Archive for December, 2009
This page lists our postings from December,
For an index to all our reports
from the 218th General Assembly
For an index to all our reports from
conference on global mission and justice >>
Earlier in April,
For links to earlier archive pages,
See the "horrors" of Britain’s “socialized medicine”
through the experience of two American Presbyterian pastors in
The Revs. John Mann and Lindsay Biddle have
both been serving Church of Scotland parishes in Glasgow.
Part of their Christmas letter reports their modest (and
comforting!) experience of Scotland’s health care system.
British people are used to standing in
One thing we don’t have to wait in line
for is to see a doctor. When we moved to Glasgow six years
ago, we both went to the local ‘surgery’ where we were each
examined and registered by a General Practitioner. Whenever
we need medical attention, that’s who we call, and if we
call in the morning we’re scheduled to go to the doctor’s
office that day. If we call in the afternoon, we’ll get an
appointment for the next day because the doctor is out
making house calls in the afternoon.
The rest of their observations >>
UCC ARGUES FOR HEALTH CARE REFORM
September the United Church of Christ launched
major advocacy campaign to gather 100,000 messages to
Congress, in support of health care reform.
Some of the major
points in their message are worth repeating as the debate
• Over 47
million people (one in six) and over 9 million children are
without health coverage and 25 million more are under-insured.
year, 18,000 people in the United States die from a lack of
health insurance. That’s two people every hour.
• More than
60 percent of all bankruptcies are linked to medical expenses.
About 1.5 million families lose their homes to foreclosure every
year due to unaffordable medical costs.
health care reform >>
Reflections on the incivility of the health care reform
by Bill Peach
Comity and Collegiality
I heard a story on television about two
elderly Senators leaving the Senate Chambers, helping each other
through doors and up and down stairs. The two were Jesse Helms
(R-NC), five terms from 1973 to 2003, and his arch-rival
Claiborne Pell (D-RI), six terms from 1961 to 1997. The story
was told to illustrate the mood of the Senate in former times.
Whether it is fact or fiction, history would have us believe
that in spite of the vicious oratory on the Senate floor, the
senators had great respect for each other.
I spent too many hours watching the Health
Care Reform Act debate on C-SPAN. One senator cited examples of
the treachery of Judas Iscariot and the beating of Rodney King
to portray the character of fellow senators. Another senator
suggested that the nation should pray that the Democrats would
not all be present for the early morning vote. Some believed
there was a subtle inference to Senator Byrd and the hazards of
the blizzard and icy streets.
We look to the Senate for greatness in “acts
of statesmanship transcending party and State lines.” The House
of Representatives is composed of men and women who are elected
by friends and neighbors in several counties to be their voice
in Washington. The Senate in contrast gave us the likes of
Webster, Calhoun, and Clay. Senators bring to the floor,”
leadership in national thought and constitutional interpretation
as well as legislation.”
The rest of this essay >>
The author: Bill
Peach lives in Franklin, Tennessee, where he has been in the
men’s clothing business for most of his working life. But he
also describes himself as a politician, preacher, and
philosopher, who received his Bachelor’s degree at the age
of 51. He has authored a number of books, including
Politics, Preaching & Philosophy, published in 2009 by
|Church of Scotland
approves and installs openly gay minister Scott Rennie to an
The Revs. John Mann and Lindsay Biddle have
both been serving Church of Scotland parishes in Glasgow. Part
of their Christmas letter reports on the decision by the Church
of Scotland to approve the call and installation of Scott Rennie,
an openly gay minister.
Here is their report >>
Their concluding paragraphs:
On the eve of American Independence Day,
John and Lindsay both participated in Scott Rennie’s
induction service at Queen’s Cross Parish Church. In the
presence of a fill congregation (and a few reporters) Scott
was welcomed individually by 80 ministers from the
Presbytery of Aberdeen, other presbyteries in the Church of
Scotland, the Roman Catholic Church, the Scottish Episcopal
Church, and the PCUSA’s Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area.
In the front pew sat Scott’s partner David, Scott’s
daughter, and Scott’s former wife, Ruth. Behind them were
Scott’s relatives, David’s relatives, and Ruth’s relatives,
all of whom support Scott and his family and his ministry.
be a historic year in the Presbyterian Church (USA) as the
General Assembly meeting in the Twin Cities courageously
connects people crying out for a church that affirms them
with congregations crying out for new life.
“What do you think of Christmas?”
