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Archives:  May 2006

This page lists reports and commentary from earlier in May, 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.

Senate vote on the Federal Marriage Amendment scheduled for next week

Clergy For Fairness has been circulating an Open Letter to U.S. Senators, urging them to oppose the so-called Federal Marriage Amendment for the sake of individual rights and religious liberty. The Senate will be voting on the amendment next week, so they are calling on their supporters for further efforts.

About 2,000 clergy members have so far signed the letter, and they are seeking more signatures, urging people to spread the word.

They also ask supporters to encourage their congregations to oppose the amendment.

They also provide resources for sending e-mail directly to Senators.

And finally, they provide help for writing letters to the editor at local newspapers.

Visit to find out more about what you and your faith community can do. This site now contains additional updated resources for your use, such as:

• Talking points about the threat this amendment poses to religious liberty.
• Sample sermons from a variety of faith traditions.
• Ways to get more involved including tips on writing letters to the editor and all you need for a congregational postcard campaign.
• Denominational statements opposing the Federal Marriage Amendment.

Church of Scotland continues to allow blessing of same-sex civil partnerships, as dictated by individual conscience       

Former PC(USA) pastor John Mann allows as how "hell has not frozen over."

He also sends a recent booklet on same-sex partnerships, and how the Church of Scotland might live with differing opinions about them.

Are you attending GA -- or observing from afar?  Is Les your friend or foe?

All GA documents and other resources are being made available on "Les" -- a computer system through which the documents can be accessed.  But some people are having trouble getting Les to provide what they need.  On JustPresbys we're trying to offer a few helpful suggestions.

More hints about Learning to Live with Les Dealing with your computer's security settings may help.   

A backgrounder on the abortion issue, and the three overtures dealing with it, is provided by Presbyterian News Service.  
Presbyterian mission co-worker reports from Yogyakarta after the earthquake    

Bernie and Farsijana Adeney-Risakotta live in Yogyakarta, Central Java, just 10 miles or so miles north of the Bantul, the town most severely affected by the earthquake that struck early on Saturday morning, local time.

We share this report, with Bernie’s kind permission, as a way of helping others gain some sense of what that kind of disaster means "on the ground," and how some people of faith are responding. Bernie is professor of ethics and social sciences at Duta Wacana Christian University in Yogyakarta, and Farsijana is senior researcher for Duta Wacana's Center for Research and Social Service.

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) has already sent $113,500 to help meet the immediate needs of survivors in Indonesia as international aid began arriving in the quake-battered island-nation on Tuesday.

Thoughts following Memorial Day

What our war really costs

On the day before Memorial Day, the New York Times Magazine featured an article by Scott Anderson, tracing the lives of some veterans of Alpha Company of 112th Infantry Regiment of the Pennsylvania National Guard , after their grim return home to Butler, PA.

He focuses on Chuck Norris, a 37-year-old father of three, the son and grandson of steel-mill workers, who went through a series of low-paying jobs and was finally doing a little better as a TV repair person.

Then his Army Reserve is called up for duty in Iraq.  Norris goes through painful discoveries: What it’s like to pull bombed vehicles away from burning bodies. How it feels to recognize that the people you’ve come to help just want you gone ... or dead.

And he has to deal with the death of his best friend in Iraq, Carl Morgain, who dies when his Humvee is attacked by a suicide bomber.

Anderson follows Norris and some of his friends as they try to adjust to being home, and have a very hard time of it – sleeping badly, terrible dreams, anxiety as they drive in fear of things along the roadsides, can’t-get-out-of-bed depression – all the stuff of post-traumatic stress disorder.

There are bright spots, too, as friends gradually begin to get together again, and finally as Norris is able to acknowledge his friend’s death, and begin to deal with it.

The cost of this war?? Billions beyond counting. But more. Much more.

The full article >>

Are you looking for the committee that will deal with an issue of particular interest to you?  

The Presbyterian News Service a few weeks ago posted this general description of where some of the major issues will be considered.  Check out the list, with links to the committee pages >>

Adding to the General Assembly committee information on

Yesterday we created a separate page for each of the GA committees, with a list of its members, leadership, and proposed docket. On each page you will also find any information or analysis we have posted relating to the work of the committee -- or links to material on other pages.

Click here for the list of all the committees, with a link to the page for each of them.

We would like to add more analysis and commentary on the issues.  We welcome your comments, questions, or additional information on any of the committees. Just send a note, to be shared on the appropriate page. Please mention which committee you're referring to, and identify yourself.  [Your WebWeaver will exercise some editorial discretion.]

The General Assembly committees

On the JustPresbys website, we have now created a separate page for each of the GA committees, with a list of its members, leadership, and proposed docket. On each page you will also find any information or analysis we have posted relating to the work of the committee -- or links to it on other pages.

We welcome your comments, questions, or additional information on any of the committees. Just send a note, please mention which committee you're referring to, and identify yourself.


