Presbyterian Voices for Justice 

A union of The Witherspoon Society and Voices of Sophia

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Our reports about the 219th General Assembly, July 2010

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Archive for June, 2010

This page lists our postings from earlier in June, 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.

Arizona Presbyterians resist new immigration law

‘We need to act out of our faith and not out of fear’

Bethany Furkin of Presbyterian News Service reports:

LOUISVILLE — When Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed Senate Bill 1070 into law in April, the state’s new immigration law was front page news. But for many Presbyterians who work on the Arizona/Mexico border, the law adds another complicated layer to the ministries that they’ve been involved in for years.

SB 1070, the broadest immigration law in the U.S. in decades, makes it a crime to not carry immigration documents. It also gives the police the power to detain anyone suspected of being an illegal immigrant. The bill, which goes into effect July 28, has been widely criticized as an invitation to racial profiling of Hispanics.

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is one critic of the law, with three top leaders speaking out against it in a letter to Congress. In the letter, they call for comprehensive immigration reform and identify "bigotry, trauma, and fear" as effects of SB 1070.

The rest of the report >>

Is criticism of Israel anti-Semitic?

Michele Chabin, of Religion News Service, raises this question, which is at the heart of many Jewish and pro-Israel criticisms of the Middle East report coming to this General Assembly.

She begins:

Veteran newswoman Helen Thomas’s suggestion that Israelis should “get the hell out of Palestine” and “go home” to Poland, Germany and the U.S., was widely seen as anti-Israel.

But was it anti-Jewish?

As Israel faces unprecedented censure from the world community — including economic, academic and cultural boycotts — the Thomas incident raised the question of when, if ever, anti-Israelism equals anti-Semitism.

She tells of various efforts to equate criticism of Israeli with hatred of Jews – or anti-Semitism. But she also quotes Adam Keller, a Jewish Israeli and spokesman of Gush Shalom, a liberal organisation that is critical of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, as saying:

There can be someone who thinks the existence of the State of Israel is wrong because the creation of Israel is an injustice to the Palestinians. ... While I would not deny that some people are using criticism of Israel as a mask for anti-Semitism, I think there is a systematic campaign that tries to label everyone who criticizes Israel an anti-Semite. Doing so does not make me a self-hating Jew.

The full article >>

Defenders of Israel working to influence GA discussion of Middle East report on "Breaking Down the Walls."

We recently posted a link to an article by James M. Wall, former editor of The Christian Century, who described some of the current effort by Jewish "defenders of Israel" to influence the response of the General Assembly to the report on "Breaking Down the Walls."

Now we have received our very own example of that pressure: an e-mail from a person writing under the pen name of Scott Davis, who says he is a member of various Jewish groups, but is speaking for himself in this note.

Your comments are welcome!
Just send a note, to be shared here.

Native American speaker calls for truth and reconciliation commission

WCRC should 'seek ways to make restitution to tribal people'

by Jerry Van Marter, Presbyterian News Service

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A renowned Native American leader appealed to the newly created World Communion of Reformed Churches to establish a truth and reconciliation-like commission to "seek ways to make restitution to tribal people" for the churches' complicity in "co-opting the Bible as a tool of colonialism and imperialism" in North America over the last 400 years.

Richard Twiss, a Lakota/Sioux originally from South Dakota and now living near Portland, Ore., said such a commission — comprising indigenous people from North America and the global South — is necessary to overcome "cowboy theology," which he said has perpetuated "a distinct evangelical bias against Native and indigenous culture and ways."

The "demonizing" of Native religious expressions means that "most (Native American) people reject Christianity because they consider it a white man’s religion," Twiss said, "and it breaks my heart because Jesus is the hope of the world in all its brokenness."  The full report >>

16 former moderators support Middle East report

Leaders encourage GA commissioners to approve study committee's report

Bethany Furkin, Presbyterian News Service, reports:

LOUISVILLE — With the 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) days away, 16 former GA moderators are calling for commissioners to approve a study report on Middle East peace that was requested by the 218th GA.

"Breaking Down the Walls" is the report of the Middle East Study Committee. The committee was charged with preparing a comprehensive study focusing on Israel/Palestine with regard to the context of the Middle East. The report includes recommendations and study materials. 

The rest of the report, including the text of the Moderators' letter >>

Blogger John Shuck offers a quick survey of the six (count 'em, six!) candidates for Moderator.

He begins:

Presbyterians have the vapors over General Assembly this weekend. Plenty of websites and blogs are claiming to be the place to go for the news.

But you know who really loves you.

Shuck and Jive is your home. I don't even need to be in Minneapolis to give you the lowdown. I just intuit the news you need via secret and special revelation.

For instance, I have channeled the LayMAN to give you this picture of our six candidates for moderator:

They all have nice smiles. Like you, I don't know any of these people from Adam or Eve. Here are interviews in the LayMAN and Presbyterian Voices for Justice. Julia Leeth didn't respond yet to PVJ but the Presbyterian Outlook had questions for her here.