The question comes up this time of year
when I am interviewed by parents and one-time pastors
and other ghosts that live inside my brain.
“You write about it—retell the story often—
but what’s it really all about for you?”
My interrogators note
that in my seven decades
I’ve amassed a host of doubts and disbeliefs.
Details of the Christmas tale—some
essence of it, too—seem to me
less history than images adopted
by earliest believers
to enhance and glorify their Master.
Yet the story has a hold on me—
seems as powerful as when
I first saw a tree lit up in celebration.
These wise men three and shepherds
may not be unvarnished history as once I thought,
but they are engaging images,
and still remind us
of one whose life and teaching
express belief most dear—
the power of the universe—the spirit at its core—
ever tilts toward good will and peace.
again this Christmas I'm delighted to share with you all a poem
contributed by my brother, Jack King, of Bloomington, Indiana.
It's a celebration of Christmas, complete with question marks.
It speaks for many of us, I suspect.
Christmas greetings and thanks to all of you to visit this site
and enliven it and my own life.
and joy to you all,
King, your WebWeaver
A Christmas prayer
with thanks to the Presbyterian
God of glory and God of grace,
God who creates and loves us all,
God whose Holy Spirit gives us gifts for faithful living,
You come to us in a child,
Born in Bethlehem, a humble city in an occupied land,
A child whose parents fled with him for
Crossing borders, becoming refugees,
A child who grew in wisdom and in years to
be an adult who proclaimed great good news,
Stood with the oppressed,
Welcomed the outcast,
Healed the sick and
Reconciled the estranged,
An adult who revealed your love and lived
Shared food with those who hungered,
Blessed the peacemakers,
Offered liberation from all forms of tyranny,
Transformed conflict and
Broke down walls of division.
Jesus remained faithful to you in all
things though he threatened the powers and the powerful
Who seized him, tried him, tortured him, and crucified him.
But your loving grace and power raised him
from the dead. And through Jesus
You make possible forgiveness and fresh
Life anew and life abundant.
We give thanks that Jesus remains the
friend of sinners and
A companion on life’s journey,
That we might live in faith,
That we might love you, love one another, and
love all your creation,
That we might do kindness, pursue justice, and
This day and every day.
Remembering the birth of the child of
Bethlehem, we give thanks,
And we celebrate your love revealed in the life and death and
resurrection Jesus our Savior,
In whose name we pray.
– Mark Koenig and Nancy Eng MacNeill,
Teresa Stricklen, David Gambrell
more of our Christmas reflections >>
A special Advent treat:
Silent monks sing the Hallelujah Chorus
Thanks to Susan Robertson,
Witherspoon's ever-diligent bookkeeper
A Puritan's advice ... on health care reform
Hear these wise words, and challenging, written
by the Puritan, Gov. John Winthrop, in his sermon, “A Model of
Christian Charity,” said to have been addressed to the ship-load
of fellow Puritans in the “Arbella” on their way across the
Atlantic Ocean to settle the Massachusetts Bay Colony:
We must delight in each other; make
others’ conditions our own; rejoice together, mourn
together, labor and suffer together, always having before
our eyes our commission and community in the work, as
members of the same body. So shall we keep the unity of the
spirit in the bond of peace.
What have our conservative friends done to the
American Christian heritage? And when will progressives claim
their authentic heritage?
For the full text of Winthrop's sermon >>
Advent Christmas New Year
the time of light
when we like those of old
are grateful for the
new light / new life .
Around it comes
the Christmas Day
So quickly come- not to stay
Wrapping the year from last to this
life is changing.
Around it comes
the midnight changes
Clean slate start each year
Letting go of chains that bind us.
new life new life.
What was - what is - what is to be
the trinity of time
marked just now
by Jesus' birth
again again here on earth.
from Bobbie McGarey
The Rev. Dr. Bobbie
McGarey lives in Duncan, Oklahoma, and serves as Interim Pastor
of First Presbyterian Church, Lawton, Oklahoma. You’ll find her
musings on her blog at
Advent reflections >>
“Tom Dietrich was my Mentor in 1970-71"
We received this note about Tom Dietrich on Wed., Dec. 16, from
John Wilde, in response to
post about his death.
I spent one year at Princeton Theological
Seminary in 1970-71. On Sunday mornings I drove to
Philadelphia for my field education at Tabernacle Church,
which was and still is Presbyterian and UCC. I just went to
their website and see that they remain a dynamic Progressive
Christian, More Light Community of Faith.
