This page lists our postings
For an index to all our reports
the 219th General Assembly
For links to
all our archive pages, listed by months,
Our pre-GA issue of Network News is here
-- the Spring 2010 issue is posted here in PDF
NOTE: This special issue is being
sent to all commissioners and advisory delegates to the
219th General Assembly. It is now at the printer's,
and should be in the mail around June 1.
|Co-Moderator Colleen Bowers
-- a word of welcome
(page 2 )|
Justice events at General Assembly (4)
Two images for thinking about
GA -- from the Editor (7)|
Reflecting on some of the
work coming to the Assembly (10)|
We need Belhar, by John
The FOG Task Force report
An overview of GA, from a
co-moderator of the Advocacy Committee for Women's Concerns
A Call for Justice and Grace,
from More Light Presbyterians (32)
Candidates for Moderator
respond to questions from Presbyterian Voices for Justice
Receiving the PVJ Whole
Gospel Congregation Award: Kwanzaa Community Church,
Receiving the PVJ Andrew
Murray Award: Ann and Manley Olson (46)
plus more news ...
Ranch Seminar, July 26-August 1, 2010
We’re All In This Together: Confronting the Structures of
To download this issue of Network News (in PDF
format) click here.
To get it in high-resolution format -- looking
better but taking longer to download,
Some of the articles in the on-line print
version will soon be posted in html format, as regular web pages.
Clicking on any of the titles above that are formatted as links
will take you to those pages, which may differ slightly from the
"print" version. And we'll be adding more of those as
quickly as we can.
Get Ready for GA!!
Vicki Moss and our
at the 2008 GA
Presbyterian Voices for Justice is about to come out at the
General Assembly in Minneapolis. We are a new creation and
there’s every need to be loud and proud. Our name shouts out our
mission and purpose. There is no guessing about who we are and
what we stand for. So, in that spirit, we are going to speak the
truth in love at our booth by offering some new products for
progressive Presbyterians who wish to proclaim their proclivity
In addition to our ubiquitous barrage of buttons, we are also
stocking bumper stickers, postcards, and bookmarks at
pre-recession prices! That’s right. Everything is $1! Yes, I
said that. Everything is $1! (It will help those of us who are
math-deficient to keep it simple.) Many of the items for sale –
like some of the buttons – are one of a kind, meaning
there is only one button that says it. Once it is bought, people
will have to bribe/trade/negotiate with the owner if they wish
to obtain it. (This could give us all practice with our
mediation skills and create some interesting dialogue and
discussions.) Postcards can be mailed with messages to
the folks we left at home in our churches, or framed and given
as gifts to our justice-loving friends. Bookmarks can be
put to use immediately since we know our suitcases incur excess
baggage fees from all the books we cram in them for the flight
home. Bumper stickers pack well and they are useful for
so many of those opportunities when our words fail us. These
items can all be harbingers of hope in the places that need it
We are also providing a great service to those who visit our
booth. We are replacing W & W’s and Skittles with ... throat
soothers. We wish for everyone to take special care of their
voices. All voices need to be heard and sometimes require some
assistance when they are tired and sore. Along with the throat
soothers we will also have a TIP Sheet on how to care for your
voice. (I’m a singer; it is useful knowledge.)
If there are other suggestions for our booth or ideas for
enhancing our “theme”, please let me know. I am thinking that we
need to have some sing-alongs to raise awareness of our new
presence and to keep our voices warmed up. I’m still pondering
this angle, but I think I like it. I am always looking for
people to help staff the booth or contribute their creativity to
make the space welcoming and inviting. If you can help, contact
me by email:
or cell: 347.907.9849.
See you at GA!
More Americans say U.S. morality getting worse.
But it’s interesting what we worry about – and what we don’t
The Gallup polling service reports its annual
survey on attitudes about moral values showed that “76 percent
of Americans said moral values in the country are getting worse,
up five percent from last year.”
Among the values about which people were most
concerned were “declining moral values/standards and disrespect
of others (both at 15 percent).” Following those concerns were
“parents not instilling values in children (8 percent);
dishonesty among government, business leaders (8 percent); and
rising crime and violence (8 percent).”
