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Archive for August, 2009

This page lists our postings from all of August, 2009

For an index to all our reports
from the 218th General Assembly

For an index to all our reports from the
Witherspoon conference on global mission and justice >>

Earlier in April, 2010
March, 2010
February, 2010
January, 2010
December, 2009
November, 2009
October, 2009
September, 2009

August, 2009
July, 2009

June, 2009
May, 2009
April, 2009
March, 2009

February, 2009
January, 2009
December, 2008
November, 2008
October, 2008
September, 2008
August, 2008

For links to earlier archive pages, click here.

A note from your WebWeaver:

Just a word of apology:  We're packing to move house, so my time (and energy) for this website is are a bit limited.  But I'll try to post any really important items that come along.       Doug King

Introducing the '95 Illuminations

In the spring of 1995 (in response to the backlash about the groundbreaking feminist theological gathering, ReImagining), 55 women and men met in St. Louis to create a new affinity group of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Celebrating and reclaiming the wisdom/sophia tradition of Bible and church, Voices of Sophia was organized to support women staff and women's advocacy in the church, and speak with a bold, prophetic, fearless feminist voice to the church and world. In a delightfully messy and participative style, the “St. Louis 55" drafted a faith statement for the group and titled it the ’95 Illuminations (in the year 1995, borrowing from Martin Luther's 95 Theses and Hildegaard of Bingen's Illuminations). For years, members of Voices of Sophia read the entire '95 Illuminations aloud at PC(USA) General Assemblies. They stand as the most defining and memorable work of this wisdom-seeking group.

This introductory note has been prepared by Sylvia Thorson-Smith, who was deeply involved in the beginnings of Voices of Sophia, and is now an active member of the Board of Witherspoon Society / Voices of Sophia.

Here's how the statement begins:

The ’95 Illuminations

“Does not wisdom call,
and does not understanding raise her voice?”
(Proverbs 8:1)

Presented by

at the 207th Meeting of the General Assembly
of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
July 16, 1995

The ’95 Illuminations

“Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice?” (Proverbs 8:1)

Voices of Sophia, to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the larger Christian community: Grace and peace to all.

We are your sisters and brothers. being reformed by God through the Spirit of the living Christ and bearing witness to the need for love and justice in the church.

“Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light” (Luther), we present our ’95 (1995) theses as Illuminations, a term used by the 12th century Christian mystic, Hildegaard of Bingen.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Wisdom of God, Sophia, we call the church to repentance and transformation, to its truest self, to the work of justice and compassion

Recognizing that these Illuminations reflect too few voices of people of color, people who are economically disadvantaged. other marginalized persons, and people from other traditions, we leave space to symbolize the voices that are missing...

We invite conversation on these Illuminations with all who affirm the full and equal humanity of women and men.

* * * * * * *

Illuminations on our Faith and Vision

“Write the vision; make it plain on tablets so that a runner may read it.”
(Habakkuk 2:2)

We call the church to reclaim the long-silenced Sophia language of our ancient biblical and theological tradition.

We affirm God-Sophia, chokmah in Hebrew, Woman Wisdom present at the dawning of creation (Prov. 8), who fashioned us in the image of the divine as women and men.

We affirm Jesus-Sophia, wisdom incarnate in the person of Jesus of Nazareth (Matt.11:18, Lk. 7:35, Lk. 11: 49, I Cor. 1:21-31), who liberates us for the work of love and justice.

We affirm Spirit-Sophia, God’s interpretive wisdom, indwelling, sustaining, and enlivening us for community and relationship (I Cor.2: 1-13).

For the full statement, '95 Illuminations >>

We invite your comments, questions ... and whatever else you'd like to share in response to this bold affirmation of faith.

Just send a note!

ACSWP releases three new study resources

Resources designed to help churches explore Social Creed, homelessness, serious mental illness

from Presbyterian News Service

Connecting to the Creed is a new guide to help Presbyterians study and discuss "A Social Creed for the 21st Century," which was adopted by the 2008 Genera Assembly by a 5-1 margin.

