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Archive for January, 2010

This page lists our postings from all of January, 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.


Updates on Haiti

Help Haiti – drop the debt
This call to action comes from "Avaaz" is a new global web movement with a simple democratic mission: to close the gap between the world we have, and the world most people everywhere want.

To learn more about the Avaaz on-line advocacy group, click here >>

Shocking: Even as aid flows in to Haiti's desperate communities, money flows out to pay off the country's crushing debt of over $1 billion racked up years ago by lenders and governments.

The call for full cancellation of Haiti's debt is building steam across the world and has won over some leaders while rich lender countries are rumored to resist. Time is short: G7 finance ministers could reach a final decision next week at their summit in Canada.

Let's raise a massive global call for justice, mercy and common sense for the people of Haiti in this hour of tragedy. Avaaz and partners will deliver the call for debt relief directly to the summit. Click here to sign the petition and pass this email to friends.

Click here for more about this action >>

CWS campaign: ‘Tithe Wall Street bonuses for Haiti’

NEW YORK — January 27, 2010 — Global humanitarian agency Church World Service (CWS) today launched a novel fund-raising campaign for Haiti earthquake relief: calling for Wall Street’s financial industry leaders to tithe their bonuses for the reconstruction of Haiti following the disaster that killed more than 100,000 people and destroyed much of Port au Prince and the country’s fragile infrastructure.  More >>

More on the Supreme Court decision:
Big money vs. democracy

The End of Restraint: Alito, Roberts, and judicial modesty

Stuart Taylor Jr., writing in the Feb. 1, 2010, issue of Newsweek, calls the court’s 5 to 4 decision in thee case of Citizens United v. FEC a “blockbuster, precedent-smashing Jan. 21 decision unleashing corporate executives to pour unlimited amounts of stockholders' money—without their consent—into ads supporting or attacking federal candidates. Indeed the 5–4 decision would allow any big company to spend a fortune attacking candidates whom many, or even most, of its stockholders would rather support.”

He then condemns the decision as “a perverse interpretation of the First Amendment, one that will at best increase the already unhealthy political power of big businesses (and big unions, too), and at worst swamp our elections under a new deluge of special-interest cash. More ominously still, Citizens United v. FEC lends credence to liberal claims that all five of the more conservative justices are ‘judicial activists,’ the same imprecation that conservatives have for so long—and often justifiably—hurled at liberal justices.”

The full article >>

High-Court Hypocrisy: Dick Durbin's got a good idea.

Jonathan Alter also writes in the Feb. 1, 2010, issue of Newsweek, says that the court’s action sets “a new standard for judicial hypocrisy – [as it] struck down the laws of 22 states and the federal government” – and this from the court’s conservatives who have regularly condemned their more liberal bench-mates for “judicial activism.”

Alter sees the decision as leaving little room for change, unless Congress follows the lead of Sen. Dick Durbin and enacts a campaign-reform bill that would establish “a public-financing system that rewards candidates who attract small donors.” That might be coupled with legislation like that in Britain, which forbids corporations to get approval from their shareholders for any political contributions.    The full article >>

The U. S. as “officially a plutocracy”

Blogger John Shuck has given space for an interesting discussion of the Supreme Court’s action, which he declared makes the U. S. “officially a plutocracy.” The Rev. Bob Campbell, who contributed good comments to this website before here, has been involved in the conversation on the “Shuck and Jive” blog as well.

Human rights advocates given maximum federal prison sentences of six months for direct action opposing the School of the Americas (SOA/WHINSEC)

News release from SOA Watch, January 25th, 2010

On Monday, January 25, 2010, U.S. Magistrate G. Mallon Faircloth sentenced three human rights advocates to six months in federal prison for carrying a protest against the School of the Americas onto the Fort Benning military base in Georgia. This school, re-named the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, is a controversial U.S. Army training school for Latin American soldiers.   More >>

You're lonely, I'm lonely

Christian Century offers a provocative article by L. Gregory Jones, dean of Duke University Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina, reflecting on a recent study showing that “loneliness is contagious and that it spreads through social networks. A lonely person can affect people as many as three degrees of separation away. If someone directly connected to me is seriously lonely, for example, I am 52 percent more likely to be lonely. A second degree of separation leads to a 25 percent increase; a third degree, 15 percent. I may be affected by the emotional reactions of my co-worker's spouse's brother.”

Further, Americans may be especially vulnerable to loneliness, “in a country where we subscribe to a myth of individualism and underplay the significance of family, friendship and community.”

