Presbyterian Voices for Justice 

NOTE:  This site is being retired. 
Click here
for our new official website:

Welcome to news and networking for progressive Presbyterians 

Home page Marriage Equality Global & Social concerns    
News of the PC(USA) Immigrant rights Israel & Palestine
U S Politics, 2010-11 Inclusive ordination Wars in Iraq & Afghanistan
Occupy Wall Street The Economic Crisis Other churches, other faiths
    About us         Join us! Health Care Reform Archive
Just for fun Confronting torture Notes from your WebWeaver

What's Where

Our reports about the 219th General Assembly, July 2010

About us

The Winter 2011 issue of
Network News
is posted here
- in Adobe PDF format.

Click here for earlier issues
Adobe PDF  Click here to download (free!) Adobe Reader software to view this and all PDF files.

News of Presbyterian Voices for Justice
How to join us


Coming events calendar 

Do you want to announce an event?
Please send a note!
Food for the spirit
Book notes

Go to


NEWS of the Presbyterian Church

Got news??
Send us a note!
Social and global concerns
The U.S. political scene, 2010-11
The Middle East conflict
Uprising in Egypt
The Economic Crisis
Health Care Reform
Working for inclusive ordination
Peacemaking & international concerns
The Wars in Iraq & Afghanistan
Israel, Palestine, and Gaza
U. S. Politics
Election 2008
Economic justice
Fair Food Campaign
Labor rights
Women's Concerns
Sexual justice
Marriage Equality
Caring for the environment
Immigrant rights
Racial concerns
Church & State
The death penalty
The media
Other churches, other faiths
Do you want regular e-mail updates when stories are added to our web site?
Just send a note!
The WebWeaver's Space
Want books?
Search Now:


News and Views (unofficial!)
about the 
Presbyterian Church (USA)


Earlier stories are indexed
bulletJuly - December, 2009
bullet January - June, 2009
bullet July - December 2008
bullet January - June, 2008
bullet All of 2007
bullet All of 2006
bullet All of 2005
bullet July - December 2004
bullet January - June 2004
bullet June - December 2003
bullet January - May 2003
bullet July through December, 2002
bullet January - June, 2002
bullet April through December, 2001
bullet December '00 through March '01
bullet July through December, 2000
Economic and Peace studies seeking volunteers   [11-6-10]

We have received this notice from the members and staff of the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy.

The General Assembly has authorized two new studies that will involve the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP). One is about the economic crisis and the other is about the peacemaking witness. We are providing links to brief prospectuses (work outlines) and nomination forms for those who want to be considered for work on these issues. Along with paid and volunteer consultant writers, the ACSWP and its predecessors have depended upon dedicated church members with particular expertise in the areas under consideration to serve on teams that define the work, contribute to it, and evaluate its adequacy. This letter is to invite your consideration of service on one of the two studies.  More>>

Questioning the Board of Pensions action     [10-25-10]

Last Saturday, (Oct. 23) we posted the announcement by the Board of Pensions (BoP for short) of its naming of a special committee to study how it should respond to a call by the 219th General Assembly to provide full benefits to same-gender partners as well as married couples. We soon received this comment from Arnold Rots, who was one of the overture advocates at the Assembly for the overtures calling on the BoP to take this action:

It is hard to tell whether the BoP is taking evasive, obstructive action or is just trying to get cover.

This should have been straightforward: BoP said in 2008 "we can do it." GA said in 2010 "go do it." BoP responded "we will." So why do they need an extra committee to study things yet again?

Also, it is not BoP's job to function as PC(USA) polity police, assuming the role of presbyteries and PJCs: The question of whether ordained members should be covered is none of its business, but it is [stated] right there, front and center, in the committee's charge.

It all makes me wonder whether coverage will indeed be implemented by 2012.

  - Arnold

Click here to read the statements by the three advocates for related overtures.  (They're in PDF format.)

