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A union of The Witherspoon Society and Voices of Sophia

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Archive for November, 2002


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.

An Advent Calendar

Here's a creative way to observe Advent - a season of waiting, expecting, hoping ... and a time for expanding our horizons of caring.

Barbara Kellam-Scott, a professional writer and a member of the Witherspoon executive committee, has created this Advent calendar based on one created by Suzanne Elston.

May your Thanksgiving be filled with gratitude.

And on the day after, if you want to be really countercultural ... try a "Buy Nothing Day" !

International Buy Nothing Day, the annual 24-hour period of no shopping and anti-consumer activism, will be observed this year in the United States on November 29. Buy Nothing Day events will take place in a total of 40 countries this year, encompassing theater and celebrations as well as more militant protests and actions.

Or if you really need to buy, try buying clothing not produced by sweat-shop labor.  Join the "No sweat!" campaign!

Every Church a Peace Church invites congregations to act in many ways for peace -- beginning with some thoughtful questions for consideration, and providing lots of good resources.  
The Rev. Susan Andrews has been endorsed for Moderator by National Capital Presbytery
That All May Freely Serve provides an on-the-spot report, with photos, of the demonstration protesting Chevrolet's use of conservative religion in a current marketing campaign.
More on demonstration against School of the Americas, reported by Presbyterian News Service

More than 60 Presbyterians participated

Presbyterians Marilyn White and Ann Huntwork may be jailed

Army arrests 88 as thousands demand shutdown of military school

Marilyn White's home-town paper, the Galveston Daily News, offers a "human interest" report on her background, and what her action may mean for her and her family. 


Whole Gospel Presbyterians Act
in the Third Millennium

A major conference on the future of the progressive witness in the Presbyterian Church (USA)

March 6 - 8, 2003
Louisville, KY

The Witherspoon Society invites you to celebrate its 30-year witness to peace, justice, and inclusiveness and to interpret the Biblical and confessional richness of our denomination in light of God's challenges for tomorrow.

bulletDiscuss the future of progressive Presbyterianism in the current climate of conflict.
bulletWorship and Pray together.
bulletWitness through demonstration and proclamation the radical gospel of God's love.

bulletJack Rogers, moderator of 213th PC(USA) General Assembly
bulletMary Fulkerson, Vanderbilt Divinity School
bulletJoseph Hough, President, Union Seminary, NY
bulletDoug Ottati, Union Seminary/PSCE
bulletWorship Leader, Chris Glaser with musician Chris Miller.

and a
prize-winning author and farmer

Check out the details, and register on-line

Whose Birthday Is It Anyway?

Here's a helpful resource for celebrating Advent and Christmas without getting overwhelmed by the lures of commercialism. 

Church leaders, ecumenical and evangelical, urge auto makers to work for fuel-efficient cars  

Concerned about fuel efficiency and those big ol' SUVs?  But not to worry: Chevy's got religion!  Or maybe that's to worry more?  

Chevrolet has hitched their current advertising campaign to the star of evangelical Christianity, with a tour featuring 16 evangelical concerts beginning in Atlanta on Nov. 1, and ending in Detroit on Nov. 23.

Detroit Presbytery and TAMFS Michigan speak out against the exploitation of religion.

Thousands protest against School of the Americas

Peace Fellowship leader Marilyn White reports on her arrest  

Display of 10 Commandments rejected by federal court  

A federal court in Alabama has struck down display of a Ten Commandments monument at the state supreme court building in Montgomery, declaring that the religious sculpture violates the First Amendment's church-state separation provisions. 

If you're interested in finding positive ways of teaching about the Ten Commandments, check out a listing of resources provided by the Rev. Bruce Gillette of First Presbyterian Church, Pitman, NJ.

First candidate for moderator announced

Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship official Harold Kurtz is endorsed by Cascades Presbytery  

The threat of war against Iraq

What are the effects of sanctions on Iraq? 

On August 6, 1990, the U.N. Security Council imposed economic sanctions on Iraq, prohibiting all imports (except medical supplies) and exports, unless the Security Council permitted exceptions. While the sanctions are intended to limit the regime's access to weapons materials, here's what's happened to the Iraqi people since then.

