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Archive for April, 2010

This page lists our postings from earlier in April, 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.

Maggie Lauterer is third GA moderator candidate

Pastor endorsed by Presbytery of Western North Carolina

Presbyterian News Service reports that the latest candidate to stand for moderator of the 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) was named on April 27, when the Presbytery of Western North Carolina endorsed the Rev. Maggie Palmer Lauterer to stand for moderator.

The Rev. Maggie Palmer Lauterer

Lauterer is the third candidate for the moderator position, joining the Rev. Jin S. Kim (Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area) and Elder Cynthia Bolbach (National Capital Presbytery). The new moderator will be elected July 3, the first day of the weeklong biennial meeting in Minneapolis. The winner will succeed the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, moderator of the 218th GA.

Since 1999, Lauterer has served as pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Burnsville, N.C. A second-career pastor, Lauterer came to the ministry after working in newspaper, magazine and television journalism. She also made an unsuccessful run for Congress, being the first woman to run for a congressional seat in western North Carolina.  More >>

If you care about a more multicultural church, and one more welcoming to immigrants ...

May 16th is Multicultural Church/Immigration Sunday.

Join us on May 16 to celebrate Multicultural Church Sunday. Multicultural Church Sunday is a date on which congregations are invited to intentionally organize multicultural worship that seek to recognize, celebrate and incorporate a diverse membership in worship by using music, hymns, languages, arts and theological expressions that reflect the diverse makeup of the church’s community.

You might want to include something about Immigration or our New Immigrant brothers and sisters on that Sunday.

Learn more >>

Don't miss the 11th National Multicultural Church Conference

May 26-30, 2010
Pre-conferences May 26-27, 2010

For more information and to register >>

This year’s conference explores the theme, “H20: Deepening our Faith, Widening our Culture” focusing on the biblical vision of Ezekiel 47:1-12.

The conference seeks to explore “growing the Christ’s church deep and wide” in an increasingly diverse world. The conference is a place of differences. People with varying languages, cultures, ethnicities, theologies, genders, generations and backgrounds will come together to recognize the amazing potential of differences and, through affirming and celebrating those differences, create something new.

Religious leaders say new Arizona immigration law is unjust, dangerous and contrary to biblical teaching

New York, April 26, 2010 – The National Council of Churches and other religious organizations have sharply criticized Arizona's new immigration law as fundamentally unjust, dangerous to citizens and non-citizens alike, and a rejection of centuries-old biblical precepts of justice and neighborliness.

The Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, NCC General Secretary, who last week urged Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to veto the legislation, reiterated the view of NCC member communions and Arizona religious leaders "that this legislation will not contribute to the reform of our nation's immigration system" and may stimulate similar anti-immigrant legislation throughout the country. 

The rest of the story >>

U.S.’s toughest immigration law is signed in Arizona

The New York Times reported on April 23, 2010, from Phoenix, Arizona:

Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona signed the toughest illegal immigration bill in the country into law on Friday, aimed at identifying, prosecuting and deporting illegal immigrants. The governor’s move unleashed immediate protests and reignited the divisive battle over immigration reform nationally.

Even before she signed the bill at a 4:30 p.m. news conference here, President Obama strongly criticized it. Speaking at a naturalization ceremony for 24 active-duty service members in the Rose Garden, he called for a federal overhaul of immigration laws — an overhaul that Congressional leaders signaled they were preparing to take up soon.

Saying the failure of officials in Washington to act on immigration would open the door to “irresponsibility by others,” he said the Arizona bill threatened “to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and our communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe.”

The rest of this report >>

Christian Science Monitor offers a more ho-hum perspective:

Arizona immigration bill: just the latest among state measures

The Arizona immigration bill, which the president called 'irresponsible' and 'misguided' on Friday, is one of many state initiatives introduced in the absence of strong national immigration reform.    More >>

And among some Arizonans, a call for “noncompliance” —

This note comes to us from the Rev. Trina Zelle, Interim Pastor at
University Presbyterian Church
, Phoenix, Arizona, and a former co-moderator of the Witherspoon Society:

A few local Presbyterians put together a website after last week's immigration conference, in anticipation of the governor signing SB 1070.  The address is  You can read our statement and sign on online or download the form. 
The comments that are coming in with the signatures are heartening.  We'll be putting up a comments page soon.
Wade says this is 'not your mother and father's church anymore'

by Duane Sweep, Special to Presbyterian News Service

DEERWOOD, Minn. — April 23, 2010 --- The Rev. Byron Wade, vice moderator of the 218th (2008) General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), looked out on his audience at the Clearwater 2010 conference here, and asked for a show of hands from the "boomers."

