Archives for March 2008
This page lists all our postings from March
For an index to all our reports
on the 219th General Assembly
For links to
all our archive pages, listed by months,
WITNESS IN WASHINGTON
from the Washington Office of the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
March 31, 2008
This week’s messages are —
Cleaning water to
visionary, Presbyterian-led program is bringing safe drinking
water to communities around the world
The April 2008
issue of Presbyterians Today magazine features the Clean
Water U training program for Living Waters for the World, a
global mission project of the Synod of Living Waters. According
to a 2006 United Nations Human Development report, more than 1
billion people have inadequate access to safe drinking water,
and 2.6 billion lack access to adequate sanitation.
The full story >>
Born-Again Americans and That Old-Time (Civil) Religion
Sara Robinson, writing for
Campaign For America's Future,
appreciates that in this year’s presidential campaign, wearingly
long though it may be, progressives are for the first time in
years speaking out of the deep cultural and political resources
of America’s civil religion.
She quotes Norman Lear, speaking at the Take
Back America conference last week:
Can we progressives -- who won't be caught dead
these days calling ourselves liberals -- can we stop serving as
a punching bag for the right?
And speak with depth and conviction about the
things that really matter to us? Once and for all, can we break
through the false and humiliating charade that they and they
alone are the arbiters of family values, morality, patriotism,
the flag, the life of the spirit, God-talk? And that they alone
have the credibility to speak to these subjects and concerns?
The search for meaning that defines us as humans
is the greatest conversation going, and I want in.
The old framework of the U.S. civil religion
has come unglued, she says, as Robert Bellah showed it does
every century or so. But after the disintegration of the past
few decades, people are turning to those narratives and symbols
again, and the progressives are taking part in the recovery –
and they should be working at doing that well. She concludes:
The entire country is desperately hungry for a
new, compelling story about what it means to be American, and
what America means to the world. It does not have to be
exclusive, nationalistic, or imperialist – in fact, we've got a
once-in-a-lifetime opportunity right now to offer the country
another narrative entirely, one that will move us away from the
madness of the past. Norman Lear and Bill Moyers moved us all
when they preached the gospel of this 21st-century civil
religion from the pulpit at Take Back America; Barack Obama also
showed us how it's done last week in Philadelphia. The new
stories are already emerging; and the country is inspired by
what it hears.
The full essay >>
More on the current election
Millions of Jobs of a Different Collar
New York Times article explores the possibility that care
for the creation can be a powerful creator of jobs. (And the
Times is not the only one looking at this.)
The article begins:
Everyone knows what blue-collar and
white-collar jobs are, but now a job of another hue — green
— has entered the lexicon.
Presidential candidates talk about the
promise of “green collar” jobs — an economy with millions of
workers installing solar panels, weatherizing homes, brewing
biofuels, building hybrid cars and erecting giant wind
turbines. Labor unions view these new jobs as replacements
for positions lost to overseas manufacturing and
outsourcing. Urban groups view training in green jobs as a
route out of poverty. And environmentalists say they are
crucial to combating climate change.
No doubt that the number of green-collar
jobs is growing, as homeowners, business and industry shift
toward conservation and renewable energy. And the numbers
are expected to increase greatly in the next few decades,
because state governments have mandated that even more
energy come from alternative sources.
But some skeptics argue that the phrase
“green jobs” is little more than a trendy term for
politicians and others to bandy about. Some say they are not
sure that these jobs will have the staying power to help
solve the problems of the nation’s job market, and others
note that green jobs often pay less than the old
manufacturing jobs they are replacing.
The full article >>
More on caring for the creation >>
Healthcare Tales From California and Massachusetts
has published an article suggesting, on the basis of efforts for
health care reform in California and Massachusetts, that current
proposals for national health care reform being advanced by all
the presidential candidates may fall far short of meeting the
efforts, working through existing insurance companies, simply
leave too many people out. Ultimately, says the author, “any
effective reform will have to bring everyone into the insurance
full article >>
More on health care concerns >>
Michael J. Adee named as Executive Director & Field Organizer
for More Light Presbyterians
Board of Directors of More Light Presbyterians has announced
that Dr. Michael J. Adee has been named as the Executive
Director & Field Organizer for More Light Presbyterians. This
decision was made at their recent national board meeting at
Ghost Ranch Conference Center, Santa Fe, NM.
Michael has been serving as MLP's National
Field Organizer since May of 1999. He served as a volunteer with
More Light Presbyterians from 1991 to 1999 before being hired in
their first staff position. Michael was ordained as the first
openly gay Elder at Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church,
Cincinnati, Ohio, a More Light Church. He moved to Santa Fe, New
Mexico in 1997.
Going to GA? You’re invited to lunch with a leader of
the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren
There will be a special opportunity to meet with
the Rev. Joel Ruml, Moderator of the Evangelical Church of Czech
Brethren (ECCB), our Presbyterian counterparts in the Czech
Republic. Luncheon on Tuesday,
June 24th, signup at the GA – look for
announcements. Learn how a Christian church survived under a
communist regime and how they are dealing with a completely new
understanding of "church" in a country that is self-defined as
"the most atheistic in Europe."
More on the 2008
General Assembly >>
This comes from the Rev.
Barbara Renton, a member of the Witherspoon board
RENEWAL OR RUIN?
The Institute on Religion and Democracy's attack on the United
Video on the
Institute on Religion and Democracy is now available free online
– with a full transcript
Click here for the video online, with full transcript – at
Since its beginning in 1982, the Institute on
Religion and Democracy has continuously undermined the United
Methodist Church and other mainline Protestant denominations by
attacking the character of church leaders.
This film – 25 minutes long – attempts to
shine light on the divisive tactics used by the IRD .
As the IRD has been largely successful in
setting the agenda for the destruction of the church's social
witness in key areas, this film intends to expose the true
intent of their efforts to "renew" the church.
Since the Presbyterian branch of IRD,
Presbyterian Action, seems to work in ways similar to those used
by their Methodist wing, this makes
interesting/enlightening/disturbing viewing – but helpful.
You’ll find it all here >>
from the producer of the film >>
For more commentary on the IRD, see
John Shuck’s blogspot, shuckandjive
For more reports on the coming 218th General
We have just
revived the JustPresbys website that was created two years ago
for the 217th GA. It will begin you news and
commentary from six cooperating progressive Presbyterian
the Covenant Network of Presbyterians, More Light Presbyterians,
the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, That All May Freely Serve,
the Witherspoon Society, and Voices of Sophia.
here for the home page, and take a little look around.
There's not a lot posted there, but more will be coming!
One page you may want to look at is
the schedule of
events at GA, both official and unofficial, with links to
further information on some of those scheduled by the
Torture in Our
Own Backyards: The Fight Against Supermax Prisons
supermax prisons, 23 hours a day of solitary confinement is the
norm. How our prison system become so cruel?
an adult educator and independent journalist living in Chicago,
reports on AlterNet:
Imagine living in
an 8-by-12 prison cell, in solitary confinement, for eight years
straight. Your entire world consists of a dank, cinder block
room with a narrow window only three inches high, opening up to
an outdoor cement cage, cynically dubbed, "the yard." If you're
lucky, you spend one hour, five days a week in that outdoor
cage, where you gaze up through a wire mesh roof and hope for a
glimpse of the sun. If you talk back to the guards or act out in
any way, you might only venture outside one precious hour per
You go eight
years without shaking a hand or experiencing any physical human
contact. The prison guards bark orders and touch you only while
wearing leather gloves, and then it's only to put you in full
cuffs and shackles before escorting you to the cold showers,
where they watch your every move.
