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 July, 2010

This page lists our postings from earlier in July, 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.

Let’s find good people to help shape the future of the PC(USA)!

The 219th General Assembly (2010) in Minneapolis created a Commission on Middle Governing Bodies, made up of 21 persons appointed by the moderators of the 219th and 218th Assemblies (with at least one each from the 16 synods). The commission was approved as amended by a 566-104-4 margin. The deadline for the application for consideration is no later than September 1 and the first meeting is scheduled November 4-6, 2010. The commission has 7 specific powers and foci outlined by the assembly. Reporting back to the 220th General Assembly (2012), the commission has the powers "to organize" new synods and presbyteries and "to divide, unite or otherwise combine" synods, presbyteries or portions there of according to G-13.0103m and n. The impact of this work will be fundamental to the structure of the Presbyterian Church (USA). It is imperative that we recruit fine people to serve. Please help us call the right folks to service.

Click here for the application form for membership on the Special Commission on Middle Governing Bodies.

Community groups continue protests against SB1070, and all immigration police collaboration

Media advisory from National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
July 29, 2010

U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton's ruling yesterday temporarily halting select provisions of Arizona 's SB1070 is a good start towards defeating the controversial legislation. Unfortunately, the ruling leaves intact the status quo of anti-immigrant racial profiling and immigration-police collaboration, setting the groundwork for heightened harassment and arrests of immigrants.

U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton's ruling yesterday temporarily halting select provisions of Arizona 's SB1070 is a good start towards defeating the controversial legislation. Unfortunately, the ruling leaves intact the status quo of anti-immigrant racial profiling and immigration-police collaboration, setting the groundwork for heightened harassment and arrests of immigrants.

Many mobilizations in cities around the country to protest SB1070 on the date of its enactment, July 29, are proceeding as planned. Groups in Arizona are carrying out actions of civil resistance to stop theSB1070 from going forward and, in Phoenix , chained themselves to the doors of the county jail run by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.   More >>

A short history of The Witherspoon Society is now available -- right here online!

You may be lying awake nights wondering ...

What was this Witherspoon Society, that has now become part of Presbyterian Voices for Justice?

Or maybe you're a long-time member, wanting to retrace the life of an organization that you've supported for years.

Either way, you'll learn much from a 40-page history of the Witherspoon Society, which was written in 2003 by Gene TeSelle, and is now posted here in PDF format, with a few corrections and updates from the original edition.

The title:

"A Network of the Concerned":
the Witherspoon Society and its Challenge to the Church

It covers the first 30 years of Witherspoon's involvement in service and witness in the Presbyterian Church (USA).  We encourage you to take a look, and let us know if you have any comments, questions, suggestions for changes ... just send a note!

Action Alert: Stop the Funding for the Afghan War --
Call your Congressperson today!

The Network of Spiritual Progressives and others are calling for people to contact their congressional representatives.  Here's the reason:

U.S. intervention in Afghanistan is facing increasing challenge, and this week's dramatic Wikileaks revelations -- the biggest U.S. war expose since Dan Ellsberg's Pentagon papers -- make it all the more difficult for Congress to keep funding this horrific war. It is an important moment for all of us who want immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan to raise our voices.

It looks like there will be an up-and-down House vote this week on the Afghan war supplemental funding. The Senate has stripped the bill of all unrelated issues such as funding for teachers, so the meaning of the vote will be clear: there will be no excuses for voting "Yes" or abstaining (not that such excuses were ever legitimate.)

More >>

Truthout has posted a good article on the current legislative situation >>

Is Water a Human Right? At Upcoming Vote, U.S. Isn't So Sure

According to the U.N., every person on Earth has the right to marry and found a family, to freely express his or her opinion, to earn equal pay for work and enjoy reasonable rest and leisure.

But how useful are those guarantees if you or your child is dying from a waterborne disease? Or if a big corporation is polluting all your town's water, or if China has dried up your stream to build a hydropower dam? What your tried-and-true seasonal rains are becoming unreliable because our planet is warming?

On July 28, this Wednesday, for the first time since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed 60 years ago, the world's governing body will debate and vote on the crucial question of whether "safe and clean drinking water and sanitation" is a basic human right.

As long-time "green" rights advocate, former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev says, this humanitarian crisis should "fester" no longer: Water-as-a-human-right is an idea that has finally come of age. One hundred ninety countries have acknowledged this in some form so far, including many developing ones and Bolivia, which introduced the resolution. Even Pepsi, Co., a company not exactly known for its respectful water use, has signed on to the idea.

