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Our reports about the 219th General Assembly, July 2010

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Archive for August, 2010

This page lists our postings from August, 2010

For an index to all our reports and analyses
on the 219th General Assembly

For links to all our archive pages, listed by months, click here.

A little letter from your editor/WebWeaver

We're inviting you to join us in raising your voice for justice -- in the PC(USA) and in our world?  Please take a quick look at the editor's column being published in the forthcoming issue of PVJ's Network News, and consider whether you might take over one of the hats I wear: editing Network News, or managing this website, or caring for our membership database and correspondence.  Or all of the above!

More on the case of the Rev. Janie Spahr:

Presbyterian News Service has issued its new report on the verdict by the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Presbytery of the Redwoods, finding the Rev. Jane Spahr guilty on 3 of the 4 charges against her, arising from her role in officiating at a number of same-sex marriages during the period when they were legal in California.

Among other points, the news story says:

The PJC's vote on the three charges was 4-2 and it acquitted Spahr on a fourth charge of failing to "further the peace, unity and purity of the church."

Instead, the court said "We commend Dr. Spahr for helping us realize that peace without justice is no peace."

The PJC voted to verbally rebuke Spahr, the lightest of five possible punishments listed in the constitution, and to instruct her to "...avoid such offenses in the future." It then stayed the rebuke and injunction in case of an appeal.

The full news story >>

Another short note from the 219th General Assembly:

Visiting with the YAADs (Young Adult Advisory Delegates)

They get it! 

Sylvia Thorson-Smith, PVJ Issues Analyst, met with the Young Adult Advisory Delegates during the Assembly.  She reports on the very enthusiastic response she received from them, especially when she talked about PVJ's "agenda" for justice and peace.

Voices for Justice offers our summary report on the actions of the 219th General Assembly

Also: PVJ coordinating team members offer their observations on the Assembly

For our earlier reports of PVJ events at the Assembly:

bullet The PVJ Awards luncheon
bullet The PVJ / Voices of Sophia breakfast
More on the case of the Rev. Jane Spahr:

The Redwoods PJC could have done better

Arnold Rots comments on the basis of his own experience as a member and clerk of the PJC of the Presbytery of Boston.

Redwoods Presbytery PJC finds the Rev. Jane Spahr guilty of 3 charges against her, rejects the fourth.

The Permanent Judicial Commission (PJC) of Redwoods Presbytery ruled that three of the four charges against Rev. Jane Spahr, for officiating at a service of marriage for two women, have been sustained and the fourth not sustained.

John Shuck has posted a good report, with a sharp commentary, on his blog, shuckandjive

From a local newspaper:

The Marin Independent Journal begins its report on the trial:

Though clearly regretful, a local division of the Presbyterian Church USA decided Friday to rebuke a former San Rafael minister who performed wedding ceremonies for at least 16 same-sex couples during the five months in 2008 when it was legal to do so.  More >>
Added on Saturday, August 28

A decision given with regret

It's very important to note the rationale stated by the Permanent Judicial Commission in their decision in the Spahr case.  Essentially, they say Jane Spahr was doing the right thing, even though, tragically, it is still against the rules of the PC(USA).  Here's part of what they said:

The Permanent Judicial Commission, in sustaining the first three charges, recognizes that while the Rev. Dr. Jane Spahr has indeed performed these marriages, which were and continue to be legal marriages, she did so acting with faithful compassion in accord with W7.3004.

These marriages were legal in the State of California, being civil contracts (W4.9001), and are different from same sex ceremonies. The testimonies of those at court clearly demonstrated this difference.

We commend Dr. Spahr and give thanks for her prophetic ministry that for 35 years has extended support to “people who seek the dignity, freedom and respect that they have been denied” (W7.4002c), and has sought to redress “wrongs against individuals, groups, and peoples in the church, in this nation, and in the world” (W7.4002h).

In addition, we call upon the church to reexamine our own fear and ignorance that continues to reject the inclusiveness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (G3.0401c)

For the full text of the decision >>

July 26-August 1, 2010

a report on a Ghost Ranch Seminar, by Jane Hanna (who put this event together, saith the WebWeaver)

Again this summer Presbyterian Voices for Justice and Presbyterian Peace Fellowship joined in co-sponsoring a seminar at Ghost Ranch, “We’re All in this Together: Confronting the Structures of Injustice.”  The inspiration for the seminar was a guidebook for social action, To Do Justice: A Guide for Progressive Christians, edited by Rebecca Todd Peters and Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty.  Ethicists from across mainline denominations contributed essays connecting their faith to the most urgent public issues of our time.  Three of them, notable educators, became our leaders for 2010.

