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Archive for February, 2011

This page lists our postings from February, 2011

For an index to all our reports and analyses
on the 219th General Assembly

Posts from earlier in June, 2011
May, 2011
April, 2011

March, 2011
February, 2011
January, 2011

December, 2010
November, 2010
October, 2010
September, 2010

August, 2010
July, 2010
June, 2010
May, 2010

April, 2010
March, 2010
February, 2010
January, 2010

For links to earlier archive pages, click here.

10-A voting on Saturday, February 26, 2011

John Shuck has put together the first report I’ve seen about presbytery voting this weekend on Amendment 10-A, to open ordination to LGBT Presbyterians:

So far eleven presbyteries have voted this week:

Three FLIPPED from no to YES:

bulletSacramento 80-76
bulletCentral Nebraska 36-16
bulletIndian Nations 45-41

Four held on to their previous YES:

bulletEast Tennessee 71-63
bulletMackinac 44-30
bulletSanta Fe 101-17-1
bulletTres Rios 35-32

Five held on to their previous no:

bulletTampa Bay 91-120
bulletNortheast Georgia 75-87 (but with big improvement!)
bulletSouth Dakota 32-49
bulletWestern Colorado 13-29
bulletFlint River 26-54
bulletYukon 21-38

None switched from YES to no this week!

The unofficial score according to MLP is 55-40 in favor of Amendment A!

Where are we so far?
The big news: twelve flips from no to YES so far.
One flipped the other way.
But we only need nine net flips to win.
We are in good shape with tough votes to come.
We have to hold every yes and work to flip some more nos!


From Mackinac Presbytery, Moderator Steve Hammond reports that 10-A passed by a vote of 44-30. [That was little changed from the vote 2 years ago.] He adds that it was “a collegial gathering and civility on all sides [was] observed.”

SB 1070, Immigration, and Worker Rights:
From Arizona to Wisconsin and Beyond

The Rev. Trina Zelle gave the keynote address on Thursday morning, Feb. 24, for the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice of South Central Wisconsin, on the occasion of their Labor/Religion Breakfast. It obviously comes at a critical time for the labor movement in Wisconsin, when labor unions in general, and especially public employee unions, are under attack by the state’s governor and the Republican-dominated legislature.

Trina is the director of Interfaith Worker Justice of Arizona, and served as co-moderator of the Witherspoon Society from 2006 to 2008.

She began her talk:

Good morning. It is an honor to be here with you today. And let me begin by bringing you greetings of solidarity from the 60% of Arizonans who aren’t – to use that Texas phrase I am so fond of – a bubble off plumb. (I’ll leave that to the carpenters and construction folks among you to figure that out!) That is to say, the good people of Arizona who get up and fight every day for the working families of Arizona.

I am here to tell you that what has been going on in Arizona, and what is going on here in Wisconsin is linked. Literally. One of the most draconian anti-immigrant bills ever to be written and the attempts of Governor Walker to eviscerate the union movement in Wisconsin are of a piece. Both in terms of a dystopian world view that sees working people as commodities to be manipulated and in terms of the actual behind-the-scene players. Both part of a larger effort to turn back the clock to the Robber Baron era or the England of Charles Dickens. Both constituting a grave threat, not only to the people of our respective states, but all working Americans, the union movement, and the Union – as in these 50 United States – itself.

She goes on to detail the attacks on labor – especially immigrant labor – in Arizona as a way to put the Wisconsin struggle in a wider context, and to show just how critical the situation really is.

The full text of Zelle’s talk >>

Public employee unions are under attack!

For more information, check out The Wisconsin State Journal or The Nation.

More voting this weekend on Amendment 10-A

So far, no big changes

This comes from John Shuck, on his Shuck and Jive blog, with the first results added by your WebWeaver:

Thousands of Presbyterians will be discussing, debating, and hopefully voting YES on Amendment A this weekend. I have been scouting about places like this, this, and that and have learned the names of the presbyteries who will be voting this weekend.

Here are the ones that voted YES last time and need to vote YES again:

bulletEast Tennessee
bulletSanta Fe
bulletTres Rios – Voted today, 35 to 32 in favor of 10-A

And those that voted NO last time and could use a good flip:

bulletCentral Nebraska
bulletCentral Washington
bulletFlint River
bulletIndian Nations
bulletNortheast Georgia
bulletSan Fernando
bulletSouth Dakota – Voted today, 32 - 49 against.
bulletTampa Bay
bulletWestern Colorado – Voted today, 13 - 29 against, with the “Yes” votes losing a bit of ground compared to two years ago.

This will be a challenging weekend. A few of these NOs could definitely flip and so an encouraging phone call would be most helpful!

Blessed Be.