Tom Dietrich was the Pastor and I will
always cherish his tenderness, kindness, and passion for
peace and justice, healing and reconciliation.
I lost contact with Tom and Dorothy but
will never forget their hospitality and compassion.
I had a lot to learn back then and Tom was
patient with me but also determined to guide me to becoming
an effective pastor with some needed criticism, always
gentle and even affirming. It takes a deep faith to be the
kind of leader and mentor he was.
Witherspoon member John Wilde describes
himself as “retired and living in Whitesboro (NY).” Then he
adds: “Oh, yeah, of course
I have a website and
blogs with an orientation to Progressive Christianity:
Progressive Politics, The Perennial Philosophy, Sustainable
Abundance, Supporting the Palestinians, Rock'n'Roll, Travel,
Photography and the Red Sox.”
Should anyone want to send a
note of condolence to Dorothy Dietrich, her
Thanks to Bill
ACSWP reports on
its Fall 2009 meeting
Focuses on justice issues in the Southwest and economic values
By ACSWP associate for policy development and
interpretation the Rev. Belinda M. Curry
Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) held its fall meeting
in Phoenix October 15-17, 2009. The committee engaged in
dialogue with members of the Grand Canyon Presbytery and other
invited guests on immigration, energy and Native American
concerns. The committee authorized a resolution on the economic
crisis and worked with representatives of a General Assembly
Mission Council (GAMC) Review committee. The Committee heard
project updates from members assigned to various study groups
and other Committees, including matters of compensation, gun
violence, HIV/AIDS and public education. In addition the
Committee spent some quality time during its fall meeting
reflecting on the ministry, witness and life of the Reverend Dr.
Lewis (Lew) S. Mudge who died on September 11, 2009.
in the region included immigration concerns, energy issues,
Native American matters. Among the national and denominational
concerns were the new Social Creed for the 21st
Century, and updates on current study projects including a
theology of compensation, gun violence, HIV/AIDS, and public
education. The ACSWP group also met two members of the General
Assembly Mission Council (GAMC)’s Review Committee on the
advisory and advocacy committees.
full article >>
Presbyterian leaders oppose Ugandan anti-gay act
Parsons, Reyes-Chow join Christian leaders to
denounce proposed law
Presbyterian News Service reports that two
leaders in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) are the latest to
sign a Christian statement denouncing the Ugandan
“Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2009.”
The Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, moderator of the
218th General Assembly (2008) and the Rev. Gradye Parsons,
stated clerk of the GA, added their names to those of dozens of
other leaders from Catholic, mainline and evangelical churches
who also signed the statement.
The “Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2009” is under
consideration by the Parliament of Uganda. If passed, the act
would make homosexual behavior punishable by life imprisonment
or death. It would also punish citizens for not reporting their
gay or lesbian neighbors to the authorities.
“Regardless of the diverse theological views
of our religious traditions regarding the morality of
homosexuality, in our churches, communities and families, we
seek to embrace our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters as
God’s children worthy of respect and love,” the statement reads.
“Yet we are painfully aware that in our country gays and
lesbians still face hostility and violence. We recognize that
such treatment degrades the human family, threatens the common
good and defies the teachings of our Lord — wherever it occurs.”
news report >>
To read the statement and see the full list
Americans face health reform like "scared turtles"
Witherspoon member Berry Craig adds his sharp
thoughts on the ongoing struggle to provide health care coverage
for all Americans. He begins:
It is the great unmentionable in the health
It is an attitude apparently shared by many
voters. The Democrats keep quiet about it because they don’t
want to make voters mad.
The same attitude is helping the Republicans
thwart reform. But they won't acknowledge it publicly for fear
of looking bad.
B. Smith isn't scared to talk about it on his
Internet blogsite, Radical Love. It is greed and selfishness,
which he says are "hateful" aspects "of humanity that this
debate has brought out" in much of the body politic.
Smith identifies himself as a Methodist pastor
from Pulaski, Tenn. He doesn't pull punches.
Smith says, flat out, that some folks oppose
reform because they think it will diminish the quality of their
health care in favor of “undeserving” poor people and
immigrants. “It is in times of economic downturn when people
recede into their shells like a scared turtle and refuse to help
anyone but themselves and their immediate families,” the parson
This union-card carrying Hubert Humphrey
Democrat and Bluegrass State Presbyterian will add an “amen” to
Rev. Smith’s cyber-sermonette.