Confronting the death penalty with personal stories of loss and  reconciliation

A group in Tennessee, called Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation, finds power in telling their own stories to help people rethink the death penalty  

So what's the best way to catch criminals?

Here's one version, the Story of the Rabbit

More on the Covenant Network conference

Covenant Network reports on their recent conference, and provides full texts of many of the presentations and sermons.

Presbyterian News Service reported on the Covenant Network conference on Nov.11, emphasizing the group's decision to broaden their focus beyond the issues of gay ordination to promoting "progressive theology."

In a couple workshops, attorneys Peter Oddleifson and Doug Nave explored  ways the ordination of gay and lesbian persons can be sustained in church courts.  They also explained their rationale for not defending those in open defiance of G-6.0106b, but only those which follow Covenant Network policies.

PC(USA) support of Taco Bell boycott has made a difference

Presbyterian News Service reports that the boycott of Taco Bell, endorsed by the 214th General Assembly last June, is having an effect. The company is at least becoming more willing to talk with the agricultural workers' organization about the poor conditions under which they're working.

Baltimore Presbytery judicial commission members recommend no charges be filed against Donald Stroud.

The threat of war against Iraq

Just war theory - does it help us think about a war on terrorism?

Your WebWeaver recently drew on classical just-war theory as a way of helping a church group talk about their thoughts for and against (mostly against) the threatened war against Iraq.

Preemptive strikes don't seem to fit the criteria very well, though some folks in Washington seem to think they do just fine. (But then, with a little effort you can "justify" 'most any war.)

The Christian Science Monitor has recently published an article by G. Jeffrey MacDonald, surveying some of the rethinking being done by ethicists.

Susan Thistlethwaite, president of Chicago Theological Seminary, says "The issue [with Iraq] is how can you justify preemptive strikes, and just-war theory speaks to that. But terrorism makes just-war theory mute. Just-war theory assumes a nation-state, but war is changing. Who actually are you fighting?"

One comment: Just war theory has been around at least since the 4th century and Augustine, and in some way since the times of the Greek philosophers. Nation-states came much later, so this way of evaluating wars must have had some relevance to pre-nation-state conflicts.

Thanks to

Palestine a deeply troubled land 

PCUSA Moderator recently visited his homeland of Palestine, and heard one clear message:  His people are suffering now more than ever, and urged him to work to dissuade the US from attacking Iraq.

Letters and the Layman ... and a request to Witherspoon

We have recently received an interesting bit of correspondence from Brian Dean Wells, an elder at First and Franklin Street Church, Baltimore, Maryland. He tells of his frustrations in getting a letter posted on Layman Online, and asks Witherspoon on the Web (that's us!) to provide a place where people can express opinions and ideas without fear that their views will be distorted by creative editing.

We promise to do our best, if you'll send us notes!  Just one caution: This is a solo operation and very part-time, folks, so please be patient!

San Francisco Theological Seminary is hosting a two-day conference addressing the concerns and needs of multicultural ministry

"Leadership Skills and Spirituality in a Multicultural Setting"
San Francisco Theological Seminary, San Anselmo, CA
Wednesday and Thursday, December 4-5, 2002

This two-day conference is open to all clergy, elders, teachers, church members, students and others who seek to develop the sensitivity and skills to make their church, school or other group a more inclusive community. Both days will be facilitated by the Reverend Eric H.F. Law, consultant and trainer in multi-cultural organizational development, Episcopal Priest in the Diocese of Los Angeles and author of four books that address ways in which religious groups can be more inclusive and welcoming.

For more information or for a flyer, please contact:

Stephanie Croom, (800) 447-8820, ext. 534


The threat of war against Iraq

How about a new focus on "Weapons of Mass Salvation"?

President Bush has a better chance of winning the War on Terrorism if he invests in Weapons of Mass Salvation rather than destruction. So writes Jeffrey Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York, in The Economist.

"If George Bush spent more time and money on mobilising Weapons of Mass Salvation (WMS) in addition to combating Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), we might actually get somewhere in making this planet a safer and more hospitable home," Sachs argues.