Dr. Grace Kao is an Associate Professor of Ethics at Claremont School of Theology; Dr. Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty an Associate Professor of Theology at Bellarmine University in Louisville, and Dr. Gary Dorrien is the Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary and Professor of Religion at Columbia University. They provided a wealth of information and tools for addressing justice and peace concerns.  More >>

Network News is here

The Summer 2010 issue of the PVJ newsletter is at the printers, but already it's here online in PDF format for you to read.  Or to print out for yourself.  It will bring you:

Reports from General Assembly

A letter from the Editor -- page 2

The PVJ Awards Luncheon  --  3

Voices of Sophia Breakfast  --  7

Assembly Actions  --  9 - 22

bullet Moderator election --  10
bullet Israel/Palestine and Middle East --  10
bullet Peacemaking and international issues --  12
bullet Ordination standards  --  13
bullet Civil unions and marriage  --  15
bullet Internal church issues  --  17
bullet Issues of faith  --  19
bullet Social justice  --  20
bullet Health issues  --  22

Two hope-filled encounters with youth and young adults  --  23

Comments on the Assembly  --  25

Network News is posted here in PDF format, both high-resolution (which looks better, but may take longer to download) and lower-resolution (faster to download).

Click here for the speedy version.
Or click here for the better-looking one.

Janie Spahr on Trial (Really, more a trial about the PC(USA)

August 23, 2010, San Rafael, CA

[Today, August 24], the church trial of Janie Spahr begins. It is a continuation of the attempts of some to prevent the marriages of same-gender couples. Eleven of the couples The Rev. Dr. Janie Spahr married during the time they were legal in Cal ifornia will testify before the Permanent Judicial Committee (PJC) at the Covenant Presbyterian Church in Napa. This is Janie's second trial for marrying same gender couples. The first ended when the then PJC ruled that since there is no such thing as "gay marriage" in the church constitution, whatever Janie might have done - it wasn't a marriage in the Presbyterian Church (USA). Case closed.

Not true. This "case" will not be closed until there is a breakthrough. A breakthrough that makes it clear to those who use the lives and loves of people who are LGBT as their rallying cry that this argument is over. That while we are fully willing and committed to healing and working through our differences together, this church and the lives of its members cannot be used to spread fear, hatred, and violence by a litigious and frightened few bent on excluding gay folk. Any place that does that, whatever it is, is not church; cannot be church – in the PC(USA) or anywhere else.

More at

Just added:  
A Declaration of Conscience for same-sex marriage

Officially, Rev. Jane Adams Spahr is on trial this week for officiating at wedding ceremonies for 16 same-gender couples. But Rev. Spahr isn't on trial, really.

Today the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is on trial. It is on trial for its treatment of its own people and for its treatment of ministers and congregations who care for them. It is time for our denomination to recognize and stand for equality and to recognize loving same-gender relationships with all the legal and spiritual status God has given them.

In light of the change that needs to happen within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A., deacons, elders, and ministers have the opportunity to stand for marriage equality and to stand with ministers who risk being taken to church court for doing what ministers are supposed to do.

If you are an deacon, elder, or minister in the PC(USA) please consider signing the Minneapolis Declaration of Conscience. The goal is 1000 signatures. Here is the statement:

1. We believe that the restrictive definition of marriage as "between a man and a woman" is binding of our pastoral discernment and unduly restricts our conscience. Such a definition does not find congruity with the established legal definitions in five U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and numerous countries in the world.

2. We recognize an individual clergy's pastoral discernment in making decisions relating to same gender marriages according to individual congregational needs, regional law, individual conscience and Biblical conviction.

3. We recognize that restrictive language hinders our pastoral care duties to members in full standing and shackles our liberty in Christ. Such language makes us choose between the new openness we are called to (G-3.0401) and enduring unscrupulous charges made in the courts of the church. We are either a church for all people or we are not (G-4.0401-3).

4. We believe that binding our liberty in Christ in matters to which we believe the Spirit of God is directing us runs counter to our confessional and reformed heritage, which calls us to encourage covenant faithfulness and love rather than thwart it.

5. We believe that Christ's teaching, the Pauline witness, and our confessions guide us to reject binding our consciences against actions that we find to be counter the Spirit of God.

