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Archives:  January 2006

This page lists reports and commentary from all of January, 2006

All postings from
February, 2007
January, 2007

December, 2006
November, 2006
October, 2006
September, 2006
August, 2006
July, 2006
June, 2006
May, 2006

April, 2006
March, 2006
February, 2006
 January, 2006

Our coverage of the 2006 General Assembly is indexed on a special page.
For links to earlier archive pages, click here.

Human rights advocates face six months in prison for civil disobedience opposing controversial U.S. Army training school

Trials begin in Columbus, Georgia on Monday, January 30; grandmother, priests, retirees, nun, students among those prosecuted

On Monday, January 30 thirty-two people ranging in age from 19 to 81 will begin federal trials for peacefully walking onto a military base in protest of a controversial Army training school. Each person faces up to six months in prison and a $5,000 fine for this act of nonviolent civil disobedience.   The rest of the story >>

The Heartland overture 

Here (at last -- sorry!) is the full text of the first of the overtures being sent to the General Assembly to "delete B" and provide a new Authoritative Interpretation that would eliminate earlier official statements condemning same-sex relationships as a bar to ordination.

For this overture, plus the text of all the concurring overtures (many with distinctive rationales), go to the PC(USA) web site.

Washington Office provides a Biblical & Theological Perspective

Along with the numerous surveys of the "outlook for 2006" in various areas of social concern, the Presbyterian Washington Office has just published a paper offering a theological reflectionon why it is important for people of faith to be engaged in the issues facing us as members of a greater society. How should faith shape our public, social and political actions? This Biblical & Theological Perspectives, entitled "Through the Work of Our Hands and the Meditation of Our Hearts: Defining Spirituality for Contemporary Justice Seekers," was written by Dr. Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty. A Presbyterian minister, she is now a member of the theology faculty at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky.

The full paper >>

That All May Freely Serve National Conference

March 16-March 19, 2006
Calvin Center, Hampton GA

[from That All May Freely Serve]

Called by the life and teachings of Jesus, compelled by our faith and charged by our conscience, we advocate for an inclusive church that honors diversity and welcomes lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons as full members. Full membership includes eligibility for ordination to the offices of elder, deacon, and pastor.

That All May Freely Serve invites our regional partners, allies, friends, and families from around the country to a national gathering hosted by TAMFS-South at the Calvin Center in Hampton, GA, approximately 45 minutes south of Atlanta.

For more information, a conference schedule, and to register online visit our web site.
Questions? Send a note to

Two more presbyteries support overtures for inclusive ordination

Last Saturday, January 21, the Presbytery of the Redwoods concurred with the Heartland ordination overture by 64-16. The presbytery also concurred with the Santa Fe overture to amend the Rules of Discipline restricting the filing of accusations from those outside the bounds of a presbytery and that vote concurring with Santa Fe was 73-7.

And on January 27, the Presbytery de Cristo in southern Arizona approved a concurrence overture from the Session of St. Mark's Presbyterian Church, Tucson, by a vote of 48 to 38.

Adee states his belief that a total of 20 overtures have now gained approval in presbyteries, seeking to remove barriers to ordination for lgbt Presbyterians.

Thanks to Lisa Larges, Regional Partnership Coordinator of That All May Freely Serve, and Michael Adee, National Field Organizer for More Light Presbyterians, for these reports.

Presbyterians Today reports on the No2Torture conference

Conference organizer Carol Wickersham writes:

Please check out the lead story in Presbyterians Today by Evan Silverstein. He has done a remarkable job of giving a sense of the content, process and intent of the meeting. All of the presenters are quoted! It was wonderful to have a mighty group of 50, but now the word has gone out to thousands more.

So let us keep the faith and keep building the momentum,


Read the article and see the photos >>

5 Reasons Torture is always Wrong
And why there should be no exceptions.

Christianity Today Magazine has published a lengthy article by David P. Gushee, professor of moral philosophy at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, considers carefully the US administration’s efforts since 9/11 to justify its interrogation techniques as something other than torture. Perhaps "torture lite"??

But he concludes that for five very basic reasons, Christians must say No to torture – lite or regular:

bulletTorture violates the dignity of the human being
bulletTorture mistreats the vulnerable and violates the demands of justice.
bulletAuthorizing torture trusts government too much.
bulletTorture dehumanizes the torturer.
bulletTorture erodes the character of the nation that tortures.

The article >>                        A longer version of this essay >>

Reminder from the Washington Office of the Presbyterian Church (USA)

Register for Ecumenical Advocacy Days

What would a faithful vision of global security look like?
Come find out. . .
March 10-13, 2006
Washington, DC

Challenging Disparity: The Promise of God The Power of Solidarity

For general information on the conference >>

You are invited to attend the

Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice
March 10-13, 2006
Washington, DC

In a world awash with conventional and nuclear weapons, where groups, nations, and individuals resort to acts of terror, how do we develop policies that will make the U.S. and all of the nations of the world more secure? This track will explore that question.

Building on the momentum of the successful effort in 2005 to stop the nuclear bunker buster, the track will focus on responding to U.S. policies on nuclear weapons. Issues related to the use of torture by the U.S. will also be considered. The track will also examine the war in Iraq with the Middle East track and consider how overcoming hunger and poverty might enhance national and global security.