He told them, "You are the last generation that goes to church on a regular basis."

In an April 17 address on change in church, Wade spoke about a church in a foreign land. The conference had the theme, "Finding Our Way in the Wilderness."

"We're going through something in the church," Wade said. "Our current church is in a foreign culture. ... You can't put the same old thing in a new culture and expect it to survive."     The rest of the story >>

Farmworker Freedom March tops 1,000 as it arrives in Lakeland

News release from the Rev. Noelle Damico, Campaign for Fair Food, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

The prophet Isaiah reminds us that practicing our faith means we are to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke” (Isaiah 58:6).

Determined, jubilant and a thousand-strong, Coalition of Immokalee Workers, people of faith, students and ordinary consumers from across Florida and around the nation marched from Tampa to Lakeland, headquarters of Publix grocery this past Friday to Sunday. The three-day, 22-mile march was led by the CIW’s Florida Modern-Day Slavery Museum and called for freedom from forced labor, abuse, poverty and degradation.

Read more about the march at and let Publix know you want them to work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to address modern-day slavery in the fields and end the poverty and powerlessness in which it flourishes, by sending an email to Publix’s CEO, Mr. Ed Crenshaw.


PC(USA) Campaign for Fair Food

The Rev. Noelle Damico, Campaign for Fair Food
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
NY Office: 631-751-7076
Mobile: 631-371-9877

Supreme Court hears crucial religious freedom case

from The Interfaith Alliance

Just this week, the United States Supreme Court heard oral argument on Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, a case that puts religious freedom and non-discrimination at odds. Interfaith Alliance has kept a close watch on this case and we weighed in on these complex, critical issues by filing a friend-of-the-court brief with our colleagues at the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC).

The issue in question is whether a public university, in this case the University of California's Hastings College of the Law, can deny school funds and other benefits to a religious student group, the Christian Legal Society (CLS), because it requires voting members and officers to sign a "Statement of Faith." This case could have far-reaching implications for the rights of religious groups at public universities and the extent to which the government can fund their activities.    More, with suggestions for action >>

Many are protesting Arizona legislation requiring police crack-down and criminalization of “unauthorized” immigrants

Here are three statements and calls for action:

Presbyterian “Crossing Borders” conference issues statement on immigration reform

PHOENIX, Ariz. — April 22, 2010 — After two years of planning, the timing of the April 15-17 "Crossing Borders, Encountering God" conference seemed so perfect as to be providential.

"We are gathered here to have this conference around issues of immigration and borders and on the very day we gather we have these two events — ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raids throughout Arizona and the passage of Arizona Senate Bill 1070, mandating law enforcement to determine immigration status, going to the governor's desk," said the Rev. Mark Adams, director of Frontera de Cristo Ministries and a member of the conference planning team.    More >>

For a more complete report on the conference itself >>


The Latin America Working Group in Washington, DC, states:

If allowed to pass into law by Gov. Brewer, SB 1070 would effectively force police to engage in racial profiling, criminalize unauthorized migrants for 'trespassing' into Arizona, and permit anyone to sue local agencies if they believe that the law isn't being adequately enforced. Such policies are as sweeping as they are dangerous.

Whether you reside in Arizona or not, Governor Brewer needs to hear that institutionalizing racist and discriminatory policies is bad for all of Arizona's families. Tell her to veto SB1070!

More – with suggestions for action by Arizonans as well as the rest of us >>


Arizona's immigration bill is a social and racial sin

Jim Wallis, as an evangelical activist for justice, writes a very personal account of his visit to Arizona to join in protests against the anti-immigrant bill passed by the Arizona legislature.