You cannot make
phone calls to your friends or family and must "earn" two visits
per month, which inevitably take place through a Plexiglass
wall. You are kept in full shackles the entire time you visit
with your wife and children, and have to strain to hear their
voices through speakers that record your every word. With no
religious or educational programs to break up the time or
elevate your thoughts, it's a daily struggle to keep your mind
This is how
Reginald Akeem Berry describes his time in Tamms Correctional
Facility, a "Supermax" state prison in southern Illinois, where
he was held from March 1998 until July 2006. He now works to
draw attention to conditions inside Tamms, where 261 inmates
continue to be held in extreme isolation.
And for more on criminal justice
and prisons >>
Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama and the Unacceptability of
Of National Lies and Racial America
Tim Wise, the author of White Like Me:
Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son, and
Affirmative Action: Racial Preference in Black and White
(both published in 2005), argues that “as much as white America
may not be able to hear it (and as much as politics may require
Obama to condemn it) let us be clear, Jeremiah Wright
fundamentally told the truth.”
He goes on:
Wright said not that the attacks of September
11th were justified, but that they were, in effect, predictable.
Deploying the imagery of chickens coming home to roost is not to
give thanks for the return of the poultry or to endorse such
feathered homecoming as a positive good; rather, it is merely to
note two things: first, that what goes around, indeed, comes
around – a notion with longstanding theological grounding – and
secondly, that the U.S. has indeed engaged in more than enough
violence against innocent people to make it just a tad bit
hypocritical for us to then evince shock and outrage about an
attack on ourselves, as if the latter were unprecedented.
Wise develops in detail his case that Wright
has simply been portraying reality as it is seen in the
African-American community, and that whites are outraged because
they cannot accept – or even permit the expression off – such a
view of the world. Our big white lies are too important to us to
allow for any consideration of anyone else’s truth.
Published in Counterpunch >>
Originally published in
LiP Magazine >>
look at racism in the U.S. you might turn to the
just-published Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of
Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II, by
Douglas A. Blackmon.
The Chicago Tribune summarizes:
Another Name (Doubleday, $26), by
Douglas A. Blackmon, due in stores in late March, shows the
Civil War did not end racial oppression in America.
Subtitled "The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans From the
Civil War to World War II," this book by The Wall Street
Journal's Atlanta bureau chief tells the
often-overlooked story of neoslavery. From the 1870s until
well into the 20th Century, under laws passed to intimidate
them, black men were arbitrarily arrested, imprisoned, made
to work off room and board in jail and, in effect, turned
into unpaid slave laborers who were leased by manufacturers,
farmers, mines and other businesses. This is a hard look at
a horrifying aspect of recent history.
For more on Obama
and the Rev.
Rita Nakashima Brock announces:
Registration has just opened for
the Envision website for full information about one of the
most important religion conferences in 2008 – and don't miss the
early registration discount for the first 200 people who
ENVISION: THE GOSPEL, POLITICS, AND THE FUTURE
June 8-10 at Princeton University.
We have room for 1300, and we
expect to fill to capacity in the beautiful, historic Princeton
Chapel. We are offering exciting plenaries, inspiring preaching,
and 20 Learning Tracks on issues such as climate change, war,
sexuality, race, women, poverty, and human rights, with a broad
array of perspectives, all focused on Christian engagement in
politics for the Common Good of all.
Join us for this historic moment of change and
hope! Don't delay, register today for the early registration
discount at the Envision website.
The Conference Leadership:
The Fifty Leading
Scholars, Activists, Artists, and Pastors include Obery
Hendricks, Daisy Machado, Brian McLaren, Kay Warren, Miroslav
Volf, Jim Wallis, Brenda Salter McNeil, Richard Twiss, Ron Sider,
and Randall Balmer, as well as a new generation of leaders such
as Andrea Smith, Sammy Rodriquez, Lisa Sharon Harper, Shane
Claiborne, Malinda Berry, Jay Bakker, Ruth Padilla DeBorst, and
Jeremy Del Rio.
See the Envision
website for a list of all the presenters.
Finding Delegation to El Salvador: June 20-29, 2008
In the midst of a
Latin American shift to the left, El Salvador just might be next
in line! The Committee with the People of El Salvador continues
to support REAL democracy and human rights in El Salvador,
opposing U.S. intervention through institutions like the
International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) - an instrument for
exporting repressive U.S. policing tactics – and the CAFTA free
trade agreement. CISPES invites you join a summer fact-finding
delegation to witness first hand the social movement inspiration
behind the 2009 electoral process, while delving into the
economic, political, and human right challenges that El Salvador
is confronting prior its key upcoming elections!
More on El Salvador >>
3/22/08 -- the eve of Easter
THE PROMISE OF EASTER
We of the Witherspoon Society are happy to
share with you these words of assurance and hope from
leaders of the PC(USA), the National Council of Churches,
and churches in the Middle East -- which have come to us
through the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program.
An Easter message to the PC(USA)
from the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk
"In my years of working in the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the church around the world, I
have been struck by how the Easter message brings life, hope,
and salvation to people in so many different contexts and finds
expression in so many different ways. The ultimate triumph of
the love of God in the resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ,
brings incredible hope and joy to people who, like Jesus, face
tremendous obstacles to fullness of life."
Read the whole
MESSAGE FROM HEADS OF CHURCHES IN JERUSALEM
limit their thoughts on Easter to the empty tomb. How important
then, for us to concentrate on the first manifestation which our
Lord made to his disciples. There is considerable encouragement
to be gained from the fact that the living Christ is greeting
his living Church. We do not under estimate the burden of so
many of our faithful today from the continuing violence and acts
of terrorism that surround them, and of which we all are
victims, in the West Bank, in Gaza and in the Israeli society.
Nevertheless, the Risen Lord reminds us and tells us that we
have a role and we have to change the present situation, through
the power and strength which He gives us."
Read the whole message >>
GREETING FROM BAGHDAD
"I would like
to wish you a Happy Easter with many, many returns and always
the blessings of our Raised Lord. May the Lord bless all your
works for the glory of his name. Pray with us so God may protect
the Christians in Iraq." Chairman of Baghdad Presbyterian Church
General Sec. of Presbyterian Churches of Iraq
Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary, National Council of
"In the history
of the world, it often seems like Good Friday. As in the days of
Jesus' earthly ministry, innocent people still suffer violence,
starvation and daily threats to their survival. For Christians,
however, this is not—cannot be—the final word. Death may seem to
hold sway, but we confess that its power has been broken by the
life, crucifixion, and resurrection of the One we worship as
Savior and Lord."
whole message >>
3/21/08 -- Good Friday
the Lord! Praise the
Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the
Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God all
my life long.
Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortals, in whom there is no help.
When their breath departs, they
return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish.
Happy are those whose help is the
God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord
who made heaven and earth, the sea,
and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the
oppressed; who gives food to the hungry. The
Lord sets the prisoners free;
opens the eyes of the blind. The Lord
lifts up those who are bowed down; the Lord
loves the righteous.
watches over the strangers; he upholds the orphan and the widow,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
Lord will reign forever, your God, O
Zion, for all generations. Praise the Lord!
More comments on Barack Obama’s speech on race
We received this note in response to
our posts on
Thanks so much for sharing the supportive
comments from others of Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s preaching. He
was well-named, wasn’t he?
Thanks also for re-printing
the transcript of Barack Obama’s magnificent speech.
