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Archive for January, 2011

This page lists our postings from January, 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

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February, 2011
January, 2011

December, 2010
November, 2010
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August, 2010
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January, 2010

For links to earlier archive pages, click here.

Reflections on the uprising in Egypt

Two people reflect on the current uprising in Egypt, one raising sharp questions from a Reformed theological stance about the US response, and the other asking what this situation says to us about finding appropriate and effective ways of action for change.

God’s Spirit – Moving in the Arab world?

The Rev. Dr. Chris Iosso, Coordinator of the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy of the PC (U.S.A.), posted an essay on Jan. 29th on the Presbyterian Outlook website, raising the vital question of how we should be open to seeing God’s hand at work in a movement of the people for greater freedom and justice. “Political realists” – which seems to inclujde the current US government – are likely to see the self-interest of the US (or perhaps more accurately, of US and other Western corporate establishments) in “stability” rather than in change. On the other hand, the “Christian realism” of Reinhold Niebuhr, and our own church’s recent affirmation of the New Social Creed, lead us to support movements for justice, even when they appear to threaten the interests which are so important to our corporate society.

Iosso writes: “The church is morally hamstrung when it cannot see God in the justice energy, the prophetic juice that the street protesters are responding to.” He adds:

Just as the Reformed Churches’ Accra Confession of 2004 so critical of globalization did not exactly predict the credit implosion of 2008, so the Social Creed and other social witness policies opposing wars and support for dictators do not predict specific upheavals today. But these ecumenical messages clearly encourage our government to stop discounting human aspirations across the Arab and Muslim worlds, from Algeria to Afghanistan, and including the Palestinians under Israeli rule. They tell President Obama to make good on what so many Muslims believed was a promise in his Cairo speech of 2009, that the United States would begin to be on the side of freedom for the oppressed.

We encourage you to read Iosso’s essay >>

Change and Conflict

The Rev. Peter Sawtell, Executive Director of Eco-Justice Ministries, considers the current uprisings as a way into thinking about another question for U.S. citizens seeking ways to advocate more effectively for environmental justice.

This morning's headlines ( tell of "open revolt" on the streets of Cairo. Just a few weeks ago, citizen protests toppled the ruling regime in Tunisia.

In contrast, an opinion column by Barbara Ehrenreich printed in today's Denver Post opens with this paragraph:

Why are Americans such wusses? Threaten the Greeks with job losses and benefit cuts and they tie up Athens, but take away Americans' jobs, 401(k)s, even their homes, and they pretty much roll over. Tell British students that their tuition is about to go up and they take to the streets; American students just amp up their doses of Prozac.

I'm not advocating that we form street mobs and torch public buildings. Nor am I suggesting -- as one reader asked after my Notes on liberation theology --  "handing out semi automatic assault weapons to carry out guerilla warfare against the dominating corporate class as some liberation theologians advocated in Latin America?"

But I do continue to wonder what sort of situation, what sort of challenge to our values or self-interest, would motivate people of conscience to more dramatic action for justice and the ecological health of our planet. It is a question about risk and commitment that I raised in last week's Notes,  and I received some very thoughtful responses. (Eight of the replies are posted on our website.)  

Those wise words from our extended community have helped me see some places where I need to expand last week's reflections. They have helped me see how churches and other faith communities might play a powerful and transformative role -- without all their members getting arrested.     More >> 

What do you think?

Please share your comments with us here –
either responding to these two articles, or offering your own views.
Just send a note!

10-A voting on January 29, 2011

One more presbytery shifts to support inclusion and justice  

Of the five presbyteries voting today on Amendment 10-A, which would remove the strictures against ordination of people in same-sex relationships, Riverside Presbytery was the only one to switch from its 08-B outcome - a very welcome 58-45-2 in favor of inclusive ordination.!

The other results:

Long Island continued its consistent support on a voice vote.

Western North Carolina, the first presbytery to switch to support in the Amendment 08-B round, registered another strong yes at 145-99.

Sierra Blanca, while failing to approve 10-A, 19-28, reported a respectful process and some strong testimony.

Huntingdon came breathtakingly close, 32-33.

So the over-all vote of the presbyteries so far is 20 in favor of the amendment, and 23 opposed. It’s closer than two years ago, but much more work and study and prayer will be needed to reach the change that we have sought for so long!

Thanks to Tricia Dykers Koenig, Covenant Network National Organizer, for this quick report.

For more detailed vote counts, go to the Covenant Network chart, or the one being provided by More Light Presbyterians.