The rest of Craig's brief essay >>
Rev. Tom Dietrich, church redevelopment pioneer who used Saul
Alinsky principles, has died
The Rev. Thomas E. Dietrich, who pioneered
church redevelopment ministry for the Presbyterian Church
(U.S.A.), died Nov. 30, in Oconomowoc, WI. He was 78.
While studying at McCormick Theological
Seminary, he became an adherent of the community organizing
principles of Saul Alinsky which he put to use in urban
pastorates in San Francisco, Philadelphia and Madison, Wis.
Tom and his wife, Dorothy, have been long-time
and supportive members of the Witherspoon Society.
Three more looks at health care reform
You may have been hearing and reading more than you want about
the tortuous process of cobbling together some kind of reform of
the U.S. health care system. But the issue is important enough
to merit all the information and wisdom we can muster. Here are
three recent articles that offer three different perspectives:
Atul Gawande, surgeon and author, sees the current bills as
proposing a piece-meal approach of pilot projects -- which is
the way U.S. agriculture was transformed a century ago, with
government "bureaucrats" (yeeeks!) developing new farming
techniques locally and spreading them from there. (These
"bureaucrats," mainly rural extension agents, are the people we
seem to trust to advise 4H clubs and all that!)
Adriana Huffington sees the bills as "sub-optimal solutions"
to huge problems, but finds enough good changes in them to make
them worth supports -- if those proposed changes don't get lost.
Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor, takes a much
bleaker view of the prospects of any real reform, because
private health insurers will continue to consolidate their
control of the health care market.
If you have comments to add
please send a note,
to be shared here!
National Council of Churches Eco-Justice Working Group
reports from Copenhagen
Associate Director of the Eco-Justice Program of the NCC, John
Hill with the United Methodist Church, Mary Minette of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and Bill
Somplatsky-Jarman of the Presbyterian Church (USA) are all
attending the climate negotiations. Tyler Edgar is sending
daily updates on the
Eco-Justice blog. Click here to follow along, and know the
call of justice for God's Creation and God's people is being
heard during the negotiations in Copenhagen.
A sample from
Copenhagen: Ecumenical Weekend Begins
morning here in Copenhagen and the first week of
negotiations is coming to a close while the global
ecumenical community is gearing up for a weekend of prayer,
action and climate justice events.
First a wrap
up of where the negotiations are headed. After an intense 5
days of conversation and discussion, the big development
here in Copenhagen is the role that developing countries are
playing in the negotiations. Many of the small island
nations and the least developed countries are uniting to
demand a concrete second agreement that will be
complementary to the Kyoto Protocol. This would allow
countries such as the US to engage in the new agreement
while maintaining the structure created under the Kyoto
I hope that
you will the time to express the importance of these climate
negotiations in your own community – you don’t have to
organize a march or release 2000 lanterns, but you can tell
your friends about what's happening here, say a prayer at
your church this Sunday for the negotiations happening in
Copenhagen or write a letter to the editor on what faith
communities around the world are doing to address climate
change and the need for climate justice.
do, please do something!
Creation needs your help and US leaders must know that the
faith community is committed to seeking climate justice.
Ideas for reclaiming Advent and Christmas
From Enough for Everyone, the Presbyterian
traveled a long distance to bring gifts to Jesus. Their gifts
honored the child and provided for the family. Today, gift
giving can be a tricky topic. It can be challenging to find
gifts that honor our loved ones while honoring Christ and
remembering why we celebrate Christmas in the first place.
Ideas for Reclaiming Advent and Christmas [PDF] offers a
number of ideas for creative giving, including gifts of time,
experiences and other ways to share of ourselves. Find tips on
celebrating with organic foods, alternative gifts, sweat free
products and fairly traded goods. Incorporate new rituals, study
and prayers into your Christmas traditions. You may want to
consider alternative giving – donations to PC(USA) ministries –
this year, too, or Fair Trade products that serve as gifts not
only for the recipient but also to the artisans and farmers who
honoring your loved ones with a donation rather than physical
gift. Enough for Everyone and Just Living are part of the
Presbyterian Hunger Program, and your gifts help further our
work. Give online or by check:
for your support!
