Presbyterian Voices for Justice 

A union of The Witherspoon Society and Voices of Sophia

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This page offers "headlines" and links to stories relating to the Presbyterian Church, from December 2000 through March 2001.
The latest reports on voting in the presbyteries on Amendment O, which would ban the blessing on holy unions, are on a page all their own.

For our most recent posts on the PC(USA) >>

For archived posts on the Presbyterian Church (USA):

bullet June - December 2008
bullet January - June, 2008
bullet All of 2006
bulletAll of 2005
bulletJuly - December, 2004
bulletJanuary - June, 2004
bulletJune - December 2003
bulletJanuary - May 2003
bulletJuly through December, 2002
bulletJanuary - June, 2002
bulletApril through December, 2001
bulletDecember '00 through March '01
bulletJuly through December, 2000
If you're looking for a calm, reasonable presentation of the meaning of the defeat of Amendment O, you might borrow from a presentation by the Rev. James D. Brown, former Executive Director of the General Assembly Council, to his congregation in Harrisburg, PA  [3-21-01]
What's happening with Amendment A??  [3-16-01]
Other groups comment on the defeat of Amendment O   [3-19-01]
Presbyterian-related organizations have responded in different ways to last week's deciding (but not final!!) votes on Amendment O.  We provide links to some of them comments, and summarize some major points.

Voices of Sophia gathers at the border [3-19-01]

The annual Voices of Sophia Gathering held in Tucson, Arizona from March 1-4, was a great success, drawing record attendance especially from young people. Focusing on the theme, "Wisdom on the Border," participants explored the challenge of transforming our land from one of frontiers and borders that lead to oppression to one in which justice prevails.

We have a new page listing all available information on overtures to the 213th General AssemblyThe official GA website has begun listing overtures, but so far just nine (along with some concurring overtures) are on the list, with links to the text of each one.  Texts of detailed rationales and advisory opinions will be added later. [3-16-01]

And keep an eye on our page for the General Assembly in ... well, in general.

Doug Nave sees many hopeful elements in the defeat of Amendment O [3-15-01]

Witherspoon member Doug Nave sent this note soon after the deciding votes were reported that meant the rejection of Amendment O. After analyzing the patterns of voting, he considers some of the implications of the debate thus far, and urges continued efforts for the remaining presbytery votes.

His conclusion: "It really is time to remember the fundamental reasons why we're a church, to stop debating sex and start doing service."

Thoughts on blessing:  As the voting on Amendment O, which would ban the blessing of holy unions, draws toward an end, Dr. Sarah Melcher, a Presbyterian pastor now teaching Hebrew Scriptures at Xavier University in Cincinnati, offers deeply biblical reflections on "blessing." She concludes: "Nothing in the biblical text encourages us, as sinners before God, to limit our blessings to only those who fulfill our human notion of righteousness. Without Christ, none of us are righteous before God." [3-13-01]
The Reformed understanding of the freedom of conscience has been discussed as presbyteries have debated Amendment O, but is a matter of far broader import. For one thing, numerous overtures to the 213th General Assembly deal with G-6.0106b on the basis of conscience. Dr. Sarah Melcher looks at Calvin's Institutes to help us consider this issue. [3-13-01]
Second Presbyterian Coalition/Covenant Network Bible study touches on divorce, women's ordination and biblical authority  [3-12-01]

According to a first report from Outlook's Leslie Scanlon, five representatives of groups opposing ordination of gays and lesbians, and five from groups urging ordination, met on March 9 and 10 to continue the discussion initiated during the 2000 General Assembly.

We also have a report from Presbyterian News Service. [3-13-01]

Three Christians hailed for combining deep spirituality and action for justice

Prof. Albert C. Winn, in a lecture at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, explored the lives of three extraordinary Christian writers who in his mind exemplify the ideal balance between "deep spirituality" on the one hand and "radical social concern" on the other:  Quaker abolitionist John Woolman, Trappist monk Thomas Merton, and Elizabeth O'Connor,  leader in an ecumenical congregation and activist. [3-8-01]

GAC member Cathy Cummings Chisholm comments on the recent meeting, seeing greater unity than in recent years.