Posted By John Shuck to Shuck and Jive at 2/23/2011 10:50:00 PM

An Evangelical responds to Margaret Thomas’ analysis of the claims of a crisis in the PC(USA)

The Rev. Robert Campbell, pastor of Tully Memorial Presbyterian Church in Sharon Hill, PA, has written a thoughtful comment on Margaret Thomas’ recent essay on “Governance in a Time of Ferment,” in which she raises questions about the letter from a number of Evangelical tall-steeple pastors which claims that the PC(USA) in “deathly ill.”

Campbell also raises some challenging questions both for the supporters of the “deathly ill” letter, and for the PC(USA) as a whole.

Campbell’s note >>

Fair Food Update: March in Boston on February 27 and sign on to a clergy letter to Stop & Shop

This comes to us from Noelle Damico, of the PC(USA) Campaign for Fair Food:

This coming week the Coalition of Immokalee workers and consumers all along the east coast will be calling on Ahold (parent company of Stop & Shop, Giant and Martin’s), Trader Joe’s and Publix to work with them to end poverty wages and ensure human rights for farmworkers harvesting tomatoes for the companies’ Florida tomato suppliers. Presbyterians will be joining other people of faith in bearing witness to the justice and dignity God intends for all people. See full details of the march to Stop n Shop in Boston on February 27 and the major demonstration in Tampa at Publix on March 4 at Do The Right Thing Tour.

Please join us if you are able or pray for this witness and drop off managers’ letters if you cannot be present. If you’re clergy, check out the sign-on letter to Stop & Shop/Ahold below, and consider adding your name.

More >>

Free copies of back issues of Network News

A note from Doug King, your WebWeaver

My wife and I are moving again. (This “pilgrim people” thing gets a little wearing after a while – but has its joys, too!)

Part of the challenge of another move is another purging of our STUFF. Since I am laying aside my roles as editor of Network News and as manager of the PVJ membership database, I’m trying to clean out mountains of paper, including back issues of Network News.

And so here’s an offer for all of you: If you can use any copies of back issues of Network News, perhaps to hand out in your congregation or presbytery, or at other events coming up, I’ll be happy to send you some, if you’ll just reimburse me for the postage.

DEADLINE:  Since we'll be moving about March 25, PLEASE SEND YOUR REQUEST BY MARCH 15!

Here’s a list of the issues available:

Fall 2010 –                Religion as dividing or healing? Resources for issues coming to presbyteries: Amendment 10-A, Belhar Confession, new Form of Government (50 copies)

Summer 2010 –         Post-GA issue: reports on GA actions, PVJ events, etc. (50 copies)

Spring 2010 –            Pre-Ga issue: analysis of issues, etc. (100 copies)

Winter 2010 –           Not published in hard copy

Fall 2009 –               Not published in hard copy

Summer 2009 –        Not published in hard copy

Spring 2009 –             Celebrating union of Witherspoon and Voices of Sophia; articles on freedom to marry, Calvin’s significance then and now; a feminist statement of faith, and more (100 copies)

Winter 2009 –          Calvin and Crisis – reflections on Calvin at a time of economic crisis (40 copies)

To look at any of these issues on our website, go to /2004/network_news1.htm and click to the one you’re considering.

If you're interested in copies of any older issues (back through 1994), let me know, and I may be able to come up with something.

Let me know what you’d like, how many copies, and where to send them. Unless you request otherwise, I’ll send them at the cheapest rate possible.

Just send me a note at

Doug King


Our little thought for the day -- sent to us by two friends in Western Pennsylvania!

More Light Presbyterian Board issues statement on Amendment 10-A   

We stand at the half way point in the presbyteries’ voting on proposed Amendment 10-A, which would return the church to our historically Presbyterian way of calling church officers. In true Reformed tradition, faithful Presbyterians throughout the church have been advocating passionately to affirm the inalienable right of governing bodies to elect their own officers.

We are very hopeful that this will be the year that the church acts to unbind the Holy Spirit and open the door to ordination for those qualified and called to serve. We rejoice in this positive momentum and give thanks for all those who have labored to change hearts and minds, and for those presbyteries that have come to understand that the conflict created in our church by the present G-6.0106 b. is intolerably hurtful to our denomination.

We encourage and welcome the support of all in the ratification of 10-A, confirming our commitment to work faithfully together, acknowledging our oneness in Christ, and our common call to reconciliation.

Adopted by the National MLP Board of Directors on 2/21/2011 in Kansas City, Missouri

Follow the vote, or inquire about getting involved at


Are We Deathly Ill?

Governance in a Time of Ferment

The Rev. Margaret J. Thomas offers a sharp, thoughtful response to the “Fellowship PCUSA Letter” (which she refers to as the “Deathly Ill Letter”). She traces the long history of tension and dissent in the Presbyterian family of churches, and points out some of the healthy ways we have dealt with those problems – and some of the not-so-healthy ways that she sees in the current “evangelical” movement behind the “Fellowship” letter.