Explore Fair Trade Products
Global Marketplace, PC(USA) partners with artisan and farmer
groups around the world to help alleviate poverty and eliminate
its causes. Consider shopping with Global Marketplace groups
for your holiday needs. There are many wonderful groups worthy
of our support; below we highlight four with strong Presbyterian
Partners for Just Trade (PJT) is a nonprofit Christian
organization working with Fair Trade artisans in Peru and
Nicaragua and farmers in Cameroon. It began as an initiative
of the Presbyterian Hunger Program and the Presbytery of
Giddings-Lovejoy. PJT is a member of the Fair Trade
Federation and Green America Business Network.|
Just Coffee/Café Justo is a grower cooperative based in
Mexico that was formed to address the root causes of labor
migration from Mexico to the United States. It is supported
by Frontera de Cristo, a Presbyterian Border Ministry.|
Import Peace eases poverty and hardship, fosters
economic growth and improves the quality of life for
Palestinians through sales of olive oil, spices and soaps. A
nonprofit, mission group of volunteers, it was begun by
Presbyterians in Minnesota.|
Pal Craftaid is a nonprofit volunteer ministry of
compassion, hope and healing for Palestinians. Rooted in the
peace and justice work of the PC(USA) since 1993, sales of
olive wood and embroidered handcrafts provide much needed
income to artisans in East Jerusalem, The West Bank and Gaza|
Global Marketplace Web site for the full list of partner
you choose to give and honor the Christ child this season, may
the presence of God the giver of life be with you.
Enough for Everyone
(888) 728-7228 x5626
Two calls for action in Copenhagen
Demand climate justice
The Pesticide Action Network is calling for
“climate justice” in Copenhagen
Urge U.S. negotiator Jonathan Pershing to
renounce backroom deals. The path to climate stabilization must
be transparent and equitable for all nations.
PAN is on the ground here in Copenhagen with one
objective – climate justice. The concept is simple enough: We
should not make other people clean up our mess. And, nobody
should use the political will and sense of urgency around
climate change as an opportunity to fortify their positions of
power and wealth.
ACT NOW» Tell
the U.S. negotiator, Jonathan Pershing, that the road to climate
stabilization must be a fair one if it is going to work for all
the people on the planet.
nations (especially the U.S.) are historically responsible for
over 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions, despite composing
only 20% of the world's population. Meanwhile, the developing
world -- most of humanity -- is on the front lines of climate
change, paying our climate debt by enduring the harshest storms
and most severe droughts. The Kyoto protocol recognizes this
fact of "historical responsibility" by talking about "common but
According to a negotiating text leaked today, the U.S. is
working behind closed doors with the U.K. and Denmark to reverse
these key provisions of the Kyoto framework by: 1) stripping
recognition of the industrialized world's disproportionate
historical responsibility for warming the earth; and 2) handing
most control to rich nations while making the World Bank, rather
than the more democratic UN, the arbiter of global cuts. This
deal is being called the "Danish Text," and developing countries
are understandably incensed by it.
Take Action!» Tell the U.S. delegation that
playing politics at this critical hour is unacceptable. Secret
agreements between the world's most powerful players is unfair
and undermines trust at a moment when we haven't the time to
spend years rebuilding it. We will deliver your signatures with
partners here in Copenhagen.
To tackle climate
change, we need leadership with the vision and fortitude for
climate justice. Clearly, we won't get that from this delegation
unless we demand it.
Or if you prefer a more symbolic action --
Help build an ark!
action against climate change
The group Faithful America, with others, is
building a giant ark on the National Mall in Washington, “to
remind our leaders exactly what’s at stake” in the UN Copenhagen
Their call for action continues:
The Copenhagen talks are our best chance at
getting a real climate deal, and it's not a moment too soon.
People in developing countries are already experiencing drought,
disease and even death because of climate change. But,
bureaucratic foot-dragging is endangering the climate talks.
We're participating in a global grassroots
effort to remind our leaders what's at stake. Today, teams of
volunteers are starting to build the Ark. Saturday, in front of
the completed Ark, clergy will join other leaders to speak about
the moral imperative to address climate change and its
disproportionate impact on those living in poverty. It's shaping
up to be an incredible witness (after all, a giant Ark is pretty
hard to ignore), so we wanted to make sure all our Faithful
America members could participate.
Sign the petition calling for a real climate deal, and we'll
bring your message with us to the Ark!
We'll post your comments on the Ark's giant
message wall. Media and leaders passing by the Ark will see our
notes and know that people of faith from across the country
demand action on climate change.