Together we will explore ways that Christians can organize in our communities to address issues related to global security.

Details on the Global Security track >>

Registration >>

Registration Fee: $140 (includes lunches and Sunday banquet). Student scholarships are available.

Hotel rooms are available at the conference site, the Doubletree Hotel Crystal City. Reserve by Feb. 9 for the discounted rate of $99 per room (same rate for 1 to 4 people/room).

Presbyterian Washington Office presents the "outlook for 2006" on many issues of concern

These are very helpful resources for anyone who wants to understand, and perhaps have some impact on, legislation and policies in Washington.

Each topic is listed here, along with the headline on that document.  Click on each topic to jump to that document.

Making the Crucial Connection between Land Deprivation and Extreme Poverty

Civil Rights & Religious Liberties
Congress to Look at Immigration Reform, Domestic Spying and Voting Rights

Ecology & Environment
Legislative Progress Unlikely, though Midterm Elections May Provide Needed Attention

Global Security
Can the United States Rebuild Global Trust?

Health Care
Uninsured Americans Increase, as Congress Struggles with Budget and Cuts in Health Funding

Hunger & Human Needs
Congress Pursues Tax Cuts and Moves toward Slashing $40 Billion from Domestic Programs

Latin America
Challenges from the Left, as the U.S. Goes Deeper in Colombia, and Ponders Mexican Security Fence

Middle East
Pivotal Year for Israelis and Palestinians as Bush Administration Struggles with Iraq, Syria and Iran

Women & Families
Reproductive Rights, Trafficking and Public Education at Top of This Year's Agenda

Looking back to look ahead:
The Civil Rights movement
with a special look at Birmingham

Witherspoon’s Issues Analyst, Gene TeSelle, has gathered good materials for background reading on the civil rights movement, and presents some books that relate especially to Birmingham. So before many of us head for Birmingham and the 217th General Assembly in Birmingham, you may want to dip into some of these as a way to experience the city with new depth.

A Song of Empire

How about a little poetry?  Not a cautionary tale, exactly, but a little cautionary verse for American empire-builders. 

It begins:

Oh, sing a song of Empire great;
Our country right or wrong!
We’ll sing a song of Empire great;
We’ll be forever strong!

The rest of the poem >>

Insights from the mega-church world

Brian Cave, a student at Union Theological Seminary, New York, has sent a note about a book on "seeker churches," otherwise known as mega-churches, and the insights they may offer into ways that churches can understand and relate to the changing culture of our time.  It is Seeker Churches, by Kimon Howland Sargeant.    More -- including interesting quotes >>

A way to support those excluded from ordination 

Lynne Reade has been a Ruling Elder in the Presbyterian Church for almost 40 years.  On January 15 she was granted her request to her Session that she be released form the exercise of ordained office, to stand in solidarity with all those faithful Presbyterians who are excluded from ordination because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Read her statement >>
Copy her application for release to use if you choose to take the same action >>

Add your name in opposing torture
Princeton statement now open for signatures.

The statement originally issued with the title "The Soul of Our Nation Is at Stake: Religious Voices Opposing Torture," has now been posted on a new website, and those who support its opposition to torture in the name of faith in God, are invited to add their signatures and support to the declaration. It now has a new title: "Torture Is A Moral Issue: A Statement of the National Religious Campaign against Torture."

You can read the text of the declaration on our website, or click here to go to the new site of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture.  Scroll to the bottom of the page to add your name.

The statement is also available in PDF format.

A report on the conference from Carol Wickersham  >>

Presbytery of Boston passes ordination overture to remove barriers to full membership & ministry for LGBT persons and their families    [1-24-06]

With an appeal from the Gospel of Matthew, the Presbytery of Boston has approved a Delete-B/Remove AI overture calling for an end to discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Presbyterians.   Michael Adee, National Organizer of More Light Presbyterians, estimates this is the eighteenth presbytery approving an ordination overture to the General Assembly in Birmingham.

More, including the text of the overture >>

Urgent Alert   

Washington Office of the Presbyterian Church (USA)

PresbyAction Network: One Final Chance to Stop Budget Cuts and TANF Changes -- Call Your Rep This Week   

In December, the House voted 212-206 and the Senate voted 51-50 (with Vice President Vice President Cheney casting the tie-breaking vote) to pass a budget reconciliation spending reduction package (S 1932) that would cut more than $39 billion over five years from programs affecting low- and moderate-income people. However, the Senate passed a version slightly different than the House, so the House must pass the Senate version before the legislation can go to the President for signature.

The House is expected to vote on these budget cuts on February 1, so you have one more chance to contact your Representative and urge that they vote NO on the budget package that would severely impact those most in need in our nation.     Details and suggestions for action >>

Signers sought for a Women’s Call for Peace

Anuradha Mittal, of the Oakland Institute, sends this note:

I am one of the initial endorsers of this exciting new campaign: Women Say No To War! From now until March 8, International Women's Day, we will be gathering over 100,000 signatures on the Urgent Call for Peace in Iraq (below). On March 8, we will deliver the signatures to the UN, U.S. embassies, consulates, and federal offices all over the world. This is your opportunity to unite with international women everywhere, and voice our opposition to the illegal war in Iraq.   

