News of the PC(USA) --
archive for January through May, 2003
Click here for all
the more recent stories on the PC(USA).
Earlier stories are indexed:
Jensen sues Abu-Akel for slander in civil
Moderator asks for vindication
Presbyterian Outlook reports
that Paul Rolf Jensen, the lawyer who has filed more than 20 disciplinary
cases in the courts of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), now has filed a
civil lawsuit in California against a top Presbyterian leader -- suing
Fahed Abu-Akel, moderator of the PC(USA)'s 214th General
Assembly, for slander. In response to
Jensen's lawsuit, Abu-Akel has filed a request for vindication with
Greater Atlanta Presbytery, of which he is a member.
Trina Zelle calls PHEWA folks to heed Isaiah's call to
do a really new thing in the world
-- a sermon on Isaiah 58:6-12 [5-19-03]
For the closing worship service at the conference of the
Presbyterian Health, Education and Welfare Association, held this past
January in San Antonio, TX, the Rev. Trina Zelle was the preacher. Her
sermon was mentioned by many as one of the high points of the event, and
we're happy to share it here.
New Jersey church prepares to stand against zoning ban on
social ministries [5-8-03]
Last Monday, May 5, we posted
a call for supportive prayers
from First Presbyterian Church in Pitman, NJ, as their social ministry
through a food pantry and a counseling service were being challenged by
their local zoning board.
Thanks to the Rev. Bruce Gillette for this update:
The First Presbyterian Church in Pitman, NJ, is very grateful for the many
prayers for our church and the email notes of support.
The Pitman Zoning Board voted on May 6th to finalize its
earlier decision to tell our congregation that we may no longer continue
an ecumenical food pantry and counseling services in a house owned by our
church. We believe their action violates numerous state, federal and
Our Session and Deacons have decided to continue these
ministries (feeding the poor and helping the troubled are what churches
are called to do) even if legal action is taken against our church by the
Borough. We are grateful to the Rev. Dean Waldt for his prayers and
encouraging his law firm to support our church.
We ask for your prayers for many families and
individuals we serve with the food pantry and counseling services, our
church and five other congregations that support these shared ministries,
the handful of neighbors who oppose these ministries and the Zoning Board.
Background information is now available
on our church web
The local paper, the Gloucester County Times, carried
a report on 5-8-03.
Reformed historian and Princeton Seminary Professor Edward A.
Dowey dies at age 85
Princeton, NJ, May 6, 2003 -
[posted here 5-8-03] - Dr. Edward A. Dowey Jr., professor of Christian
doctrine emeritus at Princeton Theological Seminary and an eminent scholar
and historian of the Reformed theological tradition, died at Princeton
Medical Center on May 5, 2003, from complications of Parkinson's Disease.
Seminary's report of his death notes: "His foremost contribution to
his denomination was as chair of the Committee on a Brief Contemporary
Statement of Faith of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., which
wrote the Confession of 1967."
Prayers requested for a church's
freedom for ministry [5-5-03]
Bruce Gillette, who with his wife and co-pastor has often
contributed material to this website, asks prayers for his congregation,
First Presbyterian Church in Pitman, NJ, as the zoning board in their
community reconsiders its action forbidding their congregation to provide
space for an ecumenical food pantry and counseling services in a house
owned by the church.
Liberal pastor retires after long ministry in Pittsburgh
The Rev. John
McCall is retiring from his 33-year pastorate at Sixth Presbyterian Church
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette offers a thoughtful look at the ministry
of a "liberal pastor" of a More Light congregation, where the Rev. Fred
(Mister) Rogers and his family worshiped.
Even in predominantly conservative Pittsburgh
Presbytery, McCall has maintained good relationships with his colleagues.
The Rev. Doug Pratt, pastor of Memorial Park Presbyterian Church in
McCandless and a vocal opponent of gay ordination, is quoted as saying
"I've never found him to be one to try to stir up contention. ... I sense
in him an integrity and sincerity. I have nothing but admiration for him
And McCall said in the interview that he doesn't believe
in maligning those he disagrees with: "I've always cautioned people who
are my allies in this cause that the other side is not the enemy."
Faithfully with Families in Transition"
One major report coming
to the 215th General Assembly will be a policy statement on
Faithfully with Families in Transition." It looks at the many
meanings of "family" in our time and explores how these varied kinds of
families can raise children faithfully and responsibly.
The Rev. Dr. Barbara Gaddis, who chaired the committee
that wrote the document, offers her comments on it.
The right wing of the church is publishing
we provide links to some of them here.
The trial of the Rev. Steve Van Kuiken, pastor of Mt. Auburn
Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, OH, begins on Tuesday, April 8.