Click here for her 5-page essay, in PDF format.>>

Margaret Thomas has served the Presbyterian Church in a variety of roles over many years. Now honorably retired and living in Minneapolis, she was the Deputy Executive Director of the UPC/GAMC, and then executive of the Synod of Lakes and Prairies. She then served as executive of the Minnesota Council of Churches, and during that time she became a member and moderator of both the GA Permanent Judicial Commission and the Advisory Committee on the Constitution. Out of this broad and deep experience, she offers some of her insights on the proposed new Form of Government – both describing its positive aspects and pointing to two proposed changes that could undermine the whole distinctive style of governance in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

She has also written a short essay commenting specifically on the proposed new Form of Government, now being considered in the presbyteries.

If you have comments to add to these papers,
please send a note
and we'll post it here.

So, what shall we say about this part of our glorious “Presbyterian heritage”?

This little snippet of our history was sent to be by Berry Craig, a professor of history at the West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah. He and his wife Melinda are long-time members of the Witherspoon Society/Presbyterian Voices for Justice. He sent this along with their membership renewal – hint, hint! 

This made me very proud of my Presbyterian heritage. I know it will make you proud to be a Presbyterian man of the cloth. I can certainly see a sermon topic in here.

Berry Craig


An account of 18th century backcountry America (South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina and "the Floridas") in Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America by David Hackett Fischer (p. 617):

Sectarian conflicts became commonplace in the backcountry. Many denominations were planted in the wilderness, but various groups of Presbyterians outnumbered all others, and outrivaled them in religious bigotry. The journal of the English missionary Charles Woodmason was a running chronicle of religious strife. When Woodmason tried to conduct an Anglican sermon in the back settlements, Presbyterians disrupted his services, rioted when he preached, started a pack of dogs fighting outside the church, loosed his horse, stole his church key, refused him food and shelter, and gave two barrels of whiskey to his congregation before a service of communion. One Baptist tried to discredit the Anglican missionary by stealing a clerical dressing gown, climbing into bed with a woman in the dark and "making her give out next day the Parson came to bed with her."

Their victim complained bitterly that "the perverse persecuting spirit of the Presbyterians displays itself much more here than in Scotland ... the sects are eternally jarring among themselves." He quickly learned the border variant of the golden rule - do unto others as they threatened do unto you.

He preached furiously against the Presbyterians, and tried to start legal actions against them, but all in vain. "As all the magistrates are Presbyterians, I could not get a warrant," he wrote, and further, "if I got warrants as the constables are Presbyterians likewise I could not get them served."

Northern Waters Presbytery has voted Yes on Belhar Confession, new Form of Government, and 10-A

The Rev. David Oliver-Holder of Bayfield, Wisconsin, has reported these results from Northern Waters’ meeting on Saturday, Feb. 19: 

bullet  On Belhar yes, 42; no, 14; abstain, 2
bullet  On FOG yes, on a voice vote
bullet  On 10-B thru L, N and O yes, on a voice vote
bullet  On 10-M yes, 12; no, 41
bullet  On 10-A yes, 39; no, 14

Here's hoping that the trend continues.

David Oliver-Holder
Bayfield, WI

More movement toward an inclusive church!

Here are the results from the 10 presbyteries voting on Amendment 10-A today:

5 continued their support, voting to approve both 08-B and 10-A

bulletArkansas, 120-42, widening their margin to nearly 3-to-1
bulletNew Hope, 158-118, also a strong showing
bulletJohn Knox, 60-19, crossing the 75% threshold
bulletNorthern Waters, 39-14, solid but with fewer numbers than last round
bulletGreater Atlanta, 262-157-5, transforming a 10-vote margin on 08-B to over 100 on 10-A!

3 remained in the 'no' column

bulletPines, 36-44
bulletLake Erie, also 36-44 and a significant improvement
bulletPalo Duro, 35-50

2 switched to support!!

bulletSouth Alabama, 34-33
bulletNorth Alabama, 36-28

Initial reports from both Lake Erie and North Alabama mentioned several speakers witnessing to their change of mind - some that even surprised the organizers!  

The presbytery tally now stands at 46 approving, 34 failing to approve, and over 55% of individual presbyters voting in favor of the change.

The presbytery voting now stands at 46-34 with eight net shifts from opposing to supporting an inclusive church. Ninety-three presbyteries have yet to vote.

So it’s not a done deal! For passage of Amendment 10-A, a net of one more presbytery must shift to supporting the amendment. But that means continued efforts to help brother and sister presbyters see the virtue (yes, virtue!) in moving toward an open and welcoming church, with an inclusive ministry and elder leadership. It means continued efforts to get out the vote. (Did you notice that South Alabama approved 10-A by 1 vote?

So there is still work to be done! But we say a warm word of thanks to all who have brought us this far.