Introducing From Homelessness to Hope: Constructing Just, Sustainable Communities for All God's People, General Assembly Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons writes: "Hope for homeless persons - often sisters and brothers in Christ, and increasingly whole families - is the cornerstone of this resolution, and there is frank recognition of the personal difficulties that contribute to, and are reinforced by, homelessness. Holistic responses are here, along with practical guidance, examples, and many resources for caring and effective action.

About Comfort My People - the resource on the serious mental illness resolution adopted by the Assembly - Parsons says: "This policy statement is the result of a three-year development process that included wide consultation and participation throughout the church. It draws upon biblical sources and insights from the Reformed tradition in renewing Presbyterian understandings of how we live as a church that welcomes persons living with serious mental illnesses and their families. After offering comprehensive and working definitions of mental illness and serious mental illness, the paper provides an historical account organized around two major biblical themes.

For more information about how to acquire these resources, visit the ACSWP Web site.

For the full article >>

ELCA votes to allow gay pastors

Congratulations to our Lutheran sisters and brothers for their church’s great step forward toward inclusion and justice!

One little thought: Any marriage or other partnership that can thrive while carrying a label as an “accountable lifelong, monogamous, same-gender relationship,” deserves all our respect. That’s the definition the ELCA study group used in its report to the Assembly – for very good reasons, no doubt. But it still seems like a lot for a couple people who love each other to carry around with them.

Doug King

More on this historic action -- press reports, warnings seen in wind storms, and a statement from More Light Presbyterians

140,000 participate in historic faith call on health reform, with President Obama

Conference call on health reform co-sponsored by PC(USA)

Presbyterian News Service reports:

An estimated 140,000 people of faith gathered on an historic national conference call with President Barack Obama Aug. 19 to discuss health care reform.

The 90-minute conference call was sponsored by more than 30 churches and other religious groups, including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). One purpose of the call was to help launch a campaign — “40 Days for Health Reform” — to mobilize people of faith to press Congress to finish work on health care reform when it returns after the Labor Day recess.

A recording of the call is available at Faith for Health or the Blog Talk Radio site.

The rest of the report >>

In all the uproar over the Scotland’s release of the "Lockerbie bomber" ...

Church of Scotland welcomes decision to release Lockerbie bomber

Ecumenical News International reports from Edinburgh:

The (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland has said it fully supports a decision taken by the Scottish Government on Aug. 20 to release the convicted Lockerbie bomber, Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi, on compassionate grounds.

“This decision has sent a message to the world about what it is to be Scottish,” the Rev. Ian Galloway, convenor of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland, said in a statement. “We are defined as a nation by how we treat those who have chosen to hurt us. Do we choose mercy even when they did not choose mercy?”

Within minutes of the decision by the Scottish government, the United States expressed deep regret and disappointment that its pleas were ignored not to free the dying man, a former Libyan intelligence officer, convicted of the Lockerbie bombing. Al-Megrahi is in the final stages of prostate cancer.

Galloway also said in his statement:

“Nor is it about whether he had the right to mercy, but whether we as a nation, despite the continuing pain of many, are willing to be merciful. I understand the deep anger and grief that still grips the souls of the victims’ families and I respect their views. But to them I would say justice is not lost in acting in mercy. Instead, our deepest humanity is expressed for the better. To choose mercy is the tough choice and today our nation met the challenge. We have gained something significant as a nation by this decision. It is a defining moment for us all.”

The rest of the story >>

Form of Government Task Force approves final draft

'We commend this work to the church'

Sharon Youngs, communications coordinator of the Office of the General Assembly, has issued this news release on August 19, 2009:

DALLAS - The Form of Government Task Force has unanimously approved and submitted to the stated clerk of the General Assembly the final version of its work to revise the Form of Government of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

The 11 members of the task force spent a major portion of their August 12-14 meeting here reviewing and refining their work before taking a final vote on Thursday (Aug. 13).

The task force released the initial draft of its work last fall. It invited feedback from across the church, which was taken into consideration as the group made final revisions to this portion of the PC(USA)'s Constitution. ...