WSM include "the arsenal of life-saving vaccines, medicines and health interventions, emergency food aid and farming technologies that could avert literally millions of deaths each year in the wars against epidemic disease, drought and famine."

President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill understood the marriage between destruction and salvation, Sachs notes. "Their war aims were not only to defeat fascism, but to create a world of shared prosperity." He reminds us that Franklin Roosevelt talked not only about Freedom from Fear but also Freedom from Want.

And recently, the rich countries (including the U.S.) at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable development promised to put real resources behind cutting poverty, disease, and environmental degradation. However, Sachs points out, "When is the last time anybody heard Vice-President Dick Cheney even feign a word of concern for the world's poor?"

Thanks to Utne Webwatch 

Another presbytery calls for U.S. restraint in talk of war  

The Presbytery of Prospect Hill (in northwestern Iowa), in its meeting on November 9, endorsed unanimously the resolution adopted by GA Council and subsequently by the assembly of Lakes & Prairies: "Call for US Restraint on Iraq."

Thanks to John Rozendaal for this report.

A very special Ghost Ranch seminar is slated for  July 28-Aug. 4, 2003.  Theme: A BIBLICAL VISION FOR THE FUTURE. It will be presented in partnership with The Witherspoon Society, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship and Presbyterians for Restoring Creation.
US gun laws aid terrorists

The Presbyterian Washington Office recommends an upcoming PBS show on American's gun laws, and how they make life easy for terrorists. Friday, Nov. 15, at 9 pm

A note on Jim Gittings

Nearly a year ago we reported sadly on the death of Jim Gittings, a long-time journalist and reporter who gave his talents in service to the Presbyterian Church.

We recently received this note from Jim's sister, and we're happy to share it here:

For the first time I have seen and read the wonderful tribute to my brother Jim Gittings. I was so touched and pleased. He was a strong family member whom we all loved dearly. The symptoms of his illness came upon him as he was still grieving for his older brother, who had just died weeks before also of pancreatic cancer. My two sisters and I miss him terribly. We know there will never be another like him!

Thank you for the writing about him on the web.

Janet Gittings Clark

Jim's sister speaks the truth: There will never be another like him.

Covenant Network conference draws over 500 to seek ways of living faithfully "in the meantime"   

Gene TeSelle, Witherspoon Issues Analyst, reports on the 2002 conference of the Covenant Network of Presbyterians, held in Minneapolis on November 7 - 9.

Some specific issues reported here include:
Dealing with G-6.0106b
Seeking theological common ground
Times of worship and preaching

Moderator Fahed Abu-Akel speaks out against call for a special Assembly 

The Rev. Dr. Fahed Abu-Akel, the Moderator of the 214th General Assembly, has recently sent a letter to all those who served as commissioners to that Assembly, denying suggestions that he has endorsed the call for a special session of the Assembly, and encouraging them not to support the call.

Progressive rethinking after the election defeats of 2002

"Don't Let the Lights Go Out"

Rabbi Michael Lerner offers helpful thoughts for progressives dealing with post-election depression, urging a spirit-based framework for progressive political action.  

Do you have thoughts on the next steps for progressives in American political life?  Please send a note! 


The threat of war against Iraq

Synod of the Covenant calls attention to three basic principles in deliberations about war on Iraq. 

Rather than stating a specific position on the threatened war, the Synod has lifted up some basic tenets of the Reformed tradition and of modern international law, and noted unanswered but urgent questions.  

The complicated question of "takings" 

The 214th General Assembly in Columbus approved an overture from Baltimore Presbytery, asking for a study on the issue of "takings."

The issue is complex, and it is especially complex - and important - for the PC(USA) right now.

(1) Churches are often concerned about zoning and historic regulations, regarding any obstacles as an offense to religious freedom. As a result they inadvertently join the "property rights" ideologues who regard any regulation as a "taking" which ought to be compensated under the Fifth Amendment.

(2) The 2000 General Assembly, acting out of sympathy and unaware of broader consequences, approved a Commissioners' Resolution on the Klamath Basin controversy but in the process asserted that "taking water rights is taking private property." This was out of keeping with the General Assembly's longstanding support of environmental regulations, rejecting the simplistic argument that they constitute a "taking."