Presbyteries voting this week include:

bulletTuesday, Detroit and Wabash Valley
bulletTuesday or Wednesday, Western Colorado
bulletFriday, South Dakota (postponed from Monday due to snow) and Tres Rios
bulletFriday or Saturday, Yukon

Thanks to Tricia Dykers Koenig, Covenant Network National Organizer and to indefatigable blogger (and minister) John Shuck.
And lots of other good people as well.

For vote charts:

bullet More Light Vote  
bullet Covenant Network
bullet John McCrosky

If you have news to add
- perhaps details from one of the presbytery meetings --
or opinions to offer,
please just send a note,
and we'll share it here.

Governance in a Time of Ferment – observations on Amendment 10-1, the proposed New Form of Government

The Rev. Margaret J. Thomas has served the Presbyterian Church in a variety of roles over many years. Now honorably retired and living in Minneapolis, she was the Deputy Executive Director of the UPC/GAMC, and then executive of the Synod of Lakes and Prairies. She then served as executive of the Minnesota Council of Churches, and during that time she became a member and moderator of both the GA Permanent Judicial Commission and the Advisory Committee on the Constitution. Out of this broad and deep experience, she offers some of her insights on the proposed new Form of Government – both describing its positive aspects and pointing to two proposed changes that could undermine the whole distinctive style of governance in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

In a time when the denomination is having trouble sustaining its presbyteries and synods as both programmatic and ecclesiastical structures, she sees the new, leaner structure as offering “a less directive Constitutional framework for allowing each presbytery to shape its structures and operational manuals to function in whatever way most effectively reflects the realities of its geography, size, missional priorities, levels of diversity, staffing, and financial realities.”

But, she warns, current efforts to push this new structure into “smaller, ecclesiastically focused entities with little to no staff and programmatic initiatives arising solely out of the congregations. Some even envision a return to state based missional synods,” which would lose the distinctive and valued diversity within the Presbyterian Church.

Her second concern focuses on groups pressing for “a polity that would allow them to organize themselves into affinity groups for governance.” This often takes the form of proposals for “non-geographical” presbyteries or synods, such as the current Korean-language based presbyteries. She urges strongly against this way of allowing some Presbyterians and congregations simply ignore provisions of the Constitution with which they disagree, while maintaining full participation in the legislative process by which those rules are adopted and applied.

She concludes that “such proposals move beyond the Foundational Principles of Presbyterian governance – expressed in a polity which has ample room for dissent within the bounds of mutual forbearance without the creation of church dividing parallel governance entities.”

We encourage you to look at her full essay (it’s just over 2 pages, in PDF format)

We'd like to hear your comments!
Please send a note,
to be shared here!

Preaching Peace, Living Nonviolence:
Resources for Worship, Study and Action

This Sunday/February 20th’s Lectionary Gospel Lesson: Matthew 5:38-44

[Jesus said] "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. ..."

This coming Sunday, February 20th, preachers and worshippers have an opportunity to understand Christ’s call to nonviolence in his famous Sermon on the Mount in light of amazing reports of the nonviolent revolutions in the Middle East.

The Rev. Bruce Gillette outlines and links to a rich selection of resources and ideas for preaching on this vital topic.  Click here for his essay >>

Savannah Presbytery shifts to support 10-A

Presbytery actions so far:  39 for, 31 against

By 40 to 33, the Presbytery of Savannah voted today to support Amendment 10-A, which would definitively open the Presbyterian Church to the possibility of ordaining gay and lesbian persons, shifting from their past opposition to such a change.

This followed actions by two presbyteries yesterday:

Hudson River Presbytery approved the change by a pretty convincing margin: 81 to 6.  And Olympia Presbytery remained in the No column, by a vote of 39-78, which was narrower than in past votes.

That puts the presbytery tally at 39-31, with a net gain of 6 out of the needed 9 new supportive presbyteries.  

Presbyteries voting tomorrow (Saturday, February 19) are Arkansas, Greater Atlanta, John Knox, Lake Erie, New Hope, North Alabama, Northern Waters, Palo Duro, Pines, South Alabama.

And on Monday, South Dakota Presbytery will vote.

Thanks again to the Rev. John Shuck and Tricia Dykers Koenig, Covenant Network National Organizer  .

More on Amendment 10-A >>

More on the uprising in Egypt:

"The people are over the moon happy ..."

An American well-acquainted with Egypt offers insights (and calms some American fears) about the recent, amazing uprising there.

PVJ Coordinating Team member Sylvia Carlson sent us this now-widely-circulated email by a former student of a friend of hers. The author, Casondra Sobieralski, described herself this way when I asked her to tell our readers a bit about herself:

I live in Oakland, California. I am a digital media artist, and I have worked several field seasons doing digital documentation work for French archaeologists in Luxor, Egypt. I have an MFA in Conceptual and Information Arts, and my 2005 MFA thesis piece was a 3-projector video installation about the Hatshepsut. My statement for that piece reads: "I went to Egypt seeking the pharaoh Hatshepsut. I thought I was failing, until I realized that I was looking for an ancient Hillary Clinton when I probably should have been looking for a character more like Hatshepsut’s patron goddess of love, play, sensuality, music, and mothering, Hathor. Then I began to see Hatshepsut all around me, in the people of Luxor."