For lots more good information and news from MLP >>
... and from Covenant Network >>

For more material on the amendment for inclusive ordination, and for more news of the voting in presbyteries >>

Ecumenical Advocacy Days slated for March 25-28, 2011

Event also provides special opportunities for Presbyterians to learn, connect, celebrate

LOUISVILLE – Presbyterians will again gather with other Christians in Washington at the end of March for Ecumenical Advocacy Days, an event that mobilizes Christians around pressing issues through worship, education and lobbying. This year’s focus is on women.

The theme of the March 25-28 event is Development, Security and Economic Justice: What’s Gender Got to Do with It?

Using Proverbs 31:31 — “Give her a share in the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the city gates” — as a key scripture, the event calls men and women of faith to be a force for the better treatment of women around the world and to recognize their important economic, social and political contributions to their societies.   More, with links for registration and such >>

First response in Tucson

PDA’s national response team is first to assist after shooting spree

by Jerry L. Van Marter, Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE – Three members of the National Response Team (NRT) of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance arrived in Tucson, Ariz., within 48 hours of the Jan. 8 shootings there that killed six and injured 13, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

PDA’s NRT trio was the only national religious community responder to serve in Tucson in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy.

“We can be grateful to a denomination with the vision to equip, train and deploy faith leaders into arenas of human-caused violence,” said the Rev. Laurie Kraus, pastor of Riviera Presbyterian Church in Miami, FL. Kraus has served on PDA’s NRT since its inception in 1996.

She was joined in Tucson by fellow NRT members Rick Turner, a member of John Knox Presbyterian Church in Greenville, S.C., and the Rev. David Holyan, pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Kirkwood, Mo. — who at the invitation of Presbytery de Cristo began immediately to offer support and encouragement to pastors, congregations and the presbytery as they responded to the crisis. ...

“On Sunday morning (Jan. 9) as I listened to sermons by colleagues in Tucson reflecting on the aftermath of the tragedy and the commemorations of MLK weekend, I was struck as I always am, by the integrity, authenticity and vulnerability of faith leaders who step into the pain and chaos of a human caused disaster with words of honesty and calls for the church’s meaningful participation in the healing of the community,” Kraus wrote.   More >>

Vibrant congregation in Ann Arbor, Michigan, seeks experienced part-time pastor

Northside Presbyterian Church is a vibrant, dynamic, family-sized congregation in Ann Arbor, MI. We are seeking an experienced solo part-time pastor to lead and inspire our mission, ministry, and worship. Northside is a More Light congregation, and is committed to the full inclusion of all of God's children in the life and ministry of God's church. We have a traditional worship with a strong emphasis on lay leadership and an excellent music program.

Candidates should demonstrate strong preaching and teaching skills, as well as worship leadership, undergirded with spiritual and scholarly vigor. Northside shares a building and some ministries and programs with St. Aidan's Episcopal church, and is the second oldest such ecumenical partnership in the country. For more information see our web site,, and CIF#04162.AA1.

For other announcements of openings for pastoral and other positions >>

More thoughts on the proposed new Form of Government  

Amendment 10-1, which would adopt the new Form of Government that was approved by the 219th Assembly, will be discussed in most of the presbyteries of the PC(USA) during the next few months.

One helpful resource for your reflection, if you have about 45 minutes to watch it, is a video prepared by the presbyteries of Boston and Southern New England, featuring Paul Hooker, one of the authors of the new FoG proposal, in conversation with a number of other people.  Click here for the video >>


Some reasons for voting No

We’ve also received a thoughtful comment from the Rev. Jean Southard, explaining why she will vote against the proposal.  Click here >>

News flash:  Latest voting on Amendment 10-A

One more presbytery shifts to support equality in ordination

This report (somewhat edited) comes primarily from the Rev. John Shuck, with additional information from Tricia Dykers Koenig of Covenant Network.

A good day of voting on Amendment 10-A, which would remove the effective "don't ask don't tell" policy from the PC(USA). Eight presbyteries voted – six yes and one no and one yet to report.

The story is Eastern Virginia. This presbytery had voted against equality in 2008-9 and flipped for justice this time around. The other yeses had been yeses last time and the one no had been a no. The one we have yet to hear from was a strong no in 2008-9. So we had a net gain of one presbytery.

Thank you and very nice work in all the presbyteries, especially Eastern Virginia!

Yes votes:

bulletEastern Virginia 87-69 (shifting from a no vote in 2009)
bulletGenessee Valley 85-29
bullet Cayuga-Syracuse (a voice vote, with perhaps just a couple no votes)
bulletElizabeth 63-46
bulletMid-Kentucky 99-9
bulletSan Jose 78-57

No votes:

bullet Beaver-Butler 27-73
bulletUpper Ohio Valley (vote count not yet known)

The overall score is 15 yes and 19 no with 87 being the magic number to make a huge difference in ending discrimination in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

For updates follow Covenant Network  and More Light Presbyterians, and see the voting chart provided by MLP.

