International Women's Day -- March 8, 2010
Are Saudi Women Next?
Mai Yamani, of Project Syndicate, and author of
Cradle of Islam, writes” "The unexpected visibility and
assertiveness of women in the revolutions unfolding across the Arab
world – in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, and
elsewhere – has helped propel what has become variously known as the
'Arab awakening' or 'Arab Spring.' Major changes have occurred in
the minds and lives of women, helping them to break through the
shackles of the past, and to demand their freedom and dignity."
Read the article >>
Empowering Women to Claim the Fullness of Their Humanity as
Created by God
an elected member of Advocacy for Women’s Concerns, and
Associate Professor of Theology at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky,
takes a fresh look at the theological idea of sin, as it has
generally been viewed in a distinctively male perspective, as a
misuse of power. But from the experience of women, the
problem is the lack of power, and the cure for sin, then, is
Her essay is
published in the Winter 2010 issue of
Network News (pp.
31-32), and is now
posted here in
html format as well.
International Women's Day 2010 - Rights and Recognition for
Domestic Workers [3-8-10]
This comes to us from the
International Union of Food,
Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and
Allied Workers' Associations (IUF). Thanks to
around the world are organizing to challenge the harsh, abusive,
often slave-like conditions in which they work. They are
organizing unions and support networks, and they are mobilizing
in support of an international Convention that will finally
recognize them as workers and establish their rights in
Domestic work is
one of the oldest and most important occupations for many women
in many countries. It is linked to the global history of
slavery, colonialism and other forms of servitude. In its
contemporary manifestations, domestic work is a global
phenomenon that perpetuates hierarchies based on race,
ethnicity, indigenous status, caste and nationality. In the past
two decades demand for care work has been on the rise
everywhere. The massive incorporation of women in the labour
force, the ageing of societies, the intensification of work and
the frequent lack or inadequacy of policy measures to facilitate
the reconciliation of family life and work underpin this trend.
Today, domestic workers make up a large portion of the
workforce, especially in developing countries, and their number
has been increasing – even in the industrialized world. Domestic
work, nonetheless, is undervalued and poorly regulated, and many
domestic workers remain overworked, underpaid and unprotected.
Accounts of maltreatment and abuse, especially of live-in and
migrant domestic workers, are regularly denounced in the media.
In many countries, domestic work is very largely performed by
A new report from
the ILO -
Decent work for domestic workers - concludes that domestic
workers need a Convention (the strongest form of ILO instrument
which once ratified is a legally binding treaty) supplemented by
a Recommendation to protect their rights. The IUF welcomes this
conclusion, and on International Women's Day urges affiliates to
take action in the runup to the 2010 International Labour
Conference, where negotiations will begin in June to develop new
international labour standards for the protection of domestic
including action suggestions >>
[The ILO report
mentioned above is 134 pages, in PDF format]
|Women at Risk
Or: Misogyny Lives
Witherspoon board member Sylvia Carlson recommends
this article by Bob Herbert, published in yesterday’s New York
Times. It begins:
“I actually look good. I dress good, am
clean-shaven, bathe, touch of cologne — yet 30 million women
rejected me,” wrote George Sodini in a blog that he kept while
preparing for this week’s shooting in a Pennsylvania gym in
which he killed three women, wounded nine others and then killed
We’ve seen this tragic ritual so often that it
has the feel of a formula. A guy is filled with a seething rage
toward women and has easy access to guns. The result: mass
The concluding paragraph:
We would become much more sane, much
healthier, as a society if we could bring ourselves to
acknowledge that misogyny is a serious and pervasive problem,
and that the twisted way so many men feel about women, combined
with the absurdly easy availability of guns, is a toxic mix of
the most tragic proportions.
The full op-ed article >>
|On women's right to choose:
Why is the Presbyterian Church not supporting the Ryan-DeLauro
This query comes to us from Witherspoon member
The bill, bearing the weighty title, the
'Preventing Unintended Pregnancies, Reducing the Need for Abortion
and Supporting Parents Act,' has received support from such groups
as the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), the
Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Catholics for Choice, the United
Methodist Church - General Board of Church and Society, the United
Church of Christ, and the Religious Action Center for Reform
A representative of the Episcopal Church has
joined some 50 other religious leaders and groups in supporting the
House of Representatives' Ryan-DeLauro Bill, which, if passed, would
aim to reduce the need for abortion by preventing unintended
pregnancies and supporting pregnant women and families.
Maureen Shea, director of the Episcopal Church's
Office of Government Relations, in a statement released on July 24,
behalf of the Episcopal Church, I am pleased to endorse the
'Preventing Unintended Pregnancies, Reducing the Need for Abortion
and Supporting Parents Act' sponsored by Representatives Tim Ryan
[Ohio] and Rosa DeLauro [Connecticut].
believe 'that the beginning of new human life, because it is a gift
of the power of God's love for his people, and thereby sacred,
should not and must not be undertaken unadvisedly or lightly but in
full accordance of the understanding for which this power to
conceive and give birth is bestowed by God. [This language is from a
resolution first passed by the 1967 General Convention and
reaffirmed in modified form at several subsequent meetings.]
order to ensure that the gift of life not be 'undertaken unadvisedly
or lightly,' this legislation seeks to prevent unintended
pregnancies particularly for teens; it restores and expands family
planning programs for low-income women; it gives childbirth support
to women and new parents, as well as students so that they can
continue their studies; and it provides important information and
financial support for those wishing to adopt.
