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Archive for December, 2009

This page lists our postings from December, 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
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.

See the "horrors" of Britain’s “socialized medicine” through the experience of two American Presbyterian pastors in Glasgow
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.

They begin:

British people are used to standing in line. ...

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 >>


Last September the United Church of Christ launched a 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 continues:

•          Over 47 million people (one in six) and over 9 million children are without health coverage and 25 million more are under-insured.

•          Every 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.

More >>

More on health care reform >>

Reflections on the incivility of the health care reform debate

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 Westview, Inc.

Church of Scotland approves and installs openly gay minister Scott Rennie to an Aberdeen church  

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.

May 2010 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.

                                                          jk (2009)

Once 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.

With Christmas greetings and thanks to all of you to visit this site and enliven it and my own life.

Peace and joy to you all,

Doug King, your WebWeaver

A Christmas prayer
with thanks to the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program

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 safety,
               Crossing borders, becoming refugees,

A child who grew in wisdom and in years to be an adult who proclaimed great good news,      
               Befriended sinners,
               Stood with the oppressed,
               Welcomed the outcast,
               Healed the sick and
               Reconciled the estranged,

An adult who revealed your love and lived your love,
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 beginnings,
               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 seek peace,

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


For 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

Around it comes
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.

Happy Christmas

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

More 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 our earlier 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 address is:
687 Hickory Creek Drive, Oconomowoc, Wisconsin 53066.
Her email address is

Thanks to Bill Dummer

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

The Advisory 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.

Social concerns 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.

For the 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.”

The full news report >>

To read the statement and see the full list of signatories, click here.

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 care debate.

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 added.

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.   More >>

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.

And 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 to these,
please send a note,
to be shared here!

National Council of Churches Eco-Justice Working Group reports from Copenhagen

Tyler Edgar, 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 December 11:

Live from Copenhagen: Ecumenical Weekend Begins

It’s Friday 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 Protocol.

He concludes:

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.

Whatever you do, please do something!

God’s 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 Hunger Program

The Magi 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 produce them.

Give Alternative Gifts

Consider 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:

bullet Enough for Everyone
bullet Presbyterian Hunger Program

Thank you for your support!

Explore Fair Trade Products

Through the 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 roots:

bullet 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.
bullet 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.
bullet 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.
bullet 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

Visit the Global Marketplace Web site for the full list of partner groups.

However you choose to give and honor the Christ child this season, may the presence of God the giver of life be with you.

Melanie Hardison
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.

Industrialized 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 differentiated responsibilities."

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!

Press for 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 climate talks.

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 legislation.

Thanks for all you do,

Beth Dahlman
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 near you!

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 sovereignty agenda.

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 crisis fast
WARC/Global Dialogue on the Accra Confession
        “Farmworkers, Low-wage Jobs, and Living into a New Economy”
Online Workshop Session and Liturgical Materials on Farm Worker Justice

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 Guantanamo petition.

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 available here.

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:

The Second Coming

by John Shuck, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tenn.
From the church's December newsletter

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 Afghanistan

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.

The rest of his report >>

Truthout offers two critical responses to Obama’s Afghanistan troop surge

Obama Invokes 9/11 to Explain Afghanistan Troop Surge

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 summer."

For 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."

For the complete article >>

To share your comments or other articles,
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, 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 join in!

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.

He has 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 supply.

The 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."   The rest of his essay >>

What do you think?
Please 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 Service

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 domestic violence.

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 report

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 PC(USA).

The rest of the story >>

Network News is here!

The fall issue of our Witherspoon/Voices newsletter is posted here, in PDF format.

Its contents include:

bulletCo-Moderator Bill Dummer on Mission Celebration ( page 2)       
bulletThe Editor’s Spot – "Be still and know ...!" A message for noisy times (5)           
bulletPresbyterian Church calls for just health care reform (10)
bulletPresbyterians active in Chicago bank protest (13)
bulletObservations on the "Manhattan Declaration," by Gene TeSelle (15)
bulletGA PJC rules on ordination cases      (18)
bulletBaltimore Presbytery sends overture for inclusive marriage (21)      plus other items on efforts toward a more inclusive church
bulletPHEWA seeks nominations for awards recipients (25)
bulletGhost Ranch Seminar, July 26-August 1, 2010 – We’re All In This Together: Confronting the Structures of Injustice (28)
bulletNew Director sought for Washington Office (30)
bulletWitherspoon/Voices board approves new Mission Statement (38)
bulletWitherspoon/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 version.  

Click here for the smaller file, lower resolution but faster download. 

Or click here for the higher resolution file, which will take longer to download. 

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
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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