6. We call on people of good faith to cease from using our church courts to promote schism for their definition of purity. 

7. We believe that Sessions should be able to approve the use of their church buildings for all marriages, especially since they will know the people requesting services of marriage better than those in higher governing bodies. A national policy ties the hands of the local Session, and diminishes their church's ministry of pastoral care.

8. Therefore, we cannot and will not abide by overly restrictive ecclesial/liturgical definitions of marriage continued by the 219th General Assembly out of scruples.
As of this writing, we have 19 27 signatures. 973 more to go!

Please sign here.
Here’s another take on Jane Spahr’s trial, from outside the Presbyterian fold.

Why Rev. Jane Spahr Should Be a National Religious Icon

Imagine being persecuted for celebrating love. Sound like the spirit of a Shakespeare tragedy?

If only this were a story of fiction. Meet Rev. Jane Adams Spahr, a retired Presbyterian minister in California. Today, Rev. Spahr will be hauled into a Presbyterian court, and put on trial for potentially violating the constitution of the Presbyterian Church. What did she do that was so heinous?   More >>

Chronology of a Bizarre Controversy – Hurt Feelings and the “ground Zero Mosque”

This article, by Gary Leupp, describes the chronology of events surrounding the project aiming to build an Islamic center in the vicinity of "Ground Zero."

I found it is especially interesting because it shows how a local, modest, and initially uncontroversial project could become a major tool for pushing islamophobia once sufficiently unprincipled shakers and movers got hold of it. The scary part, of course, isn't that some opportunistic nitwits would try to make hay of such a project, but the fact that they've been having such enormous success.

Racheli Gai, Jewish Peace News

Crazy Hysterical Christians

John Shuck provides a very nice (or 'tragic' is perhaps a better word) example of the “Islamophobia” abroad these days – among Christians, perhaps more even than among Jews.   Click here for his blog page >>

More on the current wave of "Islamophobia"

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance seeks aid for Pakistan flood victims

They’re seeking dry ground. Let’s help them find hope.

News release dated August 20, 2010

The people of Pakistan have suffered numerous natural and human-caused disasters over the past several years. Presbyterians have been in ministry there since before the nation of Pakistan was formed. We stand with them today in their time of need. The recent floods have brought record-breaking destruction to the country, with more than 1,400 people dead and more than 1.5 million displaced. You can make a difference in bringing God’s healing to a nation torn by devastation.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is responding through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) and working with our ecumenical partners to help meet emergency needs – providing food packages, shelter material, and non-food essentials. Emergency health services are also being provided.

How Can We Respond?  Click here for the latest information, and links for giving.


Tell your friends about Presbyterian Voices for Justice --
and invite them to join us!

Our new  brochure is available here in PDF format, so you can print copies to share with others -- in your congregation, your presbytery, wherever you go!

Or if you'd like a stack of them to share with others, just contact Doug King, our communications coordinator.  Just be sure to include your name, mailing address, and the quantity you need.  Send an E-mail, or phone 608-782-5275.

Waiting on the World to Change

Here's a quick Youtube slide show of some very funny signs from LGBT folks, sometimes standing (oh, so rudely!) in front of very religious folks with "God hates fags" sorts of signs.

The first, held high by a young woman, says "I didn't ask her to 'civil union' me!"

Thanks to John Shuck, and his Shuckandjive blog-page.

Voices of Sophia
and Voices of Women

We've just posted a short account of the beginnings and witness of Voices of Sophia, now a vital part of Presbyterian Voices for Justice.

It was written by Sylvia Thorson-Smith for the Peacemaking Issue of The Journal of Sacred Feminine Wisdom, Fall, 1996.

We're happy to share it here, both in easy-to-print PDF format, and in easy-to-open HTML.

We'd be very happy
to hear your comments,
or additions or corrections!
Just send us a note!

Parsons to join Office of Public Witness in webinar on General Assembly issues

Press release from Presbyterian Church (USA), dated 8-19-10

Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons will join the staff of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness (OPW) for a webinar on Thursday, September 16 from 11:15 a.m. until noon. The webinar will present the public policy-related Overtures approved by the 2010 General Assembly. The webinars periodically conducted by the Office of Public Witness provide an opportunity for Presbyterians at the local level to learn about and share in the development of priorities for the office and the larger church. The Rev. Dr. J.Herbert Nelson II, Director of the OPW, has invited representatives of local congregations and presbyteries to participate in the webinar through their computers. Log-in information will be released on August 23rd.