But still the vote next week has its suspense. The U.S. and Canada and a few other rich countries have balked at the resolution and made excuses to withhold their support. Canada looks kind of silly when, according to The Guardian, it claims it's afraid it will be forced to share its water with the U.S. The Obama administration for its part is sticking to long-held fears of new pressure to send more aid to support this 'new' right. U.S. ambassador Susan Rice has so far tried to pour cold water on vote.

This call for action comes from Jess Leber, an editor for, who has most recently covered climate and energy issues as a reporter in Washington, D.C.

More, including ways to make your voice heard >>

The religious case against torture

Judge Jay Bybee, former head of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) of the Department of Justice under President George W. Bush, acknowledged in testimony to the House Judiciary Committee on May 26 that the CIA used torture methods that violated the list of techniques that the OLC had approved. The OLC had approved types of torture including waterboarding and others, but the CIA went beyond those very generous limits, to hang detainees from ceiling hooks, keep them in extended isolation, and subject them to daily beatings.

The Rev. Richard Killmer, a Presbyterian minister who is the Executive Director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, considers the arguments that have been put forward to defend such actions, but asserts that he knows of no faith group that agrees with them. He gives four basic reasons: Torture violates human dignity. It often fails to produce “actionable intelligence.” It is against U.S. law. And it increases terrorism.

He then indicates very briefly how three of the main criteria for a “just war” would clearly rule out the use of torture.

Click here for the full text of this good, very brief statement of a faith-based rejection of torture.

Three open staff positions announced under Presbyterian Church GAMC

The General Assembly Mission Council has announced three vacancies:

bulletPresbyterian Representative to the United Nations (Compassion, Peace & Justice)
bullet Associate for Gender and Racial Justice (Racial Ethnic and Women's Ministries)
bullet Middle East/Europe/Central Asia Area Coordinator (World Mission)

Click on any of the job titles for a two-page position description (in PDF), including job skills and responsibilities, experience required, and benefits package.

Tutoring program helps Baltimore kids

More Light church in Baltimore is cited as an example of community engagement

Brown Memorial Church in Baltimore, Maryland, is the latest congregation held up by Presbyterian News Service as an example of the PC(USA)’s call to “Grow Christ’s Church Deep and Wide,” because of its long-standing engagement with its community, and especially its tutoring program, which has been carried on for 46 years now. This year, the church worked with 84 disadvantaged children, many of whom have learning disabilities. Sixty volunteer tutors staff the program, which runs from September to May.   Read the full story >>

Just a little prayer for you all --

May the sun bring new energy by day,
may the moon safely restore you by night.
May the rain wash away your worries,
may the breeze blow new strength into your being.
May you walk through the world
and know its beauty
all the days of your life.

– Apache blessing

I saw this prayer displayed on the wall of a fair-trade gift shop in Viroqua, Wisconsin, and it just feels like it's worth sharing. 

WebWeaver's note added on 7-23-10 -- A number of you have sent notes of appreciation for this prayer.  Thanks for the comments!  I'll look for more items like this, and if you have things to suggest, please send a note.

An glimpse of the gun violence issue from a different angle:

A "Conservative Christian and a Pretty Fair Shot"

By Berry Craig 

Every election year I enjoy bipartisan support when I tell my history students the only thing I'm running for is the county line.

In class, I talk a fair bit about old-time politicians who campaigned the tried-and-true way. They made speeches, debated each other, shook hands with multitudes of voters, hosted liquor-lubricated barbecues and, occasionally, kissed babies.

Now one office seeker from the Wild West is appearing in a TV commercial, shooting guns and invoking the Almighty. She’s Machine Gun Gorman, an uber-conservative candidate for Congress in the Arizona Republican primary.

As the cameras roll, Pamela Gorman, already a state senator, blasts away with a quartet of weapons, including a gangster-style Tommy Gun, while a narrator praises her as a “conservative Christian and a pretty fair shot.”    The rest of this short essay >>

More on gun control, as dealt with at the PC(USA) General Assembly 2010 >>

Mission Network praises Presbyterian call to withdraw military aid to Israel

Supports Palestinian solidarity  

Press release from the Israel/Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) of the Presbyterian Church (USA)

MINNEAPOLIS, July 9 – The 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) today approved a comprehensive report on Israel/Palestine, and other resolutions calling for the United States to withdraw military aid to Israel until it follows U.S. foreign assistance law and to embrace the United Nations Goldstone report.

The Middle East Study Committee Report is the first official statement of the PC (USA) on conditions in Palestine.

Carol Hylkema, Moderator of the Israel/Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) from the Presbytery of Detroit said, “This Assembly is the first time the voice of Palestinian Presbyterians, as well as Middle Eastern Christians, was given an intentional hearing within the process of deliberation.”