More on the ratification of Amendment 10-A

The Rev. Ray Bagnuolo has posted more thoughts – and deep ones – on the continuing debate in our presbyteries about Amendment 10-A, which would make our ordination standards fully inclusive of LGBT Presbyterians.

First, his own thoughts, making clear than the issue is “more than the ratification of 10-A.”  We are confronted, he says, with a far broader and deeper question: How do we understand and live out God’s love?  More >>

Ray Bagnuolo is an openly gay minister of Word and Sacrament, currently serving Jan Hus Presbyterian Church and Neighborhood House and its inner city ministry in NYC. He also serves on the Board of More Light Presbyterians.

Also:  "The Corrosive and Distorting Power of the Closet" 

Ray has also posted a provocative piece by Karen Kavey, "The Corrosive and Distorting Power of the Closet"  written in response to Ray’s YouTube posting  in the “It Gets Better” collection that followed the rash of teen suicides a few months ago.

Karen writes “about the corrosive and distorting power of the Closet. As you know, the "Closet" is a metaphor used to describe how people hide important parts of themselves, typically their sexual orientation or gender identity.”   More >>

Karen identifies herself as “Karen Ellen Kavey, Non-ruling Elder, PC(USA), Confirmed May, 1958.”


ADULT: A person who has stopped growing at both ends and is now growing in the middle.

BEAUTY PARLOR: A place where women curl up and dye.

CHICKENS: The only animals you eat before they are born and after they are dead.

COMMITTEE: A body that keeps minutes and wastes hours.

DUST: Mud with the juice squeezed out.

EGOTIST: Someone who is usually me-deep in conversation.


INFLATION: Cutting money in half without damaging the paper.

MOSQUITO: An insect that makes you like flies better.

RAISIN: A grape with a sunburn

SECRET: Something you tell to one person at a time.

SKELETON: A bunch of bones with the person scraped off.

TOOTHACHE: The pain that drives you to extraction

TOMORROW: One of the greatest labor saving devices of today.

YAWN: An honest opinion openly expressed.

And my personal favorite:

WRINKLES: Something other people have, similar to my character lines

Thanks to “Everything Is Connected” - John Jackson's Email

Evangelical Arlo Duba explains why he has changed his mind on the question of ordination

As a way of furthering conversation in our presbyteries about the proposed Amendment 10-A, which would give clear permission for the ordination of lgbt Presbyterians, More Light Presbyterians is placing an ad in Presbyterian Outlook. In the ad, the Rev. Dr. Arlo D. Duba, former Director of Admissions & Director of Chapel, at Princeton Theological Seminary, and former Dean at University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, and a committed evangelical, explains why he has changed his mind on the question of ordination.

We encourage you to read his brief statement in the ad, then look at his further discussion in an interview.

MLP also provides a web page through which you can share your own thoughts with Dr. Duba.

We encourage you to consider this fine example of our church “reformed and always being reformed,” and to share Dr. Duba’s thoughts with colleagues in your presbytery who may be concerned about some of the same questions that he has dealt with.

More on Amendment 10-A >>

Rise in global food prices cause for alarm

Presbyterian Hunger Program encourages donor nations to address problems with trade policies, neglect

from the Presbyterian Hunger Program

Louisville, January 19, 2011 — Food prices around the world are at record highs, leading to tension and violence reminiscent of 2008, when high prices led to dozens of food rebellions.

“We are alarmed at the rising prices. If they continue to rise, the numbers of hungry people too will rise,” said Ruth Farrell, coordinator of the Presbyterian Hunger Program.

Meat and sugar prices are especially high. Rice and wheat prices are not as high as they were in 2008, but bad weather could cause a spike. Corn prices, which have risen sharply, are the exception due in part to U.S. policies supporting corn-based ethanol. The Environmental Protection Agency could reduce pressure on corn (and meat, as livestock is a major consumer of corn) prices by suspending the biofuel mandate.

“The United States and other donor nations must come through on their promises to increase funding for agriculture in Africa and other places where family farmers have been hurt by trade policies and neglect both by domestic governments and international development over the past decades,” Farrell said.    More >>

PC(USA) groups call for halt to Justice Department subpoenas of pro-Palestinian activists

Jerry L. Van Marter, Presbyterian News Service, reports:

Louisville, January 19, 2011 — Two Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Middle East advocacy groups have called for a halt to what they say is “the misuse of the grand jury process” by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI after nine federal grand jury subpoenas were served to Chicago-area Palestinian solidarity activists in December.

