Presbyterian Voices for Justice 

A union of The Witherspoon Society and Voices of Sophia

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Presbyterian Voices for Justice
doing justice locally

For recent news of Presbyterian Voices for Justice

So what are you doing locally?

The current Co-Moderator of Presbyterian Voices for Justice, the Rev. Bill Dummer, has been encouraging us to take seriously our calling to work for justice not just at global and national and denominational levels, but also locally -- right where we are.  So we're posting his thoughts about his own activities here, and inviting you to share what you're doing locally as well.

It may be a story of your own involvement in a congregation's or other group's work for justice in your community, or a report on what others are doing in your area.

What we'd like to hear form you:

bulletWhat are you doing?
bulletWhat are you hoping to accomplish?
bulletWhat obstacles and problems are you encountering?
bulletHow are you overcoming them?
bulletWhat can the rest of us learn from your experiences?

Just send a note to, with your story and reflections, and we'll share it here.

The Co-Moderator’s Column

Working for justice with a local focus

By Bill Dummer

Published in Network News, Winter 2010
[posted here 3-13-10]

A little over a year ago, I wrote an article in Network News about my involvements here in Milwaukee with issues having to do with poverty or economic justice. Because that is the justice issue I choose to focus on, I think I balance out other members of the Presbyterian Voices for Justice Board (yes, that’s our new name), whose concerns for justice are focused elsewhere. In addition to being coordinator of Milwaukee Presbytery’s Ghana Partnership, and a member of the Board of the Washington Heights Neighborhood Association, I am also a foot soldier for Southeast Wisconsin Common Ground, which is a relatively new "franchise" of the Industrial Areas Foundation (Barak Obama’s one-time employer/organizing trainer).

So, the other day I was on a bus to the state capital to lobby for a bill being introduced into the legislature, which would prohibit the State of Wisconsin from doing business with any bank that is holding 100 or more foreclosed homes, and not selling them to buyers who want to purchase them as their home. A Common Ground research team discovered that three banks each have over 1100 foreclosed homes on their books. For the most part, they are not taking care of the properties and prefer to do mass sales to speculators, rather than sell them to individual buyers. In Milwaukee, it is causing a decline in our property values, as some of the abandoned homes have become drug houses and others have been so stripped of everything that they need to be demolished.

So Common Ground (an organization of 50 groups, mostly churches) has voted to launch a campaign to get these three banks to do three things. Deutsche Bank, US Bank, and Wells Fargo Bank are being challenged to do the following:

bulletStop selling the foreclosed properties to "speculators" through auctions or mass sales and work with Common Ground and its partners to develop a plan to sell these to responsible owners.
bulletPay for the demolition of the properties that are beyond rehabilitation, and donate the land to a community land trust for future residential construction.
bulletContribute $25 million from each bank toward a $75 million fund, which will be used to rehabilitate and sell these properties.

Last month Common Ground threw down the gauntlet at a Delegate Assembly of 350 members. It was at that meeting that we heard that these three banks (and there are more) took a total of $42.6 billion in bailout money from the government. We also heard from the State Representative from Milwaukee who was introducing the aforementioned legislation. Last Tuesday, about 60 of us went to Madison to lobby for the bill among those representatives from the four counties in Southeast Wisconsin represented by Common Ground. We asked those whom we visited to co-sponsor the legislation and also to write a letter to each of the three banks asking them to enter into negotiations with Common Ground on the three demands.

Interestingly, Wells Fargo (the biggest bank) has agreed to a meeting in March to discuss the demands. Common Ground has other steps it will take in ratcheting up the pressure on these banks to do the right thing.

In a week we will be having a briefing meeting for our church members on the campaign. At that meeting, those attending will be asked to fill out forms listing where they and other family members do their banking. The Common Ground chapter at Marquette University is planning a separate action, where if the negotiations become stalled, they will on a certain day, withdraw their checking accounts from two of these banks and march down the street to another bank. It will be interesting to see how this campaign plays out over the next year.

Well, that’s the news from Milwaukee, where a lot of families have lost their jobs and homes, and their children go to school in a struggling urban district. In this issue of Network News (some names we have not changed) you can read articles on other points of focus, as we give voice to a variety of justice concerns in our church and in our world.


Some blogs worth visiting


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.


Witherspoon’s Facebook page

Mitch Trigger, Witherspoon’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.


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!


Plan now for our 2010 Ghost Ranch Seminar!


July 26-August 1, 2010



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