One quick quote from her note, and then I hope you’ll take a look at the whole thing.

The people are over the moon happy that the revolution is happening.  Everyone is nervous about what comes next, but 31 years of (US backed, of course) oppression, corruption, torture, mafia rule, secret prisons within secret prisons, and back room deals with Israel – was ENOUGH!

If you have been especially concerned about the possible gains by the Muslim Brotherhood, click here to jump right to her reassuring words about that question.

Voting on inclusive ordination is running in favor of the change

As of this morning, voting by presbyteries on Amendment A was 37 for, and 30 against. That in itself is good news, and holds promise for the long-awaited change to make our denomination more open, more welcoming, more just. A net shift of four more presbyteries (there have been five so far) would put this historic change into effect.   More >>

Sorry for my poor arithmetic that led me to say a shift of nine more presbyteries is needed - it's just four!  Your numerically challenged WebWeaver.  And thanks to Tim Leadingham for catching this.

Belhar Confession generating spirited discussion online

Theological conversation indicate confessions still matter in Presbyterians’ common life together

from the General Assembly Mission Council, by Paul Seebeck, Communications Associate, Theology Worship and Education

LOUISVILLE – The Belhar Confession, which is being considered as an amendment to The Book of Confessions of the PC(USA), is generating a vigorous and spirited discussion on the General Assembly Mission Council’s website. Underneath the fully downloadable version of the confession, which was adopted by the Dutch Mission Reformed Church in South Africa in 1986, are more than 100 posts that fill nearly 50 screens.

“For six months we’ve had this sustained, challenging theological conversation—online— about the nature of the church’s unity in Christ,” says Charles Wiley, coordinator of the PC(USA)’s office of Theology and Worship. “The call of Belhar to unity, reconciliation, and justice has people thinking about the faith, engaging each other with questions and reflecting thoughtfully.”   More >>

Note from your WebWeaver: So far 31 presbyteries have acted on the proposal to add the Belhar Confession to the PC(USA) Book of Confessions. The vote so far is 19 Yes, and 12 No. Since a two-thirds vote is needed to amend the Book of Confessions, and 142 presbyteries have yet to vote (and 97 are needed to pass the change), this looks like a very close vote.

What's happening in your presbytery as it deals with Belhar? Please share your news with us, to be shared here!  Just send a note.

More on the Belhar Confession >>

Rev. Perry Harvey Biddle dies in Nashville

We have just received this note about the death of a former active member of the Witherspoon Society and activist for justice:

I wanted to let you know of my father's death on February 10, 2011. A retired Presbyterian minister who served churches throughout the South, Perry Harvey Biddle, Jr., was a supporter of the Witherspoon Society, one of the many aspects of his life-long advocacy for civil rights.

The memorial service will be Saturday morning, February 19, 2011, at Second Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee. Memorials may be given to Alive Hospice, Inc., 1718 Patterson Street, Nashville, Tennessee 37203 (

He is survived by his wife, Sue Biddle, 916 Evans Road, Nashville, Tennessee 37204; by his two children and their families, Lindsay Louise Biddle and Perry Biddle, III; and by his sister and her family, Stella Biddle Fitzgerald.

Thank you for your prayers at this time,


Rev. Ms. Lindsay Louise Biddle
30 Ralston Avenue
Glasgow, Scotland UK G52 3NA

Amendment A by bullet point

Thanks to John Shuck, who has posted this neat update on the voting, on his blog, Shuck and Jive

bulletA number of presbyteries voted on Amendment A today. 
bulletIt appears that none of them switched from their 2008 vote.
bulletHere is a handy little chart.
bulletAnd a chart with a bit more detail.
bulletThe score is 34 yes to 29 no.    More >>

Earlier, on Tuesday, Feb. 8, these votes were reported by Tricia Dykers-Koenig, of Covenant Network

bulletCimarron, a presbytery that was an 08-B switch, held on strong at 19-9
bulletRedwoods, a consistently supportive presbytery, voted yes in a standing vote
bulletBlackhawk approved by 66-46 after voting against 08-B
bulletCincinnati approved by 99-72-3 after tying on 08-B.
Rev. Jean Southard acquitted by GAPJC in marriage equality trial

from More Light Presbyterians, Tuesday, February 08 2011

The decision by the General Assembly's Permanent Judicial Commission in the Rev. Jean Southard marriage case was released today. Charges had been brought against Rev. Southard, who officiated at the wedding of two women at First Presbyterian Church, Waltham, MA, a welcoming and affirming More Light church in a state where same sex marriage is legal. The charges in the disciplinary case against Rev. Jean Southard have been dismissed by the GAPJC.

