Presbyterian Voices for Justice 

A union of The Witherspoon Society and Voices of Sophia

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Archives:  June 2007

This page lists all reports and commentary from June, 2007

For items from earlier in August, 2007
All postings from
July, 2007
May, 2007
April, 2007
March, 2007
February, 2007
January, 2007
December, 2006
November, 2006
October, 2006
September, 2006
August, 2006
July, 2006

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

Save a little money -- send your early-bird registration for the Witherspoon conference, Sept. 16-19 in Louisville.

Registration for the conference is $180 until July 1, then goes to $190. 

For more information about the conference >>

To register online >>
NOTE:  If you have trouble making a payment using the PayPal form on the registration page, we apologize!  Please just send a check to the registrar, whose address is on the registration page.

A reader suggests added perspectives on recent PJC decisions

We received a note from the Rev. Robert Campbell, pastor of Tully Memorial Presbyterian Church in Sharon Hill, PA. Commenting on Gene TeSelle’s recent article on recent PJC decisions in the Synod of the Pacific and the Synod of the Trinity, he draws attention to the complexity of the issues as they have been adjudicated in various Synods. He notes rightly that the disagreements will finally reach the General Assembly PJC, which must take fully into account the Authoritative Interpretation of the recent General Assembly.

The Progressive Majority: Why a Conservative America is a Myth

For anyone interested in where the American public really stands on the big issues that distinguish progressives from conservatives – including the issues at the forefront of today’s political debates – "The Progressive Majority: Why a Conservative America Is a Myth" offers hard facts and analysis based on decades of data from some of the nation’s most respected and nonpartisan public opinion researchers. This is the evidence that political leaders have a mandate to pursue bold, progressive policies.

This report by the Campaign for America’s Future and Media Matters for America shows that in study after study, solid majorities of Americans take progressive stands on a full spectrum of issues, from bread-and-butter economics to the so-called "values" issues where conservatives claim preeminence.


On Health Care: 69 percent of Americans think it is the responsibility of the federal government to make sure all Americans have access to health coverage; 76 percent find access to health care more important than maintaining the Bush tax cuts; three in five would be willing to have their own taxes increased to achieve universal coverage.

On Energy Policy: 52 percent of Americans believe "the best way for the U.S. to reduce its reliance on foreign oil" is to "have the government invest in alternative energy sources"; 64 percent are willing to pay a higher energy tax to pay for renewable energy research; 68 percent of the public thinks U.S. energy policy is better solved by conservation than production.

On the Economy: 77 percent of Americans believe Congress should increase the minimum wage; 66 percent believe "upper-income people" pay too little in taxes; 53 percent feel the Bush administration's tax cuts have failed because they have increased the deficit and caused cuts in government programs.

On Government's Role: 69 percent of Americans believe the government "should care for those who can't care for themselves." Twice as many people (43 percent to 20 percent) want "government to provide many more services even if it means an increase in spending" as want government to provide fewer services "in order to reduce spending."

On Immigration: 62 percent of Americans believe undocumented immigrants should be given a chance to "keep their jobs and eventually apply for legal status." 49 percent believe the best way to reduce illegal immigration from Mexico is to penalize employers, not more border control.

Read the full report >>

Evangelical Presbyterian Church approves plan to welcome congregations leaving PC(USA)

The Presbyterian Layman reports:

In a series of stunning votes, commissioners to the 27th General Assembly of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church on Friday morning overwhelmingly approved a plan to create non-geographic, transitional presbyteries to receive congregations seeking to join the denomination.

[From your WebWeaver:  We’re not quite sure what was "stunning" about the votes, but anyway ...]

The rest of the story >>

Here’s another report, from The Christian Post >>

A note from your WebWeaver:

This formation of a new "place to go" for congregations leaving the Presbyterian Church (USA) is regrettable in many ways, but it seems important that Presbyterians who are not involved in this exodus pay attention to it, and seek to understand it.

If you have first-hand observations or comments to share, or can suggest other reports that are worth reading, please send a note, to be shared here.

Praying for Gaza

Shannon O’Donnell, PC(USA) volunteer in mission in Jerusalem, has sent this note, enclosing a very good glimpse into the realities in Gaza 

Hi Church,

...  You may be aware of the current situation in Gaza. I ask that you would hold these people in your prayers. Personally, I find it helpful to have a specific focus when I pray for something, so here is an article I included for Sabeel's quarterly magazine publication about a hospital in Gaza that we have close connections to. It says so much about the heart and mind of the people of Gaza, that (in my opinion) the news networks fail to portray ...

We goofed

Jim Berkley, Director of Presbyterian Action for the Institute on Religion and Democracy, has let us know about a numerical error (which we have corrected) in yesterday's comment from Gene TeSelle about recent PJC decisions.  The synod PJCs were rejecting presbytery actions affirming as absolute certain points in our Constitution which the 2006 General Assembly left to the conscience of individuals and the discernment of sessions and presbyteries.  He also points to what he sees as more grievous errors -- about which we may simply disagree.


The polity struggles continue
Is some resolution emerging?

Witherspoon Issues Analyst Gene TeSelle recently surveyed some of the ways presbyteries have begun to defy the Authoritative Interpretation adopted by the 217th General Assembly last summer.

He predicted that the various Permanent Judicial Commissions would not look favorably on these attempts by presbyteries to create their own creeds, or make selective interpretations of the Constitution, or prejudge matters that call for subtle discernment in particular cases. Now two decisions by synod PJCs suggest that his prediction was accurate.

His new discussion of the issue and of the new decisions >>

Jewish Voice for Peace –
toward understanding Gaza

The situation in Gaza is dire, and also confusing for many. JVP has assembled this newsletter to help clear some of the fog surrounding current events. Click here for an abridged version of a longer article by JVP's Director of Education and Policy, Mitchell Plitnick, offering an analysis of the events in Gaza.

