News and Views
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Earlier stories are indexed
ACSWP reports on
its Fall 2009 meeting
justice issues in the Southwest and economic values
By ACSWP associate for policy development and
interpretation the Rev. Belinda M. Curry
Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) held its fall meeting
in Phoenix October 15-17, 2009. The committee engaged in
dialogue with members of the Grand Canyon Presbytery and other
invited guests on immigration, energy and Native American
concerns. The committee authorized a resolution on the economic
crisis and worked with representatives of a General Assembly
Mission Council (GAMC) Review committee. The Committee heard
project updates from members assigned to various study groups
and other Committees, including matters of compensation, gun
violence, HIV/AIDS and public education. In addition the
Committee spent some quality time during its fall meeting
reflecting on the ministry, witness and life of the Reverend Dr.
Lewis (Lew) S. Mudge who died on September 11, 2009.
in the region included immigration concerns, energy issues,
Native American matters. Among the national and denominational
concerns were the new Social Creed for the 21st
Century, and updates on current study projects including a
theology of compensation, gun violence, HIV/AIDS, and public
education. The ACSWP group also met two members of the General
Assembly Mission Council (GAMC)’s Review Committee on the
advisory and advocacy committees.
full article >>
Rev. Tom Dietrich, church
redevelopment pioneer who used Saul Alinsky principles, has died
Should anyone want to send a
note of condolence to Dorothy Dietrich, her
Thanks to Bill
Presbyterian News Service, Dec. 10, 2009
The Rev. Thomas E. Dietrich, who pioneered
church redevelopment ministry for the Presbyterian Church
(U.S.A.), died Nov. 30, in Oconomowoc, WI. He was 78.
A native of Milwaukee, Dietrich graduated from
Carroll College in Wisconsin and McCormick Theological Seminary.
It was there that he became an adherent of the community
organizing principles of Saul Alinsky which he put to use in
urban pastorates in San Francisco, Philadelphia and Madison,
He later served on the national staff of the
PC(USA) in church redevelopment and concluded his distinguished
career on the staff of the Presbytery of the Western Reserve in
He is survived by his wife of 52 years,
Dorothy; a daughter, Karen, and son, the Rev. Stephen T.
Dietrich; a sister, Marlea Sechtig; and his four-legged pal,
Buster. A memorial service was held Dec. 5 at Delafield (Wis.)
Witherspoon co-moderator Bill Dummer adds
this note, which he sent on December 5, 2009:
I want to let you all know about the death of
the Rev. Tom Dietrich on Monday, November 30. At his memorial
service today, his widow, Dorothy, asked me to let
Witherspooners know. Tom and Dorothy have been members for many
years, and I gather from what she said, some of the founding
Tom did urban ministry in San Francisco,
Philadelphia, and Madison, WI, before going to the staff of
General Assembly as the Associate for Congregational
Redevelopment. When he retired from that position about 1996, he
worked part-time for Western Reserve Presbytery. A few years
later, they moved back to Milwaukee Presbytery (where he came
from originally). He did a few part-time interims in small rural
type churches that were transitioning to suburban ones.
He had surgery a couple weeks ago and was
recovering nicely. Then, last Monday morning he crashed and
could not be resuscitated. He was 78 years old.
“Tom Deitrich was my Mentor in 1970-71"
this note about Tom Dietrich on Wed., Dec. 16, from John Wilde,
in response to our earlier post about
I spent one year at Princeton Theological
Seminary in 1970-71. On Sunday mornings I drove to
Philadelphia for my field education at Tabernacle Church,
which was and still is Presbyterian and UCC. I just went to
their website and see that they remain a dynamic Progressive
Christian, More Light Community of Faith.
Tom Deitrich was the Pastor and I will
always cherish his tenderness, kindness, and passion for
peace and justice, healing and reconciliation.
I lost contact with Tom and Dorothy but
will never forget their hospitality and compassion.
I had a lot to learn back then and Tom was
patient with me but also determined to guide me to becoming
an effective pastor with some needed criticism, always
gentle and even affirming. It takes a deep faith to be the
kind of leader and mentor he was.