Reports from the Churchwide Gathering of Presbyterian Women –
The rest of us seem to be missing some good
Some of the reports:
In keeping with Sunday evening's theme - "Wonder
of Creation" - at the Churchwide Gathering of Presbyterian Women,
Barbara Rossing spoke of the enchantment of waking to the song of a
bird, gazing at a waterfall or watching a child discover a new
But is all well with the world we cherish? As
Rossing described the failing health of the earth, she reminded the
audience, "The cruelest injustice of climate change is that it hurts
the poor - those who have done the least to cause the problem - the
hardest ... As Christians, we should be concerned about that."
The full report
from Presbyterian News Service >>
Calling for a ministry of meddlin'
"The good news of the
gospel is that it calls us to a ministry of meddlin,'" said Margaret
Aymer as she began her sermon during Presbyterian Women's Churchwide
Gathering July 12.
During the plenary
session themed "Wonder of Community," Aymer, a faculty member of
Johson C. Smith Theological Seminary, reinterpreted the Southern
expression, "Preacher, you've left off preachin' and taken to
meddlin'" in the context of Mark 2:1-12.
She explored the call
of the Christian community, specifically of Presbyterian Women and
the Presbyterian clergy women gathered, to re-envision themselves as
meddlers. She asserted that faithful Christians break barriers, like
the story of the four friends in Mark who carried a paralyzed man to
Jesus, breaking through the roof of a home to lower the man through
a ceiling so he could have access to Jesus.
"If we are honest, at
the heart of many of our conflicts is the question of access," she
said. "Access to water resources, to food and shelter and adequate
medical care, to energy, to human rights, to appropriate education
or to a place to call home.”
The report from
Presbyterian News Service >>
reports, see the Gathering’s own website >>
Among other things,
the Presbyterian Women’s business meeting on Sunday ratified the
amended and restated certificate of incorporation that establishes
Presbyterian Women as a publicly supported integrated auxiliary of
the PC(USA). Voting representatives also approved the bylaws of
Presbyterian Women in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Inc.
According to Catrelia
Hunter, 2006–2009 moderator of Presbyterian Women, incorporation
will allow PW to establish clear and separate accounting practices,
and ensure good stewardship of PW funds in the current economic
Since being formed in
1988, Presbyterian Women has held a covenantal relationship with the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and has been the single largest
contributor of undesignated funds to support the mission of the
church worldwide. That covenantal relationship remains in place.
More on this action >>
|Join NNPCW's Leadership Team!
comes from the
National Network of Presbyterian College Women ...
Coordinating Committee (CoCo) of NNPCW is now accepting applications
for three-year term
We are accepting
applications through August 14 for membership to NNPCW's
Coordinating Committee (CoCo), the 12-member decision-making body.
Learn more and
find out how to apply.
|The hatred. Will it never end?
Are we called to do something?
killing of Dr. George Tiller has led to the closing of his clinic in
according to an announcement by his family.
But wait ...
Anti-abortion leader Troy Newman, the president of Operation Rescue,
said today Wednesday that his group is
considering trying to buy the building, and perhaps turning into
a memorial museum, “a tribute to the babies.”
conclusion? What else? “Terrorism works.”
Another Presbyterian voice on the death
of Dr. George Tiller
Presbyterians Affirming Reproductive Options (PARO) has issued a
statement on the murder of Dr. Tiller:
Statement on the death of Dr. George Tiller
To the Tiller family
and community of supporters,
The Leadership Team
of Presbyterians Affirming Reproductive Options (PARO), a ministry
of the Presbyterian Health, Education & Welfare Association (PHEWA)
offers our condolences and prayers of support in the wake of the
tragic murder of Dr. George Tiller.
For almost two
decades, Dr. Tiller and those individuals who helped provide care to
his patients have lived under intense harassment tinged with
persistent threats of violence. Even under these adverse
circumstances, Dr. Tiller never wavered in his commitment to
providing abortion services and other reproductive health care to
women and their families, often in the most difficult and
We cannot pretend to
understand the circumstances facing women and their families, but
believe that God has expressed love and grace in Jesus Christ.
Therefore, we are to express that love and grace to one another,
especially when facing a difficult and complex situation. Dr.
Tiller, being a man of deep faith, reflected in his life such grace
with his patients. He cared deeply for and about women, and had a
very real grasp of and compassion for the realities of women's lives
and the struggles they faced.
Many of us knew that
a sign at Dr Tiller's clinic read: "Abortion is not a cerebral or a
reproductive issue. Abortion is an issue of the heart. Until one
understands the heart of a woman, nothing else about abortion makes
any sense at all." With thanksgiving, we celebrate the life of Dr.
Tiller and his commitment to the heart of a woman.
Church (U.S.A.) has worked for years to address the diverse opinions
concerning individuals and families who face problem pregnancies and
the question of abortion. Regardless of the diversity of opinions,
the denomination is united in our “rejection of the use of violence
and/or abusive language either in protest of or in support of
abortion, whether this occurs in places where abortions are
performed, at the homes of physicians who perform abortions, or in
other public demonstrations.” (1992 “Problem Pregnancies and
Abortion” p. 11). That Dr. Tiller was murdered during Sunday
services in his church, a sanctuary of worship and prayer, is an
affront to people of faith everywhere. This act of extreme violence
in a religious space is extremely troubling and reminds us of the
potential for religion to be used as a basis for acts of hatred and
And so we pray. We
pray for the family, loved ones and friends of Dr. Tiller whose
lives have been devastated by this loss. We pray for those who
continue to use violent actions and rhetoric. From the pulpit or in
print they do not mirror the love and grace that God intends for
creation. And we pray for the health care providers who bravely
continue the care and compassion modeled by the life and work of Dr.