I look forward to hearing a lot more
support from Presbyterian preachers who believe that the
pulpit should be the place where those who study the
Scriptures and follow the teachings of Jesus are free to
pass on their understandings to others.
Lynne Reade, Fremont, California
After a note like that, how can I resist
looking for more?
What do our candidates for
Moderator have to say?
With all the discussion this week about
Obama’s speech, both as a perspective on American race relations
and as a look at the role of the prophetic tradition in American
religion, it occurred to me to see whether any of the four
candidates for Moderator might be putting forth their views.
Only one of them, as far as I can find from
their websites and blogs, has offered any specific comments on
Obama’s speech. But each has said something over the past few
days that offers food for thought.
As it happens,
the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow posted a blog note under the
heading “bleep that chinaman.” He starts from a scrawled sign he
saw recently in front of his favorite café in San Francisco,
which uses an offensive word to tell what should be done to
“that chinaman.” With apologies for the language, he offers
three generalizations about our racism today: it has
diversified, it will not go away, and it “must be challenged
with a spirit of solidarity.”
The Rev. Bill Teng offers reflections on the role of the
Moderator, and offers his own vision of serving as a witness to
the grace of God, and the gratitude and hope that grow in our
responding to God’s grace.
The Rev. Carl Mazza, in his blog of March 12, reflects
on his own ministry with Meeting Ground, a shelter for the
homeless, and finds an image for the church’s mission in “the
table” around which “there is always room for one more.”
Shoemaker, in a brief reflection on Micah 6:8 dated
March 14 (his reflection, not Micah!), notes in passing that a
commentary he looked at shows Micah’s words set in the context
of his presentation of “God’s case against Israel.” While
Shoemaker is not discussing America’s problems with race, this
does give a little reminder that the prophetic tradition, which
the Rev. Jeremiah Wright
has sought to represent, does have a pretty sharp, critical
A couple other views
grace under fire”
editorial page editor for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution,
praises Obama for facing directly the obviously big issue
hanging over his campaign, and doing it with “courage and candor
possible Obama placed the wrong bet. His sort of politics
may be well-loved by editorial writers and civics teachers
but ill-suited to winning presidential campaigns. Straight
talk and tough truths may have no place on the stump. It may
be that campaigns are still won by those willing to kneecap
their opponents with vicious ads and ugly rumors. Voters may
prefer focus-grouped slogans to uncomfortable facts.
certainly was encouraging to hear from a politician willing
to take his chances with a pander-free hour at a difficult
moment in his campaign. It doesn't happen often.
full column >>
Wright, The Speech: A Problem And An Unanticipated Upside”
Thomas de Zengotita, a contributing editor at Harper's Magazine, says that’s Obama’s speech is “being
justly compared, by knowledgeable people, to some of the great
political speeches in American history.” But, he adds, it may
not be remembered as are the speeches of old, simply because our
communication channels are too busy today, and we are not likely
to retain and reflect on any single speech or event, because
there’s too much more information coming at us.
Even so, he adds, there is “an unanticipated
upside: as the right wing platforms play and replay the loop of
sound bites from Rev. Wright's sermons – it gets trickier for
them to sustain the rumor that he's a Muslim! Ah, the little
The rest of the blog >>
Wisdom from the Scots Confession in considering the need for
change of G-6.0106b
Witherspoon member Charles Forbes, former
Stated Clerk of Baltimore
Presbytery, has recently
written about a passage in the Scots Confession which says that
in what we would call disputes over faith or practice, the
primary basis for making decisions must be "what the Holy Ghost
uniformly speaks within the body of the Scriptures and what
Christ Jesus himself did and commanded."
Another Witherspooner, the Rev. Hal Porter,
comments that the Presbyterian Church has said the same thing
more recently in a paper approved in the
early 1980s on “Presbyterian
Understanding and Use of Holy Scripture.” The document states
that "The fundamental expression of God’s will is the two-fold
commandment to love God and neighbor, and all interpretations
are to be judged by the question whether they offer and support
the love given and commanded by God."
Five years into our “Endless War”
John Shuck posted this reflection
yesterday, Tuesday, March 19. It seems a suitable,
modest way to commemorate today’s anniversary of the US war
Five years ago we watched Shock and Awe on our
wide screen television sets. It was a war led by false
pretenses. It had nothing to do with the events of September
11th, 2001. The populace was misled. It had nothing to do with
Weapons of Mass Destruction. The populace was misled.
I still wonder what the reason could have been
for an invasion. What could this invasion possibly fix? It
didn't take long to topple Saddam Hussein. We fixed him all
right. One wonders if that is what one nation is supposed to do
when the leader of another nation is corrupt? Do you think a
military just goes in and fixes it and the problem is solved?
What could they have been thinking?
Here we are five years later, a million deaths
later, billions of dollars later, and the U.S. is stuck. If the
U.S. were to pull out all of its troops tomorrow there will be
chaos and increased civil war and many more deaths possibly for
years maybe decades. Does the U.S. stay, occupying a foreign
land, indefinitely? Of course, it cannot. At some point it will
simply wear out and it will finally leave. Then it will leave
them with chaos and civil war and deaths for years and maybe
Those of us who advocate for peace, who saw
this war as not only a mistake but an immoral act are also in a
spot. Toward what do we work? Do we work for the U.S. troops to
come home? That won't fix anything. There are wars all over this
planet. Those of us who work for peace must look beyond
political and military solutions to our problems. Politics and
the military machine got us in the mess. It won't fix it.
Those who work for peace must work toward a
higher allegiance than political boundaries and tribal
alliances. We have done this before. The survival of humanity to
this point has been its ability to expand our smaller
allegiances into larger ones. Individuals realize that they need
families. Families need extended families, neighborhoods,
communities, states and provinces and nations. We know how to do
Now we have the need to expand our awareness
and pledge our allegiance to Earth as the home of all humanity.
We are all citizens of Earth. We will not be able to negotiate
these issues – and they are life-threatening, planet-threatening
issues – by thinking any smaller than what is good for Earth and
its people and its life.
We need a change of consciousness and this
will not happen overnight. But it can happen if we believe in it
and work toward it. We need to realize that what is good for my
immediate family is what is good for someone on the other side
of Earth. If it is not good for them, it will, eventually, not
be good for me or my descendants. Humanity has survived because
it has learned to adapt to wider and wider circles of awareness
and cooperation. We face humanity's biggest challenge now.
This is where advocates for peace are needed.
You are the ones who need to keep yourselves centered, focused,
fit, wise, learned, and skilled. You need to work together. You
need to dream, sing, hope, and work toward building
relationships of trust between people.
Those who will participate in candlelight
vigils tonight will be participating in an effort to raise
awareness. It is not a meaningless act. It is not a drop in the
ocean. You never know what can come from participating in an
event such as that.
Posted by John Shuck to
Shuck and Jive
at 3/18/2008 08:05:00 P
our stories on the war in Iraq >>
Obama’s pastor: What Kind of Prophet?
Sen. Barack Obama’s former pastor has drawn attention recently
for his rather heated rhetoric about some of the less admirable
characteristics of the United States, such as racism and a
tendency toward imperial thinking and acting.
Sen. Obama himself today offered
a deeply personal and thoughtful response to the criticisms
of him and his pastor.
For the full text of his speech >>
Another response comes from John Thomas, the
President of the United Church of Christ, which is the
denomination of which the Rev. Jeremiah Wright is a member.