"Write the vision; make it plain upon tablets, so he may run who reads it." (Hab. 2:2)

What Presbyterians Need To Know About the 2004 GA Divestment Action

Some members of the Presbytery of Philadelphia set out (in the words of one of them) to "present, as dispassionately as possible, the plain historic facts about Palestine/Israel -- and Presbyterian involvement in the Middle East --  which lay behind the PCUSA action to divest."    Read it here >>

>>This statement is also available in easy-to-print PDF format<<

World Council of Churches issues statement on Israel/Palestine:
"The time is ripe to do what is right"

The World Council of Churches Executive Committee, meeting in Geneva, 16-19 May, 2006, issued a sober call to the nations and the churches for actions to bring some kind of peace to Israel and Palestine before the situation becomes far worse.   More >>

Senate passes immigration bill

The Senate yesterday passed landmark but contentious immigration legislation that would tighten security on United States borders while allowing guest workers to enter the country and give millions of illegal immigrants a path toward gaining US citizenship. The vote sets the stage for a summer clash with House conservatives, who passed a starkly different immigration measure in December.
The Washington Post reports >>

Some are saying that in the end, enacting no immigration bill would be better than what’s likely to emerge from House-Senate conference

David Bacon writes that when the US Senate yesterday passed its version of "comprehensive immigration reform," Senators from both sides of the aisle claimed that despite the enormous controversy it has generated, passing a bill with flaws was better than passing no bill at all. Outside the beltway and its coterie of lobbyists, however, a groundswell of community groups now argue that Congress would do better to pass no bill than a bill that reconciles the proposal just passed by the Senate and that passed last December in the House of Representatives.

Bacon is a California photojournalist who documents labor, migration and globalization. His book The Children of NAFTA: Labor Wars on the US/Mexico Border was published last year by University of California Press.
Bacon's article >>

Alliance for Fair Food calls on McDonald’s to work with farmworkers to end exploitation in the fields of its suppliers

As McDonald’s shareholders gathered for the company’s annual meeting yesterday, farmworkers from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and members of the Alliance for Fair Food (AFF) were calling on the company to commence immediate and serious dialogue with the CIW to address exploitative wages and human rights concerns in McDonald’s tomato supply chain.   More >>

Cultural diversity: punishment for sin or gift of God?

Theologian Dr. Choan-Seng (C.S.) Song argues from the story of the Tower of Babel that diversity is a divine gift.

He concludes his brief essay:

Cultural pluralism is a challenge to the arrogance of any one human community. But more than that, our diversity is a God-given means by which human communities correct and enrich one another. God created cultural diversity, for our good.

For the full article >>

Presbyterians urged to fight torture   

'Torture Awareness Month' includes Chicago gathering  

As the Bush administration continues defending its treatment of terrorism suspects, Presbyterians and other faith followers are being urged to participate in "Torture Awareness Month" activities in June.

A number of human rights, civil liberties and religious organizations have declared the month-long observance to protest the practice of torture wherever it occurs, especially amid growing evidence that the United States government is systematically engaging in the use of torture and inhuman treatment against prisoners held in connection with the war on terror.

Presbyterian News Service reports on many activities, with details and helpful links >>

AND we've just received the final list of speakers for the Chicago conference >>

Wisdom for graduates -- and the rest of us

Bill Moyers, in a baccalaureate address at Hamilton College, Clinton, NY, May 20, 2006

If the world confuses you a little, it confuses me a lot. When I graduated fifty years ago I thought I had the answers. But life is where you get your answers questioned, and the odds are that you can look forward to being even more perplexed fifty years from now than you are at this very moment. If your parents level with you, truly speak their hearts, I suspect they would tell you life confuses them, too, and that it rarely turns out the way you thought it would.

[Italics contributed by your WebWeaver – at no extra charge.]

The Peace of Abraham, Hagar, & Sarah:
Sharing Sacred Seasons, 2006

Jews, Christians and Muslims will be celebrating sacred seasons at about the same time in September and October of 2006. Leaders of the three faith communities are inviting us to celebrate together by praying and learning with each other and by acting together to "seek peace, pursue justice, feed the poor, heal the earth, serve the One."      More >>

Washington Office forced to discontinue Stewardship of Public Life Networks, opens new network system: "Witness in Washington Weekly"     [5-25-06]

Due to budget cuts in Presbyterian programs, the Washington Office is creating a new network system called "Witness in Washington Weekly" to replace the Stewardship of Public Life Networks.  It will start in late June after the General Assembly and will be activated only when Congress is in session or Presidential actions warrant it.

To get on the new list (even if you are currently on one or more of the current ones!) you can simply click here, and follow the instructions by filling in all the fields and checking the box that says "Witness in Washington Weekly."

A disaster for abstinence ideology

Esther Kaplan, a radio and print journalist and a community activist, writes of sad news out of Uganda last week. The Bush administration's $1 billion experiment in using abstinence messages as the basis of HIV prevention has born its first fruit: In a public speech on May 18, Uganda's AIDS Commissioner Kihumuro Apuuli announced that HIV infections have almost doubled in Uganda over the past two years, from 70,000 in 2003 to 130,000 in 2005. And despite this chilling wake-up call, Bush has empowered Christian right activists to continue to push their abstinence-only agenda at a UN Special Session on HIV/AIDS, to begin next week. According to a State Department email that Kaplan obtained, the official U.S. delegation is stacked with some of the very people who contributed to the debacle in Uganda.  More >>

Linda Bryant Valentine elected to head GAC

Linda Bryant Valentine, a lifelong Presbyterian and corporate lawyer, has been tapped as the next executive director of the General Assembly Council (GAC), the national mission program arm of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

By a vote of 41-13 with one abstention, the council elected Linda Bryant Valentine at a special meeting in Chicago on May 23. If confirmed by the upcoming 217th General Assembly in Birmingham, AL, Valentine will succeed retiring executive director John Detterick on July 1.    More >>

Rita Nakashima Brock on "Saving Paradise"

Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock, who will be speaking at the Voices of Sophia GA breakfast on Monday, June 19, at 7:00 am, will be drawing on material from her forthcoming book (with Rebecca Parker), Saving Paradise.  She has provided an excerpt from the book to VOS, which they share with us here.

