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News of Presbyterian Voices for Justice

For Witherspoon Society news from 2002-2003 >>

PVJ Coordinating Team meets, focuses on “getting better organized”    [9-8-11]

Co-moderator Bill Dummer reports on the accomplishments of the coordinating team meeting help on August 15 - 17 in Pittsburgh.

One of their greatest achievements (in my biased opinion) was naming Vicki Moss (who has for years been the manager and welcoming presence at the Witherspoon/PVJ booth at each General Assembly) to succeed me as manager of communications for PVJ. We are working at a transition. Welcome, Vicki!!

Bill’s report on the meeting is posted here as he sent it to us.

with thanks from Doug King, your (outgoing!) WebWeaver

The Co-Moderator’s Column

PV4J Getting Better Organized            
By Bill Dummer

The Coordinating Team held a very productive annual face-to-face meeting August 15 to 17 in Pittsburgh. Most of the team plus Vicki Moss (our new website manager and media coordinator) was present for the 48 hour meeting. We spent the first block of time doing some brainstorming of what we need to do during the next year. Then we took some steps to get better organized to do it. Here are the decisions that we made, along with plans for the year ahead:

bullet The Executive Committee consisting of the co-moderators, secretary and treasurer will coordinate conference call and face-to-face meeting agendas.          
bullet The Moderator(s) will keep in touch with CT members to keep them on task (“ride herd”) and moderate meetings.       

bullet Vicki Moss will be coordinating with Lorelei Hillman to put the content of Network News on the website, with the exception of the issue that goes out to GA commissioners (see elsewhere the details of this change in publishing policy). She will also be our Facebook and Google-groups administrator.    

bullet Sylvia Carlson will be the CT secretary and also co-signer on the checking account.          

bullet Lorelei Hillman, as our “publisher” will be updating our membership brochure        

bullet Treasurer Darcy Hawk will shepherd the spring fundraising letter in preparation for going to GA. He will also be receiving the membership checks, and will then forward the names to the Membership Coordinator.           

bullet Colleen Bowers will write the fall membership renewal letter. She will also be looking into new software for maintaining the membership database.         

bullet Sylvia Thorson-Smith will continue to handle issues and education material, and in so doing will resource the website. She will partner with Colleen in seeing what former members of the two previous groups need to be reactivated. 

bullet Each CT member will select 10 members to do the membership survey over the phone. Lorelei will call Arizona and California; Sylvia (West) will call New Mexico and Iowa; Bill will call Wisconsin and Minnesota; Colleen will call Maryland and Virginia; Darcy will call Ohio and Pennsylvania; Sylvia (East) will call Kentucky; Pam and Jeremiah will call New York and Mitch will call New Jersey. If you live in these states you may be getting a phone call in the near future.          

bullet Membership: We will offer half-price memberships at GA for the remainder of the year for $30. From now on we will send out membership renewal letters to every member before December 1. At GA we will also offer YAADs and TSADs free two-year memberships if they join during the assembly meeting. The new membership rates will be: Regular $60, limited income $30, and students $10.    

bullet We will have a presence at the PW Churchwide Gathering in July of 2012.            

bullet 2012 GA: Commissioner Orientation will be done via media – e-mail and mailing the GA issues edition of the Network News. The Awards Luncheon and membership meeting will possibly be held at East Liberty PC on Sunday noon, with the Co-Moderators working on this. The Presbyterian Voices for Justice (note name change) breakfast will be Tuesday, Colleen and Sylvias working on it. The PV4J Dance on Tuesday evening will be worked on by Darcy, Jeremiah and Mitch. Once again, exhibit hall booth will be handled by Vicki. We will be introducing the Red Tent as a safe place for conversation.     

bullet Nominating Committee will be Bill, Darcy and a former Board/CT member.         

Thirteen months after announcing his retirement, Doug King can finally put his feet up. Meanwhile, I need to shop for a saddle  :)


Godspeed and thanks to Molly Casteel

We are pleased to announce that the Rev. Molly Casteel, who has served on the Board of Presbyterian Voices for Justice since 2009, has been appointed to a four-year term as Assistant Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, with responsibility for Representation and Inclusiveness Services. Because of her new position, she has submitted her resignation from the PVJ board.

During her time on our board, Molly served briefly as Co-Moderator. And more than that, she has consistently contributed to our work through her broad and deep understanding of the Presbyterian Church (USA), her commitment to fair representation and involvement of all the different groups within the church’s membership, and her joy in the life of following Jesus.

We are sorry to lose her contributions, but we rejoice that they will continue to be at the service of our church as a whole. We wish her Godspeed.

Hank Bremer, former Witherspoon treasurer, has died   [11-13-10]

The Rev. Hank Bremer, who served for some years as treasurer of the Witherspoon Society, died last Monday. He had been in failing health during the last year, with numerous stays in the hospital. A memorial service will be held at First Presbyterian Church in Santa Fe, NM, on Saturday, November 27, at 11 a.m.

The leadership of PVJ joins many others in mourning his loss, and we extend our sympathy to his widow, Teresa Bremer. She can be reached at 1075 Calle Largo, Santa Fe, NM 87501

We celebrate the life of Hank Bremer, former Witherspoon treasurer

Adding a bit more about Hank Bremer's life --

Hank Bremer, who served as Treasurer of the Witherspoon Society from 1992 to 1999, died peacefully at home on Monday, November 8, 2010, after a lengthy illness. Born in 1932 in Peculiar, Missouri, he graduated from Park College in Parkville, Missouri, and later from San Francisco Theological Seminary. His many productive years in ministry, both as pastor and as administrator in Presbyterian retirement homes, were marked by strong social and political leadership and involvement in peace and justice movements in California, Mexico, and Central America.

After retiring in 1997, he and his wife Teresa moved to Santa Fe, where he worshiped in First Presbyterian Church.

As Witherspoon’s treasurer, Hank contributed both his administrative skills and his passion for justice, along with his concern for people, and the wisdom gathered through his own life struggles. We’re grateful for what he shared with us!

The leadership of PVJ joins many others in mourning his loss, and we extend our sympathy to his widow, Teresa Bremer.