After the Copenhagen talks close, we will be
in touch with you with more ways you can help increase the
pressure on the Senate to pass strong climate change
Thanks for all you do,
Online Organizer, Faithful America
PS: If you're in the DC area, we'd love to see
you in person this Saturday at 4 PM! (More
details here.) If you are
outside of the DC area,
click here to see if there is a December 12 climate vigil
Food Justice --
from the Presbyterian Hunger Program
What happens when
— the numbers of hungry people has surpassed the
one billion mark, and when
— 642 persons gather from 93 countries
representing 450 organizations of peasant and family farmers,
small-scale fisher folk, pastoralists, indigenous peoples,
youth, women, the urban people, agricultural workers, local and
international NGOs, faith groups and other social actors, and
hold a parallel gathering to the United Nations World Food
Security Summit in Rome in November, 2009?
They declare that
food sovereignty is the real solution to the tragedy of
hunger in our world.
The declaration calls for:
The participation of women, small-scale
farmers, Indigenous Peoples, artisanal fisherfolk, food
workers, youth, the urban poor, environmental organizations,
human rights defenders, NGOs working for the realization of
the right to food and food sovereignty and to ensure that
their voices are heard when making agricultural, trade and
development assistance policies.
The commitment of governments and U.N.
agencies to the eradication of hunger and malnutrition, the
realization of the right to food and the people's food
Read the inspiring People’s Declaration
which can be
found in English, Spanish and French – or
downloaded directly in English here.
Fresh chorizo Mexican sausage recipe
Guatemala update from the December global food
WARC/Global Dialogue on the Accra Confession
Low-wage Jobs, and Living into a New Economy”
Online Workshop Session and Liturgical Materials on Farm Worker
National Religious Coalition
Against Torture urges action to close Guantanamo
Please join NRCAT and other organizations in
urging Congress and the Obama Administration to move quickly in
closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, a prominent
symbol of our nation's use of torture.
January brings two important anniversaries that offer good
opportunities for local organizing – January 11 and January 22.
Monday, January 11 - 8th Anniversary of the
opening of Guantanamo
• Mark this day with an interfaith
prayer service or candlelight vigil.
• Gather signatures on NRCAT's
MLK Weekend (January 15-18) - Highlight
Guantanamo during religious services
• Use NRCAT's interfaith prayer and
bulletin insert during services.
• Gather petition signatures or signed
letters after services.
Friday, January 22 - Anniversary of
executive order calling for Guantanamo's closure
• Hand deliver petitions and signed
letters to local congressional offices.
• Consider organizing a press conference
with religious leaders immediately before or after delivering
the petitions and letters.
All of these resources and an online registration form are
If you tell us what you're planning by
registering online, we'll be able to send you updated
information and resources, including a sample media advisory.
And if we have a large enough response, we will be able to seek
some national or regional media coverage, as we have done
successfully for previous coordinated actions.
Thank you for all that you do to help end
U.S.-sponsored torture forever.
Linda Gustitus, President
Rev. Richard Killmer, Executive Director
An Advent meditation:
by John Shuck, pastor of First Presbyterian
Church of Elizabethton, Tenn.
From the church's
Come, thou long-expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
We are in the season of Advent. Advent means
coming. This season is one of expectation, longing,
anticipation, preparation … hope. For what are we hoping?
Advent anticipates the birth of Jesus and the
“second coming” of Jesus. Because popular Christianity has
viewed the second coming of Jesus in a superstitious fashion
complete with timetables and expectations of “the rapture” and
so forth, many of us shy away from this metaphor altogether.
I think the metaphor of Jesus’ return is
powerful in a positive way. It captures the feeling that we are
not yet what we could be. We are still captive as the Advent
carol says, to “our fears and sins.” We have not discovered
peace within our own skin. Our civilization is not living in a
sustainable way. We take from Earth more than we return. The gap
between wealthy and poor is increasing and the number of the
poor is increasing. The human impact on Earth is causing the
extinction of plant and animal species at rate faster than Earth
has known in over 60 million years.
The rest of
this thoughtful meditation >>
Amazing scientific discovery!
Our local paper in La Crosse, the
La Crosse Tribune,
uses a spare corner of each issue to remind us of news items
they published 25 years ago.
Here’s one for Nov. 28, 1984:
A recent survey of the breakfast program
at Onalaska Middle School found that most students preferred
doughnuts over fresh fruit or granola bars.