Here is the full text of the Assembly action, which was adopted by a vote of 366 for, 287 against, and 9 abstaining:

That the 219th General Assembly (2010): 1. Urge the Board of Pensions to adopt amendments to the Benefits Plan to extend eligibility for spousal and dependent benefits under the Plan to Benefits Plan members, their same-gender domestic partners, and the children of their same-gender domestic partners, on the same basis as, and equivalent to, benefits made available to Benefits Plan members, their spouses, and the children of their spouses. 2. Approve an increase in dues for the Benefits Plan of up to 1 percent, effective January 1, 2012, to be allocated among the plans of the Board of Pensions, including but not limited to the Pension Plan, as the Board, in its sole discretion, deems necessary to fund the cost of the additional benefits. Should the Board not implement these benefits for any reason, approval of the increase in dues is rescinded. Comment: That the Board of Pensions be highly urged to provide relief of conscience, to be implemented simultaneously with these actions, for those congregations for whom these actions cause a moral dilemma.

Board of Pensions appoints special committee to consider same-gender benefits   [10-23-10]

Nine-member panel to deliberate on GA's recommendation

Jerry L. Van Marter of Presbyterian News Service reports:

Thomas C. Paisley, chair of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)'s Board of Pensions (BOP) today announced the appointment of a special committee of the board to consider same-gender benefits under the BOP's healthcare and pension plans.

The nine-member special committee will be charged with developing the BOP's response to this summer's action by the 219th General Assembly "to urge the Board of Pensions to extend benefits to same-gender domestic partners of plan members and to the children of those same-gender domestic partners."

Special committee members, drawn from several of the BOP's committees, are Frank S. James III, Vestavia Hills, Ala., chair; Anne S. Drennan, Newtown, Pa.; the Rev. John A. Huffman, Newport Beach Calif.; Claude C. Lilly III, Clemson, S.C.; Christopher M. Mason, New York City; Carol Sheffey Parham, Annapolis, Md.; Nancy M. Rhodes, McLeansville, N.C.; the Rev. Laird J. Stuart, San Anselmo, Calif.; and Dr. Paul B. Volker, Boone, Iowa.     The rest of the story >>

Six persons named by Abuse Review Panel in physical, sexual abuse investigation    [10-15-10]

And if you think that members and staff of the PC(USA) are not capable of abusive sexual misconduct, here’s one summary, from Presbyterian Outlook, of a recent reportby a review panel named by the denomination to investigate charges of sexual and physical abuse involving the children of Presbyterian missionaries serving in Africa and Asia. The panel has publicly named six people it determined had abused children. Some of the incidents happened over 50 years ago, and most of the perpetrators have died.   More >>

Mark Koenig named director of Presbyterian ministry at the UN

The General Assembly Mission Council has announced that the Rev. Mark Koenig has been selected as the new director of Presbyterian ministry at the United Nations. Koenig brings 30 years of experience in ministry, serving congregations, the Presbytery of the Western Reserve, and the General Assembly Mission Council. He has been on the staff of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, since 2002, and has served as its coordinator since 2007.

"Mark brings many gifts to this ministry," said Sara Lisherness, director of Compassion Peace and Justice for the General Assembly Mission Council. "He is deeply committed to a ministry of presence in the church, connecting with and listening to the church. He values Presbyterian polity and works faithfully to interpret and implement the social witness policies adopted by the General Assembly. He is a pastor, an educator and most of all a faithful servant to the ministry of Jesus Christ."       More>>

Celebrating the Youth Triennium – and a call to look ahead

by the Rev. Sue Trigger, co-pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Rockaway, N.J.

It had been a while since I’ve been to the Presbyterian Youth Triennium, so I decided this was the year to round up a Presbytery delegation and head to Indiana. This was my fourth Triennium experience. It was at Triennium that I answered the call to ministry; and it was at Triennium 15 years later that I felt a powerful reaffirmation of that call.

There were many things about this Triennium that were fantastic: 5010 participants from all 50 states, a well organized event, great worship planning and keynote speakers, and more. It is far more than a great conference; it is an event that helps shape lives. It is an event that helps people encounter Christ in a bold, powerful way through Bible study, reflection, and a call to consider how God is working in their lives. It is able to reach people with an impact that few, if any, of our congregations are able to do.

