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A union of The Witherspoon Society and Voices of Sophia

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Archives:  July 2007

This page lists reports and commentary from earlier in July, 2007

For items from earlier in August, 2007
All postings from
June, 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.

Your Webweaver is taking off again

I'll be leaving home Monday morning (July 30) to take part in the "Week for Peace, Global Justice and Creation," being held at Ghost Ranch from July 30 to August 5.  It promises to be a full, rewarding week.

But connecting to the outside world from the high desert of New Mexico can be problematic, so this website may be rather quiet for the next week.  But I promise I'll be back soon with lots of reports from myself and others.  So don't go away!

Doug King

Comments on the US use of torture, and Bush’s new interrogation policy  

A week ago, President Bush set broad legal boundaries for the CIA's harsh interrogation of terrorism suspects yesterday, allowing the intelligence agency to resume a program that was suspended last year after criticism that it violated U.S. and international law. (But he won’t tell us what those boundaries are.)

We offer here a variety of reports and comments on this important action, including a new report from the Washington Post; a faith-based reflection from the Rev. Carol Wickersham, of No2Torture; an analysis by Retired Gen. P. X. Kelley, who served as commandant of the Marine Corps from 1983 to 1987 under President Reagan; and a consideration of a "Declaration Against Torture" put forth some four months ago by 17 leading evangelicals, saying torture is always wrong – and the criticisms leveled at them by other evangelicals.

Participants in Sabeel Palestine conference report on their encounters with the Israeli occupation, and pledge to advocate for change in their own nations.  

Over forty young adults of nine nationalities have spent 11 days learning about and experiencing the situation of occupied Palestine. They have issued a joint statement reporting on their experiences, their learnings, and their commitments to work for change.   Their report >>

You can join in opposing an anti-immigrant hotline in Arizona 

This note comes to us from the Rev. Trina Zelle, who works with Interfaith Worker Justice of Arizona – and also serves as Co-Moderator of the Witherspoon Society

Hi Doug -- I thought I'd send you a copy of the letter we've been circulating here in protest of a hotline set up by the County Sheriff so people can turn in others that they suspect of being undocumented immigrants. So far we have 40 plus signatures including the United Methodist Bishop and many clergy. AP has already picked up a story on it as has the local paper. We are continuing to gather signatures and will present it to him in person early next week. If you want to publish it on our website that's fine. If people want to add their names to it, they can contact me:

Rev. Trina Zelle
Interfaith Worker Justice of Arizona
2510 Rural Road
Tempe, AZ 85284

Prisoner advocate Harmon Wray dies at 60

Harmon Wray, who invested 40 years of his life in prison ministry, teaching, and advocacy for criminal justice, died suddenly on July 24 in Nashville, TN.

An active United Methodist, he was involved in the Southern Prison Ministry and Tennesseans Against the Death Penalty, and served from time to time at the state and national levels of the United Methodist Church, working on various social issues.  

More about his life and witness >>


Two takes on immigration

Many immigrants were legal only because there were no rules

Responding to the common argument against any move to grant undocumented immigrants some kind of legal status, that "my ancestors came here legally," Brian Donohue of the New Jersey Star-Ledger labels that line "utter hogwash."

In fact, he says, "for hundreds of years, as immigrants poured in by the hundreds of thousands from the 1600s to the early 1900s, there were simply no federal immigration laws to break. Unless you were a criminal or insane (or after 1882, Chinese), once you landed here, you were legal."

The full article >>

Thanks to Jonathan Nelson, Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, NYC

And here’s a hopeful response to the needs of undocumented immigrants: one city is, well, providing documents!

New Haven, CT, is providing municipal ID cards "specifically designed to bring illegal immigrants out of the shadows and give them access to community services," regardless of their legal status.

The report continues:

"The simple straightforward purpose here is to build a stronger community," Mayor John DeStefano said. "You can't police a community of people who won't talk to our cops."

The mayor said the federal government had failed to address immigration-related issues, forcing cities to find ways to manage them. New Haven is simply acknowledging the people who already live there, he said.

