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A union of The Witherspoon Society and Voices of Sophia

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Our reports about the 219th General Assembly, July 2010

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On the Roman Catholic Church:
Pope John Paul II

John Paul II: The Great Restorer

by Leonardo Boff

Leonardo Boff, a renowned liberation theologian, teacher, and writer living in Petrópolis, Brazil, considers the significance of the Papacy of John Paul II. Amid all the calls for the Pope to be placed on a fast track for sainthood, Boff sees his reign as one of restoring the Catholic Church to a pre-Vatican II orthodoxy. Specifically, Pope John XXIII had begun to deal with two major issues facing the Church: the Protestant Reformation and modernity.

In sum, his papacy was dedicated to "the restoration of and the return to great discipline."

Read his essay in The Witness magazine

What do you think?
Please share your thoughts about Pope John Paul II, or about Pope Benedict XVI.
Just send a note!

On the death of Pope John Paul II


As Presbyterians we join with our Roman Catholic sisters and brothers around the world in grieving the death of Pope John Paul II on Saturday, April 2.

While many of us, like many Catholics, would differ with some of the Pope’s strongly held views on matters such as birth control, a woman’s right to make choices affecting her own body, the proper role of women in the church and in the ministry, and the rights of gay and lesbian people to full, loving, committed relationships, nevertheless we know the world has lost a leader of immense importance.

You may have heard and read more than enough about the Pope over the past couple days, but we offer here links to a number of comments that you may find worth looking at.

The Papal Legacy: Questioning Capitalism

John Paul II is difficult to understand for many Americans. He, like the church he led, was neither Democrat nor Republican. This Pope was more pro-human rights than Jimmy Carter and more anti-communist than Ronald Reagan. But it was in economics that the Pope was even more challenging to the American mind. Polish scholar Marcin Król explains John Paul II's "Third Way" between capitalism and communism.

Read this on >>


Papal Legacy: No to the Death Penalty

Sister Helen Prejean

Sister Helen Prejean, made famous in the movie Dead Man Walking, has a vocation to end the death penalty in America. As a Catholic nun, Sr. Prejean sought the support of John Paul II in overturning the Catholic Church's 1,600-year old loophole allowing states to kill their own citizens. It worked. In 1997, John Paul changed the catechism of the church, and last month, the American Bishops finally made it a priority. Now comes the hard part. (NYTimes , free reg. req'd.)

Read this in the New York Times (free registration required)


Two perspectives on the pope — one from outside, one from inside

Smash hit on world stage gets mixed reviews among Catholics

David Gibson, a veteran religion reporter and author of The Coming Catholic Church: How the Faithful Are Shaping a New American Catholicism, sees John Paul II as having had a great impact on the world beyond the boundaries of the Catholic Church – using his Polish roots to help bring down the Berlin Wall, and eventually the reign of Communist governments in much of Eastern Europe; advocating for justice and human rights, especially for the poor in Asia, Africa and Latin America; turning his criticisms on the evils of capitalism; standing passionately against armed conflict, including American adventures in Iraq and elsewhere.Yet within the Roman Catholic community there is a mixture of admiration and affection, and a regret as the Pope’s refusal to be more open to progressive changes in the world, including the role of women, understandings of sexuality, and more. At the same time, Catholics on the right wing of the church view him as having sold out to modernism. And even in "the deep middle" of Catholicism (which I guess is sort of like the Presbyterians’ "broad middle" ) moderate Catholics want to see a more pastoral style of leadership, a less centralized church, and more openness for discussion, even on issues that the Pope has rule out of bounds.

Read from Presbyterian News Service >>


Polish pope surprised the world, transformed the global church

George Weigel, one of America’s leading authorities on Pope John Paul II and the author of his 1999 biography, Witness to Hope, points to some of the transformations John Paul achieved within the Catholic Church – his call for the Church to recover its evangelical zeal, his transformation of the papacy into a pastoral office; his appeal to young people; his building of relationships with Orthodox, Protestant and Jewish faith communities.

Read this, too, from Presbyterian News Service >>


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Presbyterian pastor comments on the current crisis in the Catholic Church as an example of the need for continuing reformation

The Rev. Dudley Sarfaty, a retired Presbyterian pastor and member of the Witherspoon Society, lives in Chateaugay in northern New York State. He shared this letter to the editor of the Malone Telegram with us on June 23; we are posting it here on 6/27/02.

To the editor:

All the Great Protestant Reformers were Roman Catholics. This is true of Martin Luther in Germany, John Calvin in Switzerland, John Wycliff in England, Menno Simon in Holland, John Hus in Bohemia and Peter Waldo in Italy. They were seeking to be faithful in their day, as are the devout Roman Catholic activists who are hoping to reform their Church today.

The recent sex scandals among the Roman Catholics have brought to light the need for checks and balances, and democratic participation of the faithful. It seems that until pride and power are replaced by serious humility the faithful will remain in an increasingly rebellious mood, hurting the Church and perhaps themselves as well, as they struggle to make their Church more true to itself. Rev. Wilton Gregory, President of the U. S. Catholic Bishops, certainly stated it clearly in Dallas last week.

Whether the hierarchy welcomes it or not, democracy and reform have already taken their place in the life of the Roman Church. The pioneering work of Pope John XXIII will simply be further refined as the Church seeks to maintain the core of its essential Christian insights, integrating into its developing tradition the interpretations and modernizations which the 21st Century demands.

The blunt cartoon which Msgr. John found offensive (6/20) certainly did make a radical criticism of the Church and its power persons. However, the cartoon was far milder than the things Jesus, himself, angrily said about people who hurt children. It may be difficult to accept criticisms of any church's power structure. I remember my own reaction when I heard the Chicago Cardinal mix up the issues when he said in Dallas that his Church was threatened by an "American Secularist Protestant" conspiracy. I think it is far better for all of us to interpret criticism as a positive sign of an opportunity for the development of democracy and a rebirth of the Holy Spirit in a being-born-again Church.

The main issue is a direct loyalty to Christ, which puts all our human vanities under critical judgment. It seems to me that Paul Tillich's "Protestant Principle," which affirmed continuing universal Reformation, is a hopeful guideline for us all - those in the various the Protestant denominations and also among our Roman Catholic sisters and brothers.


Rev. Dudley E. Sarfaty, Pastor Emeritus



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!

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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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