The GA also called upon the U.S. government to withdraw military assistance from the nation of Israel until such time that Israel complies with U.S. law in regard to using military equipment for the occupation of the Palestinian territories.   More >>

If you live in the Northeastern UN, here's your chance:

Final touches being put on Modern-Day Slavery Museum Northeast Tour!  

Tour itinerary -- including a visit to the home of Ahold's US headquarters -- now online...

If you live along the east coast anywhere from Charlottesville, VA, to Salem, MA, your chance to check out the CIW's Modern-Day Slavery Museum is just around the corner!   More >>

Abraham Jouneyed to a New Country – a new hymn celebrating immigration  

Some churches are planning to address the new Arizona anti-immigrant law this Sunday in their worship services, and might find it helpful to use a new hymn text by the Rev. Carolyn Gillette. Entitled “Abraham Journeyed to a Far Country,” the hymn relates to lectionary epistle texts used in August 15th and 29th as well. You are invited to share this with whoever might find it useful.

7/15/2010  --- Still with General Assembly news ... and more
Still looking for news from the General Assembly?

We’re sorry we have not been able to post as many of our own reports as we’d like to about the Assembly that finished its business last Saturday, July 10. There was just more going on than I could keep up with. But I’ll try to gather here the links to a couple general lists of reports, and then point the way to a few of the specific stories that may be of most interest to you.

The Presbyterian News Service, along with the Office of the General Assembly, has archived all their reports at  With about 10 stories per page, you’ll find the archive takes up 15 pages!

Click here for links to some of the most important reports >>
Soulforce protesters arrested in Assembly session   

You may have heard about a nonviolent protest by a number of supporters of same-sex marriage, following the Assembly's refusal to take action to permit same-sex couples to be married by the Presbyterian Church.  Click here for a report by KARE 11 TV News, Minneapolis.

And for other news ...
Chamber of Commerce calls for less taxes, less regulation – to create more jobs???

This week the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released its economic recovery plan, with the goal of creating 20 million jobs in ten years. Immediate goals that the Chamber set before the President and Congress are 

bulletextension of all the tax relief passed in the last decade and a reduction in corporate tax rates,
bulletgenerating additional federal revenues through oil, gas, and shale leases on public lands and off our shores, and opening all national forests to timber harvesting,
bulletpassing the pending trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and Korea, on the theory that they will expand trade and protect jobs, and
bulletmodernizing all forms of infrastructure (transportation, power generation, communications) by opening them all -- including transportation and "water infrastructure" (which means water for consumers, all of us) to private investment.

Some of these will cause readers to do an instant "double take" in the summer of 2010. Most of them lack any mention of regulatory safeguards to protect health, safety, and our common future; but of course the declared purpose is to bury regulation, not improve it. All in all, the statement is a dramatic example of the ideology of "neo-liberal economics" condemned in the Accra Declaration of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches in 2004. 

Thanks to Gene TeSelle, former Witherspoon Issues Analyst

Two more steps forward for same-sex marriage


DC court rules against foes of marriage equality             

News report from the Human Relations Campaign, dated 7-15-10

Big victory for marriage equality in DC! Today the DC Court of Appeals ruled against foes of DC marriage equality who had wanted to put an initiative on the ballot to invalidate same-sex marriages entered into in the District.

While Bishop Harry Jackson, a pastor in Maryland, has been the public face of this litigation, the truth is that outside groups like the National Organization for Marriage and the Alliance Defense Fund are the driving force behind these anti-equality measures. ...

In its decision, the Court of Appeals, D.C.’s highest court, decided 5-4 that the Council properly exercised its authority under the D.C. Charter in establishing the requirement that a proposed initiative may not authorize, or have the effect of authorizing, discrimination prohibited by the D.C. Human Rights Act. The Court ruled unanimously that the proposed initiative would in fact impermissibly permit discrimination against gays and lesbians in the District.   More >>


Argentina becomes first Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage

The Christian Science Monitor reports: "After more than 14 hours of a heated debate and warring words, Argentina today became the first country in Latin America to embrace same-sex marriage nationwide."     Read the article

7/14/2010  --- After General Assembly, Minneapolis
Friday evening plenary at GA:  Big steps forward on peacemaking issues

Jan Orr-Harter of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship has provided an in-depth report on this important area of Presbyterian concern and action.  She begins:

The long-awaited GA plenary session on Peacemaking and International Issues came and went, with excellent results, but not quite as we expected the process to go. We'll take the results.  More >>

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

The Presbyterian Church’s Journey Toward LGBT Equality

Here’s an “outside” view of the General Assembly’s actions dealing with ordination and marriage, from the Center for American Progress

The Presbyterian Church, one of the mainline Protestant denominations in the United States, has been struggling for decades—along with many other religious institutions—over how inclusive it should be with its congregations’ LGBT members. But the church’s recent conference should give the gay rights movement cause for hope that the arc of history may be bending toward justice sooner than they might think.