Among the key items the task force members discussed last week prior to their vote was whether an interim pastor of a congregation could become that congregation's installed pastor. The task force voted to include that provision in its work. ...

The task force plans to post its final draft online by Sept. 1, which will be nearly six weeks ahead of the Oct. 15 deadline to submit its work to the stated clerk of the General Assembly for consideration by the 219th General Assembly (2010).

Between now and next summer's assembly, members of the task force will be making themselves available to interpret their work to governing bodies and other groups. Requests for visits can be made by calling (888) 728-7228, ext. 5808, or by sending an email to Joanne Green in the Department of Constitutional Services..

The full news release >>

More on marriage and civil unions:

Comments on Civil Union and Marriage
Ray Bagnuolo, Minister of Word and Sacrament
Jan Hus Church and Neighborhood House
New York, New York

Ray Bagnuolo invites us, as we again ponder the way Presbyterians might most faithfully deal with issues of marriage and same-sex relationships, to "consider the Bible's prohibition of women from serving in the early church and the Bible’s acceptance of slavery."

He looks at some of the texts cited against ordination of women, and for slavery, and says "Something was as wrong back then about women and slavery as it is wrong now about folk who are LGBT. Regardless of how the Bible was used then...these practices were always wrong. Regardless of the how the Bible is used today against LGBT folk...these practices are always wrong."

Then, he asks, "After all, can we really hinge our love and justice on the same rationalizations that kept women and slaves quarantined from God as full and free creations of God? Who is wrong here? The Bible or God? Is God going to change God's mind again?"

To read his full essay >>

Call to Prayer for Lutherans & Churchwide Assembly

 from More Light Presbyterians

The National Board & Staff of More Light Presbyterians invite you to join us in holding our sisters and brothers in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) in prayer as they begin their Churchwide Assembly in Minneapolis on Monday, August 17. 

Lutherans Concerned North America, a sister organization to More Light Presbyterians, is in a collaborative partnership called Good Soil: Where Justice Takes Root that works for the full participation for persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities within the ELCA.

To stay informed about LGBT initiatives and decisions at the upcoming ELCA's Churchwide Assembly you can go to and

with hope and grace,

Michael J. Adee, M.Div., Ph.D., Executive Director & Field Organizer, More Light Presbyterians


News from the ELCA church-wide assembly, as reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune


Gay clergy remains 'an issue of tension’ for ELCA

Questions about gay clergy provide a hint of what's likely to come up in the ELCA's floor debate.

August 19, 2009

If the members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) were looking for assurances that everything is going to be resolved after the church-wide assembly votes on the question of gay and lesbian clergy, they didn't get what they expected Tuesday. The task force that drew up a proposal to repeal a ban on gay and lesbian ministers from leading churches unless they promise to be celibate wasn't sugar-coating the depth of the rift that might be looming.

The rest of the story >>


Early victory for gay clergy at ELCA assembly

August 18, 2009

The first skirmish of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's churchwide assembly was won Monday night by those advocating for the acceptance of gay and lesbian clergy, but people on all sides of the issue said that there still is much arguing to come.

The ELCA's weeklong meeting at the Minneapolis Convention Center eventually will consider a proposal to repeal a ban on gay and lesbian ministers from leading churches unless they promise to remain celibate. At issue in the first plenary session Monday night was a push by opponents to have the vote on that matter changed from a simple majority to a two-thirds supermajority.

The motion was rejected by 57 percent of the voters, but supporters of the gay clergy proposal warned against reading too much into the result. This was a parliamentary issue, not a vote on gay rights, said Emily Eastwood, executive director of St. Paul-based Lutherans Concerned/North America, a group that supports the change in rules.

The rest of the story >>

Another testimony on behalf of marriage

This just in from a long-time Witherspoon member and former national staff member:

On May 23, 2009, at North Garden, Virginia, I had the honor and privilege of conducting the marriage ceremony for my grandson, Patrick Evans, and his partner, Jason Becton. It was a wonderful, Spirit-filled service with about 200 friends and family standing by in support and breaking into enthusiastic applause when I pronounced them joined in marriage. They had actually been married in Connecticut a month earlier, but this service with its Christian connection together with the full support of both families and of the caring community was exceedingly important. Of course I support the marriage of two people who clearly love each other and who yearn for the positive support of family and friends as they seek to fulfill their covenant promises to each other. The fact that they are of the same gender is irrelevant.