We now have one page linking to all our reports on the General Assembly Council meeting in Louisville, Feb. 19-24, 2001.
Web site created on Auburn Affirmation

The recently established Silicon Valley chapter of the Witherspoon Society has been busy, among other things discussing the Auburn Affirmation of 1923 as a possible framework for dealing responsibly with present tensions in the Presbyterian Church. [3-6-01]
Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick shared with GAC his expectation of what will be the "top 10 issues" at the coming General Assembly.  [3-2-01]
Barbara Kellam-Scott, a Presbyterian elder and moderator of Semper Reformanda, is a professional writer. Out of that experience she does a careful analysis of the Jan/Feb 2001 issue of The Presbyterian Layman. Asserting that information matters, she urges that we take seriously the "misinformation" that is so influential in our church. [3-3-01]
More reports on the GAC meeting last week in Louisville:    [3-2-01]
bulletPresbyterian News Service provided a summary of the final actions of the Council.
bulletResponding to protests from the Right, the GAC affirmed the lordship of Christ, and asserted the freedom of Presbyterians to express their views at GAC-sponsored event.
bulletParker Williamson of The Layman immediately distributed a statement protesting the action, and asserting that "Presbyterians are no longer obliged to follow" the leadership of GAC. 
bulletGAC adopts $136 million budget for '02, and accepted John Detterick's plan to shift funds into mission program areas considered "high-impact"
bulletGAC received a report on the success of the Jubilee 2000 campaign, applauding the role played by Presbyterians. A video about the debt-relief campaign will go to Assembly.
bulletThe Layman reports on GAC's receiving of reports calling for studies of reparations to people of color, and of the "disenfranchisement of people of color in the United States' electoral system."
The Rev. Robert Rogers comments on the extreme reactions to Dirk Ficca's talk at last summer's Peacemaking Conference, and decries the demands for "false certitude." We are, he says, in danger of replacing the living truth of Christ with a sinful attempt to claim possession of all the answers. [2-26-01]
The Witherspoon Society has responded positively (if not speedily) to the "Call to the Church" issued by 113 middle governing body executives. [2-13-01]
Barbara Kellam-Scott, the Moderator of Semper Reformanda, has sent an open letter to Mr. John Detterick, Executive Director of the General Assembly Council, as the GAC meeting continues in Louisville. {2-24-01]
Responding to a statement by Korean Presbyterians in support of Amendment O, More Light, Shower of Stoles, and That All May Freely Serve call for dialogue with National Korean Presbyterian Council. [2-24-01]
Eleven congregations in Hudson River Presbytery have sent letters of dissent to their presbytery, affirming their intention to be truly inclusive even if that means violating G-6.0106b, the "purity and chastity" amendment. [2-15-01]
Eight Presbyterians will be gathering this weekend in Baltimore to consider updating the Auburn Affirmation, which responded to the doctrinal debates of the 1920s by rejecting any narrow definition of the theological principles that undergird the denomination and ended over a decade of dominance by fundamentalists. [2-8-01]
The Presbytery of Santa Fe has passed two overtures, one calling for freedom of conscience in dealing with G-6.0106b, the other for the granting of waivers to congregations that "cannot apply the requirements of G-6.0106b justly and equitably."

The Layman offers a different view, that conscience must not be left free.

The Presbyterian Partnership of Conscience reports a growing movement calling for a second Affirmation in the tradition of the original Auburn Affirmation.
Heartland Presbytery has approved an overture to the 213th General Assembly to replace G-6.0106(b) with an affirmation of the responsibility of sessions and presbyteries in matters of ordination. [1-31-01]
The Presbyterian Health, Education, and Welfare Association (PHEWA), at its national gathering in Nashville, focused on a broad range of social issues, and especially child poverty.  The group also considered items of "business," and was critical of the current pressure for "priorities" in PCUSA budgeting.  [1-31-01]
Marcia Towers, a mission volunteer in El Salvador, has sent an update report on relief efforts there, two weeks after the earthquake, as the focus shifts to rebuilding.

She notes too how differently different churches try to make sense of what has happened.  [1-30-01]

Presbyterian Church joins partners in rushing aid to quake-devastated India [1-30-01]
The Presbytery of the Twin Cities area at its meeting on January 13, endorsed Sandra Hawley, an elder from Bloomington, Minn, and former member of GAC, as a nominee for moderator of the 213th General Assembly. (2001).
MRTI committee urges PC(USA) to dump stock in oil company exploiting war-ravaged Sudan
Members explore teeming settlement on Arizona-Mexico border through visit to BorderLinks' Casa de Misericordia
Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy completes work on major policy paper on domestic violence, drops recommendation for a domestic Violence Office

Other ACSWP papers making their way to General Assembly include resolutions on small arms control, Year of Mobilization against Racism, Year of Dialogue Among Civilizations, caregiving for older adults, and U.N. special session on "The Future of the Child in the 21st Century"
Former General Assembly stated clerk William P. Thompson will be given the Lazarus Project's Lazarus Award Feb. 24
Albany PJC rules in favor of gay elder and congregation


The Permanent Judicial Commission of Albany Presbytery has upheld the ruling of its executive committee, and thus has allowed an elder of West End Presbyterian Church in Albany, Scott M. Edwards, to continue serving on Session even though he is gay.