"I think New Haven is doing something that makes sense for New Haven," DeStefano said. "Service to one another in community, more than waving an American flag, defines the spirit of our soul."

The whole story >>

NCC to sponsor ecumenical work week in New Orleans

Aug. 19-25 event will include worship, labor and ‘listening tour’

To mark the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the National Council of Churches’ Special Commission for the Just Rebuilding of the Gulf Coast is sponsoring an Ecumenical Work Week from Aug. 19-25, 2007 in New Orleans.

The news release from the National Council of Churches and Presbyterian News Service >>

See our earlier report on plans for this event >>

A visitor offers a criticism of Clarkson’s criticism of Berkley’s criticism of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice
bullet Read our original report >>
bullet and Viola Larson’s comments >>
The Minimum Wage increase starts today ...
but it’s not much

The Presbyterian Washington Office puts this adjustment in perspective, and suggests urging Congress to work toward a more just minimum wage.  More >>

Maligning the faith of others for political profit

Jim Berkley, Director of Presbyterian Action at the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), has recently attacked the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice for not being "Christian" – though it intends to serve as an interfaith advocacy group.

Frederick Clarkson analyses Berkley’s criticism and shows how Berkley distorts or ignores the established views of the PC(USA), since he wants to assert (contrary to the Presbyterian Church’s view) that all abortion is absolutely wrong.

Berkley’s blog, entitled "A Really Crass ‘Religious’ Coalition" >>

Clarkson’s critique >>

Frederick Clarkson is an independent journalist, author and lecturer who has done extensive research and writing about politics and religion – focusing on the Religious Right – for more than twenty years.

Thanks to Fred Clarkson and Jean Rodenbough for bringing this to our attention.

Coming in September:

An Invitation
to Global Discipleship

A Witherspoon conference on global mission and justice

September 16 - 19, 2007
Louisville, Kentucky

For more information >>

For a ready-to-print brochure (PDF) >>

Presbyterian Peace Fellowship announces two trips to the Middle East:

Advent trip to Palestine, Israel and Jordan: Nov 24-Dec 9, 2007

Pentecost trip: May 10-25, 2008

Stated Clerk Kirkpatrick joins other religious leaders supporting denuclearization agreement with North Korea

The Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly stated clerk, is part of an interfaith coalition that supports the denuclearization agreement reached by the Bush administration with North Korea. In a joint statement released July 17, Kirkpatrick and the coalition of religious leaders called the agreement "an important step toward halting the production of nuclear bomb material in that nation."

The report from Presbyterian News Service >>

Your WebWeaver is on vacation, but is keeping in touch a bit now and then, and will be posting what he considers especially important items when he can.
Lutheran Pastor Bradley Schmeling removed from clergy roster because he is gay

More Light Presbyterians express disagreement with decision, support for Schmeling  

The Rev. Bradley Schmeling lost another skirmish with the nation's largest Lutheran denomination over the fact that he is in a gay relationship.

But he and his flock at Atlanta's St. John's Lutheran Church intend to take the battle national.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America announced Thursday it has removed Schmeling from its list of approved ministers because of his long-term relationship with a man.

Schmeling and members of St. John's in Druid Hills say they will travel to a national church conference in August to try to change the minds of delegates on gay issues.   The rest of the report, from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution >>

More Light Presbyterians decry Schmeling decision & stand in solidarity

MLP has responded with a statement which begins:

We are deeply disappointed by the recent decisions of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Committee on Appeals to deny the appeal of Pastor Bradley Schmeling and to remove him immediately from the clergy roster of his denomination.

We stand in solidarity with the vision of full participation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in the life, ministry and witness of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and our sisters and brothers of Lutherans Concerned North America who are faithfully laboring to make that vision a reality within the ELCA, one of the denominations that the Presbyterian Church (USA) is in communion with.    The complete statement >>

St. John’s congregation responds

John Ballew, president of St. John’s congregation, has stated that they intend "to go to Churchwide Assembly in August, to witness to our ELCA the costs of this decision, based on an absurd policy. This is not just about us and our wonderful pastor; this is about all those called to minister to God’s people, who lead exemplary lives, who provide a model for faithful, loving companionship with each other and with Christ."   The full statement >>


Hold the accomplices of the School of the Americas accountable

Witherspoon Issues Analyst Gene TeSelle, who lives in Nashville, TN, introduces this call to action from School of the Americas Watch. Witherspooner Don Beisswenger, who contributes his thoughts too, is also a resident of Nashville.