(PLEASE NOTE: Men in solidarity with 'WOMEN SAY NO TO WAR' are invited to join us! )

The text of the Call for Peace, and links to add your name >>

Why Is Religion so Violent?

Gene TeSelle, Witherspoon’s Issues Analyst, offers a quick tour of about a dozen books that explore the connections, so much discussed these days in relation to Islamism, between religion and violence. They offer a variety of understandings that may help us seek ways to expand the peaceful potential of religious faith, and to defuse the impulses to violence.   The full article >>

Another source for progressive, non-violent hymns
Bill LeMosy adds this suggestion:

One source for non-bloody hymns is Worship in the Spirit of Jesus: Theology, Liturgy and Songs Without Violence. It's by Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer and Bret Hesla. Mr. Hesla contributed some interesting new hymns along with piano (and guitar chords for some) accompaniment. 
To see details and to order >>

You Know You’re Living In 2006 When...

1. You accidentally enter your password on the microwave.
2. You forgot how to play solitaire with real cards.
3. You have a list of 15 phone numbers to reach your family of three.

The rest of the list >>

Ghost Ranch registration forms are now online

The Seminar page will provide you with links to the full catalog, and links to separate registration forms for the Abiquiu campus and the Santa Fe campus.

Princeton conference on torture: disturbing and energizing, with  the rich diversity of "an amazing coalition"

Carol Wickersham, who initiated the No2Torture group within the Presbyterian Church, offers this report on the conference held January 13-15, 2006, at Princeton Seminary. 


PBS offered this report on the Princeton conference
Taking on Torture

More than 100 Christian, Muslim, and Jewish religious leaders and thinkers met this month at Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey to try to take a more public and more vigorous lead in the debate on U.S. use of torture in the war on terrorism.   
More >>
Presbytery of the James will be asked to affirm "call to say no to torture"
Reports from Miami witness against torture 

Organizers of the Miami Witness against Torture, held January 5-6, are posting more of the presentations, worship materials, and group reports.  Details and links >>

Amnesty International Launches 'Tell the Truth About Torture, Mr. President'   

Campaign urges full, honest disclosure of U.S. acts of torture during State of the Union Address.   For details and to sign petition >>

Bush urged to specify U.S. policy on torture

Retired military leaders express concern after the president made ambiguous remarks on the new ban last month.

A group of retired military officers urged President Bush on Thursday [January 19, 2006] to spell out how he would enforce a ban on the torture of U.S.-held prisoners, complaining that he muddied the issue in a statement last month that some experts said signaled he would bypass rules for treatment of detainees when he saw fit, even after he signed them into law.

Bush reluctantly accepted the ban, pushed by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), after scandals over abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, harsh interrogations at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and reports that the CIA ran secret prisons abroad to hold terrorism suspects.

Retired military leaders, including Marine Gen. Joseph P. Hoar, who was commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, said Bush should clarify his stance after his statement last month.

Read a Reuters report in the L. A. Times >>

SOA Watch urges: Be a part of the 2006 Legislative Campaign

They also call for support for anti-SOA activists as they are taken to court and sent to prison for their stand     Details >>

Amos prophesies against torture

Matthew R. Schlimm, of Duke University, has published a very good article in the Society of Biblical Literature Forum, on "Teaching the Hebrew Bible amid the Current Human Rights Crisis: The Opportunities Presented by Amos 1:3-2:3."

Acknowledging that "these oracles do not delineate a developed doctrine of human rights in times of war," nevertheless Schlimm shows how "each of Amos' six oracles against the nations condemns war crimes broadly understood as inhumane actions committed in times of violence. Each crime that Amos focuses on would be deemed, at least by today's standards, a crime against humanity and a severe human rights violation."

The full article >>

Thanks to Terri Brink, on the e-list of No2Torture

To join the No2Torture e-list >>

Bechtel vs. Bolivia: The People Win!!

We have reported earlier on the efforts of US multinationals to gain private control of water supplies, especially in Latin America. A major struggle has gone on in Bolivia, where Bechtel Corporation has worked for six years, with the help of the World Bank, to take control of the water supply in the city of Cochabamba.

On January 19, 2006, Jim Shultz of The Democracy Center ("Helping people build democracy from the ground up"), reports:

The Cochabamba water revolt which began exactly six years ago this month will end this morning when Bechtel, one of the world's most powerful corporations, formally abandons its legal effort to take $50 million from the Bolivian people. Bechtel made that demand before a secretive trade court operated by the World Bank, the same institution that coerced Bolivia to privatize the water to begin with. Faced with protests, barrages of e-mails, visits to their homes, and years of damaging press, Bechtel executives finally decided to surrender, walking away with a token payment equal to thirty cents. That retreat sets a huge global precedent.

Details and background >>

A Policy of Collateral Damage
A troop drawdown in Iraq could mean more civilian casualties

The January 13 air attack on a Pakistani village, which killed many civilians and perhaps a few al-Qaida members, illustrates the United States' policy of bombing from the sky and letting the chips (and bodies) fall where they may. As Seymour Hersh reports in The New Yorker, the US military now seems to be relying on drawing down troop numbers on the ground while shifting focus to its air assault capabilities.

Nick Rose provides a good summary of this issue, and links to many reports and analyses, in Utne Webwatch.

