Presbyterian Voices for Justice 

A union of The Witherspoon Society and Voices of Sophia

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Our reports about the 219th General Assembly, July 2010

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Here are the items we published during July, 2001.
Added on 7/31/01
To see Amendment A from the perspective of someone who is personally involved in the issue of ordination, and who was a commissioner at the 213th General Assembly, look at a sermon preached by the Rev. Tammy Lindahl the week after the Assembly, entitled "Mountain Moving."  
At the beginning of the 213th General Assembly, 6 gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender commissioners and one advisory delegate offered a prayer for the Assembly.  It seems appropriate as a prayer for our whole church during the decisive months ahead.
The 2001 Peacemaking Conferences have provided both a celebration of diversity and exercises in doing diversity.  Here's the PNS report on the conference in Estes Park, Colorado, July 21-25.  
Global Justice Mobilizations planned for Sept. 25 - Oct. 4 in Washington, DC. 

A wide variety of progressive groups are planning a series of conferences, demonstrations, lobbying, and more, "for all activists who oppose corporate globalization, US imperialism, and Bush's right-wing political agenda."

Sunday, Sept. 30 will include a rally protesting the World Bank/IMF meeting and demanding unconditional cancellation of debt for poor countries, and will kick off a week of protests and actions during the World Bank/IMF meetings. Sponsoring coalition: Mobilization for Global Justice including member groups of the Alliance for Global Justice: 50 Years Is Enough Network, Campaign for Labor Rights, ACERCA, Mexico Solidarity Network, and Nicaragua Network.

For more info:

How about our great American freedoms?

Does this tell us something about our own society? Some Canadian parents may seek religious asylum in the United States because they want freedom to spank their children, and the Canadian government is contesting that freedom. 

Thanks to

Reflections on the Genoa G8 meeting 

The G8 summit meeting in Genoa, Italy, with the battles in the streets and George Bush's steadfast (to use a polite word) insistence that the US will do things its own way, needs more reflection after the event. Here are two reports that have been flagged by Utne Reader's Webwatch:

Christian Coalition is ordered to stop retaliation against four employees who have sued the group for racial discrimination. 

This follows up on an earlier report on this case.

Added on 7/27/01
The US is intensifying its threats to stay away from the UN racism conference, and progressive groups are urging messages of protest. 
Bills are being introduced in Congress which would strengthen policies against racial profiling.  
PBS will feature a new documentary, "In the Light of Reverence," on Native American struggles to protect landscapes of spiritual significance. 
Bush energy plan heading for Congressional debate.  Presbyterians for Restoring Creation urges communicating with congress people. 
African-American bishop feels disillusioned by Bush "faith-based initiative."   
 "There is open conflict between what's being said and what's being done," he says. 
Added on 7/25/01
Stem cell research is a big issue today in Washington -- but the PC(USA) has already done good thinking on the questions, specifically in an overture approved by the 213th General Assembly. 
Fred Clarkson describes continuing activities of the "Religious Right"  

Researcher Fred Clarkson analyzes the continuing activities of the "Christian Right" in a new study, "The Culture Wars are Not Over: The Institutionalization of the Christian Right." He sees the relatively quiet role of conservative religious groups in the recent elections as balanced by their growing power in the administration. He looks also at growing efforts by conservatives to gain power in local governments and in the churches - including the PC(USA).

The Rainforest Action Network -- an activist environmental group -- is being challenged by the conservative Frontier Freedom Foundation (FFF) - heavily supported by tobacco, oil, and timber money. 
In this week when even U.S. Senators worry about America's "arrogance" in the world of nations, it might help us to be aware that the U.S. is not entirely perfect -- even relatively.  A recent survey of national levels of corruption may help remind us.
A Travel Seminar to Mexico has been announced, with theme, "Through Farmworkers' Eyes: Richness and Realities of the Heritage of Mexican Immigrants."  Co-sponsored by the Oregon Farm Worker Ministry and the Episcopal Hispanic/Farmworker Ministries of North Carolina, and led by the highly respected Center for Global Education. Oct 27 - Nov 4 
The Fellowship of Reconciliation is seeking a national coordinator.
Consider joining Witherspoon -- help strengthen progressive voices in the Presbyterian Church.
Added on 7/23/01
The official text of Amendment 01-A is available

Overture 01-08, as approved by the 213th General Assembly, has now received its official name for the coming year: Amendment 01-A. Ordination Standards - On Amending G-6.0106   [7-23-01]

The Office of the General Assembly has published the full official list of constitutional amendments that will be sent to the presbyteries for their votes during the coming year.