The passage begins:

For the first thousand years of Christian art, Jesus Christ was not depicted dead. Why not? Initially, we didn't believe it could be true. Surely, the art historians who reported this fact were wrong. The crucified Christ was too important to Western Christianity. How could it be that images of Jesus' death were absent from first millennium churches?

More of the passage >>              More about the VOS breakfast >>

Immigration "reform" and racism

Molly Ivins agrees with Presbyterian minister Eun-hyey Park, who wrote here 3 weeks ago that it’s really all about race.

"By all means, reform immigration with this deep obeisance to the Republican right-wing nut faction and their open contempt for 'foreigners,'" writes Ivins. "But do not pretend for one minute that it is not a craven political bow to racism."  Her article >>

Remembering Justice Delayed

As we approach the gathering of the 217th General Assembly in Birmingham, Lynne Reade, of Fremont, California, reminds us of the place of that city in the struggle against racism. She asks, "Will any of this Southern discrimination and church history be recognized officially and lamented by our denomination at the 217th General Assembly?"   Her letter >>

GA will consider "Resolution in Support of Ongoing Partnership Work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the Campaign for Fair Food"   

The resolution, presented by the Advocacy Committee for Racial and Ethnic Concerns, traces the theological foundation for the Presbyterian Church's ongoing efforts for justice for farmworkers, some of the efforts of the past, and then reaffirms the use of consumer action (e.g. boycotts, public protest) in the struggle for economic justice, acknowledges that such action may be called for in the ongoing Campaign for Fair Food, authorizes the General Assembly Council to approve Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) participation in such consumer actions if it is taken in accord with existing Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) criteria and in concert with our partners in the Alliance for Fair Food, and calls for continuing promotion of this resolution through preaching, education, and participation in the Campaign for Fair Food by all settings of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) through periodic mailings to congregations and the use of resources available on

The full text of the resolution >>

Religious liberals gain new visibility

They are outlining different list of moral issues

The Washington Post on Saturday, May 20, carried a thoughtful look at the growing movement among religious liberals to reassert their concerns for public life and moral values.

The article begins:

The religious left is back.

Long overshadowed by the Christian right, religious liberals across a wide swath of denominations are engaged today in their most intensive bout of political organizing and alliance-building since the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements of the 1960s, according to scholars, politicians and clergy members.

In large part, the revival of the religious left is a reaction against conservatives' success in the 2004 elections in equating moral values with opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage.

Religious liberals say their faith compels them to emphasize such issues as poverty, affordable health care and global warming. Disillusionment with the war in Iraq and opposition to Bush administration policies on secret prisons and torture have also fueled the movement.

The reporters take note of the recent four-day conference of the Network of Spiritual Progressives in Washington, which drew over a thousand people participants.

The full article >>

For our report on last year’s founding conference of the Network of Spiritual Progressives >>

Presbyterian News Service provides ... a backgrounder on the PUP Report   

Recommendations on ordination standards provoke intense debate  

Presbyterian News Service provides ...  a backgrounder on ordination standards

Debate on G-6.0106b complicated by Theological Task Force report 

Are you going to GA?

Have you learned to love Les yet?

We have heard a few mutterings of distress over the past couple weeks, from people who have been frustrated by "Les," the on-line system for accessing all the documents related to the business of the coming General Assembly – overtures, committee reports, and much more.

We don’t pretend to have mastered Les, but we have discovered a few things that might help you in your distress.  Details >>

Prayers for Colombia – and Louisville 

Mission co-worker Alice Winters sends a list prayer concerns from Colombia – including a presidential election on May 28; continuing threats against Presbyterian pastor Milton Mejia; needs of the Reformed University where Alice teaches; and the staff of the PC(USA) in Louisville – both those dismissed and those striving to carry on.

GA Commissioners listed by committee assignments

The Presbyterian News Service has just announced the list of commissioners and advisory delegates arranged by their committee assignments. We are posting that list on the JustPresbys web site, along with the leadership of each committee, for your convenience.

NAFTA has helped increase flow of illegal immigrants

Two recent articles show how NAFTA and the "free trade" introduced by the U.S. to its trade with Mexico, has increased unemployment among most Mexicans, made their economy more export-dependent, and driven more and more of them to head north out of economic necessity.

David Morris, vice president of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, based in Minneapolis and Washington, D.C., published his article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune; it is also posted on the Institute’s web site.

Jeff Faux’ article is published in the San Francisco Chronicle. Founding president of the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., he is now a distinguished fellow for the institute.

Interfaith Alliance radio show will look at conservative religious efforts to undermine mainline churches

This Sunday, May 21, on The Interfaith Alliance's national radio show State of Belief, Rev. Welton Gaddy exposes the coordinated effort to undermine mainline Protestantism – and render America's largest denominations incapable of standing up to right wing politics.

This unprecedented look into the takeover of America’s churches reveals the ugly truths, personal experiences, and exhaustive research of four leaders:

Dr. Bruce Prescott, Executive Director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists, is, like Welton, a veteran of the purges that marked the conservative takeover of the Southern Baptist Convention. The strategy, says Prescott, is to keep mainstream denominations in turmoil over wedge issues such as gay marriage, so that conservative leaders can be free to achieve their political and religious goals.

Dr. John Dorhauer, minister for the St. Louis Association of the United Churches of Christ, has seen congregations around him descend into in-fighting, provoked by right-wing propaganda. Dorhauer explains, "What the politically motivated achieve is the silence of the religious conscience voice that has historically led this country....If you take out the 45 million people that are represented by the National Council of Churches, you are going to hollow out one of the cores of our nation's democracy."