The ruling was on narrow grounds that the complaint sought "relief," which is not within the power of the PJC to grant. Thus broader issues of ordination, and the possibilities of appeals and other actions, remain open.

Click here for a more complete report by Jim Tiefenthal for That All May Freely Serve

How do we interpret scripture?  The PC(USA) web site has published a paper by Harry W. Eberts Jr., a retired Presbyterian pastor, who offers a quick survey of the evolving guidelines our forebears have set forth for the interpreting of scripture. It might offer some help in our current debates.
The Rev. Francis Pritchard spoke recently to the Presbytery of San Diego, raising prophetic questions:  Has this debate on Amendment O saved one soul?  Or made our witness stronger in our society or around the world? 
A Presbyterian student reports on the quake in El Salvador -- as one who is there
PJC hears case against an allegedly gay Albany NY elder
The Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area, on Saturday, January 13, 2001, passed two overtures dealing with G-6.0106(b), for consideration by the 213th General Assembly.
Witherspooner Karla Koll reports from Guatemala on the earthquake in Central America
Presbyterian News Service has published a lengthy analysis of the significant roles played by Presbyterians -- as a church and as individuals -- in working for passage of the Jubilee debt relief measure. [1-15-01]
San Gabriel Presbytery endorses Jack Rogers as Moderator of the 213th General Assembly.
Click here for a more complete report from Presbyterian News Service.
Three Presbyterians join relief mission to Baghdad.
Flight of 28 humanitarians defies U.S./U.N. economic sanctions.
A Lilly Endowment-funded nationwide study of local church excellence has identified the 300 "outstanding Protestant churches" in the United States, including 36 Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations.

Your WebWeaver can't resist a thought or two.

Outlook urges rejection of Amendment O as "bad polity"


In the January 15 issue of Presbyterian Outlook, editor Robert Bullock has joined with William Stacy Johnson to recommend the Amendment O should be rejected by the presbyteries -- partly as an "act of unity" on an issue about which Presbyterians are still not of one mind, and also because the amendment is "unnecessary."

Click here for more, and for a link to the full editorial on the Outlook web site.

Responding to the Outlook statement, Barbara Kellam Scott adds that Amendment O also restricts pastoral freedom, as well as the freedom of gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender people.

Presbyterian group opposes gun controls


An e-mail note came to your WebWeaver recently, informing him of the existence of a Presbyterian group he had somehow never heard of before. You may want to read the note, or visit their web site.

Presbyterians for Gun Ownership

PGO was founded in 1996 in response to the PC(USA)'s lobbying practices from the Washington Office in support of stricter gun control laws, banning guns, registering and licensing of guns. As a result of our efforts (all PC(USA) members) "over 750 letters and calls, mostly opposed to the GA position, were received - this is more than we received on any single issue before the church." That is a quote by the Stated Clerk of the PC(USA). So I hope you will link to our web page, which is a legitimate and fundamentalist renewal organization dedicated to educating Presbyterians about the false data and other misinformation being lobbied to Congress on our so-called behalf about gun violence and gun control.

Thank you,

Jack Painter
Co-founder, PGO

Nominations are being sought for Restorative Justice Award, with a deadline of March 15, 2000.  The award honors Presbyterian individuals or groups who are making outstanding contributions to direct-service ministries or to advocacy efforts to change the criminal justice system in the U.S.
The Presbyterian Forum offers an analysis of what's wrong with the PC(USA), and what they hope to change.

The Presbyterian Review, an on-line expression of the conservative Presbyterian Forum, is presenting an end-of-the-year review which is focusing on the Presbyterian Church as "the institution, not local congregations." Some themes are suggested here which may indicate issues that we will be hearing more about in the coming months.
Click here
for a little more analysis.
Click here
to go directly to the Presbyterian Review web site.

113 Executive and General Presbyters have issued a Call to the Church to seek a "third way" that does not create "winners and losers," but works to realize the peace, unity and purity of the church.

The Witherspoon Society has responded positively (if not speedily) to the "Call to the Church." [2-13-01]

Covenant Network has stated its support for the Call to the Church, affirming that the dialogue it seeks can best happen in presbyteries.

