Presbyterian Voices for Justice 

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Network News
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About Presbyterian Voices for Justice
and one of its predecessors, the Witherspoon Society

Our officers are listed on their very own page.
Your WebWeaver has just updated this list -- it's high time!

For recent news of the Witherspoon Society
and our members

Tell your friends about Presbyterian Voices for Justice --
and invite them to join us!

Our new  brochure is available here in PDF format, so you can print copies to share with others -- in your congregation, your presbytery, wherever you go!

Or if you'd like a stack of them to share with others, just contact Doug King, our communications coordinator.  Just be sure to include your name, mailing address, and the quantity you need.  Send an E-mail, or phone 608-782-5275.

Voices of Sophia
and Voices of Women


We've just posted a short account of the beginnings and witness of Voices of Sophia, now a vital part of Presbyterian Voices for Justice.

It was written by Sylvia Thorson-Smith for the Peacemaking Issue of The Journal of Sacred Feminine Wisdom, Fall, 1996.

We're happy to share it here, both in easy-to-print PDF format, and in easy-to-open HTML.

We'd be very happy
to hear your comments,
or additions or corrections!
Just send us a note!

A short history of The Witherspoon Society is now available -- right here online!       [7-28-10]

You may be lying awake nights wondering ...

What was this Witherspoon Society, that has now become part of Presbyterian Voices for Justice?

Or maybe you're a long-time member, wanting to retrace the life of an organization that you've supported for years.

Either way, you'll learn much from a 40-page history of the Witherspoon Society, which was written in 2003 by Gene TeSelle, and is now posted here in PDF format, with a few corrections and updates from the original edition.

The title:

"A Network of the Concerned":
the Witherspoon Society and its Challenge to the Church

It covers the first 30 years of Witherspoon's involvement in service and witness in the Presbyterian Church (USA).  We encourage you to take a look, and let us know if you have any comments, questions, suggestions for changes ... just send a note!

What Did John Witherspoon Mean by "Property"?

Would he defend property rights against health care reform?

With all the discussion these days (or maybe “ranting and raving” would be more appropriate) about individual property rights standing against the authority of government to limit them for the common welfare (as in requiring some people to obtain health insurance, for instance) Gene TeSelle reminds us of John Witherspoon’s famous statement in 1776 that if people give up their right to “property,” they will “at the same time deliver the conscience to bondage.” It sounds like a great argument for the Tea Party folks, but TeSelle shows that Witherspoon’s intention was quite different.

We have a new name!

We are delighted to announce the new name of the merged organization of Witherspoon Society and Voices of Sophia: Presbyterian Voices for Justice. We offer our thanks and congratulations to Anne Barstow for offering the winning entry in our contest to find a new name -- and our thanks to all the others who have offered very good ideas as well.

We believe it is clear about who we are as a merged organization, maintaining both the “Voices” aspect of the former Voices of Sophia and the broad-reaching “Justice” concerns of the former Witherspoon Society. And it makes clear that we are Presbyterian in membership and outlook. Also, it has a short and easy acronym! We look forward to continuing our discernment of God’s “voice” for justice in church and society.

We have a new mission statement, too.  We invite you to take a look at it, think about it, and share your comments.
Voices/Witherspoon Board approves a new Mission Statement.

In a conference call on November 19, 2009, the Voices/ Witherspoon Board voted unanimously to adopt a new statement of our mission, to reflect the merger of our two organizations and the changing demands of our times.

We welcome any comments you’d like to share about this new statement! Just send a note to, or call our Membership Coordinator, Gusti Newquist, at (520) 325-1001.

Another request: As you reflect on this mission statement, it might suggest new ideas for a new name for our merged organization. Or even an idea for a new logo, for which we have so far received no suggestions! Click here for more about this gigantic contest – and join in!

The new mission statement reads:

We are a spirited and passionate community of women and men in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) who are called to proclaim the Gospel vision of God’s extravagant love and justice in church and society. We seek the wisdom of the Spirit for following Christ’s example and for living into the hope of sustained gender equality, racial reconciliation, full human rights for LGBT persons, economic justice, environmental wholeness, an end to war and all forms of violence, and a justice-loving shalom over all the earth. We commit to risking the transformation of our own selves and our organization to live into this vision, even as we invite both church and society to meet this challenge.