Loneliness may not seem to be a matter for those focusing on social issues and questions of justice, but it clearly affects the delicate fabric of our society and reflects our culture in ways that can be deeply damaging to people’s well-being. So for congregations to work at community-building may be more important than we have sometimes thought.

The full article >>

Big Money Talks – and the Supreme Court says its freedom of speech must be protected 

by Gene TeSelle, former Issues Analyst of the Witherspoon Society  

We had suspected it for a long time, but now, thanks to a swing vote by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, the United States is officially a plutocracy. On the dubious and probably perverse principles that corporations are legal persons and that political contributions are "speech" protected by the First Amendment, restrictions on corporate contributions to issue organizations (though not to specific political campaigns) have basically been thrown out.  The rest of his essay >>

Martha Juillerat and Tammy Lindahl invite you:  

Send a message of peace to the Winter Olympics in Vancouver


We have received an interesting note from Martha Juillerat, who for some years played a vital role in carrying on the Shower of Stoles Project, beginning in the PC(USA) and expanding to gather and display stoles from many denominations that told powerful stories of men and women who believe they are called to ordained ministry, but have been excluded because of their sexual orientation – or who are serving in ministry in spite of that barrier.


Martha and her spouse Tammy now live as a happily married couple in Vancouver, where they own and operate a thrift shop that benefits the Richmond Women's Resource Centre and Alzheimer Society of B.C.

More about the Peace Project, and a request for your message of peace >>

The National Religious Campaign Against Torture urges:

Ask Senator-elect Scott Brown to rethink his support of waterboarding and other forms of torture.


21 Jan 2010

Please email Senator-elect Scott Brown and ask him to rethink his position on waterboarding and other forms of torture.

On Tuesday, January 19th, Scott Brown was elected to represent Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate. During the campaign Mr. Brown publicly proclaimed his support for the use of waterboarding and other forms of torture. He said waterboarding is not torture and that the U.S. has not used torture. He is mistaken on both fronts.

Since Mr. Brown will now be voting in the U.S. Senate on key legislation concerning the conduct of interrogations and treatment of detainees, we think that it is important that we attempt to explain to him that waterboarding and other "enhanced" interrogation techniques are forms of torture, are illegal, are immoral, and are contrary to American values.

Please email Senator-elect Brown and tell him that waterboarding and other abusive techniques are forms of torture. Further, please explain to him that you would hope, as a U.S. Senator, he would stand for U.S. values and the rule of law and would oppose the use of torture. Click here for a model email which you can modify and then send to Senator-elect Brown

Thank you for your help.


Linda Gustitus, President

Rev. Richard L. Killmer, Executive Director

Thanks to Betty Hale for suggesting this for posting

Stop slandering the people of Haiti

Witherspoon member Tom F. Driver, who has spent decades focusing on the issues of justice for Haitians, has sent this note to a wide list of friends, inviting them to join in signing an open letter to New York Times columnist David Brooks. Driver is the Paul Tillich Professor of Theology and Culture Emeritus at Union Theological Seminary in New York.


Tom Driver writes:

Dear friends of Haiti:


The United States has given Haiti a lot of misguided aid in the past. What it has never given is respect. This must change.


Three days after the earthquake, columnist David Brooks published in The New York Times a slanderous article about Haiti.  Even if he meant well, he spent 7 paragraphs spreading one of the oldest and most damaging myths about Haiti that have circulated ever since the Haitians freed themselves from French slavery in 1804. He blamed Haiti´s poverty on its religion and culture. He said that what Haiti needs now is "intrusive paternalism." That kind of thinking is the greatest danger now hanging over Haiti's future.


I have joined with my friend Carl Lindskoog, a scholar studying Haitian-American communities, to compose an Open Letter to David Brooks that explains how his views are so misguided and injurious. The letter is attached to this message. It has already been signed by more than 200 people, including Brian Concannon, Director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, and Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor at MIT.


To read the full text of the open letter >>


To add your name online, click here to sign open letter to David Brooks.


To read blog messages about the letter, click here. The blog is sponsored by the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti.


If you have a website, please post our open letter there [or just link to it here!].

Please circulate this message widely.


Tom F. Driver

The Paul Tillich Professor of Theology and Culture Emeritus, Union Theological Seminary in New York


Random Thoughts for the Day


1. I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you die.


2. Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong.


3. I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger.


4. There is great need for a sarcasm font.


5. How the hell are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?


6. Was learning cursive really necessary?


7. Map Quest really needs to start their directions on #5. I'm pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.

8. Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.