For updates on the trial you can
check these websites:
The Mt. Auburn congregation, which offers links to many other
reports and background materials|
which plans to hold a vigil "to protest the Presbyterian Church's
anti-gay policies and teachings and to support Rev. Van Kuiken."|
Cincinnati clergy write
in support of the Rev. Steve Van Kuiken
upholds moderator's decision not to call special Assembly
Says Abu-Akel acted improperly in urging commissioners not
to press for special meeting
The Office of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
For immediate release Thursday, March 20,
In the remedial complaint brought by the
Session of the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Canton, Ohio, against
the Moderator of the 214th General Assembly (2002), the General Assembly
Permanent Judicial Commission has ruled that the Moderator was in order
when he did not reconvene the 214th General Assembly.
Highlights from the ruling include:
Commenting on the commission's ruling, the Moderator
said, " I ask the church to join me in lifting up in prayer those who are
in disagreement with this decision, as well as those who are in agreement
with it, hoping that we will be reconciled to one another."
For other reports:
Presbyterian News Service
Full text of the decision from Office of the General Assembly
from Kirkpatrick and Abu-Akel [3-18-03]
In his monthly Stated Clerk's column, Clifton Kirkpatrick
recalls us to the Prayer of St.
And Moderator Fahed Abu-Akel reports on his mission trip through Asia. He
urges Presbyterians to seek spiritual renewal, pursue unity in the midst
of diversity, adopt one local and one global mission project, and practice
for One Great Hour of Sharing
Many Presbyterian churches support the One Great Hour of
Sharing offering during Lent. Check out the OGHS web site for "minute for
mission" material and many other creative ideas:
Howard Warren dies
Howard Warren, a long-time and
passionate advocate for GLBT justice in the Presbyterian Church (USA),
died Friday, March 14, after a long illness. He was a long-time member of
Presbyterians for Lesbian and Gay Concerns, the forerunner of More Light
Presbyterians, and founder of Presbyterians Act Up. He often appeared at
General Assemblies, carrying placards protesting the church's exclusionary
policies - and sometimes shouting out for justice in tones worthy of the
Theology matters - in support for our denomination, too.
Network has just posted the results of their study comparing the giving to
General Assembly mission, as well as presbytery and synod mission, by the
420 Covenant Network and/or More Light churches and the 1,255 churches in
the so-called "Confessing Church Movement."
Their conclusion: "Although they are on average the same
size, the 420 CovNet and/or MLP churches give on average more than
twice as much to G.A. mission, and more than two and a half times
as much to presbytery and synod mission, as do "confessing" churches."
Christ Church, Burlington, has satisfied Pastoral Committee
Committee" that was named to work with
Christ Church, Burlington, VT, has found that the church's statement
adopted in June 2002, replacing its earlier statement of "defiance," is "a
thoughtful attempt to state the session's understanding, perspective and
views ... [and] does not defy or violate the Constitution."
Presbyterian Outlook provides
the text of the Pastoral Committee's report,
with links to related documents.
Witherspooners speak out
and pray in support of Moderator
Witherspoon conference ended with a closing service of worship about 12:30
this afternoon - Saturday, March 8. It's been a great weekend, and there
are lots of things to share, but for now, just this:
Friday evening someone suggested that we speak out in
some way to express our support for Moderator Fahed Abu-Akel. So this
morning we posted a very short statement to the Moderator, and invited
anyone who wished, to write their own notes to him.
Here is the message
from the Witherspoon Society, along with all the notes that people added
to it. We will send the original sheets to the Moderator.
If you would like to add your name and message to this
modest expression of support, please send a note and we'll add it to this
list and forward it to the Moderator.
Click here to send your note.
Bob Van Marter, longtime church leader, dies
Presbyterian News Service
reports that Robert G. Van Marter, a layman who served as stated clerk
of Olympia Presbytery for 18 years and of the Synod of Alaska-Northwest
for 10 years, died on March 10 at his home in Tacoma, WA. He was 84. His
son is Jerry Van Marter of the News Service.
We extend our sympathy to Jerry and his family.
General Assembly Permanent Judicial Commission upholds the Synod of the
Pacific PJC in dismissing complaints on the ordination of Katie Morrison,
a "self-acknowledged lesbian." [3-5-03]
We have the full text
of the decision.
Will decide whether Abu-Akel should have reconvened
Presbyterian News Service reports that the Permanent
Judicial Commission (PJC) of the General Assembly has scheduled a trial for
March 17 on whether or not Moderator Fahed Abu-Akel should have ordered a
special meeting of last year's Assembly after receiving a petition bearing
the requisite number of commissioners' signatures.