More Light Presbyterians have stated their support for the Call to the Church, calling for a dialogue which "

The Presbyterian Coalition -- or at least five individual members of that conservative group -- has offered its response to the recent "Call to the Church" from over a hundred executive presbyters and others. Their answer, in brief, appears to be "Nyet." The Bible stands as the sole source of knowledge for them, and no further discussion seems to be a possibility.

A reader comments on A Moment to Decide on
Reviewer questions the lack of response from moderates and progressives to attacks from the right.
Presbyterians Together, a coalition formed for the purpose of passing Amendment O, is distributing a packet of materials in support of their case. Rollin Kirk, pastor of North Presbyterian Church, St. Paul, Minnesota, offered comments on the material. 
The Tampa Bay chapter of Witherspoon Society has sent a letter to members of their presbytery, urging them to reject Amendment O partly to send "a message to our children," that (among other things) "we publicly support those who, in the covenant tradition of our faith, wish to make a public commitment of fidelity to the person they love."
The address by Dirk Ficca at the Peacemaking Conference, from which all the uproar started, is now available here -- edited from its original oral presentation for better reading.  Click here to read "Uncommon Ground: Living Faithfully in a Diverse World." 

The Rev. Donald Smith,

At least five Presbyterians were among more than 1,700 protesters arrested in Columbus, Georgia, on Nov. 19 for taking part in a campaign to force the federal government to close the U.S. Army School of the Americas (SOA) at nearby Fort Benning.
Atlanta presbytery calls for change in state flag

The Presbytery of Greater Atlanta has joined local Episcopal and ELCA bodies in calling on the state legislature to change the state flag, which includes the Confederate battle emblem, added to the flag in 1956 as a symbol of resistance to court-ordered integration.

The Rev. Kirby Lawrence Hill, pastor of Lithonia Presbyterian Church, is quoted as saying that "One of the basic stories that Christians and Jews share is the account of God's deliverance of his people from slavery. Our state flag bears the symbol of an effort to keep some of God's people enslaved."

Click here for the full story from the Atlanta Constitution.

Thanks to John Rakestraw, whose led the way to this story.

Peaks Presbytery executive Andy Sale joins Colorado elder Nancy Maffett as candidate to lead 213th General Assembly
Nineteen former Moderators of the G.A. -- well over half of all living former Moderators -- have recently issued a Pastoral Letter to the Church, urging rejection of Amendment 00-O, the "ministry gag order," as a serious infringement on the rights and responsibilities of pastors and sessions to provide appropriate worship and pastoral care for their congregations.
Talking about the Trinity while being faithful to the insights of feminism and of tradition

In conjunction with the recent series of discussions on the Trinity, sponsored by the PC(USA) Office of Theology and Worship, the National Association of Presbyterian Clergywomen and the Womens Ministries Program Area held a conference on the nature of the Trinity at Plaza Resolana en Santa Fe, September 21-24, 2000.

One of the speakers, Aurelia Fule, addressed the topic of "The Trinity in Theology and Worship." She takes seriously both feminist concerns about patriarchal language, and ecumenical relations with churches that have trouble accepting changes in baptismal formulas and other language about God.

We are proud to offer the full text of her paper here, with thanks to Dr. Fule for her cooperation and willingness to share the fruits of her work.

The Witherspoon Society is committing itself for the next three years to an in-depth exploration of what it might mean to be a "whole Gospel congregation." This understanding will reach beyond the popular tendency to split "evangelism" from "service," and to reduce our faith to an individualistic way of "salvation." Board member Kent Winters-Hazelton writes about plans for a consultation in May of 2001, moving toward larger events later on.
For more news notes and links to longer stories, from July through early December, 2000, click here.
For reports on the controversy over the Peacemaking Conference (Summer, 2000) and statements by speaker Dirk Ficca, click here.

For reports and comments on the
212th General Assembly (2000)
click here

The Washington Office -- the best-kept secret in the PC(USA)?
How to make use of it!

For our most recent posts on the PC(USA) >>

For archived posts on the Presbyterian Church (USA):

bullet June - December 2008
bullet January - June, 2008
bullet All of 2006
bulletAll of 2005
bulletJuly - December, 2004
bulletJanuary - June, 2004
bulletJune - December 2003
bulletJanuary - May 2003
bulletJuly through December, 2002
bulletJanuary - June, 2002
bulletApril through December, 2001
bulletDecember '00 through March '01
bulletJuly through December, 2000

There's more news in these areas:

Women's Ministries Sexual Justice The Religious Right
Covenant Network Ecumenical Relations  

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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