According to the PC(USA)-related Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN)  and the National Middle East Presbyterian Caucus (NMEPC)  , the Chicago subpoenas bring to 23 the number of summons given to pro-Palestinian peace activists by the DOJ in recent months.

“The IPMN and NMEPC call upon its own denominational leadership, as well as Churches for Middle East Peace, the National Council of Churches of Christ and all concerned Christian denominations to join them in denouncing the DOJ's bold attempts to suppress peaceful dissent  on the part of those working for an end to the illegal Israeli occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” the groups said in a Jan. 18 press release distributed by Religion News Service.

More >>
More on Israel/Palestine concerns >>

New York Times praises Immokalee Workers’ fair food agreements

Thanks to Noelle Damico, of the PCUSA Campaign for Fair Food, for this news release:

Extolling the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ fair food agreements with corporate buyers and Florida growers, The New York Times ran an in-depth article which built upon their favorable editorial in December. The article illustrates the importance of all actors in the food industry bringing their power to bear if exploitation in the fields is to change once and for all. That means the supermarket industry must join the fast food and foodservice industries in ensuring improved wages for farmworkers and implementing farmworker monitored codes of conduct to address abuses.

Now is the time for consumers to tell Ahold and Publix corporations to do their fair share.  If you’re in the northeast area, come to the Community Farmworker Alliance “Encuentro,”  February 4-6 in New York City to learn more and take action. And mark your calendars for the CIW’s peaceful actions in Boston  (February 27 in the afternoon) where we’ll focus on Ahold and in Tampa (March 4-5) where we’ll focus on Publix. And keep those postcards and manager’s letters going! 


PC(USA) Campaign for Fair Food

PHEWA announces search for new staff position:
Lead Organizer for the Presbyterian Health, Education & Welfare Association, Inc. (PHEWA).

PHEWA is a ministry of the Compassion, Peace and Justice Ministry, General Assembly Mission Council, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). PHEWA network members are eager to welcome this new addition to leadership of this volunteer organization that is working to make our church and society more responsive to the needs of those who are vulnerable and marginalized. Applicants should submit a letter of interest and PIF or equivalent resume to Application deadline is February 28, 2011.

Click here for the position description (in PDF format) >> 

Susan Lee Stack, Program Assistant, Presbyterian Health, Education & Welfare Association (PHEWA)

PC(USA) Office of Social Welfare Ministries, General Assembly Mission Council; Compassion, Peace & Justice Ministry

(502) 569-5800
toll free (888) 728-7228 ext. 5800


Three more observations on the shootings in Tucson

Faith leaders to Congress: ‘soul searching’ needed about toxic rhetoric

PC(USA)’s Gradye Parsons joins 50 others in appeal

JANUARY 13, 2011

Faith in Public Life, by Kristin Ford


In an open letter to Congress published today (Jan. 13) as a full-page advertisement in Roll Call newspaper, faith leaders are calling for national “soul searching” and praying for Members of Congress after Saturday’s shooting spree in Arizona, which left six people dead and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, D-AZ, critically injured.

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons is among the 50 prominent national religious leaders who signed the open letter. The signers include heads of mainline Protestant, Catholic, evangelical, Jewish and Muslim denominations, congregations, and organizations.

The signers urge Members of Congress to reject vitriolic and rancorous rhetoric, consider the consequences of their words, and engage political adversaries in a spirit of shared American values of civility and cooperation.

Other signatories, in addition to Parsons, include megachurch pastors Bishop T.D. Jakes and Rev. Joel Hunter; the Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners; Nathan J. Diament, the Director of Public Policy for the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America; and Rabbi David Saperstein of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

The Rev. Peg Chemberlin, president of the National Council of Churches and the Rev. Michael Kinnamon, general secretary of the NCC, which represents 45 million people and 100,000 congregations in the U.S., and Rev. Sam Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, which serves 15 million Hispanic Christians, also signed the letter.

The full text of the letter, which is also available online with a complete list of signatories:

Dear Members of Congress,

As Americans and members of the human family, we are grieved by the recent tragedy in Tucson, Arizona. As Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders, we pray together for all those wounded, including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords as she fights for her life. Our hearts break for those lives lost and for the loved ones left behind. We also stand with you, our elected officials, as you continue to serve our nation while coping with the trauma of this senseless attack.