Read the rest of his blog, including his super-short "ratings" of each one >>

Author plans book-signing at PVJ booth

David Weiss, the author of To the Tune of a Welcoming God, and a resident of the Twin Cities area, will be visiting the Voices for Justice booth in the Exhibit Hall of the General Assembly, at some time (or times) during the Assembly, to sign his book and talk with visitors there.

He describes his book as a collection of his essays and hymns, which invite faith communities to become fully welcoming to LGBT persons.

Michael Adee, Executive Director of More Light Presbyterians, says of the book: "Body and soul come together in this beautiful, inspiring worship and meditation resource celebrating God's love for all of God's children. I wholeheartedly commend To the Tune of a Welcoming God."

Marvin Ellison, Professor of Christian Ethics at Bangor Theological Seminary and lead author of a 1991 PCUSA report (Keeping Body & Soul Together) on LGBT inclusion, comments: "Writing with a clarity and passion reminiscent of Robert McAfee Brown, these words by an insightful ally will help many enter into the kind of thoughtful conversation desperately needed in the church."

See the author’s website for more about the book >>

And watch for announcements of the book-signing and a chance to meet the author.

Voices for Justice offers a brief commentary on key issues coming to the Assembly 

Early in June we posted a longer essay commenting on issues coming to the Assembly.  Now Sylvia Thorson-Smith, PVJ's Issues Analyst, has prepared a shorter version of those comments, including a number of items not covered in the earlier version.  It will be available on paper at the PVJ Commissioners' Orientation on Saturday morning at the Assembly, and at the PVJ booth in the Exhibit Hall.

But here it is in advance, in an HTML version, and in easy-to-print PDF.

The Rev. James A. Belle responds to our questions to candidates for Moderator   

Voices for Justice has presented four questions to all the candidates for Moderator of the General Assembly, inviting them to share their thoughts on matters of concern to all of us.  We have posted the responses for four of the candidates, and have just received the responses from the Rev. James Belle.  We regret the apparent misunderstandings which caused this delay.

We have not yet received responses from the most recent candidate, the Rev. Julia Leeth.

Defenders of Israel seek to influence Presbyterian General Assembly

James M. Wall, former editor of The Christian Century, has posted a blog responding to two recent articles attacking the report being present to General Assembly by the Middle East Study Commission, and its recommendations calling for change especially, but not exclusively, in Israeli policies. We recently posted a link to the article in Christian Century, by two Vanderbilt Divinity School professors, Ted A. Smith and Amy-Jill Levine; the other has appeared in Newsweek magazine.

NOTE:  James Wall headlines his essay: "Israeli 'Agents' Infiltrate Presbyterian General Assembly."  Your WebWeaver has chosen to uses a less provocative line to head this post, but it's worth noting Wall's original wording.

Wall writes:

It is possible that one or more of the anti-resolution quartet members has devoted time to academic study of the history, politics and ethics involved in this issue, or conducted on-the-ground research investigation in the area.

There is, however, no evidence of practical nor scholarly wisdom regarding the current political situation in either article.

He adds:

Both articles ignore the harsh reality of Israel’s six decades of immoral and unethical treatment of the Palestinian people. There is nothing about the Nakba, the “security wall” or the prison-like conditions under which Palestinians are forced to live.

We commend this essay to your attention >>

Discussions on God’s Gift of Marriage   

To help people considering the question of how we define (and limit or open up) our understanding of marriage, the Rev. Donald E. Stroud, with That All May Freely Serve: Baltimore, has prepared – and frequently updated – an essay on concepts of marriage, both historically and in contemporary society.

We've just received this from the Rev. Ralph Garlin Clingan, of Bloomfield, NJ.  We are happy to share it with all who visit here, as a profound expression of call and hope for the coming Assembly.

Best wishes for the PC(USA) General Assembly


(by Thomas Merton)  

Go tell the earth to shake 
And tell the thunder 
To wake the sky 
And tear the clouds apart 
Tell my people to come out 
And wonder 

Where the old world is gone 
For a new world is born 
And all my people 
Shall be one. 

So tell the earth to shake 
With marching feet 
Of messengers of peace 
Proclaim my law of love 
To every nation 
Every race. 

For the old wrongs are over 
The old days are gone 
A new world is rising 
Where my people shall be one. 

So tell the earth to shake 
With marching feet 
Of messengers of peace 
Proclaim my law of love 
To every nation 
Every race. 

And say 
The old wrongs are over 
The old ways are done 
There shall be no more hate 
And no more war 
My people shall be one. 

So tell the earth to shake 
With marching feet 
Of messengers of peace 
Proclaim my law of love
To every nation 
Every race. 

For the old world is ended 
The old sky is torn 
Apart. A new day is born 
They hate no more 
They do not go to war 
My people shall be one. 

So tell the earth to shake 
With marching feet 
Of messengers of peace 
Proclaim my law of love 
To every nation 
Every race. 

There shall be no more hate 
And no more oppression 
The old wrongs are done 
My people shall be one.