Thanks to the Rev. Trina
Zelle, co-moderator of the Witherspoon Society, for forwarding
More on the Rev. Jeremiah
In any age, a prophet draws wrath
So what do you think of this quote:
"The Almighty God himself is not the only, not
the, not the God just standing out saying through Hosea, 'I love
you, Israel.' He's also the God that stands up before the
nations and said: 'Be still and know that I'm God, that if you
don't obey me I will break the backbone of your power, and slap
you out of the orbits of your international and national
Ralph E. Luker, an Atlanta historian,
co-editor of the first two volumes of "The Papers of Martin
Luther King," offers us that thought – from the Rev. Martin
Luther King Jr. Walker’s preaching, he says, like that of
King, echoes the prophetic tradition of the ancient Hebrews.
And he also presents a view of Wright's
ministry a bit different from what we’ve been hearing:
Critics of Wright never cared that for 36
years he labored to build a community of redemption on
Chicago's Southside. They didn't notice that his
congregation had become the largest congregation in the
United Church of Christ, a denomination rooted in the
traditions of Puritan New England. They wouldn't care that
it claimed to be "Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically
Christian." Wright's words become significant for them only
as a means of damaging Wright's most prominent parishioner,
Read his op-ed column from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Three excellent resources on torture
Campaign against Torture website has recently listed three
very helpful resources on the sad subject of torture.
For NRCAT’s extensive listing of articles and other materials on
The most comprehensive is the latest issue of
Washington Monthly, with the theme:
NO MORE. No Torture. No Exceptions.
For details, and
links to each of the resources >>
Thanks to the Rev. Betty Hale
for these suggestions.
Rick and Kitty Ufford-Chase named Stony Point co-directors
‘Transitional’ term begins in August
Presbyterian News Service reports that former
General Assembly moderator Rick Ufford Chase and his wife,
Kitty, have been named transitional co-directors of
financially-troubled Stony Point Center, the Presbyterian Church
(U.S.A.)-owned conference center in New York.
They will share the full-time director’s
position beginning August 1, succeeding the Rev. William Pindar,
who recently resigned.
Rick Ufford Chase founded BorderLinks in the
1980s to engage U.S. Christians with U.S.-Mexico border issues
and served as its director until 2006, when he became executive
director of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship. He was elected GA
moderator in 2004. He will continue part-time with the Peace
Kitty Ufford-Chase, a life-long Quaker with a
commitment to spiritual nurture and justice, most recently has
been working as the “faith community coordinator” for the
Community Food Security Center of Tucson’s Community Food Bank.
Spiritual Leaders Do Their Job, Are We Doing Ours?
Witherspooner and energetic blogger John Shuck
offered this thought for Holy Week
The Dalai Lama calls for the world to take
"Whether intentionally or unintentionally,
some kind of cultural genocide is taking place," said the
Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader. He was
referring to China's policy of encouraging the ethnic Han
majority to migrate to Tibet, restrictions on Buddhist
temples and re-education programs for monks. (Read
Pope Benedict XVI issued one of his
strongest appeals for peace in Iraq on Sunday...
The pope also denounced the 5-yearlong
Iraq war, saying it had provoked the complete breakup of
Iraqi civilian life. "Enough with the slaughters! Enough
with the violence. Enough with the hatred in Iraq!" Benedict
said to applause at the end of his Palm Sunday Mass in St.
Peter's Square. (Read
So, fellow preachers. Do we let the Pope and
the Dalai Lama have all the fun? Or do you think we ought to
speak out with our congregations, on our blogs, and wherever
else about stuff, that is like, important?
Visit Shuck’s “Shuck and Jive” blog >>
Iraq War's Cost: Loss of US Power, Prestige and Influence
On March 12 we pointed to an economist’s
disturbing analysis of
the financial costs
of the current US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. An new
article by Warren P. Strobel of McClatchy Newspapers reminds us
of the even higher costs the US is (and will be!) Paying in loss
of “power, prestige and influence.”
Thanks in part to the Iraq war, the next
U.S. president - Republican or Democrat, black or white, man
or woman - will take office with America's power, prestige
and popularity in decline, according to bipartisan reports,
polls and foreign observers.
"The winner of the 2008 elections will
command U.S. forces still at war in Iraq, Afghanistan and
against elusive terrorists with a deadly reach. The U.S.
economy will remain burdened. ... America's moral leadership
and decision-making competence will continue to be
questioned," begins a study of foreign-policy choices for
the next president, which a Georgetown University task force
released last month.
"Restored respect will come only with
fresh demonstrations of competence," the study said.
The numbers don't inspire confidence: Oil
prices are at an all-time high, the dollar at new lows
against the euro. Surveys find the United States' popularity
and respect slipping in every part of the globe except
Africa. A poll of 3,400 active and retired U.S. military
officers by Foreign Policy magazine found that 88 percent
agreed with the statement that "The war in Iraq has
stretched the U.S. military dangerously thin."
full article >>
Congressional leaders sign
Immokalee Workers' petition and call hearings
We can help
by circulating the petition, too.
Congressional leaders are doing
their part to sign and circulate CIW's petition. Please do
www.ciw-online.org to download a copy of the petition, learn
more about modern-day slavery and the role of consumers in
holding the food industry accountable for bringing about change.
And check out our new Burger
King Campaign webpage which provides a chronology of the
PC(USA)'s engagement with Burger King and frequently asked
www.pcusa.org/fairfood (link to it from the right margin!)
Campaign for Fair Food
An invitation from the Rev. Janie Spahr
Join us for the
“WEDDING JUSTICE AND LOVE”
Events in Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH
This is the final appeal in a disciplinary
case against Rev. Dr. Jane Adams Spahr for performing LGBT
marriages as a minister in the Presbyterian Church USA.
Thursday, April 24th
Silent Witness, 4:00
pm at the Presbyterian Church Center, Louisville
Worship Service and reception, 7:00 pm at Central
Presbyterian Church, Louisville
Friday, April 25th
Witness, 8:00 am followed by the appeal, 9:00am,
Presbyterian Church Center, Louisville
Worship Service and
reception, 7:00 pm at Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church,
Saturday April 26th
Justice and Love in Faith Communities” – 9 am to
Noon, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary Campus,
Hundley Hall, 1044 Alta Vista Rd., Louisville, KY
here for a poster/invitation, with details including
links to websites and such.
The fight against "illegal immigrants"
The Road to Dystopia
In an editorial
on March 13, the New York Times blasted the current
crusade against “illegal immigration” as a threat not just to
immigrants legal or otherwise, but to the US society as a whole.
for a silver bullet to slay illegal immigration continues.
Hard-liners are turning the country upside down looking for
looking in Washington, where Senate Republicans last week
offered more than a dozen bills to further enshrine mass
deportation as the national immigration strategy. It is a
grab bag of enforcement measures that will be useful for
tough-talking campaign commercials, but will not actually
and some Democrats in the House are trying to force a vote
on a bad bill called the SAVE Act, which among other things
would force all workers, including citizens, to prove they
have a right to earn a living — a bad idea compounded by the
notoriously bad state of federal government records.
The full editorial >>
Again ... Seeking ways to confront torture
In January, your WebWeaver attended a conference
on ways the church might respond to the terrible challenge of US
use of torture, and
reported on it here.
Now a slightly different version of the same
report has been published by
Presbyterian Outlook, so you can find it in print as
well as here on the web.
A friendly reminder for those who like to save money and
still have a great time
Register BEFORE May 1st
for the Week for Peace and Justice
at Ghost Ranch, and you
can save $100!
can check out our information on this important event >>
Or go to the Ghost Ranch website for more complete information
Click here to download registration forms (in PDF
Registration on-line is coming SOON
Meanwhile, you have to make a choice which
seminar you'll attend - not easy to choose just one !