... This year the church took important steps toward becoming a truly inclusive and just place of worship and community for its fellow LGBT brothers and sisters in Christ. Representatives voted to allow ordination of LGBT church leaders, extend benefits to same-sex partners of church staff, and increase education and awareness regarding HIV/AIDS. The full report >>

Civil union and marriage issues questions and answers

by General Assembly Communications Center, Office of the General Assembly

MINNEAPOLIS — A summary of the 219th General Assembly's actions on issues of civil union and Christian marriage:

What did the General Assembly do? What has changed?

The General Assembly approved both the final report and the minority report of the Special Committee to Study Issues of Civil Union and Christian Marriage and ordered they be sent out for study by the wider church. The vote was 439 in favor, 208 against, with 6 abstentions. By this action (sending both reports for study) the Assembly maintained the definition of marriage as between "a man and a woman." With the action to send the reports for study, no change has occurred, or is pending.  More >>

Carolyn Gillette offers new hymn based on Amos

Bread for the World has a new hymn by Carolyn Gillette posted on their web site that goes with this coming Sunday's Old Testament reading from Amos 8:1-12.

Also, Carolyn will be one of the speakers at a four-day retreat on Songs for Peace and Justice, at Stony Point Center, on October 10-14.

Thanks to Bruce Gillette

Report from the first Encuentro of the Americas:

Resisting Militarization and Promoting a Culture of Peace

from School of the Americas Watch

In the shadow of Venezuela´s emerald green Andes mountains, activists from 19 countries of the Americas gathered in June to share experiences and strategies in resisting militarization and promoting a culture of peace.

Among them were those who had witnessed the disappearance of their family members at the hands of the SOA as well as an SOA graduate now committed to the closing of the school. They were joined by those who had gone to jail in the U.S. to protest the SOA, and those who had been jailed and tortured in Latin America by SOA graduates. The group, spanning 50 years of age and thousands of miles of distance, was united in their commitment to work together bring peace to "Una Sola America."   The full report on this important event >>

7/12/2010  --- After General Assembly, Minneapolis

PVJ/Voices of Sophia speaker Chris Smith reflects on de-centering privilege

a woman speaks at a podium
The Rev. Christine Smith

Photo by Danny Bolin, PNS

‘Perhaps it’s time we move to the margins.’

More than 100 people gathered early Tuesday, July 6, for the Presbyterian Voices for Justice (PVJ)/Voices of Sophia breakfast as part of the 219th General Assembly.

The Rev. Christine Smith, professor of preaching at United Theological Seminary, Twin Cities, spoke to those gathered on “Reimagining Church: De-Centering Privilege as an Act of Global Citizenship.”

More >>


Voices sang a blessing for the new Moderator

Ordination standards -- questions and answers

The Office of the General Assembly has issued an information sheet about the action of the GA to propose to the presbyteries that the Book of Order be amended to remove specific references to sexuality from the ordination standards.  It was a fairly close vote (373-323-4), after Committee 6 recommended the change by about a two-thirds majority.

For more on this action, and the other work of Committee 6 -- Church Orders and Ministry

For lots more news from GA, click here to find a listing of recent posts by the Office of the General Assembly
The Church, Culture, and Justice: The Not so Strange Case of Same-Sex Marriage

David True reflects on the GA’s decision to decide nothing about same-sex marriage. 

Of the GA (in)action he says “it is sad and frustrating to see the church refuse to even consider the measure,” especially when the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts at the same time was ruling that “the Defense of [Straight] Marriage Act is unconstitutional.”

But all of this leads him to value “what it means to be protestant” – maintaining a healthy skepticism about the institutional church, and always open “to discern the will of God being done beyond our wills and walls – recognizing that the church is far bigger than any one denomination and that God is far bigger still than all the denominations combined. Indeed, God’s grace abounds, even in the law, sometimes especially in the law.”

True says of himself: “I'm a student of theology and ethics, with a special interest in political culture and debates. I teach at Wilson College and co-edit the journal Political Theology.”

Read his full blog post >>

7/10/2010  --- After General Assembly, Minneapolis

A Post General Assembly pastoral letter from Moderator and Stated Clerk

To Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations



To Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations:

Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

“Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38)….

Just one week ago, the 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) convened with Scripture and music and prayer. Commissioners and advisory delegates from every presbytery across the church gathered around the baptismal font with hopeful expectation of what God’s Spirit would do in and through them as they sought to discern together the mind of Christ for the PC(USA).