After flotilla incident, churches call for new Israeli policy on Gaza

John Dart, news editor at The Christian Century, reports:

The National Council of Churches, its key mainline members and other church organizations are calling for Israel to alter its policies on the Gaza Strip after an Israeli action against an international flotilla on the high seas resulted in nine deaths, many wounded and damaged diplomatic relations.

The New York-based NCC "has strongly supported Israel's right to exist with peace and security, but this attack on an aid convoy contributes to neither," said General Secretary Michael Kinnamon of the May 31 confrontation in the Mediterranean. "In fact, it undermines Israel's standing in the community of nations."

Kinnamon said he backed a June 2 statement by Churches for Middle East Peace, a coalition of Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant churches and agencies, that said, "The incident highlights the need for the U.S. to work for new, constructive Israeli policies toward Gaza that end the blockade and provide for the humanitarian need of those living there without diminishing Israel's own security."            More >>

Study says that common ground is growing between young evangelicals and progressives

There are “significant opportunities” for young white evangelicals and progressives to find common ground on hot-button social issues, a new report shows.

Young white evangelicals under the age of 35 are less likely than older evangelicals to identify themselves as conservative and are more supportive of government solutions to social problems, according to the report “Beyond the God Gap: A New Roadmap for Reaching Religious Americans on Public Policy Issues” by Third Way and Public Religion Research.

They are also more supportive of legal recognitions for gay and lesbian couples.

“We do not pretend that bridging these divides will be easy. But there is more commonality than is often expected, and with commonality, there is opportunity,” said the report’s authors.     More >>

Responses to a Single Presbyterian’s Top-Ten Questions about G-6.0106b

In November, 2008, C. K. Walter, a single college professor living in Iowa, wrote out his reflections on the Book of Order provision G-6.0106b, which effectively bars the ordination of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender Presbyterian unless they live as celibates. His basic argument was that the ban on ordination of homosexuals was totally out of touch with life in our time, and effectively bars single Presbyterians from ordination, unless they simply ignore the apparent meaning of the words in the ban, which was crafted to avoid charges that it discriminated against one particular class of people, i.e. glbt people.

His essay drew responses from three Presbyterian ministers, all of whom rejected his arguments in one way or another. And now he reports on their comments, and offers his own answers to them.

Click here for Walter’s essay >>

Christian churches oppose Race to the Top, Obama education blueprint

The National Council of Churches has issued an open letter criticizing the educational priorities of President Obama’s “Race to the Top” and his proposals for educational reform.

Not often do such ecclesiastical statements gain a wider audience in a national newspaper, but the Washington Post’s Valerie Strauss has summarized the letter and posted the complete text in her “The Answer Sheet” blog.

She states that the letter “criticizes the administration's effort to push states to increase the number of charter schools, its plan to turn some of the federal money used to help poor children into competitive grants, its punitive approach to dealing with low-performing schools, and the "ugly" demonization of public school teachers.”

She then quotes two specific concerns stated in the letter:

•          “We are concerned today when we hear the civil right to education being re-defined as the right to school choice.”

•          “While competitive, market based “reforms” may increase educational opportunity for a few children, or even for some groups of children, do they introduce more equity or more inequity into the system itself? We reject the language of business for discussing public education.”

She closes by writing: “The pastoral letter is long but worth the time to read every word.” Strauss then includes the full letter in her article.

To read her article >>

You can also read the full statement on the NCC website, in PDF format >>

Education will also be a matter for discussion and action at the Presbyterian General Assembly:

Committee 10 will be receiving a report from the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy, in partnership with the Office of Child Advocacy, which recommends that the 219th General Assembly approve the report, Loving Our Neighbors: Equity and Quality in Public Education (K–12), along with the full rationale.

Thanks to the Rev. Bruce Gillette

More from the new World Communion of Reformed Churches

Reformed leaders Nyomi, van Houten look to future of WCRC union

Outgoing leaders call for best of predecessor organizations to go forward

by Jerry L. Van Marter, Presbyterian News Service

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The general secretaries of the Reformed Ecumenical Council (REC) and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) gave their final reports June 19 as the day-old World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) took flight.

Richard van Houten, who is retiring after 21 years as REC general secretary, and Setri Nyomi, WARC’s general secretary who will continue as the head of WCRC, mixed accounts of their organizations' progress since their last meeting with an optimistic look to the future of WCRC, which unites 80 million Reformed Christians worldwide.

Nyomi said if he were asked 10 years ago when he became WARC general secretary if WARC and REC would ever unite, his answer would have been "impossible!"

Nyomi outlined WARC’s seven "core callings" that will continue to guide WCRC: economic and environmental justice; spiritual and worship renewal; ecumenical unity; contemporary understandings of the Reformed tradition; mission unity, renewal and empowerment; inclusivity and partnership; and enabling churches to witness for justice and peace.