Eastern Virginia Presbytery has sent "an open letter to a confessing church," which affirms the whole church 
The story behind the GA "statement of faith"

The Rev. Malcolm Brownlee played a vital but unexpected role at the 213th General Assembly. He was the commissioner who proposed a statement of faith which sought to affirm the lordship of Christ without fencing in the grace of God.

Cary McMullen, religion editor of the Lakeland (Florida) Ledger, fills in some details about Brownlee, and hears from him what he intended by offering his statement for approval by the Assembly.

A Jubilee update: 

Jubilee 2000 -- the world-wide movement to cancel the debts of the poorest countries -- achieved major progress last year in getting debt relief on the agenda of the world economic agencies.  But Witherspoon president Jane Hanna points to how much remains to be done, as the recently concluded meeting in Genoa, Italy, has made very clear.  

Added on 7/20/01
Eric Mount, professor of religion at Centre College in Kentucky, reflects on the Assembly's action on Overture 8 and the new task force on the peace of the church.  He deals with some of the debates on the place of conscience in the church, on the meaning of connectionalism, on the role of scripture and the confessions, and on what it means to take time.
The Stated Clerk has issued a "polity reflection note," clarifying what would (and would not!) be the consequences of approval of Amendment A -- overture 8 from New York City.
Added on 7/18/01
Washington Office offers update on late changes in Faith Based Initiatives bill, being debated today.. 

Recent changes make it more threatening than ever to church-state separation.  A response is given to administration claims that the Clinton administration supported "charitable choice"

Pittsburgh withdraws invitation to Moderator

The Presbytery of Pittsburgh, through its Presbytery Council, recently withdrew on invitation to GA Moderator Jack Rogers to address their December meeting. As reported in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, with a number of congregations in the presbytery supporting the conservative Confessing Church Movement, some felt that Roger's presence, given his openness to the ordination of gay and lesbian people, would not be proper at the session when they will be voting on Amendment A.

As the reporter notes, "Whether the decision to change the invitation was a slam on Rogers or a reasonable attempt to maintain civility is a matter of opinion." But Presbytery Executive the Rev. James Mead observed the depth of conflict in the presbytery, adding that "there is an earnestness of talk about division that I have not heard before."

Reparations for slavery gains support from Disciples of Christ.  Assembly calls for national apology.

And the Wall Street Journal reports one case of convict leasing, where reparations seem very appropriate.   

UCC Justice and Peace Ministry provides a brief call for action to resist new increases in military spending, while budgets for social needs are being cut. 
Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL), have introduced S. 955, the "Immigration Fairness Restoration Act of 2001," a bill that seeks to roll back the remaining inequities of the 1996 laws. 
Find a redemptive use for your tax rebate check  [7-18-01]

If you find the so-called tax rebate being touted by the Bush administration morally offensive in a society where social needs are being shoved aside while rewards to the rich are being multiplied, consider a redemptive option for using your rebate check. Give the money to the justice ministry to which you are most committed, or to a group or agency being hit most severely by the budget cuts.

The alternative news source AlterNet reports on this initiative (another kind of charitable choice??), which was launched on a web site,, hosted by the nonprofit group United for a Fair Economy.

Thanks to Utne Reader Web Watch

Ideas, comments? Let us hear from you!

Added on 7/16/01
Campaign finance reform still has a chance ... but action is needed  

The Presbyterian Washington Office has sent this urgent note: Contact your member of the House and ask that they not allow procedural maneuvering to keep them from a vote on this crucial issue. 

A full report from Common Cause details recent maneuvers in the House.

A Presbyterian has written to express his concern about the Layman's charge that the General Assembly was "apostate." 
Voices of Sophia offers reflections on the General Assembly, by Sylvia Thorson-Smith
The Presbyterian Washington Office reports on juvenile justice legislation just introduced in the Senate 
Bush 'faith-based' initiative clears House Ways and Means Committee

Americans United sees the measure as a "battering ram" aimed at the separation of church and state. 

