Presbyterian Voices for Justice 

A union of The Witherspoon Society and Voices of Sophia

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Summer 2011

Sex, Faith, and Culture:
Understanding the Mix in our Lives and Society
July 25-31, 2011


August 1-7, 2011

Visit the Ghost Ranch website for more information.
We will provide links their 2011 catalogue and reservation information as soon as they are posted.

Sponsored by Presbyterian Voices for Justice

Coordinated by Sylvia Thorson-Smith

Sex, Faith, and Culture:
Understanding the Mix in our Lives and Society

July 25-31, 2011


Twenty years after the controversial report, “Keeping Body and Soul Together: Sexuality, Spirituality, and Social Justice,” was overwhelmingly rejected by the Presbyterian General Assembly in 1991, two of its primary authors will begin this seminar with a reflection on the development of the report and the firestorm that surrounded it. How did such a sex-positive, women-friendly, and gay-affirming study ever get written in the first place, and what’s been the impact of the report on its supporters and critics?

The conversation will then shift to address a variety of concerns on the “justice-love” agenda, including alternative reproductive technologies, comprehensive (vs. abstinence-only) sexuality education, equality for transgender and bisexual as well as lesbian and gay persons, same-sex marriage, the global HIV-AIDS pandemic, sexuality while living with Alzheimer’s and other chronic illnesses, and the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality.

This seminar will be welcoming of all perspectives and experiences, and will be designed to maximize participation of those who attend. Sessions will prioritize discussion of these issues, and participants will be invited to share their insights about the ongoing personal, social, and ecclesiastical quest for an “ethical eroticism,” one that deepens self-respect and strengthens inclusive, radically hospitable communities. This provocative study of sexuality from the early 1990s will be a springboard for our discussion; however, we will share other books and resources as the group tries to discern how our lives – individually and communally – have changed in the last 20 years and what we hope for in the future.

The Seminar Leaders

Sylvia Thorson-Smith, a native of Alaska, has a MA in sociology and women’s studies from Wichita State University (Kansas) and taught courses in sociology (human sexuality), gender and women’s studies, and religious studies at Grinnell College (Iowa) for 15 years before retiring to Tucson, Arizona in 2003. Her publications include Body and Soul: Rethinking Sexuality as Justice-Love (with Ellison) (Pilgrim Press, 2004), Called Out With: Stories of Solidarity in Support of LGBT Persons (Westminster John Knox Press, 1997), Reconciling the Broken Silence: The Church in Dialogue on Gay and Lesbian Issues (PCUSA, 1993), and Pornography: Far From the Song of Songs (PCUSA, 1988). She currently serves as an elder on the session of St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church (a More Light congregation) and lives with her retired partner-husband, the Rev. Mike Smith. Sylvia is a member of the board of Presbyterian Voices for Justice, a merger of The Witherspoon Society and Voices of Sophia.

Marvin M. Ellison, a native of Tennessee, completed his doctoral studies at Union Theological Seminary (New York) and teaches Christian social ethics at Bangor Theological Seminary. He is a minister-member of the Presbytery of Northern New England. He founded the Religious Coalition Against Discrimination in Maine to support civil rights protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, including the right to marry. His publications include Sexuality and the Sacred: Sources for Theological Reflection (Westminster John Knox, 2010), Same-Sex Marriage? A Christian Ethical Analysis (The Pilgrim Press, 2004), Body and Soul: Rethinking Sexuality as Justice-Love (with Thorson-Smith) (The Pilgrim Press, 2003), and Erotic Justice: A Liberating Ethic of Sexuality (Westminster John Knox Press, 1996). He lives in Portland, Maine, with his partner Frank Brooks, a licensed clinical social worker with a private practice.

Cosponsored by Presbyterian Voices for Justice and Presbyterian Peace Fellowship Coordinated by Jane Hanna

August 1-7, 2011

Coordinated by Jane Hanna


Discerning God’s call to advocate for a just immigration system requires people of faith to have a knowledgeable understanding of the issues related to modern global migration. Julia Thorne will help us to understand present immigration law, how detention and deportation policies impact both migrants and our communities. We will learn about Presbyterian policy on immigration reform. Mark Adams and Miriam Maldonado Escobar, PCUSA Mission Co-Workers, will share their experiences with the many players on the border (the undocumented, Border Patrol Agents, faith communities, rich and poor, humanitarians, landowners and communities on both sides of the border).

As momentum builds to reform US immigration, our voice as informed faith communities advocating just policies and practices is the challenge we face. Learning about the newcomers in our communities and how to create environments to serve everyone follows a biblical mandate to be church together.

Julia Thorne, Manager of Immigration Issues and Immigration Counsel in the Office of General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (USA). She creates resources and provides advice to presbyteries and churches regarding immigration law and issues. The Office also works with presbyteries, churches and interfaith partners on advocacy for the reform of current immigration policies, procedures and laws in accordance with General Assembly policy.  Since graduating from college, Julia has worked with internationals as Foreign Student Advisor, College Instructor, Campus Minister and Private Immigration Attorney.  

Mark Adams has served since 1998 as mission co-worker with Frontera de Cristo, a Presbyterian (USA) Border Ministry centered in Agua Prieta, Mexico and Douglas, AZ. As U.S. coordinator of this bi-national ministry, he is responsible, in partnership with the Angel Valencia of the National Presbyterian Church of Mexico, for the coordination of the six ministry areas: church development, health, family counseling, the New Hope Community Center, mission education, and the Just Trade Center. He is co-author of the book, Just Coffee: Caffeine with a Conscience that explores the connections between coffee, migration and faith.

Through Frontera de Cristo, Mark brings together people from both sides of the border, building relationships and understanding between them. He is a minister member of Presbytery de Cristo, PC(USA), and is a fraternal member of the Presbytery of Chihuahua (National Presbyterian Church of Mexico).

Miriam Maldonado Escobar works in the Mission Education ministry of FDC and is a leader of a bi-national Permaculture project with Jose Luis Ramirez of DouglaPrieta Trabaja. She and Mark are married and have three children.



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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