Plitnick argues that no reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas is likely at this point, but that the US-Israeli strategy of using the split to crush Hamas will, as it has in the past, simply strengthen Hamas and other, more radical groups. Dealing with Hamas and bringing them into the political process would be far more effective. Neither Fatah nor Hamas wants al-Quaida and other Islamist groups to gain influence, but that is a possibility as long as radical Islamist see no other possibilities. The current crisis may offer an opportunity for real progress, if the US and Israel shift their tactics and deal with all the Palestinian groups, and use diplomatic skills rather than military power.

JustPresbys is back!

You may remember that in the months leading up to the 217th General Assembly in the summer of 2005, a number of progressive groups relating to the Presbyterian Church (USA) joined to create a shared website. Our purpose was two-fold:

First, we wanted to share progressive concerns and views with commissioners and others attending the Assembly, and with anyone else who was watching from afar. While some of our groups focus on one area of concern and others are more general in their focus, we are all committed to the wholeness of our world, which we understand to involve justice and peace and the well-being of all people; and we are committed to the wholeness and health of our Church and its witness and service in the world.

And second, we wanted to get better acquainted with commissioners and others interested in the Assembly, and to serve your concerns and needs in any way we could.

This website has been out of commission for a couple months now due to various little technological challenges. But we’re back, and we hope to add new material as it becomes available.

This may include news and announcements from the sponsoring groups, and reports and commentary on the 2006 GA, as well as articles looking toward the 218th Assembly, to be held in San Jose, California, June 21 - 28, 2008.

We welcome your comments and contributions!
Just send a note >>

A quick look at our Presbyterian "culture wars"   

The Rev. John Shuck, whose always-interesting blog we’ve mentioned before, has just written a super-condensed survey of the state of the Presbyterian Church (USA), putting our current struggles in clear perspective.  John is pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, TN.

He begins:

Here is a little introduction to church politics in the Presbyterian Church (USA). The so-called "Culture Wars" blaze through various church denominations. I thought I would take this time to introduce you to one of the movements in the Presbyterian Church. It has its cousins in other denominations such as the Methodist and Episcopal churches. On one hand, it is about internal denominational politics. But on the other hand, it is a larger part of a move toward theocracy in the United States.

The rest of his essay >>

Church World Service responds to the Gaza crisis

Situation report from CWS, June 18, 2007

Amid tentative signs that the situation in Gaza Strip was emerging from a crisis situation after a week of violence and uncertainty, the European Union said it plans to restore humanitarian aid to the beleaguered Palestinian Authority. That follows the Fatah-allied government's move to cut off ties with the radical faction Hamas, which now controls the Gaza Strip.

Runs on markets in Gaza in the wake of fears of food shortages had subsided with assurances from Israel that some humanitarian assistance would go into Gaza, the Associated Press (AP) news agency reported today.

Still, as Action by Churches Together (ACT) International reported, the coming days and weeks could see a deepening instability in economic and social conditions, translating into thousands of families having no access to food, cash, medical care and other needed essentials, particularly as the new school year approaches.

Last week's fighting left more than 100 dead and hundreds more wounded, with extensive damage done to an already weak infrastructure. Hospitals became battlegrounds and medical staff members were unable to report to work.

See the full report, including actions being taken, on the CWS website >>

Is gay sex immoral?
Are there other questions we should be asking?

Jim Boushay and Rickey Sain, writing about a month ago in The Wednesday Journal of Oak Park and River Forest (IL), did a nice job of putting the sexuality question in perspective. They begin:

On March 21, the Illinois House Human Services Committee narrowly advanced out of committee a plan to recognize civil unions for same sex couples. News accounts report there was opposition from faith-based organizations.

The question of whether gay sex is immoral needs to be asked and answered when there is discourse (pro and con) about LGBTers. With a straight-out question, then there may be more thoughtful opportunities to ask larger, culture-wide, undealt-with questions about moral and ethical action. These larger questions are the very questions not often being asked widely and realistically. The larger moral questions have to do with the persistence of war, terrorism, poverty, grossest health disparities (47 million Americans either un- or under-insured), corporate corruption and greed, lack of sustained political accountability, the burgeoning of the homeless, global warming, the despair of an electorate disengaged because of excess political manipulation and duplicity, public education regularly out of touch with the perplexities of our times, the ongoing salt-in-the-wounds conflict between the sacred and secular, and all the other dysfunctions bedeviling our lives. Talk about immorality!

The rest of the article >>

Thanks to Ellen Howell

Synod overturns Sacramento Presbytery effort to reverse GA’s Authoritative Interpretation

Presbyterian Outlook reports that efforts by the Presbytery of Sacramento to nullify the action of the 2006 General Assembly, which affirmed the right of conscience for candidates for ordination. The Permanent Judicial Commission of the Synod of the Pacific ruled that all four policies adopted by the presbytery either violated the spirit of the Authoritative Interpretation adopted by the Assembly, or violated basic principles of Presbyterian Church such as connectionalism, respect for individual conscience and for the discernment exercised by individual congregations.

See the report on the Outlook website >>
Registration is required to see the complete story – but it’s free.

The full decision is posted on the Synod website >>

Working for peace ...“beginning from within”  

Your WebWeaver recently joined about a dozen other men for a five-day retreat at a nearby Trappist monastery – observing silence for most of the time, with an hour and a half each morning for work alongside the monks. I reflected on this deeply good time in the Spring issue of Network News, and would like to share my thoughts with you in our wider web audience.

I came home thinking of how all of us – right, left and center – might benefit from giving ourselves more time for silence, and taking our own inwardness more seriously. As one Buddhist teacher puts it, we need to begin peacemaking by dealing with the wars within us.