9. I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired.


10. Bad decisions make good stories.


Thanks to John Jackson’s Everything Is Connected

More about Pat Robertson on Haiti's "pact to the devil"


A devil’s-eye view of Pat Robertson on Haiti

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune published the following “letter to the editor,” which was apparently submitted on behalf of Satan by a "ghost writer" named Lily Coyle.

Dear Pat Robertson,

I know that you know that all press is good press, so I appreciate the shout-out. And you make God look like a big mean bully who kicks people when they are down, so I'm all over that action. But when you say that Haiti has made a pact with me, it is totally humiliating. I may be evil incarnate, but I'm no welcher. The way you put it, making a deal with me leaves folks desperate and impoverished. Sure, in the afterlife, but when I strike bargains with people, they first get something here on earth – glamour, beauty, talent, wealth, fame, glory, a golden fiddle. Those Haitians have nothing, and I mean nothing. And that was before the earthquake. Haven't you seen "Crossroads"? Or "Damn Yankees"? If I had a thing going with Haiti, there'd be lots of banks, skyscrapers, SUVs, exclusive night clubs, Botox – that kind of thing. An 80 percent poverty rate is so not my style. Nothing against it – I'm just saying: Not how I roll. You're doing great work, Pat, and I don't want to clip your wings – just, come on, you're making me look bad. And not the good kind of bad. Keep blaming God. That's working. But leave me out of it, please. Or we may need to renegotiate your own contract.

Best, Satan


For more reports and materials on the crisis in Haiti >>

If you're working with Haitians living in the U.S., or with U.S. citizens seeking to adopt Haitian children, click here for legal information that may be helpful

More from Haiti



from Presbyterian Disaster Assistance

On January 12, a powerful earthquake hit approximately ten miles from the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince. An earthquake of this magnitude would be devastating to any city, but in one of the poorest countries in the Western hemisphere its effects are catastrophic. Millions of people have been affected by this disaster and tens of thousands—possibly hundreds of thousands—are feared dead. With many of the established sources of safety and security demolished—churches, schools, hospitals and government buildings—survivors are searching for signs of hope and help.


The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is responding through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA). PDA is rushing an initial $100,000 from One Great Hour of Sharing and designated funds to provide immediate emergency relief to the affected people. Funds are being sent through our ecumenical and local partners working in Haiti.


Presbyterian World Mission is gathering information on the safety and status of our mission personnel and ecumenical partners in the area. For updates on the earthquake and the church’s response, please visit the PDA Web site. Financial support for relief efforts can be designated to DR000064.


Gifts can also be made by phone at (800) 872-3283, weekdays between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. (EST), and checks can be mailed to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, P.O. Box 643700, Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700.

What you can do


As God’s people, we are called to stand in the “GAP”— GIVE, ACT, PRAY.


Give – Financial support for relief efforts can be made online and designated to DR000064. Your gifts, combined with those of others, provide a visible and tangible demonstration of God’s care in the midst of this tragedy. Recovery will be a difficult and long process, but Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has time and time again modeled a faithful response over the long haul.


Act – Congregations and individuals can put together hygiene kits and baby kits to be distributed through Church World Service. For information, visit the PDA Web site.


Pray – Join with others in lifting up the people of Haiti and those seeking to provide aid in this critical time. As the eyes of the world turn to Haiti, let us join our hearts in prayer.

PC(USA) missionaries, mission groups in Haiti reported safe


Presbyterian Disaster Assistance responding to earthquake tragedy

Presbyterian News Service reports:

Two Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) missionaries in Haiti and mission teams from three PC(USA) congregations that were in the country when the devastating earthquake struck Tuesday (Jan. 12) have been accounted for.

The Haitian Red Cross estimated today (Jan. 14) that between 45,000 and 50,000 died in the late-afternoon 7.3-magnitude temblor that struck near the Haitian capital of Port au Prince. Much of the country, particularly areas around Port au Prince are totally destroyed.

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has dispatched $100,000 from One Great Hour of Sharing offering funds and issued a special appeal to support ongoing relief efforts. The crisis response team of Presbyterian World Mission is meeting at the Presbyterian Center here virtually around-the-clock.     More >>

Haiti's "pact with the devil" myth


How Pat Robertson turned a country's origin myth into a cheap invocation of Satanism


We posted a note yesterday about evangelist Rev. Pat Robertson’s latest astonishing statement, in saying that Haiti’s terrible suffering has come upon them because they long ago made a pact with the devil. Someone sent us a commenting: “Will Pat Robertson live forever to spread his hate-filled notions??????”


