Presbyterian Voices for Justice 

NOTE:  This site is being retired. 
Click here
for our new official website:

Welcome to news and networking for progressive Presbyterians 

Home page Marriage Equality Global & Social concerns    
News of the PC(USA) Immigrant rights Israel & Palestine
U S Politics, 2010-11 Inclusive ordination Wars in Iraq & Afghanistan
Occupy Wall Street The Economic Crisis Other churches, other faiths
    About us         Join us! Health Care Reform Archive
Just for fun Confronting torture Notes from your WebWeaver

What's Where

Our reports about the 219th General Assembly, July 2010

About us

The Winter 2011 issue of
Network News
is posted here
- in Adobe PDF format.

Click here for earlier issues
Adobe PDF  Click here to download (free!) Adobe Reader software to view this and all PDF files.

News of Presbyterian Voices for Justice
How to join us


Coming events calendar 

Do you want to announce an event?
Please send a note!
Food for the spirit
Book notes

Go to


NEWS of the Presbyterian Church

Got news??
Send us a note!
Social and global concerns
The U.S. political scene, 2010-11
The Middle East conflict
Uprising in Egypt
The Economic Crisis
Health Care Reform
Working for inclusive ordination
Peacemaking & international concerns
The Wars in Iraq & Afghanistan
Israel, Palestine, and Gaza
U. S. Politics
Election 2008
Economic justice
Fair Food Campaign
Labor rights
Women's Concerns
Sexual justice
Marriage Equality
Caring for the environment
Immigrant rights
Racial concerns
Church & State
The death penalty
The media
Other churches, other faiths
Do you want regular e-mail updates when stories are added to our web site?
Just send a note!
The WebWeaver's Space
Want books?
Search Now:


Witherspoon's new

Global Engagement Initiative

A report from Israel/Palestine

Small steps toward a just peace

another report from Shannon O’Donnell

Shannon O’Donnell is a Presbyterian Volunteer in Mission, serving in Jerusalem with the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center.     For her earlier reports >>

In this report, Shannon begins:

This past month I’ve had a number of experiences that continue to shape my thoughts, faith, and point of view. I was able to help rebuild some houses that had been destroyed, serve as an Ecumenical Accompanier in Yanoun, and participate in a protest in Bil’in. Each experience taught me something about what it means to work for peace, how to live out my beliefs, how to put actions behind my words, and when to rest within silence.  The rest of the story >>

PC(USA) mission volunteer visits West Bank town of Hebron

"I would rather live in the refugee camp than here"

by Shannon O’Donnell    [3-15-07]

I never imagined I would have such a thought. I was traveling with a group of international participants that Sabeel was hosting for the spring "Witness Visit." We went all over the West Bank, met with mayors, priests, political leaders, and regular people to hear about their current reality.   The rest of her report >>

Also from Shannon O'Donnell:  Meeting the Real Holy Land.

Another recent report from Shannon has been published in Network News, describing her experience at a Palestinian farm and vineyard outside Bethlehem, where she finds a project dedicated to "prepar[ing] young people for a positive contribution to their future and culture by bringing values of understanding and tolerance into their life experience."  Click here for the PDF version of Network News (Winter 2007), and jump to page 5.

Young adults sought for volunteer service both internationally and in the US   [2-5-07]

Doug Baker, who is the PC(USA)’s Regional Liaison for Ireland and UK, has sent this reminder and invitation:

One of the most exciting opportunities the Presbyterian Church USA has for individuals and congregations to become directly involved in mission is the Young Adult Volunteer Program. There are nine international sites (including Northern Ireland) and about an equal number of sites within the US where young adults ages 20-30 can spend 11 months in service and learning. At each site there are at least three YAVS so that they can also form an intentional community for their year, and engage in discipleship training and reflection with a Site Coordinator, who in most cases has been a long-term mission person in that setting. (I am the Site Coordinator for the Northern Ireland program.)

Sadly, most years we have more positions to fill than applicants! Those of us associated with this particular form of mission service, whether in the Louisville offices or on location at each of the sites, can 't believe that there aren't more candidates out there – if they simply knew about this possibility. That is where you come into the picture. Please think seriously about ways to make individuals you know, who might be interested in serving as part of this program, aware of it. I am attaching a description of the Northern Ireland program - not to push candidates toward this one site, but as one example of what is possible. I would encourage you to look yourself at the information on the two PCUSA websites that relate to this program worldwide and then encourage possible candidates to do the same.