NCC sending work team to New Orleans

We all said we would not forget our brothers and sisters in New Orleans after Katrina. Now HERE is a chance to make good on that commitment! You and members of your faith community can join the National Council of Churches as they mark the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina by participating in a week-long work project. Interested? Here's more:

Join Us in New Orleans for Worship, Witness & Work
August 19-25, 2007

Two years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, residents continue their efforts to rebuild. But they need our support. The faith community was there as first responders. We will continue to be there for the victims of this storm until the work is done.

Come to New Orleans as we worship, witness and work together to help those in need as they rebuild their homes, churches, communities and lives.    Details >>

And don’t forget ...

The Presbyterian Church (USA), through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, has been coordinating work teams in the Gulf Coast area almost since the hurricanes struck. Right now their call is for work teams, especially teams with skilled workers, to help in the recovery and rebuilding phases.
More on PDA relief efforts >>

SOA survives vote in Congress by 6 votes
From SOA Watch

Last night at 11:52 PM, Congress defeated the McGovern/Lewis amendment to cut the funding for the SOA/WHINSEC by a margin of six votes.

The mobilizing effort was tremendous: Tens of thousands of emails, faxes and calls flooded the halls of Congress over the past three days. Students, clergy, union members and veterans traveled to DC and visited with hundreds of Congressional offices to communicate clearly that there is no room for institutions like the SOA in the future that we want to see. Despite this, 214 Members of Congress missed the chance to stand up for human rights, justice and democracy, and voted to keep the funding for the SOA flowing.   More >>

Final Reminder for June 26 -
"Day of Action to Restore Law and Justice"

From the Rev. Richard Killmer, Executive Director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture

Wherever you may be on June 26, there will be opportunities to tell your members of Congress that you want U.S.-sponsored torture to end:

bulletWASHINGTON, DC - Rally and Congressional Visits:

Have you and your delegation members registered with NRCAT? If not, click here to do so.

For more details >>

bulletNEW YORK CITY - Interfaith worship and March co-sponsored by the Metro New York Religious Campaign Against Torture:

For details of the day, go to the Metro New York Religious Campaign Against Torture website.


Call your Members of Congress or their staff by phone at their DC offices on June 26 or anytime during Torture Awareness Week, June 25 - 29. For more information about your elected members of Congress and contact information, click here.

Wherever we are on June 26, it is important to call on our Members of Congress to:

bulletEnd torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees.
bulletClose secret U.S. detention facilities.
bulletStop extraordinary rendition - secretly kidnapping people and sending them to countries that torture.
bulletClose the detention center at Guantánamo and give those held there access to an independent court.

Thank you for your commitment to end U.S.-sponsored torture.

Looking at immigration from the perspective of faith

"Immigration, Identity, and God's Providence"

Witherspoon member Dr. David True offers a very helpful theological look at the current debate (or as he calls it, "shouting match") on immigration. He notes that "[t]his is a strange debate; one in which the word ‘amnesty’ has become a form of slander. Fear and loathing seem the order of the day."

One problem is that three different languages are being used here: "the moral languages of law and order, cultural cohesiveness, and liberation and compassion." Further, "One of the striking things about this debate is the nearly complete absence of talk about God. The dominant languages have been content to focus instead on human identity. ... The lack of God-talk reflects our failure as people of faith to reason together about what our fundamental convictions have to say about our situation with respect to immigrants. More specifically, belief in God's providence ought to cause us to at least question appeals to fear and anxiety."

This failure is because we have reduced God’s providence "to an individualized spirituality in which God functions as a personal fetish. ... [W]e Americans are big fans of a personal Jesus, but we seem to lack any sense of God's fundamental goodness, benevolence, or love expressed in a providential care for the natural world, including the peoples of the earth. This loss of faith or confidence makes it difficult to resist the language of fear, which helps explain why so many citizens of the world's sole remaining super-power talk, organize, and vote as if we were literally under siege from our neighbors to the south. The recovery of a fuller notion of God's providence would aid in forming a more accurate interpretation of our circumstances and responsibilities."

This essay is being published shortly in the journal Political Theology
But right now, with Dr. True's kind permission, you can read it here >>

David True is Assistant Professor of Religion at Wilson College, in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. He also serves as one of the editors of the international journal Political Theology. His interests include twentieth-century figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Reinhold Niebuhr, and Walter Rauschenbusch. Currently he is working on several projects including an essay on immigration and another comparing Michael Walzer and Reinhold Niebuhr. He is also doing research for a book on the political theology of twentieth century progressive Protestants. He earned a PhD at Union-PSCE in theology and ethics and is an ordained minister in the PC (USA). 

U.S. Food Aid Requires Drastic Changes: Take Action Today

An Action Alert from ActionAid USA, Oakland Institute, & Washington Office on Latin America

Each year millions of tons of food are shipped from the United States to developing countries as food aid. But a dirty little secret is hiding in the food aid system.

U.S. food aid policy is primarily geared towards the interests of multinational agribusiness and shipping companies. All food provided by the U.S. food aid program must be produced in the United States and shipped abroad at great cost. This preference given to in-kind food produced in the U.S. and the U.S. shipping industry makes U.S. food aid unnecessarily expensive. In addition, the U.S. procurement requirement delays delivery of emergency food aid by nearly five months on average.

A proposal to allow one quarter of emergency resources to be used to purchase food grown by local or regional producers is being considered in Congress. But Members of Congress need to hear from constituents that this is an issue they care about. Call your Senators and Congressional Representatives TODAY to support the proposed change in the 2007 Farm Bill which would allow for 25% of emergency food aid purchases under Title II to be provided in cash for local and regional purchase rather than as commodities purchased in the United States and shipped to developing countries.


Senate: 202-224-3121 (Operator assistance); House: 202-225-3121 (Operator assistance)

Urge Congress to ensure food aid goes to those in need, not corporations!

More >>

One 'I do' for gay marriage

New York State Assembly votes 85-61 to pass bill; no action scheduled in Senate

ALBANY, NY – After more than three hours of impassioned debate, the Assembly on Tuesday night approved a bill to allow same-sex marriage in New York.

