Archives: June 2003
More comments on the San
Diego Presbytery "guidelines"
Gene TeSelle's comments on the
"guidelines" adopted by the Presbytery of San Diego for the guidance
of candidates for ordination - and for those examining them - have drawn a
fair amount of attention.
Herbert Valentine sent a note already posted here.
We've received a number of other stimulating and
thoughtful comments -- and offer them, along with a link to the
fascinating report by The Layman.
We invite you to join in the conversation!
some interesting comments on the
Supreme Court's decision on same-sex relationships.
Now we know ...
a sacrament, says Presbyterian Senator Bill Frist.
"For Protestants, Charges Of Heresy Runneth Over"
(We note the headline writer got the King James English
wrong, but hey, who's to quibble?)
In a thoughtful
column in the Washington Post, the Rev. Henry Brinton, pastor
of Fairfax (VA) Presbyterian Church, explores the ways in which
"litigiousness has taken hold in Protestant denominations across the
He asserts that "in all of these cases, whether they
arise over Christology or sexuality, reveal an ongoing, and growing,
tension -- the tension between diversity and purity. Proponents of
diversity want to accept a broader range of sexual orientations and
theological perspectives, while believers in purity want to enforce
traditional morality and theological clarity."
Mentioning the 20-plus cases brought in the Presbyterian
Church by Mr. Paul Rolf Jensen, including the one that resulted in the
removal of the Rev. Steve Van Kuiken from the ministry, he adds: "The
basic problem with law enforcement in the Christian church is that Jesus
Christ himself was no legalist. He frequently broke established purity
laws to minister to outcasts in his own society. Pastors like Van Kuiken
argue that they are being faithful to Jesus when they break with tradition
to marry gays and lesbians, and in many cases they have the full support
of their congregations. Van Kuiken's 280-member Mount Auburn Presbyterian
Church is about one-third gay, and it has long been committed to the full
participation of homosexuals. While Paul Jensen certainly had a legal
right to file an allegation against Van Kuiken, his complaint was not
grounded in the convictions or experiences of Van Kuiken's Cincinnati
New book outlines conservative strategy
for gaining control of United Methodist Church
Your WebWeaver is taking a few days off. I hope to be back on
task on the Fourth of July.
Court Strikes Down Gay Sex Ban
Associated Press reports that the Supreme Court has just struck down a ban
on gay sex, ruling that the law was an unconstitutional violation of
privacy. The 6-3 ruling reverses course from a ruling 17 years ago that
states could punish homosexuals for what such laws historically called
The AP says, "The case is a major reexamination of the
rights and acceptance of gay people in the United States. More broadly, it
also tests a state's ability to classify as a crime what goes on behind
the closed bedroom doors of consenting adults."
The Human Rights Campaign offers
Press report giving more details on the decision.
HRC's own press release on the decision.
Here are links
to the full texts of the Supreme Court opinions:
|Reflecting on the
215th General Assembly:
commissioner wonders: "Where are
the mystics in our church? I see plenty of lawyers. Where are
the artists, the dreamers, the lovers?"
We've already received
one thoughtful, deeply
personal response from the Rev. Bill LeMosy.
Moderator Herbert Valentine
comments on the "guidelines" issued by San Diego Presbytery.
If you missed it, you may want to check out
Gene TeSelle's discussion
of the guidelines.
A New Fundamentalism?
San Diego Presbytery issues "guidelines" for
On June 17 the Presbytery of San Diego adopted a
Tenets and Reformed Distinctives. It describes itself as
"guidelines for preparing and evaluating candidates through the Committee
on Preparation for Ministry, directing [sic!] incoming ministers through
the Committee on Ministry and the Presbytery of San Diego, and educating
Analyst Gene TeSelle takes a careful look at these "guidelines," examining
the conservative -- or more accurately perhaps, fundamentalist --
interpretations given to many of the "essential tenets" and the "distinctives"
of the Presbyterian Church.
He concludes that this
document seems likely to be put forward in other presbyteries as well, and
expresses concern "that it will be used
precisely as a "blunt instrument" to condemn those who fail to use the
shibboleths that prevail in some circles but are by no means an adequate
expression of the Reformed faith and its confessions."
German scholars ponder American Empire
Martin Marty summarizes comments from four scholars in Germany as they
observe the rise of the new "American Empire." Their remarks are moderate
in tone, but reflect clear concern - in the words of David Rieff - about
the Bush administration's "irenic, unshakeable belief ... that an American
empire will never be corrupted by its own power in the way that all
previous empires in human history have been; that it will, by
definition, be a force for good in the world," and that any questioning of
that certainty is ... un-American.