He writes:

This proposed law is not only mean-spirited -- it will be ineffective and will only serve to further divide communities in Arizona, making everyone more fearful and less safe. This radical new measure, which crosses many moral and legal lines, is a clear demonstration of the fundamental mistake of separating enforcement from comprehensive immigration reform. We all want to live in a nation of laws, and the immigration system in the U.S. is so broken that is serving no one well. But enforcement without reform of the system is merely cruel. Enforcement without compassion is immoral. Enforcement that breaks up families is unacceptable. And enforcement of this law would force us to violate our Christian conscience, which we simply will not do. It makes it illegal to love your neighbor in Arizona.

The full article >>

He also urges people to take action for immigration reform, through the Sojourners website >>

Pass the Word: Sweatshop-Free T-shirts

From Melanie Hardison, Enough for Everyone, PC(USA)

Do you know a congregation, camp, youth group or Vacation Bible School that’s planning to print T-shirts?  Please share with them the good news of Sweat-Free Ts – shirts made by a cooperative, not a sweatshop – available from the PC(USA).

Sweat-Free Ts come from the Nueva Vida sewing cooperative in Nicaragua, which began as an economic development initiative in the wake of Hurricane Mitch.  In 1998 the Presbyterian Hunger Program provided seed money, and in 2003 was proud to come full circle with our support by also becoming a customer.  Since that time, support from groups across the church has made it possible for us to purchase over 133,000 T-shirts from the cooperative! (And this figure does not include special orders for Presbyterian Women, Presbyterian Youth Triennium and Presbyterian Disaster Assistance!) 

Shirts can be ordered from Presbyterian Distribution Service online or by phone.  They come blank with only the Sweat-Free T logo printed in black on the sleeve; groups are free to screen print, tie-dye or otherwise creatively imprint the shirts with their own logo or design. 

bulletTake advantage of the 20% discount on orders of 50 shirts or more. 
bulletRead the recent Presbyterian News Service article about the cooperative.
bulletCheck it out: The cooperative’s current project is sewing shirts for the 2010 Presbyterian Youth Triennium!

Shirts are available in 100% organic cotton that feels great.  Colors are White, Natural and Presbyterian Blue.  Sizes range from Child Small to Adult 3XL. Get educational materials.

Thanks for helping spread the Good News!

In hope,

Melanie Hardison, Enough for Everyone, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
(888) 728-7228 x5626

Reflecting on the crisis in the Roman Catholic Church

The current criticisms of the Catholic Church’s responses to the many long-standing complaints of various forms of child abuse, by its clergy and others, and attempts to cover up or ignore many of those complaints, continue to receive a great deal of attention in the media.

We offer these two articles as providing very helpful perspective and analysis on a complex situation.

Hendrick Hertzberg, writing in the New Yorker under the title, “Indulgence,” begins with this very up-to-date analogy: 

On October 31, 1517, a Roman Catholic priest and theologian, Dr. Martin Luther, put the finishing touches on a series of bullet points and, legend has it, nailed the result to the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany—the equivalent, for the time and place, of uploading a particularly explosive blog post. Luther’s was a protest against the sale of chits that were claimed to entitle buyers or their designees to shorter stays in Purgatory. Such chits, known as indulgences, were being hawked as part of Pope Leo X’s fund-raising drive for the renovation of St. Peter’s Basilica. The “Ninety-five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” touched off a high-stakes flame war that rapidly devolved into the real thing, with actual wars, actual flames, and actual stakes. The theological clash that sundered Christendom didn’t just change the face of Western religion; it birthed the modern world. 

Half a millennium later, the present agony of Catholicism is very far from being in the same league, even though the National Catholic Reporter has called it “the largest institutional crisis in centuries, possibly in Church history.” The crisis is not about doctrine, at least not directly. It’s about administration; it’s about the structure of power within the Catholic Church; it’s about the Church’s insular, self-protective clerical culture. And, of course, like nearly every one of the controversies that preoccupy and bedevil the Church—abortion, stem-cell research, contraception, celibacy, marriage and divorce and affectional orientation—it’s about sex.

The full article >>

Nicholas Kristoff writes in the New York Times under the title, “A Church Mary Can Love.”