The full report >>                For an earlier report >>

World Communion of Reformed Churches is born

New global body embraces 80 million Reformed Christians

Jerry L. Van Marter, of Presbyterian News Service, reports on behalf of the new Reformed body:

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — More than 80 million Reformed Christians in 108 countries around the world formally united Friday when the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) and the Reformed Ecumenical Council (REC) approved articles of union and a constitution bringing them together as the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC).

The merger of the two organizations took place at the Uniting General Council, which is meeting through June 28 at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Although the long-awaited merger went through, afternoon discussion on passage of a constitution and bylaws grew lively and took longer than planned over the issue of representation of women on committees and in leadership positions in the new body.

"We had a very vigorous and intense conversation. It may have taken us longer than we thought it would," but God remained with delegates and the Holy Spirit helped to guide the discussion, said Clifton Kirkpatrick, president of WARC who chaired the discussions for his organization that led to the formation of the WCRC.

The rest of this report >>

For complete coverage of the meeting, visit the WCRC web site >>

Clifton Kirkpatrick and Setri Nyomi (General Secretary of WARC) reported at a Witherspoon Society conference in 2007 on a world assembly of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches held in Accra, Ghana.  Click here to get a glimpse of that earlier event in Reformed ecumenics and engagement with the world.

Justice and Policy at General Assembly: the Middle East Study Committee report, and the proposals for divestment from Caterpillar

The Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) has sent out an update on some of the justice-related matters that will be discussed at the General Assembly in early July, commenting particularly on “Breaking Down the Walls,” the report of the Middle East Study Committee, and the related matter of proposals for divestment from Caterpillar, whose machinery is being used by Israel to destroy Palestinian homes.  Click here for the whole update paper.

One section deals with the “core values” that underlie the various Advice & Counsel memos which ACSWP (like other GA entities) provides to the Assembly to help inform its work. This understanding is that “justice” is often our guiding principle in dealing with social and political matters. “Justice,” though, is merely “a nice word” unless the church goes beyond pronouncements to deal with policies and resolutions, leading toward actions and programs. So if we as Christians are to be responsible, we need to aim for (1) effectiveness, (2) integrity – as in “practice what you preach,” and (3) solidarity with Christians and others whose voices are not beings heard, i.e. who are largely powerless.

A second section lays out some of the long history of Presbyterian consideration of divestment as a means of effecting social and political change.

And a third section, entitled “Background for the Conversation in your community,” provides some understanding of the very sharp attacks being leveled against the Middle East Study Committee report, particularly by pro-Israel Jewish groups that are attempting to discredit the report as “anti-Semitic,” and more. Commissioners are already hearing from these groups in many cities, and might find this background very helpful.

Finally, a listing of all the ACSWP Advice & Counsel memos provides links to all of them on the GA’s PC-Biz site. A nice bit of help if you’re looking for these helpful resources!

Looking to share a room at GA?

We've received a few inquiries from people who will be attending General Assembly for a few day, or for the whole thing.  If you're looking for a roommate, send a note giving the dates you are interested in and any other relevant matters.  We'll do what we can to help you find someone to share a room -- and the costs.

At General Assembly:

Voices for Justice membership meeting planned for Sunday, July 4, immediately following PVJ luncheon

Our biennial membership meeting will give us all a chance to celebrate about the “holy union” of Voices and Sophia and The Witherspoon Society for our first face-to-face gathering.  More >>

PCA confronts its racist past

From the Southern Poverty Law Center comes an interesting look at the conservative Presbyterian Church in America.

The Presbyterian Church in America is struggling to confront the old demon of racism, which was at the center of a case in the Friendship Presbyterian Church (PCA) near Asheville, N.C. In 2007 an elder in the congregation, Neill Payne, sent an e-mail to 19 people including some members of the church and the pastor, in which he cited a British article declaring that blacks were incapable of governing themselves in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and that their intelligence is clearly inferior to that of whites. The pastor, the Rev. Craig Bulkeley, urged that such racist beliefs could not be accepted, and ultimately Payne resigned from the church rather than face charges of the sin of racism.

The conflict has continued, with Payne’s supporters calling for the resignation of the pastor, and ultimately cases have been taken to the presbytery and to PCA’s 24-member Standing Judicial Commission, its highest court.

While Payne and his defenders have some support, the majority of voices and actions seem to show that the PCA is conscientiously rejecting the racial attitudes that have formed a part of the culture of many churches in the South.

The article concludes:

For its part, Friendship is starting to see more faces at its worship services now that [Payne and his relatives] aren't attending. And that's especially gratifying for the PCA leaders who have been battling racism in their pews. "It's not enough to simply not commit sins of commission," [said the Rev. Jeff Hutchinson, who served as moderator of the presbytery during the time of the congregation’s sharp struggles]. "We have to also do the right thing."

The full article >>

“Fidelity-chastity standard faces another assault,” says The Layman

Noting that in was in Minneapolis in 2009 that both the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and The Episcopal Church (ECUSA) voted to enact changes in their standards for ordination to recognize LGBT persons as eligible for ordination, the Layman warns that some Presbyterian groups, such as More Light Presbyterians and the Covenant Network, are hoping the same thing will happen this summer in the PC(USA) gathering in the same city.