Dr. Andrew Weaver, a United Methodist pastor and research psychologist, has traced the campaign against mainline Protestantism largely to the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a think-tank funded by uber-conservatives such as Richard Mellon Scaife and The Adolph Coors Trust. Weaver says that the IRD and so-called religious "renewal" groups are funneling money in "a systematic effort to undermine mainline churches that still have democratic, transparent processes." The problem in countering these efforts, he says, is that "All of these traditions have niceness at the core; while we've been thinking it's touch football, they've been playing tackle."

Welton offers listeners a wake-up call: "The Southern Baptist Convention was lost not because of those trying to take it over, but because of people arguing that it wasn't a big deal."

This issue has never before been discussed on national radio, and continues State of Belief’s focus on how religion is being manipulated for partisan political purposes. It may stun listeners – and it is sure to inspire Protestant congregations to reclaim their role as a positive and much needed healing force in our nation.

State of Belief is heard nationwide on Air America Radio on Sundays, 5pm EST. Information about local affiliates, listening live via the internet, or podcasting can be found at

Witherspooner Bob Lodwick named Volunteer of the Year by Lazarus Project

The Rev. Robert C. Lodwick, a retired minister who was longtime PC(USA) area secretary for Europe, has been named Volunteer of the Year by the Lazarus Project, an organization based in West Hollywood Presbyterian Church (CA), that works for the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Presbyterians in the life of the church. West Hollywood Presbyterian Church is also a governing body member of More Light Presbyterians. Bob Lodwick is a longtime friend of MLP, and active member of the Witherspoon Society.

Thanks to Jerry L. Van Marter, Presbyterian News Service, and Ralph Carter, Rochester NY


Urgent Alert from the Presbyterian Washington Office


Elenora Giddings Ivory sends a very helpful update, as of this morning, on the U. S. Senate debate on an immigration "reform" bill:

The Washington, DC based Rural Farm Coalition has prepared the following Urgent Action Alert and sample letter regarding the plight of farm workers in the current immigration debate. The Senate is currently debating an immigration bill and many, many, many amendments are being offered even as this message is being typed. We will not write about all of them , but have chosen a few key ones that severely challenge key concerns expressed in General Assembly policy. The Chambliss amendment would limit the protections in AgJOBS legislation. It is urgent that you call both your Senators and urge them to reject any amendments that would limit the protections in AgJOBS. You will find talking points in a document by Farmworker Justice Fund at the end of a letter below, that is being signed by many organizations and will go out on Friday You can use the letter and other material in you communications with your Senators. You can reach the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or go to and search for your member by name, zip code or state. As always, the PresbyAction Center can be found on the web page of the Presbyterian Washington Office. Click here and enter your zip code in the GO box to the right.  If you have already contacted your Senators this week, please feel free to forward this information to someone who may not have.

We further urge you to study the immigration bills now pending, and to urge your Senators to support a final package that is closest to the Kennedy-McCain bill that was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The key point here is not just a guest worker plan, but a guest worker plan that allows for residency or a path to citizenship.

This email is about the farm worker concerns. In a separate email, I will send information about the immigrant detention issue. If negative amendments are passed that bring the Senate immigration bill too close to the House bill 4437 passed in December, then advocates are beginning to think that no bill is better then a severely compromised bill with harmful consequences.    Details >>

Do you want to speak out against discrimination in marriage?

A Witherspoon member has suggested that we pass along an opportunity – especially if you are "a clergy member or religious leader" – to register your opposition to the so-called "Marriage Protection Amendment" that has again been introduced in the U. S. Congress.

The organization called Clergy for Fairness is circulating this call:

If you are a clergy member or religious leader, join the fight to stand up for individual rights and religious liberty. Add your name to the growing list of Americans who oppose writing discrimination into our Constitution. In addition, read the joint letter from national denominations and religious groups opposing the Federal Marriage Amendment.

Immigration reform needs your voice!

As the debate rumbles on in the U.S. Senate over immigration reform, there are reports that the phone and e-mail messages going to Senators are running 20 to 1 again reform.

If you haven’t sent a message yet to your senators, this week is the time to do it. If you have, this is the time to do it again, since the bills have been changing as the days pass.

For the latest information, go to the Presbyterian Washington Office web site.  You should find help there on the elements in the bill that are most worth defending.

And take a look at the information we've posted on our own site >>

GA has spoken often to affirm the dignity and rights of immigrants     

As the national debate continues over immigration and immigrants' right, this may well become a matter of discussion in the 217th General Assembly.  Since at least 1984, Presbyterian General Assemblies have spoken out often to affirm the rights of immigrants, and the need for justice in the way they are treated.  Here is a small sampling of some of those statements, especially a longer statement from the 211th General Assembly (1999).    

June is Torture Awareness Month in the United States 

Thousands of persons and more than three dozen faith-based organizations have come together to endorse a statement released by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. FaithfulAmerica has endorsed this statement and today they are asking you to join with the thousands who believe that Torture is a Moral Issue by endorsing this statement as well.    More >>

"Mainstream" Jewish website comments on PCUSA divestment debate

Eric Geller, who has frequently sent comments to us about the divestment issue, has sent an article posted recently. He describes the article as "an interesting piece from a well-read ‘mainstream"’ website that deals with zillions of issues of interest to Jews. Today's feature story is sort of a summary of Jewish reaction to the whole divestment discussion ... [which] presents a decent summary from the mainstream Jewish perspective. In fact, someone raises an issue in the article about that panel discussion with Mark Pelavan which is being held at the GA."   Read the article >>

This article has also been a matter of discussion in a Presbyterian online network that deals with Israel/Palestine concerns.