George Tiller and for women and their families facing decisions that
are, first and foremost, matters of the heart.
— The Leadership Team
of Presbyterians Affirming Reproductive Options
|PC(USA) speaks out
on killing of Dr. Tiller
ACWC issues statement on Tiller murder
The Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns of the
Presbyterian Church (USA) has issued a statement in response to the
killing of Dr. George Tiller.
Response to the tragic death of Dr. George Tiller
The members of the Advocacy Committee for Women’s
Concerns wish to express their deep sadness over the recent murder
of Dr. George Tiller. As a provider committed to offering safe
reproductive health care services to women, including tremendously
difficult yet sometimes necessary late-term pregnancy terminations,
Dr. Tiller provided care essential to the health and well-being of
Along with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the
Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns condemns gun violence, and
certainly gun violence directed at reproductive health clinics and
clinicians. ACWC affirms the value of life and healthy living,
including the provision of safe and legal reproductive health
services for all women.
The Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns wishes
to express sympathy to the family and friends of Dr. Tiller, and all
those directly affected by this tragedy. In the face of this
violence, we raise our voices of protest in solidarity with all
people of faith, ever hoping for a world that better reflects the
redemption we have in Christ.
This is also posted on the ACWC web page >>
PCUSA officials issue statement
The top officials of the
denomination have also issued a statement, saying “There is no place
in debate for a murder such as Dr. Tiller’s”
is also posted on the GAC web page >>
(U.S.A.) officials issued a statement on June 4, 2009, in the wake
of the shooting death of Dr. George Tiller in Wichita, Kan., on May
The statement was
signed by Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly,
Bruce Reyes-Chow, Moderator of the 218th General Assembly (2008) of
the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and Linda Valentine, Executive
Director of the General Assembly Council.
The full text of the statement:
The murder of Dr.
George Tiller on May 31st as he stood in the foyer of Reformation
Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kansas, to greet those who were entering
to worship God is nothing less than abhorrent.
On behalf of the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), we offer our deepest sympathy to the
family of Dr. Tiller and to our faith partners in the congregation
of the Reformation Lutheran Church.
The whole of our
society is damaged when any one person engages in rhetoric or acts
of violence. The entire Christian Church is hurt whenever hatred
pushes its way into the sanctuaries of worship.
On the issue of
abortion, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
has consistently called for every effort to be made to reduce
unwanted pregnancies and to work toward a day when abortions would
not be deemed necessary. It is also a matter of policy that in the
case of late-term abortions, where the baby appears to be viable,
every effort should be made to preserve the life of the child.
The PC(USA) has
steadfastly sought to protect pregnant women, in community with
fathers, pastors, congregations, and physicians, as the moral agents
to face the profound decisions of pregnancy within the legal
parameters of their state.
On the larger issue
of resorting to violence, the General Assembly has called upon all
people to engage in levels of discourse on issues such as this in a
way that allows people to relate to each other in respect. There is
no place in debate for a murder such as Dr. Tiller’s. Our churches,
our streets, our homes, and our businesses should all be sanctuaries
We urge law
enforcement agencies charged with providing for the safety of our
citizens to renew their vigilance against such acts of terror,
especially in cases where individuals have previous records of
violent activity against women’s health clinics. We grieve with all
of those who have been torn by Dr. Tiller’s death and for those
affected by the violence.
We join you in asking
God’s blessing in God’s continued work of turning death into life,
and tragedy into celebration.
We invite your comments and
to be shared here.
just send a note!
|More comments and
concerns after the murder of Dr. Tiller: It was "an act of
We have received
more comments on this matter than any one item I can recall over the
past few years. Here is a good example, from Elizabeth
Sarfaty, of Malone, New York
Thanks for this summary and clear expression. I
often wonder just how to say to a dear friend who joins the
Pro-Life (pro whose life, I wonder?) demonstrators, that my
basic fear is less about their (male and celibate) attitudes, and
more about some of the hate-filled and distorted folk who are apt to
'act out' later as it appears this gunman did.
Ms. Sarfaty also suggests
a short essay by the Wiccan teacher and theologian, Starhawk,
posted on the Newsweek/Washington Post Religion blog, On Faith. She
puts very well what is going on in acts of violence like the killing
of Dr. Tiller:
The murder of Dr. Tiller was an act of
terror. Although its immediate victim was a man, it was aimed at
women's hearts and minds, designed to shatter our oneness and assert
control. And it is part of a larger campaign of terror--if we must
throw that word around then let us use it where it truly applies.
When the murderer squeezes the trigger, when Bill O'Reilly thunders
on Fox News or Randall Terry pontificates, they are sending the same
message to women, "Your bodies, your fertility, your sexuality must
remain under our control, or you will die, along with anyone who
the day Dr. Tiller was murdered, Governer Schwarzenneger cut funding
for the Healthy Families Act, a decision which will likely cost more
children's lives than all the abortions Dr. Tiller ever performed.