Representatives Jim McGovern of Massachusetts and John Lewis of Georgia have led an effort to cut funding for the notorious School of the Americas. Many of us expected their bill to be approved on June 21. Instead it lost by 6 votes.

SOAWatch has analyzed the votes and identified 26 Representatives who could have voted Yes but instead voted for continued injustice, impunity, and support for military dictatorships.

Some were sponsors of the bill in previous years, and a major question still remains: Why did these Representatives, who earlier tried to cut funding for the SOA, switch their position? Were they somehow intimidated? Were there tradeoffs for something else that they wanted? Did they somehow become so persuaded that the SOA was a good thing that they voted for it with a good conscience?


Don Beisswenger, who "crossed the line" at the SOA and served six months in federal prison, had these comments in response to SOAWatch:

We worked very hard on Jim Cooper (TN-5). He is on the Armed Services Committee and seems to be persuaded about their agenda . While against the Iraq war, he is not strong in his opposition. He has indicated interest in closing Guantanamo but was not willing to take any leadership.

The South is very oriented toward militaristic solutions to conflict, as you know, and while Cooper has a secure support base he still may feel insecure with much of his constituency. He genuinely believes in the need for connections with Latin American and thinks the SOA is needed. I, and the many hundreds who have tried over the years, have not been persuasive enough. He does tend believe the Army's interpretation and thus thinks there has been genuine change in the SOA. He does not seem to see the necessity of dealing with the impunity of past perpetrators. That seems to be forgotten, not only toward Latin America but toward much else that is going on around the world. But the SOA is still the flagship example, as far as I am concerned.

Bart Gordon (TN-6) has supported the legislation in the past, and we will try to find out what happened. The power of the military to bring reprisals may be involved.

I send my thanks to you and the others for keeping on keeping on.

Being from Minnesota, I still find the South confusing. It may be that, as James Lawson says, there is a wound in the soul of America that has never healed, a wound grounded in the violence toward Native Americans, the history of slavery, the condescension toward Latin America over so many years, and the violation of women over the years. The wound festers in so many ways. Repentance seems essential to such healing. We are dealing, I believe, with the soul of America, not just political power.

Don Beisswenger

Happy Fourth of July! And consider this: just maybe ...

It's time for a Declaration of Independence from Israel

Chris Hedges, the former New York Times Mideast bureau chief, warns that America’s foreign policy, particularly under the Bush administration, has been subverted by an aggressive and dangerous Israeli agenda that could launch a nightmarish regional war.

Hedges, who graduated from Harvard Divinity School, is the author of American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America."

Read this on >>     
... or on CommonDreams >>

Pastors’ medical aid for Cuba detained at Canadian border

IFCO/Pastors for Peace Action Alert

Homeland Security officials have "detained" medical supplies destined for Cuba at Maine/Québec border, despite earlier successful crossings today with five tons of medical aid collected by Canadians for Cuba.

How to Destroy an African-American City in Thirty Three Steps – Lessons from Katrina

Bill Quigley, a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans, has laid out in a powerful way some of the things made New Orleans such a disaster – after Katrina and still today. He adds that "Every fact in this list actually happened and continues to happen in New Orleans after Katrina."

This was published on June 28, 2007, by

For items from earlier in August, 2007
All postings from
June, 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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© 2011 by Presbyterian Voices for Justice.  All material on this site is the responsibility of the WebWeaver unless other sources are acknowledged.  Unless otherwise noted, material on this site may be copied for personal use and sharing in small groups.  For permission to reproduce material for wider publication, please contact the WebWeaver, Doug King.  Any material reached by links on this site is outside the control and responsibility of the WebWeaver and Presbyterian Voices for Justice.  Questions or comments?  Please send a note!