In addition to Dr. Nelson and Dr. Parsons, other presenters will be Catherine Gordon, Representative for International Issues, and Leslie Woods, Representative for Domestic and Environmental Issues in the PC(USA) Washington office. Each of them will discuss the Overtures approved in their areas of expertise, responding to questions from the audience and describing how the Overtures relate to initiatives likely to be considered in the current Congress and the upcoming session of Congress (2011-2012), which will convene in January.

Read this story online

Christians call for respect for Muslims at Ramadan

The National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, its Interfaith Relations Commission and participants in the National Muslim-Christian Initiative, have issued a statement the eve of Ramadan calling on Christians to respect their Muslim neighbors. Christ's call to 'love your neighbor as yourself', more than the simple bonds of our common humanity ... "is the basis for our relationship with Muslims around the world."

The statement continues:

Grounded in this commitment, we question the anti-Muslim tenor of actions and speech regarding the building of Cordoba House and mosque near the site of the former World Trade Center in New York City. We are keenly aware that many Muslims, as well as Jews, Christians, Hindus, and others, lost family members in the attacks on September 11, 2001. We recognize, as does the Muslim community around the world, that it was a group of Muslims who embraced terrorism and teachings counter to the Qur'an and Islam that carried out this action. We stand with the majority of Muslims—including American Muslims—who are working against such radical influences in their communities. They have our support for building the Cordoba House as a living monument to mark the tragedy of 9/11 through a community center dedicated to learning, compassion, and respect for all people. This effort is consistent with our country’s principle of freedom of religion, and the rights all citizens should enjoy.    More >>

How the "ground zero mosque" fear mongering began

Here’s some helpful background on the current uproar over the proposed Islamic community center in New York.

Another remembrance of Howard Rice

The Rev. Howard Leland Rice, former moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly and San Francisco Theological Seminary chaplain and professor of ministry from 1968-97, died Aug. 8 in Claremont, Calif., at the age of 78. He was one of the earliest practitioners of spiritual disciplines and formation that led to the current renewal of those practices in the church.  More >>

This remembrance of Howard Rice comes from Sylvia Thorson-Smith, a member of the Coordinating Team of Presbyterian Voices for Justice:

The images I have of the Rev. Dr. Howard Rice will be etched forever in my memory.

Howard was one of a only a few former Moderators of the PCUSA who publicly endorsed the 1991 report on human sexuality that was rejected amid a flurry of conflict and criticism. As a leader in many church arenas, he spoke passionately and prophetically for sexual and gender justice. Howard rejected the either-or polarity between spirituality and social justice. Seeing LGBT persons as beloved children of God and advocating their equal rights in church and society were, for him, integral responses to gospel faith and discipleship.

As a liaison from the GA Task Force on Human Sexuality to the GA Task Force on Abortion (1990-91), I saw the care and skill with which Howard moderated an intense study of one of the most conflicted issues of our time. Amazingly, that Task Force produced a report which is in large part consensual – a report that has been sustained as Presbyterian policy for almost two decades. Throughout the ’90s, Howard repeatedly testified before GA committees who had to struggle with challenges to that policy. When he could no longer attend General Assembly, his strong voice continued to resonate through written testimony that was read to committees.    

Many others have memories of Howard as their professor, mentor, pastor, counselor, friend, and scholarly guide. My memories are focused on his active leadership in moving the Presbyterian Church toward a more authentic witness of the biblical mandate: to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.

Howard Rice was a truth-teller and wisdom-seeker of the rarest kind. Thanks Be for his justice-loving life among us!

Throw Glenn Beck some social justice this Labor Day!

This message comes to us from Interfaith Worker Justice

Glenn Beck recently attacked churches that embraced social justice. In the wake of his rant, Labor in the Pulpits gives us an opportunity to share the real meaning of social justice and its intersection with workers and the faith community.

The dream of justice for working families is a dream shared by the labor movement and the faith community. From the earliest struggles for worker justice, allies from the faith community have stood side by side with workers, to provide the moral framework in the efforts to help workers.

This Labor Day weekend, join Interfaith Worker Justice in celebrating the link between the faith community and worker justice. Interfaith Worker Justice has worked with faith leaders to develop faith-based resources that can be used in services. These prayers, hymns, reflections and bulletin inserts can be used in a service to celebrate the religious community's efforts to support workers' struggles.  Click here for more information and many resources.