Thomas Rogers, an associate editor at Salon, has interviewed a professor of history and anthropology at UCLA about Haiti's voodoo traditions, and concludes that “this is hate speech.”

He begins:


One of the most callous reactions to the Haiti disaster thus far has come from televangelist Pat Robertson, who told viewers of his Christian Broadcasting Network on Wednesday morning that he knew the real reason for the quake: The country's long-standing pact with Satan. ...


But is it a true story? We spoke with Andrew Apter, professor of history and anthropology at UCLA, about Haiti's voodoo traditions, the ignorance behind the evangelical community's distortions and the real cause of suffering in the third-world country.


Is there any truth to what Pat Robertson is saying?


Of course not! Haitians are Christians. Pat Robertson's language is the reductio ad absurdum of the Christian right. It's so absurd it's almost funny. This notion of a pact with the devil is basically an echo of an old colonial response to the successes of the 1790s Haitian revolution.


What is this pact he's talking about?   More >>

Presbyterian Writers Guild seeking best new author 

Angell Award goes to best first book by a Presbyterian author

From Presbyterian News Service:

The Presbyterian Writers Guild (PWG) is seeking entries for its annual Jim Angell Award. The award has been presented each year since 1996 to the Presbyterian author of the best first book published during the previous calendar year.

Nominations are being accepted now for the best first book by a Presbyterian author during the calendar year of 2009. Books may be of any type - fiction, non-fiction, theological, how-to, photos with commentary, poetry, etc.

More >>

We pray for Haiti

Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As the eyes of the world turn to Haiti, let us join our hearts in prayer:
God of compassion
Please watch over the people of Haiti,
And weave out of these terrible  happenings
wonders of goodness and grace.
Surround those who have been affected by tragedy
With a sense of your present love,
And hold them in faith.
Though they are lost in grief,
May they find you and be comforted;
Guide us as a church
To find ways of providing assistance
that heals wounds and provides hope
Help us to remember that when one of your children suffer
We all suffer
Through Jesus Christ who was dead, but lives
and rules this world with you. Amen.
(Adapted from Book of Common Worship)

— Bruce Reyes-Chow, Gradye Parsons and Linda Valentine


The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is responding to this earthquake through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and its partners. Presbyterian World Mission is gathering information on the safety and status of our mission personnel and ecumenical partners in the area. For updates on the earthquake and the church’s response, please continue to visit PDA. Initial reports indicate a large number of casualties and widespread damage especially in the capital city of Port-au-Prince.


You, too, can be part of God’s answer to prayer for those affected by this disaster. Information on the situation and prayers and worship resources will soon be available. Funds from One Great Hour of Sharing are already helping with the initial response. You can give to the ongoing relief through PDA account number DR000064.

Some other ways to respond to the crisis in Haiti

CREDO Action suggests two good possibilities:

Give to Doctors Without Borders / Medicins Sans Frontieres.

Doctors Without Borders — a group CREDO members support with their phone bills — operates one of the only free trauma centers in Port-au-Prince as well as an  emergency hospital in the capital for  pregnant women, new mothers, and newborn children. All three of its primary medical centers have collapsed, but DWB/MSF has already set up temporary shelters and is offering emergency care on the ground. For more info on their work in Haiti click here. To make a donation click here.

Tell Obama: Grant temporary protected status to Haitians living in the U.S

President Obama must order his Department of Homeland Security to halt immediately all forcible deportations to the disaster zone and grant temporary protected status to undocumented Haitian refugees in the U.S. To refuse to do so would be irresponsible and immoral.  To take action, click here.

The Friends Committee on National Legislation also encourages contacting the President and your people in Congress to support Temporary Protected Status for Haitians living in the U.S.

In Haiti, There is Anguish


In response to the disaster in Haiti, Carolyn Winfrey Gillette has written a hymn, which she has shared with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, and has kindly shared with us as well.  She offers it freely for use by anyone, or any church, which supports PDA.


ST. CHRISTOPHER (“Beneath the Cross of Jesus”)


In Haiti, there is anguish that seems too much to bear;

A land so used to sorrow now knows even more despair.

From city streets, the cries of grief rise up to hills above;

In all the sorrow, pain and death, where are you, God of love?


A woman sifts through rubble, a man has lost his home,

A hungry, orphaned toddler sobs, for she is now alone.

Where are you, Lord, when thousands die—the rich, the poorest poor?