Yet no one is calling him a murderer.
the day Dr. Tiller was murdered, millions of refugees in Pakistan
huddled in fear of American drone bombers. The graves of children in
Iraq are still fresh: mothers in Gaza continue to weep over the
hundreds of children murdered in the Israeli assault. Yet the
'right-to-life' movement is not agonizing over the blood that covers
all our hands.
the day Dr. Tiller was murdered, uncounted children died from
hunger, from lack of access to medical care, from contaminated
water. Young boys were dragooned into service as child soldiers;
young girls sold into sexual slavery. We could use a true
right-to-life movement, one that would champion these children, one
that would stand against the greed, the violence, the callousness,
the cowardice that murders at a safe distance and kills by hoarding
the means of life.
Starhawk also suggests some positive, practical
actions you can take:
|Former evangelical Frank
Schaeffer says Religious Right leaders are responsible for the
Janet Arbesman recommends “a powerful presentation from Frank
Schaeffer,” pointing to the heavy responsibility that must be borne
by those who have for so long used rhetoric that in the name of
“respect for life,” has offered justification and inspiration for
violence against those who dare to differ from them. Schaeffer’s
father, Francis Schaeffer, was one of the early and very articulate
pioneers in the rise of the modern religious right. His son
eventually turned away from that path, and is now a sharp and
informed critic of the Right.
presentation is on Youtube >>
a freelance writer and longtime observer of the conservative
movement, has written for ReligionDispatches, describing Frank
Schaeffer’s comments in more detail, and elaborates on the theme
that opponents of abortion have trafficked in “hate talk” for years,
and must accept responsibility for the monster they have created and
continue to inspire and sustain.
His article >>
For a good, positive
background statement on “Abortion as a Moral Decision” ...
The Religious Institute
on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing issued in 2005
“An Open Letter to Religious Leaders” which offers a good ethical
perspective on the whole question of abortion. It includes brief
sections on points such as “affirming women’s moral agency,”
“respect for life,” scripture, “moral imperative for access,” and
The full statement, in PDF format >>
The Institute has
also issued a
statement in response to the killing of Dr. Tillman.
Suggested by John Shuck.
|Comments and reflections on the murder of Dr.
George Tiller |
Within a few
hours of our posting a Witherspoon
Society/Voices of Sophia statement lamenting the killing of Dr.
George Tiller, we received these messages of support and
I am glad to see PC USA being clear and public
about this action.
Jenny Stanton, Cincinnati, Ohio.
Doug, I am a CEO of a Planned parenthood affiliate
as well as an ordained Presbyterian minister.
Thank you and others for your support.
This came to us from the Rev. Mark R. Pawlowski,
CEO of Planned Parenthood of South Central Michigan, and is posted
with his permission.
The Rev. Eric Mount, emeritus professor of
religion at Presbyterian-related Centre College in Kentucky, sent
My thanks to the board for taking action, Doug.
Witherspoon board member Molly
Casteel recommended a good article posted on the Religion Dispatches
web site, by Frances Kissling, who is a visiting scholar at the
Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania and former
president of Catholics for a Free Choice. She traces the long trail
of violence that has been a part of the anti-abortion movement for
years, and notes how much of the rhetoric of the movement seems to
incite such actions.
Let us hope that no one compares his murder to
abortion. In fact, if there is one thing those in the religious
community must do to prevent a return to the days when such
comparisons were discussable in polite company, it is to make
clear that the world's religions do not consider abortion
Dr. Tiller saved women's lives; this is not a
To read the article >>
Thanks for the statement on the murder of Dr. Tiller. I have made a
contribution to Medical Students for Choice in his memory.
Dean Lewis is a long-time Witherspoon member, and was for many years on the national staff of the PC(USA), dealing with social justice issues.
Board member Sylvia
Thorson-Smith sent this note and another suggestion for reading:
A good friend in
Wichita just sent me
this 2004 Rolling Stones article, which details the
verbal and physical harassment by "our own state's [KS] domestic
terrorist, Operation Rescue's Troy Newman." It's shocking to see
that Tiller had massive security (except at church, obviously
and sadly). Read how Operation Rescue has targeted employees at
the Wichita clinic, hoping to succeed with what they call
"Operation Rebuke" in Wichita and move on to the rest of the
We invite your comments and
to be shared here.
just send a note!
from Witherspoon/Voices of Sophia ...
Lamenting the murder
of Dr. George Tiller ...
And reaffirming our Church’s stance on choice
The merged board of the Witherspoon Society and
Voices of Sophia expresses our deep sadness over the slaying of Dr.
George Tiller in Wichita, Kansas, on May 31. We condemn the act of
violence that took Dr. Tiller's life as he was worshiping with his
family at Reformation Lutheran Church, and we repudiate violent
solutions to disagreements over the practice and legality of
abortion. We affirm the positions of the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) which support the right of women to
make decisions about the termination of a pregnancy and stand
against violence and threats of violence at all women's health
clinics. We call on the church to reaffirm its commitment to
reproductive rights and to remain diligent in prayers for Dr.
Tiller's family and staff, and all who endure similar threats of
This wording is taken
directly from the 1992 policy and a 1995 statement on abortion
violence, adopted by the Presbyterian Church (USA).
We also encourage you to read
“The Murder of Dr. Tiller, a Foreshadowing,” an article posted
on The Huffington Post, which offers stark warnings about the
resurgent threats of violence against abortion providers, and more
general attacks on those who stand for reproductive rights.
We invite your comments and
to be shared here.
just send a note!
Celebrate the Gifts of Women|
women during this year of Calvin’s Jubilee
Celebrate the Gifts of Women Sunday honors women
who contribute their gifts to the church and community and lifts up
issues of women’s rights.