Lobbying reform proposals put forward by House Republican and Democratic congressional leaders are "reform lite"

Statement of Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook:

The lobbying reform proposals put forward by both Republican and Democratic leaders to curb influence-peddling abuses in Washington appear to get at some of the most obvious and outrageous abuses perpetrated by felon and former super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. But they fail to reach the heart of the problem - the influence of special interest money in politics.   More >>

The meltdown of the middle class

by Jerry M. Landay, a former CBS News correspondent and journalism professor, who writes now for Media Transparency, which reports on "the money behind conservative media."

His report begins:

"There's bankruptcy and there's bankruptcy. We learn that in 2005, more than two million Americans filed for bankruptcy -- one in every 53 American households -- many having fallen prey to excessive medical costs, and/or maxed out on their credit cards. It's the highest number of bankruptcies on record. It coincided with Congressional passage of legislation misleadingly labeled The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Law. ... Now, many Americans may never escape the clutches of indebtedness."

This, he says, is part of a larger trend, "in which the gulf between the privileged management class and the rest of us grows wider and wider, in which a new corporate aristocracy will preside over ever more impoverished proles, a destructive socioeconomic process in which the middle class merges into the underclass. ... The middle class has been the architect and maintainer of a healthy democracy -- well educated, informed, aware. It works hard, the living symbol of upward mobility, a place you can always reach if you try. Out of the great middle class came the potent activist concern for equal opportunity, the defense of the poor and needy, and enlightened justice.

"But the middle class in America is eroding as the national wealth is shifted upward. It's getting tougher to hold onto jobs headed overseas, to afford suitable housing, to meet escalating bills for energy, medical care, education, food and transportation."

The rest of the story >>

With thanks to author Jerry M. Landay and to

A new Witherspooner comes in from the cold. Or rather the desert heat.

We received this note on January 17. We invite YOU to follow Barbara Howard’s fine example, and join us!

Dear Doug King,

I am a 75 yr old that has just discovered the Witherspoon Society! Where in the world was I all these years you may ask -- I was born and raised here and have spent my life in Houston, Texas, most of it as a Baptist. When I became a Democrat I found the Presbyterian Church USA and the more liberal and progressive I became, I found a few like minded souls. One of these friends goes to the same church I do, his name is Charles Stogner, and he gave me one of your publications.

Now the sad part is I live on Social security and can't afford to join even though I would so much like to.

However I wanted you to know how thankful I am to know that your publication exist and you are associated with the PCUSA. My church is Westminster Presbyterian Church in Houston, Texas. Thank you for keeping up the good work and sending out much needed information to those of us surrounded by the "Bush dogma." It's like a drink of cool water in the desert. We need to step up as Christians and take back the values we have allowed to be so shamefully used by the right wing. I applaud you and I believe our spiritual crisis is real; you are my heroes!


Barbara Howard
Houston, Texas

A little note: We’ve added Ms. Howard to our membership list with a complimentary membership for 2006. We’re glad she’s with us! And we’ll welcome YOU, too.

Get more information about us  >>                  Join us online! >>

Update from the Washington Office, Presbyterian Church (USA)

Register for Ecumenical Advocacy Days. Space Is Limited!

In 2005 more than 900 persons from at least 26 denominations gathered in Washington, D.C. and participated in workshops, training and advocacy for international and domestic social justice issues. The March 10-13 event promises to be bigger and better. Advocacy Days 2006 will include:
Major speakers
Enlivening Ecumenical Worship
Networking Opportunities
Chance to advocate with your members of Congress
Bring your faith values into the public square
Fun and more

March 2006 represents the early stage in many of the mid-term House and Senate campaigns. Your advocacy will be invaluable in helping to insure that issues of justice for persons who are poor are not ignored. Check for updates, or e-mail

Human Rights Watch says U.S. has a strategy of torture

The Bush administration has a deliberate strategy of abusing terror suspects during interrogations, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday in its annual report on the treatment of people in more than 70 countries.

The human rights group based its conclusions mostly on statements by senior administration officials in the past year, and said President Bush's reassurances that the United States does not torture suspects were deceptive and rang hollow.

''In 2005 it became disturbingly clear that the abuse of detainees had become a deliberate, central part of the Bush administration's strategy of interrogating terrorist suspects,'' the report said.

The rest of the story

On >>

in the New York Times >>


We have just posted an updated version of the declaration from the Conference on Human Rights and Torture, with some added signatures, including that of PC(USA) Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase  

NOTE:  Organizers of the conference are planning to publicize this statement widely in religious and secular publications, seeking many more signatures in the hope of gaining the attention of political decision-makers. They will begin this as soon as the Internet facilities can be set up – so keep watch!

Extremism too close for comfort

Death threats forced a Presbyterian-related conference center in Florida to shut its doors briefly last month and to cancel a scheduled youth-leadership event for a Muslim group that was forced to meet in a secret location.    More >>

A national conference on progressive Christianity starts January 24 in Berkeley

The 105th annual Earl Lectures of Pacific School of Religion will focus on the meaning and potential of progressive Christianity at a time when public discourse is dominated by the Christian right. The lectures carry the general title of "Gathering the Beloved Community: Voices of Faith for the Public Square" and will take place January 24-26, 2006, in Berkeley.