In peace and justice,
Cynthia Brooke
Communications Director, Interfaith Worker Justice

Bread for the World Sunday, October 17

This fall, thousands of churches and faith communities will renew their commitment to end hunger by celebrating Bread for the World Sunday. Encourage your church to take part on October 17 or another Sunday in the fall.

FREE resources to help your church participate in Bread for the World Sunday are now available to order or download:

bullet Scripture Study on Luke 18:1-8, written by The Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
bullet Special Litany prepared by Father Ron Rolheiser, president of the Oblate School of Theology
bullet Bulletin Inserts
bullet Offering Envelopes

Spanish-language versions as well as additional resources from a variety of Christian traditions are also available to download from our website.

Bread for the World Sunday is a great opportunity for members of your congregation to make a difference in the lives of hungry people. Moved by God’s grace in Jesus Christ, we can end hunger.

With hope,

David Beckmann
President, Bread for the World

Former GA Moderator Howard Rice dies at 78

SFTS leader was instrumental in rediscovering Reformed spirituality

by Jerry L. Van Marter, Presbyterian News Service, and Holly Woolard, SFTS Communications Office

The Rev. Howard Rice

LOUISVILLE — The Rev. Howard Leland Rice, former moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly and San Francisco Theological Seminary chaplain and professor of ministry from 1968-97, died Aug. 8 in Claremont, Calif., at the age of 78. He was one of the earliest practitioners of spiritual disciplines and formation that led to the current renewal of those practices in the church.

Rice was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis prior to his appointment at SFTS — he arrived at the seminary the same year as this reporter arrived as a student — and spent his time on the San Anselmo campus either on crutches or confined to a wheelchair. After Rice’s retirement, his diagnosis was changed from MS to spinal cord damage. Last spring he battled a stubborn bone infection for weeks, resulting in his decision to accept hospice care. He passed away peacefully surrounded by his family.  More >>

A couple extra notes from your WebWeaver:

Presbyterian Voices for Justice celebrates the life and witness of Howard Rice, and many of us are grateful for all he taught us of true spirituality – a stance toward the world of engagement and action, passion and joy. He taught us not only through his writing and teaching, but through his life.

One of our Coordinating Team members recalls Howard “as an ardent supporter of choice. When PARO would call on him to speak against particular anti-choice OVT's, he carried with him tremendous respect [and] persuasiveness.”

Howard for some time graced the pages of the Witherspoon Society’s Network News with his occasional column entitled “Wind of the Spirit Blowing.”  His column in the Spring 1999 issue was called “Spirituality: not a cocoon, but a call to caring.”

We remember with gratitude that as early as 1982, Howard wrote an article entitled "Homophobia: The Overlooked Sin," for Church & Society.  (It was in vol. 73, 1982, pp. 5-13. )  In it he outlined many of the causes of homophobia within the church, and possible solutions to it.

Rice’s dream for an inclusive Presbyterian Church

In October, 2000, he talked with a group of More Light Presbyterians and friends, meeting at Old First Presbyterian Church in San Francisco, about “my dream for the Presbyterian Church. And it was as he summed up toward the end of his talk, “a dream of a truly welcoming church.”

On immigrants:  The tried and true bugaboo

by Berry Craig 

Since the end of the Cold War, which deprived them of the Red Menace, right-wing Republicans have been looking for a replacement bogeyman to frighten people into voting for them.

They tried humanism, then gay rights. Both were scary enough for Christians of the homophobic, Jesus-loves-me-but-He-can’t-stand you persuasion. But most Americans didn’t seem to get too worked up over the humanist-gay “threat” to the republic.

Finally, the GOP has gone back in history and found the tried and true bugaboo: immigrants.  More >>

Random Thoughts on Losing, by Bill Peach

Being “an unabashed, self-professed Liberal ... in Williamson County,” Tennessee, is never easy. Holding public office as a member of the school board has not been easy, either, for Bill Peach. He has shared various thoughtful essays with us in the past, including one on the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Barrack Obama in October, 2009.

He was again a candidate on Thursday, August 5, for the local school board, but this time he lost. His reflections on that painful experience may be helpful for many of us as a close-up look at the politics of our time. It’s not a pretty picture, but one worth our attention

Continuing unemployment – could there be method in this madness?

A comment from Gene Te Selle, former Witherspoon Issues Analyst

The joblessness report issued on August 6 turned out to be downbeat, with job creation slow and unemployment rising slightly. 