I like his opening too: 

I heard a joke the other day about a pious soul who dies, goes to heaven, and gains an audience with the Virgin Mary. The visitor asks Mary why, for all her blessings, she always appears in paintings as a bit sad, a bit wistful: Is everything O.K.? 

Mary reassures her visitor: “Oh, everything’s great. No problems. It’s just ... it’s just that we had always wanted a daughter.” 

That story comes to mind as the Vatican wrestles with the consequences of a patriarchal premodern mind-set: scandal, cover-up and the clumsiest self-defense since Watergate. That’s what happens with old boys’ clubs. 

It wasn’t inevitable that the Catholic Church would grow so addicted to male domination, celibacy and rigid hierarchies. Jesus himself focused on the needy rather than dogma, and went out of his way to engage women and treat them with respect.

He goes on to explain how the Vatican would be better off if it paid closer attention to the priests and nuns who, like Jesus, are devoted to helping the poor and the sick out in the real world.

The full op-ed article >>

Thanks to Elizabeth Sarfaty

SEC lawsuit of Goldman Sachs overdue and welcomed by Illinois People’s Action

We posted reports and commentary last November on a demonstration at the Goldman Sachs office in Chicago by an Illinois grass-roots citizens’ group, Illinois Public Action. They issued the following press release today, commenting on the recent SEC announcement of a suit again Goldman Sachs.


The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of the Federal Government announced over the weekend it is suing Goldman Sachs for its role in the financial market meltdown due to its role in predatory mortgage lending practices.

Illinois People’s Action (IPA/ciop) says it’s about time. “Last November about 200 IPA/ciop leaders went to Goldman Sachs in the Chicago loop,” said IPA leader, Jack Porter. “We called them out for their major role in the economic catastrophe we’re all going through. Now our judgment has been confirmed by the SEC.”

A week after the Chicago action, IPA leaders joined with other grassroots groups from around the country to march on Goldman Sachs in Washington D.C. When Goldman Sachs CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, claimed Sachs was doing God’s work, IPA Board President, Rev. Tony Pierce, stood before a crowd of hundreds, decrying Blankfein’s claim. Pierce received international press coverage for his comments. Both the Chicago and Washington demonstrations against Goldman Sachs were organized by National People’s Action.

IPA/ciop has been organizing on predatory lending since it saw a 2043% increase in foreclosures in central Illinois from 1993 to 1999. IPA noted that the increase in foreclosures was positively correlated with subprime and predatory mortgage lending and sounded the bullhorn that unless predatory lending was stopped, it could bring down the entire market. While IPA believes the SEC should have listened to warnings and taken action years ago, it is encouraged to see the SEC taking action now.

“Fortunately, our United States government is willing to back the people and deal with fraudulent activities in the business world. We are glad to see them stepping up at this time and hope they will look further at other big banks that have done the same,” said Rev. Charlotte Dotts, IPA leader and pastor at Word of Life Church in Bloomington. Many of Rev. Dotts parishioners have been negatively affected by predatory lending.

IPA is joining its affiliates across the country to demand accountability by the big banks and government. It held a Showdown on Foreclosures in Peoria last week that was attended by over 300 community leaders and the U.S. Department of Treasury. It held a similar meeting in Decatur last August that was attended by 500. It plans to take its case to D.C. again in May.

IPA is a faith-based organization whose membership is comprised of 40 churches and grassroots community groups across the state. For more information on IPA’s campaigns, go to
bullet Click here for our earlier report on the November 2009 action >>
bullet Click here for an April 14, 2010, report in the Peoria Journal Star on the demonstration in Peoria last week.
bullet Click here for the IPA report >>
bullet Here’s the report from the Central Illinois News Center >>
Presbyterian Disaster Assistance to give $500,000 for seeds of hope in Haiti

Seeds and tools will help Haitian farmers feed the country and build the economy

Press release from PC(USA), dated April 19, 2010

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — It is rainy season in Haiti. While that sometimes creates terrible challenges for those whose homes were destroyed in the earthquake, it is also good news. The rainy season is the growing season. And for thousands of farmers, it is both an opportunity for economic recovery and a chance for them to play an important role in their country’s healing process.