March 8, 2009, is Celebrate the Gifts of Women Sunday
and International Women’s Day.
The 2009 celebration also coincides with the 500th
birthday of John Calvin, foreparent of the Presbyterian Church. Your
congregation or women’s group may, however, use this resource on any
date that you choose to celebrate women.
The Celebrate the Gifts of Women resource, written
by Dale Lindsday Morgan, includes
• a worship service with a call to worship, prayer of
confession, assurance of pardon, suggested hymns, scripture and
• a dramatic approach applying Calvin’s thoughts to women’s
leadership in the church today
• recommended resources for further study
Help spread the word —
download a flier (in PDF formt) about the resource.
Download the 2009 Celebrate the Gifts of Women resource.
resource from Presbyterian Marketplace.
Download the 2008
Celebrate the Gifts of Women resource which celebrates the young
in English >>
Download the 2007 Celebrate the Gifts of Women, which celebrates
the diversity of spiritual and cultural gifts of the young women who
are active in our denomination.
Help leverage U.S.
influence for peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo:
Tell Secretary Clinton to Stop the War on Women in the DRC
This call for action has come to us from Larry Cox, Executive
Director of Amnesty International USA
The ten-year tangle
of alliances, invasions and proxy warfare centered in the Democratic
Republic of Congo has made the region the world's deadliest killing
ground since WWII.
systematically used as a weapon of war and children are forced to
fight for armed groups. Peace in the DRC means putting an end to the
institutionalized violence against women and children.
Click here to watch a video of Congolese children speaking about
their experiences as child soldiers.
The recent dramatic
reversal of alliances between the DRC and its conflict-entangled
neighbors, Uganda and Rwanda, combined with the withdrawal of Hutu
rebels has opened a small window for peace in the region.
Your action today can
help us make real progress on ending violence against women and
children across the region.
The U.S. has
considerable economic and political influence over both the DRC and
Rwanda—no other country combines such influence.
Sign our letter to Secretary Clinton asking her to leverage our
voice to strengthen support for the UN peacekeeping mission and
protect women and children in the DRC.
Rape is used in the
conflict as a calculated strategy to destabilize opposition groups
as well as promote fear and submission. It is not unusual for
mothers and daughters to be raped in front of their families and
villages. Human rights activists working to end violence against
women often face grave threats of violence themselves.
Bihamba is one such activist. Because of her work to end violence
against women, she and her family have been targeted.
Justine described the
current situation in Congo as a war against women. "When two sides
fight, the one punishes the other by raping women," she said.
Putting an end to the
rampant sexual violence and the use of child soldiers is essential
to ensuring peace in the region.
Secretary Clinton has
said that women's rights are one of her top priorities. Make sure
her promises become reality.
Add your name to our letter to Secretary Clinton urging her to
take concrete steps to protect women in the DRC.
Larry Cox, Executive
Amnesty International USA
|Congo Sabbath Initiative launched to support
women of Congo in facing sexual violence|
Institute on Sexual Morality, Justice, and Healing has sent this
message urging people of faith to share information and nurture
concern in their congregations for the hundreds of thousands of
women in the Democratic Republic of Congo who have been victims of
brutal sexual violence during their nation’s conflicts over the past
more information >>
about the Religious Institute >>
|Gains among women in the clergy
are under attack in both Catholic and Protestant churches.
The L. A.
Times, in a brief editorial, takes note of the reality that
while women may be playing expanding roles in their churches,
including ordained ministry (well, for many Protestant churches, at
least), there is growing resistance to this development, in
Protestant as well and Catholic churches.
The closing paragraph sums it up:
In the Roman Catholic Church, tradition is
cited as the grounds for not ordaining women. In Protestant
churches, resistance to female pastors is likelier to be
grounded in biblical passages such as 1 Timothy 2:12: "And I do
not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but
to be in silence." In either case, the arguments that keep women
from full participation are attributed to a higher authority. So
why do they sound so much like the complaints about assertive
women that long have issued from the mouths of men?
The full editorial >>
|Faith perspectives on upcoming elections highlight NNPCW
35 Presbyterian collegiate women
gather in nation's capital [9-6-07]
Presbyterian News Service reports that the
National Network of Presbyterian College Women (NNPCW) held its
annual leadership event July 25-29 at American University in
Washington D.C. This year's theme, "Speaking Truth to Power,"
drew 35 young women from private and public universities
Many issues pertinent to the upcoming 2008
election influenced the conference. To teach about the
connection between faith and politics, the leadership event
planning team organized a different plenary speaker each night
and a visit to the PC(USA)'s Washington, D.C. office.
One of the speakers was Mara Vanderslice, the
founder of Common Good Strategies. Her focus is on helping
elected officials and candidates with tools to connect with
religiously diverse communities. One student, Rachel Lewis, a
senior at the University of Washington, commented "I really
liked the talk by Vanderslice because she is actually working in
the political field to help Democrats understand how faith and
politics is for everyone, not just Republicans."
|Planned Parenthood’s Pill Patrol achieves a
victory with Wal-Mart|
This note was sent by
Cecile Richards of Planned Parenthood to supporters of the group.
I want you to be among the first to know about a major victory Planned
Parenthood just won. It's a giant step forward in protecting women's access
to emergency contraception (EC).
In recent weeks, Planned Parenthood activists fanned out
across the nation checking, community by community, on access to EC at local
Armed with evidence gathered by these Pill Patrol members,
Planned Parenthood approached Wal-Mart asking it to clarify its policies on
this crucial issue.