On the other hand, we keep hearing reports that corporations have plenty of money - both profits distributed to stockholders and cash kept in the bank - but are not spending it to hire more employees. (Click here for the Washington Post report.) This is not necessarily from lack of work to do. But many corporations have discovered that they can put their existing employees under increased pressure, with more overtime and less in the way of benefits. To have a job these days is not to be exempt from pressure and anxiety ("squeezed" and "hammered" are metaphors that workers often use).  Small business is, as usual, a more reliable source of job creation. ...

The low level of corporate spending may not be accidental. It may not even be a narrow matter of corporate prudence or the "fiduciary responsibility" to make money for stockholders, directors, and CEOs. An important motive may be to influence public policy by making the economy (and a Democratic president and Congress) look bad as we move toward the November elections.  They may be looking for a "favorable investment climate" and what we call in the South a "disciplined work force."    More >>  

Celebrating the overturning of Prop 8

Still Married!

Craig Wiesner, whose marriage to Derrick Kikuchi was re-celebrated (with a marriage license!) at the More Light Presbyterians dinner at General Assembly in June, 2008, sent this happy note to Tikkun Daily on August 4, 2010:

Twenty years and four months after our marriage in the First Presbyterian Church, and 2 years after the County of San Mateo issued our marriage license and the minister who had married us 20 years earlier got to sign our marriage certificate, a federal judge declared today that our marriage remains legal (we weren’t the plaintiffs in the case, but were married in San Mateo County during the brief window when California allowed gay marriage). And… he declared the ban on gay marriage passed by voters in California to be in violation of the United States Constitution.

Pass the chocolate cake – it is time to celebrate … and get back to work after the frosting is gone because there’s a whole lot of work to do.   More >>

Xenophobia: Fear-Mongering for American Votes

Editorial, New York Times, August 5, 2010

Leading Republicans have gotten chilly toward the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which guarantees citizenship to people born in the United States. Senators Mitch McConnell, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Jeff Sessions and Jon Kyl have been suggesting that the country should take a look at it, re-examine it, think it over, hold hearings. They seem worried that maybe we got something wrong nearly 150 years ago, after fighting the Civil War, freeing enslaved Africans and declaring that they and their descendants were not property or partial persons, but free and full Americans.

As statements of core values go, the 14th Amendment is a keeper. It decreed, belatedly, that citizenship is not a question of race, color, beliefs, wealth, political status or bloodline. It cannot fall prey to political whims or debates over who is worthy to be an American. “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof,” it says, “are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” ...

The editorial concludes:

The United States has never had a neat, painless way to add newcomers. But our most shameful moments have involved the exclusion of groups, often those that do our hardest labor: Indians, African-Americans, Chinese, Irish, Italians, Catholics, Jews, Poles, Japanese-Americans, Hispanics. America has stood proudest when it dared to stretch the definition of who “we” are.

As a result, this is still the most welcoming country for immigrants. A few politicians chumming for votes in an off-year election cannot be allowed to destroy that.

The full editorial >>

Thanks to Jonathan Nelson, Elder Fifth Ave Presbyterian Church NYC

More on immigration concerns >>

Anne Rice cites bishops' stance as reason for giving up on Christianity

from Peter Smith, Louisville Courier-Journal

Best-selling author Anne Rice says the decisive issue in her much-publicized renunciation of Christianity was the activism by Roman Catholic bishops in opposing same-sex marriage.

That leads to a Louisville angle, since this national cause has been led by Louisville Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz.

Rice is the author of vampire novels and, more recently, books on her erstwhile return to Catholicism and the life of Christ.

But Rice has now declared via Facebook that she has "quit being a Christian":

I'm out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of ...Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.

The rest of Smith’s brief note >>

“Something's Going On”

Former Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow considers the future of the PC(USA) in this post-modern age

Recently the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, having just completed his two-year term as Moderator of the Presbyterian Church, was interviewed of Deborah Arca Mooney for the Patheos website (which describes itself modestly as “the premier online destination to engage in the global dialogue about religion and spirituality and to explore and experience the world's beliefs”).

Out of his own strong involvement in social networking and the emergent church, Reyes-Chow begins by dismissing concern about the survival of the Presbyterian Church, saying that “a denomination that is only interested in its survival is no longer faithfully living the Gospel.”