Jane Hanna, former Witherspoon president and
the main organizer of this event, adds this note:
Did I mention that the price for housing
goes up $100 the 1st of May? This is an attempt this year to
encourage people to register earlier than they have in the
past. Also, the full amount for housing needn't be paid all
at once at the time of registration. Some can be paid on
There are two less expensive ways for
families to be at the ranch. One is the camping alternative,
the other to be housed together where the first two pay full
room expense and the rest just for food. I hope there will
be many families with teenagers who will sign up as the
teenage program promises to be excellent.
Hope this helps. Jane
If you're planning on attending the 218th General
We have just posted a few
corrections to the times and places listed for a couple of our
Witherspoon events, particularly the Awards Luncheon (which will
be begin at 12:30 rather than 1:00 on Sunday, June 22).
See the list of
our events >>
We've also posted links to the
schedule, and the GA page for
Some say we’re “winning the war.”
But we’re losing the future
Writing for CommonDreams, Chicago-based journalist and
editor Robert C. Koehler draws on the new book The Three
Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict, by
noted economists Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes, to give a
truly dread-inducing picture of the future that we are “buying”
with the cost of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Stiglitz, who won the Nobel Prize in economics
in 2001, told Koehler, “Because of the war, the national deficit
is $2 trillion higher. At 5 percent interest, that’s $100
billion a year, year after year after year - forever!”
Stiglitz suggests that we need a new unit of
account: "Think of what things would cost in terms of hours,
days, weeks of fighting."
For instance, he says, "Three years ago we had
a financial crisis with the Social Security system. For
one-sixth of an Iraq war, you could have fixed Social Security
for the next 50 to 75 years."
Remember when President Bush vetoed a bill to
expand health insurance for children? "We’re talking about days
of fighting in Iraq," according to Stiglitz.
The American Friends Service Committee has a Web page
devoted to the Iraq war as a unit of account, including
more "posters" like these, at
More on the war in Iraq >>
activists worship, pray, get arrested
arrested for civil disobedience in Hart Senate Office Building
In a special
report to Presbyterian News Service, Matt Black writes:
More than 40
religious leaders and faith-based peace activists were arrested
in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill late Friday
afternoon (March 7, 2008) for their non-violent witness to end
the war in Iraq.
people assembled earlier in the afternoon for a public
demonstration against the U.S. war and occupation of Iraq, and
thousands of worshipers gathered at noon Friday in 10 houses of
worship here for services calling for peace and an end to the
war in Iraq.
noontime worship services, worshipers processed to Upper Senate
Park for an interfaith witness near the U.S. Capitol. In the
midst of a driving rain, leaders from Christian, Jewish, Muslim,
Buddhist, and Unitarian traditions insisted that people of faith
will be relentless in encouraging their political leaders to
take bold, unequivocal action for peace.
delegations from the Olive Branch Interfaith Peace Partnership —
which includes the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship — the
organizing coalition of the afternoon’s events, met with high
level staffers from both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s and Senate
Majority Leader Harry Reid’s offices.
leaders expressed grave concern that there must be both a clear
exit strategy from Iraq and a regional, multi-lateral effort at
development and diplomacy to bring about genuine security.
Days of Prayer & Action for Colombia – April 27-28, 2008
Stand in Solidarity with the People and
Churches of Colombia Calling for an End to the Violence
The Rev. Milton Mejia, the former head of the
Presbyterian Church of Colombia, is asking people of faith to
participate in the Days of Prayer and Action for Colombia.
For the complete invitation, in PDF format >>
On Sunday, April 27 congregations across the
country will stand in solidarity with our Colombian brothers and
sisters who have endured so much suffering, remembering the
victims of Colombia's brutal conflict and praying for a peaceful
future in Colombia.
Worship kit, prayers, bulletin inserts,
ecumenical resources, and suggestions for planning a local
reflection can be found at
On Monday, April 28 we will take collective
action to ask that U.S. policy promote peace and justice in
Colombia rather than military involvement and violence. For more
information please go to
2008 Presbyterian Peacemaking
Seeds: Working for God's Justice - Confronting Poverty
July 15-19, 2008
For complete information >>
Download a conference brochure >> (Adobe Acrobat Required)
Download a registration form >> (Adobe Acrobat
This conference was created to
deconstruct the multiple issues that connect and entwine in
sustaining poverty in our communities and the world.
It is designed for participants
who want an introduction to participants who are looking for
more in-depth understanding and skill building in confronting
The Joining Hands Against
Hunger (JHAH) program, integral to the conference, builds
bridges of solidarity between presbyteries and churches in the
U.S. and networks of overseas churches, grassroots groups, and
nongovernmental organizations. During the morning segment called
"Living the Story," some JHAH partners will tell stories of what
and where change is happening and how conference participants
can engage to make a difference.
The Peacemaking conference is
an intentional intergenerational community of people who work
toward and hope for justice. People of all ages will fellowship,
learn, play, and worship together during this time for
re-energizing and re-connecting under the warm California sun!
The conference was created
through the collaborative efforts of the Presbyterian
Peacemaking and Hunger Programs, the Presbyterian Washington and
United Nations Offices, Mission Responsibility through
Investment, the Child Advocacy Office, and the Office on Small
Church and Community Ministry,
Anuradha Mittal, executive
director of The Oakland Institute and a native of India, is an
internationally renowned expert on trade, development, human
rights and agriculture.
Roberto Jordan, president of
the Reformed Church in Argentina, is a member of the executive
committee of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and one of
the drafters of the Accra Confession.
Lisa Schirch is professor of
peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University and program
director of the 3D Security Initiative, which promotes conflict
prevention and peacebuilding in U.S. security policymaking.
information on this website >>
For complete information on the Peacemaking Program website >>
From the Rev. W. Mark Koenig,
Presbyterian Peacemaking Program
(888) 728-7228, ext. 5936 (toll-free)
From the PC(USA)
Campaign for Fair Food
Top officials of the PC(USA) sign CIW petition to end modern-day
slavery and sweatshops in the fields
On Monday, March 10th, the Rev.
Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly,
and Ms. Linda Bryant Valentine, Executive Director of the
General Assembly Council, signed the Coalition of Immokalee
Workers' National Petition to End Modern-Day Slavery and
Sweatshops in the Fields.
"It is my sincere hope that by
my signing this petition other people of faith and conscience
will be inspired to make this commitment to advance human rights
as well," Dr. Kirkpatrick said. "And that Burger King, which has
worked so assiduously to avoid responsibility for shameful
conditions in the tomato fields of its suppliers, would change
course now and work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers."
the Presbyterian News Service story, "Petition drive to
end 'modern-day slavery' launched by church-backed
farmworkers: Campaign threatens boycott of Burger King."
Read Dr. Kirkpatrick's public statement on the signing
Read the CIW's petition and about the most recent slavery
Earth Day is Around the Corner!
207th General Assembly (1995) directed staff to “Advocate
environmental justice concerns through the Presbyterian Church
(U.S.A.) Washington Office on behalf of the poor and people of
color; and that the Washington Office assist congregations and
individuals in their advocacy efforts.”