In the next lower tier of worries were “people
moving away from religion, church and God (7 percent), the
breakdown of family and unwed mothers (7 percent), and sex,
promiscuity, and pornography (5 percent).”
What’s really interesting to us as Presbyterians
might be the moral issues that people were least worried about:
At the very bottom of people’s worries: abortion and gay
relationships (each mentioned by 3 percent).
For a brief summary of the Gallup report >>
For the more complete Gallup news release, with tables >>
Religious institutions are ruled by the morally bankrupt –
but we need them, if they would just do what they need to do
Chris Hedges, son of a Presbyterian minister and
himself seminary-trained, is well equipped to offer sharp
criticisms of religion and religious institutions. A Pulitzer
Prize-winning reporter, he is a senior fellow at the Nation
Institute and writes a regular column for TruthDig every Monday.
His latest book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy
and the Triumph of Spectacle.
He begins this essay:
It is hard to muster much sympathy over
the implosion of the Catholic Church, traditional Protestant
denominations or Jewish synagogues. These institutions were
passive as the Christian right, which peddles magical
thinking and a Jesus-as-warrior philosophy, hijacked the
language and iconography of traditional Christianity. They
have busied themselves with the boutique activism of the
culture wars. They have failed to unequivocally denounce
unfettered capitalism, globalization and pre-emptive war.
The obsession with personal piety and “How-is-it-with-me?”
spirituality that permeates most congregations is
narcissism. And while the Protestant church and reformed
Judaism have not replicated the perfidiousness of the
Catholic bishops, who protect child-molesting priests, they
have little to say in an age when we desperately need moral
But he eventually concludes that we need
religion, no matter how dangerous it may be, for without it we
fall easy prey to a vapid secularism and materialism – the world
that Nietzsche worried about:
We live in the age of the Übermensch who
rejects the sentimental tenets of traditional religion. The
Übermensch creates his own morality based on human
instincts, drive and will. We worship the “will to power”
and think we have gone “beyond good and evil.” We spurn
virtue. We think we have the moral fortitude and wisdom to
create our own moral code. The high priests of our new
religion run Wall Street, the Pentagon and the corporate
state. They flood our airwaves with the tawdry and the
salacious. They, too, promise a utopia. They redefine truth,
beauty, morality, desire and goodness. And we imbibe their
poison as blind followers once imbibed the poison of the
Could we hear this as a passionate call for
the church – like, maybe our PC(USA) – to care to stand up and
do its job? Not to save the church, but to save the world.
The full essay >>
Also on AlterNet
Thanks to Elizabeth Sarfaty
Texas schools board rewrites US history with lessons
promoting God and guns
conservatives drop references to slave trade and sideline Thomas
Jefferson who backed church-state separation
Here’s a British take on the latest
adventures in the religionizing of Texas schools. It begins:
Cynthia Dunbar does not have a high regard
for her local schools. She has called them unconstitutional,
tyrannical and tools of perversion. The conservative Texas
lawyer has even likened sending children to her state's
schools to "throwing them in to the enemy's flames". Her
hostility runs so deep that she educated her own offspring
at home and at private Christian establishments.
Now Dunbar is on the brink of fulfilling a
promise to change all that, or at least point Texas schools
toward salvation. She is one of a clutch of Christian
evangelists and social conservatives who have grasped
control of the state's education board. This week they are
expected to force through a new curriculum that is likely to
shift what millions of American schoolchildren far beyond
Texas learn about their history.
Comments on GAMC actions
GAMC meeting, with its decisions on restructuring of our
church's mission agencies and its latest round of staff
reductions, has stimulated lots of thought and comment.
Here are the
first to arrive -- and more are likely to turn up soon.
So far we've heard from
former Witherspoon co-moderator;
former mission co-worker; we also link to a blog comment by
Bruce Reyes-Chow. And most recently, from Rev.
Campbell, Sharon Hill, PA.
And just added:
a vote for
Together, they raise some provocative
questions about the future of the PC(USA) -- whether we may need
change far deeper than "restructuring" and adapting to more
limited funds; whether "justice" is still seen as a vital
dimension of the church's mission; whether the time for
denominations (and their internal battles) may be past.