This tragedy has spurred a sorely needed time of soul searching and national public dialogue about violent and vitriolic political rhetoric. We strongly support this reflection, as we are deeply troubled that rancor, threats and incivility have become commonplace in our public debates.

We appreciate the sacrifices you make and risks you incur by accepting a call to public service, and we urge you to continue to serve as stewards of our democracy by engaging ideological adversaries not as enemies, but as fellow Americans.

In our communities and congregations, we pledge to foster an environment conducive to the important and difficult debates so crucial to American democracy. In our churches, mosques and synagogues, we come together not as members of a certain political ideology or party, but as children of God and citizens called to build a more perfect union. We pray that you do the same.

Read this article, with a link to the list of signers of the letter >>

‘Civility’ author James Calvin Davis comments on Arizona shooting, political blame game

A news release from Westminster John Knox Press begins:

The recent shooting in a Tucson, Arizona supermarket has saturated the media the past few days, sparking accusations of political influence from the Tea Party and a rancorous political climate to explain why the shooter decided to open fire. Middlebury College professor and ordained Presbyterian minister James Calvin Davis, author of In Defense of Civility: How Religion Can Unite America on Seven Moral Issues that Divide Us (Westminster John Knox Press), commented on the tragedy today, urging for civil discourse in our debates. More>>

How did this happen?

Another comment on the shootings in Tucson:

Where and how did this person get the gun (and others) used in this heinous crime? Did his parents know he had this gun (and others) including ammunition? Who is the owner of the gun(s) and ammunition? Where were these items purchased? Were they kept in the house where he lived with his parents? Where did he get the funds to purchase these item? If the parents knew, did they 'approve'?

M.B. Neace

The author of this note lives in Atlanta, GA, where he and his wife attend of the First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta, and participate in their International Sunday School Class.

More reflections on the Tucson shootings

Reflections on Martin Luther King Day

Liberation Theology for Earth

The Rev. Peter S. Sawtell, Executive Director of Eco-Justice Ministries, celebrates the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by reminding us of some of the major characteristics of liberation theology, and tracing their relevance for a modern theology for liberation of the creation.

The four basic affirmations of liberation theology, he says, are:

bullet The experience of the community is the starting point for theological reflection.
bullet Liberation theology takes seriously the presence of powerful institutions.
bullet Liberation theology demands action and involvement. "The emphasis is on orthopraxis rather than orthodoxy."
bullet Hope sustains and enlivens the struggle for liberation.

For his full essay >>
Voting ends in Sudan as country readies for split

Alan Boswell, McClatchy Newspapers, reports:

A week of polling ended and vote counting began Saturday in a landmark referendum expected to result in the breakup of Africa's largest country into two separate nations. After 50 years of war and a six-year peace deal, southern Sudanese turned out in high-spirited droves beginning Jan. 9 in a secession vote promised under a 2005 U.S.-brokered peace deal to end the long conflict between Sudan's undeveloped African south and its Arab government in the north."

The full article >>

A recent Wall Street Journal article reminds us that an independent southern Sudan will see have to struggle with the continuing practice of slavery among its people.

President Obama expands travel to Cuba

from Cuba Central, part of the Center for Democracy in the Americas

The White House announced today a long-awaited decision by President Obama to expand travel to Cuba - and increase support for the Cuban people - in fundamental and important ways.  

•          The President expands travel opportunities for academic research, educational travel, cultural travel, and religious travel;

•          Return of people-to-people programs to essentially where the rules were at the end of the Clinton administration;

•          The President allows all Americans to send financial support to the Cuban people, which will allow them to expand private sector activity at a time of restructuring in the Cuban economy and the Cuban system;

•          The President expands the number of airports that can serve the Cuban market;

•          The rules explaining each of these changes will be issued in a matter of weeks.


Sarah Stephens of the Center for Democracy in the Americas released the following statement in support of President Obama's Executive Order expanding travel to Cuba:

This is an important step forward for our Cuba policy.

At a time when Cubans are changing their system in fundamental ways, it is a good idea to have greater engagement, more Americans traveling to Cuba, and more opportunities to learn from each other as everyday Cubans reshape their lives and their country.

It is my hope that Members of Congress who represent Cuban Americans - a community that can travel to Cuba without any limits at all - will not make efforts to thwart what the president has done. This step authorizing non-tourist travel is a basic and positive step to take at this time.

The president is to be commended for taking this step to improve our policy and, ideally, to move forward on reforming U.S.-Cuba relations.

We will continue to press for the freedom to travel to Cuba for all Americans.

Flags in church?

