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A union of The Witherspoon Society and Voices of Sophia

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Archive for September, 2009

This page lists our postings from all of September, 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

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.

Is it time to find new ways to live out our Reformed commitment to justice?

The latest issue of Witherspoon/Sophia’s Network News has just been published online, and we hope you’ll take a look at it.

Some of the articles in the News have already been posted here, and we plan to post more of them in the coming days.

For starters, here’s one written by your editor and WebWeaver, reflecting on some of the changes that seem to be going on in our time, and especially in our Presbyterian Church. Some of those changes concern us deeply as they seem to undermine our Reformed commitment to bearing witness to and living out the Gospel in our society – which often means working for peace and for justice.

We hope you’ll take a look at the essay, and a couple of the larger articles mentioned in it. And please talk back! Tell us what you think – just send us an email note that we can share here.

'We cannot agree,' says marriage/unions panel

GA special committee's preliminary report includes no recommendations

Jerry L. Van Marter of Presbyterian News Service reported from Louisville on September 21, 2009:

The Special Committee to Study Issues of Civil Unions and Christian Marriage has acknowledged what has been clearly demonstrated in debates, governing body votes and judicial decisions throughout the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.): Presbyterians are not of one mind on the role of same-gender relationships in the church.

The special committee, authorized by the 2008 General Assembly, unanimously approved its preliminary report to the 2010 Assembly here Sept. 17, answering the central question before it - What is the place of covenanted same-gender partnerships in the Christian community? - with a three word response: "We cannot agree."

Though it reached unanimous agreement on the preliminary version of its report – the group will receive feedback from the church until Nov. 15 and prepare a final report at its Jan 22-25, 2010 meeting – it tabled action on any recommendations it might make.

The full report >>


Peter Smith of the Louisville Courier-Journal posted a brief report on the committee’s lack of agreement, concluding with this line: “One Kentucky Presbyterian elder and sociologist says the committee 'wimps out' by failing to give a clearer recommendation to the next General Assembly.”

Smith’s report >>

GA special committee unanimously recommends adoption of Belhar Confession

Anti-apartheid creed can lead way to multicultural church, Austin says

Presbyterian News Service, in the person of Jerry L. Van Marter, reports:

LOUISVILLE – September 24, 2009 – A special committee authorized by the 218th General Assembly (2008) has announced that it will recommend to next summer’s 219th Assembly that the Belhar Confession be added to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’ Book of Confessions.

Amending the Book of Confessions requires a two-thirds vote by two successive General Assemblies plus a two-thirds ratification vote by the denomination’s 173 presbyteries between Assembly ballots.

The confession was written in 1982 and adopted in 1986 by the Dutch Reformed Mission Church in response to the apartheid system of racial separation in South Africa. It declared apartheid a sin and the church’s theological justification of it as heresy.

But Belhar’s greater value to the PC(USA), special committee member the Rev. J.C. Austin told the General Assembly Mission Council’s executive committee here Sept. 23, lies in its “fundamental themes that go beyond the apartheid struggle.”

Austin, a Presbyterian minister who works at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York and is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, said those themes are the unity of the church, reconciliation and a commitment to justice.

For the rest of the news report >>

Witness for Peace invites you:

Join a special on-line briefing: “Honduras coup exposed”

This is a crucial moment for Honduran democracy. President Manual Zelaya returned to Honduras last Monday, after more than 80 days in exile since the June 28 military coup drove him from the country. The de facto regime refuses to return the democratically-elected leader to power, and the military has employed a campaign of systematic repression and violence to suppress peaceful protests.

Earlier this month, Witness for Peace sent an emergency delegation to Honduras to look into the wide-spread accusations of human rights violations and to accompany threatened citizens. What they found is a call to action and solidarity.

Be sure to join us for the first Witness for Peace online briefing:

Honduras Coup Exposed
Thursday, October 1st
7:30pm ET/4:30pm PT

WFP International Team member Galen Cohee Baynes will take your questions and share analysis from the delegation he led to Honduras two weeks ago with updates from the unfolding crisis. This free event will be held online, so you can participate from the comfort of your home or office. All you need is a computer with internet access and speakers or a telephone.

It's not too late! RSVP today for this special event. Don't miss this opportunity to hear first-hand testimony from this evolving human rights emergency.

If you can't join us, be sure to check our People Transforming Policy blog for daily updates from WFP staff currently in Honduras to accompany activists and leaders during this tumultuous time.


But only on-line

As you are probably aware, the Witherspoon Society and Voices of Sophia are merging their efforts. However, we are still in the process of merging our treasuries, preparing a merged budget, merging membership rolls, writing a new Mission Statement, and coming up with a new name.

The Board of our new organization has decided that during this time of transition, our publication (which may also change names) will be published in digital form only. When all of these aforementioned tasks are completed we will return to publishing a “hard copy” printed newsletter.