We hope you might have comments too!
send a note!
Present and Past:
the Case of the Reinstatement of Paul Capetz in Light of Never-ending Conflict in the
Heidi Vardeman has kindly shared with us a paper she has written
looking at the case of the Rev. Paul Capetz, who, as a gay man,
set aside his ordination in the year 2000 when the PC(USA)
became increasingly rigid in its banning of LGBT Presbyterians
from ordination. In 2007, after the “Peace, Unity and Purity”
report led to the to affirmation of the right of conscience for
candidates for ordination, allowing them to declare “scruples”
or reservations about the ban, Dr. Capetz applied to his
presbytery for reinstatement as an ordained Minister of Word and
His request was granted by a strong majority
vote, but various complaints and challenges have been filed
against, and the process continues still.
The paper examines this case not as a matter
of theological or biblical dispute, but in light of the history
of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. over the past few
centuries. Vardeman writes:
It is my intention in this paper to tell the
story [of] some older controversies within the Presbyterian
Church and the manner in which they were settled – or not – in
order to place the issue of the ordination of gay men and
lesbian women within a broader historical context. My aim is
pastoral as well as academic. I hope to encourage my
denomination not to be too disheartened by the present state of
affairs. To be in controversy is to be Presbyterian.
Our current disputes suffer from a lack of
historical perspective. If we could see our controversies as
part of a storied tradition, we would be wiser for it. It might
give us the patience to work out our differences in a more
loving and productive way.
Click here to read her paper, in PDF format >>
Click here for some of our earlier reporting
on Paul Capetz' case >>
Concerns about Louisville layoffs – and about justice
Today (Friday, May 14) the General Assembly
Mission Council (GAMC) has approved the elimination of
forty-five staff positions to be eliminated and all staff have
already been told to prepare for layoffs as soon as the GAMC
acts on Friday morning. No announcements have been made of the
specific positions eliminated, pending notification of all the
employees being dismissed, which was planned to be done this
Reports are that twelve of the 45 are
voluntary departures, some are vacancies, but the majority will
be servants of the church given packages and, we hope, a few
days to say good-bye. Some of these staff persons will have
worked for many years at the Presbyterian Center and it will be
a sad loss of collective memory, and many gifts and skills.
We sympathize with the General Assembly
Mission Council as it faces hard choices. Would it be different
if more of a spirit of shared sacrifice were presented to the
wider Church? It is our experience that congregational
leadership is more likely to share cutbacks and give
proportionate raises. And while we support the World Mission
unit of the denomination, which is featured in so much of the
direct mail the GAMC sends out, we are also convinced that there
are domestic needs and justice ministries that would also
benefit from some marketing support. Otherwise we fear that
further cutbacks will make the General Assembly’s justice
ministries almost purely symbolic. Also, how much inequality
does the church want in its national staff of all agencies,
especially in the midst of this “Great Recession”?
We'd like to hear your comments!
Whether you're one of those directly affected by the staff cuts,
or concerned about the PC(USA) and its budget woes,
please share your thoughts here.
send a note!
Welcome announces ...
For lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or
questioning Presbyterian Inquirers and Candidates for the
Ministry of Word and Sacrament
We gather to:
• Laugh and cry in the presence of God
• Develop a network of support
• Greet old friends and meet new ones
• Worship with one another
• Claim our call in the changing church!
All those pursuing ordination are invited to join
us in retreat.
July 15–18, 2010
$350 plus travel expenses. In order to gather all
of us together, very substantial scholarships are available
to all in need. We gratefully thank supportive organizations
and congregations for their commitment to the participants and
their financial support in helping us gather.
June 14, 2010
If you are an inquirer or candidate and feel this
retreat would be helpful, or if you know someone who is in “the
process” please call Mieke’s confidential voicemail at
917-441-8638 or email
Call or email for an application:
Covenant Network of Presbyterians
More Light Presbyterians
That All May Freely Serve—Michigan
That All May Freely Serve—National
Presbyterian Welcome’s mission is to build up and repair the
Body of Christ by working for the full inclusion of all
disciples without regard to sexual orientation or gender
[This notice has been
received from Presbyterian Welcome.]