We've received another comment for a discussion that began back in 2003, about pros and cons of displaying the U.S. flag in church sanctuaries.  Click here for the latest comment, and scroll down for the discussion.  And send your own addition to the discussion, if you're so moved!

These new items are being posted as the memorial gathering in Tucson is under way.  May it bring us a few more steps toward healing, and toward peace within this land.  Doug King
People of Tucson show light in the midst of the darkness 
This report came from the Los Angeles Times on the afternoon of January 11.

Tucson rallies to protect girl's family from protesters

Arizona lawmakers moved quickly Tuesday to try to block protesters from the funeral of 9-year-old shooting victim Christina Green, passing an emergency measure prohibiting protests within 300 feet of any funeral services.

In addition to the new law, hundreds of Tucson residents were making contingency plans to try to protect the family of the girl who was slain in Saturday's rampage.  More >>

Second Tucson shooting victim with Presbyterian ties identified 

From Presbyterian News Service

Another victim with Presbyterian connections has been identified as among those who died at the hands of a lone gunman in Tucson, Ariz., Jan. 8.

Gabe Zimmerman, an aide to U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords — who was apparently the main target of Jared Loughner, the alleged mass murderer — came from a staunch Presbyterian family, according to the Rev. John Matthew, a longtime Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) executive from Boise, Idaho.   More >>

Good Friday on Championship Monday?

David True, a PVJ member and Associate Professor of Religion at Wilson College, Chambersburg, Pa, posted his reflections on Tucson and football on the blog page of Presbyterian Outlook. Writing on Jan. 11, he begins:

Watching the college football championship game being played in Arizona last night, felt strange to me, sort of like returning to the scene of the crime to throw a party. There was nothing to be done--or I haven’t thought of it. We needed a good game, but why did it have to be in Arizona? It was almost as if the Fates had conspired to make us endure the tragic comedy in which old people and a little girl are shot down in cold blood and football players proudly cant their praise to the god of football. Who can blame those who curse this god and any and all faith? What kind of universe would this be if it were true that God was too busy deciding football games to bother with saving little girls from crazed gunmen?

More >>

More from Tucson >>

Repairing the Breach: PHEWA returns to New Orleans

Monday, April 25 at 12:00pm - April 29 at 6:00pm
New Orleans, LA

An invitation for social justice activists from the Presbyterian Health, Education and Welfare Association (PHEWA)!

A multilevel event in an urban context which includes:


Daily Worship•          


Consultations by PHEWA Ministry Networks with churches of the presbytery and other regional agencies


Renewed community organizing relationships


PHEWA Network meetings


PHEWA Biennial membership Business Meeting


an optional BUILD event through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA)

Event Housing: Alternative, Accessible, Affordable

Among the Housing Options: The Olive Tree, former PDA site, now overseen by the Presbytery of South Louisiana


And for more information now, see this event’s Facebook wall >>

More on South Sudan:

Sylvia Carlson added this note:

By the way, the November 2010 issue of National Geographic has a piece on South Sudan with a map of the oil regions. I have never seen such a map before. It also draws the disputed boundary line between north and south. It is very, very illuminating.


For one of the two National Geographic articles on Sudan, click here.   Sorry, but your WebWeaver can’t find the map in the online version of the magazine.

More on Sudan and Darfur >>

PC(USA) member among those killed in Arizona shootings

Church leaders express horror and anguish over tragedy

Phyllis Schneck
Phyllis Schneck

By Sharon Youngs, Communications Coordinator, Office of the General Assembly

Phyllis Schneck, a member of Northminster Presbyterian Church in Tucson, Ariz., was among those killed in the shootings on January 8, 2011, that left six people dead and 14 injured.

Schneck’s pastor, the Reverend Andy Ross, described her as “vibrant, fun, and a devoted woman of faith. Her smile, her commitment to the mission of Jesus Christ, and her friendship to so many will long be treasured.”

Ross continued, “From all of us at Northminster to all of you – we offer our hope and commitment to live as Christ's disciples, advancing his Kingdom of peace and healing, hope and salvation, with God's divine help, and with all of you. God bless you!”

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) leaders issued a statement today in the wake of the shooting tragedy.

Elder Cynthia Bolbach, Moderator of the 219th General Assembly (2010) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Reverend Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, and Elder Linda Valentine, Executive Director of the General Assembly Mission Council, expressed anguish over the shootings and horror over “this kind of assault on public discourse.”

Bolbach, Parsons, and Valentine also encourage all Presbyterians to join President Obama’s call for a moment of silence today at 11:00 EST.

The full text of their statement:

We join with millions of people in this nation and worldwide who are horrified and anguished by the shootings in Arizona two days ago that resulted in such critical injuries and loss of life.

