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Archive, September 2001

Added on 9/26/01
Words of sympathy from El Salvador 

Guillermo Cuéllar, a musical artist and Christian from El Salvador, sends words of sympathy and concern rooted in his own long experience of vulnerability and violence -- and pleads for peace. (The drawing included with his letter says volumes about the new realities of the world for us in North American.)

The Rev. John Shuck has shared with us an order of service for a service of prayer at First Presbyterian Church, Billings, Montana, on September 12, 2001.  He also shared the reflections he offered during the service, articulating the feelings on grief and anger, and the Gospel invitation to peace.
Friends Committee on National Legislation alerts us to new efforts to increase funding for nuclear weapons, beyond all requests.   
White House considers renewed drive to fund churches through ''faith-based initiative''

Bush push to win 'Charitable Choice' grants for religion would be deeply divisive, charges Barry W. Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. 

Every day brings new signatures in support of the Call to Civility, which affirms the legitimacy of the General Assembly and the Moderator of our Presbyterian church.  Please see the vairety of people who are supporting this statement, and consider adding your signature, or the endorsement of your session, congregation or other Presbyterian group.
Added on 9/24/01
Jane Dempsey Douglass' Witherspoon address on Mission Essentials for the Twenty-first Century: Beyond Conflict over Sexuality offered a positive vision of our church's mission in the years ahead -- a mission growing out of Christian freedom, and seeking economic and environmental justice on a global scale.

Dr. Douglass has graciously provided us with the full text of her talk, and we are delighted to share it here.

"Please, not 'infinite'"
Barbara Kellam-Scott, a writer and a member of the executive committee of the Witherspoon Society, sent an e-mail note to President George W. Bush, pointing to the spiritual and political dangers in his code name "infinite justice" for the planned war against terrorism.  It appears the administration is seeking a less offensive name, but the issue remains the same. 
Added on 9/23/01
At its meeting in Albuquerque on September 21, 2001, the Executive Committee of the Witherspoon Society adopted a brief statement in response to the terrible attack of September 11. 
Vernon Broyles offers a theological view of the tragedy: evil is found on all sides  

The Rev. Vernon Broyles, associate director for social justice and associate for corporate witness in the National Ministries Division of the General Assembly Council, has set out some theological reflections on the tragedy of September 11. He concludes that "we must say to our leaders that we are at 'war,' not with 'terrorists' but with evil. It is manifest in our selves, as well as others. In this real world in which we live, it will always be necessary, on occasion, to use force in the restraint of evil. ... But having acknowledged that, we must also reiterate the lessons of history, that there will never be 'a war to end all wars,' not even a successful 'war to stamp out terrorism.'

As people of faith, we must continue to insist that the only real hope for humanity is the path of peace -- the biblical vision of shalom -- which is marked by 'liberty and justice for all,' not just for the powerful, not for just a few select nations, not just for some in each society, but for all of God's children."

Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mohandas K. Gandhi, says nonviolence is a better way than a military response as a way of dealing with the terrorism of September 11th, by ending the conflicts that give rise to terrorism. He suggests that "if a bully is what we want to be then we must be prepared to face the same consequences as a school-yard bully faces."

He concludes, "The memory of those victims who have died in this and other violent incidents around the world will be better preserved and meaningfully commemorated if we all learn to forgive and dedicate our lives to helping create a peaceful, respectful and an understanding world."  

Our National Tragedy 

The Rev. Tom Driver, Professor of Theology and Culture Emeritus at Union Theological Seminary in New York, has issued a personal statement urging that America turn away from calls for retribution, and recognize how we have contributed to the militarization of the world. 

Attorney Doug Nave, an active Presbyterian, offers the thought that the terror of September 9 may help us learn that gay or straight, we're all part of one community.  
"Lead us not into war" - Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, general secretary of the Reformed Church in America, offers a "moral vision" for our response to the terrorism of September 11.

He writes, "When someone hates you for any number of alleged reasons, you face a choice. Either you can hate them in return and actively seek their demise. Or you can defend yourself against unjust attack, but live in ways that demonstrate to all that you are not, at heart, the person whom the other accuses you of being." 

For more reports relating to the attacks of September 11, please go to our page listing all of the items we have posted.
"Public Protestants" deplore public housing in Chicago 

Protestant Justice Action (PJA), a network of Protestant public activists from seven mainline denominations while meeting in Chicago, criticized present policies of the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) which destroys problem buildings, but offers far too few alternative shelters.

Added on 9/17/01
What would it mean to bomb Afghanistan?