Muslims are wary of White House efforts on Faith-Based Initiative politics.  
Added on 7/13/01

Date: 7/12/01 -- posted here on 7-13-01

from the Presbyterian Washington Office

I am sure that you are aware that the House is debating Campaign Finance Reform this week. [And on Thursday the House acted to put the bill aside, although some hope to bring it to the floor again. Your WebWeaver.] Watch your news broadcast to see when the vote has actually taken place.

In the meantime, call your member of the House and urge him or her to vote for CFR. The Capitol Hill Switchboard number is 202-224-3121.

Remember that CFR would mean that issues coming before the House and the Senate would be less dependent upon who gave the highest contribution to a particular elected official. Advocacy on issues of health care, environment, civil rights, reproductive choices, foreign aid and others are currently influenced by campaign contributions and media ads.

This is has been our best chance in a long time to get something done. It may be our only chance for a long time. Act now.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State  says even without the possible "deal" with the Salvation Army, the proposed "faith-based initiative" would still permit discrimination by religious groups. 
A constitutional amendment defining marriage?? 

A coalition of conservative religious groups plans to propose an amendment to the US Constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. An interfaith group in the Philadelphia area has issued a statement critical of the idea, calling it "a desperate and completely pointless attempt to settle questions of religious debate and local governance through the US Constitution." 

Here's one news report.

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.  

Religion, Culture, and Family Project at University of Chicago urges a combined 60-hour work week for couples with children.  
Added on 7/11/01

The Salvation Army and subsidiarity 
(and what?? Read on!)

The recent claim by the Salvation Army of an agreement by President Bush to exempt religious groups from local and state civil rights laws affirming equal right for gay and lesbian people is just the most current example of how important the old notion of "the principle of subsidiarity" can be even today. 

Gene TeSelle explores how this concept is used both to justify and to limit an active role of central governments in local matters.

He also considers its application in the development of European Union policies.

For the first report in the Washington Post of the Salvation Army statement, click here.  And for the Post's report on White House denials of such a "deal," click here.

And for other points of view:

Equal Partners in Faith issued a statement on July 10, opposing the use of government funding to permit discrimination.

And Christianity Today sees the Salvation Army as victims of attacks, rather than as perpetrators of discrimination.

Presbytery of the Cascades grants will help Oregon farm workers organize.
UCC Justice and Peace Ministry points to a Congressional move to help victims of violence 
Added on 7/10/01
Moderator sends pastoral letter
As requested by the General Assembly, Moderator Jack Rogers has send a pastoral letter to the church interpreting the Assembly's action in sending to the presbyteries an the amendment which would delete G-6.0106b from the Book of Order.  The full text of the letter is here.
A world of concerns 

The Worldwide Ministries Division hosted a gathering just before and after General Assembly, with over 50 ecumenical guests from 27 countries sharing a wide variety of concerns (religious persecution, the imposition of American military presence, exploitation by foreign oil companies, the US rejection of the Kyoto global warming treaty, and much more), and explored the meaning of partnership between the PC(USA) and their own churches.

Elder Nancy Maffett has sent a comment on our report about the  Confessing Church Movement, asking that we report more fully her views as expressed at the General Assembly.
The Rev. Hugh Nevin has suggested that we add to our report of the work of the Rev. Jerry Andrews as moderator of the Committee on Theological Issues.
Added on 7/7/01
National Capital overture 01-56: issues still unanswered

Overture 56, from National Capital Presbytery, sought a study of inconsistencies in our constitution, and ways to avoid them in the future. Gene TeSelle sorts through some of the complexities of this issue - one, he notes, that perhaps "only a polity wonk can love." 