 August 15, 2009

Rev. Lew Lancaster HR
Louisville, Ky

For more statements, many of them being sent to the General Assembly Special Committee to Study Issues of Civil Union and Christian Marriage >>

On health care reform:

Stated Clerk issues statement on current health care debate

"Reforming our health care system cannot wait"

The Reverend Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, has issued a statement in light of the national attention on health care reform: 

He presents the resolution adopted by to 2008 General Assembly, adding that "The General Assembly has been clear that Congress must enact comprehensive health care reform that will provide all persons with access to health care services."

The news release includes an invitation for people to participate in a conference call with people of faith, dealing with the health care issue.  President Obama has accepted an invitation to join in on the conversation.

The release also presents specific points from a 2002 GA statement on "Advocacy on Behalf of the Uninsured,"

For more of our recent posts on the health care issue >>

Seven Falsehoods About Health Care

Big myths about the current debate


So much for a slow news month. August feels like campaign season, with claims on health care coming at us daily. Does the House bill call for mandatory counseling on how to end seniors’ lives sooner? Absolutely not. Will the government be dictating to doctors how to treat their patients? No. Do the bills propose cutting Medicare benefit levels? No on that one, too.

But on the other hand, has Congress figured out how to pay for this overhaul? Not yet. Or will it really save families $2,500 a year as the president keeps claiming? Good luck on that one, too.

In this article we offer a run-down of seven falsehoods we’ve taken on recently, with some additional updating and research thrown in.

They list these “seven falsehoods” – and provide detailed corrections, with citations for each:
bulletFalse: Government Will Decide What Care I Get (a.k.a. they won’t give grandma a hip replacement)
bulletFalse: The Bill Is Paid For
bulletFalse: Private Insurance Will Be Illegal
bulletFalse: The House Bill Requires Suicide Counseling
bulletFalse: Families Will Save $2,500
bulletFalse: Medicare Benefits Will Be Slashed
bulletFalse: Illegal Immigrants Will Be Covered

Get the full story >>

Two more Witherspoon friends offer comments on marriage and civil unions

We have recently posted a number of letters that have been sent to the General Assembly Special Committee to Study Issues of Civil Union and Christian Marriage, which have been requested by the Committee to inform its work.

Barbara Kellam Scott, writer and former Witherspoon board member, has shared with us her letter relating her experience in her own family.

Edith Sinclair Downing sent a note relating an experience in her own family, too, along with some hymn texts she has written on this subject, including one -- "We Stand with Those Excluded" -- which we are posting here.

We welcome your letters and comments, too.
Just send us a note!

You can’t read this and stay in a bad mood! 

1. How do you catch a unique rabbit?

            Unique up on it. 

2. How do you catch a tame rabbit?

            Tame way. 

3. How do crazy people go through the forest?

            They take the psychopath.

And there's more!


A tribute to Burma's opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi

Desmond Mpilo Tutu, the former Archbishop of Cape Town and recipient of the Nobel peace prize, has written:

I think of my sister Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi every day. Her picture hangs on the wall of my office, reminding me that, thousands of miles away in Asia, a nation is oppressed. Every day I ask myself: have I done everything I can try to end the atrocities being committed in Burma? And I pray that world leaders will ask themselves the same question. For if they did, the answer would be "no", and perhaps their conscience will finally force them to act.

Humankind has the ability to live in freedom and in peace. We have seen that goodness has triumphed over evil; we have witnessed political transitions in South Africa, and elsewhere, evidencing that we live in a moral universe.

Our world is sometimes lacking wise and good leadership or, as in the case of Burma, the leadership is forbidden to lead.