Witherspoon member John Wilde describes
himself as “retired and living in Whitesboro (NY).” Then he
adds: “Oh, yeah, of course
I have a website and
blogs with an orientation to Progressive Christianity:
Progressive Politics, The Perennial Philosophy, Sustainable
Abundance, Supporting the Palestinians, Rock'n'Roll, Travel,
Photography and the Red Sox.”
Education and Welfare Association (PHEWA) seeks nominations to
recognize ministries of social justice
Press release from PHEWA, October 26, 2009
The Presbyterian Health, Education and Welfare
Association (PHEWA) is seeking nominations for five awards that
will be celebrated during the 219th General Assembly
in Minneapolis, MN on July 5, 2010.
PHEWA, part of the Compassion, Peace & Justice
Ministry of the General Assembly Mission Council, is a voluntary
membership organization dedicated to social welfare and justice
ministries. Ten networks are a part of PHEWA, organized for
grassroots implementation of General Assembly policies in the
areas of community ministries and faith-based community
organizing, addictions, domestic violence, HIV/AIDS,
reproductive options, specialized pastoral ministries, child
advocacy, disabilities, health and wholeness, and serious mental
“There are a lot of good people out there
doing remarkable work with folks that find themselves
marginalized or forgotten. These awards recognize those
ministries and, by doing so, help to remind of us of God’s call
to love kindness and to do justice,” said Nancy Troy, PHEWA
Executive Director during the years 2000-2009.
PHEWA seeks nominations of:
· PC(USA) Congregations that, either through
ecumenical or interfaith community ministry, or through a
special project of the congregation, have been faithful,
creative and effective in their ministry to and with the
community. The COMMUNITY
TRANSFORMATION AWARD is presented by the Presbyterian
Association for Community Transformation (PACT).
· Persons, congregations, or PC(USA) entities
that are exemplary in their affirmation, support, and advocacy
for the gifts, rights, and responsibilities of persons with
disabilities in the total life of the church. The
NANCY JENNINGS AWARD is
presented by Presbyterians for Disability Concerns (PDC).
· PC(USA) Congregations or church professionals
that have contributed significantly in the field of addiction
prevention, intervention and recovery. The
DAVID HANCOCK AWARD is
presented by Presbyterians for Addiction Action (PAA).
· PC(USA) Congregations that have demonstrated
outstanding leadership in their ministry with those who have a
serious mental illness and with their families. The
FLORENCE IVERSEN KRAFT AWARD
is presented by the Presbyterian Serious Mental Illness Network
· The Presbyterian AIDS Network (PAN) will
present their first biennial
Faith In Action Award to a PC(USA) Congregation that, through
prayerful action and through their ministry, walks alongside
sisters and brothers who are infected or affected by HIV/AIDS;
initiating or supporting activities within the U.S. in
meaningful and lasting ways. The ministries should result in
increased sensitization to the issue and demonstrated impact on
those affected. The recipient congregation for this Award will
be one that shows God’s unconditional love for all people by
striving to break down the walls of stigma and discrimination
Learn about past recipients of PHEWA’s awards
by going to:
To nominate a
ministry, congregation or individual for the 2010 awards, please
submit the following information, by
February 15, 2010: Name
of person/congregation being nominated, the contact person for
the nomination with addresses, phone numbers, email addresses
for both, and a two page description of the ministry, including
why they are deserving of this recognition.
Electronic submissions are preferred, but
nominations sent by mail will also be considered. Send to:
or to: PHEWA, 100 Witherspoon St., Rm. 3228, Louisville,
Celebrating the life of Virginia “Ginny” Davidson
Davidson, who gave much of her life to helping the Presbyterian
Church become the joyful, loving, and inclusive community that
God intends it to be, died on Monday afternoon, October 19.
The pastor of Downtown Presbyterian Church in
Rochester, N.Y., the Rev. Dr. Pat Youngdahl, sent this early
notice to her wide, wide circle of friends:
Our treasured friend and companion in
faith, Virginia Davidson, passed peacefully into the light
of God's eternal love early on this beautiful October
afternoon. She spent the last few days at home, surrounded
by loved ones.