The Presbyterian Voices for Justice Coordinating Team


Co-Moderator (2010-12)

Bill Dummer
Milwaukee, WI
H - 414-475-0076

Acting Co-Moderator

Colleen Bowers
Baltimore, MD
H - 443-722-7248

Secretary/Communicator (2010-12)

Mitchell Trigger
Rockaway, NJ
H - 973-784-4818
W - 973-627-1059

Treasurer (2010-12)

Darcy Hawk
Gibsonia, PA
H - 724-443-0748
W - 724-443-2092

Membership Coordinator (2010-12)

Jeremiah Rosario
New York, NY
Cell - 646-675-7029

Members at Large

Sylvia Carlson (2009-11)
Greensburg, PA
H - 724-755-2288

Molly Casteel (2009-11)
Louisville, KY
C - 502-693-8517

Sylvia Thorson-Smith (2009-11)         (Also Issues Coordinator)
Tucson, AZ
H - 520-207-1825

Lorelei Hillman (2010-12)
Phoenix, AZ
H and C - 602-803-2878
W - 480-966-6267

Diane C. Monger (2010-12)
Wichita, KS
C - 316-641-7422

Pamela Szurek (2010-12)
Levittown, NY
H and C - 516-241-8420
W - 516-731-3808

Communications Coordinator   (Ex Officio )

Doug King
2805 Lakeshore Drive, # 9
La Crosse, WI 54603
H - 608-782-5275
C - 952-270-8134


Introducing our newest PVJ officers:


Our membership meeting on Sunday, July 4, 2010, at GA, elected these new Coordinating Team members.  They have each provided brief self-introductions.

Elected as Membership Coordinator:

Jeremiah Rosario has been until recently Executive Assistant to the Pastor at Rutgers Presbyterian Church, New York City, and lives in Manhattan.

New at-large members:

Pamela Szurek is pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Levittown, NY, on Long Island.

Diane Monger, Minister-at-Large from Southern Kansas presbytery, is now living back in her hometown of Wichita, KS. Most recently she was on staff at Inter-Faith Ministries in Wichita, working with the interfaith community to fight poverty & injustice.

Lorelei Hillman is the Interim Associate Pastor for University PC in Tempe, Arizona, where she has been for almost 3 years. She is also on the executive board of the Interfaith Alliance for Worker Justice, and chairs Grand Canyon Presbytery’s Theology and Worship Committee. Two primary social justice interests are Immigration and GLBT inclusivity.

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!

Mollie Hopper laid to rest

Presbyterian News Service reported on July 30, 2010, that Mollie Brown Hopper, who with her husband Bill – a member and supporter of the Witherspoon Society since 1994 – served as a Presbyterian mission worker in Iran for many years, was interred in the Memorial Garden at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary here July 27. Millie Hopper died earlier this spring at Westminster Gardens in Duarte, Calif. where she and Bill Hopper lived.

A brief service accompanied the interment, led by the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick , former General Assembly stated clerk and world mission director for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Former national staff colleague the Rev. Kathy Lancaster read an account of Mollie's life written by her husband, who was unable to attend due to health reasons.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Bill and their family in these sorrowful days.

More >>

Voices for Justice events
at the 219
th General Assembly

Saturday, July 3, 7:00 to 8:30 am

Presbyterian Voices for Justice Commissioner Orientation

(continuing the Witherspoon Society Commissioner Orientation)

Everything Presbyterian progressives need to know in order to be effective participants in the Assembly. This is a wake-up call that will include a continental breakfast, interactive sharing, worship, and information about GA issues. Come, meet people, and be energized for our week together!

Hilton Hotel. Tickets: $27.00


Sunday, July 4, 12:00 to 2:30 pm

Presbyterian Voices for Justice Awards Luncheon

(continuing the Witherspoon Society Awards Luncheon)

Join us after Sunday worship to see old friends and meet new ones. The keynote speaker, Mary Elva Smith, will speak on the topic, "God’s Urgings: Are We Listening?" She will be inviting us to explore with her the question of how, in this season of dis-ease and uncertainty, we might have the courage to be still and listen, to wonder and discern in community what God may be calling us to do now.

Mary Elva says of herself: I am a risk taker, love adventures and avoid getting up early!  I have been involved in the church all my life and called by the church for 40 years.  I love God and still have more questions about my faith than answers.  I am an administrator with ‘an attitude’ of faithful hope.  Having studied the Art of Spiritual Direction at SFTS, I found myself nourished and nurtured by the experience.  It is out of my own journey of faith and the learning in that venue that I now delight in listening, paying attention and wondering with others as they seek to focus their experiences with God.  Happily retired, I delight in being freer to explore the world and to serve as retreat leader, spiritual director and staff member for the SFTS Diploma in the Art of Spiritual Direction.

Our two awards will be presented: The Andrew Murray Award to an outstanding leader of the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the Whole Gospel Congregation Award to a congregation in the Twin Cities area that exemplifies the commitments of Presbyterian Voices for Justice, to living out the radical, liberating Good News in our society and the wider world.

NOTE: Our Membership Business Meeting (and our first meeting as a newly merged organization!) will be held immediately after our Luncheon program.

Hyatt Regency Hotel, Nicollett Ballroom. Tickets: $42.00


Tuesday, July 6, 7:00-8:30 a.m. 

Voices of Sophia Breakfast

(sponsored by Presbyterian Voices for Justice)

ReImagining Church: De-Centering Privilege as an Act of Global Citizenship

Speaker: The Rev. Dr. Christine Smith, professor of preaching, United Seminary of the Twin Cities (UCC) and preacher for the first "Re-Imagining" gathering in 1993.

What does it mean to have social privilege?  How might Christians "de-center," or relocate, themselves socially?  How is this process of de-centering a faithful, prophetic act of justice in our world?  Dr. Smith’s message will challenge us to look at the complex language of margin and center, of stranger and other.  She will also help us to consider actions and spiritual disciplines that all of us, as privileged citizens, need to adopt in order to live more justice-loving lives.  Christine Smith is eminently qualified to help us re-imagine a just church in a global world.

Hyatt Regency Hotel. Tickets $27.00


Tuesday, July 6, 9:00pm-1:00am

Witherspoon Dance

sponsored by Presbyterian Voices for Justice

Time for a break! This is a great chance to relax and enjoy great music, dancing, and conversation – and an informal place to meet and mingle with others at the Assembly.

Hilton Hotel. Tickets $20.00 Tickets can be ordered through the General Assembly ticket service, and will be also be available at the door.


Tickets can be ordered through the General Assembly website, by going to

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.

David McGown, former Witherspoon president, dies in Santa Fe

The Rev. David McGown, who served as president of the Witherspoon Society in 1995, and was active in campus ministry for many years, most recently at the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle Campus, died peacefully Friday afternoon, March 26, at his home in Santa Fe. He had struggled with Alzheimer’s for several years and had lived in an assisted living facility with his wife Jeanne for the past several years. A memorial service is being planned for Saturday.

Jeanne McGown's address is 2400 Legacy Court, Santa Fe, NM 87507.

Thanks to Ray Kersting for sending word of this.

Remembering and celebrating Dave McGown ...

In April of 2001 – on Palm Sunday, no less – David wrote a note to us reporting on a remarkable, inclusive, joyful, violence-defying worship service at St. Bede’s Episcopal Church in Santa Fe. Take a look at it, and give thanks for David, for his strong witness over many years, and his entry into the New Life.