We received a note a few days ago asking for reflections from people whose churches have been considering the possibility of joining the "Confessing Church Movement."  You may want to look at some of the responses.  And add your own??
A visitor questions one statement in our recent survey of developments in the Confessing Church Movement.  She seems to be raising a fair question.  What do you think?
Americans United for Separation of Church and State calls for action on "Charitable Choice" proposal in House of Representatives.
Equal Partners in Faith publishes The Religious Progressive newsletter.
Added on 7/5/01
A sermon on freedom by Kent Winters-Hazelton (on the Sunday before July 4th) reflects on Paul's ringing proclamation of Christian freedom, and the recent action of our General Assembly.
Commissioner Lewis Wilkins opines that Overture 8 is the only way our church can escape our impasse, and move forward with the task force on peace, purity and unity of the church.
Witherspoon member Alan Pickering offers calm, clear thoughts, and a "cautious" response to the Confessing Church movement  
Added on 7/4/01
The Confessing Church Movement seems to be experiencing some strains along with its apparent gains in support.  Here's a brief update from your WebWeaver and others. 
"The Problematic of Belief"
The Rev. Byron Bangert, who lives in Bloomington, Indiana, has been moved by the current emphasis on right belief in certain parts of the Presbyterian Church to ponder what it means to believe something. He explores three basic theses:
1) For the most part, we do not choose to believe what we believe.
2) However necessary beliefs may be, they invariably tend to be divisive.
3) Although Christian faith surely involves beliefs about certain matters (e.g., God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, salvation), faith is fundamentally a matter of trusting relationship rather than cognitive consent.
Added on 7/3/01
European churches take an open attitude toward gay/lesbian ordination

A special visiting reporter with Presbyterian News Service writes on the very different attitudes in European churches toward gay ordination. While conservatives have pointed to relations with former "mission churches" - especially in Korea and parts of Latin America - as a reason to resist changes in the church's attitude toward glbt members, this report suggests that other sister churches have much more open attitudes and policies.

Would you like to receive e-mail notes whenever anything is added to this site?  Just send us a note. Please be sure to give the e-mail address you want us to use.
Added on 7/2/01
A visitor to this site is trying to think through the implications of his church's joining the "confessing church movement."  He asks for help from others who have considered the possibility.  Please take a minute to read more, and respond if you can. 
Off the Fast Track and onto the Right Track
A Tennessee group sets forth a clear statement on President Bush's proposals for the restoration of "fast track" for international trade deals.  They call especially for rethinking the proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas.
Majority excluded from global decision-making
Ecumenical consultation on economic globalization in central and eastern Europe
 asks churches in the west to persuade decision-makers to stop the exploitation and exclusion of the majority of countries from decision-making processes.
Tuesday July 10 has been set as Campaign Finance Reform National Phone-in Day 
Bebb Stone responds to Reggie Gates' note asking "where is the middle ground" in the Assembly's approval of Overture 8 
We've received a comment by a visitor who was "offended" by Buz Myers' presentation on the Bible and sexuality, at the Witherspoon pre-Assembly orientation.
Do you want to go back in time??

To wander through earlier headlines and links:

bulletfrom June, 2001.
bulletfrom May, 2001.
bulletfrom April, 2001.
bulletfrom March, 2001.
bulletfrom February, 2001.
bulletfrom January, 2001, click here.
bullet from all of December, 2000, click here.
bullet from November 2000
    including reports on 
bulletCovenant Network conference
bulletRe-Imagining Conference
bulletPJC ruling in favor of First Presbyterian Church of Stamford, CT
bullet articles from the Spring 2000 issue of Network News
bullet from mid-September through October, click here.
bullet from July through mid-September, click here.
bullet from January through June 2000, click here.
Can't find what you want? Click here to run a search.

GA actions ratified (or not) by  the presbyteries   

A number of the most important actions of the 219th General Assembly are now being sent to the presbyteries for their action, to confirm or reject them as amendments to the PC(USA) Book of Order.

We're providing resources to help inform the reflection and debate, along with updates on the voting.

Our three areas of primary interest are:

bullet Amendment 10-A, which would remove the current ban on lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender persons being considered as possible candidates for ordination as elder or ministers.

bullet Amendment 10-2, which would add the Belhar Confession to our Book of Confessions.

bullet Amendment 10-1, which would adopt the new Form of Government that was approved by the Assembly.

If you like what you find here,
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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.


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.


John Harris’ Summit to Shore blogspot

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


John Shuck’s Shuck and Jive

A Presbyterian minister, currently serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tenn., blogs about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and lightening up.


Got more blogs to recommend?

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


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