Were you the very first to cry for all that is no more?


O God, you love your children; you hear each lifted prayer!

May all who suffer in that land know you are present there.

In moments of compassion shown, in simple acts of grace,

May those in pain find healing balm, and know your love’s embrace.


Where are you in the anguish? Lord, may we hear anew

That anywhere your world cries out, you’re there-- and suffering, too.

And may we see, in others’ pain, the cross we’re called to bear;

Send out your church in Jesus’ name to pray, to serve, to share.


Tune: Frederick Charles Maker, 1881

Text: Text: Copyright © 2010 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved. Permission is given for use by those who support Presbyterian Disaster Assistance.


Carolyn visited Haiti on a mission trip when she was a Lebanon Valley College student. Other hymns by Carolyn that might be helpful for churches responding to this disaster that are posted on the PDA web site include Who is My Neighbor, a hymn inspired by the parable of the Good Samaritan, and God We've Known Such Grief and Anger,

Carolyn Winfrey Gillette is the author of
Songs of Grace:  New Hymns for God and Neighbor (Discipleship Resources/Upper Room Books, 2009) and Gifts of Love:  New Hymns for Today’s Worship (Geneva Press, 2000) and the co-pastor of Limestone Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, Delaware.


For more news reports from Haiti:

TruthOut is providing a "live blog" on the Haiti earthquake, carrying news from a variety of sources.

For a (really really) different view of the Haiti disaster:

Evangelical preacher Pat Robertson says Haiti made a pact with the devil

US evangelical preacher Pat Robertson levied blame Wednesday for the devastating earthquake in Haiti on Haitians themselves, saying that the country "swore a pact to the devil" at its creation. "Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it," Robertson said on his Christian Broadcasting Network show "The 700 Club."   More >>


Well, it takes all kinds.  But some are pretty hard to fathom.

The Conservative Case for Gay Marriage
Why same-sex marriage is an American value.
Help protect LGBT Ugandans from radical new bill

From Human Rights Campaign


We have reported earlier on the efforts of PC(USA) leaders to speak out against Uganda's moves to declare homosexuality a crime, as well as the role of U.S. evangelicals in stimulating the anti-gay mood there.  Now here's an invitation for you to speak out, too.


A new law has been proposed in Uganda that would make homosexuality punishable by life imprisonment or even death. With Uganda's Parliament about to return, we need the U.S. government to strongly condemn the Ugandan government's murderous campaign to jail and execute LGBT citizens.


To take action >>

The religious case for moving your money where your heart is


A week ago we posted a bit of Ariana Huffington’s call for people who are concerned about the power and apparent irresponsibility of the nation’s super-sized banks to show their resistance by moving their own money to smaller, more local or regional banks.


Now the Rev. Paul Raushenbush, who is the Religion Editor for the Huffington Post and the Associate Dean of Religious Life and the Chapel at Princeton University, offers an explicitly religious/theological/ethical perspective on the same proposal. He concludes:

It may be time for us as individuals and as churches, synagogues and mosques to move our money to smaller banks that are connected and responsible to our local communities.


I encourage you in your congregation to consider the following question regarding where you keep your money:


How does my religious tradition view money? What purpose does money serve in the ideal society envisioned by my tradition? Does it matter how our money is made? What is the best way to make my money serve the ethical mandates of my tradition? Does my bank reflect the values that I hold regarding money?


Each of us has many ways to live out our religious convictions. One of those ways is to be conscious and have a conscience about how we make, spend and where we save our money. If you are interested in learning more go to


His full essay >>

Jin S. Kim is second candidate for GA moderator


Minneapolis pastor is endorsed by Twin Cities Area Presbytery

Photo: The Rev. Jin S. Kim

The Rev. Jin S. Kim


Presbyterian News service reports that the Rev. Jin S. Kim, founding pastor of Church of All Nations in Minneapolis, was unanimously endorsed June 9 by the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area to stand for moderator of the upcoming 219th General Assembly (2010). The Assembly will be held July 3-10 in Minneapolis.


Kim joins Elder Cynthia Bolbach of National Capital Presbytery as candidates for the top elected post in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The winner will succeed the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow of San Francisco, moderator of the 218th General Assembly.


More >>

Ex-Gay? Ex-loving


Ray Bagnuolo offers an insightful look at the ways anti-LGBT Christian crusaders clothe their efforts in talk of love for the LGBT community – while working for their “change” and their exclusion from ordination and from marriage. He begins:


Chances are that if you are a person who is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender - and you have struggled within the church - chances are, somewhere along the way you heard these words: "We love you but hate your sin." Nothing directed toward people who identify as LGBT could be more disingenuous, more filled with hubris than combining love for another with hatred of some part of their being.