We are also horrified by this kind of assault on public discourse. Freedom of speech and assembly are foundational to who we are as citizens of this nation. As people of faith, we condemn violence and hatred and are committed to respectful civic engagement.

We encourage all Presbyterians to join in prayer with the President of the United States’ call for a moment of silence today at 11:00 a.m. EST, “to honor the innocent victims of the senseless tragedy in Tucson, Arizona, including those still fighting for their lives. It will be a time for us to come together as a nation in prayer or reflection, keeping the victims and their families closely at heart.”

Presbyterians have already been reaching out in this incident through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance  and de Cristo Presbytery.  A community worship service is planned for today in Tucson, and additional assessment and follow-up will be ongoing.

The Psalmist writes,

For you are the God in whom I take refuge
O send out your light and your truth; let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling …

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.
     (from Ps. 43)

This report is also posted on the PC(USA) website

More on the Tucson shootings >>

Baptism ... and a time for renouncing evil

Surely many sermons yesterday (Sunday, January 9, 2011) included some comments on the tragic killings in Tucson just the day before.

The Rev. John Shuck, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Elizabethton, Tennessee, focused on the baptism of Jesus, with texts from Mark 1:9; Matthew 3:13; 4:1-11; and Luke 3:21; 4:1-13.

He notes the stark question put to candidates for baptism and membership in the church: “Do renounce evil and its power in the world?”

The question sounds strange, perhaps, to progressive sorts of folks. But Shuck insists it is very relevant. He continues:

Yesterday, six people were killed and twelve injured by a gunman in Arizona. One of the injured is congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. She is believed to be the target of the attack. This is evil.

More >>

An Attack on the Soul of the Nation

The Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners writes on the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords as one who knows her personally, but offers a thoughtful faith perspective as well. He begins:

The shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, the young Congresswoman from Arizona, must speak to the soul of this nation. The shooter raised his gun to her head, and then he kept shooting until 14 others were wounded and six people killed, including a district court judge and a 9-year-old girl who was president of her student council. Gabby, as everyone calls her, is one of the most beloved political leaders in the Congress and back in her home state of Arizona. Everyone likes her on both sides of the aisle. One of her colleagues remarked that if there was a list of the most vitriolic politicians in the country, Gabby’s name would be near the very bottom of the list. Gabby is known as one of the warmest, brightest, most open, and best listening members of Congress. She was listening to her constituents Saturday at a shopping center when a young man pointed a gun at her head and shot her at point-blank range.

More >>

South Sudan votes on independence

If you’re following the voting in South Sudan on the possibility of independence, you’ll find lots of good information on the blog page of the Save Darfur Coalition.

Here’s one report, posted on the second day of voting (Jan. 10, 2011):

Two days of voting in South Sudan

After two days of voting on the referendum for independence, South Sudan is edging closer to seceding from the Northern government based in Khartoum. With no reports of violence related to the vote, The Guardian is claiming a turnout approaching 50% of the population while the vote seems to be swaying overwhelmingly toward independence as the BBC’s Will Ross has reported he is unable to find any voters who opted to remain a part of Sudan. Furthermore, former US President Carter said in an interview with CNN that in a private conversation with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir that Bashir expressed the belief that an independent South Sudan should be free of Sudan’s debt obligations, in effect pledging to take on all of Sudan’s $38 billion international debt.

Among 60,000 Sudanese refugees and expatriates living in the United States, there are 8 designated polling places to cast votes. In Omaha, refugees are braving snow and cold to cast their votes–some have come from as far away as Fargo, North Dakota to vote.

The news has been less positive in the border region of Abyei, however. A referendum planned to run in parallel to the South Sudanese referendum has been delayed and tensions between rival Misseriya and Dinka tribes have exploded into violence that have claimed between 23 and 33 lives in the past three days. UN Peacekeepers are being sent to the region to investigate the incidents of violence.

Responding to the shooting in Tucson

Hymns that might help you and your congregation respond to latest American insanity

with thanks to Carolyn and Bruce Gillette

Tonight we grieve the deaths and injuries in Arizona. We don't know if there is a connection to the political climate of hatred, but there is to insane gun culture in our nation that makes guns too available and too often used.

Sometimes prayers are all we can offer, they always need to be the first thing we do before we take further action.

Carolyn wrote a hymn-prayer lamenting gun violence ("God of Mercy, You Have Shown Us") for the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program in 2009 that is posted here with the music.

Her earlier hymn on the day of the Columbine shootings is also posted here..