We also want to acknowledge with gratitude that David's wife, Jeanne (to whom I apologize for getting her named spelled wrong when first posting this!), was one of the first and most active members of Voices of Sophia.

David's obituary is in the Santa Fe New Mexican >>

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.


Calling all artists, doodlers,
creative thinkers, feminists,
Reformed theologians
& independent minds

To print and share with others, get the PDF version of this announcement >>


We are merging two progressive Presbyterian organizations — Voices of Sophia and the Witherspoon Society —
and now we need to live into a new identity.

Sooo ... we’re looking for a new name and a new logo ...
and you can help!

Join one or both of these contests and win huge prizes!


Your logo submission should express the mission and character of the new, united organization. (These include peace, justice, affirmation of women’s distinctive experience and perspectives, and an inclusive and hospitable community of faith in the Reformed tradition.) Please submit an image that will fit within a 3" by 3" square (though it does not need to be exactly that size), and that can be reproduced in a variety of formats – black and white, grayscale, and in one, two and four colors.


Please suggest a name of one to four words that will reflect the mission and character of the group, as outlined in the “Logo” paragraph. If you wish, feel free to add a brief explanation of your suggestion, in no more than 50 words.


The winning entry to each contest will receive:

bullet Your choice of a $50 cash award,

OR your choice of free tickets to any three of our events during the 219th General Assembly (July 2 - 10, 2010) in Minneapolis: the pre-Assembly “Reformation 2010” conversation, the Voices of Sophia Breakfast, the Commissioner Orientation, the Witherspoon Luncheon, and (ta-daa!!) the Witherspoon Dance.

All entries will become the property of the Witherspoon Society/Voices of Sophia.


ONLINE with “Name and Logo Contest” in the Subject line, to Mitch Trigger at


Mitchell Trigger
First Presbyterian Church
35 Church Street
Rockaway, NJ 07866

Got questions?

Please call Mitch Trigger at (973) 784-4818, or send him an email:


ReImagining the Witherspoon Society

by Jake Young, Witherspoon co-moderator

Officers of the Presbyterian Church (USA) vow, among other things, to serve the church with imagination. That’s a wonderful idea. It reminds us to pursue creativity in our service to God and one another. Theologian Matthew Fox says that human creativity is the Holy Spirit at work in and through us. In this sense, the activity of creatively imagining—indeed, reimagining—new ways of being the church is exactly where the spirit of God leads us. Likewise, attempts to squelch imagination are akin to what our Pentecostal sisters and brothers might call “quenching the Spirit.”

Board members of the Witherspoon Society are excited these days about the prospect of serving you and the PC(USA) with imagination. You may not think of excitement and imagination when you think of Witherspoon (especially if you have not attended one of our General Assembly dance parties), but that’s about to change. For several months we have been in conversation with the leadership of Voices of Sophia about a merger. Today we are proud to publicly announce that merger. The WS Board has been expanded to include four gifted and creative leaders of VOS. (See Sylvia Thorson-Smith’s article for further details on this development.) Together, the different strengths of VOS and WS will enable our new organization to serve the church more effectively, with greater energy and imagination. We are grateful for your support of each organization and invite you to join us and renew your vow—so to speak—to serve the church with imagination.

Jake Young, Co-Moderator

Announcing a Holy Union:

Voices of Sophia and the Witherspoon Society Merge

by Sylvia Thorson-Smith    [4-20-09]

For about a year, the idea of a merger between the Witherspoon Society and Voices of Sophia has been in the works. Thanks to the efforts of many dedicated people in both groups, we are now happy to announce that this union is a reality.

Since this article appears in what has been the communication piece of the Witherspoon Society, it might be helpful to review a bit of the history of Voices of Sophia. VOS was organized in 1995 in response to the backlash against the 1993 feminist theological event known as “ReImagining.” It was felt by many who were active in the PCUSA at the time that those who advocated feminist values, particular women staff, were under siege and needed a critical mass of support outside the structures of the church. For 13 years, Voices of Sophia has been an untamed witness on behalf of women and women’s issues, working in partnership with other progressive justice-loving groups in the Presbyterian Church, like the Witherspoon Society.

Discussions between these two groups began in conversations at General Assembly in 2008, and the serious work of exploring merger commenced in the fall and early 2009. I came on the Witherspoon Board, in part as a liaison between the groups. Basic agreement was reached between the leadership of WS and VOS on steps that would be taken, including the following:

  1. four new members would join the WS board as a VOS caucus, participating fully in decisions of the board and providing a particularly feminist perspective to its work;
  2. the VOS caucus would be responsible for continuing some previous VOS work, such as breakfasts that feature women theologians at General Assembly;
  3. at least for now, the balance of VOS monies would be (and have been) kept in a separate account, managed by the WS budget officer, and available for GA breakfasts and other particularly VOS/feminist-related needs; and
  4. other details of the merger would be worked out by the newly enlarged board.

An email was sent to VOS members seeking three interested persons to join me in forming the VOS caucus of the board, and the following women enthusiastically offered to serve: Colleen Bowers, a nurse who lives in Baltimore, MD; Sylvia Carlson, a retired minister in Redstone Presbytery; and Molly Casteel, who until recently held a position as staff for women’s advocacy in the Racial Ethnic and Women’s Ministry Program of the church. 

In addition, Heather Reichgott (former board member of More Light Presbyterians) will be an adjunct member of the caucus and will manage a new feminist blog on the Witherspoon website. Heather is working with Doug King and her blog is now operational (check it out at ).

There are still issues to address regarding this merger, and these will be discussed at a board meeting in Minneapolis in May. For now, though, we are moving forward with energy and enthusiasm in this (hopefully) holy, justice-seeking union. It's exciting to see it actually become a reality, because we all agree on the importance of maintaining a progressive/feminist voice in the PCUSA – even from the margins.  We'll want to keep communication flowing with the members of both groups, so this unified group can become an even stronger witness for peace and justice than we were separately.  We hope that current members of WS and VOS will want to maintain your ties and new members will want to join.

We ask for prayers and all forms of support as we re-imagine a united Voices of Sophia/Witherspoon Society. Feel free to ask questions, give us input, and share ideas about how to strengthen our work together. I welcome emails regarding this merger (, and you may direct them to other board members as well. We look forward to reporting more progress in upcoming issues of Network News and here on the website.


Leon Howell – former editor of Christianity & Crisis and a very good friend of Witherspoon – has died    [3-2-09]

We received word last week of the death of Leon Howell, journalist and leading thinking in the progressive wing of U.S. Christianity. His family said that Leon died at home in his sleep early Thursday, February 26, in Silver Spring, Maryland.

A memorial service will be held at 11:00 am on Tuesday, March 3 at Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church, One Chevy Chase Circle NW, Washington DC 20015.

