  The statement expresses strong objections to the proposal for a continued postponement of further action on the full inclusion of all Presbyterians in the life and ministry of our church.

This statement is also available in an easy-to-print PDF file

See a few comments on the statement -- and feel free to add your own!

Mission ... a dance??  Stay with us.  It might work!

Witherspoon mission conference ponders different views of dancing with God -- one great time!

The Witherspoon conference opened with about 75 participants on Friday afternoon, September 9, at the Presbyterian Church’s Stony Point Center, just north of New York City. Focusing on the ways mission provides support for peace and justice in the US and around the globe, a few speakers and many small groups talked and listened and weighed various understandings of the church’s mission, and a wide range of ways that mission can serve the world.

Our first report includes presentations by Marian McClure, director of the Worldwide Ministries Division of the PC(USA), preaching on the roots of mission in the grace of God, and Philip Wickeri, professor at San Francisco Theological Seminary, on the challenges of mission in an age of American empire.

We'll be back soon with more reports, pictures, stories and more. 

Your WebWeaver leaves tomorrow morning for Stony Point, NY, and the Witherspoon mission conference, preceded by a meeting of the Witherspoon executive committee. 

I'll be back here as soon as I can, with reports from our meetings, and lots more.

A late addition:
Are you going to take part in the peace rally in Washington on Sept. 24?

Len Bjorkman, of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, sends this invitation:

For any who are interested in Presbyterians at the Sept. 24 peace rally in Washington, D.C., there will be a gathering at the New York Ave. Presbyterian Church, 1313 New York Ave. NW, from 8:30 a.m to 10:30 a.m., sponsored by the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship. Following conversation
and a prayer service we shall go as a group to the rally. For information, contact the Rev. Gary Campbell, Parish Associate, at (240)505-9613. There will also be other activities at the church that day, related to stopping torture and a recent delegation to Hiroshima.

On Hurricane Katrina
bullet Witherspooners deal with the disaster    

A couple days ago we sent e-mail notes to some Witherspoon Society members in the flood-ravaged states of Louisiana and Mississippi.

Here are replies from two of them, both telling of what is being done for others.

bullet Notes from inside New Orleans  

John Flaherty, an editor of Left Turn Magazine, writes from his experience inside New Orleans – in a refugee camp, talking with rescue workers, police and military people, and more.

He draws a very grim picture, not only of the natural disaster, but of the racism and corruption and government neglect which have made it so much worse.

That All May Freely Serve responds to the Theological Task Force report

Urges continued efforts to remove ordination ban from Book of Order

Their press release begins:

Essential to the work and core values of That All May Freely Serve is the belief that there can be no second-class membership for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) people in the full work and worship of the Presbyterian Church (USA). 

United for a Fair Economy urges citizens to resist efforts to repeal the estate tax (which would benefit millionaires quite nicely) in this time of natural disaster

NOTE:  News reports suggest that the Republican leaders in Congress have decided that this is not the ideal time to call for an end to the estate tax.  But things sometimes change, so it may behoove us to continue to watch this issue.


No millionaire tax cuts during national disasters

We urge you to take urgent action to stop the U.S. Senate from voting on estate tax repeal in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

A devastating hurricane clobbers the Gulf coast. The war in Iraq claims almost 1,900 American lives with no end in sight in both casualties and cost. And red ink flows through both short and long term federal deficit projections.

Yet in the coming days, Senate leaders plan to vote on permanently abolishing the estate tax, America¹s only levy on concentrations of inherited wealth.

They want to end the estate tax despite the fact that a new national poll shows that 59% of Americans from all political parties and incomes favor estate tax reform, while only 29% favor repeal -- a 2-1 ratio.

Please contact your Senator TODAY. You can reach your Senator by calling toll free at 1-800-708-9781 or the U.S. Senate Switchboard at 1-202-224-3121, or find their direct phone at:

The message is: In the face of Hurricane Katrina, it is shocking and inappropriate that Congress would vote for a trillion dollar tax cut for millionaires and billionaires. Vote NO on ESTATE TAX REPEAL. OPPOSE FISCALLY IRRESPONSIBLE COMPROMISES that will GUT the law.