Hamartia or ἁμαρτία, the Greek word for sin frequently used in the Second or New Testament has the meaning of "missing the mark." The idea that distance from God is what needs to be shortened in our faith and personal journeys removes the dialectical premise that Love either replaces sin or leaves one in the throes of sin, pitied and "loved" from a distance.


His full essay >>

San Francisco Theological Seminary names Laird Stuart as interim president


Also served for two years as a co-moderator of the Covenant Network


The Board of Trustees of San Francisco Theological Seminary has elected the Rev. Laird J. Stuart — pastor of Calvary Presbyterian Church in San Francisco since 1993 — to serve as the seminary’s new interim president, effective March 1, 2010. Stuart succeeds Rev. Philip W. Butin, who served as the seminary’s president from 2002-2010.


Stuart is well known by the seminary community, having on the SFTS Board of Trustees from 1997-2006, the final two years as chair. In 41 years of ministry, he has served pastorates in Milford, Conn., Bergenfield, N.J., Grand Haven, Mich., and St. Clair, Pa.  


    The full report >>

BBC "World Have Your Say" broadcasting live from Immokalee, today, 1pm EST

A special notice from Noelle Damico, of the Campaign for Fair Food, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

The BBC's live listener call, tweet, blog, and text-in show, "World Have Your Say" will be broadcast live from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers' Community Center in Immokalee today, 1/11, at 1:00 pm (EST), and online at Public Radio's WGCU ( ) or BBC Radio ( ). The Rev. Noelle Damico from the PC(USA) Campaign for Fair Food will be one of the guests on this world discussion program.

This broadcast comes on the heels of President Obama's proclamation designating January "National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month". The BBC program with a global audience will cast its own considerable light on modern-day slavery.

For all of the details on how to listen in and take part of this global conversation, visit

As we remember the millions of people who are trafficked into forced labor both here in the US and around the world, we remember the rhetorical and challenging question that God poses in the book of Isaiah, “Is this not the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?” (Is. 58:6)


PC(USA) Campaign for Fair Food
The Rev. Noelle Damico
NY Office: 631-751-7076
Mobile: 631-371-9877

Stop Texas from erasing Cesar Chavez and Hispanics from school books

This call for action comes from the United Farm Workers

We urgently need your help to stop the Texas state Board of Education from erasing Cesar Chavez and all Hispanic historical figures from public school text books. Since Texas is such a major textbook purchaser, such a move could have a nationwide impact.

This Wednesday, Jan. 13, the state board will take a preliminary vote to adopt new standards for social studies texts. These new standards would eliminate all Hispanics since the conquest of Mexico in the early 16th Century. photoCesar Chavez, arguably the most important Hispanic civil rights leader of the 20th Century, is among the historical figures to be eliminated. One of Lowe’s so called "experts" said that Chavez "lacks the stature…and contributions" and should not be "held up to our children as someone worthy of emulation." Also eliminated are a number of key Texas history makers such as Irma Rangel, the first Hispanic woman elected to the state Legislature.

Board members and their appointees have complained about an "over representation of minorities" in the current social studies standards. This is ironic as Hispanics will soon comprise the majority of all Texas public school students.

Please take a few moments right now to send board Chair Lowe an e-mail. Tell the TX State Board of Education not to allow a handful of ideological extremists to revise history by eliminating people of color. Please click here to act now.

New Jersey Senate defeats gay marriage bill

The New York Times reported on January 8, 2010:

TRENTON — The State Senate on Thursday rejected a proposal that would have made New Jersey the sixth state in the nation to allow marriages involving same-sex couples. The vote was the latest in a succession of setbacks for advocates of gay marriage across the country.

After months of intense lobbying and hours of emotional debate, lawmakers voted 20 to 14 against the bill, bringing tears from some advocates who packed the Senate chambers and rousing applause from opponents of the measure, who also came out in force. The vote ends the effort to win legislative approval of the measure, and sets the stage for a new battle before the New Jersey Supreme Court.

The story concludes:

After the vote, hundreds of supporters of the bill gathered in front of the State House to exchange tearful hugs and plot the next move in their effort. Among them was Christi Sturmont, who said she and her partner were dejected, but not despondent.