As the impacts of global climate change become
clearer to us, through scientific understanding and anecdotal
evidence, it is clear that the world’s poorest communities will
bear the heaviest burden of climate catastrophe. Although global
climate change affects all human populations across the globe,
it hits those living in poverty the hardest because they depend
on the surrounding physical environment to supply their needs
and have limited ability to cope with climate variability and
Both in the United States and in countries
around the globe, climate change will first and most heavily
impact those living in poverty, through higher energy prices,
water scarcity, drought, crop failure, increased disease, and
As stewards of God’s good earth, we are called
to care for the environment and all the creatures that depend on
it to survive. Celebrate this year’s Earth Day, April 22, in a
worship service that lifts up the goodness and bounty of God’s
creation, and our responsibility toward it. The National Council
of Churches Eco-Justice Program is marking Earth Day Sunday (the
Sunday closest to Earth Day) by recognizing the
interconnectedness of poverty and climate change and offering a
resource for worship, adult study, and youth activities.
A worship planning resource for Earth Day
Sunday is now available - to obtain a copy visit
or contact the Eco-Justice Program office at
WITNESS IN WASHINGTON WEEKLY, produced by the Washington
Office of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
More on caring for Creation >>
Seven new deadly sins: are you guilty?
Pope Benedict XVI says that an increasing number
of people in the secularized West are making do without God
Drug pushers, the obscenely rich,
environmental polluters and “manipulative” genetic scientists
beware – you may be in danger of losing your mortal soul unless
After 1,500 years the Vatican has brought the
seven deadly sins up to date by adding seven new ones for the
age of globalization. The list, published recently in
L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, came as the
Pope deplored the “decreasing sense of sin” in today’s
“secularized world” and the falling numbers of Roman Catholics
going to confession.
According to this report, the seven new deadly
sins have a more clearly social dimension. They include “ruining
the environment, carrying out morally debatable scientific
experiments, or allowing genetic manipulations which alter DNA
or compromise embryos,” as well as using or dealing in drugs,
and social injustice which causes poverty or “the excessive
accumulation of wealth by a few.” Also mentioned were two mortal
sins that have long received great attention in the Roman
Catholic Church: abortion and pedophilia.
The full story, from The Times >>
So what do you think?
Would you like to nominate some other sin (or sins) for this Top
Let’s talk it over!
Just send a
note, to be shared here.
TORTURE IS A MORAL ISSUE
A call for contacting Congress
from the National Religious Campaign Against Torture
On Saturday, March 8, President Bush vetoed
H.R. 2082, an important piece of anti-torture legislation that
would have banned the use of waterboarding, stress positions,
induced hypothermia, and other so-called "harsh" interrogation
techniques by requiring all U.S. intelligence agencies,
including the CIA, to abide by the restrictions in the Army
Field Manual while conducting interrogations. H.R. 2082 was
passed by a majority of both houses of Congress.
Sometime this week, possibly as soon as
tomorrow, the U.S. House will vote on whether or not to override
the President's veto. It is very difficult to override a veto
(it requires a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress),
so the attempt to override may not be successful. That said, we
want to make every effort to convince as many Members of
Congress as possible to vote for the override.
Please call your Representative in Congress
and urge him or her to vote to override the President's veto of
H.R. 2082, the Intelligence Authorization bill. To contact your
Member of Congress you can call the Capitol switchboard at
(202)224-3121 and ask to speak with your Representative.
Thank you for your efforts to end
Linda Gustitus, President, NRCAT
Richard Killmer, Executive Director, NRCAT
Religious Campaign Against Torture
Justice For All
As stories about global warming, sustainable
energy, and climate change make headlines, the fact that some
neighborhoods, particularly low-income and minority communities,
are disproportionately toxic and poorly regulated has, until
recently, been all but ignored.
A new breed of
activists and social scientists are starting to capitalize on
the moment. In principle they have much in common with the
environmental justice movement, which came of age in the late
1970s and early 1980s, when grassroots groups across the country
began protesting the presence of landfills and other
environmentally hazardous facilities in predominantly poor and
though, the new leadership is taking a broader-based, more
inclusive approach. Instead of fighting a proposed refinery here
or an expanded freeway there, all along trying to establish that
systematic racism is at work in corporate America, today's
environmental justice movement is focusing on proactive
responses to the social ills and economic roadblocks that if
removed would clear the way to a greener planet.
The new movement
assumes that society as a whole benefits by guaranteeing safe
jobs, both blue-collar and white-collar, that pay a living wage.
That universal health care would both decrease disease and
increase awareness about the quality of everyone's air and
water. That better public education and easier access to job
training, especially in industries that are emerging to address
the global energy crisis, could reduce crime, boost self-esteem,
and lead to a homegrown economic boon.
The author of
this Utne article is Leyla Kokmen, who is the program
coordinator for the Health Journalism M.A. in the School of
Public Health at the University of Minnesota. She has been a
staff reporter at daily and weekly papers across the United
States, including the Twin Cities' City Pages, The
Seattle Times, and The Denver Post, where she
contributed to that newspaper's Pulitzer Prize-winning
coverage of the Columbine High School massacre.
Read this in Utne Reader ... or on
Baptist leaders call for action on climate change
From an AP
report: In a major shift, a group of Southern Baptist
leaders said their denomination has been "too timid" on
environmental issues and has a biblical duty to stop global
signed by the president of the Southern Baptist Convention among
others and released Monday, shows a growing urgency about
climate change even within groups that once dismissed claims of
an overheating planet as a liberal ruse. The conservative
denomination has 16.3 million members and is the largest
Protestant group in the U.S.
The full report >>
statement, with its preamble >>
Witherspoon (Reese, that is) works to end violence against
Untiring blogger and pastor (or maybe it should
be the other way ’round) John Shuck has mentioned actress Reese
Witherspoon before in connection with our sober and responsible
group The Witherspoon Society.
He has now seen a report that she is engaged
in work which certainly expresses some of our own concerns:
raising money for a UN fund to end violence against women.
See his blog >>
Read more in the AP report >>
Are you observing this weekend of protest and prayer and
witness for peace in Iraq?
Here’s some food for thought, or for talk
IRAQ BY THE NUMBERS
from Women’s Action for New Directions /
5 Number of years the Iraq war has
lasted. March 19, 2008, the 6th year begins.
3973 U.S.Deaths Confirmed By the DoD
(March 3, 2008)
MAY 2, 2003 The day the President arrived on
the deck of an aircraft carrier and declared "Mission
64% Percentage of Americans who oppose the war
in Iraq (CNN/Opinion Research Corporation Poll. Feb. 1-3, 2008)
57% Percentage of Iraqis who think it is
acceptable to attack American soldiers. (Up from 51% in March
and 17% back in February 2004.)
(August 2007: ABC;
BBC; NHK; D3 Systems of Vienna, Va.; and KA Research of Turkey)
81,000 - >1,000,000 Estimates of number of
civilians reported killed by military intervention in Iraq
(Epidemiologists have estimated that 655,000 more people have
died in Iraq since the war began in March 2003 than would have
died if the invasion had not occurred.)
49 Number of countries in the Coalition of
the Willing when the invasion began in 2003
25 Current number of countries supplying
11,685 troops — about 7% of the size of the U.S. forces.
million Number of displaced Iraqis: more than 2
million uprooted within Iraq, and as many have fled to
$500 billion Amount spent on the Iraq war as of
3/5/08; more is already approved and being spent daily. If
Congress provides additional supplemental appropriations
requested by President Bush ($192 billion in FY2008),
Congressional Research Service estimates that total war costs
will reach about $803 billion.
trillion Estimate of true cost of war by Nobel
Prize-winning economists (see over*).
$270 million How much the U.S. spends each day in Iraq
$390,000 Cost of deploying one U.S. soldier for one year
in Iraq (Congressional Research Service)
billion Amount lost & unaccounted for in Iraq
These facts and more are on
well done handout (in PDF format) prepared by WAND / Women’s
Action for New Directions.