The family suggests that, in lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Leon’s name to:

National Ghost Ranch Foundation
HC 77, Box 11
Abiquiu, NM 87510


Bread for the World
50 F Street NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20001

A Witherspoon comment:

Jane Hanna, former president of the Witherspoon Society, has worked with Leon over the past few years as he has frequently led summer seminars at Ghost Ranch, which featured Leon in conversation and debate with various informed guests, on moral and ethical issues confronting our society today.

Jane wrote of Leon Howell:  “Frank [her husband] and I truly mourn his passing as we loved him greatly and just felt the week of ‘Discerning the Signs of Times’ seminar each summer to be one of each year's highlights. We will miss him greatly and although plans are already underway to continue the seminars into the future, his absence will very much be felt. Leon leaves as many friends from around the world as anyone I know. There is a lot of sadness with his passing.”


Witherspooner Bill Coop has shared with us his message to Leon Howell’s widow, Barbara

Barbara -- 

I wanted to be with you on Tuesday to celebrate the life of Leon, the Blogging prophet in our midst. But the snowstorm in the northeast has given me pause. However, as Bi-National Servants, we want to affirm that Leon has been a drum major for justice in our midst. His commitment to calling us to ministries of compassion has been crystal clear. We celebrate his life among us (also his insights into the sports venues that he followed with a passion).  

We are with you this day. And may the Grace, Peace and Spirit of our Lord comfort you today and into the Memory Stones of the future.


Bill Coop
BiNational Service Council

Witherspoon is on Facebook!

The Witherspoon Society and Voices of Sophia have joined the "Web 2.0" world with our Witherspoon Society page on Facebook.

It's been a treat to see so many friends join us from around the country and even around the world. One of the people joining us as a member of our Facebook community is the Rev. Roberto Jordan of Argentina, one of the people instrumental in drafting the Accra Confession and the featured speaker at our 2007 fall conference on global discipleship.

By joining us on the Witherspoon Society Facebook page (, you can keep connected with other friends passionate about social justice issues and keep up-to-date with notes about the latest news from a variety of PC(USA) social justice groups.

If you don't know much about Facebook, it's a simple way of getting connected with old friends, people with similar interests and it's free. If you are a first-timer, simply go to and register. By joining as a member of our Facebook page, you too can post news from your church or presbytery that might be of interest to the rest of us or begin a discussion on a topic close to your heart. It's fast, fun, and free – something we all enjoy! See you there...

Mitch Trigger, Secretary/Communicator of the Witherspoon Society

And our hearty thanks to Mitch for leading the way!

Another Witherspooner in the news

Margaret Howland celebrates 50 years as minister – one of the first women to be ordained  [10-21-08]

Peg Howland has been a Witherspoon member for some years, and has been very active in the leadership of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship.

Click here to view a WNBC report on the celebration of the 50th anniversary of her ordination at her congregation in White Plains, NY – or read a report from the Westchester Journal News.

Witherspooners in the news

from a Presbyterian News Service report dated October 9, 2008, by Jerry L. VanMarter.   [10-10--08]

The Rev. Richard W. Irwin, a retired Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission worker who served in Brazil from 1947-1995, died there Sept. 26. He was 88.  [And he has been a member of the Witherspoon Society since 1991.]

Irwin had continued living in Brazil after his retirement and served on the pastoral team of First Presbyterian Church in Sao Paulo until his death. He also was a columnist for the Independent Presbyterian Church of Brazil’s newspaper.

During his 48-year term for the PC(USA) in Brazil, Irwin taught liturgy at Sao Paulo Seminary, an institution of the Independent Presbyterian Church of Brazil. He also used media to acquaint many in Brazilian society with Protestantism. He produced the country’s first Protestant film as well as dramas and cartoons for television.

Services were conducted at First Presbyterian Church in Sao Paulo on Sept. 27, and he was buried in Brazil’s first cemetery for Protestants near the grave of A. G. Simonton, the first Presbyterian missionary to Brazil.


Yale Divinity School has presented its Alumni Award for Distinction in Theological Education to the Rev. V. Bruce Rigdon, a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) pastor, theological educator, ecumenical leader and social activist. [Not to mention a member of the Witherspoon Society since 1994.]

Rigdon, one of the world’s foremost experts on Reformed-Orthodox relations, served as pastor of Grosse Pointe Memorial (Presbyterian) Church in Michigan from 1988-2002 and president of Ecumenical Theological Seminary in Detroit from 1997-2006. Though now retired, he continues to teach at Ecumenical, McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago and Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, GA.

Rigdon, who holds B.D., M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Yale Divinity School, was an innovator in the globalization of theological education. In addition to his groundbreaking work in Russia, he has been active in the Middle East, and is currently president of the board of Pilgrims of Ibillin, an organization that supports and interprets the significance of institutions established in Galilee by Archbishop Elias Chacour to educate together Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Druze young people.

In retirement, Rigdon serves as pastor of Siasconset Union Chapel, a summer ecumenical congregation on Nantucket Island.

The Co-Moderator’s Column

Farewell reflections

by Trina Zelle

[Published in the Summer 2008 issue of Network News, and posted here on 10-9-08]

I had never heard of the Witherspoon Society until they selected me to receive their Andrew Murray Award at the 1999 General Assembly in Fort Worth, Texas. In fact, I had never attended a General Assembly, unless you count participation in the opening communion service at the Hartford, Connecticut, GA in the early ’80s. My memories from Hartford center around a group of hearing impaired folks a few rows in front of me who signed the Lord’s prayer as everyone else said it out loud. The insight from that night, that God receives all of our prayers no matter how they are delivered, moves me to tears to this day.

Since Fort Worth that same valuing of inclusivity has kept me connected to the Witherspoon Society with its diverse and sometimes quirky membership. God knows we’re a fractious and disorganized bunch that manages to combine institutional memory and amnesia in the course of one meeting. It’s a marvel that we survive from year to year. But survive we do, and thrive, because and in spite of ourselves – and I think mainly because our cause is not only just, it is justice itself.

Along with our allies who live with us at the margins of the Presbyterian Church, the Witherspoon Society represents the voice that refuses to be silenced, the witness who refuses to go away. Fortunately, our impulse to dance keeps us from sinking under the weight of the challenges that face our church. In fact, I believe it is in just such playfulness that as a community of faith we will finally, in the words of the Shaker hymn, come down to the place we ought to be.

I am grateful to have been included on the journey that Witherspoon has been traveling since the early ’70s (and before in its predecessor organizations). This month marks my transition off the board. After nine years of intense involvement with Witherspoon and the issues that confront the PC(USA), I will be taking a break of sorts. Of course, once a Witherspooner always a Witherspooner, especially when it comes to dancing, so I don’t plan to stray far. In the meantime, I want to thank the people who have become close friends and colleagues both on the board and in our larger membership. No one could ask for better companions.