The emergent church movement has much that is valuable, but he sees dangers, too: “I think one of the things the emergent folks are buying into culturally is an isolationism and disconnectedness that technology has brought about. And if we follow them, then we're buying into this idea, in an almost rebellious attitude, that you can do everything on your own and you are not accountable to anyone other than the folks you have deemed part of your immediate community. A denomination, on the other hand, says to the world that we're accountable to folks who manifest the Spirit and the Body of Christ beyond our human constructs, and I think that is a prophetic word for the world today. Denominations certainly have their issues, but we do also have a gift that we can offer.”

Asked about the relevance of the “social media” to the changes needed in the church, he says: “When it comes to the foundation of the social media component, this whole ‘open source’ understanding of people gathering together to discern the truth is actually something Presbyterians are wired for. We believe that we gather together and that nobody is supposed to have more authority than anybody else. And in an open source world, that's exactly what we do. ... What has really been wonderful about the social media connections has been that people who stand on opposite sides of theological issues are discovering each other as people, rather than just an ‘issue.’ ”

About the future of denominational structures, Reyes-Chow says: “We have to understand that chaos is just the air we breathe, so how does the structure keep us moving through all of that without going through these huge highs and lows? How does it provide some stability without being stifling? ... When we think of institutional structures, we can't think of them as endpoints, but rather as this constant movement, which can drive people nuts. Our structure needs to have adaptability built into it, which we don't have now.”

This will be a challenge, he says, because “we have to have the structures there that support that and manifest a healthy presence. So in a denominational future, how we structure middle governing bodies is going to be huge. That's the game changer for the PCUSA – re-thinking our synods and presbyteries to model ministry in a connectional way.”

Looking ahead, he adds this: “As far as ministry components, I predict a resurgence in justice ministries again, as so many young folks are looking at issues like trafficking, gender, invisible children, environmental issues, etc. Folks are realizing that we need to come alongside some of these movements and be influencers. The last thing I'd say is that we just hired a new director of our Washington office who is going to reinvigorate our prophetic presence in DC. I think that piece is going to be really important.”

We encourage you to read the full text of this interview >>

And let’s talk about it! What are your thoughts about Bruce’s views on the future of the PC(USA)? And specifically, what does it suggest for the future mission of a group like Presbyterian Voices for Justice? Help us do the rethinking we need to be doing, to shape our mission and action for the years to come! Just send a note, to be shared here (unless you ask us to keep it just among ourselves).

Human Rights Campaign urges boycott of Target and Best Buy for their support of gubernatorial candidate in Minnesota who bitterly opposes same-sex marriage

Target and Best Buy have donated over $250,000 to a political committee supporting a rabidly anti-equality candidate for Governor of Minnesota, where both are headquartered – a man with ties to a Christian rock band that advocates violence and death to gays.

The news is all the more shocking because both of these companies have long records of providing fair and equitable workplaces for their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees.

The Human Rights Campaign has drafted an open letter calling on Target and Best Buy to make it right by donating an equal amount to support fair-minded candidates who will fight for equality. They have published it in a full-page ad in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. And they ask others to add to the pressure by adding their name.

Click here to read the full text of the letter, and to add your name.

Click here for a report from AOL’s “Politics Daily”

Target CEO issues apology for anti-gay ads

Human Rights Campaign responds:

Washington – 8/5/2010 -- Today HRC President Joe Solmonese issued the following statement:

“Target has been a champion for workplace equality for many years. That’s why their recent donation to MN Forward was so at odds with their sterling reputation as a great employer for LGBT people. The fact that their political contribution was used to advance an anti-equality candidate was extremely hurtful to all fair-minded Americans.

We appreciate Mr. Steinhafel’s statement to company employees this afternoon but it doesn’t go quite far enough. Target's apology is welcomed but without tangible action behind it, the LGBT community and our allies will continue to question the company's commitment to equality.

The promise to evaluate political contributions in the future, while a step in the right direction, is provided without details and does not mitigate their $150,000 supporting an outspoken opponent of equality for LGBT people. Target can still make it right by making equivalent contributions to equality-minded organizations and by making clear the procedure by which they will evaluate potential contributions in the future to include issues of LGBT-equality.”

Judge Hands Victory to Proposition 8 Opponents, Gay-Marriage Ban Overturned

New York Magazine reports:

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker ruled on Wednesday that the California's Proposition 8 ballot initiative denying marriage rights to same-sex couples was unconstitutional, in a case that will almost certainly go all the way to the Supreme Court.