Triennium is an important link between our youth and the PCUSA. For most of the youth, this is their first opportunity to experience the connectional denomination. They eagerly seek out at least one person from all 50 states to exchange pins, and in the process learn a little bit about Presbyterians in other regions. In small groups they have an opportunity to develop a deeper connection that, in this age of social media, can continue into the future. It is an opportunity to learn about who we are and what we of the PC(USA) are doing in the world. It motivates participants to get more involved in the life of the church back home and on a larger scale.

The PC(USA) has an incredible evangelical tool that changes lives and inspires young people to faithful discipleship in Christ. So why would we jeopardize such a program? Since my first Triennium more than 20 years ago, the denomination has repeatedly cut financial resources and the ability to staff the event. In order to keep the program going we have had to increase the cost of the event for those who participate. This year’s event cost $409 per person without transportation. We are dangerously close to making Triennium available only to wealthier youth. Those who live in low income homes and attend smaller churches with limited resources are likely to be denied the opportunity to attend.

People – especially young people – are seeing the church as increasingly irrelevant to their lives and therefore are leaving organized religion. We currently offer one event that connects with youth and helps them see the church as relevant and even inspiring. Maintaining this event should be a priority, and yet its very survival is at risk.

If we believe the church is a valuable tool for carrying out Christ’s mission in the world, we should be investing in Triennium and other ministries that reach out to our young people. One way to do that is through the Pentecost Offering, part of which goes to the Triennium – so generous support of that offering is one way of investing in the future of our youth, and of our church. To do otherwise seems like institutional suicide.

Were you at the Triennium?
We'd love to hear your comments about that great event!
Just send a note, to be shared here.

Click here for a comment about the
Young Adult Advisory Delegates at General Assembly.

Former GA Moderator Howard Rice dies at 78

SFTS leader was instrumental in rediscovering Reformed spirituality

by Jerry L. Van Marter, Presbyterian News Service, and Holly Woolard, SFTS Communications Office   [posted here 8-11-10]

The Rev. Howard Rice

LOUISVILLE — The Rev. Howard Leland Rice, former moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly and San Francisco Theological Seminary chaplain and professor of ministry from 1968-97, died Aug. 8 in Claremont, Calif., at the age of 78. He was one of the earliest practitioners of spiritual disciplines and formation that led to the current renewal of those practices in the church.

Rice was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis prior to his appointment at SFTS — he arrived at the seminary the same year as this reporter arrived as a student — and spent his time on the San Anselmo campus either on crutches or confined to a wheelchair. After Rice’s retirement, his diagnosis was changed from MS to spinal cord damage. Last spring he battled a stubborn bone infection for weeks, resulting in his decision to accept hospice care. He passed away peacefully surrounded by his family.  More >>

A couple extra notes from your WebWeaver:

Presbyterian Voices for Justice celebrates the life and witness of Howard Rice, and many of us are grateful for all he taught us of true spirituality – a stance toward the world of engagement and action, passion and joy. He taught us not only through his writing and teaching, but through his life.

One of our Coordinating Team members recalls Howard “as an ardent supporter of choice. When PARO would call on him to speak against particular anti-choice OVT's, he carried with him tremendous respect [and] persuasiveness.”

Howard for some time graced the pages of the Witherspoon Society’s Network News with his occasional column entitled “Wind of the Spirit Blowing.”  His column in the Spring 1999 issue was called “Spirituality: not a cocoon, but a call to caring.”

We remember with gratitude that as early as 1982, Howard wrote an article entitled "Homophobia: The Overlooked Sin," for Church & Society.  (It was in vol. 73, 1982, pp. 5-13. )  In it he outlined many of the causes of homophobia within the church, and possible solutions to it.

Rice’s dream for an inclusive Presbyterian Church

In October, 2000, he talked with a group of More Light Presbyterians and friends, meeting at Old First Presbyterian Church in San Francisco, about “my dream for the Presbyterian Church. And it was as he summed up toward the end of his talk, “a dream of a truly welcoming church.”