We encourage you to read the entire GAPJC findings to understand the nuances of Presbyterian polity and procedures and the basis for their decision.

We also urge you to read the two concurrences from members of the GAPJC that follow the decision. One concurrence raises the question as to whether or not W-4.9001 "provides an effective and unambiguous definition of Christian marriage." The other concurrence calls marriage equality a "human rights issue" and calls upon the General Assembly to amend the constitution to allow for marriage of same sex couples in the PCUSA.  

We give thanks to God for the faithful ministry of Rev. Jean Southard. We are grateful that charges against Rev. Southard have been dismissed by our Church's highest court. We are grateful that the concurrences that accompany this GAPJC decision recognize that marriage equality is a human rights issue and call upon the General Assembly to amend the constitution to allow for marriage equality. 

More Light Presbyterians is wholeheartedly committed to spiritual equality, ordination equality and marriage equality in the life, ministry and witness of the Presbyterian Church (USA). This GAPJC decision and its concurrences are important steps toward the achievement of marriage equality.  

with hope and gratitude,

Michael J. Adee, Executive Director & Field Organizer, More Light Presbyterians

Jean Southard herself has sent out this note:


I am grateful to the GAPJC for finding that I did not violate the constitution or my ordination vows, and pleased that they have made statements in their concurrence calling for change in the church. I wish they could have found a way forward for ministers to do same-gender marriages in the church, but it seems that must wait for another day.

Thank you for your prayers and support. I have attached the decision for those of you who haven't seen it.

May God give us all strength to continue the journey.

~ Jean

More on marriage equality >>

Speaking of same-sex marriage and its legitimacy ...

Dateline February 4, 2011

University of Iowa student Zach Wahls last week told the Iowa House of Representatives about the meaning of family – when both his parents are women

(CBS) LOS ANGELES – Zach Wahls captured the attention of the nation this week after a speech he delivered defending gay marriage in front of the Iowa House of Representatives went viral on YouTube.

The 19-year-old University of Iowa student spoke during a public forum against House Resolution 6, which would end civil unions between same sex couples. It's a subject that is very near and dear to Zach's heart too. He himself was raised by two women who are now married.

Read about the CBS News interview with Wahls, and see him deliver his speech >>

Authors of “Fellowship PCUSA” letter acknowledge some “poor communication”

Two of the main authors of this letter from “Fellowship PCUSA” have issued a second letter in an effort to correct some of what they acknowledge as the “poor communication” of their first letter. Among other things, they note the concern of many people about the total absence of women among the signers of the letter, explaining that because the signers are pastors of large churches, and large churches don’t call women as head pastors, there just weren’t any women involved in the letter. They also apologize for claiming support for some of their effort on the part of the Covenant Network.

A little comment from your WebWeaver:

I find it modestly encouraging, at least, the some of the Big Steeple Pastors are at least willing to the possibility that other Presbyterians might have had legitimate reasons for their expressions of concern. If that can happen, is it possible that the right and left sides of the church just might be able to have some useful conversations?   Doug King

What do you think?
We’d like to hear your comments,
so we invite you to send a note,
and help carry on the conversation here!

Arizona high school students offer insight into “the illegal immigration battle”

Bordering an affluent neighborhood in Phoenix, Arizona, one can leave the campus of Arcadia High School and drive up nearby Camelback Mountain to catch a breathtaking view of the Phoenix Valley. Or, in three hours one can be standing on the border between Mexico and Arizona. Arizona, and its capital city, Phoenix, are on the front lines of the illegal immigration battle.

The Border follows 6 Arcadia High students as they try to separate fact from fiction and get to the bottom of the illegal immigration debate. The kids interview Russell Pearce, co-author of Arizona’s controversial SB-1070, controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, advocates for the Dream Act, and everyday people who are affected by the issue.

Here’s a trailer with some glimpses of the film >>

As far as we know, the film itself has not yet been posted online, but we’ll let you know as soon as we can.

Thanks to PVJ coordinating team member Lorelei Hillman

More on the struggle for immigrant rights >>

An invitation from the Presbyterian Hunger Program:

Become a Food Justice Fellow

Apply now!

For this new initiative, the Presbyterian Hunger Program is seeking individuals who are working to build just, equitable and sustainable local food economies in their communities and around the world. A potential Food Justice Fellow is someone who is concerned about hunger in a world of plenty; someone who is excited by direct connections between farmers and eaters and is eager to make that possible in ‘food deserts’; someone who is motivated by their faith; and above all, someone seeking justice. If this describes you, send in your application before February 28.

The Presbyterian Hunger Program will gather the group of Fellows for an annual training and networking. We will also connect Fellows with partners and organizations in the United States and around the world and facilitate regular conversation among Fellows. By strengthening localized food systems based on Christian principles of justice and stewardship, communities are able to become more self-reliant and economically prosperous.