But for now, the Summer issue of Network News (late again, for which your editor apologizes) is posted here in PDF format, and the Fall issue (for which the deadline is November 10) which be published in the same way.

bullet Download this issue of Network News in a small file, with lower resolution.
bullet Or download the high-quality file, which will produce a better print copy.

The content of this issue includes (among other things):

bullet Messages from our Co-Moderators (pp. 2-4) 
bullet The Editor’s Spot – facing change and being faithful to the call to do justice (5-8)
bullet Meddlin’ – a sermon at the PW Churchwide Gathering, by Margaret Aymer (9-13)
bullet Getting Back to the Business of Being the Church, by Johnnie Monroe, at the PHEWA gathering at the Big Tent (14-17)    
bullet A report from the Ghost Ranch Peace & Justice Week (18-22) 

Announcing next year’s Ghost Ranch seminar:

July 26-August 1, 2010

Details on pp. 23-24


Comments on the Form of Government report (25-26) 


More Light Presbyterians meet in Nashville, celebrating “God’s Whole Family” – a report by Gene TeSelle (27-29) 


For the continuing debate on ordination: 


Afterthoughts on Authority, by Eric Mount (30-34)


Biblicism: Protestantism’s Distinctive Form of Idolatry, by Paul E. Capetz (34-37)

We’ll be posting many of these articles on the web-site in HTML format too, as soon as we can. 

Two notes for using this on-line publication:

This issue of Network News is published in easy-to-print PDF format, in two forms:


a small file, faster to download but of less high detail


a high-quality version, better for printing (and sharing with others!), but slower to download. 

About URL links in the text: We have tried to format all the links (to websites, and email addresses) so they will work well just by clicking on them. However, to do that we have to make sure they fit on one line, which means putting some of them in really really small type. If you want to make them legible, we suggest copying them and pasting them into your own word processor, then changing them into a larger font size.

Please let us know how this works for you! Just send a note to


Plans are already in place for our 2010 Ghost Ranch Seminar!


July 26-August 1, 2010


If it seems there are many critical issues confronting us, it is because there are. How do we respond to the biblical call for justice in a world facing deepening global inequality, environmental challenges, and the escalation of violence in human relationships? We are fortunate to have three eminently qualified people prepared to address these questions. We will use A Social Creed for the 21st Century to discern a moral, ethical and spiritual response to the many challenges humankind must meet. In presentations and discussions we will search for the prophetic spirit to guide our efforts toward a more just and humane world.

More information on the seminar leaders >>

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) calls for just health care reform - Q & A

Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow has passed along a very helpful short summary prepared by the Washington Office of the PC(USA), regarding our church’s long-standing commitment to the idea of health care for all. The statements gathers recent General Assembly policy statements calling for “a national medical plan that will ensure health coverage for all persons residing in the United States.” Such a plan should be shaped by the principles of universal accessibility, equity, and responsible funding. The statement further makes clear that while “single-payer universal health care reform in which health care services are privately provided and publicly financed” would most clearly reflect the imperatives of the Gospel, this is not a call for “socialized medicine.”

Read the full statement >>

Major tomato grower to implement agreements with Coalition of Immokalee Workers

This good news comes to us from the Rev. Noelle Damico, who staffs the PC(USA)’s Campaign for Fair Food:

Dear Friends:

We have wonderful news! One of Florida’s largest tomato growers has agreed to fully implement the CIW’s fair food agreements. Thanks to your efforts in calling on fast-food, grocery, and foodservice retailers to work with the CIW, a large enough share of the market has been created that East Coast Growers and Packers was incented to break from the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange (FTGE) and implement these agreements.

Jesus reminded his followers of a simple, but profound Hebrew teaching, “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you” (Mt. 7:12). East Coast’s decision demonstrates that the commitment of growers as well as farmworkers and corporations are needed if we’re to create a food system that is ensures our common well-being.

In the wake of this momentous step forward, please take a moment to call on leading grocery corporations, Kroger, Publix, and Ahold, to work with the CIW now. Click here for resources.

A call to "Meddlin’ "

A sermon by Margaret Aymer, for the 2009 PW Churchwide Gathering

Of the many powerful presentations at the Churchwide Gathering of Presbyterian Women, held last July in Louisville, one drew special attention from a number of Witherspoon/Voices members who were there. Margaret Aymer, who is assistant professor of New Testament at the Interdenominational Theological Center, and serves on the PC(USA)’s Facing Racism Strategy Team, preached a sermon which she titled simply “Meddlin’.” It is a powerful call to ministry that includes all people, that proclaims forgiveness to all, and invites them into full participation in the life of the church, in good health care, in much more.