Revealed: US plan to 'own' space
As part of a plan to ensure its total military supremacy,
the U.S. is preparing to complete the domination of space -- by any means
necessary. Neil Mackay explains the terrifying new face of global warfare
in the June 22, 2003,
Sunday Herald of Scotland.
Thanks to Arch Taylor for this report.
The Witherspoon Society continues to serve as the one
independent voice in the Presbyterian Church offering a broad witness to
our church's historic commitments to peace and justice -- in our church,
our nation, our world.
We invite you to
join your voice to that witness.
Please become a member!
|More on Van
Kuiken, ministry, and the church
Last Friday, June
20, we posted a statement
by the board of the Witherspoon Society, commenting on the action of
the Presbytery of Cincinnati to remove the Rev. Steve Van Kuiken from the
We've now added links to a variety of
comments on the Van Kuiken case -- from the Cincinnati press,
Presbyterian publications, and advocacy groups.
We have also received a number of
thoughtful comments on our
statement, which we invite you to ponder -- and perhaps you'll want to
add your own thoughts.
The United Church of Canada commends
Ottawa's action on same-sex unions
The Violence in Israel/Palestine:
A Predictable Consequence of a
Flawed Road Map....and what we can do about it.
What can be done to realize any kind of peace in the
Rabbi Michael Lerner of the Tikkun Community has posted a
letter that people may want to send (with any alterations they might choose
to add) to their Senators and Congresspersons. In it he sets forth a number
of concrete suggestions, including:
|strong statements by the US that terrorists acts will
not be allowed to halt the peace process - thereby removing the veto power
now held by extremists on both sides;|
|unequivocal statements "that the United States supports
and will insist upon a Palestinian state throughout the West Bank and
Gaza, and a return of Israel to the pre-67 borders with "minor border
modifications" ... and that these minor modifications will be negotiated
right now, at the beginning of the process."|
|international funding to compensate Palestinians who
choose to live within the Palestinian state, as well as for Jews who fled
Arab lands from 1948-67, and "funds to resettle Israeli settlers within
the pre-67 borders of Israel."|
|"the introduction of an international
force to provide a buffer between the two sides by separating them and
Witherspoon Society comments on Cincinnati Presbytery action to remove
the Rev. Steve Van Kuiken from the ministry
send a note for us to share here!
A prayer after the defeat
of Des Moines overture
After the debate on
the Des Moines overture, calling for the removal G-6.0106b from the Book
of Order, the Assembly voted in essence to take no action. Moderator Susan
Andrews, at the close of that session of the Assembly, invited Bill Moss,
co-moderator of More Light Presbyterians, to lead the commissioners in the
His prayer seemed to capture the feelings of many -
feelings of sorrow for the continuing injustice in our church, commitment
to the continuing struggle, and hope that in time justice will come.
|More on the
"Changing Families" report
Our little note on the
new light being shed (by the Governor of Alabama, no less!) on
the need for greater
government support for families elicited
a comment from James Berkley,
Issues Ministry Director of Presbyterians for
We're still receiving comments on the Assembly's decision to reject the Des Moines
overture to delete G-6.0106b from the Book of Order. The
latest comes from
Presbyterians for Renewal, who proclaim "not now, not later."
Rev. Steve Van Kuiken ousted over gay marriages
The Rev. Stephen Van Kuiken, pastor of Mt. Auburn
Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, has been removed from the ministry by
the Presbytery of Cincinnati, in an action taken Monday evening, June 16.
Presbyterians has issued a statement commenting on the precipitous
nature of the presbytery's action, and offering it support for Van Kuiken
and the congregation.
has sent us the full text of his ten-minute statement to the presbytery,
prior to their vote.
The Rev. John
Shuck sent us, earlier on the 16th, his helpful summary of
what led up to the presbytery's decision, and his own commentary on it.
May Freely Serve offers a good selection of reports on its home page.
click here for the AP report.
The occupation of Iraq
|There's a very funny little
"computer error message" on the web. It begins:
These Weapons of Mass Destruction cannot be displayed. The weapons
you are looking for are currently unavailable. The country might
be experiencing technical difficulties, or you may need to adjust
your weapons inspectors' mandate.