Aung San Suu Kyi has now been detained for more than 13 years. She recently passed her 5,000th day in detention. Every one of those days is a tragedy and a lost opportunity. The whole world, not just the people of Burma, suffers from this loss. We desperately need the kind of moral and principled leadership that Aung San Suu Kyi would provide. And when you add the more than 2,100 political prisoners who are also in Burma's jails, and the thousands more jailed in recent decades, the true scale of injustice, but also of lost potential, becomes heartbreakingly clear.

He concludes:

Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma deserve nothing less than our most strenuous efforts to help them secure their freedom. Every day we must ask ourselves: have we done everything that we can? I pledge that I will not rest until Aung San Suu Kyi, and all the people of Burma, are free. Please join me.

The complete essay >>


Amnesty International USA offers a way to join Archbishop Tutu in protesting:

Click here to send your message to Than Shwe, the head of the military junta, calling on him to act immediately to release Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners in Myanmar.

Health Care Reform: The Voice of Faith

Among the many voices being raised in the debate over health care reform, this message from Interfaith Worker Justice seems to say some important things, to offer suggestions for action, and to provide some good resources through the links at the end of the note.

Everyone in this country knows that our health care system is broken. Doctors and hospitals, as well as patients and communities, deal with the crisis every day. But there is no consensus yet on what reforms are needed. Legislation may pass this fall because the President, members of Congress, and health care activists are committed to reforming health care in America.

Interfaith Worker Justice, recognizing the fundamental dignity of all human beings as children of God, believes that everybody deserves affordable, quality health care. The person who mows your lawn or cares for your elderly mother should receive the same quality of care as Bill Gates.

As people of faith, our voices must be heard now in the debate over what health care reform will look like. Call your two Senators and your Congressperson today and ask to speak to their legislative staffer for health care. Tell them that, as a person of faith, you support universal, affordable, quality health care for all. Call the Capitol switchboard for your Representative's phone number. The numbers are 202-224-3121 for your two Senators, and 202-225-3121 for your Congressperson. Please e-mail Ted Smukler, to let us know you have made this important call.

Please see IWJ's resources on health care justice -- or you can download these pdfs directly: 

bullet Health Care For All (pdf)
bulleta rabbinical student's reflection, D'Var Torah: Labor Day and the Cause of Health Care (pdf)
bullet Denominational Health Care Justice Quotes (pdf)

Another great religious resource on the issue is Faithful Reform in Healthcare. Their website is

In peace, justice and health,

Ted Smukler
Public Policy Director, Interfaith Worker Justice

More of our posts on health care policy >>

If you have thoughts to share
-- or resources to recommend --
please send a note, to be shared here!

Want to share your thoughts on same-sex marriage and holy unions?

Get them to the GA study committee by this Sunday, August 16!

What is the place of covenanted same-gender partnerships in the Christian community?

It is a question the General Assembly Special Committee to Study Issues of Civil Union and Christian Marriage is posing to the church for input. And now’s the time – before Sunday, August 16 – to let them hear from you!

One firm rule: Say what you want to say in a maximum of 1000 words.

Responses can be sent electronically to , or mailed to Civil Union and Christian Marriage Committee, Office of the General Assembly, Room 4621, 100 Witherspoon Street, Louisville, KY 40202-1396.

For the full news release from the Office of the General Assembly >>

Click here for a couple good examples, in addition to what we have posted before (just scroll down that page and you'll find them).

Lutherans prepare to debate gay clergy

Religion News Service reports:

The nation’s largest Lutheran denomination will consider lifting its ban on gay and lesbian clergy who are in lifelong, monogamous relationships as it gathers this month for a churchwide meeting. More than 1,000 delegates will debate church policy Aug. 17-23 at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s biennial General Assembly in Minneapolis.

As at previous assemblies, the role of gays and lesbians in the 4.6 million-member church is expected to be among the most contentious issues on the agenda.

The question is not whether openly gay and lesbian clergy can be ordained. They already are—as long as they remain celibate. The question is whether they can have committed relationships and still be called to ELCA pulpits. Partnered gay clergy are technically prohibited, though some congregations break the rule without punishment.

The rest of the story >>


Donna Laubach, a friend of the Witherspoon Society, and a retired mission co-worker now living in Spain (or Venezuela -- we're not quite sure), has asked us to post this notice about an important action of protest tomorrow.