Even though the bill is not slated for discussion in the Senate, proponents said the Assembly action was an important first step if New York is ever to legalize such marriages.

"I'm very proud of my colleagues," said a buoyant Daniel O'Donnell, D-Manhattan, an openly gay lawmaker who carried the bill on behalf of Gov. Eliot Spitzer. The bill passed 85-61, more than he'd expected.

More >>

Urge the House of Representatives to cut funding for School of the Americas

Peacemaking Update June 19, 2007

Congress will soon vote on an amendment to close WHINSEC/School of the Americas. This institution, funded by our tax dollars and located at Ft. Benning, Georgia, has trained over 60,000 Latin American Soldiers. This school has graduated many of the worst human rights abusers in Latin American History. Rep. McGovern (MA) and Rep. John Lewis (GA) will introduce an amendment to the Foreign Operations appropriations bill to cut funding for the WHINSEC/SOA.

Presbyterian General Assemblies have called for the closing of the institution (see below). School of the Americas Watch makes it possible to send an e-mail and free fax to Congress; click here to send your message >>


God in Jesus Christ calls us to make peace. Recognizing that the nations of Central America, South America and the Caribbean have experienced "sustained levels of violence, that military leaders of the countries have been responsible for many incidents of violence and have been implicated in human rights abuses, and that many of those leaders were trained at the School of the Americas," the 206th General Assembly (1994) called upon the United States government to

a. eliminate any and all funding for the School of the Americas, and close the school;

b. cease any further training of the military leaders from the countries of Central America, South America, and the Caribbean; and

c. use the funds that have been spent on the School of the Americas to support – both in the U.S. and in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean – programs for women, children, the hungry, the homeless, and other victims of violence.

The 207th General Assembly (1995) reaffirmed this action. The mission of the School of the Americas has been taken over by the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation.

More PC(USA) resources >>
More on this site about School of the Americas >>

Click here to send an e-mail or fax to your representative >>

The Rev. W. Mark Koenig, Coordinator
Presbyterian Peacemaking Program
100 Witherspoon St., #3231 Louisville, KY 40202
888-728-7228, ext. 5936

With vote to close the U.S. Army School of the Americas pending, new details emerge on Army spying

Aaron Shuman has recently posted a long article detailing his charges of a long-standing effort of government spying on the protest movement SOA Watch.

He says that "for years, former school instructor Ken LaPlante ran a counterintelligence operation against SOA Watch while working as a subcontractor for the Department of the Army. LaPlante's activities — and those of William Willoughby, a civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army who says he reported to LaPlante — raise questions about the use of contractors and the infrastructure of the Army to spy on protesters against the School of the Americas, and possible ties to the White House. This comes as the U.S. Senate considers legislation reauthorizing intelligence gathering."

Aaron Shuman attended the 2002 protests of the School of the Americas as a journalist, participated in the 2004 protests, and did four months in federal prison in 2005.

His article appears on "Narcosphere," a site supported by The Fund for Authentic Journalism.  The site began in 2000 as a place for independent reporting on the "drug war," and now provides space for journalists to post their own reports on other subjects as well.

More on School of the Americas >>

Act now to end funding for new nukes

Witherspoon member Mary Louise Ellenberger, a retired minister living in Maryland, has forwarded this message to us from

Right now, Senate leaders are drafting their spending bill that could terminate the nuclear weapons program entirely. The House has already cut the funding for new nukes, but it will only stick if the Senate follows suit. This is our best shot to end funding of new nuclear weapons. Email your Senators and tell them to support an Energy and Water Appropriations bill that cuts all spending for new nuclear weapons.

The Senate should follow the lead of the House by cutting all funding for the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) Program in their spending bill. We should be working to make the world a safer, more peaceful place, not funding and building more nuclear weapons.

Decisions about this bill are being made now. So be sure to email your senators today and ask that they do everything they can to call for a bill that cuts funding to the nuclear warhead program.

 We have a real chance to end funding for nuclear weapons, but the Senate needs to hear from as many of us as possible. After you've taken action, be sure to send this message onto your friends so they can get involved.

Darcy Scott Martin, TrueMajority Washington Director

Encouragement during Torture Awareness Month

The Rev. Carol Wickersham, of No2Torture, reports on bits of good news, as the courts act to limit the President's power to label people as "enemy combatants" beyond the reach of US laws and rights, new evidence is given of the existence of US-run secret prisons, and much more. 

She also reminds us that legislation to repeal the Military Commissions Act and restore the constitution has gained numerous sponsors in the Senate and the House. More are still needed! You can do something!  

And on June 26 thousands will gather in Washington, DC from around the country for "The Day of Action to Restore Law and Justice"  Check out this web site to get involved.

Also, this month Carol was elected to the Board of the National Religious Coalition Against Torture, which represents over 100 faith-based organizations.

More >>

Immigration reform?

Here are some helpful sources for information on the legislative issues

A note on the Presbyterians for Just Immigration e-list provides links to much helpful information from both governmental and non-governmental sources.  Just click here >>

PC(USA) comments on immigration reform, Israeli-Palestinian crisis, and more

Witness in Washington Weekly, published by the Presbyterian Washington Office, covers these vital issues in the June 18, 2007, edition:

bulletImmigration Reform Is Still With Us
bulletTake Action on Israeli-Palestinian Peace
bulletHow Do You Eliminate Poverty?
bulletVeto Threatens Stem Cell Research
bulletUS State Department Trafficking in Persons Report for 2007
bulletPsalm 101:1 - I will sing
Women in leadership in the church?

Well, the Southern Baptists offer one perspective.

Baptist Seminary Homemaking Classes for Wives to Rescue Culture, Church

Robert Parham, executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics, offers a delightful (or appalling) look at one way to defining women’s role in the church

He begins:

Christian homemaking will save the Southern Baptist Convention and the nation, according to the president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, one of the nation's largest training schools for pastors.