Who would'a guessed!!
On the escalation of U.S. war in Afghanistan
World's religious leaders mourn the Obama escalation in
Rabbi Michael Lerner
reports from the Parliament of World Religions whch is
gathering this week in Australia:
Many of the world's religious leaders in
attendance at the Parliament of World Religions taking place in
Melbourne, Australia, are in partial mourning for the dream of a
new world that President Obama promised, and decisively
torpedoed in his announcement of major escalation of military
forces in Afghanistan. While the conference sessions have
officially ignored current political developments, the hallways
are filled with heated discussions of the widespread
disillusionment with Obama.
rest of his report >>
Truthout offers two critical responses
to Obama’s Afghanistan troop surge
Obama Invokes 9/11 to Explain Afghanistan
Jason Leopold writes for Truthout: "After months
of deliberations, President Barack Obama finally outlined his
revised strategy for the Afghanistan War in a nationally
televised address Tuesday night. The commander-in-chief
repeatedly invoked 9/11, attempting to justify his plan to
escalate the eight-year-old war, which calls for the rapid
deployment of 30,000 additional US troops to the region by next
the full article >>
“This is a seriously flawed policy.”
Melvin A. Goodman
writes for Truthout: "President Barack Obama announced last
night that he will send 30,000 additional US soldiers and
marines to Afghanistan over the next seven months and that
additional resources will be used to train Afghan security
forces and bolster the Afghan government. This is a seriously
flawed policy. The troop deployment and the appropriations will
have no impact on the insignificant al-Qaeda presence in
Afghanistan; no significant success in controlling the growing
Taliban presence; and will make only a limited contribution to
nation-building in Afghanistan."
the complete article >>
To share your comments or
please send a note!
Voices/Witherspoon Board approves a new Mission Statement.
In a conference call on November 19, 2009, the
Voices/ Witherspoon Board voted unanimously to adopt a new
statement of our mission, to reflect the merger of our two
organizations and the changing demands of our times.
We welcome any comments you’d like to share about
this new statement! Just send a note to
firstname.lastname@example.org, or call our Membership Coordinator, Gusti
Newquist, at (520) 325-1001.
Another request: As you reflect on this mission
statement, it might suggest new ideas for a new name for our
merged organization. Or even an idea for a new logo, for which
we have so far received no suggestions!
click here for more about this gigantic contest – and
The new mission statement reads:
We are a playful and passionate community of
women and men in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) who are
called to proclaim the Gospel vision of God’s extravagant
love and justice in church and society. We seek the wisdom
of the Spirit for following Christ’s example and for living
into the hope of sustained gender equality, racial
reconciliation, full human rights for LGBT persons, economic
justice, environmental wholeness, an end to war and all
forms of violence, and a justice-loving shalom over all the
earth. We commit to risking the transformation of our own
selves and our organization to live into this vision, even
as we invite both church and society to meet this challenge.
The Courage of our Convictions
Senator John Marty is a strong,
progressive Minnesota state senator, whose thoughtful views seem
to reflect in part the scholarship and convictions of his
father, Prof. Martin Marty.
written recently on his blog (titled Apple Pie!) about how
pragmatism is undoing the promises of Barack Obama and the will
of the electorate. He begins:
If 21st Century Progressives
led the 19th Century Abolition Movement, we'd
still have slavery, but we'd have limited it to 40 hour work
weeks, and we'd be so proud of the progress we'd made.
In earlier eras of U.S. history,
progressives believed they could fight injustice and move
society forward, and they did so. Today however, many
progressives have lost faith in their ability to affect
significant change. Many are content simply to tinker with
problems, whether the issue is getting living wages for
work, ending poverty, or removing toxins from our food
rest of his provocative essay >>
What do you think about
progressive pragmatism today?
A necessary way of doing politics,
or a betrayal of progressive values?
Please send a note, to be share here!
It Is Time for the Churches to Declare Jubilee
by the Rev. Britton W. Johnston
Britt Johnston and his wife Danna Larson are
living in Pasadena, California, where Britt is working on a
Ph.D. in Practical Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He's
also part-time Pastor at Occidental United Presbyterian Church
in northeast Los Angeles. They
participated in the Witherspoon
"Dancing with God" conference on mission at Stony Point in
September, 2005, and have served in Colombia as accompaniers.