A memorial service in witness to the
resurrection and in loving celebration of Virginia's life
will be held in the Downtown Presbyterian Church sanctuary
at 2pm this coming Saturday, October 24th, with a reception
to follow in the Hallock Lounge.
In these sacred days of sorrow,
remembrance, and thanksgiving, may we be especially alert to
the movement of God's Spirit among us to comfort and
May the grace and peace of God be with us
The Rev. Dr. Pat Youngdahl, Ph.D., Pastor
Downtown Presbyterian Church
Rochester, New York
More from That All
May Freely Serve, and More Light Presbyterians >>
Task force approves final Form of
Two Witherspoon/Voices board members offer comments
Presbyterian News Service reports – using a story written by Leslie
Scanlon of The Presbyterian Outlook – that the new Form of
Government Task Force of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has The
Form of Government Task Force has submitted the final draft of its
report to the 219th General Assembly (2010).
The task force voted unanimously at its meeting in Louisville last
month to approve the report.
The new proposal makes some changes from the recommendations
regarding the Form of Government (FOG) that the General Assembly
considered in 2008, but it keeps intact some key recommendations
from that first plan, including some considered controversial.
For the full story,
here. And the
complete report of the new Form of Government
Task Force is
also available online.
Gene TeSelle offers these thoughts:
several years committees have been working at a new and supposedly
shorter Form of Government. The first draft was sent back to the
drawing board by the 2008 General Assembly. Now a new draft has been
we should note that no changes were to be made either in G-6.0106b
or in the “trust clause.” Re-drafting was not to be a smoke screen
for making basic policy changes.
of course there will always be questions about changes in emphasis
that could have major consequences. A careful comparison might be
made between the summary of the Reformed tradition and the one we
already have in chapter 3 of the Form of Government.
notice that there is a reversion to the old language of “teaching”
and “ruling” elders, abandoning the ecumenical language of
“ministers of Word and Sacrament.” At first glance it seems to be an
abandonment of ecumenicity – and perhaps a new assertiveness on the
part of elders. Governing bodies are called “councils.” In the
history of the church, councils were always temporary gatherings for
a specific purpose. The English language has led to some confusion,
since we use “council” for a group whose function is “counsel.” But
there’s a difference between concilium and consilium, concile and
conseil, that should not be lost. The Catholic Church calls the
ongoing organizations “conferences.” But why don’t we just continue
our language of “governing bodies”? If we want something really
classy, we could follow the Dutch and call a presbytery a classis.
Finally, a basic caution. The call for a new Form of Government
seems to be motivated by impatience with the detail of the existing
one. But those details have been added through the years, usually
judiciously, as a result of procedural confusions that inevitably
arise and need clarification. The new mood is that “the church is
mission,” that “form follows function.” The danger is that it might
encourage an impatience about procedures and minority rights in
order to “just get the job done.” If that happens, then there will
be a new round of amendments to fill gaps that did not need to be
created in the first place.
Mitch Trigger adds these comments:
have looked forward to the culmination of the work of the Form of
Government Task Force as they have shown some interesting
developments along the path of its development. It seems to show the
flexibility and singleness of direction that it was asked to
That’s why I was disturbed, though, by its use of the word
“standards” in regard to the confessions of the church. As a
minister of Word and Sacrament, I take seriously my vow to be
“instructed and led by the confessions.” The FOG draft, however, has
added something I can’t agree with. “While confessional standards
are subordinate to the Scriptures, they are, nonetheless, standards.
They are not lightly drawn up or subscribed to, nor may they be
ignored or dismissed. The church is prepared to instruct, counsel
with, or even to discipline one ordained who seriously rejects the
faith expressed in the confessions.” (FOG draft, F-2.02)
This use of the word “standard” raises more problems than this
section would have otherwise engendered. Does this mean I must
ascribe to the concept of original sin as it is found in the
confessions? Must I now advocate substitutionary atonement? And do
we have to delve into predestination again? By using the word
“standards,” and the sentence where the church is “prepared to
instruct, counsel with, or even to discipline one ordained,” the
Task Force has created a very different meaning than the vows I took
in my ordination.