Paige Patterson announced at the SBC meeting in San Antonio that his school was offering an academic program to train women how to make a Christian home.

Yes, there is evidently a Christian way for wives to water houseplants, wash clothes, warm leftovers and wax floors.

Having made June Cleaver the biblical model for motherhood, training the wives of ministers to be June Cleaver with a Christian twist shouldn't have come as a surprise.

The SBC adopted a doctrinal statement in 1998 that a wife had "the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household."


Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, in Louisville, Ky., has a similar, albeit less demanding, 13-hour certificate for seminary wives.

The Seminary Wives Institute teaches women femininity, fitness, hospitality and how to meet the needs of their pastor-husbands. Courses teach wives ways to avoid clutter, use day planners, organize the kitchen and manage the household. [Your WebWeaver could use that part about avoiding clutter, but would be disqualified by gender. Among other things.]

Parham concludes:

What is dangerous about Christian homemaking programs is that they diminish the Christian faith and deceive naíve Christians. Faith speaks to moral, social and spiritual matters, not matters like boiling water. Water boils, spoons stack in kitchen drawers and sewing machines sew the same way for Christians and non-Christians. For Christians to think otherwise is a frightening split from reality.

This editorial appeared as a column in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday, June 18.

The Whale ... and liberation

This liberating story was forwarded to us by Witherspooner Bill Knox.

The Whale

If you read the front page story of the SF Chronicle [in December, 2005], you would have read about a female humpback whale who had become entangled in a spider web of crab traps and lines. She was weighted down by hundreds of pounds of traps that caused her to struggle to stay afloat. She also had hundreds of yards of line rope wrapped around her body, her tail, her torso, a line tugging in her mouth.

A fisherman spotted her just east of the Farralone Islands (outside the Golden Gate ) and radioed an environmental group for help.

Within a few hours, the rescue team arrived and determined that she was so bad off, the only way to save her was to dive in and untangle her

A very dangerous proposition. One slap of the tail could kill a rescuer.

They worked for hours with curved knives and eventually freed her. When she was free, the divers say she swam in what seemed like joyous circles. She then came back to each and every diver, one at a time, and nudged them, pushed gently around-she thanked them. Some said it was the most incredibly beautiful experience of their lives.

The guy who cut the rope out of her mouth says her eye was following him the whole time, and he will never be the same.

May you, and all those you love, be so blessed and fortunate as to be surrounded by people who will help you get untangled from the things that are binding you. And may you always know the joy of giving and receiving gratitude.

I pass this on to you, my friend, in the same spirit.

Democratic candidates talk about faith

This past weekend was brightened (or burdened, depending on your point of view) by an important step in the current Presidential campaign. Initiated largely by Jim Wallis of Sojourners, the three leading Democratic candidates – Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards – appeared together on CNN, where each responded to several questions from journalists and religious leaders about the intersection of faith and politics. The stated topic was "Faith, Values and Poverty," reflecting Wallis’ conviction that poverty must be seen as the major issue in this campaign.

So, how did it go?

We bring you comments from Jim Wallis himself, Peter Steinfels of the New York Times, Brian Lewis wrote in the Springfield, MO, News-Leader, and Sister Joan Chittister -- with perhaps the most provocative of the responses.

Click here >>

On immigration –

What 'These People' Contribute Remains America's Saving Grace

Pierre Tristam, writing in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, calls the current raging against undocumented immigrants just what it seems to be: bigotry. That’s what led to the defeat of the immigration bill in the US Senate. "The defeat is attributable to one thing: Americans don't want more Mexicans and other brown-skinned people here. ‘These people came in the wrong way, so they don't belong here, period,’ was how one Monique Thibodeaux ... summed it up in the Sunday paper."

But, he argues, "these people" are largely responsible for the United States’ population growth over recent decades, and therefore its economic growth as well.

He continues:

At no point in this country's history have immigrants, involuntary or "illegal" included, hurt the country nearly as much as those exploiting them. Undocumented immigrants aren't hurting the country now — not as we're constantly reminded of record stock gains, record corporate profits, low inflation, low unemployment and low interest rates. That rosy economic profile hides serious fissures, to be sure. But inequality is top-driven, never bottom-driven, and certainly not immigrant-driven.

The full article >>

Thanks to Witherspooner Scott Marrese-Wheeler, of Marshfield, Wisconsin

Selections from the Peacemaking Update, 9 June 2007

Jesus: Proclaiming Peace
July 3-8 Montreat, NC

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Torture Awareness Month is June 2007    More >>

SUDAN Advocacy Works!

But right now ... Help is needed in the US Senate:

An urgent message from the Save Darfur Coalition

We need your help. It's been two months since we first wrote you about an important bill that would help end the violence by empowering states to divest their pension funds from companies that help fund the genocide in Darfur.

Unfortunately, this crucial bill is stuck in the Senate Banking Committee. We need your help to push it through to a vote ASAP.

When lives are being lost, two months is far too long to sit on such an important bill!

Please click here now to send your letter asking Senator Dodd to use his position as Chair of the Senate Banking Committee to make sure the Sudan Divestment Authorization Act comes to the Senate floor for a vote without further delays.

Fifteen courageous states have already passed their own divestment policies in an effort to stop the violence in Darfur. The Sudan Divestment Authorization Act would protect these and other states' rights to divest from challenges by the National Foreign Trade Council (NFTC), an organization which has already successfully challenged Illinois' divestment policy and aims to challenge others.

We can't afford to let the NFTC play this game any longer - too many lives are at stake. Our government should be doing everything in its power to encourage the states to help fight the violence, not prevent them from acting!

Click here now to urge Senate Banking Committee Chair Dodd to stop delaying and send the Sudan Divestment Authorization Act to the Senate floor for a vote immediately!