One participant there comments, "I'm not understanding why those of us that are for "divestment" are considered ‘Anti-Israel’ ."

Another says "It's really quite sad – the same tired old stuff they've been saying for the past 2 years . . . over and over again . . . quoting the same old spokesfolk like Mr. Bretton Granatoor ad nauseum. In fact, we have encountered not a few in our area who, through these years, have come to change their perspective, as they have become aware of the full story."

We invite your comments. 
Just send a note, to be shared here.

More Light Presbyterians offers legislative recommendations   

More Light Presbyterians has issued a brief statement of their recommendations for action on the various overtures dealing with ordination -- and the Theological Task Force report -- which will be considered by the 217th General Assembly.   

Globalization – it’s more than economics

A review of In Search of the Good Life: The Ethics of Globalization, by Rebecca Todd Peters

Books about globalization seem to be flooding the stores like those inexpensive shirts pouring into our discount stores from ... well, wherever they’re pouring in from these days. So the arrival of another one raises the question: What does this book offer that’s different from all the others?  Well, it offers a lot, helping us to see the values being assumed as the basis for four different approaches to the global reach of the modern market economy.  And it gives reasons for concern, and for action.    The review >>

NOTE:  If you will be at GA in Birmingham -- Dr. Peters will be signing copies of her book in the Cokesbury bookstore, on Sunday, June 18, from 1 to 2:30 pm.

Her book, originally published in 2004, has just been issued in paperback, at the price of $16.95.

Mother’s Day – a call for peace that echoes today

Julia Ward Howe is best remembered by history buffs as the woman who wrote the words that became "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," the fiery Civil War anthem first published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1862. Not so widely known is that eight years later, the woman who wrote "Let us die to make men free" wanted to end war forever. Having seen and survived the violence and economic devastation of the Civil War, Howe dreaded the gathering storm of the Franco-Prussian war. In Boston 1870, she delivered a "Mother's Day Proclamation for Peace," 274 words in which she envisioned "a great and earnest day of counsel" in which mothers of all nationalities would arrive "at the means the great human family can live in peace."

Presbyterian Coalition and Theological Task Force hold discussion showing their differences on what the report could bring

Leslie Scanlon of Presbyterian Outlook begins her report:

Folks were civil and respectful – no one screamed and no one threw dishes. But a blunt exchange on May 10 between board members of the Presbyterian Coalition and five members of the Theological Task Force on the Peace, Unity and Purity of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) revealed some enduring differences of opinion about what the task force is trying to accomplish –and about what it will mean for the church if the General Assembly approves the task force report in June. The rest of the article >>

Opus Dei in The Da Vinci Code – not just fiction

The secretive Catholic group’s name means ‘work of god,’ but in Washington, D.C., that divine task has a decidedly political bent

Opus Dei is a secretive Catholic religious order that has been "forced a little more into the open" by the best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code, one of whose main characters is an Opus Dei member who murders four people to preserve the church's secret.

An article by Rob Boston, "Breaking the Da Vinci Code," takes a more realistic look at the order. It was founded in Spain in 1928 by Josemaria Escriva, canonized in 2002 by Pope John Paul II. The pope had already given the order special status as a "personal prelature," answerable to the pope alone.

Opus Dei has long been known for its traditionalist values and reactionary political stance, often at variance with the positions taken by the Vatican. In the U.S., an Opus Dei priest converted Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) from evangelical Protestantism to Catholicism; the conversion was shepherded by Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA), an Opus Dei booster.

In 2002, at an Opus Dei event in Rome, Santorum blasted John Kennedy's 1960 endorsement of church-state separation and described President George W. Bush, a Methodist, as the nation's first true Catholic president.

Readers can look at two web sites, one by the Opus Dei Awareness Network, and one by Opus Dei itself.

Corporate executive Linda Valentine tapped as nominee for GAC executive director position  

LOUISVILLE – May 10, 2006 – Lifelong Presbyterian Linda Bryant Valentine, a lawyer and former executive at Motorola Inc., has been tapped by the Executive Director Search Committee as its candidate for the General Assembly Council (GAC)’s top post.

The 56-year-old elder at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago would bring to the post 30 years experience as a senior executive and corporate attorney in both the business world and the church.

The full report from Presbyterian News Service >>

Considering some of the many "other" issues coming to the Assembly

Gene TeSelle, Witherspoon Society Issues Analyst, offers brief analysis of overtures and reports that will be presented to the Assembly, dealing with


the divestment dispute


Social Witness Policy reports on globalization, people with disabilities, human rights, Iraq, and more





This article has also been published in the Spring 2006 issue of Network News, the Witherspoon newsletter, which is being sent to all commissioners and advisory delegates.  It is also available online in PDF format.  Just click here, then type in "14" in the page space at the bottom of the Adobe Reader, and you'll find it.

From the Presbyterian Washington Office and other groups:

We Are America NATIONAL LOBBY DAY May 17

Dear Immigrant Rights Advocates:

Please continue to make your voice heard and help pass comprehensive immigration reform by participating in the We Are America Nationwide Lobby Day. Come to Washington, DC to meet with your Senators and Representatives or engage them in your home state through visits, calls, letter deliveries, etc.   More details >>

An analysis and reflection on the PUP report

Gene TeSelle, Issues Analyst of the Witherspoon Society and emeritus professor at Vanderbilt Divinity School, offers an in-depth analysis of the report of the Theological Task Force on the Peace, Unity, and Purity of the Church.