The full text of the PJC
decision is available on another page.
Pressuring Taco Bell --
Tomato pickers, supporters start 2nd week of hunger strike
Presbyterian News Service reports on the
second week of a fast by more than 50 farm workers and their supporters
(including Presbyterians) outside Taco Bell's corporate headquarters in
Irvine, CA, in support of demands for negotiations for decent wages
and working conditions.
PJC considers accusations against Moderator Fahed Abu-Akel and Stated
Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick [3-3-03]
The Layman Online reports on the deliberations of the GA
Permanent Judicial Commission on the complaint from Westminster
Presbyterian Church in Canton, Ohio, that the Moderator and the Stated
Clerk have violated the Constitution of the PC(USA) by not calling a
special session of the 214th General Assembly. The PJC is
expected to issue its recommendation for or against a trial shortly.
One observer noted that the reporter did a good job of
outlining the positions of the two sides.
task force meets again [2-27-03]
Presbyterian News Service offers two reports on the recent
meeting of the Task Force on the Peace, Unity and Purity of the Church.
For the first time
they have discussed homosexuality. [Some observers have noted
significant misunderstandings of homosexual orientation and behavior in
the report of that discussion.]
They went on to discuss their differing views of
Scripture and the confessions as
foundations for belief and behavior.
More Light Presbyterians adopt
"A Declaration of Faith
and Call to Action," as a clear statement of
their strategic direction. The opening lines tell the story: "Justice
knows no season. Justice cannot wait. An unjust standard is no standard at
MLP posts list of welcoming churches
More light Presbyterians has launched a
new web resource to help people seeking congregations that are offer a
genuine welcome to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons and
their families. The information bank, available via the web at
provides church names, addresses and phone numbers, links to web sites,
and information about specific actions each church has taken to
demonstrate its welcome.
The listing includes congregations that are officially
"More Light," as well as "hundreds of other congregations that have
offered other ways of striving to create a more welcoming atmosphere
within their churches." This includes churches that have affirmed Covenant
Network's "A Call to Covenant Community" and those that support regional
evangelists for That All May Freely Serve.
Charges filed against Cincinnati pastor
The Presbytery of
Cincinnati filed charges against the Rev. A. Stephen Van Kuiken on Feb.
10, alleging two violations of the Presbyterian Church (USA) Constitution.
This is the first of more than 20 cases filed by attorney Paul Jensen that
has made it to trial.
The Layman Online carries the first report we've seen.
The first charge against Van Kuiken, who is pastor of
the Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, is that he has
participated in the ordination and installation of deacons and elders who
are in violation of section G-60106(b) of the Book of Order.
The second charge is that he has "performed and/or condoned and
facilitated the performance by others of same-sex marriage ceremonies at
the Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church."
Van Kuiken has commented that the Investigating
Committee for his case offered him an "alternative resolution," but only
if he would admit that what he has done is wrong, and would promise not to
do those things again. He could not accept those terms, because he
believes both of those actions are right, and he must continue to do them.
Presbytery of Santa Fe passes resolution
of support for the Moderator and Stated Clerk, beginning with the
We, the members of The Presbytery of Santa Fe, stand
with the Moderator of the 214th General Assembly and the Stated Clerk
during these times of unprecedented pressure. [2-14-03]
Executive Committee of GA PJC declares that complaint
against Moderator and Stated Clerk should be dismissed
The Layman Online reports that the executive committee of the
Permanent Judicial Commission of the General Assembly, denomination's
highest court, has declared that the complaint filed by the session of
Westminster Presbyterian Church in Canton, Ohio, should be dismissed. The
preliminary order, which must go to the full PJC for final action, holds
that the complaint "does not state a claim upon which relief can be
The Session charged that accuses Stated Clerk Clifton
Kirkpatrick and Moderator Fahed Abu-Akel are guilty of conspiring to
invalidate a petition that required them to call the 214th General
Assembly back into session to deal with constitutional issues.
Click here for background
Self-Development of People approves
44 projects totaling
The National Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development
of People (SDOP) approved funding for 44 projects totaling $662.198 during a
meeting in Los Angeles, Jan. 24-25.
The report lists all the projects.
|Moderator and Stated Clerk send
pastoral letter to the church
Moderator Fahed Abu-Akel and Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick have sent a
pastoral letter to all Presbyterian churches. In it they explain the
decision not to call a special session of the General Assembly, and invite
the people of our church "to join a growing chorus of voices across the
country, calling for the United States to exercise restraint, to refrain
from taking pre-emptive military action against Iraq, and to seek peaceful
resolutions to the current crisis."