Once you've sent your message, please help us spread the word by forwarding this message to your friends, family and co-workers and ask them to join you.

Keynoters announced for More Light conference

Erin Swenson and Jack Rogers will serve as two of the keynote speakers at the National More Light Presbyterians Conference, being held August 31 - September 2, 2007 in Atlanta, GA. Each of them will also offer thought-provoking educational workshops.

The Rev. Dr. Jack Rogers was Moderator of the 213th General Assembly, is a Presbyterian minister, Professor Emeritus of Theology at San Francisco Theological Seminary & Fuller Theological Seminary, and author of the best-selling Jesus, the Bible & Homosexuality, Explode the Myths, Heal the Church.

The Rev. Dr. Erin K. Swenson is also a Presbyterian minister, and is a pastoral counselor, transgender educator and inspirational speaker. She was the first minister in mainline Christianity to maintain pastoral credentials after gender transition. She is co-founder of SAGE, the Southern Association for Gender Education, and recently served as Co-Moderator, National MLP Board of Directors.

For more information and to register, go to

Outspoken political scientist Norman Finkelstein denied tenure at DePaul

Norman Finkelstein, the political scientist whose bid for a permanent position at DePaul University stirred up charges of anti-Semitism, personal vendettas and outside interference in the hiring process, was informed Friday [June 8, 2007] that he had been denied tenure by the university.

The full report in the New York Times >>

The Chicago Sun-Times reported on Friday >>

The Chronicle of Higher Education notes that DePaul University’s president, the Rev. Dennis Holtschneider, affirmed the decision against granting tenure, adding that the intense outside interest in the case "was unwelcome and inappropriate and had no impact on either the process or the outcome of this case."

A Roman Catholic priest was quoted to your WebWeaver, by a friend, as saying:

Anyone who denies the long arm of the powerful Israeli lobby in America need only to note today that distinguished Professor Norman Finkelstein of De Paul University was denied tenure. Without any doubt this was due to his outspoken criticism of Israeli policies. This was a great triumph for leading Zionist scoundrel Alan Dershowitz and his crusade to have Finkelstein denied tenure. Finkelstein's great sin has been his defense of the Palestinian people and his criticism of Israeli policies toward them. Because Finkelstein's family were Holocaust survivors and his Jewish credentials impeccable his courageous stance for justice was intolerable for the likes of Dershowitz and the Israeli lobby.

The greater shame is that of the Catholic university of De Paul for knuckling in to the pressures from the Zionist lobby. I have attended Finkelstein's brilliant lectures and treasure his autographed book.

This is a disgrace and a violation of academic freedom. The excuse given for tenure denial is limp and contrived. Shame on De Paul.

Click here to read Dr. Finkelstein's letter to Commissioners to the 217th General Assembly, discussing the issue of Israel and divestment as they prepared for the Assembly.

For background on the attacks on Finkelstein because of his criticism of Israel >>


Two calls for a "New Marshall Plan"

Cornell president and Network of Spiritual Progressives both urge this big step forward   

Witherspooner Betty Hale recently told us of the commencement address by Cornell's president, David Skorton, calling for the creation of a "New Marshall Plan" to alleviate the gaps between rich and poor nations, and much more.  He urges universities to spearhead this move, using their capacities for research and innovation to benefit a world in crisis.

bullet Skorton's commencement address >>
bulletExcerpts from the address >>

At the same time, the Network of Spiritual Progressives is putting forth a similar call, rooted not in academia but in the growing conviction among people of faith that the world must begin learning to operate on the basis of generosity rather than selfishness and fear of the other.

bullet The NSP statement >>
bulletExcerpts from the statement >>
Gay groups express concern about Surgeon General nominee 

The Associated Press reported yesterday (June 6) that President Bush's nominee for surgeon general, Kentucky cardiologist Dr. James Holsinger, has come under fire from gay rights groups for voting to expel a lesbian pastor from the United Methodist Church, and writing in 1991 that gay sex is unnatural and unhealthy. Also, Holsinger helped found a Methodist congregation that, according to gay rights activists, believes homosexuality is a matter of choice and can be "cured."

The rest of the story >>

Also ...
Soulforce has issued a statement on the nomination of Dr. Holsinger

Missing from the immigration debate: creating economic opportunity in Mexico

Could an influx of foreign aid to Mexico solve America's immigration problem?

James Ridgeway, writing for Mother Jones magazine, says:

For all the talk about immigration reform on the Hill, there has been notably little discussion about what is driving Mexican immigrants to pour over the border into the U.S., let alone any debate about measures that might go to the root of the problem.

According to Laura Carlsen, the director of the International Relations Center's Americas Program, the reason behind the "massive out-migration" is fairly clear. Put simply, she wrote not long ago, "Mexico is not producing enough decent jobs for its people—and the United States is hiring." It would seem, then, that one potential answer to the United States' so-called immigration problem would be an effective development policy toward Mexico (whose citizens make up 56 percent of America's undocumented population, according to the Pew Hispanic Center), including both private investment and foreign aid. As it stands, Mexico receives the bulk of its aid not from the U.S. government or corporations but from immigrants themselves.

The full article >>

A book note:

The Horrors We Bless: Rethinking the Just-War Legacy, by Daniel C. Maguire, Fortress, 2007.

The Rev. Betty Hale, of Roxboro, NC, writes:

Daniel Maguire, who is Professor of Moral Theological Ethics at Marquette University, aims "to challenge the seductive power of war that so grips and hobbles our imaginations." A major cause, he argues, is "Just-war" Theory. Its original purpose – to limit, control, and even avoid warfare – now is commonly subverted to justify and "baptize" it. The burden of proof intended to rest upon the warrior now rests upon the conscientious objector.