Please share them with friends in your church and online.

January 30th is the beginning of the lectionary series from the Sermon on the Mount. To further Jesus' vision to our present times, we hope to have Carolyn's "The Sermon on the Mount: A Worship Service of Lessons and Songs" available soon on her web site This service celebrates Jesus' teachings of love, peace and justice by having the entire Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) read in sections in a worship service that includes four new hymns based on Jesus' teachings. We used this special service in our church and people found it very powerful to hear Jesus' whole sermon while singing hymn responses written to well-known hymn tunes.

Blessings on you and your work for peace in 2011.

Grace and Peace, Bruce

Bruce & Carolyn Gillette, Pastors
Limestone Presbyterian Church, 3201 Limestone Road, Wilmington, Delaware

19808-2198 Office Phone: (302) 994-5646
Church website:
Home Phone: (302)-994-0220

A turning point in the discourse, but in which direction?

by Matt Bai, revised today from an article published in the January 9 New York Times

The article begins:

Within minutes of the first reports Saturday that Representative Gabrielle Giffords, an Arizona Democrat, and a score of people with her had been shot in Tucson, pages began disappearing from the Web. One was Sarah Palin’s infamous “cross hairs” map from last year, which showed a series of contested Congressional districts, including Ms. Giffords’s, with gun targets trained on them. Another was from Daily Kos, the liberal blog, where one of the congresswoman’s apparently liberal constituents declared her “dead to me” after Ms. Giffords voted against Nancy Pelosi in House leadership elections last week. The full article >>

1/4/2011 -- with hopes and prayers for a blessed New Year
Coalition of Immokalee Workers and Campaign for Fair Food receive year-end praise
This news comes from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in a release dated December 29, 2010.

Looking back: CIW's own "annus mirabilis" prompts Ft. Myers News-Press to name CIW "2010 Person of the Year"!

In recognition of a year of unprecedented victories, the Ft. Myers News-Press has recognized the CIW as Southwest Florida's "2010 Person of the Year"! Here's an excerpt from the article announcing the recognition, entitled "Coalition of Immokalee Workers' fight for justice leads to historic win," (Ft. Myers News-Press, 12/26/10):

With tomato fields stretching to the horizon, the men gripped each other in a long, strong hug.

One was born a peasant, the other privileged. Lucas Benitez and Jon Esformes were together that November morning to announce Esformes' company, Pacific Tomato Growers, would be doing things differently from now on...

... 'It is not acceptable,' Esformes said, 'that agricultural workers have any less rights than folks working in white-collar jobs.'

Those were nothing less than revolutionary words from a fourth-generation member of an industry dogged for decades by abysmal wages and labor abuses, including high-profile slavery cases.

No grower had ever before joined forces with a group of Florida farmworkers, historically excluded from many workplace protections others take for granted.

Yet farmworkers themselves - the Coalition of Immokalee Workers - brokered the deal. Simple as it sounds, its guarantees stand to transform Florida's $619 million tomato industry.

For its years of groundbreaking advocacy, The News-Press has named the Coalition of Immokalee Workers its 2010 People of the Year...

Looking forward: Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation, has named Campaign for Fair Food one of five "causes worth fighting for" in 2011...

To read more about the News-Press recognition and the look ahead in The Nation, go to the CIW website

As your WebWeaver continues to fall to the temptations of post-Christmas chocolate, he shares this:

The Rules of Chocolate

If you get melted chocolate all over your hands, you're eating it too slowly.

Chocolate covered raisins, cherries, orange slices and strawberries all count as fruit, so eat as many as you want.

The problem: How to get two pounds of chocolate home from the store in a hot car.
The solution: Eat it in the parking lot.

Diet tip: Eat a chocolate bar before each meal.

It'll take the edge off your appetite and you'll eat less.

A nice box of chocolates can provide your total daily intake of calories in one place. Isn't that handy?

If calories are an issue, store your chocolate on top of the fridge. Calories are afraid of heights, and they will jump out of the chocolate to protect themselves.

Money talks. Chocolate sings.

Chocolate has many preservatives. Preservatives make you look younger.

Why is there no such organization as Chocoholics Anonymous?
Because no one wants to quit.

Put "eat chocolate" at the top of your list of things to do today. That way, at least you'll get one thing done.

Chocolate is a health food. Chocolate is derived from cacao beans. Bean = vegetable. Sugar is derived either from sugar beets or cane, both vegetables. And, of course, the milk/cream is dairy. So eat more chocolate to meet the dietary requirements for daily vegetable and dairy intake.

Thanks to John Jackson and his Everything Is Connected Email  

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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