Applications need to be submitted by the end of February in most cases, for a selection process which includes phone interviews before a residential placement event in Louisville in mid-April.

There are two PCUSA websites that have information on the YAV program: Go to or, then select "search." Enter a region (or select "any region" depending on how much you care to search), select "full-time," and then "young adult opportunities." Just for the sake of seeing the listings, check "member of a PCUSA congregation."

TO FIND OUT ABOUT BECOMING A YOUNG ADULT VOLUNTEER: you may also contact PCUSA Mission Service Recruitment at 888-728-7228 ext 2530.

A Final place to get great information on this program is by going to and reading some of the letters written by Young Adult Volunteers currently serving in different sites.

Thank you for taking time to explore this program and making others aware of it.

Grace and Peace,

Doug Baker
Regional Liaison for Ireland and UK 

A little Witherspoon note:  A number of recently returned Young Adult Volunteers played very active roles in Witherspoon's "Dancing with God" conference on world mission in September, 2005.  Their contributions to our conversations gave evidence of the wide variety of experiences they had enjoyed, and the deep learning they had done.  We recommend this program with real enthusiasm!

The forgotten elephant in the Middle East

Shannon O’Donnell reflects on her first-hand encounter with the Israeli occupation of Palestine
[received Jan. 5, 2007, posted here on 1-17-07]

There is an elephant in the middle of the Middle East. It gets smaller and smaller with each passing day. It is not officially recognized by the world, although everyone knows about its existence.

What am I talking about? The country in which I now live: Palestine.

I am going to tell you some ugly truths that I have discovered during my time here. Words you probably are not familiar with: "Nakba" and "Occupied Territories."

The rest of her essay >>

bulletShannon O'Donnell is a Presbyterian Volunteer in Mission, serving in occupied Palestine.  The Witherspoon Society is proud to be providing a modest contribution to her support, and she is keeping us informed of what she is learning there.
bulletHer earlier report >>
Witherspoon goes global   [12-20-06]

At our Fall board meeting, held in September at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, the Board of the Witherspoon Society voted to take some concrete steps toward engaging more directly with the big wide world. We adopted as a working title for this project the "Global Engagement Initiative."

As one step in this project we have committed to provide partial support for Shannon O’Donnell, who has recently gone as a Mission Volunteer to serve at the Sabeel Ecumenical and Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem.

We are happy to present more information about this new Witherspoon project, including an introduction by Board member Peter Barnes-Davies, a "report from Jerusalem" by Shannon herself, a statement by Sabeel of its current "points of emphasis," and more.

Click here for a page that will be devoted specifically to our partnership with the PC(USA) in its global mission, through Shannon O’Donnell and Sabeel in Jerusalem.

If you have comments or suggestions about the Global Engagement Initiative,
please let us hear from you.
Just send a note!


Witherspoon goes global by adopting a PC(USA) Mission Volunteer

by Peter Barnes-Davies

At last year’s "Dancing with God" conference at Stony Point, many of us met Wes Wilkinson, a staff person in the Worldwide Ministries Division of the PC(USA). Like myself, Wes was one of several handfuls of people who were excited about the emerging partnership between Witherspoon and Worldwide Ministries. Since the Stony Point conference, Wes contacted Trina Zelle, our co-moderator, to ask a specific question: would the Witherspoon Society be willing to "adopt" a long-term PC(USA) mission volunteer who would start her service in Jerusalem beginning November 2006?

An emphatic "yes!" was our final answer. Witherspoon indeed has "gone global" in this "adoption," and I am personally thankful and overjoyed. I myself served as a Long-Term Mission Volunteer from 1996 - 1999 in Africa, both Burkina Faso and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Indeed, my passion for international service and my commitment to cross-cultural sharing in faith is the primary reason why I joined the ranks of "officers" in the Society.

Given my six years of service with the Worldwide Ministries Division, I hope to encourage further strengthening in the bonds of mutual enrichment between the Society and Worldwide Ministries (realizing, of course, that given current restructuring at our national offices, a new name is being created for what we used to call Worldwide Ministries).