The brief article cites specifically an advisory bulletin on ordination standards issued by the Presbyterian Coalition, which defends G-6.0106b and urges commissioners to protect it.

The full -- and short -- article >>

Habits of anti-Judaism: Critiquing a PCUSA report on Israel/Palestine

Two scholars at Vanderbilt Divinity School one Protestant and the other Jewish, have published a careful and intricate critique of what they see as lingering traces of “anti-Judaism” in the report coming to GA from the Middle East Study Committee, entitled "Breaking Down the Walls."

They are not arguing against the report as a whole, and its call a just peace in Israel/Palestine. But they see “old habits” of negative attitudes toward Judaism which must still be resisted.

Anyone who wants to support this important report may find it helpful to pay close attention to the points they make, which may well be cited in debate as reasons for opposing the report as a whole.

The article has just been published in Christian Century.

For more on the Israel/Palestine issue at General Assembly >>

BP disaster gives new meaning to South Louisiana overture, says The Layman

The people of Bayou Blue Presbyterian Church authored an overture which will be considered in Committee during this General Assembly. It was approved by South Louisiana Presbytery, and calls on the PC(USA) to provide resources dealing with the destruction and loss of coastal wetlands. The overture was created before the disastrous BP oil spill, but the Rev. Kristina Peterson, the pastor of the Bayou Blue congregation, comments that the crisis “just makes it even more meaningful. ... We really need to understand more fully God’s creation and what that means for ourselves and for all of God’s creation.”

The concluding line of the story may come closest to expressing the traditional Layman stance on such issues:  “Though it certainly will have emotional appeal while the current environmental disaster is still fresh in GA commissioners’ minds, it does not include cost estimates or funding sources for the effort.”

The full article >>

The text of the overture, now Item 11-03, in Committee 11: Social Justice Issues B

Other comments on the coming Assembly ...
bulletfrom Jerry Rodewald, a Co-Moderator of the Advisory Committee for Women's Concerns
bulletfrom the National Board of Directors of More Light Presbyterians
Don't forget:  Monday June 14 is the last day for ordering tickets for GA events.

To purchase advance tickets through the General Assembly Meeting Services office, click here >>

Click here for information on our PVJ events >>

Find separate pages for each GA committee.  Well, for most of them!

We've just created separate pages for almost all of the General Assembly committees, so it will be easier to find issues and proposals of particular interest to you.  So far the only content on most pages is the relevant section from our general analysis of overtures and reports.  But each Item number on these pages provides a link to the complete item on the GA's PC-BIZ site.

Click here for a list of the new committee pages >>

GA Help is offered by a former commissioner and presbytery moderator

The Rev. Robert Austell, pastor of Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, NC, has created a new resource – or source of many resources – for people attending the coming General Assembly.

Click here to visit >>

Austell describes the site more fully >>

I've taken a quick look around, and I agree -- it presents a wide variety of resources from advocacy groups across the spectrum, as well as official PC(USA) sites. 

Visit yourself, and see what you think.

Doug King, your WebWeaver 

US State Department Recognizes Laura Germino, of Coalition of Immokalee Workers, as Anti-Trafficking “Hero”

Laura Germino, coordinator of CIW’s Anti-Slavery Campaign, to be FIRST US recipient of State Department “hero” designation in the 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report.

Ten years ago, with the passage in Congress of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (the law used to bring criminal charges of slavery against employers in the U.S. today), the U.S. State Department began issuing a yearly report on trends in international slavery and efforts to combat it, called the "Trafficking in Persons" (TIP) report.

As part of the annual TIP report release, the State Department recognizes the efforts of a handful of individuals from around the world who have shown extraordinary commitment and leadership in the fight against slavery, TIP "Heroes" as the State Department calls them.

This year, Laura Germino, the CIW's Anti-Slavery Campaign Coordinator, has been chosen to receive this terrific distinction, and when she does, she will be the first U.S.-based recipient to receive the recognition.   More >>

The Washington Office of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

June 8, 2010 

Congress returns to session this week after the Memorial Day recess. It is hard to believe, but the time remaining for legislative action during 2010 is limited. This month, Members will work for four weeks and for another four weeks in July, after the Independence Day recess. Congress will take their regular August recess and return for work September 13. The House targets to adjourn on October 8, leaving only four weeks in the final work period. This leaves twelve weeks of legislative work between now and the November elections, and no one yet knows whether to expect a lame duck session after the election.

The congressional calendar is important to note, because legislation has been moving at a slow pace this year. Several legislative items that are considered by Members of Congress to be "must-pass" are left on the congressional to-do list. It is not yet possible to predict how they will complete all of this work in the short time remaining.

This week's messages are --

bullet    Children Need Food
bullet    Support International Violence Against Women Act
bullet    Re-membering Peace: Still the Believers' Calling
bullet    Ecclesiastes 8:14-15 - Enjoy your Life

Click here to download the full report, in PDF format >>

Click here for our brief summary >>

More about our PVJ events at General Assembly —

The deadline for purchasing tickets for events is June 14.