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) is partnering with the Presbyterian Hunger Program to provide funds and staff support for seeds of hope for Haiti. PDA has committed $500,000 to purchase seeds and tools for farmers who are trying to feed the hundreds of thousands of displaced Haitians who have left Port-au-Prince, as well as the communities that are hosting the displaced.

The rest of the story >>

More Malarkey About Health Care

The legislative debate is over, but the false and exaggerated claims just keep on coming.

Summary of a longer report from

We’ve seldom seen a piece of legislation so widely misrepresented, and misunderstood, as the new health care law. We stopped counting the number of articles and items we turned out on the subject after the total reached 100.

Some of that is understandable. The debate went on for more than a year, while the different House and Senate bills changed their shape constantly. The final law was the product of an awkward two-step legislative dance that first enacted the Senate’s version, then quickly amended it with a reconciliation "fix." No wonder people are confused.

And even now the misrepresentations continue. The new law is no longer a moving target, but some opponents persist in making false or exaggerated claims about it. Our inboxes are filled with messages asking about assertions that the new law:

* Requires patients to be implanted with microchips. (No, it doesn’t.)

* Cuts benefits for military families and retirees. (No. The TRICARE program isn’t affected.)

* Exempts Muslims from the requirement to obtain coverage. (Not specifically. It does have a religious exemption, but that is intended for Old Order Amish.)

* Allows insurance companies to continue denying coverage to children with preexisting conditions. (Insurance companies have agreed not to exploit a loophole that might have allowed this.)

* Will require 16,500 armed IRS agents to enforce. (No. Criminal penalties are waived.)

* Gives President Obama a Nazi-like "private army." (No. It provides a reserve corps of doctors and other health workers for emergencies.)

* "Exempts" House and Senate members. (No. Their coverage may not be as good as before, in fact.)

* Covers erectile-dysfunction drugs for sex offenders. (Just as it was before the new law, those no longer in jail can buy any insurance plan they choose.)

* Provides federal funding for abortions. (Not directly. But neither side in the abortion debate is happy with the law.)

For details on these claims about the new law, please read our Analysis section.

For desktop Users >>         For mobile Users >>

An update on the recent elections in Sudan

From the Sudan Action Advocacy Forum, with thanks to Bill Andrus

This update specifically addresses the current status of the elections, the results of which are scheduled to be released on Tuesday April 20.

The Carter Center's monitoring team gives the following as their initial impression:

"While it is too early to offer a final overall assessment, it is apparent that the elections will fall short of meeting international standards and Sudan's obligations for genuine elections in many respects. Nonetheless, the elections are important as a key benchmark in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and because of the increased political and civic participation that has occurred over the last several months. Ultimately, the success of the elections will depend on whether Sudanese leaders take action to promote lasting democratic transformation." Carter Center Preliminary Report April 17, 2010 [emphasis added]

The Carter report takes a long view of Sudan's elections; however, a view anticipated by a prophetic statement issued very early in the process suggests that the people rather than the leaders will have the most to say about the future of Sudan:

"Those looking for optimism would do better to scale back their expectations of the polls and to look instead at the incredible resilience of ordinary Sudanese people and the heroic efforts of a vibrant civil society to fight for human rights, gender equality and less hunger. Inspirational leadership is more likely to come from the tens of thousands of women and men working on a new Sudan at the grassroots in Darfur, Jonglei and Kordofan, than from the Islamists, generals and 'former' warlords who still run the country." Harry Verhoeven, Monday 12 April 2010

What is critical for the Sudanese right now? Indeed, it would appear that very little will change immediately. That will result in disappointment for many Sudanese who pinned their hopes on change via the ballot box. Regardless, we believe that at all cost the Sudanese must avoid violence. We, whether Sudanese or friends of the Sudanese, must all work and pray that the ongoing phases of counting, tabulation and posting the results will be carried out peacefully and without violent reaction from disappointed voters. We join with those leaders who have called for people to remain calm and demonstrate civility during the elections process and beyond because it is only peace that will take Sudan forward in the future.

Jesus frequently said to his disciples: "Don't be frightened. No matter what, don't be afraid." God is sovereign; His love is certain; and, His justice will be done! Recognizing this, we encourage all Sudanese and friends of Sudanese to pray, and pray hard, and to avoid any violence.