Wisconsin pastor is fourth GA moderator candidate
Northern Waters Presbytery endorses Eric Nielsen
for top post
|The Rev. Eric G. Nielsen
LOUISVILLE — May 7, 2010 — (from Presbyterian
News Service) The Rev. Eric G. Nielsen, pastor of First
Presbyterian Church in Eau Claire, Wisc., has been unanimously
endorsed by Northern Waters Presbytery to stand for moderator of
the upcoming 219th General Assembly, July 3-10 in Minneapolis.
The presbytery took its action May 6.
Other news of
General Assembly, including other candidates for Moderator >>
James A. Belle is
fifth to stand for moderator
Presbytery to vote on endorsement May 25
|The Rev. James A. Belle
LOUISVILLE — May
10, 2010 — (from Presbyterian News
A Philadelphia pastor, the Rev. James A. Belle,
is the fifth candidate for moderator of the 219th General
Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Other news of General
Assembly, including other candidates for Moderator >>
A hymn for a time of disaster in
This hymn-prayer was written by
the Rev. Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, in response to the ongoing
oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig that
started on April 20th.
O God, the
Great, Wide Seas are Yours
(“Eternal Father, Strong to Save”)
O God, the great, wide seas are yours!
You carved the oceans’ rugged floors.
You set the waters in their place
And made all sea life by your grace.
You also made humanity
To care for earth and sky and sea.
Forgive us when we disobey
And fail to care for what you’ve made.
Consuming more than what we should,
We harm the waters you call good.
Forgive us when we fail to be
Good stewards of your wondrous sea.
We pray for those who seek to care
For troubled waters everywhere—
For those who work to stop the spill
Of all that would destroy and kill,
For those who work with loving hands
To tend your marshes, shores and sands.
God, may we hear your call anew
To care for all these gifts from you.
May we protect the sea and shore
By using less, conserving more,
And humbly learning how to live
As stewards of this world you give.
Biblical references: Genesis 1-2:4
Tune: John B. Dykes, in Hymns Ancient and Modern, 1861.
Text: Copyright © 2010 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights
Background: The hymn-prayer was
written in response to the ongoing oil spill from the Deepwater
Horizon offshore drilling rig that started on April 20th.
Churches are also using other creation hymns by Carolyn Winfrey
Gillette, including her popular
“The Earth is the Lord’s.”
The first five hymns in her
of Grace: New Hymns for God and Neighbor
(Upper Room Books, 2010) have creation themes. Carolyn Winfrey
Gillette is co-author of “A
Journey to a Green Church.”
A complete list of her 160 hymns can be found at:
We Wrecked the Ocean”
is an online April 2010 TED Talk by Jeremy Jackson, the Ritter
Professor of Oceanography and Director of the Center for Marine
Biodiversity and Conservation at the Scripps Institution of
Oceanography, on how the oceans are overfished, overheated,
polluted and getting worse.
Reflecting on gay ordination
Click here for a brief essay written as a Letter to the
Editor of the Layman, by the Rev. Ray Bagnuolo, Minister
of Word and Sacrament serving Jan Hus Presbyterian Church and
Neighborhood House in New York City. He was responding to the
Layman’s report that Stockton Presbytery has joined in a
complaint against John Knox Presbytery for its action in
approving the ordination of Scott Anderson, who is gay. He
raises the question – from his own experience in ministry – of
just what difference it makes whether a minister is gay or
How Large Is Your Circle?
title of a sermon preached by the Rev. John Shuck on Sunday, May
2, 2010, in First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton,
And that, he says, is the crucial question
raised by Jesus’ call to us to love one another: How big a circle
is included within that “love one another”? Is it our family and
friends? Or people who believe or look or act like we do? Or is
it “everyone?” And that, obviously, is a step toward the right
answer. But it’s a tall order, loving everybody.
But here’s a start toward the answer: “How
do you love six billion people, let alone non-human relations?
We do this through politics. We put it in terms of human rights
and a just distribution and access to Earth's gifts.”
So the question that confronts all of us – in
the battles over immigration, and the rights of people who are
different from us in one way or another, and what it means to be
people of faith in this wildly diverse world – is simply “how
large is your circle?”