It has been posted on the School of the Americans Watch website, but only in Spanish, and Donna has said in her note: “Please pass on this info in Spanish to Witherspoon. It is about time we give out news in Spanish, since it is a rather large group of folks in the States.”

So here it is, with links to further information on the SOA website.

Click here for the English language SOA website.


Descargue AQUI el informe final de la Misión de DDHH en Honduras (7 Agoto de 2009) la que fue conformada por representantes de organizaciones y redes de derechos humanos.

Marchan a Tegucigalpa

Unas 600 personas provenientes de diferentes municipios de los departamentos de Olancho y Francisco Morazán han caminado cientos de kilómetros y su moral de resistencia se mantiene intacta a pesar de las inclemencias del sol o las torrenciales lluvias. Su objetivo de llegar a la capital está cada vez más cerca. localizó la marcha pacífica cuando se desplazaba por la aldea La Cañada y la siguió hasta el sector de Monte Redondo a unos 23 kilómetros de la capital. Al realizar el recorrido se ha podido constatar que personas que se transportan en vehículos particulares apoyan a los manifestantes con agua y alimentos Las mujeres son tan entusiastas como los hombres, en la movilización hay campesinos, ganaderos, comerciantes, maestros, estudiantes y profesionales. Gladys Núñez ha acompañado la movilización desde Juticalpa.

Siga leyendo....

More on Honduras >>

And now in English:
Tomorrow: Global Day of Action for Honduras
The coup regime in Honduras has now clung to power for six weeks.  Meanwhile, the U.S. response has remained sluggish and two-faced.  Late last month, the State Department finally revoked the diplomatic visas of four coup-plotters.  But just last week the same State Department sent a letter to the Senate that incredibly names President Zelaya, not the coup-plotters, as responsible for his own ouster.  The U.S. response to the coup should not be a matter of supporting or rejecting the prior actions of Manuel Zelaya; it's a matter of supporting or rejecting the flagrant usurpation of Hondurans' right to exercise their democratic will.  The illegitimate coup regime merits clear, consistent condemnation from the U.S., not the schizophrenic response seen thus far. 

More on actions to be taken tomorrow >>

Faithful America urges:
Reform, not Fear

In the past 10 years, health insurance premiums have doubled, and millions of Americans still struggle to afford health care.

The health reform proposals currently before the Senate will ease the burden on us all, from those most in need to middle class families. There’s a lot on the line in the health care debate, yet special interests, even those who claim to be speaking for people of faith, are trying to block reform with distortions and distractions.

Faithful America – a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization – is encouraging people to sign on to this brief letter to U. S. Senators:


Our families, congregations and communities feel the impact of our broken health care system every day. Too much is at stake to get sidetracked by distortions and distractions.

We in the faith community call on you to focus on facts, not fear, in your deliberations and to pass meaningful health care reform that makes quality, affordable health care available to all.

This new package should include, at a minimum, reforms such as stopping insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, a cap on out-of-pocket health care expenses and a strong affordability standard that makes families up to 400% of the Federal Poverty Level able to afford coverage.

Click here to add your name to the letter >>

What's Happening with Health Care?

Witness in Washington Weekly,” published by the Washington Office of the PC (U.S.A.),  offers a very helpful summary of the ongoing Congressional debates on health care reform, along with summaries of recent General Assembly policy statements on this vital the matter.

For more of our recent posts on the health care issue >>

Psychologists repudiate gay-to-straight therapy

The AP reports:

The American Psychological Association declared Wednesday that mental health professionals should not tell gay clients they can become straight through therapy or other treatments.

In a resolution adopted by the APA's governing council, and in an accompanying report, the association issued its most comprehensive repudiation of "reparative therapy" — a concept espoused by a small but persistent group of therapists, often allied with religious conservatives, who maintain gays can change.

No solid evidence exists that such change is likely, says the resolution, adopted by a 125-4 vote. The APA said some research suggests that efforts to produce change could be harmful, inducing depression and suicidal tendencies.