Presbyterian groups meet to strengthen their work for a more
Representatives of various progressive Presbyterian advocacy
groups, assisted by the Carpenter Foundation and Plowshares
Institute, met last weekend at Stony Point Conference Center in
Stony Point , New York, to inform and support each of the
various groups in their work towards a more inclusive
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
The Witherspoon Society was
represented in the meeting by Board members John Harris and
Through discussion and
collaboration, the representatives agreed that it is important
for all of the groups to continue to educate and inform the
members of the PC(USA) of our hope for a church that will
eliminate the barriers to full participation by all people to
ordained service in our church and Jesus Christ. Each group
brings with it a different approach and a diverse membership,
but our unity lies in our vision of a welcoming and inclusive
The upcoming General Assembly
in San Jose will offer commissioners the opportunity to make
significant strides in that direction and it s the hope of each
group to offer a variety of resources, both individually and
collectively, that will aid the commissioners in sharing our
This news release comes
from Dick Hasbany, Presbyterian Promise
Phone: (203) 777-4579
Another comment on Jim Berkley
and Shannon O'Donnell, from Witherspoon Board member John Harris
In her book Speaking of
Faith, Krista Tippett writes "The precarious collusion of
political and spiritual frailty is quintessentially, tragically
embodied in the intractable conflict in the common Holy Land of
Christians, Muslims, and Jews. This is a root crisis of the
contemporary world." She states that after interviewing an
American Israeli journalist and two Palestinians, she quickly
found herself "entangled in the knot that Palestinians and
Israelis describe alike, of two distinct narratives for the same
lived history. One man’s ‘independence’ is another man's
‘catastrophe.’ One man's ‘hero’ is another man's ‘terrorist.’
One man's ‘emigrant’ is another man's ‘refugee.’ These are not
merely contrasts of vocabulary but of experience, imagination,
Could it be that
James D. Berkley, in his criticism of Shannon O’Donnell, and
Shannon, in her letter from the mission field,
offer two distinct narratives for the same lived history?
An open letter to the PC(USA)
From: Your Candidates and Inquirers for the
Ministry of Word and Sacrament who are Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender and Queer
This comes to us from Mieke Vandersall of
Re: Bush vs. Presbytery of Pittsburgh
PJC Ruling Regarding Ordination Standards and G-6.0106b
We, your sisters and brothers in Christ, your
colleagues in ministry, faithful members of Presbyterian
churches are saddened by the recent ruling of the Permanent
Judicial Commission (PJC) which singles out the requirement of
fidelity in heterosexual marriage and chastity in singleness as
an essential tenet of Reformed faith. This ruling contradicts
some of the most important work of the Peace Unity and Purity
Task Force, which put forward a more gracious and open way for
us to live together as the body of Christ in the midst of our
The rest of
the letter >>
two thoughtful responses to
yesterday on the Rev. James Berkley’s criticisms of mission
volunteer Shannon O’Donnell.
Shannon O’Donnell, Presbyterian mission volunteer in
Jerusalem, attacked by Jim Berkley of IRD
Well, no, he wouldn’t call it an attack. It’s a
A comment by Doug King, Witherspoon's
Shannon O’Donnell, who has been serving for
the past couple years as a Presbyterian long-term mission
volunteeron the staff of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation
Theology Center in Jerusalem, has recently drawn the attention
of the Rev. Jim Berkley, the Director of Presbyterian Action,
which is one section of the Institute on Religion and Democracy.
his blog >>
The Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD)
affirms as its primary value the Lordship of Christ, which “is
the first and final assertion Christians make about all of
reality, including politics.”
Beyond that (or better, reflecting that),
the Institute’s basic statement on “Christianity and Democracy,”
which was authored by the Rev. Richard John Neuhaus, affirms
democracy, human freedom, and the capitalist or market economy.
And they are dedicated to correcting the social witness of the
ecumenical churches that have strayed from these principles by
their over-emphasis on justice and equality. [This is my effort
to give a fair summary of the long paper by Neuhaus. I’m open to
correction, and fairly confident that I’ll receive it.]
The Witherspoon Society has been privileged to
provide modest financial support over the past couple years for
Shannon O’Donnell’s work. She in turn has provided us with
occasional – and very helpful – reports on her work, giving us
new insights into the situation of Palestinian Christians (and
others) living in and around Jerusalem.
for some of her reports, and links to more of them >>
We were fortunate
to have her as a participant and speaker at our conference on
global mission and justice in September, 2007.
Click here for her presentation to the conference >>
Out of our
respect for Shannon O’Donnell, and out of concern for
understanding the work of our Presbyterian Church in a
tragically divided and violent part of the world, I would like
to offer just a few reflections on Mr. Berkley’s blog.
I’d like to
summarize the errors of which he is accusing Ms. O’Donnell, and
offer just a brief comment on each of them. Rev. Berkley lists a
number of her “questionable behaviors,” but the major ones seem
She acknowledges that she thought about concealing some
information about her identity (“lying”), because she was afraid
of how the Jewish staff of the YMCA might react to her, as one
who lives and works with Palestinians. She decided to tell the
truth, however, and was pleased to find she was accepted in
spite of the suspicions that cloud life in that divided land. So
her error, in Mr. Berkley’s view, seems to be either that she
considered lying (though she didn’t do it), or that she
acknowledges considering it.
Comment: But let’s recognize that she just might
have been anxious about the tensions that are a huge part of
life in Jerusalem, especially for Palestinians and their
friends. She is surely aware that in such a difficult situation,
members of one group can sometimes be rude, hostile, even
threatening to members of a group they perceive as the “enemy.”
She was being “petty, self-centered, and inane” because she
decided not to endure the extra security measures around the
area where President Bush was staying.
Comment: I wonder whether Mr. Berkley has
traveled much through Palestine, not on the free-flowing
“Jewish” roads, but along the often impassible “Palestinian”
roads, with all the security barriers at which Palestinians must
submit to searches, and often to hours of delays, not to mention
She shows “prejudice” toward Jews when she says she “didn’t
expect to feel accepted at such a place on the west [Jewish]
side of town,” but she also says it is important not to judge
Comment: I wonder whether Mr. Berkley has ever
lived in a situation where he has been an object of prejudice on
the part of the dominant population. Sometimes we must simply be
realistic about the attitudes and behavior of a dominant and
hostile majority, even if one also struggles to keep an open
mind ... which was precisely what Ms. O’Donnell seemed to be
doing very well.
She fails to show enough love “for George W. Bush, for her own
country, and ... for the Jewish people and the government of
Israel.” Here may be her greatest failure in Mr. Berkley’s view,
and greatest need for his kindly correction.
Comment: To doubt the success of the President’s
peace-making efforts (though they are not looking terribly
successful right now – not entirely through the fault of Hamas),
to care deeply about the Palestinian people and to have some
critical views on Israel’s policies and actions toward them, may
in reality be far more deeply loving than a pious waving of
American and Israeli banners.
There’s more to
be said, but for now I would simply hope that we might try to
respect and understand people, before we offer them too quickly
our “correction” and “discipline.”
Dr. Neuhaus, in
his foundational essay for the IRD, offers a helpful thought
toward the end of the paper: “The issues are not simple. Our
answers are not infallible. We are prone to err and we live by
forgiveness.” Sounds pretty good to me. Might even be a good
model for us Presbyterians.
We welcome your comments!
Just send a
note, to be shared here.