Featured lecturers and preachers are James Forbes, senior minister at The Riverside Church in New York City; media and religion scholar Diane Winston; feminist theologian Kwok Pui Lan; Holocaust scholar Hubert Locke; and Delwin Brown, dean emeritus of the host Pacific School of Religion. The lectures and worship services are free and open to the public.

For more information, click here or call 510/849-8274 or 800/999-058.

Late bulletin --

The Golden Globe awards offer reasons for celebration..
Certainly we can celebrate the fact that "Brokeback Mountain" won the Golden Globe award for Best Motion Picture Drama, with its moving portrayal of love between two cowboys, and the terrible price they and others paid for that love because of society’s prejudices. But there’s more. After all, how many Presbyterian organizations have Golden Globe-winning movie stars named after them?

More >>

Conference on Torture draws 165 religious leaders

This note is from the Rev. Robert Moore, Executive Director of the Coalition for Peace Action &
Peace Action Education Fund.

First, see links below to excellent press coverage of this weekend's Conference on Torture, attended by 165 religious leaders from across the US, which launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. I'm especially pleased that The Trentonian, a very conservative newspaper, featured photos and quotes about our Conference on Sunday's entire front page and most of the third page! Unfortunately, the first link below only has the story, but it was tremendous coverage aimed at a constituency we hope to reach on this issue! News 12 New Jersey television also covered the event.  The Trenton Times >>

Featured speakers included Ray McGovern, creator of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, who served as a CIA analyst for 27 years; Retired General Richard O'Meara, and James Yee, a former Muslim chaplain at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, who was arrested, charged with espionage and treated like the "enemy," until charges against him were dropeed and he received an honorable discharge.    The Trentonian >>

In this report Ray McGovern is quoted as saying of torture: "It’s not wrong because it’s condemned by law. It’s condemned by law because it’s wrong." When asked if he gave any weight to the argument that torture tactics are necessary in today’s "war on terrorism" because it’s a new kind of war, McGovern answered immediately, "No weight at all. Torture is terrorism."

A note from your WebWeaver: We will soon have a report from three members of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship who participated in this event. One of them described her experience there as "mind-blowing .... high-power ... stunning." So we gather it was pretty good.

Also -- don't miss "THE SOUL OF OUR NATION IS AT STAKE," the declaration adopted by supporters of the conference.

MLP publishes a new educational resource on Biblical views of sexuality & homosexuality

The Rev. Barbara Swartzel Anderson, PCUSA clergywoman and pastor, has written a new education resource that Michael Adee, National Field Organizer of More Light Presbyterians, recommends for us by individuals, congregations, youth groups, campus ministries, seminary communities and MLP chapters.

We are happy to post the full text here. Adee adds that "you can copy this for your use. Please know that this educational resource is copyrighted by the author and generously being shared with MLP by her."

Adee also says, "Please do circulate and share this new educational resource. It could be very helpful to persons who seek "more light" on what the Bible says and does not say about human sexuality, marriage, homosexuality, same-sex relationships and same-sex love, hospitality, and what it means to be family and to be the Church."

For more educational resources go to

US Empire wins ... respect??

The government of Venezuela, gaining financially from its large oil production and sales, has gone shopping for weapons, like any good modern nation.

Pres. Hugo Chavez wants to buy 12 planes (transports and surveillance planes) from Spain. The US has refused to grant an export license to Spain, since the planes contain US technology.

So Pres. Chavez has said he might stop selling oil to the US (about 15% of US energy imports). Spain meanwhile has agreed to sell the planes anyway, simply removing the taboo US parts and replacing them with parts from European sources.

And so our power grows. Or, ummm ...


On Chavez’ seeking the planes, and threatening to stop selling oil >>

On Spain’s readiness to work around the US objections >>


"The Soul of our Nation is at Stake" -- religious leaders speak out against torture  

The Conference on Human Rights and Torture, held this weekend at Princeton, has issued a declaration endorsed by many participants and other supports of the event.

It begins:

Torture violates the basic dignity of the human person that all religions hold dear. It degrades everyone involved -- policy-makers, perpetrators and victims. It contradicts our nation's most cherished ideals. Any policies that permit torture and inhumane treatment are shocking and morally intolerable.

It also expresses concern over the President's statement, as he signed the McCain amendment reaffirming the ban of torture, that he believes he is not bound by this restriction.

The full statement >>

Cincinnati Presbytery passes overture to amend 1978 GA Policy Statement on homosexuality - a call from the Midwest for change! 

Today the Cincinnati Presbytery has sent an overture to the GA that would seek to delete seven of the most insulting statements in the GA's 1978 Policy on Homosexuality.  The vote was 79 to 74 with 4 abstentions.    Three reports, plus the text of the overture >>

The Martin Luther King you don't see 

Witherspooner Dwight Lawton calls our attention to the fact that as we remember and honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we hear much about his ringing calls for civil rights, but little about what may be his most challenging calls, toward the end of his life, for economic justice and for peace.  And, he says, it seems just as true today, "with most mass media, Congress and the White House still accepting the perpetuation of poverty."

Faithful America urges:
EVERYONE Deserves a Living Wage   

This Sunday, had Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lived, he would celebrate his 77th birthday. If he were here today he would no doubt be asking YOU - as a person of faith and conscience - to stand with him in a cause for which he was passionate - a living wage for all workers.