In solidarity,

Trina Zelle

Witherspoon welcomes new officers, says thanks to two outgoing ones

[Published in the Summer 2008 issue of Network News, and posted here on 10-9-08]

As part of the Witherspoon Society’s membership meeting following our luncheon at General Assembly, we elected Sylvia Thorson-Smith as a new at-large member of the Board, and elected Gusti Newquist, who has been serving as an at-large member, to the post of Membership Coordinator. John Harris, who has been filling that post, was elected for a one-year term as a member at large.

To introduce our newest Board member: Sylvia Thorson-Smith was born and raised a Lutheran in Anchorage, Alaska, but she's been a Presbyterian all of her adult life. In the 1980s she served on COWAC (the Council on Women and the Church) and staffed the 1988 GA report, "Pornography: Far From the Song of Songs." She was a writer of the 1991 GA report, "Keeping Body and Soul Together: Sexuality, Spirituality, and Social Justice," and has written books on human sexuality and LGBT justice. Sylvia is a founding member of Voices of Sophia, an affinity group formed in 1995 to advocate the theological/liturgical contributions of women and promote interconnected activism on all social justice issues. She is retired from teaching sociology, religious studies, and gender/women's studies at Grinnell College and lives in Tucson, AZ, where she serves on the session of St. Mark's Presbyterian Church, enjoys life with husband Mike Smith, and cavorts with her 4-year-old airedale, Cocoa.

We want to express our hearty thanks to Trina Zelle, who has served since 1999, first as Secretary, and most recently as one of the Co-Moderators of the Board. Thanks also go to Peter Barnes-Davies, who is retiring from the Board to devote himself to his new position as Stated Supply at First Presbyterian Church of Scottsburg, Indiana. They will both be missed!

Visiting San Jose??

As a place to stay in San Jose, your Witherspoon board members would like to recommend
the Ramada Limited, San Jose

We stayed there for the General Assembly, and held a couple of our main public events in their large public meeting room – and they were great hosts.

So if you have occasion to visit San Jose and are looking for centrally located, economical accommodations, why not give them a call, or visit their website.

Their address is
455 South Second St.,
San Jose, CA 95113

For reservations, call
1 (866) 962-6700,
or (408) 298-3500.

Their website is at


Peace Fellowship and Witherspoon both get some attention from The Layman     [5-30-08]

The Presbyterian Layman recently called attention to a “correction” offered to the Witherspoon Society by the Rev. James Berkley, Director of Presbyterian Action, a part of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD). Mr. Berkley thoughtfully advised that a column of theological reflection which appears regularly in Witherspoon’s Network News, authored by Dr. Douglas Ottati, deserves to draw the attention of the Internal Revenue Service.

In his column, Ottati dares to speak as if Presbyterian progressives might lean toward either of the two contending candidates for the Democratic nomination for President, rather than the sole surviving Republican. Witherspoon, says Berkley, is “beating the drum for a political party in the election of president.”

Read Berkley’s blog >>          Ottati’s essay is online, too >>

The Layman, having been alerted by Berkley to his revelation of Witherspoon misdeeds, repeats substantially what he wrote in his blog. And it quotes Berkley as saying in addition that “the Witherspoon Society has shown its true colors: It's a Democrat interest group.”

But the Witherspoon Society is in good company. The Layman has also chosen this week to scold the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship for holding a retreat on dealing conscientiously with military service – and scheduling the event (gasp!) on Memorial Day weekend. Held at Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu, NM, the event was designed to provide training “for young adults who are interested in countering the military recruitment efforts on their high school and college campuses.”

The Layman apparently called Rick Ufford-Chase, former PC(USA) moderator and now Executive Director of the Peace Fellowship, to ask the reason for this choice of dates. He is quoted as saying, “This is in no way intended to dishonor the valuable service and the great service that has been offered by so many people, Presbyterians and others, who have served in the armed forces, but to create alternatives for students who may not know that there are other, non-military options for living out a life of service to the Church. I understand that there's some conversation going on out there, but no one's called me about it.”

See the Peace Fellowship announcement of the event >>

Read the Layman’s article >>

You might also be enlightened by reading some of the comments that came in response to the Layman’s exposé of the wicked peace people. Click here, and go to the archive for May, 2008.

Well, it’s refreshing to see our friends at The Layman concerned about something besides sex. Now we can worry about war, politics, and taxes, too.

We should add, perhaps, that the Witherspoon Society has no intention of campaigning for the Democratic Party. Certainly that party and many of its leaders seem to show some commitment to the values which we as Christians and as Presbyterians hold dear – but so do some members of the Republican Party as well. We believe strongly, however, in the right of Christians and other people of faith to engage in serious reflection and conversation about the pressing issues of our day, and the best ways to respond to those issues in the “public square.”

Witherspoon goes global   [12-20-06]

At our Fall board meeting, held in September at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, the Board of the Witherspoon Society voted to take some concrete steps toward engaging more directly with the big wide world. We adopted as a working title for this project the "Global Engagement Initiative."

As one step in this project we have committed to provide partial support for Shannon O’Donnell, who has recently gone as a Mission Volunteer to serve at the Sabeel Ecumenical and Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem.

We are happy to present more information about this new Witherspoon project, including an introduction by Board member Peter Barnes-Davies, a "report from Jerusalem" by Shannon herself, a statement by Sabeel of its current "points of emphasis," and more.

Don't miss a beautiful collage created by the people of Sabeel to represent their people, their situation, and their mission.

Click here for a page that will be devoted specifically to our partnership with the PC(USA) in its global mission, through Shannon O’Donnell and Sabeel in Jerusalem.

If you have comments or suggestions about the Global Engagement Initiative,
please let us hear from you.
Just send a note!

Witherspoon Board reaffirms unity of the church, laments divisive moves  [9-15-06]

The Board of the Witherspoon Society, meeting from September 13 through 16 at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, today adopted a statement expressing dismay at the actions and statements by some Presbyterians, congregations and presbyteries that seem to violate the spirit of "harmony and covenanted partnership" that were fostered by the Theological Task Force and experienced by many at the 217th General Assembly in Birmingham. 

The statement concludes:  "We pledge to join with all Presbyterians in carrying out the letter and the spirit of both the AI and our broader Presbyterian tradition: to defend our Constitution against anarchy and misinterpretation, to seek more thorough discernment, and to assist candidates and committees as we all try to live our way into the new opportunities brought to us by the Theological Task Force, the actions of the 217th General Assembly, and the Reformed heritage upon which the Presbyterian Church (USA) stands."