We've just received word that Wal-Mart has now committed
in writing to a nationwide corporate policy on emergency contraception.
Under that policy, Wal-Mart will stock EC and dispense it without
discrimination and without delay. Of course, we have to remain vigilant to
make sure Wal-Mart puts this policy into practice.
But our hard work has really paid off. And now, we've got
to act quickly to build on this remarkable victory.
There are major pharmacy chains that continue to threaten
women's health when it comes to access to EC. And today, fresh from our
Wal-Mart victory, we're zeroing in on the biggest holdout.
It's time to target Target.
The first step is to gather more evidence -- the same
fact-based approach that worked so well in convincing Wal-Mart to act. And
we need your help.
Sign up now to be part of the Planned Parenthood Pill
Patrol campaign. Visit Target stores in your community to check on the
availability of emergency contraception.
Make no mistake about it. We just won a huge victory for
women's health and for Planned Parenthood's campaign for accessible birth
control. Now Wal-Mart joins other women-friendly pharmacy chains like CVS,
Eckerd's, Walgreens, Rite Aid, and Kmart, all of which have agreed to do the
right thing on access to EC.
But our work won't be done until Target and other pharmacy
chains adopt policies that protect women's health. Thank you so much for the
effort and commitment that produced a Wal-Mart victory that will affect
thousands of women's lives. And thanks even more for your continued
commitment to our efforts to protect women's health.
Please join the Pill Patrol today. Sign up now.
|National Network of Presbyterian College Women
announces a national Leadership Event, July 25-29 in Washington, DC
This is a unique opportunity for young women in college to dialogue
with and learn from women of faith on Capitol Hill and from other women of
faith in college. We will celebrate those women who work for justice and
fairness and will equip you with the skills and motivation to get involved
and make a difference in your own communities and on your campuses.
NNPCW is also seeking applications for membership on Coordination
Committee. More >>
|Voices of Sophia holds national meeting at Ghost Ranch
Voices of Sophia, a
national advocacy group working for the full inclusion and equality of women
in the Presbyterian Church, met recently in Ghost Ranch, Santa Fe from
October 26-29, 2006, for worship, reflection and re-connection.
Under the theme, "Recovering What Is Lost" participants
heard Craig Barnes of Santa Fe, lawyer, historian, philosopher, and author
of In Search of the Lost Feminine, a study of the myths that
radically re-shaped Western civilization; Rev. Judith Wrought of Loveland,
Colorado, former national staff person in Women’s Programs, who reviewed
changes in women’s lives in the denomination and in the world since the
1960's; and Rev. Anne McKee, chaplain, and Rachael Whaley, student leader,
from Maryville College, who led the group through an awareness process of
the minds and hearts of college women today.
|Celebrating turning points in
100 years of milestones in the PC(USA)'s efforts to
achieve full equality in ministry [10-24-06]
The 100th anniversary of women’s ordination in
the Presbyterian Church was celebrated at the 217th General
Assembly last June. Now the Rev. Eunice Blanchard Poethig reminds us that
progress toward a full and equal role for women in the Presbyterian Church
has been complex and full of challenges. The author is moderator of the
Women's Ordination Mission Team in the Presbytery of Chicago, former
executive presbyter for Western New York Presbytery, and former director of
the Congregational Ministries Division of the General Assembly Council.
And a member of the Witherspoon Society.
|This may not surprise you, but ...
The New York Times reports that clergywomen find it
difficult to move into larger congregations as heads of staff
The story >>
There’s a good short video clip along with the story >>
|Dealing with late-term
pregnancies – again [6-26-06]
On Wednesday evening, June 21, the General
Assembly approved an overture from the Health Issues committee dealing with
late-term pregnancies that, in the words of Presbyterian News Service,
"affirms the lives of viable unborn babies."
You can read the report on JustPresbys >>
or on the
PC(USA) website >>
Ann Hayman, a member of the
PARO Leadership Team,
offers this comment on the GA action:
Well, folks -- this has only served to convince me that Presbyterians
should not be allowed to practice medicine in groups larger than two. The
debates concerning our abortion policies in both the Health Committee and
on the floor of GA were confused and confusing. We had several
commissioners who fought a brave battle. It is too soon to assess how much
damage was done to our Late-Term, Post-Viability Abortion Policy .
I assume that the Stated Clerk’s office will have to cull through this and
make some kind of a determination. I fear that we've lost the edge and it
will become difficult to do much with this in the realm of amicus briefs.
The new policy certainly does not speak to
much of any kind of reality I've ever encountered. Post-viability
abortions only involve compromised fetuses -- the unborn that have been
medically determined to be incompatible with life. We Presbyterians have
come out squarely for viable fetuses and healthy babies, so I'm not sure
what we have. The prevailing myth of the Assembly was that 8-month
pregnant woman who wakes up one morning and decides she's tired of being
pregnant and on impulse (whim) seeks an abortion. It just doesn't happen.
I will continue to be dismayed at the abominable and undeserved lack of
trust we manifest for both women and physicians, most of whom put their
life on the line to do this work.
Upward and onward to San Jose in 2008.
An invitation from Rita
What are women's public values?
What do they mean for policy and practice?
Help us answer these questions on May 15 or 18.
You're invited to participate in a unique and exciting
Using new and emerging technology, the
Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) is holding an
unprecedented online convening of women, where we will write a statement
on women's vision for public life--and how we might live it out in
policymaking and practice.