The Mission of the Witherspoon Society

At our Witherspoon executive committee meeting on Sept. 17-20, 2003, we adopted a somewhat revised statement of our mission.  As you'll see at the end, it's a work in progress, and we would value your comments.  Just send a note!   [posted 10-6-03]


We are a network of concerned Presbyterians responding to God's call to do justice, and to work with hope for healing and wholeness in a world increasingly broken.

Our mission is:

bulletto listen and learn from those who have been silenced;
bulletto nurture the prophetic voice of the church through reflection, discernment, and action;
bulletto equip Presbyterians for faithful participation in the church and the world;
bulletto challenge unjust relationships of power;
bulletto advocate for peace, justice, the integrity of creation, and the full inclusion of all God's people in church and society.

Through our witness, we seek to revitalize the church's proclamation and action, informed by the full witness of the Bible and the confessions, animated by our hope for the reign of God.

NOTE: The Executive Committee plans to engage in a process of reflection and planning to name some actions and programs that will each of the specific mission areas listed above. But that may take a while!

You may want to look at the statement that this will replace, just for comparison.

And again, if you have thoughts on this, please send a note!

This mission statement was adopted in 1994, and has been replaced  by the revised version adopted in September, 2003.

We are a society of justice-seeking Presbyterians, responding to the God who calls us through the power of the Holy Spirit into wholeness, as a community that lives out the radical vision of the Gospel of Jesus the Christ in a world increasingly broken.

We profess our mission to be:

bulletnurturing the prophetic voice of the church through study, action and reflection,
bulletequipping faithful Presbyterians for responsible participation at all levels of the church,
bulletadvocating for peace, justice, the integrity of creation, and the full inclusion of all God's people in church and society.

Through our witness we seek to revitalize the church's life and focus, so that it may be biblically and confessionally faithful in the world.

from the Mission Statement of the
Witherspoon Society

Another glimpse of John Witherspoon    [3-31-06]

An old friend and frequent visitor to this website, the Rev. John Mann, is now serving as a Church of Scotland pastor in Glasgow. 

He recently visited Paisley Cathedral in Glasgow, where a plaque commemorates the life of Witherspoon.

He adds, "I find that the words inscribed on the memorial that were spoken by him so many years ago to be particularly timely in our current social and political climate."

Witherspoon's words (in case it's a bit hard to read them):

If your cause is just, you may look with confidence to the Lord, and entreat him to plead it as his own.   

To learn a little more about John Witherspoon, from whom we take our name, click here.
Witherspoon history now available -- right here online!

You may be lying awake nights wondering ...

What is this Witherspoon Society?

Or maybe you're a long-time member, wanting to retrace the life of an organization that you've supported for years.

Either way, you'll learn much from the new history of the Witherspoon Society, just completed by Gene TeSelle.

The title:

"A Network of the Concerned":
the Witherspoon Society
and its Challenge to the Church

It covers the 30 years of Witherspoon's involvement in service and witness in the Presbyterian Church (USA).

How to get a copy:

You can buy a copy at the Witherspoon booth at General Assembly.

Or contact Gene TeSelle:

bulletSend an e-mail to
bulletor write to him at 1925 19th Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37212,
bulletor call him at (615) 297-2629.

Cost: $5.00 each.

Witherspoon members: We're looking for e-mail addresses! 

We have established a list-serve (or e-list, if you prefer) through which we send occasional important notices to all Witherspoon members -- if we have their e-mail addresses.  If you haven't received any such notices in the past few months, from a Yahoo group list called WITHERSPOON MEMBERS (how creative can we get??) please send a note and we'll add you to that list.  Don't get left out!

And if you'd like an e-mail update every time new material is posted to this website, just send another note about that!

Many thanks!

A new logo for Witherspoon


As the new liturgical year begins, Witherspoon begins a new phase in its history. Justice, with its many faces, has always been at the heart of Witherspoon's mission. And joy - in doing the work we sense we are called to do. So, raise the banners and let justice roll down! Join us as we enter Advent, with anticipation, excitement and renewed commitment to the radical message which is God's love for all creation.