The full statement >>

Presbyterian minister – and Witherspooner – runs for Congress in California    [9-8-06]

The Rev. Jill Martinez, who was nominated for Moderator of the 212th General Assembly in 2000, and who joined the Witherspoon Society in the same year, is running for Congress in California's 24th congressional district. That district covers Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, and, she says, appears to offer a "winnable race" for a Democrat in what has been a Republican district.

If anyone is interested in learning more about her campaign, there’s information on her website – including a brief bio sketch and policy papers on issues such as education, health care, housing, the need to "change course in Iraq, immigration policy ... and more.

She can be contacted at or by phone at (805) 446-3000. Her Ventura office is located at 89 California Street in Ventura, and her Santa Barbara county office is at 1301 East Clark Rd, in Orcutt.

She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of Hawaii, a Masters of Divinity from San Francisco Theological Seminary. Martinez’ post graduate work at SFTS emphasized research in examining the "Mestizaje process" where people of differing cultures come together and form new cultural identities.

Network News for Summer 2006 is now online      [8-16-06]

Our latest newsletter is now in the mail to members, and we’re glad to share it with anyone else who’s interested -- in PDF format.

The contents of Network News for Summer 2006

A time for embodying love

After the 217th GA Where do we go from here? Analysis by Gene TeSelle – pp. 4-7

A call to recognize "the things that make for peace" – pp. 8-9
The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship responds to the violence in the Middle East

Whats Going on in the USA? – pp. 10-19
Mark Lewis Taylor
s keynote at the Witherspoon/Semper Reformanda Pre-Assembly Conversation, looking at "the rise of an imperial triumvirate"

The Witherspoon Luncheon

Eugenia Gamble on "embodying love" in a whole Gospel congregation – pp. 20-22
Peacemakers Anne Barstow and Tom Driver receive Andrew Murray Award – pp. 23-24

A Matter of Trust, by Kenneth Smith, comment on the Assembly, by outgoing president of Witherspoon – pp. 25

The "Social Creed" of 1908: some background, by Gene TeSelle – pp. 26

Energized by Lamb Power
Two reports from the Ghost Ranch Seminar on Economy, Ecology, and Empire, by Jake Young and Kent Holmes – pp. 27-30

Coming events – pp. 31

Reflecting on Witherspoon
s mission, by John Harris – pp. 32-33

New Wineskins studying options
a report and a comment – pp. 33-35

New Witherspoon Board elected
– pp. 36-37

The Witherspoon Board
how to find us – pp. 38

For the full issue of Network News for Summer 2006 >>

Witherspoon members elect new Board during General Assembly

The Witherspoon membership meeting, held just after the Awards Luncheon on Sunday, June 18, took two very important actions.

First, the group approved a set of revised by-laws, which takes into account the shift to biennial General Assemblies, and – in harmony with many similar groups – renames our group of officers as a Board rather than an Executive Committee. It also shifts our leadership from a single President to two Co-Moderators.

You’ll find the new by-laws – which were not changed from their draft form – in the Winter 2006 issue of Network News. Click here, and scroll or jump (using the page box at the bottom of the Adobe Reader screen) to pages 32-37.

Following that action, we elected a full slate of officers, since no election was held last year, and all the earlier terms had expired. About half the officers were elected for one-year terms, and the rest for full two-year terms. In the future, all elections will be held by mail-in ballots each May.

A strong slate of officers was elected, with Trina Zelle and Jake Young taking office as Co-Moderators. Here’s the full list, with brief bio sketches of each one.

Members of the Witherspoon Board, 2006

Co-Moderator (2-year term): Trina Zelle

Trina has been attending General Assembly since 1999 in Ft. Worth, TX where she received the Andrew Murray award from Witherspoon. Ordained in 1980 by the Presbytery of Southern New England she has pastored churches in Connecticut, Minnesota, Hawaii, Texas, and Arizona, as well as being involved with community organizing and empowerment. She currently serves as lead organizer for Interfaith Worker Justice of Arizona, a national organization that provides technical assistance and support to churches engaged in labor justice issues.

Co-Moderator (1 year term): Jake Young

As a TSAD at the 2000 GA in Long Beach, Jake met Jane Hanna. He has been working with Witherspoon ever since. He served two years on the nominating committee before joining the Executive Committee in 2003. Jake and his family live in Anderson, South Carolina, where he serves as pastor of the only More Light Presbyterian church in the state: North Anderson Community Church, Presbyterian.

Treasurer (2-year term): Darcy Hawk

Darcy holds a D.Min. from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is a member of Pittsburgh Presbytery. He has been pastor of Gibsonia Presbyterian Church since being ordained in 1984. He was previously employed by The United Cerebral Palsy Association of Pittsburgh community living program and having served on the board of Renaissance Center, a community mental health provider. He chaired Pittsburgh Presbytery's committee on the concerns of people with disabilities. Finding that physical barriers are easier to remove than attitudinal ones, he welcomes the challenging prophetic work of full inclusion of all God's people.

Secretary/Communicator (1-year term): Mitch Trigger

Mitch served as the Wareham intern at the 1995 General Assembly in Cincinnati and has been a regular attendee at General Assembly ever since. Mitch and his wife Sue have served as co-pastors in Indiana and upstate New York and have been strongly committed to social justice issues throughout their ministry. Before entering into ordained ministry, Mitch worked in the broadcasting field (radio & TV).

Issues Analyst (1-year term): Eugene TeSelle

Gene taught Church History and Theology at Vanderbilt Divinity School for thirty years, and in Nashville he has been involved in issues of school and residential integration, housing, and neighborhood organizing. He has attended most General Assemblies since 1988, sometimes as WS Issues Analyst and sometimes as WS President (1996-2000).

Membership Coordinator (2 year term): John E. Harris

John first learned about the Witherspoon Society when he served as a YAD to the 1980 UPCUSA GA in Detroit. He has attended many GAs since in order to advocate for peace, justice, the integrity of God’s creation, and the full inclusion of all God’s people in church and society. He currently pastors a wee-kirk, serves on Presbytery Staff as a "Special Presbyter" and Stated Clerk Pro-Tem, and teaches Religion and Philosophy at the college level in West Virginia.

Member At Large (2-year term): Peter Barnes-Davies

Peter is a rising fourth-year M.Div. student at San Francisco Theological Seminary/Graduate Theological Union. He recently completed nine months of service as pastoral intern at Knox Presbyterian Church (Santa Rosa, CA), a small congregation that welcomes all in the name of Jesus Christ. He believes the justice-seeking power of God’s love may transform the world and the church’s witness to it, and that in a time of globalization and empire, such radical love is more than necessary to counteract the effects of fear-mongering, preemptive war-making, and distortions of social and theological truth.