As the week progressed, prayer was a foundational part of each day’s deliberations and decisions, and the presence of the Spirit was palpable!

“Out of the believer’s heart…

While all assemblies are significant, this one holds particular significance in the life of the PC(USA). Among the assembly’s decisions – to be ratified by presbyteries – are the addition of the Belhar Confession to The Book of Confessions and a revised Form of Government. Both of these items give a clear signal that we are a church that is not afraid to change – an important perspective to have in these days of great change in the church and the world.

The full text of the letter >>

7/9/2010  --- From General Assembly, Minneapolis
Commissioners refuse to reconsider last night’s vote against same-sex marriage

The Assembly acted on Thursday night, to designate their approval of a long, indecisive report on civil unions and marriage as a response to most of their other actions, left three proposals to redefine marriage as “between two people” rather than “between a man and a woman.” This morning a commissioner moved for reconsideration of that action, on the grounds that she had not understood the scope of the action at the time of the vote – and indeed it was not very obvious at the time.

After some debate, the commissioners voted by 275 Yes and 407 No – thereby refusing to reconsider their action against the possibility of ministers and congregations providing faith-based, loving support of same-sex couples who want to be married under the laws of their state.  

More on Committee 12, Civil Union and Marriage Issues

"Breaking Down the Walls" report on Israel and Palestine is approved, 558 to 119

But no approval for divestment from Caterpillar -- only "denouncement"

I'll be back with more ... soon.   I hope.

Unprecedented Agreement at 219th GA from Previously Divided Voices

A news release from the Israel/Palestine Mission Network, dated 7-9-10

A week ago, it looked as if the Presbyterian Church (USA) was going to enact a version of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict within its own body, so divided were we on all sides. For some of us, the Middle East Study Committee’s report was a long-awaited recognition of the suffering of the Palestinian people, particularly our Christian brothers and sisters, and a stirring call to action and solidarity. For others of us, the report seemed indifferent to Israeli concerns for a secure homeland and the Church’s ongoing relationship with the Jewish community. Coming into the Assembly, some of us were lined up to push the report through; others of us were determined to defeat it.

Today, we still have disagreements on items in the report, on methods we should pursue, on arguments we should make. But today, by God’s grace, we have discovered that together, we may actually be more faithful and effective in seeking peace with justice for both Palestinians and Israelis than separately. To that end, we stand together in support of the report as amended by the Middle East Issues Committee as witness to a new way of approaching this intractable problem and, indeed, a new way of being the Church.

We have learned that we do not have to choose between our commitments. We have learned that we can risk trusting people with whom we were afraid to engage. We have learned that addressing the conflict in the Middle East cannot be a question of winners and losers. We must model how the conflict itself will be resolved: if someone loses, everyone loses. Beyond any expectation, we find ourselves discovering a new model of ministry together, a model committed to seeking, hearing, and responding to the fullness of narratives and commitments with the Palestinian and Israeli peoples, Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Through Isaiah, God says, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and rivers in the wilderness.” Let us all give thanks for this new thing that God is doing and commit ourselves anew to work together for peace with justice.

Carol Hylkema, Moderator, Israel/Palestine Mission Network
Ron Shive, Chair, Middle East Study Committee
Bill Harter, Co-Convener, Presbyterians for Middle East Peace
Katharine Henderson, President, Auburn Theological Seminary

More on the work of Committee 14: Middle East Peacemaking Issues >>

7/8/2010  --- From General Assembly, Minneapolis
Assembly says Yes to LGBT ordination

This happy note has been sent out by the Rev. Ray Bagnuolo of MLP:

Simply, the 219th General Assembly has said, "Enough!" Again. The Assembly voted today at 4:48 PM Central Standard time by a margin of 53% in favor and 46% against to send Overture 06-09 to the presbyteries for ratification. The overture eliminates the language that has been used to prevent gay (LGBT) people to be ordained as leaders in the church. Yes, indeed, the Spirit is moving us forward, again!

I'll add more shortly, but just want to get this out, along with some other important actions taken today.  Doug King, your WebWeaver

The GA today – good news and not-so-good news

Ordination moves forward, marriage equality – not yet.

by Doug King

Here's just a quick report on a few important actions, after another long day:

[Click on each committee name to jump to our page for that committee's work.]

Committee 8, on Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, recommended that the study papers on “Christians and Jews: People of God,” and “Toward an Understanding of Christian-Muslim Relations,” be referred for further work, primarily because they were drafted without serious consultation with people living in the Middle East, Christians and others. Some urged that the papers be accepted as much-needed material for study, but others, including Michael Livingston, moderator of the committee, said that Middle Eastern people “deserve to be heard” before the papers are published. The recommendation for referral was approved by a convincing vote of 529 to 135.