The event is sponsored by IWPR's project on
Politics, Religion, and Women's Public Vision, which is raising
the visibility of women's values for public life and building networks
among women in religious movements for social justice and women's movement
organizing. By participating, you will help us develop a statement and
policy agenda that seeks to advance women's values in American public
There are two opportunities to participate:
May 15, 2006, 4 pm to 6 pm EST (East Coast time)
May 18, 2006, 4 pm to 6 pm PST (West Coast time)
register by Wednesday, May 10th.
Synanim is a unique online process that enables
participants to contribute as individuals but to share interactively.
Information on the process is available at
After the event, you will receive a copy of the
statement. It will be used to help us develop a policy agenda based on
women's values. We will keep you apprised of future events and
publications incorporating the statement. We are also planning to provide
additional opportunities for participants to interact.
To participate, please register by
clicking here. You will be prompted to indicate which day you
will take part. Prior to the writing session you will receive an email
from Synanim (firstname.lastname@example.org)
with a web link and your login and password information.
Questions? For information about IWPR's work on women's
public vision, email Erica Williams at
Co-Director, Faith Voices for the Common Good
More on Rita Nakashima Brock|
Rita Nakashima Brock is an award-winning author and a respected
international lecturer and scholar in religion. She directed a think tank
for women at Harvard University for several years and has worked for two
decades in the field of religion in higher education.
Along with business and technology strategist Brian
Sarrazin, she founded Faith Voices, a non-profit community of diverse
member organizations. Faith Voices
uses Synanim, a powerful new technology innovation, to bring theological
educators into dialogue with policy experts and activists. To advance the
common good, American public life needs new language, new ideas, and
strong leaders. Member organizations experience the power of engaging with
a broad constituency sharing progressive commitments, such as the value of
diversity in a democratic society; the respect and dignity of every human
being; justice for all, especially the underprivileged and
Pastors may join
Gather Heart, a
nationwide online community of preachers committed to speaking
prophetically on social justice issues using Synanim, levering speed and
strength of the internet with a warm, human approach. Synanim is like a
high-voltage brainstorming session.
Featured speaker at GA, Voices of Sophia breakfast
Dr. Brock will be the featured speaker at the Voices of
Sophia breakfast at General Assembly June 19th. She will be
sharing the research she did on early Christianity, at a time before
crucifixion and resurrection became the core of Christian theology, a time
she calls paradise. Tickets are available for $20 online until May 22nd
and upon arrival at GA. Tickets will not be sold at the door.
To register online, go to
This process will allow you both to register as a
visitor (or whatever), and to order tickets for GA special events,
including most of those listed here.
To order tickets, you can also go to
http://www.pcusa.org/ga217/tixform.pdf You can download the PDF
form, print it, fill it out, and fax or mail it. Deadline is May 22.
approach to leadership attracts notice of women's-rights group|
International forum will study Presbyterians' way of sharing 'womanspace'
The Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID) has selected for
publication a case study of an innovative model for shared leadership
developed by the National Network of Presbyterian College Women (NNPCW).
"Empowering Womanspace: Power Distribution and Dynamics in Christian
Feminist Community" was written by Kelsey Rice, associate for NNPCW, and
Ann Crews Melton, former interim associate for Women's Advocacy in the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
|Mr. Bush, This Is Pro-Life?|
Nicholas Kristof reports from a
maternity hospital in Niger about the consequences – unintended, perhaps,
but no less terrible for all that – of the Bush policy of refusing to
support the U.N. Population Fund in the name of its "pro-life" position. For
lack of a few dollars for urgently needed medicines and care, women die in
labor, or their babies die, when they could be helped.
Kristof also mentions a grass-roots organization started
by two American women, which seeks to make up for the Bush cuts with private
donations; its website is
The whole story >>
|A chance to
act for Choice|
If you favor women's right to choose,
you may want to contact your Senators and Senator Bill Frist today, to
defend the possibility of the choice of Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) as chair
of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee. Specter is the only pro-choice
Republican on the committee.
Thousands from the Religious Right are calling and
e-mailing, and those who favor choice must be heard from too. Also,
perhaps let Specter's office know that he has your support.
Details and contacts
are available here.
|Progressive people of faith outraged by
anti-choice remarks from top presidential advisor|
Comments similar to those
made by religious right extremists [4-28-04]
In interviews given to CNN and other news
agencies, top Presidential advisor Karen Hughes compared pro-choice
Americans to "the terrorist network we fight." According to Hughes,
Americans who support Bush's efforts to restrict choice in reproductive
health care do so because "after September 11, the American people are
valuing life more and we need policies to value the dignity and worth of
every life." She then went on to say, "The fundamental issue between us
and the terror network we fight is that we value every life."
"It is totally outrageous and
irresponsible for one of the President's top advisors to compare
pro-choice Americans to terrorists," said Dr. Sylvia Rhue, Director of
Equal Partners in Faith. "In relation to the issue of reproductive
freedom, the only terrorists we know about are the ones on the far right
who bomb clinics and murder doctors."
Click here for the
rest of the story.
Rosemary Radford Ruether calls for a healthier sexual ethic, partly to
replace the Administration's "puritan" ethic being forced on African
nations in the fight against AIDS [8-30-03]|
Rosemary Radford Ruether, Carpenter Professor of Feminist
Theology at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California, calls
for a new sexual ethic that contrasts radically with the neo-Puritan ethic
being demanded by President Bush - even in Africa, where it will harm
rather than help efforts to combat the rising incidence of AIDS.