Maguire has the gift of truth-telling in such a way that you can see. Noting how we have sanitized the idea of war, Maguire observes: "War can even be a form of armchair spectator entertainment. It is acceptable for people to become 'Civil War buffs,' or 'Revolutionary War buffs.' If people were to announce themselves as 'prostitution buffs' or 'necrophilia buffs,' their perverted absorption in such human disasters would raise eyebrows."    The rest of her book-note, and a link to order the book >>

It’s time to break the silence, and respect freedom of conscience   

Soon after we posted Michael Adee’s comment on the death of Bill Silver, we received this note from Tim Leadingham, a Witherspoon member living in Coulee Dam, Washington:

The following quote is from Michael Adee in eulogizing Bill Silver:

The silence about homosexuality has been broken. Misunderstandings and false witness about us are slowly and surely going away. People understand more about same-sex love and are more critically and responsibly reading their Bibles.

Leadingham continues:

The bold phrase describes our pastor, Les Bishop, who was denied membership in a presbytery simply for holding a conscientious interpretation of scripture that the New Testament does not blanket condemn all same-sex relationships. He did not perform any action or propose to do so in violation of any provision of the Book of Order. Yet, the silence on this issue, that of freedom of conscience in interpretation of scripture on non-essential matters, continues.

How will "misunderstandings and false witness" ever go the way of slavery, if we remain silent on this kind of unjust abuse of power by the presbyteries? The Book of Order is clear that presbyteries and higher bodies have the responsibility to respect freedom of conscience in interpretation of scripture in non-essential matters, which this clearly is. Look it up, people!

For the sake of Christ Our Lord,


Amnesty International: US treats the world as "one giant battlefield for its 'war on terror'"

Report 2007: Politics of fear creating a dangerously divided world

Amnesty International has issued its annual report on the state of human rights around the world. The theme of the report is the "politics of fear" which is being used by some many governments and leaders – the US being one of the primary examples.

bullet Read the press release which summarizes the report >>
bullet Better yet, take a look through the whole report >>
Senate committee rejects Bush's torture policy

The Senate Intelligence Committee has signaled to the White House that an infamously abusive secret CIA program to interrogate high-level al-Qaida types may have to be scrapped, given "the damage the program does to the image of the United States abroad." It is a stinging rejection of a program that President Bush late last year called "one of the most successful intelligence efforts in American history" and comes as administration lawyers are reportedly crafting new, secret rules to govern it.

Read the article in Salon Magazine >>

Stand against torture – June 26th in Washington, DC

This comes from NRCAT, the National Religious Coalition Against Torture.

If you’re not near Washington, point 5 suggests possibilities for you.

Dear NRCAT Participating and Endorsing Members:

The big day to stand with other people of faith and human rights leaders against torture is just around the corner – Tuesday, June 26th. Two- to three-thousand people will gather for an 11:30 a.m. rally on Capitol Hill and in the afternoon lobby their Members of Congress to end torture. We hope that you will be able to come and that you will encourage the members of your organization to attend as well. This is a very important NRCAT effort and one we hope will be very successful – with your support.

Rich Killmer, Executive Director, NRCAT, 207-846-1614,

More, including suggestions for action >>

a call from The Interfaith Alliance

We Need You to Recruit Religious Leaders to Join "Clergy Against Hate"

You can send this message to your colleagues and other religious leaders.

June 5, 2007

Dear Friends:

Help Us Stop The Hate!

For the first time in over a decade, Americans have the opportunity to enact meaningful hate crimes legislation.

BUT we cannot do it without you.

We need your help NOW to enlist every religious leader—especially clergy—to join an interfaith effort by signing the petition at  As you read this, the Religious Right continues its attempts to mislead the public and defeat this critical legislation.

This legislation would finally expand the protected categories to include sexual orientation, gender, and disability. It would also provide federal resources when local law enforcement is unable, or unwilling, to prosecute these crimes. It is important to note that this is not a penalty-enhancement bill that would impose harsher sentences. Rather, the bill recognizes that hate crimes effect not just the individual victim, but an entire community, and law enforcement should have the necessary resources to combat these heinous crimes.

But we’re only one third of the way there. Now our fight moves to the Senate and the White House. Religious Right lobbyists, stung by their failure to block this bill in the House, are claiming to represent all people of faith as they attempt to derail this bill. That’s why we need your help to drive religious leaders—especially clergy—to visit and sign the petition to proclaim that hate is not an American, or moral value!

Thank you, in advance, for doing your part. 

Warm Regards,

The Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy
President, The Interfaith Alliance

PS. Thanks in part to our aggressive lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill — meeting with countless members of the House and their staffs to explain why this legislation is important to people of faith and compassion—the House of Representatives recently passed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007 (S. 1105, H.R. 1492) by an impressive and bipartisan 237 to 180 margin.

Celebrating the life, death & witness of William David Silver, a son of our Church.

From Michael J. Adee, M.Div., Ph.D., National Field Organizer for More Light Presbyterians

June 4, 2007

With sadness, a sense of pathos, and with thanksgiving for the life of Bill Silver, those of us within More Light Presbyterians recognize the life, ministry and witness of William David Silver, and his recent death as noted in today's New York Times obituary.

Bill Silver is remembered as one of the pioneers of the welcoming and affirming, More Light Movement in the Presbyterian Church (USA), along with his friends and colleagues who preceded him in death: David Sindt and Rosemarie Wallace.

As we mark Bill's life and his passing, I ponder the divine reunion of these three friends on the other side. What do the lives, gifts for ministries and witness of David, Rosemarie and Bill tell the Church today? How do their lives, and the loss of their ministries, inform our prayers, faith journeys, our understanding of the Gospel, Scripture, the teachings of Jesus and our strivings to live faithfully together as the Presbyterian Church (USA), part of God's realm on earth?

It seems quite extraordinary that the same conversations from the early 1970's about recognition, acceptance and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and same gender loving persons and their families continue today. When will these conversations mature into action, acceptance and justice?