“We were holding out hope that we’d be able to get married and have full citizenship,” she said. “But now we’ll have to settle for second-class citizenship. For now. We’re not done fighting.”

For the full NYT report >>

Presbyterian pastor and blogger John Shuck responds with “A Saturday screed” which begins:

Portugal shows it is more decent and humane than New Jersey (and virtually every state in the U.S.) by voting for marriage equality yesterday. Thank you, Portugal! Congratulations for standing up to the bullies!

The parliament approved the measure and it will likely be signed into law by conservative president, Anibal Cavaco Silva. ...

The bill removes a reference in the current law to marriage being between two people of different sexes. “This law rights a wrong,” Prime Minister Jose Socrates said in a speech to lawmakers, adding that it “simply ends pointless suffering.”

Righting a wrong. It is that simple, isn't it? So what is the score on right vs. wrong these days?

Gay marriage is currently permitted in Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Norway. Canada, South Africa and six U.S. states also permit it.

We have a way to go. The largest obstacle to justice, to righting wrongs, to being simply decent human beings will be of course, Christians.

Let us consider the Christians. Here is what they are up to as reported by The Raw Story:

The conservative American Family Association is calling on President Barack Obama to fire Amanda Simpson, Obama's transgender appointee to the Commerce Department, because the appointment "puts the weight of the federal government behind the normalization of sexual deviancy."

For the rest of Shuck’s strong, sharp comments >>

For more on same-sex marriage >>

A litany for The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day – addressing the issue of gun violence

The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program has just posted a litany written for an interfaith service celebrating the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and addressing gun violence. Feel free to adapt or use the litany. If it is used, please include the attribution: Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), .

For the full text of the litany >>

Thanks to the Rev. Len Bjorkman of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship
for calling this to our attention.

More on concerns for gun violence >>


Presbyterian Disaster Assistance suggests:

Use your congregation’s facilities to help people who are vulnerable to extreme weather such as the current cold wave

The continental United States is suffering weather reported to be the coldest we have experienced in a generation. According to a report from, “Nearly the entire eastern half of the United States is enduring bitterly cold temperatures not experienced since 1985.”  Such weather can be more than simply uncomfortable, it can be, and is, deadly. When people are unfamiliar with how to cope with such low temperatures or unable to utilize coping strategies they might have had access to in better economic times, these cold temperatures are dangerous and deadly.

Economic conditions over the past year have placed many more families in a situation where the weather has become an issue. PDA is encouraging Presbyterian churches across the country to consider how their facilities can be used as shelters or warming stations for the many individuals and families that are affected.

Check with your local government, your local American Red Cross chapter or other churches to explore what options might be available to your church to help serve those in need of help during this cold wave. PDA will post information, links and contact information for Presbyterian congregations offering services that might be useful as you consider options for your congregation.

American evangelicals’ role seen in Uganda anti-gay push

We recently reported on a call by PC(USA) leaders for Uganda to reject a proposed law which would impose the death penalty on gays.

Now the New York Times has carried a report from Kampala, Uganda, that three American evangelical Christians, whose teachings about “curing” homosexuals have been widely discredited in the United States, arrived in Uganda’s capital to give a series of talks on “the gay agenda — that whole hidden and dark agenda” — and the threat homosexuals posed to Bible-based values and the traditional African family.

For three days thousands of Ugandans, including police officers, teachers and national politicians, heard the Americans discussing “how to make gay people straight, how gay men often sodomized teenage boys and how ‘the gay movement is an evil institution’ whose goal is ]to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity.’ ”

Now the three Americans are trying to argue that they had no intention of stoking the kind of anger that could lead to what came next: a bill to impose a death sentence for homosexual behavior.

One month after the conference, a previously unknown Ugandan politician, who boasts of having evangelical friends in the American government, introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, which threatens to hang homosexuals, and, as a result, has put Uganda on a collision course with Western nations.

The full report >>

First candidate for GA moderator announced

Elder Cynthia Bolbach endorsed by National Capital Presbytery

LOUISVILLE - National Capital Presbytery has unanimously endorsed the first candidate to stand for moderator of the 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The assembly will be held July 3-10 in Minneapolis.

Elder Cynthia Bolbach, 61, is a lawyer and member of First Presbyterian Church in Arlington, Va.

"I feel called to stand for Moderator to help our church - proud inheritor of the Reformed tradition - discern how best to proclaim the timeless Gospel message to a 21st century world that is multi-cultural and religiously pluralistic," Bolbach said in a presbytery press release.  The rest of the story >>

Epiphany: A Celebration of Light & Revelation

A message from Michael Adee, Executive Director of More Light Presbyterians:    

In Christian tradition, we mark and celebrate the mystery and wonder of Epiphany on January 6.  