Another remembrance of Howard Rice   [8-17-10]

The Rev. Howard Leland Rice, former moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly and San Francisco Theological Seminary chaplain and professor of ministry from 1968-97, died Aug. 8 in Claremont, Calif., at the age of 78. He was one of the earliest practitioners of spiritual disciplines and formation that led to the current renewal of those practices in the church.  More >>

This remembrance of Howard Rice comes from Sylvia Thorson-Smith, a member of the Coordinating Team of Presbyterian Voices for Justice:

The images I have of the Rev. Dr. Howard Rice will be etched forever in my memory.

Howard was one of a only a few former Moderators of the PCUSA who publicly endorsed the 1991 report on human sexuality that was rejected amid a flurry of conflict and criticism. As a leader in many church arenas, he spoke passionately and prophetically for sexual and gender justice. Howard rejected the either-or polarity between spirituality and social justice. Seeing LGBT persons as beloved children of God and advocating their equal rights in church and society were, for him, integral responses to gospel faith and discipleship.

As a liaison from the GA Task Force on Human Sexuality to the GA Task Force on Abortion (1990-91), I saw the care and skill with which Howard moderated an intense study of one of the most conflicted issues of our time. Amazingly, that Task Force produced a report which is in large part consensual – a report that has been sustained as Presbyterian policy for almost two decades. Throughout the ’90s, Howard repeatedly testified before GA committees who had to struggle with challenges to that policy. When he could no longer attend General Assembly, his strong voice continued to resonate through written testimony that was read to committees.    

Many others have memories of Howard as their professor, mentor, pastor, counselor, friend, and scholarly guide. My memories are focused on his active leadership in moving the Presbyterian Church toward a more authentic witness of the biblical mandate: to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.

Howard Rice was a truth-teller and wisdom-seeker of the rarest kind. Thanks Be for his justice-loving life among us!


“Something's Going On”

Former Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow considers the future of the PC(USA) in this post-modern age    [8-5-10]

Recently the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, having just completed his two-year term as Moderator of the Presbyterian Church, was interviewed of Deborah Arca Mooney for the Patheos website (which describes itself modestly as “the premier online destination to engage in the global dialogue about religion and spirituality and to explore and experience the world's beliefs”).

Out of his own strong involvement in social networking and the emergent church, Reyes-Chow begins by dismissing concern about the survival of the Presbyterian Church, saying that “a denomination that is only interested in its survival is no longer faithfully living the Gospel.”

The emergent church movement has much that is valuable, but he sees dangers, too: “I think one of the things the emergent folks are buying into culturally is an isolationism and disconnectedness that technology has brought about. And if we follow them, then we're buying into this idea, in an almost rebellious attitude, that you can do everything on your own and you are not accountable to anyone other than the folks you have deemed part of your immediate community. A denomination, on the other hand, says to the world that we're accountable to folks who manifest the Spirit and the Body of Christ beyond our human constructs, and I think that is a prophetic word for the world today. Denominations certainly have their issues, but we do also have a gift that we can offer.”

Asked about the relevance of the “social media” to the changes needed in the church, he says: “When it comes to the foundation of the social media component, this whole ‘open source’ understanding of people gathering together to discern the truth is actually something Presbyterians are wired for. We believe that we gather together and that nobody is supposed to have more authority than anybody else. And in an open source world, that's exactly what we do. ... What has really been wonderful about the social media connections has been that people who stand on opposite sides of theological issues are discovering each other as people, rather than just an ‘issue.’ ”

About the future of denominational structures, Reyes-Chow says: “We have to understand that chaos is just the air we breathe, so how does the structure keep us moving through all of that without going through these huge highs and lows? How does it provide some stability without being stifling? ... When we think of institutional structures, we can't think of them as endpoints, but rather as this constant movement, which can drive people nuts. Our structure needs to have adaptability built into it, which we don't have now.”

This will be a challenge, he says, because “we have to have the structures there that support that and manifest a healthy presence. So in a denominational future, how we structure middle governing bodies is going to be huge. That's the game changer for the PCUSA – re-thinking our synods and presbyteries to model ministry in a connectional way.”