Shannon O’Donnell, our newly "adopted" mission volunteer, herself worked for nine months in the Worldwide Ministries Division. She assisted in the office of the life-changing Young Adult Volunteer Program, a program in which she previously served (from August ’04 to August ’05 in Thailand). Now in fall 2006, Shannon is living and serving at the Sabeel Ecumenical and Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem. She has a two-year term with Sabeel, where she will serve as Assistant to the Director, Rev. Naim Ateek, with a special focus on research assistance. To learn more about Shannon’s work, please read her article here, and look for more articles from her on this page and in Network News

What does it mean precisely that the Witherspoon Society has adopted Shannon as "our" mission volunteer?

For one thing, the board of officers has pledged our financial support to Shannon’s ministry. Through the PC(USA)’s Joining Hearts and Hands campaign, we are giving $100 per month for the entire two years of Shannon’s term of service. Beyond this financial support, we have also pledged to support Shannon - and Sabeel - with our prayers, our gifts of learning, and our capacity for solidarity and just action. Indeed, I believe our "adoption" of Shannon allows us Witherspooners to actively pursue, in one effort, many of the stated mission goals of our organization.

Please join me in giving thanks for this recent expression of the growing partnership between Witherspoon Society and the Worldwide Ministries Division. Please lend your ears, your eyes, your voice, and your prayers to the support of "our" mission volunteer, Shannon O’Donnell. And please give generously to the Society so that we might more faithfully and readily fulfill the pledge of financial resources that we made. In so doing, let us all honor and remember the One who calls us, who sends us, and who sustains us – wherever our place of service may be.

Peter Barnes-Davies is a member at large of the Witherspoon board, and is currently a 4th year M.Div.student at San Francisco Theological Seminary.

Report from Jerusalem

The view near my house in Beit Hanina

by Shannon O’Donnell, Presbyterian Mission Volunteer
[Posted here 12-20-06; written in late November, 2006]

Beginning with Hope

From the generous contributions I received from various sources, including the Witherspoon Society, I have been living and working in Jerusalem for the past month. During my two-year appointment, I will be working at Sabeel. Sabeel is a grassroots organization that advocates for peace with justice and provides an ecumenical ministry within the local Christian community as well as interfaith work between Christians and Muslims. I am the assistant to Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek, the Founder and Director of Sabeel.

I arrived just in time to help with Sabeel's 6th International Conference. This event brought participants from 30 different local and international communities, focusing on the theme of the "Forgotten Faithful," referring to the Palestinian Christians. Jean Zaru, a founding member of Sabeel, was the first keynote speaker. She began by stating:

These are very hard days in Palestine. The settlement expansion and the construction of the Wall continue unabated. International law and UN resolutions sit collecting dust. While the political landscape has changed dramatically and global powers maneuver a response, humanitarian aid and military violence against civilians is used like a playing card without regard to ordinary families struggling to secure their daily bread.

During such times as these, it is necessary to name the atrocities, to name our individual and collective pain. For it often goes unheard. Voicing it always includes risk but is nonetheless crucial, for with the cry of pain begins the formation of a counter community around an alternative perception of reality. Thus, the act of crying out and groaning is at once an act of subversion and an act of hope.

Jean is a Palestinian woman living under Israeli military rule and at the same time found herself in a traditional culture. Her life has been devoted to the struggle for liberation—for Palestinians, for women, and for all peoples. She has done this through her work in her own community and internationally. For many years, Jean taught religion and ethics at the Friends Schools in Ramallah.

This collage has been created by the people of Sabeel to represent their people, their situation, and their mission.

Finding Justice, furthering Hope

Most of my work during the conference was with the local and international volunteers. They came early, worked hard, and stayed late to do all the little things that it takes to pull off a big event such as this. This was a traveling conference, beginning in Jerusalem, moving on to Jericho, to Ramallah, to Nazareth, and ending in Galilee.