We need you help organize a prayerful and meaningful event in your faith community that enables you and those in your circle of concern to help move local, state, and federal government officials toward a just, compassionate, and appropriate living wage.

Theological Task Force members in their own words

The Theological Task Force on Peace, Unity and Purity has spoken collectively in its final report. Presbyweb has offered to post an op-ed article by the members individually. They are posting the 16 articles they have received in alphabetical order, one or two at a time.

Why I support the Task Force report by P. Mark Achtemeier
"...In short, I support the task force report because I am convinced it represents a step toward a more faithful, truthful, and sustainable way of working through our differences as we seek together to be the one body of Christ in mission to the world."

A more faithful, life-giving way of "being church" – by Scott Anderson
"...The Peace, Unity, and Purity Task Force experience is one of the best I
ve had as a Presbyterian... and I long for the wider church to have this same experience of unity in Christ even as we continue to disagree on important issues."

It seems to be impossible to access these pages from outside the Presbyweb site.  So apparently you'll have to go to the PresbyWeb home page and see if you can find your way from there.

Note: You will be asked to register to access this site, and to make a contribution to continue using it.

WCC'S 9th Assembly to affirm alternative globalization

"A world without poverty is not only possible but is in keeping with the grace of God for the world" affirms a call that will play a central role at the 9th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Porto Alegre, 14-23 February.

Called "AGAPE - A Call to love and action", the six-page document summarizes the results of the work done by the WCC and ecumenical partners on economic globalization since the 8th Assembly in Harare in 1998. It also calls churches "to act together for transformation of economic injustice".    More >>

Raising the roof in Mississippi

500 volunteers clear storm debris, fix 75 houses in weeklong 'blitz'

Presbyterians organized and funded a six-day roofing "blitz" during the week after Christmas, to aid hurricane survivors, fixing homes in Biloxi, Long Beach and Bay St. Louis, all in Mississippi.

Volunteers, most of them Presbyterians, came from as far away as Ontario, Canada, to participate in the $250,000 effort, which was coordinated by Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA), Mississippi Presbytery and Westminster Presbyterian Church in Gulfport.

Most of the building materials used in the effort were bought with contributions raised through a PDA appeal issued shortly after Hurricane Katrina. So far, the disaster-response agency has raised $20 million for church rebuilding, pastoral support and general community work, according to PDA's coordinator, Susan Ryan.

More >>

New claims of Guantánamo torture

Fresh claims of torture and abuse at Guantánamo Bay have been published by Amnesty International to mark the US detention center's fourth anniversary.

The London-based human rights group said 500 detainees continued to be held without charge or trial and repeated its call for the center to be shut.

More from the BBC >>

Thought for the day -- or the decade

A tyrant must put on the appearance of uncommon devotion to religion. Subjects are less apprehensive of illegal treatment from a ruler whom they consider godfearing and pious. On the other hand, they do less easily move against him, believing he has the gods on his side.

Aristotle, Politics

Torture is terrorism

Bruce Gillette, Co-Pastor of Limestone Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, Delaware, responds to numerous writers on PresbyWeb who have scolded Presbyterian church leaders who have been critical of US use of torture. He concludes: "General Assembly Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase is a blessing to our church for many reasons, including his leadership against torture. I plan to join him and others at No2Torture meeting in the Miami on January 5-6."

Also ... Presbyterians gathered in Miami on January 5-6, 2006, to stand against the continuing US use of torture. 

Carol Wickersham, organizer of the Presbyterian-related No2Torture group, offers a first, informal, and personal report on that No2Torture Public Witness.  We will add more reports as they come in.

Her report >>

For God and guns, against gays

Lincoln wouldn’t recognize the Republican Party in his native Kentucky county  

Witherspooner Berry Craig describes the Republican Party chair in Larue Country, Kentucky, birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, as exemplifying a "party of theocracy" and born-again Christianity that is very different from Lincoln’s modest spirituality and commitment to ending human bondage. 

Craig's essay >>

National Security Agency mounted massive spy op on Baltimore peace group, documents show

The National Security Agency has been spying on a Baltimore anti-war group, according to documents released during litigation, going so far as to document the inflating of protesters' balloons, and intended to deploy units trained to detect weapons of mass destruction, RAW STORY has learned.

According to the documents, the Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore, a Quaker-linked peace group, has been monitored by the NSA working with the Baltimore Intelligence Unit of the Baltimore City Police Department.

More >>


The Sago mine disaster – not merely an accident

The Working Families e-Activist Network, AFL-CIO, provided a helpful examination of the political and economic factors underlying the explosion in the West Virginia mine on January 2. They also offer links to a number of other analyses.  

Ecumenical Welcoming Church Leaders' Summit held in Saint Paul, MN

During an important series of meetings among various groups working for justice and full inclusion for lgbt Christians, Martha Juillerat was honored on her tenth anniversary as National Program Director of Shower of Stoles Project.  This celebration also marked the transition and transfer of the Shower of Stoles Project to the Institute of Welcoming Resources.

Religious Right rallies again for a conservative court

The Philadelphia Inquirer provides one report of the "Justice Sunday III" rally held in Philadelphia on Sunday, Jan. 8, primarily in support of Samuel A. Alito Jr.'s Supreme Court nomination.