In His Service,

Bill Andress
Sudan Advocacy Action Forum

"I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed; for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

More on Sudan and Darfur >>

So I’m not alone in saying dumb things!

These goodies have come to us from John Jackson (April 18, 2010)  

Applicants for jobs at a company are asked to fill out a questionnaire. Among the things candidates list is their high school and when they attended. One prospective employee dutifully wrote the name of his high school, followed by the dates attended: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

I spent 20 minutes explaining life insurance options to one of our employees. After reviewing the different plans, he decided to max out, choosing $100,000 worth of life insurance. But he had one last question. “Now,” he said, “what do I have to do to collect the money?”

A distraught senior citizen phoned her doctor. “Is it true,” she asked, “that the medication you prescribed has to be taken for the rest of my life?” “Yes,” the doctor told her. There was a moment of silence before the senior lady replied, “I’m wondering, then, just how serious is my condition, because this prescription is marked ‘no refills’?”

What Did John Witherspoon Mean by "Property"?

Would he defend property rights against health care reform?

With all the discussion these days (or maybe “ranting and raving” would be more appropriate) about individual property rights standing against the authority of government to limit them for the common welfare (as in requiring some people to obtain health insurance, for instance) Gene TeSelle reminds us of John Witherspoon’s famous statement in 1776 that if people give up their right to “property,” they will “at the same time deliver the conscience to bondage.” It sounds like a great argument for the Tea Party folks, but TeSelle shows that Witherspoon’s intention was quite different.

For people who as followers of Jesus want to change the world, here’s some sober, creative, and promising guidance

To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World, by James Davison Hunter

The review begins:

The call to make the world a better place is inherent in the Christian belief and practice. But why have efforts to change the world by Christians so often failed or gone tragically awry? And how might Christians in the 21st century live in ways that have integrity with their traditions and are more truly transformative? In To Change the World, James Davison Hunter offers persuasive – and provocative – answers to these questions.

To read the rest of this review, or to order the book, click here.

For other reviews, and an interview with the author, click here

Desmond Tutu calls for “divesting from injustice”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, has written out of his own profound commitment to both peace and justice, in support of a recent call by students at the University of California, Berkeley, for the University to divest their funds now invested in companies that engage in activities supportive of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.

Thanks to PVJ member John Simpson, of Fair Oaks, CA

Desmond Tutu's statement >>

Here's the latest on the UC Berkeley vote, coming up tonight >>

For more on the Berkeley action:

Tikkun Magazine, which is based in Berkeley, has provided a number of materials related to the proposal by the Berkeley Student Senate Bill calling for divestment from two companies that help Israel maintain the Occupation of the West Bank.

The first statement [critical of the divestment proposal] comes from J street and is signed by the New Israel Fund as well. They are important voices for peace and justice in Israel.

Following that is the resolution [for divestment] being debated.

In support of the divestment proposal they present statements from Jewish Voices for Peace, Bishop Tutu, Naomi Klein, and others.

Click here for the whole collection.


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

March for Farmworker Justice

FLOC Action at Reynolds' Shareholder Meeting

from the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), AFL-CIO

May 7th, 2010, 10:30-1:30
Lloyd Presbyterian Church
748 N Chestnut St, Winston Salem, NC

There is less than one month until the Reynolds American annual shareholders meeting, where company executives, board members, and shareholders will gather to discuss and decide issues regarding Reynolds' profits and corporate policies. As in the past two years, hundreds of FLOC members and supporters will gather in downtown Winston-Salem to demand justice for the workers at the bottom of the corporation's supply chain. Please save the date. More details to come!

Tens of thousands of tobacco field workers continue to suffer rampant human rights abuses, as RJ Reynolds makes billions from their labor. For over two years, Reynolds CEO Susan Ivey has continually refused to even meet with farmworker representatives to address the harsh realities they face in Southern tobacco fields.

Join us on May 7th, as we gather to express widespread community support for responsible corporate policies that allow farmworkers to have a voice in the decisions that affect them. Visit our website for more information on the Campaign.