Witherspooner's report on the 2003 PHEWA conference:
Exploring a multiethnic church in good company
|Presbytery of the
Palisades affirms support for the Moderator and Stated Clerk
resolution, approved at the presbytery's January 28th stated
meeting, acknowledges the "intense theological discussion and conflict"
within the church, calls for "a time of prayer, repentance and
reconciliation," and "objects to the tactics of personal attack and
disinformation used by some to discredit the leadership of the Moderator and
In addition, the presbytery "call[s] for an end to the
attempts to force them to act outside the boundaries of their offices and
apart from the polity established by the Constitution that guides
all governing bodies and leaders in our church."
Witherspoon board member Barbara Kellam-Scott
comments on the call for a special session as an indication of our
differing ways of dealing with frustrations, and of conflicting views of
the church's life and mission -- as calling people out of "the world" into
righteousness, or as reaching out to the world in love and service for the
sake of justice. We need to get beyond that false split, she urges.
|There will be no
special meeting of the 214th General Assembly.
In a carefully worded Jan.
24 letter to all 554 commissioners to last year's Assembly, moderator the
Rev. Fahed Abu-Akel said that a petition submitted to him Jan. 14 by Alex
Metherell, a Presbyterian elder in Laguna Beach, CA, does not contain enough
signatures to force the calling of an unprecedented special meeting of the
214th General Assembly.
GAC approves a positive review of the
work of PHEWA (the Presbyterian Health, Education and Welfare
|A group at
St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Austin, TX, invites people to join in
a workshop on non-violent
resistance in GLBT issues
And they'll provide
housing and local transportation for guests at the March event!
No action for an inclusive church
The Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area,
in assembly on January 11, 2003, approved a motion by the Rev. Tim
Hart-Andersen to take no action on a proposed overture that would call for
the deletion of G-6.0106b from the Presbyterian Book of Order.
"liberal" listens and learns at the
Celebrate! student conference
Witherspoon staffer Ann Euston attended the
recent quadrennial ecumenical student conference in Albuquerque. She
reports on the excitement of the event, and reflects on the challenge
that concerned students present to older progressives today, to
"Help us to do right in a world forever doing wrong."
Theology Conference will focus on "We Believe in One
The Theology and Worship Office of the PC(USA) is
planning the 3rd Churchwide Theology Convocation, to be held
in Pittsburgh on April 23-26, 2003.
The theme is "We Believe in One God."
Speakers will include Ellen Charry, Princeton
Seminary; S. Mark Heim, Andover Newton; Marianne Meye Thompson, Fuller
Seminary; Colin Gunton, Kings College, London; Mark Labberton, First
Church, Berkeley, California.
information is available on the PC(USA) web site (but only in PDF
format!). Or call Nohra Carrillo at 1-888-728-7228, ext. 5335. Or e-mail
Program Coordinator Dale Jackson.
comments on amendments soon to be voted on by presbyteries
The 214th General Assembly (2002) of the Presbyterian
Church (USA) approved 13 amendments to the Book of Order and
recommended them to the 173 presbyteries for ratification.
Do you have comments on any of these proposed
amendments? Please send a
note and we'll share it here!
2002 GA now going to presbyteries.
The 214th General Assembly (2002) of the Presbyterian
Church (USA) approved 13 amendments to the Book of Order and
recommended them to the 173 presbyteries for ratification.
God's daily e-mail [1-4-03]
Witherspooner Bruce Gillette reminds us of a helpful
service provided by our PC(USA):
An important New Year's resolution is to read the
Bible every day to discover anew God's love for you and call for you to
love. An easy way to encourage yourself to read the Bible is to have a
brief passage e-mailed to you each day. Our Presbyterian Church (USA)
provides this free service that encourages Christians around the world
to read the Bible. You can also read online daily updated teachings
about the faith from our Study Catechism and news about our church''s
work in the USA and overseas from our Mission Yearbook. Learn more about
these free services at http://horeb.pcusa.org/search/dailyreadings.htm
seeks nominees for social ministry awards [1-2-03]
The Presbyterian Health, Education and Welfare
Association (PHEWA) is seeking nominations for its six social welfare
ministry awards, which will be presented during next summer's 215th
General Assembly in Denver. Deadline for nominations is Feb. 14.
report on Congressional action [1-2-03]
The Presbyterian Washington Office provides a helpful
year-end wrap-up on Congressional action (and inaction) on issues on
which the PC(USA) has expressed interest.
and comments from last year's General Assembly, Louisville, 2001
We're happy to
A Special Report to Witherspoon
Gene TeSelle, Witherspoon Issues Analyst,
Doug King, Network News editor and WebWeaver
For our most recent posts on the PC(USA) >>
For archived posts on the Presbyterian Church (USA):
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!