Perhaps she summed up her point with these words:

... as Christians, Jesus calls us to leave off preaching and take to meddlin’. That means, we do not get the luxury to decide between those who do and do not deserve health care. We do not get the luxury to decide between those who should and should not be able to afford medicine. We do not get the luxury to decide between the “innocent” sick and those “who have no excuses.” To follow Jesus, we must give up our desire to see the purification ritual. Instead, we must be the community that, in Jesus’ name, takes to meddling in the world’s affairs. We are called to stand up on behalf of all those that the world considers sick and sinful, all of the excluded and shunned, all of those from whom the world demands the purification ritual.

Read the full sermon here, in html format >>

Or find it in easy-to-print PDF format at the PW website >>

A note from your WebWeaver:

Well, we've moved.  And some of our stuff is unpacked.  And some of it I can even find!

So I hope to be functioning again, more or less regularly, as the manager of this website.  And I'll be glad to hear from you if you have news or reflections that you'd like to share here.  Just send a note!

Doug King

More Light Presbyterians meet in Nashville, celebrating “God’s Whole Family”

by Gene TeSelle 

More Light Presbyterians held its 2009 conference September 4-6 in Nashville at Second Presbyterian Church, one of two More Light churches in the Presbytery of Middle Tennessee (a third congregation is considering affiliation). The local team, chaired by Trice Gibbons, was impressive in both its planning and its hospitality.

Other Presbyterian organizations were invited to participate and be exhibitors, and the Witherspoon Society/Voices of Sophia was glad to be among them. Several times it was noted how constructive the diversity of organizations has been, reaching people through different networks and highlighting the many reasons people have for supporting the removal of obstacles to ordination.

The conference was designed to be participatory, and there were various workshops around the theme of "God's Whole Family." It is difficult, then, to convey the richness of what the participants brought, experienced, and took away with them. ...

There was also the world premiere of MLP's new film, "God's New Family," with Jan Leo and Michael Adee.

Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow spoke to the group on Saturday morning, emphasizing the need to find "postmodern" ways of being the church: making sure that communication is two-way, without the "layers of protection" that secretaries and recorded messages have offered; recognizing that authority does not come automatically with degrees and status (in fact the Presbyterian system, he said, is "open-source" in its approach); being "all things to all people," finding unity in diversity; not putting too much reliance on "restructuring," since communication never stops flowing; and getting beyond ideological loyalties, since the entire community can never hold the same things, and mutual conversation is a sign not of weakness but of strength.

The full report, plus a link to John Shuck's blog reporting on the conference >>

URGENT: You can help restore democracy to Honduras

Since June 28th, many friends of School of the Americas Watch (SOA)  have joined with our friends in Honduras to help return democracy to their country. As a result, your actions are now bearing fruit.

Earlier this week, the SOA graduate-backed Honduran military coup regime refused all diplomatic options to return democracy. The U.S. State Department responded by asserting that visas to Hondurans would no longer be granted under the coup. Late yesterday State Department officials made it clear that they are considering legally defining the situation as a "military coup." This would create an automatic cut-off of aid to Honduras.

The coup regime immediately responded by saying that they would allow the rightful President Zelaya to return with amnesty, but not as president. Clearly the coup leaders are caving to the pressure. We need you to act now to return democracy to Honduras. Please make two very important phone calls this morning!

1.) Call the State Department at 202-647-6575 or 1-800-877-8339 and ask for Secretary Clinton. Deliver the following message: "Legally define the de facto regime in Honduras as a military coup and ensure that the coup plotters will be held responsible for their actions."

2.) Call the White House at 202-456-1111 and repeat the same message, "Legally define the de facto regime in Honduras as a military coup and ensure that the coup plotters will be held responsible for their actions."

Our earlier posts on Honduras >>

Health Care for All is a Moral Imperative

Here are some thoughtful quotations that might be helpful in discussions about the current health care reform issue.

Cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?' Expediency asks the question, 'Is it politic?' But conscience asks the question, 'Is it right?' And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but because conscience tells one it is right. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The test of the morality of a society is what it does for its children. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only object of government. Thomas Jefferson

Justice is conscience, not a personal conscience but the conscience of the whole of humanity. Those who clearly recognize the voice of their own conscience usually recognize also the voice of justice. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

A spirit of harmony can only survive if each of us remembers, when bitterness and self-interest seem to prevail, that we share a common destiny. Barbara Jordan

More >>

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!

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
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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© 2010 by Presbyterian Voices for Justice.  All material on this site is the responsibility of the WebWeaver unless other sources are acknowledged.  Unless otherwise noted, material on this site may be copied for personal use and sharing in small groups.  For permission to reproduce material for wider publication, please contact the WebWeaver, Doug King.  Any material reached by links on this site is outside the control and responsibility of the WebWeaver and Presbyterian Voices for Justice.  Questions or comments?  Please send a note!