More >>

Responding to the West Virginia mine disaster

This comes to us from Kim Bobo, of Interfaith Worker Justice

Mother Jones is often quoted as saying, "Pray for the Dead, Fight like hell for the Living." The 25 miners who lost their lives in the Upper Big Branch mining disaster call us to both prayer and activism.

We must pray for the miners still missing, the miners who have lost their colleagues and the families of those killed. Let us pray for them individually and through our congregations. April 28 is Workers Memorial Day, a time to remember those who have lost their lives in the workplace. Consider using IWJ's Litany for Workers Memorial Day in one of your congregation's services later this month.

We must also fight to protect those who work in dangerous workplaces like mines. The Upper Big Branch mine is operated by the Performance Coal Company, a non-union company operated by Massey Energy. In the last 22 years, the company has committed over 1,000 health and safety violations. Since the beginning of March 2010, the company has had 12 serious ventilation violations, including 8 for failing to follow the ventilation plan. This company had a pattern of violating health and safety guidelines. Such patterns of violations kill and maim workers.

There are two ways we can fight for other miners and workers.

1) Support the rights of workers to organize unions. Union mines are safer than non-union mines because the union plays a role in enforcing the safety guidelines. Unfortunately, like many other workers, miners often fear losing their jobs or retaliation for joining a union. Miners and other workers need labor law reform, like the Employee Free Choice Act. Send a letter today and urge your senator to support efforts to reform the nation's labor laws so workers can join labor unions without fear and harassment. Click here.

2) Support budget requests for more mine inspectors. The Department of Labor needs additional funds for mine inspectors as well as other enforcement staff for the Wage and Hour Division and OSHA. Interfaith Worker Justice supports the expansion of these important enforcement agencies. Send a letter to your congressional representative urging him or her to fully fund the Department of Labor's budget requests for additional enforcement staff. Click here.

Thank you for your prayers and your action.

A West Virginia Presbyterian comments:

The Rev. John Harris, until recently a member of the Witherspoon Society board, now pastoring in Flushing, New York, was born and has lived and worked most of his life in West Virginia. He reflects on the mine disaster on his SummittoShore blogspot, concluding:

West Virginia coal is both a blessing and a curse, and coal mining in West Virginia is like an addictive drug that offers a quick fix high but also occasionally kills when improperly administered or when one overdoses. Like a third world colony West Virginia has had its lumber clear cut, its gas pumped out, and its coal extracted at the cost of environmental degradation and lost lives, this week twenty nine more lost lives. Mountaineers are always free, free to sell their minerals, land, natural resources and very lives to out of state absentee entrepreneurs who enrich themselves while their workers survive on a few scraps of leftovers.

May God comfort the afflicted families, friends, co workers and neighbors of the twenty-nine West Virginia miners killed in this recent mine explosion. May God afflict those who comfortably sat by, counting their money while allowing this to happen.

Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons expresses thanks for new strategic arms limitation treaty

A crucial, necessary step

The Reverend Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), issued the following statement today in response to the signing of a new strategic arms reduction treaty (START) by President Obama and President Medvedev:

The new nuclear arms reduction treaty signed by the United States and Russia on April 8 in Prague is an event that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has long awaited. This initiative resonates with the vision of the prophet Micah who looked toward the day when nations “shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks” (Micah 4:3). Guided by this biblical vision, General Assemblies of the church and its predecessors have understood that following Jesus and working for God’s intended order and life abundant involve seeking international disarmament and arms control measures. ... This could also lead to further reduction in their nuclear arsenals. We give thanks for the courage and will to negotiate this treaty and we look forward to its ratification.