The international volunteers were chosen based on their previous work experience in the region. Several had participated in the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program, an initiative of the World Council of Churches to monitor and report violations of human rights. It is a program developed as a response to Israel's violation of internationally accepted norms and principles of human rights based on the Geneva Convention and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Ian Alexander, from the UK, was a volunteer who spent this past summer working with the Accompaniment Program and came to help with the conference. Regarding his experience this summer, Ian wrote:

Israel is a state, and no state should be above the law, even when it is born out of tragic circumstances. There is a huge injustice being committed which only the end of occupation can begin to redress. Justice is the guiding light and is applicable to Israeli and Palestinian alike. The central injustice here for this moment in history is occupation and until it ends there can be no true peace for Israel, for Palestine, or for the region.

Eric Fistler, from the U.S., was in the same Program and spent his summer in Bethlehem. Eric also came to volunteer with the conference. Of his time observing despair at the checkpoints, Eric wrote:

Despair stems from a variety of sources. The first is the extreme difficulty, if not the impossibility, to visit Jerusalem. Two men whom I see regularly at Checkpoint 300 (the only passage for Southern West Bank residents to travel to Jerusalem) are lucky enough to receive work permits which allow them to be in Jerusalem from 5 am until 7 pm. Unfortunately, their families have not been able to visit Jerusalem in two years -- not for Easter, not for shopping, not to see relatives. Jerusalem remains the major commercial center for the West Bank and thus restricted access to Jerusalem, means restriction. Not only restricted access to holy sites and family, but also to basic shopping and commercial needs and desires.

Despite all of this, my spirit remains hopeful, for God is indeed still at work here. In Bethlehem there has been a growing non-violent protest movement built on the examples of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. The spirits of the prophets of old and the Prince of Peace are still alive in this Holy Land working continually and non-violently to create not only a just peace, but reconciliation as well.

These movements are working to bring about the dream of many: a dream of reconciliation and peaceful co-habitation in which the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual security of all—Palestinians and Israelis—is achieved.

If I had read or heard these things from Jean, Ian, and Eric prior to my arrival to Jerusalem, I don't think I would have been able to understand what they mean. There is something valuable about being here. To hear and see the Wall being built less than a block from my apartment. Seeing young and old people sneak through the gap in the barbed-wire fence, where the Wall will soon be built, just to get into the city. I see the injustice, and already I have come to view it as "just how things are here." I suspect that is a coping mechanism, a way to rationalize the injustice I will never understand.

I have a lot of learning and listening to do during my time here. I hope to hear the stories of the older people, to hear how things used to be. To hear the dreams of the younger people, to see what they think their future will be. And I also hope to learn to read, write, and speak Arabic! All of this will take time, and I look forward to the next two years in this place people refer to as the Holy Land.

May God's Peace fill this Land,

Shannon O'Donnell
Mission Volunteer in Jerusalem

What is Sabeel?

First, their full name is the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center. And they have explained the major elements of their identity and mission in a statement adopted at their 6thInternational Conference in Jerusalem, November 2-9, 2006

For the full statement >>

Here is an excerpt:

Sabeel’s 6th International Conference Statement (2006)


1. The Palestinian Christians are the descendants of the first community of believers who loved, believed in, and followed Jesus Christ. From the beginning they were a mixture of many ethnic and racial groups but all became members of the One Body of Christ, the Church.

2. In spite of the vicissitudes of history, they have maintained their faith in Christ during the last 2000 years amidst excruciating circumstances and in spite of the religious and political upheavals. Yet they have preserved the beautiful mosaic of their rich liturgical traditions and continue to bear witness. In order to strengthen the Christian presence and witness, it is mandatory, therefore, for Palestinian Christians to work together ecumenically. The hierarchies of the churches have a great responsibility to rise above denominationalism and commit themselves to nourishing closer bonds of love and acceptance among themselves.

3. Due to political and economic instability, many Palestinian Christians have been emigrating to the West. Internal as well as external factors have undermined their presence. Those who are in the Holy Land today make up less than 2% of the population.

4. Palestinian Christians are an integral part of the Palestinian people. They share the same aspirations and destiny as their Muslim sisters and brothers. All Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have been living under an illegal Israeli occupation for almost 40 years. With many peace-loving people from around the world, whether faith-based or secular, Muslims and Christians continue to work for the end of the Israeli occupation and the establishment of a viable, independent and sovereign state in Palestine.

5. The Israeli Arab community – Christian and Muslim – continues to struggle for total equality with its Jewish counterpart. The obstacle, however, is the nature of the state of Israel. It is a Jewish state and not a state for all its citizens. Therefore, the struggle will continue until total equality is achieved.