The Rev. Jerry Falwell, founder of the Moral Majority, described President Bush's nomination of Alito as the culmination of a lengthy effort to "mobilize people of faith and values."

A protest rally across the street from Greater Exodus Baptist Church included several dozen gay-marriage advocates, AIDS activists, and other groups who criticized the event as a dangerous intermingling of politics and church. In a conference call held in advance, liberal religious leaders described "Justice Sunday" as a bid by the Christian right to control the judiciary.

The full report >>

More progressive hymns

The Rev. Bill LeMosy has shared with us four hymn texts that he has written, which he hopes might "fit the bill" for a request by the Rev. Dorothy Duquette for hymns that are suitable and nourishing for a progressive Presbyterian congregation.

>> For Advent:  Dreamers, Awake This Holy Day
>> For Epiphany: 
The Magi Came from Far Away
>> The Lordship of Christ: 
Come to the Feast
>> LeMosy hymns

We have also posted previously a number of the hymn texts written by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. Here are a few samples:

>> You Formed Us in Your Image, Lord -- a hymn for families
Creator God, You Made the Earth -- celebrating the God of creation
A Voice Was Heard in Ramah -- for the day after Christmas

There are more from Ms. Gillette.  Just do a little Google search on this site (and others).

Justice for All ... or "Justice Sunday III"?

Tomorrow, Sunday, January 8, will see the third in a series of events held by the Religious Right to shape the federal courts in the ways they want.

The group Faithful America urges people concerned about "justice for all" to sign a petition to let our Senators in Washington know that the religious conservatives are not the only people of faith who care.

Their announcement:

Millions of Americans of faith are about to be misrepresented in Washington through a well funded and heavily promoted effort called "Justice Sunday III." This attempt by politically-aligned right-wing religious fundamentalists aims to pressure Congress to load the courts with ultra-conservative judges. Congress must not hear only from religious fundamentalists. The rest of us deserve a hearing, too. You can help make that happen by signing the following petition, which will be sent to your Senators in Washington.

To sign the petition >>

Americans United welcomes Florida Supreme Court decision striking down school voucher plan

Religious liberty watchdog group calls ruling a victory for public education and church-state separation

The AU news release >>

Ordination Standards:
Biblical, Theological, and Scientific Perspectives

by North Como Presbyterian Church

A Presbyterian congregation has just published an extensive survey of source material – Biblical, theological, and scientific – on questions of sexual orientation and behavior, and how Christians might deal with these within the church. 

The book notice >>

New website launched to strengthen progressive Christian voices

Pacific School of Religion (PSR) is initiating a new website ministry to strengthen progressive Christian voices in public discussion across America. Launching of January 24, it will be called The Progressive Christian Witness (PCW) and found at

More >>

Another comment on Israel and divestment

A Presbyterian Church member sees the complexities, but defends the church’s divestment effort (and reporting of world issues) in response to criticisms from Eric Geller

"Bringing in the Sheaves" – and the politics of Advent and Christmas

The Rev. Thomas Davis, pastor of Hanover Street Presbyterian Church in ...., offered a quick, clear look at the political dimension of Mary’s song (the Magnificat), and visit of the Wise Men, and Christmas in general. 

Seeking hymns for progressive Presbyterians  

We recently posted a request by a Presbyterian pastor for help in finding hymns with words that are appropriate for congregations of liberal/progressive convictions.

The Rev. Mitch Trigger offers some ideas.
The Rev. Bill LeMosy sends some hymns of his own.

Some selected notices from the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program -- lots of helpful information about events and resources
Clergy Letter Project provides materials for focus on science and faith – and evolution! – on Sunday, February 12, 2006

More >>

A New Year greeting for all --

As the new year begins, we live in hope. Not of a violent apocalypse wherein our enemies get their comeuppance. But of a time when walls begin to crumble. And a time when we all yield this quivering planet to the Spirit of peace.

May the shalom and salaam of God be with you.

This New Year greeting came to us from Witherspooner Rev. Bill LeMosy, who has agreed that we might share it with all who visit here.

Reflections for Epiphany --
Christianity and Empire  

As Epiphany approaches, Witherspooner Byron Bangert reminds us that the story of the wise men also includes the slaughter of the male children in the area of Bethlehem – a clear confrontation between the reign of God and the rule of Empire.

Overture on torture issue proposed by San Francisco church

Calvary Presbyterian Church of San Francisco has produced a new overture on the torture issue which will be voted on by Presbytery at its January 10th meeting. The issue does not end with the legislation recently sponsored by Senator McCain. The proposed overture calls for investigation and creation of a public record of what we have done and accountability wherever the law has been broken. The evasions and hiding behind legalisms will continue until the whole horrible apparatus is exposed to daylight and the consequences of law breaking are made to fall on the guilty.

The text of the overture >>

Introduction and background information >>

A reminder:

2006 Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice
"Challenging Disparity - the Promise of God, the Power of Solidarity"

Friday, March 10, 2006 to Monday, March 13, 2006

In 2005 more than 900 persons from at least 26 denominations participated in workshops, training and advocacy for international and domestic social justice issue. 2006 promises to be bigger and better.

More information >>
For a brochure in PDF format >>

Faith-based organizations face suits
Groups using federal funds are accused of proselytizing

The Chicago Tribune reports that while faith-based groups are barred from proselytizing or engaging in other obvious religious activity when using federal funds, some are accused of doing just that in their programs to encourage teenagers to abstain from premarital sex or help substance abusers fight addictions.