Instead of seeking such change, the APA urged therapists to consider multiple options — that could range from celibacy to switching churches — for helping clients live spiritually rewarding lives in instances where their sexual orientation and religious faith conflict.

The rest of the report >>

For the APA press release on the report >>

For the full text of the Task Force report (138 pages, in PDF format) >>

Women at Risk

Or: Misogyny Lives

Witherspoon board member Sylvia Carlson recommends this article by Bob Herbert, published in yesterday’s New York Times. It begins:

“I actually look good. I dress good, am clean-shaven, bathe, touch of cologne — yet 30 million women rejected me,” wrote George Sodini in a blog that he kept while preparing for this week’s shooting in a Pennsylvania gym in which he killed three women, wounded nine others and then killed himself.

We’ve seen this tragic ritual so often that it has the feel of a formula. A guy is filled with a seething rage toward women and has easy access to guns. The result: mass slaughter.

The concluding paragraph:

We would become much more sane, much healthier, as a society if we could bring ourselves to acknowledge that misogyny is a serious and pervasive problem, and that the twisted way so many men feel about women, combined with the absurdly easy availability of guns, is a toxic mix of the most tragic proportions.

The full op-ed article >>

Presbyterians invited to participate in review of Washington Office

News release from General Assembly Mission Council, July 31, 2009

NOTE: The Witherspoon Society encourages you, as someone who is likely committed to the social witness and mission of the PC(USA), to speak up in response to this invitation. Our voices need to be heard!

The Washington Office of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)  is “a central and important instrument through which Presbyterians make witness to their faith on matters of public affairs,” says Sara Lisherness, director for Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries of the General Assembly Mission Council.

In 2008, the Rev. Eileen Lindner, a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) pastor, presbytery executive and social research specialist, was engaged to lead a study of the role and purpose of the Washington Office. Presbyterians are now invited to provide feedback and responses to the study.

The study includes a provisional mission statement, eight principles to guide the work of the office in the future, and a request for input from Presbyterians. The mission study and feedback will be reported to the General Assembly Mission Council at the September 2009 meeting.

The effort that culminated in the initial report included analyzing previous research; assessing the work of ecumenical partners’ Washington presence; scrutinizing all correspondence regarding the office received over the last several years; empanelling a distinguished group of Presbyterians for additional consultation; conferring with leading secular partners in public witness activities; and reviewing related literature.

In preparation for the presentation of the report to the General Assembly Mission Council, the guidelines and comment section are now posted on the PC(USA) Web site.

Lindner stated, “The public voice and public witness of the PC(USA) is the business of all Presbyterians in keeping with our Reformed theology. As we move closer to making decisions about the future of our public witness, we will be strengthened in our discernment by the shared thoughts of a diversity of Presbyterians sharing their views.”

Cowardice Among 'Christian' Leaders:

Why the churches are largely mum on torture

Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst and co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, explores the ways in which Christian churches seem to be “riding shotgun for the system, even regarding heinous sin like torture.” This appears through a recent Pew Research Center survey, which showed that a majority (54%) of white non-Hispanic Catholics, white Evangelicals, and white mainline Protestants who attend church regularly “said torture could be ‘justified,’ while a majority of those not attending church regularly responded that torture was rarely or never justified.”

It’s a fairly long essay, but well worth reading >>

More on torture >>

To Hell with Health Care Reform: Religious Right leaders attack Obama, spout GOP dogma about “socialism” while fanning flames on abortion

from People for the American Way

Religious Right leaders have enthusiastically joined Republican-led opposition to health care reform efforts.

Much of the Religious Right’s organizing energy has been devoted to incendiary and false claims about the administration’s alleged stealth plan to force every health plan to cover - and force all doctors to provide - abortion services. None of these approaches are actually included in the plans working their way through Congress. In fact, anti-choice members of Congress are using health reform to institute a new nationwide abortion ban in private insurance plans taking away coverage women already have.

In addition, Religious Right leaders have joined the parade of talking heads spouting bogus right-wing talking points about health care plans moving in Congress, falsely claiming that reform constitutes a socialist government takeover of the entire health care industry.