Witness for Peace invites you to a 25th
anniversary celebration – with the Bridges of Hope Delegation to
Nicaragua, June 12-23, 2008
Issues Analyst Gene TeSelle has sent this note:
Witness for Peace was organized in April of
1983, when more than 150 people from the U.S. went to Nicaragua
to observe the contra war. When they were in Jalapa, a town on
the northern border, they noticed that the contras had withdrawn
when they arrived. They got the idea of establishing a permanent
presence of U.S. citizens to stand with the Nicaraguans and
document human rights abuses. Ever since then there have been
both long-term and short-term delegates, and Witness for Peace
has established similar delegations in other Latin American
In June the 25th anniversary will be
celebrated, with a delegation led by Gail Phares, a former
Maryknoll sister, who founded Witness for Peace and has been a
major source of inspiration all these years.
This delegation should be of interest to the
original delegates, of course. But it is of even more importance
to newer generations, who have the chance to become part of this
heritage and learn from it.
Gun Crazy – but it's time to seek a little sanity
The New York Times, in an editorial on
March 1, urged that US political leaders (and specifically,
those campaigning for the presidency) be called to account for
the lack of meaningful legislative action to rein in the
out-of-control availability of guns in this country.
Helpful measures might include requiring
background checks for every gun purchase, limiting each
individual to a maximum of one gun purchase per month (to limit
trafficking), and reviving the ban on the sale of assault
The full editorial >>
More on gun control issues >>
All in the Family:
the Witherspoon Society Heritage
Another article from the Winter 2008 issue of Network News.
Richard Poethig grew up in the working class
East Side tenements of New York, studied under Reinhold Niebuhr,
and served in urban-industrial mission in Buffalo, then in the
United Church of Christ in the Philippines, and then as Dean of
the Presbyterian Institute of Industrial Relations and Director
of the Institute on the Church in Urban-Industrial Society in
Chicago. Here he surveys the strong role of the
Presbyterian Church in justice-oriented ministry through the
twentieth century. He reminds us that the Witherspoon Society,
and the whole social justice commitment and mission of the
PC(USA), are deeply rooted in this urban-industrial mission,
with their commitment to the labor movement as a vehicle for the
growth of social justice.
Four candidates seek election as GA Moderator
Since late November 2007, a total of four
Presbyterians have declared their interest in serving as
Moderator of the 218th General Assembly when it
gathers in June in San Jose, and for the following two years.
The Witherspoon Society has a practice of not
endorsing any candidate for the position, but we do want to
provide basic information on the candidates, and help our
readers to find more information, especially if they will be
serving as GA commissioners with the responsibility for electing
the Moderator at the beginning of the Assembly.
We are providing now the Presbyterian News
Service reports of each candidacy as it was announced, along
with links to the websites of the candidates. We encourage
you to get in touch with any or all of the candidates through
their websites, asking your questions and letting them know
your concerns and convictions.
Also, we will soon be sending a short list of
questions to each of the candidates, seeking their responses to
be published in the Spring 2008 issue of our newsletter,
Network News, which will be sent to all commissioners and
advisory delegates, and will also be posted here.
The four candidates are listed here in the
order in which they announced their candidacies. They are:
We invite any and all of the candidates to
submit occasional "think pieces" of their own for posting here,
although we may need to exercise some editorial judgment to
insure that submissions from no one candidate too far out-weigh
those from the others.
And you our readers are invited to share
comments as well -- as long as they are not [in the opinion
of your WebWeaver!] in bad taste, overly hostile or personal, or
mere "campaign speeches" for or against any one candidate.
Just send your notes to
(and please identify yourself -- no anonymous notes will be
Coalition of Immokalee Workers
launches petition campaign to end modern-day slavery and
sweatshops in the fields
Taking a page out of abolitionist history, the Coalition of
Immokalee Workers has launched a petition campaign calling on
Burger King and other food industry leaders to work with the CIW
to pay a penny more per pound to farmworkers harvesting tomatoes
and to establish a enforceable, human-rights based code of
conduct to end modern-day slavery and other abuses in the
fields. The petition puts the industry on notice that
signatories "are prepared to stop patronizing Burger King now
and other food industry leaders in the future, should they fail
to do so." The petitions will be presented to Burger King later
in the spring during a peaceful action at the company's Miami
Presbyterians across the
country are already hard at work collecting signatures and
drawing attention to the exploitative effect that the purchasing
practices of Burger King and other retail food corporations are
having on the men and women who harvest our tomatoes. [Read more
and take action
The launch of this petition
campaign comes on the heels of a January 2008 federal indictment
for the seventh case of modern-day slavery to emerge from
Florida's fields in the past ten years. Petition campaigns and
consumer actions by British citizens helped hasten the abolition
of the British slave trade in 1807. The CIW petition campaign
honors the 200th anniversary of the US ban against the
importation of slaves (1808), and echoes the petition strategy
of the early abolitionist movement.
The PC(USA) Campaign for Fair
Food encourages Presbyterians to circulate this petition and to
do so in creative ways! For example, the First Presbyterian
Church of Hollywood, in Tropical FL Presbytery where Burger King
is headquartered, plans to collect thousands of signatures on
petitions designed as tomatoes, then assemble them into a plant
that will be part of the procession to present the petitions to
Burger King later in the Spring. Students and faculty at
Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary are gathering
signatures at their upcoming alumni event and plan to hold a
press conference and action highlighting the petition in light
of the fact that Louisville was a stop on the US slave depot 200
What will you do? Get your
creative juices flowing: visit
. And send us your stories. How is are you planning to garner
signatures? Email your plans, events and photos to
so that your efforts can inspire others!
Ecumenical Advocacy Days is
March 7 - 10!
The 2008 Advocacy Days:
Claiming a Vision of True Security is March 7 – 10. Visit
http://www.advocacydays.org for more information and to register today.
This year’s conference promises to be an
exciting event. The vision statement states, “As people of faith
and hope, we believe our nation is entering – and must enter --
an era of renewal and re-creation. The conviction is now
widespread that it is time to envision and act on a new pathway
to true human security – one which seeks not only the absence of
tension, but the presence of justice (Rev. Dr. Martin Luther
King, Jr.) The 2008 Ecumenical Advocacy Days assembly will
explore new visions of security in our homes, neighborhoods,
nation and world.”
Locked Up: Letters and Papers of a Prisoner of Conscience
Imprisoned for six months in 2004 as a result of
his protest at the School of the Americas, Witherspoon member
Don Beisswenger offers a personal collection of journal entries,
letters, and spiritual reflections during his incarceration. The
book has unusual richness and concreteness as Beisswenger
narrates his encounters with prisoners, prison staff, and many
people on the "outside." In the process he offered a pastoral
presence and a prophetic challenge within the prison system. And
he also gives an account of his own spiritual growth and the
things that made prison life bearable. (from Witherspoon
Issues Analyst Gene TeSelle)
reports on his arrest and imprisonment, and his own reflections
His book is published by Upper Room Books,
with a list price of $15. ISBN: 083589939X
For an index to all our reports
on the 219th General Assembly
For links to
all our archive pages, listed by months,
Some blogs worth visiting
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.
for Life" website
Long-time and stimulating blogger John Shuck,
a Presbyterian minister currently
serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton,
Tenn., writes about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized
and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and
Click here for his blog posts.
Click here for podcasts of his radio program, which "explores
the intersection of religion, social justice and public life."
John Harris’ Summit to
Theological and philosophical
reflections on everything between summit to shore, including
kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology,
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
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
Got more blogs to recommend?
send a note, and we'll see what we can do!