A note from Tamim Ansari, who was born in Afghanistan, offers a perspective on the situation of the Afghan people which we need to hear as our nation contemplates possibilities of military action in that country.  He asserts that "the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden ... were responsible for the atrocity in New York," adding that "I agree that something must be done about those monsters. But the Taliban and Ben Laden are not Afghanistan. They're not even the government of Afghanistan."

The note concludes that a war between the West and the Islamic nations is just what Bin Laden and his cohorts want, "so they and their kind can flourish. We can't let him do that. That's my humble opinion."

Looking at the possibility of war against Afghanistan, the Rev. Dean Lindsey suggests that "Perhaps we should all learn more about their story before we call for a new war against them."  He has done his homework, and shares what he learned.  
The view from Jerusalem: the unreported sympathy of the Palestinian people

Sandra Olewine, American Representative of the Methodist Church in Bethlehem, has sent a report giving a very different picture of the response of most Palestinians to the terrorist attacks. 

Let's try to understand the roots of the hatred

Some of the comments that we have shared on the Witherspoon web site have aroused rather negative comments, which see these comments as "blaming America" for the dreadful attacks on September 11.

Our thinking has not been an effort to blame, but rather to understand a terribly complex situation - while recognizing that at the same time, it is appallingly simple!

To gain some understanding, we need to see how actions and attitudes of the United States may have played a role in growth of this situation. An article in Sunday's Minneapolis Star Tribune does a good job of analyzing briefly some of the deeper roots of the hostility toward the United States that we have seen not only in the acts of terrorism, but also in the delight shown by some (only some!!) Palestinians and others at America's pain.

The author suggests that a major source of the hatred lies in the deep resentment of radical Muslims toward Western culture, which for them is an assault on the holiness and purity of the good life.

[Your WebWeaver will resist the temptation to declare that rock music is the reason for the terror.]

Another factor is America's dominant power in the world, and the way we use that power. Writes the author: "Americans would like to believe that anyone who hates their country must be crazy, said Bob Jensen of the University of Texas. But many hate America because it is an arrogant superpower, Jensen said, determined to have its way no matter how many innocents are killed or deprived of basic human rights, but which insists on proclaiming itself the 'the singular nation in the world motivated only by a concern for justice, democracy and human rights.'"

You may find the whole article helpful, as we all try to make some sense of the terror.

Added on 9/15/01
"Great Prayer of Thanksgiving in a Time of Horror"

Elder Susan Baker-Lehne, of Seventh Avenue Presbyterian Church in San Francisco, approached the celebration of Communion this Sunday "wondering how we can pray a prayer of thanksgiving this week."

Out of her wrestling came a "Great Prayer of Thanksgiving in a Time of Horror." She offers it for the use of anyone interested.

Christians, Muslims and Jews join in prayers and in tearing down walls

The Rev. Trina Zelle, a member of the Witherspoon executive committee, reports that her husband, the Rev. Phil Reller, who is a UCC pastor in Tempe, AZ, "has had an interesting week."  His congregation has shared in prayers with the mosque next door, and a nearby synagogue is now involved as well.  Even threats and bomb scares have not stood between them. 

On Wednesday we published a new hymn written by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette in response to the terrorist actions: "O God, Our Words Cannot Express."  

According to Presbyterian News Service, the hymn has already been used in prayer services around the country. It is also being sung at a service in Bristol, England, that will be broadcast by the BBC radio network. Ms. Gillette has also given permission to a pastor in Indonesia to use the hymn in a prayer service this weekend. 

Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick and at least six other Presbyterians have signed the ecumenical statement,  "a religious response to terrorism," with the heading "Deny them their victory"  
Added on 9/14/01
Religious leaders have issued "a religious response to terrorism," with the heading "Deny them their victory"

The statement expresses concern about "what this attack on America will do to us as a nation," if we accept the terrorist's view of a world "where the remedy to every human grievance and injustice is a resort to the random and cowardly violence of revenge - even against the most innocent."

The Presbyterian Peace Fellowship has issued a call for rededication to justice and nonviolence. 
Rabbi Michael Lerner asks "Where Does This Violence Come From?" The answer, he suggests, lies in our human estrangement from God. But, he adds, "More precisely, it is the way we fail to respond to each other as embodiments of the sacred."
There's much more listed on the 9/11 index page.  
This week more than ever, the Call to Civility issued a month ago, while it focuses on tensions in our own Presbyterian church, seems to affirm some important values for all of us.  Please consider adding your signature, or the endorsement of your session, congregation or other Presbyterian group.
Some 250 people gathered at Montreat for a Sunday afternoon forum on the Confessing Church movement.  There was some concern about claimed sponsorship by the presbytery, which the presbytery denied.  The Lay Committee worked hard to show it is not backing the movement, though a computerized slide presentation used during the forum, taken from the Internet, "may have been" a creation of Layman editor Parker Williamson. 
Added on 9/12/01
What are your thoughts and prayers about the events of September 11th?