Saturday July 3, 7 to 8:30 AM – Our PVJ Commissioner Orientation – helpful information on how to be an effective participant in GA, including discussion of major issues from people who are working on them. We’ll give a $10 rebate on the breakfast tickets to all commissioners who come.

Sunday July 4, 12 to 2:30 PM – PVJ Awards Luncheon – a great time to see friends, meet new ones, and hear keynote speaker Mary Elva Smith on how we might listen and follow God’s urgings into a better and more faithful future for our church. Awards will be given to Kwanzaa Community Church of Minneapolis, and Ann and Manley Olson for their leadership in the PC(USA). NOTE that our membership business meeting will immediately follow the luncheon, probably around 2:00.

bulletFor more on the inspiring witness and work of Kwanzaa Church >>
bullet On the Olsons >>

Tuesday July 6, 7 to 8:30 AM – Voices of Sophia Breakfast — ReImagining Church: De-Centering Privilege as an Act of Global Citizenship, with the Rev. Dr. Christine Smith, professor of preaching, United Seminary of the Twin Cities (UCC) and preacher at the first "Re-Imagining" in 1993.

Tuesday July 6, 9 PM to 1 AM – PVJ’s great Witherspoon Dance — tickets will be available at the door!

For details on all these events >>

Remember, the deadline for purchasing advance tickets for events is June 14. We hope some meal tickets will be on sale in the registration area as the Assembly begins, too.

To purchase advance tickets through the General Assembly Meeting Services office, click here >>

Please share this notice with your friends and colleagues, and with your presbytery's Commissioners and Young Adult Advisory Delegates, presbytery and synod staff so they will know about these events, tickets and the June 14th deadline. Thanks!

We look forward to seeing you in Minneapolis.

Doug King

Ya gotta love this posting from, from a BP gas station

Thanks to Sylvia Thorson-Smith

We've received one brief comment on our discussions of the ordination and marriage questions coming to the Assembly.
On our comment on the Form of Government Task Force report, we've received a helpful correction and comment

We have just received a note from the Rev. Dan Williams, Co-Moderator of the Form of Government Task Force, correcting some citations in Gene TeSelle's article, and commenting on the question of AIs and PJC decisions. We thank him for these corrections and additions. 

You're invited to our PVJ events at GA

For a listing with details about our events, click here.

And remember, the deadline for ordering advance tickets is June 14.

Kwanzaa Community Church to be honored as "Whole Gospel Congregation" at PVJ luncheon on Sunday, July 4.

Read more about this exciting ministry in Minneapolis >>

Ann and Manley Olson will receive the PVJ Andrew Murray award for outstanding leadership, also at the PVJ luncheon

More about the Olsons >>


Reflecting on some of the work coming to the Assembly

Prepared by Doug King, Communications Coordinator of Presbyterian Voices for Justice
[This is also published in Network News, pp. 10 - 28]

This Assembly, like those before it, will face a daunting amount of work, mostly in the form of reports prepared by committees over the past two years, and overtures sent by presbyteries for consideration and action. They cover a huge range of subjects large and small, from minutiae of rules governing the Assembly itself, to policies dealing with the Middle East, the war in Afghanistan, who may or may not be ordained, and much more.

The purpose of this overview of the issues is not to cover everything – who could write such a document, and who would read it? But we will try to lift up some of the questions and issues that seem most important to the mission of our group: “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.” Well, that may sound a bit ambitious, but those aims all seem essential to the living out of the Gospel in our world today.

This analysis offers some comments and perspectives on the issues that we are lifting up for attention, but this should not be read as a declaration of policy or recommendations for action by Presbyterian Voices for Justice. Our aim is simply to provide food for thought as you consider the issues.

Click here for the full survey of issues.  You'll find a list of specific committees, with links to each committee's business, at the top of the page.

Finding our way in the FOG (Form of Government) Task Force proposals

Gene TeSelle, former Issues Analyst of the Witherspoon Society, offers a short reflection on some of the questions raised by this proposal to change the Constitution of the PC(USA).

We Need Belhar

The Rev. John Harris, a former member of the Witherspoon Society Board, considers some of the reasons why it makes good sense to include the Belhar Confession, produced in 1982 by the Dutch Reformed Church (South Africa) as a theological response to apartheid, in our Presbyterian Book of Confessions.

Candidates for Moderator respond to questions from Presbyterian Voices for Justice

One of the first acts of the 219th General Assembly will be the election of a new Moderator.  To help our readers weigh this important choice, Presbyterian Voices for Justice has invited each of the people standing for this high office to respond briefly to four questions that reflect our concerns – and, we believe, the concerns of the wider church.

We encourage you to share your own responses to the comments by the candidates.   Just send a note, and we'll share it here.

Articles from the special pre-GA issue of Network News,
sent to all commissioners and advisory delegates:
bullet Words of welcome from PVJ co-moderator Colleen Bowers.
bulletNetwork News editor shares some thoughts about two images that might be helpful in thinking about the work of the Assembly.
bulletWe'll post more articles as soon as possible.
Looking for hotel accommodations at GA?