Member At Large (2-year term): Bill Dummer

Bill is a 1966 MDiv graduate of San Francisco Theological Seminary. He served on the staffs of churches in Long Beach and Monterey, California, where he was involved in both Christian Education and community ministry. For 15 years he took a detour in rural mid-america, serving churches in Nebraska and Kansas. In 1987 he returned to his home town of Milwaukee as pastor of Calvary Church, which hosted the Witherspoon Society Dinner at the 1992 General Assembly. Since 1993 he has been an interim ministry specialist and is currently involved in community ministry and congregational transformation.

Member At Large (1-year term): Michelle Freeman

Michelle is an Associate Pastor of First Presbyterian Church Birmingham, Recipient of the 2006 Whole Gospel Congregation Award. She was ordained by Peace River Presbytery a year ago. She has coordinated many of the activities involving First Church at this year’s Assembly.

Member At Large (1 year term): Lucy Harris

A graduate of Union-PSCE in Richmond, VA, Lucy served as a TSAD at the 2002 GA in Cincinnati and as the WS Wareham intern at the 2003 General Assembly in Denver. She has been active with the Witherspoon Society since 2002 and is working this year as a Covenant Network committee liaison in the Church Orders committee. She has been serving as the Associate Pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Stillwater, OK since 2004. Before ordination she served as a youth director and worked as a professional musician for eight years.

Member At Large (1-year term): Ken Smith

Ken is the last President of the Witherspoon Society (due to a reorganized structure.) He helped negotiate the merger between Witherspoon and Semper Reformanda in 2001 and has served on the Witherspoon Board ever since. Since his early retirement in 1991, he has been an activist in the PCUSA, focusing on health care reform, anti-racism and full inclusion of LGBT persons in the life of the church.

Member At Large (1-year term): Kent Holmes

Kent has served churches in California and Michigan and now serves the Presbyterian Church of Punxsutawney, PA. He chairs the CPM of Kiskiminetas Presbytery and served as Presbytery Moderator in 2001. He was a Commissioner to the 212th GA in Long Beach and has also served on the board of APCE. A Certified Christian Educator and Certified Associate Church Musician, he is a Life-long "progressive/liberal" Presbyterian and proud of it! He is currently reading Doug Ottati's new book, Theology For Liberal Presbyterians and other Endangered Species and recommends it as a great read.

2006-2008 Nominating Committee

The 2006-2008 Nominating Committee was also elected by the membership. It included:

Fred Sanner
Judith Michaels
Edie Gause
Bruce Tischler


A new Witherspooner comes in from the cold. Or rather the desert heat.

We received this note on January 17. We invite YOU to follow Barbara Howard’s fine example, and join us!

Dear Doug King,

I am a 75 yr old that has just discovered the Witherspoon Society! Where in the world was I all these years you may ask -- I was born and raised here and have spent my life in Houston, Texas, most of it as a Baptist. When I became a Democrat I found the Presbyterian Church USA and the more liberal and progressive I became, I found a few like minded souls. One of these friends goes to the same church I do, his name is Charles Stogner, and he gave me one of your publications.

Now the sad part is I live on Social security and can't afford to join even though I would so much like to.

However I wanted you to know how thankful I am to know that your publication exist and you are associated with the PCUSA. My church is Westminster Presbyterian Church in Houston, Texas. Thank you for keeping up the good work and sending out much needed information to those of us surrounded by the "Bush dogma." It's like a drink of cool water in the desert. We need to step up as Christians and take back the values we have allowed to be so shamefully used by the right wing. I applaud you and I believe our spiritual crisis is real; you are my heroes!


Barbara Howard
Houston, Texas

A little note: We’ve added Ms. Howard to our membership list with a complimentary membership for 2006. We’re glad she’s with us! And we’ll welcome YOU, too.

Get more information about us  >>                  Join us online! >>

Chuck McLain, Witherspoon board member and long-time activist, died this All Saints’ morning at age 71.   [11-1-05]

Lisa Larges, Regional Partnership Coordinator of That All May Freely Serve, who lives in San Francisco, sent this note:

Presbyterian Minister, activist, singer, band leader, dancer, chef, and symbol to so many of us of God's gracious hospitality, the Reverend Chuck McLain died this All Saint's morning, at age 71.

Details regarding services celebrating Chuck's life will be forthcoming from Montclair Presbyterian Church where Chuck has served for many years as Parish Associate.

May we live in love as Chuck did so well.

Blessings friends,


And Jake Young, another Witherspoon board member, sent this personal word:

I received word that Chuck McLain died this morning. Most of you have known Chuck much longer than I have, but during the few years I've known him, he became a dear friend. Every time I learned something new about his life's work, I was amazed by his commitment to justice and the gentle way he had of speaking truth. For that reason, I am not amazed that this is the day of his death, Nov. 1, All Saints Day.

Jake Young


And a word from Chuck:
"We cannot be silent about justice"

Looking for a little more about Chuck’s life, you WebWeaver found this, from a report in the Washington Times from the 215th General Assembly in 2003. In that Assembly, an overture to delete G-6.0106b from the Book of Order was essentially rejected, when commissioners voted to refer the whole matter of lgbt ordination to the Task Force on Peace, Unity and the Purity of the Church, which had been created two years earlier.

The Times reported:

Leaders of the Covenant Network, including the newly elected assembly moderator, the Rev. Susan Andrews, said they wouldn't support this year's effort, although the group supports ordination of homosexuals.

Then, seeking other opinions, they talked with Chuck McLain:

"We cannot be silent about justice," said the Rev. Charles McLain, pastor of Montclair Presbyterian Church in Oakland, Calif. "I understand that they want unity, but this is too painful to those who have been denied."

Mr. McLain is an openly homosexual pastor, but he began serving before 1978, when the church issued its "Definitive Guidance" on the issue.

Chuck, we’ll miss you, and we praise God for your life and witness among us.


Michael Adee, National Field Organizer of More Light Presbyterians, adds his reflections on the life and ministry of the Rev. Chuck McLain

Written 11-1-05, posted 11-2-05

This morning, the Rev. Chuck McLain, Parish Associate, Montclair Presbyterian Church, Oakland, CA, a More Light Presbyterian Church, died after a valiant battle with cancer. He is survived by his sister, Louisa and her family, his Montclair church family and friends all across the country.

Those of us fortunate enough to have known Chuck remember and honor him and his faithful, generous and loving ministry as a Minister of the Word and Sacrament, Presbyterian Church (USA). A graduate of McCormick Theological Seminary, Chuck served congregations in Los Angeles before moving to Oakland.

Chuck's long and varied ministry is characterized by working [for] and with persons on the margins such as farm workers; for civil rights; for the full embrace of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons and their families; peacemaking; affordable housing and economic justice issues.

For Chuck loving and serving God meant loving one's neighbor, and for him everyone was neighbor. I often stayed with Chuck when I went to the Bay Area for MLP field outreach work. His hospitality was legendary and he delighted in sharing his home and garden with friends. A gourmet meal prepared by him was not complete unless French wine was served. Such was standard fare at his home.