But you should really
see the whole
Thanks to Herb Valentine
Mental Health Parity
alert suggests thanking President Bush for supporting mental health
parity, and asking him to call for its passage in Congress.
reports and analysis
dealing with G-6.0106b:
At what speed?
This website doesn't offer many essays in statistics,
but here's a good one! Becky Lindsay was present at the 215th
General Assembly as an alternate commissioner, and analyzes the
various approaches to "Amendment B" using the statistical concept of
the "outlier" - one bit a data that lies far outside the rest, and
thereby exerts a significant influence on the rest. The lgbt people
at the Assembly played just that role, she suggests - exerting a
real influence on a small sample of commissioners (the committee
that sent the Des Moines overture to the full Assembly), but less
able for various reasons to have such an impact on the whole
the "Changing Families" report ... thanks to the Governor of Alabama
The recent 215th General Assembly decided
to send the report on "Changing Families" back for further work. One
argument seemed to be that the report was too critical of America's
economic and cultural values, because it asserted that greed and
materialism are major causes of problems for families.
Now comes a report that the very conservative and
very religious governor of the State of Alabama seems to agree. He
is pushing a tax reform that would shift a significant amount of the
state's tax burden from the poor to wealthy individuals and
corporations. "And he has framed the issue in starkly moral terms,
arguing that the current Alabama tax system violates biblical
teachings because Christians are prohibited from oppressing the
New York Times reports this interesting move toward
justice - and a better future for families.
Thanks to Donna Riley for this
|The occupation of Iraq
Is there anything left that matters?
Sister Joan Chittister, a long-time worker for
justice, peace, and equality for women in the Church and in society,
listens to the Administration claiming that while we haven't caught
Osama bin Laden, it doesn't matter. And we haven't found Saddam
Hussein, but that doesn't matter either. And the "weapons of mass
destruction" for which President Bush led us so boldly into war?
They don't seem to be there. But that doesn't matter either.
But, she says, the suffering we have caused to the
people of Iraq; the cost to people in the United States whose
support is being cut supposedly because of the cost of the war; the
Americans who have lost loved ones in the fighting or the accidents;
the systematic undermining of the integrity and authority of the UN
- these matter.
"The unspoken truth is that either as a people we
were misled, or we were lied to, about the real reason for this war.
Either we made a huge ---- and unforgivable ---- mistake, an
arrogant or ignorant mistake, or we are swaggering around the world
like a blind giant, flailing in all directions while the rest of the
world watches in horror or in ridicule."
It's time, she concludes, for the people of this
nation - that claims to be a democracy - to do their duty and stop
the lies, the deceptions, the terrible waste of this war. These
things do matter.
Taco Bell boycott and protest yield impressive results
Affinity group reports for 2002 are now posted
The 2000 General Assembly directed the Office of the
General Assembly "to request that all affinity groups that use the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in their name provide information to assist
commissioners in understanding the goals of each affinity group and whom
they represent." The 2001 Assembly changed the amount of information
requested, and made compliance with the request voluntary.
A number of Presbyterian organizations are not even
asked for such information - including the Presbyterian Lay Committee,
parent of The Presbyterian Layman. A number of others receive the
request but have not responded.
The responses that have been received are
posted on the PC(USA)
website, all in PDF format.
The information requested is so limited, and many of the
responses are so vague, that you won't learn a great deal. But there are
some interesting tidbits among them.
Since Mr. Paul Rolf Jensen filed charges against recently "retired"
Moderator Fahed Abu-Akel, we've received
more notes expressing
support for him.
you think you know a lot?
We thoughtfully offer a little quiz for
People Who Know Everything.
reports and analysis
A summary of GA events and actions has
been prepared with Witherspoon Issues Analyst Gene TeSelle. It's
being mailed to all Witherspoon members, but you can read it here
|As you likely
have heard, the Des Moines
overture to delete G-6.0106b from the Book of Order was
rejected by the Assembly. A substitute motion to reject
section A, to delete G-6.0106b, and to approve section B, which
would dispose of all authoritative interpretations, was defeated by
180 to 354. A motion to to reject the entire
overture was approved by 431 to 92.
Responses to the rejection of the Des Moines
few comments from our website visitors.
Please send us
your own comments!
Just send a note from here.
Here are some responses from various advocacy
groups to the Assembly's action in rejecting Overture 03-07, from
the Presbytery of Des Moines.
And news reports:
We'd like to hear your comments!
send a note, and we'll share it here.
|More recent stories are archived on the
July, 2003 page.
|Earlier stories are indexed on the
May, 2003, archive page.
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!