Presbyterian Voices for Justice has reserved rooms at a pretty good rate, at the Best Western Normandy Inn, just about 5 blocks from the Convention Center.  We'll be happy to share, if you'd like to join us.  Click here for more information.

Palestinian Christians urge protests after Israeli assault on flotilla

Ecumenical News International reports that Palestinian Christian organizations have urged protests by church groups around the world against an Israeli assault on ships bringing aid to Gaza, which Israel says has led to the deaths of at least 10 activists on board the convoy.

The Joint Advocacy Initiative of the East Jerusalem YMCA and YWCA of Palestine said on May 31it “strongly condemns this massacre against unarmed civilians which visibly violates international law and human rights.”

Activists say Israeli troops came on board shooting; Israel says its soldiers were shot at and attacked with weapons, the BBC reported, quoting an Israeli spokesperson.

The YMCA and YWCA urged sister movements throughout the world as well as church leaders and groups to organize demonstrations in front of government buildings or Israeli embassies to protest against the action.   More >>

The Word and the World: Psalm 8 and the Gulf Oil Spill

The Rev. Bruce Gillette offers an extended meditation on the BP oil disaster, reflecting both on the current news and on our scriptural and theological heritage -- seeing them both as part of the problem, and as pointing toward some solutions.

He begins:

“Effective preaching, teaching, and personal witness require disciplined study of both the Bible and the contemporary world.” --from The Confession of 1967 of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Many people in our churches have been watching the news stories of the oil spill and praying about it.

Saturday’s AP News has the headline, A nation mesmerized: Can BP plug the Gulf gusher? in response to the largest oil spill in U.S. history. Even President Obama’s young daughter is asking when the disaster will end.

Obama And the Oil Spill” was a recent column by the Pulitzer-Prize winning writer Thomas Friedman with this comment, “…the gulf oil spill is not Obama's Katrina. It's his 9/11 -- and it is disappointing to see him making the same mistake George W. Bush made with his 9/11. Sept. 11, 2001, was one of those rare seismic events that create the possibility to energize the country to do something really important and lasting that is too hard to do in normal times.” What may be true for the President can also be true for our churches, that we fail to encourage people of faith to make a difference for God’s creation at this teachable moment.

The Psalm in May 30th’s lectionary that will be read in many of our churches is Psalm 8 with its words praising God for an awe-inspiring creation, including the sixth verse, “You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet.”   More >>

New resource recommended on growing collaboration between Immigration and local police

from Julia Thorne, Manager for Immigration Issues/Immigration Counsel, Presbyterian Church, USA

The National Immigration Law Center, The National Immigration Project and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network have put together a tool-kit to help local groups respond to the growing collaboration of Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) and local police.

Note: This is a fairly large PDF file – 72 pages.  But it looks good for anyone dealing with immigration issues today.

Peace activist and theologian George Edwards has died in Louisville

The Rev. George Edwards, a Presbyterian minister and professor who for decades was one of Louisville's most outspoken activists, died Wednesday afternoon.

He had celebrated his 90th birthday in February.

Edwards, a retired professor of New Testament at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, routinely protested American military policy through vigils and withholding taxes. With his wife, Jean, he helped co-found the Louisville chapter of the peace group Fellowship of Reconciliation in 1975. He also worked on behalf of civil rights and against the death penalty.

"He is a person that you don't easily forget," said Jean Edwards, who married him in 1947 and accompanied him on countless peace vigils.

George and Jean have been strong and supportive members of the Witherspoon Society, predecessor of Presbyterian Voices for Justice, for many years.  We'll miss his deep sense of outrage at the human use of violence against other humans.

Saint George.

That's how someone in the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship refers to this man.  There are various St. Georges, I think -- but if this refers to the slayer of dragons, it seems to fit beautifully.  Thank you, PPF!

More, from the Louisville Courier-Journal >>

Thanks to Mitch Trigger for calling our attention to this sad news.

Israel's attack on relief supplies for Gaza

Note from your WebWeaver – My wife and I were away for a long weekend, so I have not been able to post anything about this terrible event until now. Jewish Peace News offers a good selection of reports and comments:

Israeli forces’ attack on Freedom Flotilla

An update on the afternoon of June 2, 2010, from Jewish Peace News

The Israeli government is still refusing to release most of the members of the flotilla, so not much new information has emerged. But there have been a number of important reactions and comments summarized in the MERIP article “Outlaws of the Mediterranean”  and on Democracy Now . Most of the reaction – both official and unofficial – have been highly critical of Israel; but with the conspicuous exception of the United States, which officially ‘regrets’ the incident and seeks to ascertain the facts. The US has already managed to scupper a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel and calling for an independent investigation.

Yesterday’s Democracy Now features interviews with Adam Shapiro, founder of the International Solidarity Movement (whose wife was on the Flotilla), Amira Hass (the only Israeli journalist based in the Occupied Territories), Ali Abunimah (founder of Electronic Intifada) and Richard Falk (an international lawyer and UN special rapporteur for the Occupied Palestine Territories).