His essay begins:
The time has come for the church to
declare jubilee. Every 50 years, according to the Book of
Leviticus, God’s people are commanded to have a year of
jubilee, in which those who have lost their homes and lands
because of indebtedness will be able to return to them with
their debts forgiven. The year of jubilee is a pivotal idea
in the prophetic traditions of Israel, picked up from
Leviticus in Isaiah’s declaration of "the year of the Lord’s
favor." Following in this tradition Jesus declared himself
to be fulfilling Isaiah’s vision of jubilee (Luke 4) and
also taught us to pray in a way that alludes to the jubilee:
"forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors."
We live in a time that cries out for
jubilee. For the past three decades at least, the working
people of America have been systematically plundered by
financial elites. Economic inequality has increased
dramatically, as the investing class has seen its income
tower like Babel, while wages have stagnated. For thirty
years, working people have been forced to "borrow their
wages," as Michael Moore puts it in his recent film. As
became abundantly clear in the past two years, financial
elites have led Congress to privatize profits and socialize
risk. This grew to the absurd proportions of a
multi-trillion dollar bailout for the financial institutions
by the working people of America. These institutions have
taken this money without turning it into new lending, the
purpose for which it was originally given.
He goes on to explain his proposal: "Conditions
are ripe for a declaration of jubilee – a debtors’ strike."
of his essay >>
What do you think?
send your comments,
to be shared here!
Faithful responses to domestic violence
Interfaith summit on domestic violence explores how clergy
can work to support victims, end violence
by Sue Boardman, to Presbyterian News
ATLANTA - December 2, 2009 – Faith leaders
gathered here Nov. 17 for a Summit on Domestic Violence.
Greg Loughlin and Taylor Tabb, co-coordinators
of the Georgia Commission on Family Violence (GCFV) Fatality
Review Project, along with the Georgia Coalition Against
Domestic Violence, planned the Summit to equip religious leaders
with skills necessary to respond effectively to issues of
The summit came after GCFV's research showed
strong connections between faith communities and victims in
fatal and near-fatal incidents of domestic violence.
Domestic violence has taken the lives of
almost 500 Georgians in the last four years and is the leading
cause of injury among Georgia girls and women between the ages
of 15 and 44.
The rest of
the story >>
GA Middle East study team meets with UN officials
Different voices heard as team prepares final
Sharon Youngs, communications coordinator for
the Office of the General Assembly, reports:
LOUISVILLE - The nine members of the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly Middle East study
team met Nov. 11-13, 2009, in New York City. Meetings were held
at the Presbyterian United Nations office and at First
Presbyterian Church of New York City.
The group's agenda focused on further
conversations with Palestinian and Israeli leaders, as well as
ecumenical and Presbyterian leaders, as they begin to craft
their final report to the 219th General Assembly (2010) of the
of the story >>
Network News is here!
The fall issue
of our Witherspoon/Voices newsletter is posted here, in PDF
Its contents include:
|Co-Moderator Bill Dummer on Mission
Celebration ( page 2) |
|The Editor’s Spot – "Be still and know
...!" A message for noisy times (5) |
|Presbyterian Church calls for just health
care reform (10)|
|Presbyterians active in Chicago bank
protest (13) |
|Observations on the "Manhattan
Declaration," by Gene TeSelle (15)|
|GA PJC rules on ordination
|Baltimore Presbytery sends overture for
inclusive marriage (21) plus other items on efforts
toward a more inclusive church |
|PHEWA seeks nominations for awards
recipients (25) |
|Ghost Ranch Seminar, July 26-August 1,
2010 – We’re All In This Together: Confronting the
Structures of Injustice (28)|
|New Director sought for Washington Office
|Witherspoon/Voices board approves new
Mission Statement (38) |
|Witherspoon/Voices plans for General
Assembly 2010 (34-35) |
Some of these
items have already been posted on this website, and others
will appear soon. But for something on paper – for your own
reading or for sharing with others – please get this paper
for the smaller file, lower resolution but faster download.
here for the higher resolution file, which will take longer
For an index to all our reports
from the 218th General Assembly
For an index to all our reports from
conference on global mission and justice >>
Earlier in April,
For links to earlier archive pages,
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
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
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
Got more blogs to recommend?
send a note, and we'll see what we can do!
Plan now for our 2010 Ghost Ranch
GHOST RANCH SEMINAR
July 26-August 1, 2010
WE’RE ALL IN
CONFRONTING THE STRUCTURES OF INJUSTICE
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