Chuck Collins, Senior Fellow,
Lee Farris, Senior Organizer on Estate Tax Policy, x133,

United for a Fair Economy
29 Winter St.
Boston, MA 02108

For more information >>

On Hurricane Katrina:  Presbyterians and others act to help
bullet Pastors for Peace Organizes Aid Caravan for Louisiana and Mississippi
bullet Two Presbyterian-related colleges offer to receive students whose colleges have been closed by hurricane damage
bulletWe’re passing along the first reports we’ve heard of specific actions by Presbyterians – as congregations or institutions or individuals – to offer help in this crisis. If you’re aware of other such actions, please let us know. Just send a note and we’ll share it here!
New Wineskins revisited

A visitor expresses concern about the New Wineskins gathering, on which we reported in July, 2005.

On Hurricane Katrina

Confronted by a disaster on the scale of Hurricane Katrina, we make no claims to providing "full coverage" of the event.  Rather, we will try to provide you with bits of news and commentary that you might not find in the "major" media.

If you have other items you think we should mention,
or comments of your own,
please send a note,
to be shared here.


Two comments on the flood, focusing on the fact that actions (in the form of federal budgets, wars, tax cuts, etc.) have consequences -- from Molly Ivins and William Rivers Pitt.  More >>


How to help?  Offer housing!


For a little perspective ... This is not the first time.  Gene TeSelle suggests a book about the Great Flood of 1927.  Hmmm.  Do we ever learn? 


Presbyterian officers send "a letter after Hurricane Katrina"

bullet"Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink."
Peter Sawtell looks at the Katrina disaster as an environmentalist and theologian, seeing injustice toward humanity and destruction of the environment as the deep roots of the trouble.  More >>

Michael Moore wonders where the helicopters are.


From yesterday's postings: 
A hymn at the time of Hurricane Katrina

Carolyn Winfrey Gillette has written a hymn of lament and hope, in observance of the terrible damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina.

New biblical and worship resources available for the Campaign for Fair Food

Sunday, Sept. 4, is the day before Labor Day and a great time to involve your congregation in the Campaign for Fair Food.

There are new biblical and worship resources available at to assist in preaching and teaching on the history of the Taco Bell boycott, the ground breaking agreement with the company which was achieved in March, and the next steps in reaching out to other major fast food corporations.

Specifically the Coalition of Immokalee Workers has asked us to write letters to McDonald's, Burger King, and Subway asking them to meet with the CIW and to ensure the human rights of workers in their supply chain. Background and sample letters are available at


The Rev. Noelle Damico, National Coordinator
Campaign for Fair Food
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Tel. 631-751-7076

A hymn at the time of Hurricane Katrina

Carolyn Winfrey Gillette has written a hymn of lament and hope, in observance of the terrible damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina.

We are happy to share it here, thanks to Carolyn Winfrey Gillette and Bruce Gillette -- with their gracious permission for free use of the hymn by churches that support Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.

Network News is here!

The Summer, 2005 issue of Network News is at the printer -- but you can see your copy now, in PDF format.  Read it now >>

It includes comments by Gene TeSelle and Doug King on the report of the Theological Task Force on the Peace, Unity and Purity of the Church; reports on a conference to form a Network of Spiritual Progressives, reports on the Ghost Ranch seminar on "Paths to a Just and Peaceful World," and on Cindy Sheehan's vigil in Crawford, Texas ... and much more!
Adobe PDF  Click here to download (free!) Adobe Reader software to view this and all PDF files.

  Click here for earlier issues

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.

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

Please consider making a special contribution -- large or small -- to help us continue and improve this service.

Click here to send a gift online, using your credit card, through PayPal.

Or send your check, made out to "Presbyterian Voices for Justice" and marked "web site," to our PVJ Treasurer:

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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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