We offer three short looks at this issue.

Bob Stivers, of Presbyterians for Restoring Creation, reported on the action of the 214th General Assembly, examining the way it responded to an action by the 213th Assembly dealing with a water crisis in the Klamath Basin.

Gene TeSelle, Witherspoon Issues Analyst, examines the way in which churches are being drawn into the campaign against "takings," in the name of "freedom of religion" and of their own institutional self-interest.

Charles Forbes, Stated Clerk of Baltimore Presbytery, has worked with the presbytery committee that wrote the 2002 overture. He traces some of the complexities of the "takings" issue, as individual interests and rights come in conflict with community needs and interests.

Do you have thoughts on the "takings" issue?  
Please send a note
and we'll share your views here.

Peace advocate Rev. Clinton Marsh dies at 86

The Presbyterian News Service has reported recently on the death of the Rev. Clinton M. Marsh, a patriarch of the Presbyterian church who served as moderator of the old United Presbyterian Church in the USA.  He has also served for some years as Chairperson Emeritus of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship.

We've had requests for the prayer of blessing and challenge that Clint has offered each year at the conclusion of the Peace Fellowship's General Assembly breakfast.  With the help of Marilyn White of the Peace Fellowship, we're happy to share it here in it's 2002 version. 

Five pastors visit Louisville office, demanding the PC(USA) "repent"

Presbyterian News Service has reported that five Presbyterian pastors recently visited the Presbyterian national office in Louisville, to tape near the main entrance their "Call to Confession and Repentance," calling the church "irretrievably apostate under current management."

Their call for repentance, widely circulated, has so far garnered about 100 signatures.

Some Witherspoon members have urged us to comment on this action, and Witherspoon board member Barbara Kellam-Scott offers some thoughts.

The threat of war against Iraq

10 Reasons to Oppose the War with Iraq

Thanks to the American Friends' Service Committee

You'll also find lots of other good material about the war on Iraq, and other issues, on their site!

1. War with Iraq won't make us safer.
A unilateral attack by the United States will inflame anti-U.S. sentiment and may stimulate more attacks by extremists.

2. There is no imminent threat.
There is no hard evidence that Iraq has nuclear weapons. Iraq has little means to deliver chemical and biological weapons to threaten countries in the Middle East, let alone the U.S.

3. A preemptive attack violates the U.N. charter.
The U.N. Charter forbids member countries from attacking another country except in self defense. If the U.S. puts itself above international law it will further encourage other nations to do the same.

4. Our allies don't support us in this war.
U.S. allies in the Middle East oppose a U.S. attack on Iraq. Our European allies have urged the U.S. to work through the U.N. An invasion of Iraq would isolate the U.S. from the rest of the world and shatter the principles of international cooperation and mutual defense that are key to U.S. and global security.

5. Thousands of innocent people may die.
Pentagon estimates say that an invasion of Iraq could lead to the deaths of 10,000 innocent civilians.

6. Young American men and women will fight and die.
U.S. military action and possible occupation is likely to produce far more casualties than the previous Gulf War or the war in Afghanistan. Many combatants will suffer physical and psychological repercussions for years after the war ends.

7. Funding for education, environment and health care is already being cut in order to pay for the "war on terror."
Estimates put the cost of a war with Iraq at $60-$100 billion with ongoing billions for occupation and rebuilding Iraq.

8. Things may not be better after a war.
We have no guarantee that a new regime in Iraq will make life any better for the Iraqi people or be any friendlier to the U.S. than the current one. The Taliban were once our allies in Afghanistan. Will the new regime in Iraq become our enemy after a few years?

9. There are other options.
The U.S. can work through the U.N. using mechanisms such as the resumption of weapons inspections, negotiation, mediation, regional arrangements, and other peaceful means.

10. The American people have deep misgivings about this war.
Many people know deep down that this war makes no sense. They are starting to speak up and make themselves heard. You can add your voice to activities in your community.

Why are we looking for war in Iraq?