Walker ruled that Proposition 8 is "unconstitutional under both the due process and equal protection clauses." The court, therefore, "orders entry of judgment permanently enjoining its enforcement." Two key sentences from the ruling:

Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California constitution the notion that opposite sex couples are superior to same sex couples.   The full article >>

Just a little comment from your WebWeaver: The loving, liberating hand of God seems to move a bit faster than the Presbyterian Church. But change is coming!

Got comments?  Please send a note!



The Washington Office of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
July 30, 2010

This week's messages are-
    * Office of Public Witness Director interviewed on PBS [this past] Sunday
    * Tell Congress to Please Help the Victims of the Gulf Oil Spill
    * Support the START Treaty and Reduce Nuclear Dangers
    * Isaiah 58:9-12 - Repairer of the Breach

Click here for the main points from this bulletin >>
Go directly to the full bulletin >>

New Report: U.S. Military aid to Colombia has direct, negative effect on human rights

This news comes from the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship’s Executive Director, Rick Chase, and is slightly edited here:

The Fellowship of Reconciliation released a report on Thursday that has significant bearing on PPF's work in Colombia.

Click here to get the summary, the recommendations, and the full report through the PPF website.

Extensive research by FOR's staff and colleagues shows fairly conclusively that there is at least a correlation, if not a causal link, between U.S. Military aid to Colombia and the number of civilian deaths in the areas where the Colombian Military is most active.

"For the 16 largest increases of aid ... the number of reported executions in the jurisdiction increased an average of 56% .... In other words, when there were significant increases in assistance to units, there were increases in reported killings in the periods following the assistance in the assisted units' areas of operation."

This has significant implications for U.S. funding there, and appears to be a violation of the Leahy Amendment, which "prohibits assistance to any foreign security force unit if the State Department has credible evidence that the unit has committed gross human rights violations." ...

Please take the time to read the entire report, which is well-documented and powerfully written, then take action by contacting Secretary of State Clinton, and share it with others.

If you would like to join a group that is working on closing U.S. Military Bases in Colombia, please write to .

Peace, peace, though there is no peace,


Mollie Hopper laid to rest

Presbyterian News Service reported on July 30, 2010, that Mollie Brown Hopper, who with her husband Bill – a member and supporter of the Witherspoon Society since 1994 – served as a Presbyterian mission worker in Iran for many years, was interred in the Memorial Garden at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary here July 27. Millie Hopper died earlier this spring at Westminster Gardens in Duarte, Calif. where she and Bill Hopper lived.

A brief service accompanied the interment, led by the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick , former General Assembly stated clerk and world mission director for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Former national staff colleague the Rev. Kathy Lancaster read an account of Mollie's life written by her husband, who was unable to attend due to health reasons.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Bill and their family in these sorrowful days.

More >>

For an index to all our reports and analyses
on the 219th General Assembly

For links to all our archive pages, listed by months, click here.


GA actions ratified (or not) by  the presbyteries   

A number of the most important actions of the 219th General Assembly are now being sent to the presbyteries for their action, to confirm or reject them as amendments to the PC(USA) Book of Order.

We're providing resources to help inform the reflection and debate, along with updates on the voting.

Our three areas of primary interest are:

bullet Amendment 10-A, which would remove the current ban on lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender persons being considered as possible candidates for ordination as elder or ministers.

bullet Amendment 10-2, which would add the Belhar Confession to our Book of Confessions.

bullet Amendment 10-1, which would adopt the new Form of Government that was approved by the Assembly.

If you like what you find here,
we hope you'll help us keep Voices for Justice going ... and growing!

Please consider making a special contribution -- large or small -- to help us continue and improve this service.

Click here to send a gift online, using your credit card, through PayPal.

Or send your check, made out to "Presbyterian Voices for Justice" and marked "web site," to our PVJ Treasurer:

Darcy Hawk
4007 Gibsonia Road
Gibsonia, PA  15044-8312


Some blogs worth visiting

PVJ's Facebook page

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

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


Voices of Sophia blog

Heather Reichgott, who has created this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:

After fifteen years of scholarship and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy, students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and thoughtful community.


John Harris’ Summit to Shore blogspot

Theological and philosophical reflections on everything between summit to shore, including kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology, politics, culture, travel, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood by a progressive New York City Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in Flushing, NY.


John Shuck’s Shuck and Jive

A Presbyterian minister, currently serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tenn., blogs about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and lightening up.


Got more blogs to recommend?

Please send a note, and we'll see what we can do!


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