The full text of the statement >>

More on supporting the START treaty from the Presbyterian Washington Office

Fire destroys More Light church in Houston

Community of The Servant-Savior Presbyterian Church Destroyed by arson

A huge fire destroyed a southeast Houston church on Thursday night, KPRC TV reported. Investigators said the two-alarm fire started on the west side of the church, sparked by incendiary devices – meaning it was an act of arson. Church members said this church was the only open and affirming church in the area, and has received hate mail in the past.      More >>

From Michael Adee of More Light Presbyterians:
Please hold this congregation, its pastor, Rev. Dr. Alan Brehm, and the Presbytery of New Covenant, in your thoughts and prayers as they grieve the loss of their church buildings, support each other during this time and discern their future.
The congregation will be holding the Sunday worship service at 11:30 AM outside on church property on April 11.  For those of you in the Houston area, it would be great if you could join them for worship this Sunday to express your care and support in person.  The address in southeast Houston is: 11303 Hughes Road, Houston, TX 77089
If you would like to send a note to the congregation and its pastor, you can send it to the Rev. Alan Brehm at
Myth of the 'gay lifestyle' used to justify bias

LZ Granderson, a senior writer and columnist for ESPN The Magazine and, writes about his own life as a gay man whose life with his partner is largely occupied with “grocery shopping and getting my son off to school.”

He offers a nice, realistic response to the marriage advocates who opposed marriage for some, and the pro-family groups who are concerned to find homes for abandoned children, but only certain kinds of homes.     Click here for his article >>

Immokalee farmworkers seek email support for Freedom March (April 16-18) and negotiations with Publix Grocery

This comes to us from the Rev. Noelle Damico, Campaign for Fair Food, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

You may know that on April 1, the CIW made its 8th fairfood agreement with Aramark Corporation.  On April 16-18 Presbyterians will join the CIW and other supporters on the Farmworker Freedom March from Tampa to Lakeland, FL, headquarters of Publix Grocery. In light of the upcoming action, CIW has set up an e-action by which people can send emails to the CEO of Publix, urging the company to work with the CIW.    Just click here to send your email.

We hope Publix will be moved by this public witness and by emails from across the country to change course and work with the CIW.

Experience the good food revolution

Heaven on Earth Agrarian Road Trip to the U.S. Social Forum
June 13-26, 2010

We've received this from Andrew Kang  Bartlett, Presbyterian Hunger Program

Come experience food justice as we visit church and community initiatives in Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Ohio and Michigan along the way to Detroit for the 2010 U.S. Social Forum. Celebrate the grassroots sustainable food and agricultural revolution that is sprouting up everywhere. Join with college students, farmers, musicians, bloggers, and other adventurous souls. Hosted by the Presbyterian Hunger Program and rooted in the agrarian heart of the Bible. Learn more and sign up today.

Download an application and a flier.

The Faith-Based Militia: When is Terrorism ‘Christian’?

Reflecting on the recent arrest of members of the Michigan-based Hutaree Militia for allegedly plotting the murder of one or more police officers as an expression of their Christian beliefs, Frederick Clarkson sees a need to consider the wider subject of “faith-based terrorism.” He mentions the conviction in 2003 of serial anti-abortion terrorist Clayton Waagner, who had sent envelopes of white powder purporting to be anthrax to some 550 reproductive rights groups and clinics. More recently we have seen reports of the trial and conviction of Scott Roeder for the murder of Dr. George Tiller, an abortion provider in Wichita, Kansas.

Clarkson notes that relating Christian religious faith to what we call “terrorism” is offensive to many, but is suggesting that we need to pay careful attention to the links between what is claimed is Christian faith and violent, terroristic action. And he reminds us that often this linkage appears in relation to struggles over abortion.

It may be helpful to keep this in mind for the coming debates at our 219th General Assembly, as we deal once again with the question of abortion and women’s right to choose. It would be helpful if the Assembly could provide some guidelines and language for members of the PC(USA), and the Washington office, so that the links between ideological absolutism and armed intimidation and violence can be seen more clearly.    Click here for Clarkson’s essay >>

Frederick Clarkson, whose writing about politics and religion has appeared in magazines and newspapers from Mother Jones, Conscience and Church & State, to The Village Voice and The Christian Science Monitor for 25 years. He is the editor of Dispatches from the Religious Left: The Future of Faith and Politics in America (Ig Publishing 2008), and co-founder of the group blog, Talk to Action.

More of our posts on the "Religious Right" >>

Moral politics

Presbyterians hear from Washington leaders about importance of faith in advocacy

Presbyterian News Service has posted a report on the Presbyterian activities and speakers at the Ecumenical Advocacy Days event in Washington, on March 20.

The full report >>

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.

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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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