Jay Bookman, who is on the editorial staff of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, recent wrote an opinion article entitled: "Bush's Real Goal in Iraq." Published on Sunday, September 29th, 2002, it looks at the current U.S. push for a war on Iraq, in light of the recently published government document on National Security Strategy.

This war, says Bookman, "is not really about Iraq. It is not about weapons of mass destruction, or terrorism, or Saddam, or U.N. resolutions. ... [Rather, it ]is intended to mark the official emergence of the United States as a full-fledged global empire, seizing sole responsibility and authority as planetary policeman. It would be the culmination of a plan 10 years or more in the making, carried out by those who believe the United States must seize the opportunity for global domination, even if it means becoming the 'American imperialists' that our enemies always claimed we were."

Thanks to Tom Driver and Jane Hanna

About dogs  

Researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo studied stress levels of 240 married couples, half of whom had dogs or cats and half of whom did not. Then they administered stress tests to participants while their spouse or their pet was present in the room.. They found that the spouse's presence seemed to cause study subjects to tense up, while pets kept the subjects calm.

So in honor of our furry, stress-reducing friends, here are a few profound thoughts about dogs ... with thanks to Witherspooner Bill Knox.


The threat of war against Iraq

You can register your vote against the war

Len Bjorkman of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship has forwarded this note from ANSWER, the group that organized the major rallies last Saturday.

The October 26 demonstrations launched another major step in mass action against the war -- the grassroots People's Anti-War Referendum and a mass national 2-day mobilization on the weekend of January 18-19 in Washington, DC, timed to coincide with the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the 12th anniversary of the start of the 1991 Gulf War.

"VOTE NO TO WAR" includes a brief statement of reasons for opposing the vote for war, and then this "referendum" statement:

The U.S. Congress did not represent me when it voted to authorize George W. Bush to carry out an illegal war against Iraq.

Thousands will die needlessly unless the people stop this war drive. I join with millions of people who believe that the $200 billion planned for war against Iraq should be spent instead to fund jobs, education, housing, health care, child care, assistance to the elderly and to meet people's needs.

You can go to their website to add your endorsement to the statement.

Salt and Light -- and war on Iraq  

The Rev. Tom Davis preached on "Salt and Light" for his congregation's observance of Worldwide Communion Sunday on October 6, 2002. Being "salty Christians" whose lives as well as their words witness to God's love for the world, he said, involves public as well as personal witness. So looking at our nation's current situation and moves toward a new war, he concluded:

Let our country, the most powerful nation in the world, set a better example of lawfulness, of respect for the earth, and concern for the poor. Let America be truly a team player. Jesus called his disciples to be the salt of the earth, and lights to illumine the darkness. As followers of Jesus, let us take care to obey him not only in our private lives, but in our lives as citizens too. Let us hold our country accountable to its "better angels," as Abraham Lincoln once put it, so that once again we might have good reason to be proud Americans.

Washington Office issues Action Alert for coming vote on military aid to Colombia  

The paper includes lots of helpful background information for those who want to communicate effectively with their legislators in Washington.

Learn more - and gain a stronger voice! - by joining the Witherspoon/Peace Fellowship delegation to Colombia
March 17-29, 2003.

Stories from all of October are now listed in our October archives.  Stories from all of September are now indexed on the September archive page.  
Do you want to go back in time??

Just wander through earlier headlines and links:

bulletfrom October, 2002.
bulletfrom September, 2002.
bulletfrom August, 2002.
bulletfrom the 214th General Assembly
bulletfrom July, 2002
bulletfrom June, 2002
bulletfrom May, 2002
bulletfrom April, 2002
bulletfrom March, 2002
bulletfrom February, 2002
bulletfrom January, 2002

And go to the Archive index page for items from 1999 through 2001.

Can't find what you want? 
Click here to run a
Google 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,
we hope you'll help us keep Voices for Justice going ... and growing!

Please consider making a special contribution -- large or small -- to help us continue and improve this service.

Click here to send a gift online, using your credit card, through PayPal.

Or send your check, made out to "Presbyterian Voices for Justice" and marked "web site," to our PVJ Treasurer:

Darcy Hawk
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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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