6. Participants also observed the daily suffering of Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and were acutely aware of the plight of Gazans, about 80 of whom (half of them civilians) were killed during the week of the conference. Conference participants were shocked by news of the Israeli army attack on an apartment building in Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip that resulted in the deaths of 19 civilians, primarily women and children. Moreover, during the conference day in Bethlehem, participants were unable to visit the Church of Nativity or to view the Wall in central Bethlehem because of funerals being held for 2 Palestinians who had been killed and had their family homes demolished by the Israeli army. Special prayers were raised for the victims and their families.

7. It was clear to participants that Palestinians and Israelis – Christians, Muslims, and Jews can live together in peace. The greatest obstacle to genuine reconciliation, however, stems from Israel's refusal to accept Palestinian rights to a state of their own within the 1967 borders, i.e. all of the West Bank including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. The conference called for strong response against the Israeli government policies of confiscation of Palestinian land in the West Bank, building and expanding of settlements, the presence of hundreds of checkpoints, and the building of the segregation Wall which separates Palestinians from Palestinians and takes their land and water. All these measures are eroding the possibility of the two state solution to the conflict.

8. Such obstacles to peace must be actively resisted both locally and internationally through nonviolent methods like boycotts and Morally Responsible Investment. Moreover, international sanctions that make life untenable for people in the occupied territories must be immediately lifted.

9. Palestinian Christians have a mandate from Christ to be salt of the earth and light of the world. They have a vocation to remain in the land and maintain a prophetic voice for justice, peace, and reconciliation.

More on conflict and peacemaking in the Middle East    [12-20-06]

For excellent background material on the situation in Israel and Palestine, and the wider Middle East, the most recent issue of Church & Society is just what you’ll want. With the title "To All the Children of Abraham: A Call for Peace in the Middle East," the July/August issue offers "visions of peace" from a Palestinian Christian, an American Muslim and an American Jew, along with a wide variety of views and statements on the conflict between Israel, Lebanon and Hizbollah.

You can order this issue (and other back issues) from Presbyterian Distribution Service, 100 Witherspoon Street, Louisville, KY 40202-1396. Call (800) 524-2612; FAX (502) 569-8030. Use the PresbyNet inbox PDS Orders, or go through the Church & Society website to the Marketplace: The PDS order number is 72-431-06-606. Single copies are $3.00; 10 or more are $2.50, plus shipping and handling.

Even as we rejoice in the rich resources offered for many years by Church & Society, we lament its cloudy future as a result of the cuts in staff and programs in the General Assembly agencies of our church. Various people are seeking ways to continue its mission of providing resources on Presbyterian concerns for peace and justice, and you may be sure that the Witherspoon Society will support them in any way it can. If you have ideas, we’d like to hear from you!

Thanks for Witherspoon’s global engagement initiative    [1-2-07]

Dear Doug King:

Congratulations on the new Global Engagement program ! I attended a Sabeel Conference in Denver last fall, and have become an ardent supporter of their work. I'm glad Presbyterians are supporting them and giving them wider publicity ... their voice needs to be heard!

Hallelujah! God Bless!

Dorothy Stevenson

If you have comments about this Witherspoon initiative,
please send us a note!


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.


John Shuck’s new "Religion for Life" website

Long-time and stimulating blogger John Shuck, a Presbyterian minister currently serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tenn., writes about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and lightening up.

Click here for his blog posts.

Click here for podcasts of his radio program, which "explores the intersection of religion, social justice and public life."


John Harris’ Summit to Shore blogspot

Theological and philosophical reflections on everything between summit to shore, including kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology, 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.


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.


Got more blogs to recommend?

Please send a note, and we'll see what we can do!


To top

© 2012 by Presbyterian Voices for Justice.  All material on this site is the responsibility of the WebWeaver unless other sources are acknowledged.  Unless otherwise noted, material on this site may be copied for personal use and sharing in small groups.  For permission to reproduce material for wider publication, please contact the WebWeaver, Doug King.  Any material reached by links on this site is outside the control and responsibility of the WebWeaver and Presbyterian Voices for Justice.  Questions or comments?  Please send a note!