Here is a hymn written yesterday by Carolyn Gillette on the day of terror.

Please share your own reflections!  Just send a note.

PC(USA) chief officers have sent a pastoral letter expressing prayers for victims and families, acknowledging the reality of evil, and calling for forgiveness and healing. 

Move reflections are coming in.  Here are two, from Bobbie McGarey and Dean Lindsey.

Resources for worship and action are appearing on web sites.  [9-12-01]

The National Council of Churches and Church World Service have issued a call for prayer, unity, and practical actions

Presbyterian News Service offers reports on churches providing care and housing "refugees" from the terror in New York.

Just below is a thought from your WebWeaver.

September 11th, in the quiet evening

Waiting for our community of faith to gather
I watched the gentle glow of the setting sun
bath the school-yard where kids practiced football.

How wrong it seemed
when darkness had stolen the day.

We came together for a memorial service
for people we have never known.

Gloria said as she fixed the coffee
"I'm so glad to have something to do,
after this awful day."

What can we say on a day like this?

That such acts are insane
because such violence solves nothing,
helps no cause.

But that such acts are never merely insane,
there are always reasons ...
reasons of our own making, perhaps,
rooted in iron-clad religious certainty,
serving causes held as absolute Truth.

What must we learn on such a day?

That absolutism is a dreadful threat to humanity
for our human certainties
make mere humanity disposable

What, after such a day, shall we do?

and cling to one another as we tremble
at the edge of the abyss of human evil.

And pray that God
might somehow gentle us
and free us from the fears and the rages
that drive us to destroy -
so we might soften a bit
our fierce grip
on the certainties
that we wield as instruments
of domination
and of death.

God have mercy on us ... all of us.

Doug King

Our time of praying and weeping closed ... and opened to the future ... with a hymn ...

"O for a World," by Miriam Therese Winter.

The first and last verses said enough:

O for a world where everyone
Respects each others' ways,
Where love is lived and all is done
With justice and with praise.

O for a world preparing for
God's glorious reign of peace,
Where time and tears will be no more,
And all but love will cease.

# 386 in The Presbyterian Hymnal

Washington Office calls for action on Latin America policies   

Consistent with recent General Assembly statements, the Presbyterian Washington Office is urging people to call for Congressional action to change our aid and other policies in relation to Colombia, and our travel restriction in relation to Cuba.

Oxfam and other groups call for global petition to change WTO patent rules to provide cheaper medicine for people in poor countries.

NOTE:  The work on this petition has been SUSPENDED in response to the destruction yesterday of the World Trade Center.

Added on 9/10/01
Another look at how we interpret biblical teachings on divorce, remarriage, and homosexuality, from Gene TeSelle

A recent note from Kurt Norlin offered some ideas about why conservatives are more willing to accept divorce and remarriage than they are to accept the possibility that same-sex relationships might also be permitted.  In response, Gene TeSelle points to some of the reasons for the apparent differences in biblical attitudes to the two questions.

Do you want to go back in time??

To wander through earlier headlines and links:

bulletfrom the first part of December, 2001
bulletfrom November, 2001
bulletfrom October, 2001
bulletfrom September, 2001
bulletfrom August, 2001.
bulletfrom July, 2001
bulletfrom June, 2001.
bulletfrom May, 2001.
bulletfrom April, 2001.
bulletfrom March, 2001.
bulletfrom February, 2001.
bulletfrom January, 2001.
bullet from December, 2000.
bullet from November 2000
    including reports on 
bulletCovenant Network conference
bulletRe-Imagining Conference
bullet articles from the Spring 2000 issue of Network News
bullet from mid-September through October, 2000.
bullet from July through mid-September, click here.
bullet from January through June 2000.
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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© 2011 by Presbyterian Voices for Justice.  All material on this site is the responsibility of the WebWeaver unless other sources are acknowledged.  Unless otherwise noted, material on this site may be copied for personal use and sharing in small groups.  For permission to reproduce material for wider publication, please contact the WebWeaver, Doug King.  Any material reached by links on this site is outside the control and responsibility of the WebWeaver and Presbyterian Voices for Justice.  Questions or comments?  Please send a note!