Epiphany. A celebration of light and revelation. The word "epiphany" comes from the Greek word "phos" meaning light. To have an epiphany means to come to a new understanding, to experience a revelation, to have "the light come on," and to see things in a new light. It is the opportunity to see God and God's light in a new way.

Each time a person, family, church, campus ministry or seminary community recognizes the need to open their hearts, faith and lives to all of God's children, including God's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons and their families, it is an epiphany. ....

Epiphany calls us to celebrate the wonder and mystery of light, life, faith and grace. The Biblical texts describe the wise men, three kings or magi being guided by a star, by light, in their search for Jesus, the Christ child. Their journey was guided by light, as is ours. Epiphany calls us to go by another road as it did those wise men.

Michael Adee’s meditation is posted in full on the MLP website >>

Feminist theologian Mary Daly has died at age 81

Mary Daly, radical feminist theologian and a mother of modern feminist theology, died Jan. 3 at the age of 81. She was one of the most influential voices of the radical feminist movement through the later 20th century.

The news of her death, from National Catholic Reporter >>

Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, former president of Chicago Theological Seminary, and now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, offers a loving and lively remembrance of Mary Daly’s pioneering work, and her “courage to sin big.”

Thanks to John Shuck, on his shuck and jive blog.

1/4/2010 -- and Happy New Year!
Remember what all those angels kept saying at Christmas? “Fear not!”  

But the responses to the attempted explosion on a Northwest airliner on Christmas day show what Glenn Greenwald, writing in Salon, calls “the degrading effects of terrorism fears.” His comment is headlined: “The expectation that government provide absolute safety is both dangerous and irrational.”

Our excerpts from Greenwald's essay >>

Peace and War in Oslo -- a critique of Obama's use of "just war" theory

David Cortright, writing in the January 4, 2010 edition of The Nation, offers a sharp critique of President Obama’s use of the idea of a “just war” to defend further U.S. escalation of military action in Afghanistan.

He begins:

President Obama displayed his usual rhetorical brilliance in Oslo and acknowledged important principles of peace and nonviolence. But his speech gave a distorted view of America's role in the world and reflected a shallow understanding of the concept of just war.

More excerpts >>

A Happy New Year suggestion: move your money to a small bank   

We received this note from a Witherspoon/Voices member on New Year’s Eve:

"Happy New Year" I'm sending this to wish us all a 2010 that has US citizens expressing "we the people" more effectively. Consider what Adrianna Huffington and her gang suggest. I don't have any account in one of the BIG banks but I can at least suggest YOU read this amazing idea! which may by the grace of God plant other seeds for IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE in 2010!

Mary Louise Ellenberger

A few snippets from Huffington’s article >>

Ask Your Representative to Co-Sponsor the Jubilee Act Today

from the Witness in Washington Weekly, published by the Washington Office of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on December 29, 2009

The Jubilee Act for Responsible Lending and Expanded Debt Cancellation (HR 4405) cancels impoverished country debt, prohibits harmful economic and policy conditions on debt cancellation, mandates transparency and responsibility in lending from governments and international financial institutions, and calls for a U.S. audit of debts resulting from odious and illegitimate lending.   More >>

Save the Date – March 19 - 22, 2010 – Ecumenical Advocacy Days Conference 

The 2010 Advocacy Days conference will be held at the Doubletree Hotel in Crystal City, VA, just outside of Washington, DC. The theme is, "A Place to Call Home: Immigrants, Refugees, and Displaced Peoples." 

Visit the conference website to learn more and to register.

British evangelicals press candy makers to “Stop The Traffik”

The London-based evangelical newspaper, Christian Today, reminds us that our conservative sisters and brothers are engaging too in witness and ministry for justice. A recent report describes a current campaign to get manufacturers of chocolate candy, such as Cadbury and Nestlé, to stop marketing candy made by workers who have been victims of human trafficking. The report says the two companies have made small steps in this direction, but note there is much yet to be done.  For the full story >>

This reminds us of the excellent efforts being made by the Presbyterian Church (USA) to promote fair trade (also known as just trade) through a variety of programs.

More on the Fair Food campaign >>

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

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


GA actions ratified (or not) by  the presbyteries   

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

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

Our three areas of primary interest are:

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

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

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

If you like what you find here,
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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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