This report is also available in the Spring 2006 issue of Witherspoon's Network News, which is being mailed right about today -- we hope -- to all commissioners and advisory delegates to the General Assembly.  You can also find it online in PDF format, with TeSelle's article beginning on page 6.

The Rev. Hal Porter shares his appreciation for William Thompson, former Presbyterian Moderator and Stated Clerk, who died in April at the age of 87.   

He begins:  "We all had our experiences with William P. Thompson. I shared the podium with him at a couple of events and certainly remembered his steady hand at many Assemblies. I want to be among the many to give thanks for his life. I offer a few remarks I made a few years ago that speak of one aspect of his life not often mentioned."     More >>

Post-GA conference planned at Montreat: "a potentially pivotal moment for PC (USA)"

"The Hope of the Church: Celebrating Common Ground" takes place July 5-8 at Montreat Conference Center in the Blue Ridge mountains of western North Carolina.  

An unprecedented gathering of church leaders and laity, the conference follows on the heels of the 217th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in Birmingham, AL, and is being promoted as a timely and important consultation about the future of the denomination. The conference will bring together 15 General Assembly moderators and 11 Presbyterian seminary presidents, as well as pastors, elders, deacons, seminarians, Christian educators, and concerned lay people from across the nation.  

More in the news release from Montreat Conference Center >>

Witherspoon's Network News is in the mail

The Spring 2006 issue of the Witherspoon Society newsletter is on its way to all Witherspoon members and to all commissioners and advisory delegates to the 217th General Assembly.

It contains a variety of articles analyzing and commenting on overtures and other matters that will come before the Assembly, along with responses from the four candidates for Moderator to questions presented to them by Witherspoon.

You can read it here, in PDF format.

The Covenant Network of Presbyterians has announced its support of the Peace, Unity and Purity report, and its appreciation of the report as presenting the church with "a remarkable moment of hope that will not come again soon."  

Acknowledging with regret that "the Covenant Network has contributed to a partisan spirit in the denomination by our tendency to draw apart from those who differ with us," the group will not, as it has in the past, suggest to commissioners how they might act on particular overtures or other issues. 

The statement says, however, that the Network will "continue to support these overtures [for the removal of G-6.0106b from the Book of Order], trusting that the Spirit will lead the commissioners to a faithful response to the Task Force report and the related overtures they will consider."    The full statement >>


How Biblical is the Christian Right?

Margaret M. Mitchell, Professor of New Testament and Early Christian Literature at the University of Chicago, looks at the ways in which the Christian Right uses the Bible in arguing for its agenda. It’s not simply a matter of Biblical literalism, for they use a variety of approaches to scripture, just as did the early Christian scholars whom she studies.

Of the early scholars, she says:

Biblical interpretation ... was not just a neutral quest for the meaning of the text, but always an attempt to bring the text to the work at hand (catechetical, apologetic, pastoral, and theological). Early Christian biblical interpretation, from the get-go, was an agonistic endeavor (building arguments through appeals to some texts, read in certain ways, against others who read either the same texts differently and/or different texts).

And so it is today:

The Christian Right represents biblical interpretation in a conjunction of two selective circles: of what are the key issues in the political realm and what are the central passages in the biblical record. It represents an odd alignment of each. The canonical delineation is striking—a focus on the Old Testament, with special prominence given to Judges and 1 and 2 Chronicles, as well as to Genesis and Leviticus; and in the New Testament, to selected moralizing passages of the Pauline letters and Revelation. It is easy to see then what is missing: the prophets of Israel and the teachings of Jesus (the Gospels). Along with them go concern with social/political issues such as economic inequality, peace-making, love and forgiveness, and critique of religious hypocrisy (just to choose a few!).

The key to this selectivity is the wholesale adoption by the Christian Right of one strand of biblical thinking, apocalyptic.

The full essay >>

Peacemaking can be done – even in a small congregation in a small, suspicious community

Bonnie Reynolds sent a brief article with a note saying it describes "a project developed and pursued by a very small (20) people in a conservative community, much afraid of ruffling feathers and offending others, but committed to living their Christian Faith - I ... hope it might be used in some way to encourage others to actively work for greater understanding."    More >>

ACLU releases documents showing years of FBI spying on School of the Americas Watch

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Georgia today released new evidence that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is using counterterrorism resources to spy on peaceful faith- and conscience-based advocacy groups. School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch) and its multinational faith-based network is the latest organization uncovered by the ACLU to have been subject to Federal Bureau of Investigation counterterrorism surveillance.  More >>

Bush setting up attack on Iran

Marjorie Cohn, writing for, building on reports by Seymour Hersh, lays out the evidence that the US military is making preparations – including the use of nuclear weapons – for an attack on Iran.

Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, President-elect of the National Lawyers Guild, and the US representative to the executive committee of the American Association of Jurists.

What are women's public values?
What do they mean for policy and practice?

Women are invited to join with Rita Nakashima Brock and many others to an online process in which "we will write a statement on women's vision for public life – and how we might live it out in policymaking and practice."

More >>

A little more about Dr. Brock >>

Dr. Brock will speak at GA, Voices of Sophia breakfast

Dr. Brock will be the featured speaker at the Voices of Sophia breakfast at General Assembly June 19th. She will be sharing the research she did on early Christianity, at a time before crucifixion and resurrection became the core of Christian theology, a time she calls paradise. Tickets are available for $20 online until May 22nd and upon arrival at GA. Tickets will not be sold at the door.