Committee 6, on Church Orders and Ministry, brought a report recommending the amendment of G-6.0106b to replace the “purity and chastity” standard for ordination with a far broader affirmation of “the church’s desire to submit joyfully to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in all aspects of life (G-1.0000).” Opponents of this change complained that it would mean “lowering our standards,” and that it would distract our presbyteries from paying attention to all the other matters that will be sent to them by this Assembly. They also claimed repeatedly that this change would alienate us from our sister churches in “the global South.”

A minority report would have rejected the proposed amendment, and would have sent a “pastoral letter” to the churches expressing hope for GLBT people to repent and be changed. That was rejected by a strong vote of 437 No to 259 Yes. When the majority report, proposing to the presbyteries the amendment of G-6.0106b, came to a vote after more debate, it was passed, but by a surprisingly narrower margin of 373 Yes and 323 No votes.

Committee 10, on Social Justice Issues A: The Promotion of Social Righteousness, recommended the approval of two important papers from the Advisory Committee for Social Witness Policy. “Living Through Economic Crisis: The Church’s Witness in Troubled Times” was quickly approved. The report entitled “Neither Poverty Nor Riches: Compensation, Equity, and the Unity of the Church,” however, has drawn loud objections from a number of top staff of the General Assembly Mission Council, which led the committee to delete from the document a provision that called for specific attention to the compensation structures in our denominational agencies, asking whether they reflect the church’s earlier policies of limiting the gap between the top and bottom pay levels in each unit to a ration of 5 to 1. The Rev. Nancy Troy moved that the matter of the top-to-bottom gap be restored to the paper, but her effort was defeated by 343 No to 258 Yes votes. The report, minus its sharpest provision, was then passed by 530 to 96.

Committee 11, Social Justice Issues B: The Exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the World, moved approval of an ACSWP paper on gun violence, which was quickly approved on a voice vote. Another study paper, “On Living a Human Life Before God,” was disapproved, as recommended by the committee, on the grounds that – as one speaker said – “it is not well written, [and] does not do what was asked.”

Also coming from Committee 11 was a commissioners’ resolution, “a Call to Stand with Immigrant Presbyterians in Their Hour of Need.” It call for specific action: that Presbyterian agencies “refrain from holding national meetings ... in those states where travel by immigrant Presbyterians or Presbyterians of color or Hispanic ancestry might subject them to harassment due to legislation similar to Arizona Law SB 1070/HB2162.” A minority report would have removed the boycott, but called for pastoral care and support, dialogue and education – but no specific actions. One speaker, mentioning her own Hispanic identity, urged commissioners to support the majority report. “Yes, be missional,” she said, “but also speak out loud and clear.” The majority report was finally approved by 420 to 205.

Committee 12, Civil Union and Marriage Issues, then presented two of the most anticipated actions of this long day: First came Item 12-12, to approve the lengthy report on civil union and marriage, whose drafters sought to examine the meanings of and differences between marriage (or “Christian marriage”) and civil unions, while maintaining the bonds of trust and cooperation that they had worked hard to build among their diverse group. In a series of complex moves, the original report and a minority report were eventually folded together, although just how that will be carried out remained a bit vague.

Then the big disappointment: Someone moved that the action to approve the study paper on civil unions and marriage be designated as a response to all other items which had not yet been acted upon – and that included the three overtures (from Boston, Baltimore, and Hudson River presbyteries) that would have redefined marriage in the Book of Worship as “between two people,” rather than “between a man and a woman.” The vote was close – 348 to 322 – but the hope for a significant step toward marriage equality will have to wait for another day.

Blogger John Shuck offers a sharp take on the day's results

Good News and Bad News

Good News: The General Assembly approved sending a revision of G-6.0106b to the presbyteries. 53% to 46%.

Bad News: The General Assembly punted on addressing the issue of marriage or of clergy being allowed to perform at same-gender weddings in states where same-gender marriages are legal. 51% to 49%.  
More >>
7/7/2010  --- From General Assembly, Minneapolis
Your WebWeaver is still running slow, but here is our report from Sunday's Voices for Justice Luncheon, along with an important action against gun violence.
Voices for Justice Awards Luncheon offers moments for meditation, celebration

With over a hundred people present, the new Presbyterian Voices for Justice gathered on Sunday, July Fourth, just after the Assembly worship service.

The Rev. Bill Dummer, PVJ co-moderator, welcomed everyone to the luncheon, and then introduced the Rev. Landon Whitsitt, the newly elected Vice Moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA). Whitsitt greeted the group on behalf of Moderator Cynthia Bolbach, and expressed appreciation for the work of both the Witherspoon Society and Voices of Sophia in the cause of justice.