Focus on the Family’s James Dobson, on a recent conference call for anti-choice activists, sounded both those charges, calling reform legislation a “huge abortion industry bailout” as well as a “health care power grab by the federal government.” Operation Rescue similarly conflates the anti-choice and anti-government arguments, urging activists “to act now to stop Obama's radical, socialistic abortion agenda…” The Christian Broadcasting Network has provided a major platform for anti-reform activists.   The full article >>

Update on the crisis in Honduras – and legislation in Congress

The Latin America Working Group provides a brief and helpful update on the situation in Honduras after the coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya.

The group also urges support for proposed legislation in the House: “H.Res. 630 condemns the coup d’etat, and calls for the restitution of the elected government of Manuel Zelaya. It urges the Obama Administration to suspend non-humanitarian aid to the de facto Micheletti government, and calls for international observation of the November elections. Lastly, it welcomes the ongoing mediation of Costa Rican President Oscar Arias.”     More >>

More reports on Honduras >>

An important step for stopping and deterring wage theft

Interfaith Worker Justice applauds legislative action

News release from Interfaith Worker Justice

Interfaith Worker Justice applauds leading House Democrats, who today introduced a critical piece of legislation to ensure that workers do not lose their wages while the U.S. Department of Labor investigates wage theft by employers who drag the process out. The legislation is a welcome response to a stinging Government Accountability Office (GAO) investigation that revealed the federal government's abysmal failure to enforce the nation's wage and hour laws.

The Wage Theft Prevention Act (H.R. 3303) is based on a GAO recommendation made in a report released this week. The bill would ensure that delays in investigating claims of wage theft will not result in a permanent loss of back pay for workers. The GAO found many investigations of wage theft were inadequately handled by the Bush administration's Wage and Hour Division and were dropped because the statute of limitations is too short and investigations took too long. To ensure that workers do not lose their hard-earned wages, the bill would freeze the statute of limitations from the date an employer is informed of an investigation until the agency notifies the employer that the investigation has concluded.

More >>

And for other reports on labor issues >>

Observe Bread for the World Sunday, October 18

A message from Bread for the World:

Encourage your church or faith community to renew their commitment to end hunger by taking part in Bread for the World Sunday!  On October 18 and other Sundays in the fall, congregations and faith communities will recommit to help end hunger in God’s world.

You can order FREE resources to help your church observe Bread for the World Sunday. This year’s reflection, on Mark 10:35-45, is written by Rev. John Buchanan, editor and publisher of the Christian Century. A new song composed by Marty Haugen in honor of Bread for the World’s 35th anniversary, a call to worship, a litany, worship bulletin inserts, and offering envelopes—all are available to make your celebration a success.

bullet Order your FREE Bread for the World Sunday resources.
bullet See the creative ways that churches are observing Bread for the World Sunday.

With the global economic crisis, more people are hungry here in our country and around the world.  Participating in Bread for the World Sunday is one way your congregation can make a difference.  I hope you will join with us.

With hope,

David Beckmann
President, Bread for the World

MLP Posts Two Positions: Operations Coordinator and Grant Writer

A notice from More Light Presbyterians

More Light Presbyterians now has two job openings. The openings are for a grant writer and an operations coordinator. Both are part-time, contract positions. Deadline for applications is August 14, 2009. To see the position descriptions, click on the links below:
bullet    Grant Writer
bullet    Operations Coordinator

For an index to all our reports
from the 218th General Assembly

For an index to all our reports from the
Witherspoon conference on global mission and justice >>

Earlier in April, 2010
March, 2010
February, 2010
January, 2010
December, 2009
November, 2009
October, 2009
September, 2009

August, 2009
July, 2009

June, 2009
May, 2009
April, 2009
March, 2009

February, 2009
January, 2009
December, 2008
November, 2008
October, 2008
September, 2008
August, 2008

For links to earlier archive pages, click here.

Some blogs worth visiting


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.


Witherspoon’s Facebook page

Mitch Trigger, Witherspoon’s Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!

You can post your own news and views, or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.


John 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!


Plan now for our 2010 Ghost Ranch Seminar!


July 26-August 1, 2010



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