Looking ahead, he adds this: “As far as ministry components, I predict a resurgence in justice ministries again, as so many young folks are looking at issues like trafficking, gender, invisible children, environmental issues, etc. Folks are realizing that we need to come alongside some of these movements and be influencers. The last thing I'd say is that we just hired a new director of our Washington office who is going to reinvigorate our prophetic presence in DC. I think that piece is going to be really important.”

We encourage you to read the full text of this interview >>

And let’s talk about it! What are your thoughts about Bruce’s views on the future of the PC(USA)? And specifically, what does it suggest for the future mission of a group like Presbyterian Voices for Justice? Help us do the rethinking we need to be doing, to shape our mission and action for the years to come! Just send a note, to be shared here (unless you ask us to keep it just among ourselves).

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.

Concerns about Louisville layoffs – and about justice

by Doug King, PVJ Communications Coordinator

Click here for the most recent comments on this matter!

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 afternoon.

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.

Leslie Scanlon of Presbyterian Outlook reports that the GAMC “voted unanimously, with no debate, this morning, to approve the budgets for 2011 and 2012 for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).” The budgets reflect “an $11.8 million cut, as the PC(USA)’s mission budget drops from $93.8 million this year to $82 million for 2011 and $80.5 million in 2012.” 

The Presbyterian News Service report, which was not available until we had finished preparing this comment, states:

In all 73.5 positions were eliminated. Twelve were vacant and 12 employees accepted voluntary separation offers in recent weeks. The staff reduction amounts to 13 percent, from roughly 390 employees to 340. Staff cuts occurred across the GAMC — 24.5 in Mission, 11.5 in Shared Services, 8 in Communications and Funds Development and five in the Executive Director’s office.

At its last meeting in February, the GAMC debated the principles that would guide the GAMC leadership – concentrated in the Executive Committee and senior staff – in deciding what to cut. Clearly, despite a major investment in fundraising and communications (more than 75 people), the money is not coming in. Some of the GAMC members were aware of the value judgments and secular “feel” to some of the February principles, and debated them before approval.

To be sure, many of the guidelines are reasonable, such as the basic idea that the General Assembly agencies should do what they can do better than the congregations and presbyteries. Regardless of those principles, perhaps, within minutes of the end of the GAMC meeting in February, all staff managers were given the memo to cut 15% for 2011 and another 4% for 2012.

It should be made clear that these cutbacks apply only to the GAMC units; the Foundation, Board of Pensions, Westminster/JohnKnox publishing, the Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program (PILP) and the Office of the General Assembly (Stated Clerk’s Office) have their own budgets. While they are under the authority of the General Assembly, they are less affected by the financial struggles of the church as a whole.

It is also worth noting – with some concern – that the GAMC voted in February to give raises of three percent next year to the staff who will remain. As an across the board raise, it will of course benefit those at the top quite a bit more than those at the bottom. Those who clean the GAMC offices, incidentally, are the half-time employees of a cleaning service who generally must work two jobs and do not have health insurance. We can only hope that the Obama health-care reform will help them.

This year, among the reports going to the Assembly is one from the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy, listed as Item 10-10, dealing with the theology of compensation, entitled “Neither Poverty Nor Riches: Compensation, Equity, and the Unity of the Church.

One of its proposals is that an older 5:1 salary ratio be re-applied to the General Assembly Mission Council staff. This would mean that the best paid staff person could not make more than five times what the lowest paid staff person makes. This is a change opposed by the hierarchy of the GAMC, although the other agencies are even more unequal in their salary structure – except for the Office of the General Assembly, which holds more closely to the old “mission board” spirit of solidarity. By the time the General Assembly convenes, of course, it will be too late for those dismissed today, but clearly if salaries were more equal, fewer people would need to be let go.

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.
Just send a note!



The recent 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. 

We hope yours might be among them!  Just send a note!

A vote for non-geographic presbyteries

I think it was Mitch Trigger who mentioned non-geographic presbyteries in his comment.  Amen! Why not an economic justice presbytery, earth justice presbytery, gender justice presbytery, LGBT justice presbytery?  Congregations need to break out of the present presbytery/denomination structure and work with whomever God leads them to.