There are many other areas where the work of the Task Force was
clear and concise, areas where they did an exemplary job of
illustrating our shared faith. I hope this can also be made to be
one of those areas, but not as it currently stands.
are a few brief thoughts from two of our Board members. And now
we’re interested in finding out about your questions and concerns –
and your favorable comments – about the draft Form of
Please just send an email note to Doug King at
firstname.lastname@example.org, or to Gene TeSelle at
We’ll post all comments on our website.
Presbyterian Coalition protests
that proposed new Form of Government offers “more harm than
The Presbyterian Coalition has issued a statement criticizing
the proposed new Form of Government for, among other things:
• “demoting” the authority of Scripture
• imposing “Radical Inclusiveness Without Boundaries”
• giving excessive power to presbyteries in matters
such as dissolving pastoral relationships, appointing
commissions to deal with problems in pastoral relationships,
• allowing presbyteries and GA to require payment of
per capita assessments by congregations
• removing many provisions now in the Constitution,
reducing their weight to mere statements in manuals of the
various bodies, thereby reducing their authority and creating a
“denial of minority rights.”
These, they say, are “reasons to vote No on nFOG”
Their full statement >>
A Witherspoon note:
We have reported concerns of our own about the FOG report. As
you might suspect, they differ a bit from those put forth by the
It is published in the
Summer 2009 Network News, starting on page 25.
But now it's right here, too, in HTML.
|Form of Government Task Force approves final
'We commend this work to the church'
Sharon Youngs, communications coordinator of the Office of the
General Assembly, has issued this news release on August 19, 2009:
DALLAS - The Form of
Government Task Force has unanimously approved and submitted to the
stated clerk of the General Assembly the final version of its work
to revise the Form of Government of the Presbyterian Church
The 11 members of the
task force spent a major portion of their August 12-14 meeting here
reviewing and refining their work before taking a final vote on
Thursday (Aug. 13).
The task force
released the initial draft of its work last fall. It invited
feedback from across the church, which was taken into consideration
as the group made final revisions to this portion of the PC(USA)'s
Among the key items
the task force members discussed last week prior to their vote was
whether an interim pastor of a congregation could become that
congregation's installed pastor. The task force voted to include
that provision in its work. ...
The task force plans
to post its final draft online by Sept. 1, which will be nearly six
weeks ahead of the Oct. 15 deadline to submit its work to the stated
clerk of the General Assembly for consideration by the 219th General
Between now and next
summer's assembly, members of the task force will be making
themselves available to interpret their work to governing bodies and
other groups. Requests for visits can be made by calling (888)
728-7228, ext. 5808, or by sending an email
Green in the Department of Constitutional Services..
The full news
invited to participate in review of Washington Office
News release from General Assembly Mission Council, July 31,
Witherspoon Society encourages you, as someone who is likely
committed to the social witness and mission of the PC(USA), to
speak up in response to this invitation. Our voices need to be
Washington Office of
the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is “a central and important
instrument through which Presbyterians make witness to their faith
on matters of public affairs,” says Sara Lisherness, director for
Compassion, Peace and Justice
ministries of the General
Assembly Mission Council.
In 2008, the Rev. Eileen Lindner,
a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) pastor, presbytery executive and
social research specialist, was engaged to lead a study of the role
and purpose of the Washington Office. Presbyterians are now invited
to provide feedback and responses to the study.
The study includes a provisional
mission statement, eight principles to guide the work of the office
in the future, and a request for input from Presbyterians. The
mission study and feedback will be reported to the General Assembly
Mission Council at the September 2009 meeting.
The effort that culminated in the
initial report included analyzing previous research; assessing the
work of ecumenical partners’ Washington presence; scrutinizing all
correspondence regarding the office received over the last several
years; empanelling a distinguished group of Presbyterians for
additional consultation; conferring with leading secular partners in
public witness activities; and reviewing related literature.
In preparation for the
presentation of the report to the General Assembly Mission Council,
the guidelines and comment section are now posted on the
PC(USA) Web site.