To register and order tickets online, go to

To order tickets, you can also go to  You can download the PDF form, print it, fill it out, and fax or mail it. Deadline is May 22.

Updates from the Campaign for Fair Food  

Call on Chipotle to Work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers

CIW and PC(USA) Featured in Sojourners May Issue

Details >>

Check out what’s new at this week!

New Studies
The Music and Message of U2
Spiritual Disciplines for Vacation

Staff Pick

Click on any of the links above to be redirected to the site for more information. Stay tuned next week for "Medical Ethics 101."
Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase encourages people to join in the No2Torture conference in Chicago, June 2 - 3     [5-4-06]


I want to add my voice to the invitation to participate in the Chicago No2Torture gathering on June 2 and 3 as a part of the beginning of Torture Awareness month. This is an opportunity to come together to pray, learn, discuss and strategize as an act of solidarity with those who suffer and as a witness to our faith.

Our first event in Miami in January was one of the most significant events I've participated in during my moderatorial term. There was a strong sense of unity among folks who probably found themselves surprised to be in the same room with one another. I do believe that gatherings like this one are one of the building blocks for the new kind of church that builds a solid consensus and finds its voice in the broader society.

While you are together in Chicago, I will be participating in a 75 mile desert trek following the route of migrants who cross our border. Another important witness, though I'm sorry not to be able to be with you.

I am very pleased that Jean Marie Peacock will be there as the Vice Moderator of the General Assembly. I will be with you in Spirit, while in body at the border, a different witness but to the same Lord, tortured and made whole.


Moderator, 216th General Assembly, PC(USA)

A general calendar of special events at GA

We have just posted on the JustPresbys web site a list of General Assembly events that may be of interest to Presbyterians with special concern for the peace and justice witness of our church.

Some of these events are sponsored by official agencies of the PC(USA), and are listed with links for further information. (Their listing  implies no endorsement by those agencies of the JustPresbys web site.) Other events are sponsored by one or more of the groups that have established the web site. Still others are sponsored by unofficial groups that have no role in sponsoring the web site; their events are listed simply because they may be of interest.

For a complete listing of official GA events, along with many others, go to

Many of the Mission/Cultural Tours, which are being offered to those with time to get out in the real world, will provide information and insight into Birmingham’s history in the civil rights struggle, and much more. They are all listed on the official GA schedule.

If you find anything missing from our list, or listed with incorrect information, please let us know!
Just send a note.

Tax resistance in the news

Pacifist couple pay taxes but omit portion that finances wars

Witherspooner Harold Barton sent us a note, along with a newspaper article from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which told of a couple – including Presbyterian minister Charley Hurst – who are refusing to pay the portion of their federal taxes which would go to support the U.S. military, including the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  (The article appeared, of course, in the April 15 edition.)

Harold asks what the Witherspoon Society thinks of tax resistance. As far as your WebWeaver can discover, this group has never taken any particular stand on the issue. But what do you think?

Just send a note, and we’ll share thoughts here.

More on GAC staff reductions

Exclusion from meetings raised ire of corresponding and at-large members

A report, published before the staff cuts were announced, described how the GAC sessions to decide on reductions in program and staff were closed to corresponding and at-large members, after a brief debate, by a vote of 26 to 23 . As a result, only 72 voting council members took part in the downsizing debate, while 18 others were left out.  Details >>

Presbyterian Washington Office reports on the impact of staff reduction on their work

Over the last ten years, the Washington Office staff has gone from 7 ½ positions to 4 with these last reductions.  They will need to go through some "regrouping" to see which parts of their program can be continued.  More >>

Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase comments on the immigration debate, out of his18 years of experience on the border   
Amnesty International says torture continues "widespread" in US custody

Human rights group says US "creating climate" in which abuse can flourish.

Amnesty International, in a report for the United Nations' Committee against Torture, says that torture and inhumane treatment are "widespread" in U.S.-run detention centers in Afghanistan, Iraq, Cuba and elsewhere despite Washington's denials.

The London-based human rights group also alleged abuses within the U.S. domestic law enforcement system, including use of excessive force by police and degrading conditions of isolation for inmates in high security prisons. It said that while Washington has sought to blame abuses that have recently come to light on "aberrant soldiers and lack of oversight", much ill-treatment stemmed from officially sanctioned interrogation procedures and techniques.

Read the Reuters report >>

Update on the Darfur peace talks, May 3, 2006

Bill Andress, Moderator of the Sudan Advocacy Action Forum,  reports on behalf of Presbyterians and others concerned for the genocidal violence continuing in Sudan.

The African Union (AU)-established and UN-supported deadline of April 30 to sign a peace agreement was not met. The Sudanese Government accepted the draft, while the rebel movements rejected it, arguing it was one sided favoring the government positions and worse than a draft presented 3 months ago.   The full report >>

GAC releases names of those laid off

Most departed May 1; others set for October 1

General Assembly Council Executive Director John Detterick today (May 2) formally released the names of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) national staff employees who have lost their jobs in the "reduction in force" needed to reduce the 2007-2008 General Assembly mission budget by $9.15 million.

Seventy-five employees lost their jobs May 1, the largest single layoff at the Presbyterian Center since 1993, when 140 jobs were eliminated.