Signs of hope surround us in the midst of our striving together for full participation in the life, ministry and witness of the Presbyterian Church (USA). It is no longer 1975 when Bill sought recognition of his call and gifts for ministry. The silence about homosexuality has been broken. Misunderstandings and false witness about us are slowly and surely going away. People understand more about same-sex love and are more critically and responsibly reading their Bibles.

The welcoming and affirming More Light Movement which began necessarily as a sanctuary movement is now an advocacy movement that continues to extend safe space while working for spiritual, ordination and marriage equality. Churches all over the country are stepping up to affiliate, minister and witness as welcoming and affirming More Light Churches. Calls to end discrimination against LGBT people are made at every General Assembly. The Presbyterian Church (USA) is poised to become a just, loving, welcoming and affirming Church.

Of course, part of the pathos is that we have lost Bill, David, Rosemarie and countless other persons who deserved to be loved, accepted, welcomed and affirmed in the Church that baptized, taught them faith and raised them.

So, it is with gratitude that we recognize the life and recent death of Bill Silver. Our care, condolences and prayers are with his sister Betsy, brother Jim, and other family and friends.

with hope and grace,


Michael J. Adee, M.Div., Ph.D., National Field Organizer

More Light Presbyterians(505) 820-7082,,

A response to Ambassador Chas W. Freeman’s essay on "Can American Leadership Be Restored?"

Click here for a summary of Freeman's essay >>
... or here for the complete paper >>

We have received a comment from Prof. Dr. Earl Tilford, a Presbyterian elder, retired military officer, and professor of history at Grove City College in Pennsylvania.

You may be interested to read Dr. Tilford’s earlier exchange (if that’s the word for it) in the spring of 2006 with Beth Pyles, a Presbyterian member of the Christian Peacemaker Team in Iraq, after the kidnapping and killing of one of their group, Tom Fox.

Dr. Tilford begins by quoting from Ambassador Freeman:


"The center of the problem of 'terrorism' is 'the brutal oppression of the Palestinians by an Israeli occupation that is about to mark its fortieth anniversary and shows no sign of ending.' We must unshackle ourselves from Israel and its increasingly aggressive policy towards the Palestinians."  You asked for a comment. Here it is. Fiddlesticks. I'm being polite.

The rest of the note >>

The Spring 2007 issue of Network News is in the mail -- and is posted here.

Among the major articles:

bulletfour pieces dealing with our never-ending war in Iraq  (pp. 5-14)
bullet"Four steps toward a just peace" -- Shannon O'Donnell reports from Jerusalem  (15-17)
bulletReflections after the Virginia Tech "massacre"   (18-19)
bulletEaster hope in a Good Friday world, Theological musings by Dr. Paul Capetz  (20-21)
bulletLearning to live with G-6.0108 and the Authoritative Interpretation, by Gene TeSelle  (22-23)
bulletList of contents (back cover)
Can American Leadership Be Restored?

Former Ambassador Chas W. Freeman, Jr. (USFS. Ret.), speaking to the Washington Institute of Foreign Affairs on May 24, 2007, asked how the US managed so quickly to lose its global leadership, and how it might be restored.

How did we lose it? He mentions things like our betrayal of our own values of democracy and human rights, our proclamation of an endless war against a foe that is largely of our own imagining (“a nonexistent ideology of ‘Islamofascism’”), and aiming for unreachable objectives.

More points from his talk >>                 The full article >>

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

Is South Korea a Model for Iraq?

A Legislative Action Message from the Friends Committee on National Legislation

Can you imagine a U.S. presence in Iraq for the next half-century?

The president can. The White House press secretary announced this week that President Bush wants to establish a permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq similar to the half-century long U.S. military role in South Korea. This public acknowledgement confirms what we at FCNL have long suspected: President Bush wants to establish a permanent military presence in Iraq.

A Violation of Law and Reality

Establishing permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq would be a violation of U.S. law Congress has twice passed, and the president has signed, legislation which prohibits the U.S. from spending money to establish a permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq. That is the law, at least for now. Originally proposed by FCNL, your grassroots lobbying made that provision the law.

The White House announcement that this administration wants to establish a permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq also reaffirms that this administration is simply not prepared to acknowledge the reality of what is happening in Iraq. The impression among Iraqis that the U.S. is planning a permanent military occupation of their country feeds the violent groups fighting the Iraqi government, helps them to recruit fighters, and undermines U.S. credibility throughout the Middle East region. Almost every opinion poll conducted in Iraq in the last three years including one commissioned by the State Department has confirmed that a majority of Iraqis fear the U.S. plans to permanently occupy their country, and majorities want the U.S. to leave Iraq.

The White House announcement, by itself, could further destabilize Iraq and the region, by setting off a new wave of anti-government violence; it could recruit more supporters for violent extremist groups such as Al Qaeda.

More >>

Democrats Court Religious Leaders

In California, at least, Democratic party leaders are beginning to connect with religious leaders, seeking to hear their concerns. Even the evangelicals in the conversation are talking not so much about poverty and the worldwide AIDS epidemic, and religious liberals are also getting involved.

Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church dismissed to EPC

Tennessee congregation gets its property too in leaving PC(USA)

LOUISVILLE – June 1, 2007 – East Tennessee Presbytery has voted to dismiss Signal Mountain Presbyterian Church (SMPC) - property and all - from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), clearing the way for the large congregation to affiliate with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC).

Dismissal of the 1,800-member church in Signal Mountain, TN, was approved during a specially called presbytery meeting on Tuesday (May 29) at Farragut Presbyterian Church in Farragut, TN.

The full report from Presbyterian News Service >>

For items from earlier in August, 2007
All postings from
July, 2007
May, 2007
April, 2007
March, 2007
February, 2007
January, 2007
December, 2006
November, 2006
October, 2006
September, 2006
August, 2006
July, 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.

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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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