The invocation was offered by the Rev. Catherine Snyder, and after giving everyone a few minutes for enjoying their breakfasts, PVJ Treasurer Darcy Hawk and Secretary Mitch Trigger made a pitch (with the Treasurer in drag of sorts, playing the role of “Sophie Witherspoon”) for support for PVJ through memberships and gifts.

Sylvia Thorson-Smith, a member of the PVJ board, then introduced the speaker, the Rev. Mary Elva Smith. Smith served as Director of Women’s Ministries in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) from 2001-2006, and is now the Acting General Presbyter for the Sierra Mission Partnership.

Smith invited us into a sort of “mini-retreat,” to reflect quietly on our concerns for justice – where they come from, what “justice” means for us, and how we are drawn into action for justice. She has kindly shared with us the full prepared text of her presentation, along with two sets of questions that she placed before us – “questions for conversation” to help you explore your understandings of justice, and how an organization like PVJ might work to further that kind of justice, and “questions for clarification,” to sharpen your understanding about what you (and we!) might do for justice.  Click here for the full text of her presentation >>

The recipient of this year’s Whole Gospel Congregation Award, Kwanzaa Community Church (Presbyterian) in Minneapolis, was introduced by the Rev. Bebe Baldwin. She described vividly some of the many ways in which Kwanzaa’s commitment to its community has changed lives and made a difference in the quality of life in its community. More about the congregation >>

The award was presented “in grateful recognition for ‘bringing saving freedom to body, mind & soul’ through the Good News of Jesus to all the people of the community.” The Rev. Alika Galloway, who is co-pastor of the congregation with her husband, the Rev. Ralph Galloway, accepted the award on behalf of the congregation, which was represented by some 20 of its members.

PVJ Acting Co-Moderator Colleen Bowers presented the Andrew Murray Award to Ann and Manley Olson, long-time active Presbyterian leaders at congregational, presbytery, and national levels. The award was presented “in grateful recognition of their commitment and passion to social justice for all of God’s people in their service to the entire Church.” More about the Olsons >>

The Reverend Sylvia Carlson, another member of the PVJ Coordinating Team, offered the benediction, using the words of a blessing the comes out of the Franciscan tradition. We’ve been asked by a number of people for the words of that blessing, so here it is ..

Gun violence measure approved by Social Issues Committee

Virginia Tech campus minister weeps with joy at passage of recommendation

The Rev. Catherine Snyder has seen firsthand the pain and hurt felt by individuals and communities because of gun violence.

Snyder wept openly Tuesday after the Committee on Social Justice Issues: The Exhibition of the Kingdom of Heaven to the World unanimously approved a recommendation for the PC(USA) to take a stronger stand against gun violence.

Synder, who helped write the recommendation entitled “Gun Violence, Gospel Values: Mobilizing in Response to God’s Call,” is the Presbyterian campus minister at Virginia Tech University. She consoled students and their families after a distraught student opened fire and killed 32 people in April 2007.

“Why do we so easily accept the unthinkable suffering of gun violence?” Snyder asked the committee. “We are crazy about our guns. Sisters and brothers, the madness must stop. My prayer is that our denomination can lead this nation to its senses.”

The committee also approved support for Presbyterian immigrants. Included in the recommendation is a request that the PC(USA) refrain from holding national meetings at hotels or conference centers in those states where travel by immigrant Presbyterians or Presbyterians of color might subject them to harassment due to legislation similar to the recent Arizona law.    

Other items approved to be sent to the full Assembly:

bulletA call for an immediate national moratorium on the death penalty
bulletA recommendation to form a committee to study the nature of the church for the 21st century.

A recommendation to approve the study paper, “On Living a Human Life Before God,” as a PC(USA) resource failed by a vote of 1 to 41, with 10 members abstaining. It will be submitted to the General Assembly with comment.

Also on the PC(USA) GA website >>

Click here for our earlier report on actions being dealt with in this committee >>

7/4/2010  --- From General Assembly, Minneapolis
It's 1:00 on the Fourth of July.  It's been a long day.  Here's a quick report on the Moderator's election (thanks to the News and other sources).  I'll be back tomorrow with a report about the Voices for Justice commissioner orientation, and various other glimpses of this Assembly.
Photo of Cynthia Bolbach
Cynthia Bolbach, Moderator of the 219th General Assembly.

Photo by Danny Bolin, PNS

Cynthia Bolbach elected Moderator on fourth ballot

by Jerry Van Marter, Presbyterian News Service

Cynthia Bolbach, an elder from National Capital Presbytery, was elected Saturday night as Moderator of the 219th General Assembly (2010) on the fourth ballot. She was the only elder in a field of six candidates.