Lindner stated, “The public voice
and public witness of the PC(USA) is the business of all
Presbyterians in keeping with our Reformed theology. As we move
closer to making decisions about the future of our public witness,
we will be strengthened in our discernment by the shared thoughts of
a diversity of Presbyterians sharing their views.”
|"We need advocacy groups!"
Does the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) still need to support
advocacy work? [Hint: Yes!]
Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty , a PC(USA) minister and a
member of the theology faculty at Bellarmine University in
Louisville, Ky, recently published an essay dealing with this
critical issue in Presbyterian Outlook. She begins:
This key question arises in many discussions
related to restructuring at the denominational offices in
Louisville, a global economic recession, reviews of the PC(USA)
Washington Office as well as a review of the relationship
between the Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns (ACWC), the
Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns (ACREC), and the
Advisory Committee for Social Witness Policy (ACSWP). These
discussions are adding to perennial theological debates about
the church’s social mission.
My response to the question could simply be
“yes.” Recognizing the need to take seriously the current
context of these conversations in church and society, I want to
offer three reasons why we as a denomination cannot afford to
lose advocacy groups.
|Advocacy groups were formed to assist our
church in reaching out and looking in|
|There is still reason to be concerned about
|Advocacy groups help to cultivate and equip
leaders for church and society|
We urge you to look seriously at this article >>
See an earlier
comment on this development >>
Do you have thoughts on this
send a note,
to be shared here!
Network for Syria-Lebanon
meeting of a PC(USA) partnership network with the Presbyterian
Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon will be held on Sept. 8-10 in
Louisville. After many months of preparation, and in coordination
with three representatives of the Synod, this meeting will bring
together those who've had long-term relationships with the Synod,
those who share an interest in supporting the witness of the
churches there, and who also wish to explore how the Synod may help
us in the U.S. in many ways, such as in our ecumenical and
interfaith relationships. For a copy of the letter of invitation,
you may contact a member of the organizing group, Rev. Dr. Len
in Owego, NY.
Mission networks are
organized to consolidate interests and energies among the
constituency to promote the work of the General Assembly and its
mission programs; they are open primarily to representatives of
congregations, mission committees, presbyteries, validated mission
support groups, mission personnel (former and present), mission
pastors, mission professors and recognized bodies of the
Presbyterian Church (and in some cases, to "full-communion"
partners) who share a mission history and current interest in a
particular country or region.
This new network will
join some 35 partnership networks, and will strengthen already
existing relationships with the Synod of Syria and Lebanon and its
related institutions, as well as working with two networks that
cooperate with Presbyterians and other partners in Israel-Palestine
Thanks to Len Bjorkman, of the Presbyterian Peace
|We have a special page for reports and commentary
from the Big Tent gathering
held by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in Atlanta,
June 11-13, 2009
|40 years of fighting hunger
Presbyterian Hunger Program celebrates anniversary
by looking back, looking forward
Presbyterian News Service reported from the
What began with a General Assembly action four
decades ago has become a program that has raised more than $125
million for hunger relief.
The Presbyterian Hunger Program celebrated its
40th anniversary with speakers, music and a raffle at the Churchwide
Gathering of Presbyterian Women July 14.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) was the first
denomination to state that hunger is a grave threat and moral
imperative for the church, said PHP Coordinator Ruth Farrell, adding
that the program was originally charged with five focus areas
surrounding hunger: direct food relief, development assistance,
influencing public policy, lifestyle integrity and education and
"Those five approaches are every bit as relevant
today as they were 40 years ago," Farrell said.
The rest of the
|Earlier stories are indexed
Some blogs worth visiting
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
Witherspoon’s Facebook page
Mitch Trigger, Witherspoon’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 Harris’ Summit to
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
Got more blogs to recommend?
send a note, and we'll see what we can do!
Plan now for our 2010 Ghost Ranch
GHOST RANCH SEMINAR
July 26-August 1, 2010
WE’RE ALL IN
CONFRONTING THE STRUCTURES OF INJUSTICE
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