Chuck served on the National MLP Board and could always be counted upon in his presbytery to champion LGBT and other peace and justice causes. For several years, Chuck's Barrelhouse Jazz Band led the More Light Presbyterian contingent in the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade as he played trombone and was often vocalist as well.

Chuck often described his coming out as a gay man later in life as liberating and part of his faith journey. In a sense, his coming out was his coming home to himself and the church he loved and served so dearly. The validation of his call and gifts for ministry by his beloved Montclair Presbyterian Church meant the world to him. Special gratitude to Rev. Karen Stokes, pastor, for her extraordinary leadership and service in and through Montclair Presbyterian Church.

Last year Montclair Presbyterian Church hosted a 70th Birthday Party celebration for Chuck, which turned out to be a standing room only gala event complete with jazz music, tributes shared by friends of how Chuck had made a difference in their lives, and a reception with dancing. In his black tux, Chuck danced gracefully around that church hall floor surrounded by the love and cheers of his friends and church family.

Now with Chuck's passing from death into life eternal at age 71, a memorial service will be held soon at Montclair Presbyterian Church at a date not yet announced. Please join the National Board of More Light Presbyterians and me in giving thanks for Chuck's life, ministry and witness as well as in prayer for his family and friends.

with hope and grace,


Michael J. Adee, M.Div., Ph.D., National Field Organizer

More Light Presbyterians, 369 Montezuma Avenue # 447, Santa Fe, NM 87501, (505) 820-7082,,


From That All May Freely Serve --


God Calls Chuck Home...


That All May Freely Serve is deeply saddened by the loss of our dear friend and colleague Chuck McLain, who was such an amazing witness for justice and love. His presence among us inspired us into action --to invite the church to be a welcoming and affirming Place. Chuck died this morning, November 1,  on All Saints Day, and so he joins that communion having been such an example of what it means to be a loving and welcoming human being whose heart was so full of loving kindness.


Chuck McLain, a founder of TAMFS in Northern California, a former board member of More Light Presbyterians and of the Witherspoon Society worked and prayed diligently to bring folks together in our common ministry.


His love of music, his singing, his playing the trombone, his dancing so effortlessly, his smile, his advocacy across so many justice lines wooed us into joining him to work for liberation and wholeness. He never gave up. He always would say, we can do this -- now let us make a plan and off we would go with him down the yellow brick road.


Thank you Chuck for your undaunting spirit, for your love, for your courage, for your never giving up -- for singing and dancing into our lives. We will continue with you in our hearts and will carry your message of love and justice.


May you rest in peace knowing you are working with us from the other side so that  all will freely live and serve.


We love you and will miss you terribly!!


Your Tamfs Family




A note from the pastoral staff at Montclair Presbyterian Church reads in part:

Chuck McLain died peacefully on Tuesday morning, November 1st, at John Muir Hospital, following a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer. He had just returned from a trip to Paris, which he had decided to take when his doctors could no longer treat the disease. A celebration of Chuck's life will be held at Montclair Presbyterian Church, 5700 Thornhill Drive, Oakland CA, on Sunday, December 4th at 2:00 PM. Our prayers are with Chuck's sister Louisa, the rest of his family, and all who knew and loved him.

Rodney Martin dies at 84

Former PHEWA director served also as president of Witherspoon Society

Rodney T. Martin, 84, a Presbyterian elder who pioneered new models for social justice work and mentored countless young pastors and activists, died June 24 in Napa, CA, at the age of 84.

Martin served as the executive director of the Presbyterian Health, Education and Welfare Association (PHEWA) for 18 years, and after his retired served in 1994 as president of the Witherspoon Society.  He received Witherspoon's Andrew Murray Award in the year 2000.

A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, July 30, at the First Presbyterian Church in Oakland, CA.

More >>

Rod’s daughter, the Rev. Shona Martin Kilsgaard, sent a moving note to friends in the PHEWA network, the day before Rod died.

Greetings from a new John Witherspoon

We've recently received an interesting note from someone who is portraying John Witherspoon in a play -- and learning good things about him


I have recently been granted the honor of portraying John Witherspoon in the musical "1776." The Reading (PA) Civic Theatre will be producing the show on April 29, 30, and May 1. Rehearsals began on Sunday January 30, and I found myself wondering who John Witherspoon was. Sadly, he is one of the signers of whom I knew nothing, but happily I have found much information on the web, including your site.

My research has been very gratifying. It is heartening to know that men like John Witherspoon were with us when our Country needed them. I can think of no better legacy than the existence of organizations such as the Witherspoon Society. Surely, Reverend Witherspoon is pleased to know that you continue his good work.

I pray that I can present a good picture of this fine man.


Evan L. Cooper

P.S. For those who are interested, there is an excellent DVD available for "1776." I recommend it, as it may well be one of the best film adaptations of a Broadway musical. And yes, John Witherspoon is featured, as a prominent secondary character, in the film.

Here's the website for Reading Civic Theatre
And you'll find there some preliminary information about the play.

Are you missing Network News for Summer 2004?

We've heard that some of you haven't received your copy of the Summer 2004 issue of Network News, which was mailed over two weeks ago.  We're not sure what the problem is, but some copies may not have been sent.  If that's the case for you, here are two options:

bulletDownload a copy from this website, in Adobe pdf format, and you can print it for yourself.
bullet Send us a note, and we'll mail you a copy.

Sorry for the problem!

Doug King      [10-6-04]

Witherspoon's membership brochure is updated, and it's right here -- in Adobe pdf format.   [9-3-04]

Take a look at it if you're thinking about joining us -- and print a few to share with friends!

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

Ken Smith, elected at General Assembly as the new President of the Witherspoon Society, introduces himself.    [9-4-04]

A note of thanks from the Witherspoon board:

We're very grateful for the generous support our members have been giving in response to Treasurer Dave Zuverink's appeal for special funds to support and expand Witherspoon's communications. We're nearing $4,000 toward our goal of $10,000. That will help a great deal, but more support will enable us to reach out more effectively - distributing free copies of Network News to seminarians and others; offering someone a small stipend to help improve the appearance of our website and add to its content. If you haven't sent a contribution yet, we'll still graciously accept your gift! You can use the membership envelope in this issue - but be sure to mark your check or the envelope for "Communication Fund." Thanks!!

You can make a gift online with a credit card.  Just click here to go to the bottom of our membership form, and there you are!


Witherspoon annual meeting confirms new officers  [7-7-04]

At the close of the annual Witherspoon Society Awards Luncheon at the 2004 General Assembly, Kent Winters-Hazelton convened the organization's annual meeting, with some 50 members present.

The election of new officers was confirmed, and they have taken office with the end of the Assembly.  The full list of officers is part of our report.


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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