Become a Food Justice Fellow and pass this information to a young (or young at heart) adult who would be great for this. Read more and download the application at the Food and Faith Blog.

More on hunger and food aid >>

A theological concern about the Belhar Confession:

We recently received this thoughtful comment from a website visitor: 

I'm concerned about the opening paragraph of the Belhar Confession that reads: 

We believe in the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who gathers, protects and cares for the church through Word and Spirit. This, God has done since the beginning of the world and will do to the end.

While perhaps implied by scripture, the phrase "triune God" does not appear in the Bible.  

The doctrine of the trinity is a later development of the church. Because this doctrine has been a barrier in our relations with Jews and Muslims, I would prefer the following wording:

We believe in one God who we experience as creator, redeemer and sustainer.

With kind regards, I am  

John Tindal
Sumter, South Carolina

 More on the Belhar Confession >>

Conservative Presbyterians call for envisioning a “new future”

A response from Presbyterian Voices for Justice (a merger of the Witherspoon Society and Voices of Sophia)

The statement recently issued by “Fellowship PCUSA” clearly contains echoes of past struggles within the PC(USA) over what it is to be church together. For some it will echo of New Wineskins; others will be reminded of the Presbyterian Church in America effort of 35 years ago, others of the Confessing Church. ...

We note that the General Assembly just affirmed a new Form of Government and authorized a commission to work on presbytery, synod and other inter-council relationships. This letter suggests that some ministers are making their own moves regardless of how those churchwide efforts go; perhaps, despite all those echoes of past efforts, they have something new to propose. 

One thing looks pretty old, though: the lack of any women among the signers. This is deplorable, coming from a large group of pastors who seek to speak for Presbyterian churches. 

Presbyterian Voices for Justice stands with all of the Presbyterians who have contributed to our denomination over the years. We embrace all six Great Ends of the Church. We stand by our ordination vows and honor the unity of the church, even as we continue to work for greater justice, inclusiveness and welcome. ...

We reject the notion that the movement for LGBT ordination rights is the root of the conflict that plagues our church. History shows us that justice-seeking – on behalf of people of color and women – has not been without struggle, but in the end it has made the Presbyterian Church stronger and more consistent with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We stand with all Presbyterians who believe that faithfulness to God's justice-loving call demands that we extend to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons all of the rights and privileges of membership in the PCUSA.   ...

This is a time for church leaders to present a higher vision than simply “let us cultivate our own gardens.” It is also a time when some degree of truthfulness would be helpful. Yet to the best of our knowledge the Covenant Network has had no connection with this proposal, and has not encouraged it. To imply otherwise, as the letter does, seems to show a rather casual attitude toward mere facts.

We do not believe that God is calling our church to further division in the name of some kind of doctrinal or moral “purity.” Rather, we are convinced that God calls us today, as always, to follow Jesus, the Christ, with courage, love, and respect for all people – which means doing justice, loving others with mercy, and walking in humility with God.

bullet For our PVJ comment in full >>
bullet For the full statement from Fellowship PCUSA >>
bullet For a brief comment from blogger John Shuck >>

Added later:

Future of the church

GA leaders invite all Presbyterians to join in conversation

The three top leaders of the PC(USA) have responded to the letter from “Fellowship PCUSA” with a brief statement posted on the PC(USA) website.

Cynthia Bolbach, Moderator of the 219th General Assembly, Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, and Linda Valentine, Executive Director of the General Assembly Mission Council, have published a letter headed “Future of the church.”   More >>
Speak up for immigration reform that will be fair to same-sex couples!

At this crucial time in the immigration reform debate, the group Immigration Equality is urging people of faith and others to join in contacting members of Congress and the President, asking them to support the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA).

Here is more of their communication to us, slightly edited:

The UAFA has been endorsed at the national level by dozens of immigration, labor, civil rights, professional, business, and faith groups, including the Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society, the United Church of Christ, the Union for Reform Judaism, the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, More Light Presbyterians, Lutherans Concerned, Catholics for Equality, and many others.  [Your WebWeaver adds:  Presbyterian Voices for Justice has also joined in endorsing one of these letters.]

As you may be aware, if an American citizen (or legal permanent resident) falls in love with someone from another country, they may petition for an immigration benefit to bring that person to the US (green card).

If you happen to be gay or lesbian, you are denied this basic right.

Even if you get married, or enter into a civil union or domestic partnership in any of the States or other nations that allow this, you still cannot bring your partner to the US.

23 other nations (most of our closest allies, Argentina, Australia, Canada, Israel, Western Europe and South Africa) allow their gay and lesbian citizens to sponsor their foreign-born partners, and most of these nations do not have marriage equality.

There is a bill about to be introduced in this Congress called the Uniting American Families Act that would end this discrimination. It would allow gay and lesbian Americans to sponsor their partner (or spouse), in the same manner that straight couples can, along with the same penalties for fraud. This is one of the most popular immigration bills in the US House of Representatives in the last Congress, with 135 co-sponsors.