Tim Leadingham
Post Falls, ID

About GAMC salaries

Received 5-15-10

Just think!  This could be provided across the board in church salaries too  The church that pays its pastor $150,000.00 could be required to, after balancing for cost of living, give some of that money to the presbytery to help pay the salaries of pastors in struggling churches.

I know, I’m such a radical. 

Bob Campbell

Robert Campbell, Pastor
Tully Memorial Presbyterian Church
Sharon Hill, PA

It's time to think in new ways about our church

From Mitch Trigger, PVJ Secretary/Communicator, on May 15, 2010

There are so many aspects of this latest meeting and the "spin" that has come out of the Louisville office that are unsettling that I hardly know where to begin...

In the latest PNS story about the re-organization of mission, there is this paragraph about the research that was done:

The research 'found passion among Presbyterians for a wide variety of mission activities,' Valentine said. 'At the same time, it found a lack of consensus around any of them as being the most important. Instead, we are called to balance numerous functions on which the church has asked us to lead.'

I guess that's a matter of interpretation. I looked at the graph that they brought to the GAMC with the research, and yes, there was support for a wide range of interests, but social justice got very strong support. Interestingly enough, the weakest support was from pastors - they were more interested in evangelism, church development, and international mission support. It's strange that except for pastors, the respondents to the research had a higher support for social justice than they did for international mission support and yet international mission support is the area that will see an increase in its percentage of the GAMC budget for the next 2 years.

I can't believe this but I'm starting to sound like those elements of our church that continually complain that we have allowed a minority of the church to control our witness and focus.

Staff are being eliminated and the focus of areas such as Youth and Young Adult Ministries are being "refocused" to congregational support, rather than doing larger programming. So what will we be left with when we call Louisville for support? People to mail out resources to us? We're losing people who have been deeply involved in important areas and we won't be reclaiming them any time soon.

If you haven't already seen it, Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow's latest comments about his experience at GAMC are a challenge.  [For a bit of that blog, scroll down to the next box.]

I'm beginning to think that denominational ties DON'T mean very much and that it MIGHT be better for churches to connect with each other based on their understanding of how churches are supposed to express God's love for the world. That's what is being asked for with the overture to allow creation of non-geographic presbyteries. Our denominational identity seems to have been watered down to simply a form of government, with little consideration for our historic support of social justice and care for "the underdog." Too many Presbyterians know too little about our history and our place at the vanguard of progressive viewpoints.


“Letting go of institutional nostalgia?”

Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow has offered some very provocative thoughts in response to the actions of the GAMC. His title says at lot: “Letting go of institutional nostalgia?”

Here’s part of his blog:

This past week I took part in a series of meetings that lead to the laying off of many people in the national offices of the denomination to which I belong, the Presbyterian Church (USA). While the situation leading up to these decisions and the process itself have been complicated, it is painfully clear that this has been a difficult time for many people on many levels. ...

As I was sitting through this meeting and have been mulling this over, I am again bolstered in my belief that we are in a time of transition like we have never known. At levels of society from civic groups to churches to government it does not take a bunch of studies for us to know that if we are going to truly thrive into the future, the ways in which we engage the world and one another have got to change. ...

First what we must do is ask ourselves soul searching questions about our very existence. What would happen if we simply let things go? And I am not talking about letting go in some metaphorical or ethereal sense, but really letting go. Let go of the security of our structures, the confines of our finances and the stifling nature of wanting to survive. What is the worst that can happen? The worst thing that could happen is that we discover - or realize - that for the most part, we would not be missed. This would be sad, of course, but at least we would know and would be given permission to stop. And then . . . now this is where life could get really interesting. No longer being fueled by our own delusions of grandeur, the best thing that could happen is that we are given permission to focus all of our energy and expertise towards discovering what may be, rather than propping up and dressing up what was. With a sense of possibility, grounded and formed by where we have been, we take on the privilege and challenge of birthing new life and we collectively become transformed.

To read the whole thing (which we recommend!) >>

Where's the "justice"?