Bolbach employed brief answers and a winsome sense of humor to win over the 712 commissioners and steadily gained ground, rising from 149 votes (30 percent) on the first ballot to 325 votes (53 percent) on the decisive fourth ballot. None of the other five candidates exceeded 23 percent of the vote on any ballot.   Read more.

Blogger John Shuck offers his enthusiastic comment on the election >>

Leslie Scanlon reports on the election for The Presbyterian Outlook >>

Bolbach's responses to PVJ's questions to the candidates >>

The New Service announcement of her candidacy >>

7/3/2010  --- From General Assembly, Minneapolis
Covenant Network hears about “coming out as Presbyterians”
Randy Bush, a member of the Covenant Network Board of Directors, describes "the hopes Covenant Network has for this Assembly," namely reinforcing the strides made at the last Assembly while still working to remove G 6.0106b.

The Covenant Network held a dinner this evening (Thursday, July 2) at Westminster Presbyterian Church in downtown Minneapolis.

Doug Nave, an attorney and a member of the Covenant Network Board of Directors, gave tonight, basically challenging all of us to do some reflection and "come out as Presbyterians."

Here are two engaging quotes from his talk:

We have spent the last 30-odd years arguing about sexuality – at least, that’s what we think we are arguing about. But over the years I have come to believe that the crux of the issue is not what it means to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered. The crux of the issue, for us, is what it means to be Presbyterian.

And toward the end of the talk:

Let us go out this week and remind each other what it means to be Presbyterians. We have work to do, in preserving the last two Assemblies’ affirmation of our core traditions, and still more work to do in correcting exclusionary rules that have deeply hurt GLBT people and their families. Let us hold fast to the gospel of grace and reconciliation, to conscience and mutual forbearance.

For the full text of Nave’s presentation, which we are happy to share here with his permission >>

How about a little 4th of July joke?


A Jewish Rabbi and a Catholic Priest met at the town’s annual 4th of July picnic.  Old friends, they began their usual banter. 
“This baked ham is really delicious,” the priest teased the rabbi.  “You really ought to try it.  I know it’s against your religion, but I can’t understand why such a wonderful food should be forbidden!  You don’t know what you/re missing.  You just haven’t lived until you’ve tried Mrs. Hall’s prized Virginia Baked Ham.  Tell me, Rabbi, when are you going to break down and try it?”
The rabbi looked at the priest with a big grin, and said, “At your wedding.”

Thanks to John Jackson's "FindJohn" elist

7/2/2010  --- From General Assembly, Minneapolis
Are you at GA??

Tickets still available for Voices of Sophia breakfast on Tuesday

There are still a few tickets for the Voices of Sophia breakfast, with the Rev. Dr. Christine Smith, professor of preaching at United Theological Seminary in the Twin Cities (UCC), speaking on “ReImagining Church: De-Centering Privilege as an Act of Global Citizenship.” She was the preacher for the first "Re-Imagining" gathering in 1993.

The breakfast will be on Tuesday morning, 7 to 8:15 am, in the Hyatt Regency, Lake Superior Ballroom A&B. Tickets are $27.

TO GET A TICKET, stop by the Presbyterian Voices for Justice booth in the Exhibit Hall to purchase a ticket. It will be a WONDERFUL start to the day!

GA 219 commissioners face weighty agenda

Major reports on Middle East, marriage/unions, FOG coming

by Jerry L. Van Marter, Presbyterian News Service

MINNEAPOLIS — If all the documents to the "paperless" 219th General Assembly here were printed out, they'd rival Tolstoy’s War and Peace in length. By the time the Assembly concludes July 10, the 712 commissioners and roughly 200 advisory delegates will have acted on more than 300 items of business that would span about 1,400 printed pages.

Nearly half the business of the Assembly comes as overtures from presbyteries and synods. Added to the reports of Assembly agencies and permanent and special committees, the range of concerns presented to commissioners and advisory delegates for their deliberation and action is breathtaking in scope.

They include Middle East peace, the war in Afghanistan, ordination standards for church officers, the relationship between Christian marriage and same-sex unions, gun violence, theological issues around compensation for church workers and consideration of two doctrinal statements — the Heidelberg Catechism and the Belhar Confession.

Issues internal to the life of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) include the election of the moderator and confirmation of the recent elections of two denominational leaders, mission and per capita budgets for 2011 and 2012, a sweeping revision of the denomination's Form of Government, renewal of the PC(USA)'s emphasis on church growth called "Grow Christ's Church Deep and Wide," a new "strategic direction for Presbyterian World Mission" and a proposal to create a Commission on Middle Governing Bodies to deal comprehensively with the severe stresses facing many presbyteries and synods.

A brief look at some of the key issues >>

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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