Lawsuits by the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Freedom from Religion Foundation accuse the faith-based organizations and the government of violating the constitutional separation of church and state. Meanwhile, experts say
the Bush administration is doing too little to monitor religious groups receiving federal money.

More >>

Presbyterian GA Policies:   The Presbyterian Washington Office provides a helpful summary of policy statements previously adopted by PC(USA) General Assemblies

The Iraq War. Genocide. Globalization.
September 11, 2001. The war on terror.

A new study guide from the National Council of Churches USA helps you make sense of the world. 

For the Peace of the World
A Christian Curriculum on International Relations

Details >>

Pastor seeks good "liberal/progressive Christian music"

Presbyterian pastor Dorothy Duquette, who is serving two small churches in Minnesota, elaborates on her request:

I would love information on updated words for traditional hymn tunes. That is part of what I am looking for. I appreciate hymns with inclusive language for God and people. I'm also looking for Lent and Easter hymns that offer alternative understandings of the saving nature of Jesus' death and resurrection besides the sacrifice model.

I am not a musician, but I enjoy music very much and it is an important part of my spiritual life. Besides some new hymns, I am also looking for good music that I can add to my collection. I am frustrated by a lot of the Christian music /artists that I have listened to because the theology is usually conservative. Is there anyone out there who is offering music with a more liberal Christian perspective?

Thanks so much for your help!


So – who can offer some suggestions?

We invite you to send them to us, so we can share them with others who no doubt are looking for such music, too. Click here to send your response to us, and directly to Rev. Duquette as well.

The 2006 Ghost Ranch catalog is on-line! Registration begins in mid-January.

The 2006 list of Ghost Ranch seminars has been posted on the internet. Although registration will begin in mid-January, you and your family and friends can view the seminar line-up to begin preparing your spring, summer and fall adventures. If you would like to sign up for the Holy Week Retreat, please contact the registrar at 505.685.4333, ext. 152 or 179, as soon as possible.

For those of you who still receive both print and e-mail versions, the mailed version should reach your mailbox around the second or third week of January.  Registration forms and other pertinent information will be available and posted soon. Please do not try to register by using a form from a previous year.

Go to the full catalog >>

We especially invite you to check out one seminar that will be presented in partnership with The Witherspoon Society, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and Presbyterians for Restoring Creation:

Economy, Ecology and Empire
July 17-23, 2006

For two weeks in the summer of 2004, four hundred delegates to the 24th General Council of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches gathered in Accra, Ghana, adopting a statement of confession and commitment to changing, renewing and restoring the economy and the earth. During our week together we will examine the realities of our world that have made this statement necessary.   Details >>

Search for Executive Presbyter

The Presbytery of Hudson River is seeking an Executive Presbyter "to partner with us in creative ministry, renewal, re-visioning, grounded in the Triune God." More >>

1/2/06 ... and Happy New Year!
Are U.S. donors forgetting the poor?

In an editorial this morning (January 2, 2006) the Minneapolis Star Tribune raises this question, noting that the amount of charitable giving "directed specifically to people in poverty is shrinking, by some measures quite dramatically. Total giving is on the rise, but increasingly the money goes to health or educational institutions -- whose efforts on behalf of the disadvantaged may be surprisingly meager -- or to arts and cultural organizations that, it can be argued, serve chiefly the middle and upper classes."

What's your impression of this concern?  Do you see the same tendency for less charitable giving directed toward the poor?  Just send a note,  and we'll share it here.

The full editorial >>

"Anti-terror" effort continues to grow
Washington Post
offers more background on CIA interrogations and torture

One excerpt:

"Everything is done in the name of self-defense, so they can do anything because nothing is forbidden in the war powers act," said one official who was briefed on the CIA's original cover program and who is skeptical of its legal underpinnings. "It's an amazing legal justification that allows them to do anything," said the official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issues.

The rest of the story >>

A Jewish observer -- Mr. Eric Geller -- questions why divestment ranks among the top ten PC(USA) news stories of 2005.   
Is "real nature" separate from (or even free from) human, and vice versa?

Peter Sawtell of Eco-Justice Ministries reflects on those beautiful nature scenes in his new calendar – and ponders the assumptions they suggest about nature and humanity.

He writes:

In the world of nature calendars -- and the lovely Sierra Club ones are only one example of the genre -- the full beauty of nature is ruined if people are present. Within this iconography, "nature" and humanity occupy completely different realms.

The ongoing debate questions the aesthetic assumption of the calendars. Is "nature" something that is utterly different from the human, or should we acknowledge the interconnections between the two? At its most challenging form, the question asks if it is even misleading to use language that conceptually separates "human" and "nature." Ethicist Larry Rasmussen wrote, "We could learn to speak, for example, not of humanity AND nature, but of humans IN and AS nature. ... We could acknowledge that humans never rise above nature, never transcend it."

More >>

All postings from
February, 2007
January, 2007

December, 2006
November, 2006
October, 2006
September, 2006
August, 2006
July, 2006
June, 2006
May, 2006

April, 2006
March, 2006
February, 2006
 January, 2006

Our coverage of the 2006 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,
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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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