Hass talks about a number of protests in the West Bank (including one at which an American student and ISM volunteer was attacked by Israeli forces with tear gas canisters and lost her left eye as a result) that have called, among other things, for the PA to cease dealing with the Israeli government in either negotiations or any form of security cooperation.

Falk is especially clear that the official Israeli propaganda strategy of focusing attention on whether Israeli commandos were attacked and were acting in self-defense is morally misplaced: the Israeli government launched an unprovoked attack on an unarmed civilian vessel in international waters; the Israeli government was therefore the aggressors and its commandos had no right of self-defense. The civilians being attacked did have such a right.

And Ali Abunimah clearly articulates the rage and outrage felt especially by Palestinians both about this incident and about the euphemistic, misleading and sometimes downright mendacious language that surrounds it.

Today’s Democracy Now contains an interview with Daniel Carmon, Israel’s deputy ambassador to the UN giving the official Israeli justification for the attack and an interview with Edward Peck, a former US Ambassador who was on one of the smaller flotilla ships and who criticizes Carmon.

Alistair Welchman
Jewish Peace News archive and blog >>

Tikkun Magazine and the Network of Spiritual Progressives issue statement on killings on the high seas

Rabbi Michael Lerner, on behalf of the progressive Jewish group Tikkun, and the interfaith Network of Spiritual Progressives, has issued a statement which begins:

We regret and deplore the killings which took place as Israeli troops, in defiance of international law, boarded and assaulted, wounded many and killed some of the participants in a flotilla seeking to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza (itself a morally outrageous policy) to bring humanitarian aid. We ask all people of peace to participate in memorials for those peace activists who have been killed (and we call upon all synagogues around the world to say Kaddish for those people at their Shabbat services this coming weekend), and for prayer for the speedy recovery of all those wounded in this attack (mostly peace activists, but also the Israeli soldiers who boarded the boats with violence).

Read the complete statement >>

Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons issues statement on Gaza blockade incident

"We pray that the day for peace will come quickly"

Presbyterian News Service reports that the Rev. Gradye Parsons, stated clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), has issued a statement in the wake of the Israeli interception of a convoy of ships on its way to Gaza with humanitarian aid.  It begins:

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has a long history of ministry and presence with the people of the Middle East and has long advocated for a just and secure peace for Israelis and Palestinians. Because of this, we express our deep concern about the events that occurred on May 31, 2010 — the Israeli interception in international waters of a convoy of humanitarian-aid ships seeking to bring supplies to a population of 1.5 million people in Gaza.

The full statement >>

PVJ issues letter to commissioners and advisory delegates to GA, with practical information for playing their roles effectively

For some years, the Witherspoon Society has sent a letter to commissioners and advisory delegates as they begin preparing for General Assembly.  This year's letter was sent a couple weeks ago by the co-moderators of Witherspoon's successor organization, Presbyterian Voices for Justice.

We have not previously posted the letter, simply because its intended audience was receiving it by mail.  This year, though, the Rev. Bob Davis, otherwise well-known as conservative blogger "PresbyBob," has posted a thoughtful reflection on his blog about this and other efforts by various advocacy groups to inform (or influence?) the commissioners for their demanding work at GA. 

Davis kindly pointed to the PVJ letter as an example of the ways such groups try to assist the commissioners in their work for the good of the Assembly and of the church.

He writes:

Let me illustrate by using a piece produced by a group with which I would probably disagree about most everything: Presbyterian Voices for Justice sent a piece to commissioners and advisory delegates that begins “Congratulations and Welcome!” It is a primer for how the Assembly works.

Read it. I tried for years to produce something this concise. I don’t know if it is Doug King (return address) or someone else who is primarily responsible, but it is well done.  [Well, he's mistaken there; Doug King is not the producer of the letter!  Thus speaketh Doug King, your WebWeaver.]

So with this kindly nudge from PresbyBob, we are happy to post the full letter here, and we hope you'll find it helpful.  Even if you're not a commissioner!

Click here for the letter >>

If you have comments, suggestions for changes in the letter, or anything else, we'd be happy to hear from you.  Please just send a note to


Looking for accommodations at GA?

Presbyterian Voices for Justice wants to help, if we can.

We have made arrangements for pretty good room rates at Best Western Normandy Inn, which is just five blocks from the Convention Center.  Contact us for more information -- just send a note to

And if you're looking for someone who might share a room with you, let us know and we'll try to help. 

Non-smoker woman roommate sought for GA, Saturday through Tuesday nights.

If you're interested in contacting this person, please send a note to , and I'll pass it along.  And just as a reminder, if you're trying to save a little money on accommodations for GA, we have made arrangements for pretty good room rates at Best Western Normandy Inn, which is just five blocks from the Convention Center.  Contact us for more information about that, too.

Doug King, Communications Coordinator for Presbyterian Voices for Justice

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 going to 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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