Fifty-nine staff members concluded their service immediately. Sixteen others received notice that their jobs will end October 1, when the transition to a radically new organizational structure in Louisville will be complete.   The list of people dismissed >>

One visitor comments on the staff reduction:

The GAC release of terminated staff and additional staff lay-offs planned for October offers further evidence of the decline of Presbyterian mission and vitality. How else can this news be received? I wonder how much energy we retain for in-house arguments, when outside our narrow little world(which is shrinking rapidly) the peoples of the world observe our increasing irrelevance. We continue as Presbyterians to grow disconnected from younger generations, we have less and less to say and do about issues of poverty and injustice and war, and spend what little energy we have discussing what goes on in the bedrooms of individuals. My question is, Why would gay/lesbian/transgendered persons want to affiliate with such a dispirited group as Presbyterians?

Hart Edmonds
Omaha, NE

We welcome your thoughts on this difficult and painful subject.
Just send a note, to be shared here!

The immigration debate: It’s really all about race

The Rev. Eun-hyey Park, who lives and works in Louisville, KY, comments on an interview with Kentucky senators and representatives in which they seem totally unaware of "the dynamics of race, and the history of racism in "legal" immigration policy in our nation's history (e.g. the Chinese exclusion act of the late 19th century)."  But much of the concern about "illegal immigrants" seems to reflect above all concerns about race.

Candidates for Moderator respond to Witherspoon questions

One of the first acts of the 217th General Assembly will be the election of a new Moderator. To help our readers weigh this important choice, the Witherspoon Society has invited each of the four candidates to respond briefly to five questions that reflect Witherspoon concerns – and, we believe, the concerns of the wider church.

These responses will also appear in the Spring 2006 issue of Network News, which should be in the mail by early next week.  It will also be posted here in PDF format.  But you can see them now on the JustPresbys website.

GAC announces sweeping restructure of GA offices $9.15 million budget cut costs 75 jobs, including top management   

The General Assembly Council has approved the most radical restructuring of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s mission program since 1993, as it moves to reduce the 2007-2008 General Assembly mission budget by $9.15 million.

In all, 75 national staff positions in Louisville have been eliminated - most effective May 1 - as well as 55 overseas mission co-worker positions. Staff cuts in Louisville account for $4 million of the budget reduction, while the price tag for the overseas mission positions is $1.2 million.

For details, including a list of programs and positions being eliminated >>

Peacemaking Educational Event begins in Israel/Palestine

On Wednesday, April 26, Sara Lisherness, associate director of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, greeted the Presbyterians gathered for dinner at the Strand Hotel in Jerusalem with the words, "Christ be with you. We are here."

"And there are one hundred of us," observed Barbara Battin, conference coordinator. After three years of planning and multiple hours of travel, the travel/study conference in Israel/Palestine has begun.

Over the next few days participants from thirty-three presbyteries will pray and worship together, visit a number of sites, and listen to a variety of speakers. They will join in presbytery teams to process what they see, hear, and experience and to plan for ministry together.

Find periodically updated reports from the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program >>

From the Presbyterian Washington Office:

Toll-free Call In Days - Stop Budget Cuts 
The fight to stop the budget cuts is working! Please don't let up now.

Call your Representative toll-free at 800-459-1887 starting today, and say:

"As a Presbyterian, I am calling to urge Representative _____ to oppose any proposal that forces cuts in human needs programs by setting spending as low as the Administration's budget proposal. Funding set this low is a direct threat to children, seniors, and working families who need food, housing, Head Start, and education. Please support funding levels high enough to prevent cuts. Don't cut services to pay for more tax cuts for those to whom much has been given."    Details >>

Say No! To Torture

All are welcome to attend a gathering on June 2-3 at First Presbyterian Church, LaGrange, Illinois (Chicago west suburbs) to learn, pray, strategize and network. Presenters include:

Rear Adm. John Hutson (US Navy, ret.), President and Dean of Franklin Pierce Law School, former Executive Assistant to the Judge Advocate General of the Navy

Catherine Gordon, Associate for International Issues, Washington Office of the PC (USA)

The Rev. Jean Marie Peacock, Vice-Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA)

Ruth Barrett Rendler, Deputy Director of the Center for Victims of Torture (CVT)

Luis Rivera, Assoc. Professor of Theology, McCormick Seminary

The Rev. Carol Wickersham, No2 Torture Organizer, Sociology Faculty Beloit College

The gathering is free (an offering will be received) and open to all who wish to make common cause; however, all participants must register. People are welcome to bring sleeping bags to stay at the church, or to reserve a room at a nearby motel. Meals and child care are provided. For more information, or to register, go to .

Who Is Jesus Christ for Us Today?

George Hunsinger, professor at Princeton Seminary and a leading voice in the Presbyterian movement to oppose torture, asks in a sermon, "Who is Jesus Christ for us today?"  His answer is that Christ today is found among the victims of U.S. torture. 

He closes with an updated interpretation of I John 4:20:  "Those who say, 'I love God,' and torture their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who torture a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen -- and the same holds true for those who turn a blind eye to torture or otherwise condone it."   The full sermon >>

The Imperial Presidency -- not unrelated to torture

Not many months ago we were expressing concern about the "New American Empire." Now Jim Hightower, Texan and the author of Let's Stop Beating Around the Bush, reminds us that an imperial presidency must go along with the empire.

He provides a quick survey of President Bush’s continuing efforts to expand the powers of the presidency – to include spying on, imprisoning and torturing American citizens in the name of ‘security.’

He invites us to consider whether this is really the America we want, with no limitation on presidential powers.
The article >>

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,
we hope you'll help us keep Voices for Justice going ... and growing!

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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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