Witherspoon president Jane Hanna sees the pain of September 11th and its aftermath as a call to us -- as individuals and as a nation -- to seek "a better way" of being in relation to the rest of the world.   [2-18-02]
The Witherspoon Society is asking members to renew their membership, and for new folks to join up.  

We are also seeking funding for a vital initiative during the coming year, including a staff person to plan and coordinate local conferences on "the whole Gospel church" and the Confession of 1967.

Please look at these two notes, and respond as generously as you can!   [posted here 12-27-01]

A new Witherspoon Society membership brochure is available.  Request one for yourself, or to share with a friend.  Request a quantity to spread around your neighborhood!  Just send a note, telling us how many you want and where we should send them.  (If you'd like a white, unfolded version to make your own copies, mention that, too!)  [11-28-01]
Issues Analyst Gene TeSelle has uncovered a couple interesting documents from Witherspoon's past.  One is a statement drafted in 1985, describing the purposes of the group and the issues on which its attention was focused.

The second document, a sort of modern poem composed around the time of the group's founding nearly 30 years ago, is a fascinating reflection of its time.  Gene would like help in finding the author of the poem.  So please check out "A Stern Prayer for Parlous Times."  [posted 12-10-01]

Witherspoon President Jane Hanna, in her "President's Corner" column for the Fall 2001 issue of Network News, points to how our basic biblical perspective can steady us in this time of crisis -- and how the crisis calls us back to our true mission as a church.  [11-7-01]
Meet our new Executive Committee members!  [8-18-01]
Witherspoon Society annual report 

By action of the 212th General Assembly, the Stated Clerk asks each "affinity group" related to the Presbyterian Church to submit an annual report of its purposes, activities, funding, and so on.  Among the minority of groups to send such a report was the Witherspoon Society, and we share our report here.

The list of groups which have and have not responded to the request is interesting.   [7-13-01]

Find out how to become a member, and send a convenient membership form from here.

Exploring the Whole Gospel concept   [5-9-01]

The Witherspoon Society began exploring its notion of an emphasis on Whole Gospel Congregations, with a gathering on May 5, 2001, at the Presbyterian Church in Claremont, CA.  Some thirty people, including members of the executive committee and members of the congregation, spent about 6 hours in conversation with Dr. John B. Cobb, Dr. Doug Ottati, and Dr. Jane Dempsey Douglass.

Local groups are getting organized, doing good things.
Jane Hanna, Witherspoon's new President, reflects on the Society's past and present commitment to a vision of the Gospel as calling us to work for the common welfare -- for justice -- as well as for personal freedom and happiness.
New Witherspoon chapter blossoms in Silicon Valley

Second meeting of this group passes two resolutions on Amendments A and O

The Witherspoon officers met on Sept. 21-23, 2000, in Santa Fe, and began developing plans for future projects.
Click here for details and photos.

Communion at 1998 Witherspoon Gathering

Some of our current activities include ...

bulletbuilding a network among people who are committed to shaping a more just and peaceful world, and a more open Church
bulletbeing involved in the Church's annual General Assembly, with a booth in the exhibit area where you can stop by to get information, and to find friends and fellowship
bullethosting a luncheon at each General Assembly, with a major speaker, and honoring congregations and individuals who live out our mission
bulletand hosting the annual Witherspoon Society Party and Dance -- a great meeting place for friends, a time to relax in the middle of the pressures of the Assembly

Local Witherspoon chapters meet in some presbyteries during the year, and work with other groups dealing with justice issues within the Presbyterian community.  

If you're interested in starting such a group, or in connecting with Witherspooners in your area, contact our Membership Coordinator for help, brochures, and whatever else we can provide. Click on the envelope to send a note to Membership Coordinator Trina Zelle.

Or just fill out a membership form, and do it all by e-mail (except sending your check!)

If you have concerns, questions, suggestions for the group, please send a quick note to Witherspoon President Jane Hanna.


Last edited on 08/20/10


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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