A good question for all us of today and every
day – and perhaps especially as many of us gather once again in
our Presbyterian General Assembly in July.
For the full sermon, on John’s Shuck and Jive blog >>
'A different world is possible'
Accra Confession calls for economic, ecological justice
Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — April 29, 2010 —
represents a ministry of ecological and
economic justice, with the idea that a different world is
possible, said the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, president of the
World Alliance of Reformed Churches.
at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary's
Festival of Theology & Reunion, held April 25-28.
WARC adopted the
Accra Confession in 2004. It's not a doctrinal confession — it
challenges economic doctrines that exclude the poor and
vulnerable and deny God’s sovereignty.
former stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)' General
Assembly and visiting professor of ecumenical and global
ministries at LPTS, called the formation of the confession a "kairos
moment" for the ecumenical community.
of the story >>
Standing where God stands
Allan Boesak speaks of history, importance of Belhar Confession
Presbyterian News Service
will be "an issue"
in the 2010 General Assembly,
so Allan Boesak's look at it in this talk
may be very helpful.
LOUISVILLE — April 29, 2010 — The
Belhar Confession was formed
out of parochial necessity, but its appeal is ecumenical and
universal, said Allan Boesak, the opening speaker of Louisville
Presbyterian Theological Seminary's April 25-28
Festival of Theology and Reunion.
well-known theologian, anti-apartheid activist and political
leader in South Africa, spoke about the Belhar Confession's
roots, meaning and significance.
Adopted by the
Dutch Reformed Mission Church in South Africa in 1986, the
confession was a response to apartheid in that country and
particularly focuses on reconciliation, justice and unity.
Church (U.S.A.) is considering
adding Belhar to
its Book of Confessions as the denomination’s response to
ongoing racial prejudice in this country. A task force will
recommend to the 219th General Assembly, to be held July 3-10 in
Minneapolis, that the study process continue.
The rest of
the report >>
Crossing Borders: a photo essay
encounter between Douglas, Arizona and Agua Prieta, Mexico
Text and photos
by Erin Dunigan; special to
Presbyterian News Service
DOUGLAS, Ariz. —
April 29, 2010 — The April 15-17
"Crossing Borders, Encountering God" conference here —
co-sponsored by the Synods of the Sun and Southwest of the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Presbyteries of Noroeste
and Israel of the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico —
brought together close to 200 participants from both churches
for worship, workshops, teaching and learning from one another
about the complex border relations between the two countries and
One group of 11
participants engaged in a border encounter between Douglas and
Agua Prieta on the Mexican side of the border.
Click here for a powerful glimpse of the border experience >>
PC(USA) leaders press for immediate immigration reform
In wake of Arizona legislation, three say
"broken immigration system" must be fixed
Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE — May 3, 2010 — Three top leaders
of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have sent a letter to
members of the U.S. Congress insisting on the enactment of
"comprehensive immigration reform this year."
In their April 29 letter, General Assembly
Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow, General Assembly Stated Clerk Gradye
Parsons and General Assembly Mission Council Executive Director
Linda Valentine said "we are keenly aware of the devastating
effects our broken immigration system has on the lives of
individuals, immigrant and non-immigrant families, and our
The rest of the report, and the full text of the letter >>
Church of San Anselmo, Cal., is seeking an Associate Pastor for
Children, Youth and Families
hope you like our new logo as much as we do!
Our warm thanks to
Gwyneth Roske, of Tucson, Arizona, who created it
We'd like to hear what you think of it, and what it says to you.
us a note!
For an index to all our reports
the 219th General Assembly
For links to
all our archive pages, listed by months,
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
We're providing resources to help inform the
reflection and debate, along with updates on the voting.
Our three areas of primary interest are:
which would remove the current ban on
lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender persons being considered as
possible candidates for ordination as elder or ministers.|
which would add the Belhar Confession to our Book of
10-1, which would adopt the new Form of Government
that was approved by the Assembly. |
If you like what
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we hope you'll help us keep Voices for Justice going ... and
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Some blogs worth visiting
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
John Harris’ Summit to
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
Got more blogs to recommend?
send a note, and we'll see what we can do!