For more from the Immigration Equality group >>


To send messages to Congress >>

On the uprising in Egypt

General Assembly leaders offer a call to prayer

Bolbach, Parsons, and Valentine lift up peoples and nations of the Middle East  

General Assembly Mission Council
by Barry Creech, Coordinator, Executive Office and Policy Communications

LOUISVILLE – Jan. 28, 2011 – In the wake of escalating tensions and civil unrest in the Middle East, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) leaders today have issued a call to prayer for the peoples and nations of the Middle East, as well as PC(USA) partners.

The Moderator of the 219th General Assembly (2010) Cynthia Bolbach, General Assembly Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons, and General Assembly Mission Council Executive Director Linda Valentine called Presbyterians to pray with these words ...  More >>

Why Jews around the world are praying for the victory of the Egyptian uprising

Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun Magazine and chair of the interfaith Network of Spiritual Progressives, affirmed on Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2011, that there is a growing upsurge of support for the Egyptian Uprising in the Jewish community.

Lerner’s statement begins:

Ever since the victory over the dictator of Tunisia and the subsequent uprising in Egypt, my email has been flooded with messages from Jews around the world hoping and praying for the victory of the Egyptian people over their cruel Mubarak regime.   More >>

More on the uprising in Egypt >>

It's official: South Sudan set to secede with a 99.57 percent vote

From The Christian Science Monitor: "Cheers and spontaneous dancing broke out as the first official announcement of results from South Sudan's independence vote was made in the oil-rich region's capital by members of the commission that organized the referendum held earlier this month. 'The vote for separation was 99.57 percent,' said Justice Chan Reec Madut, head of the southern bureau of the Referendum Commission, after reading the vote tallies for 'unity' and 'secession' for each of the south's 10 states. Mr. Madut was referring to the results for the south, while Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil, the head of the Commission, announced the results from polling in northern Sudan and in eight countries that held voting for South Sudan's far-flung diaspora population."

Read the Article

Gap between rich and poor named 8th Wonder of the World

From The Onion, January 24, 2011, Issue 47•04

In the HUMOR DEPARTMENT: Leave it to The Onion to speak the truth. Last week they published Gap Between Rich and Poor Named 8th Wonder of the World. The World Heritage Committee acknowledged it as the “most colossal and enduring of mankind’s creations.”

The awe-inspiring gap.

From The Program on Inequality and the Common Good

PARIS—At a press conference Tuesday, the World Heritage Committee officially recognized the Gap Between Rich and Poor as the "Eighth Wonder of the World," describing the global wealth divide as the "most colossal and enduring of mankind's creations."

"Of all the epic structures the human race has devised, none is more staggering or imposing than the Gap Between Rich and Poor," committee chairman Henri Jean-Baptiste said. "It is a tremendous, millennia-old expanse that fills us with both wonder and humility."

"And thanks to careful maintenance through the ages, this massive relic survives intact, instilling in each new generation a sense of awe," Jean- Baptiste added.

The vast chasm of wealth, which stretches across most of the inhabited world, attracts millions of stunned observers each year, many of whom have found its immensity too overwhelming even to contemplate. By far the largest man-made structure on Earth, it is readily visible from locations as far-flung as Eastern Europe, China, Africa, and Brazil, as well as all 50 U.S. states.   More >>

The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship is sponsoring a "Peace Consultation" on Apr 7-9 at Stony Point Conference Center.

Focus will be on the country of Colombia

Among the leaders will be Rev. Adelaida Jinenez and Rev. Gloria Ulloa from the Colombia Presbyterian Church. Revs. Jimenez and Ulloa are leaders in the work with the displaced persons communities in the Presbytery of the North Coast there. Rev. Jimenez is also dean of religious studies at the Reformed University in Barranquilla and Rev. Ulloa is Director and chaplain at the Colegio Americano there.

Join us to learn the latest effects of U. S. policy on life in Colombia – the building of 7 new U. S. military bases there. Apply through

Thanks to Anne Barstow, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship

Bread for the World seeks new staff:

Associate for Denominational Women’s Organization Relations

Bread for the World, a collective Christian voice urging our nation’s decision makers to end hunger home and abroad, seeks a motivated professional to engage denominational women’s organizations in partnerships with Bread and promote their involvement in the 1000 Days Campaign on maternal and child nutrition.   More >>

For an index to all our reports and analyses
on the 219th General Assembly

Posts from earlier in June, 2011
May, 2011
April, 2011

March, 2011
February, 2011
January, 2011

December, 2010
November, 2010
October, 2010
September, 2010

August, 2010
July, 2010
June, 2010
May, 2010

April, 2010
March, 2010
February, 2010
January, 2010

For links to earlier archive pages, click here.


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!


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