From the Rev. Jake Young, former president of the Witherspoon Society, on May 14, 2010

In all our denomination’s communications about mission, I am struck by the utter lack of the term: "Justice." The notion is there – sort of – and, indeed, it is practiced by many mission co-workers such as Hunter Farrell (now the director of Presbyterian World Mission), who during his service in Peru engaged in serious justice work. But why don't we name it? Has it become – in some strange discursive turning-of-the-tables – politically incorrect? I need not remind you all that there are plenty of scriptural references to "justice" (e.g. most notably Micah 6:8).

And so I’d like to ask our current Moderator, "Does social justice work have any place in the emerging, technologically sophisticated church? Why don't you ever mention justice?"

Even at the January 2008 World Mission summit in Dallas, where I represented one of PVJ's predecessor groups, it was like pulling teeth to get people to discuss the biblical notion of justice and how it is a clear part of our calling from our Creator.

But I thank all of you in PVJ for putting the "J" word in the very name of our organization and please, please continue to beat the drums of Justice for the Presbyterian Church and, more importantly, for all creation.

Yours in seeking justice,


A comment from a former mission co-worker

Received 5-14-10

Although previously a part of worldwide mission myself, I have been distressed by the monthly mailings from the World Mission Program Area I have received and the money spent on slick publications and postage. It appears to me that the PC(USA) has abandoned social, economic, racial and gender justice issues in favor of sending one more mission worker abroad. Do we not have any staff working in these areas?

Annie King

Wade says this is 'not your mother and father's church anymore'

by Duane Sweep, Special to Presbyterian News Service   [4-23-10]

DEERWOOD, Minn. — April 23, 2010 --- The Rev. Byron Wade, vice moderator of the 218th (2008) General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), looked out on his audience at the Clearwater 2010 conference here, and asked for a show of hands from the "boomers."

He told them, "You are the last generation that goes to church on a regular basis."

In an April 17 address on change in church, Wade spoke about a church in a foreign land. The conference had the theme, "Finding Our Way in the Wilderness."

"We're going through something in the church," Wade said. "Our current church is in a foreign culture. ... You can't put the same old thing in a new culture and expect it to survive."     The rest of the story >>

Phil Tom moving to Washington

Phil Tom (left) with Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow
Photo by Erin Dunigan, Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Phil Tom has been tapped by the White House and Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis to serve as the Director for the Center for Faith-based and Community Initiatives for the Department of Labor. He is currently serving as associate for Small Church and Community Ministry in the General Assembly’s Evangelism and Church Growth ministry area.  He will leave at the end of May, to begin service in Washington on April 5.

He will be serving in one of twelve Cabinet level Faith-based offices, which are coordinated by the White House Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnership Office.

Last summer Phil Tom received the Rodney T. Martin award from the Presbyterian Health, Education & Welfare Association (PHEWA) during the group’s opening reception at the Big Tent event in Atlanta, June 11-13. The award is named for the late Rod Martin, who once served as executive director of PHEWA, and after his retirement was president of the Witherspoon Society in 1994.

Presbyterian Voices for Justice rejoices that Phil will be serving now in a wider sphere, bringing his insight, his creativity, and his passion for justice into the hallowed halls of Washington.


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.


John Shuck’s new "Religion for Life" website

Long-time and stimulating blogger John Shuck, a Presbyterian minister currently serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tenn., writes about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and lightening up.

Click here for his blog posts.

Click here for podcasts of his radio program, which "explores the intersection of religion, social justice and public life."


John Harris’ Summit to Shore blogspot

Theological and philosophical reflections on everything between summit to shore, including kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology, 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.


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.


Got more blogs to recommend?

Please send a note, and we'll see what we can do!


To top

© 2012 by Presbyterian Voices for Justice.  All material on this site is the responsibility of the WebWeaver unless other sources are acknowledged.  Unless otherwise noted, material on this site may be copied for personal use and sharing in small groups.  For permission to reproduce material for wider publication, please contact the WebWeaver, Doug King.  Any material reached by links on this site is outside the control and responsibility of the WebWeaver and Presbyterian Voices for Justice.  Questions or comments?  Please send a note!