What's needed, she says, is not merely sexual freedom,
but an end to "sexual illiteracy," which can come only by replacing the
still-current "male ethic of sexual exploitation" with a truly egalitarian
sexual ethic, which allows learning through experience - but experience in
stages of growing maturity and responsibility.
Her essay is published in Conscience, the "newsjournal"
published by Catholics for a Free Choice.
how about the ordination of women? For some churches it's still
an issue, and one woman asks for help. [12-3-02]
We've just received a query from a member of the
Lutheran Church of Australia, where the ordination of women is still a
closed topic. We invite you to send your comments, ideas, and resources
in a note to him, that will also come to your WebWeaver, and may be
In an effort to put the women's ordination debate in
the Lutheran Church of Australia into an international context I would
appreciate any information on Women's Ordination sites that you may
know of. Our Women's Ministry Network site is http://www.picknowl.com.au/homepages/wmn/
send a note!
Sophia Gathering -- reports now online [6-1-02]
Reports from the Voices of Sophia Gathering 2002
updates are on their website.
You will find a brief synopsis and reflections by Joan Marshall, Mary
Kuhns, and Cheryl Pyrch. In addition, we have put a few pictures up. On
the website is also an article by Peter Barnes-Davies, who is a leader
in the Louisville chapter whiteness and anti-racism group. He calls
similar groups to start around the country and gives step-by-step ideas.
women are demanding to be heard [11-19-01]
As negotiations begin for a new government in
Afghanistan, Afghan feminists are apparently being ignored - still.
Fariba Nawa, a reporter based in Islamabad, Pakistan, who writes
regularly for Agence France-Presse and Pacific News Service, writes in Mother
Jones that even though the 1964 Afghan constitution
guaranteed equality for men and women, it has been completely ignored
since 1996 when the Taliban seized Kabul. She quotes Zieba Shorish, a
Washington-based Afghan exile and veteran women's rights activist, as
summing up the problem: "The players in Afghanistan, including the
US and United Nations, all talk about women's rights but when it comes
to action, there is nothing."
Thanks to Utne
director of women's ministries program envisions another global
women's theological conference [8-22-01]|
Mary Elva Smith said recently that she'd like to see the denomination
push for another global women's conference that she said will restore
the validity of feminist theology in the church. She said she doesn't
want to allow the continuing backlash to the legendarily controversial
Re-Imagining God conference of 1993 to continue silencing feminist
theologians in the denomination.
Advocacy Committee for Women's Concerns is searching for resources local
churches can use to develop ministries
to prostitutes and other sexually exploited people.
Materials are needed by September 6. [8-2-01]|
web site will now target patients as well as providers
Researcher and writer Fred
Clarkson reports on the latest efforts of the anti-abortion
"Nuremberg Files" web site to broadcast video shots of
abortion providers and patients over the Web, and to wrap its actions in
the First Amendment.
Web-master Neal Horsley has gained notoriety for providing a "hit
list" of abortion providers (with names of those murdered crossed
out in black).
of Sophia gathers at the border
The annual Voices of Sophia Gathering held in Tucson,
Arizona from March 1-4, was a great success, drawing record attendance
especially from young people. Focusing on the theme, "Wisdom on the
Border," participants explored the challenge of transforming our
land from one of frontiers and borders that lead to oppression to one in
which justice prevails.
Re-Imagining Gathering 2000
was held on October 26-28, in Minneapolis, MN. This gathering, the fifth
held since the first event in 1993, focused on the theme, "From
Vision to Vessel: Creating Communities of Justice."
For reports on some of the main addresses, click on
any of the names below:
of Orthodox Women now regrets that "GAC [broke] the rules" to
extend its review of the Women's Ministry Program Area
But of course, they were just doing what VOW
Click here for a comment by Doug King
Women's Gathering in Louisville --
a progressive perspective
Your WebWeaver wasn't there, alas -- but
if you haven't already found reports from the Women's Gathering in
Louisville, click here for links
to some of the reports, and for a personal report from Witherspoon
officer and college chaplain Vicki Moss
Ministries awaits report,
and differences remain sharp
Leslie Scanlon of Presbyterian Outlook has surveyed the current
state of Women's Ministries as they await a final report (if it really is
final this time!) by the small group of GAC members who were assigned to
follow up after a few conservatives charged that they had not been
sufficiently consulted in the evaluation already conducted.
She notes continuing differences of opinion, and suggests that even the
"re-review" may be basically supportive of women's programs,
while there may be some pressure on the program area to be more
"inclusive" of women of varying persuasions.
Overture 45, coming to this year's General Assembly, would movoe
Presbyterian Women from the National Ministries Division, where Women's
Ministries is administered, to the Congregational Ministries Division.
Scanlon suggests that this effort to weaken the women's program
"may be dying" before the Assembly even convenes.
HERE for the Outlook story
|The Executive Committee of the General Assembly Council has decided
to extend the review of the Women's Ministry Program Area, which was
concluded recently with a report favorable to their program.
The Rev. Barbara Dua has
written a clear and compelling response to the action of the GAC
executive committee, calling for the kind of review of the whole Church
that is badly needed. Click here for her
The Witherspoon Society and Voices of Sophia, among others, are
urging the reconsideration of this violation of the study process,
apparently to satisfy one small interest group.
Sophia sent a letter to all GA commissioners, listing some of the
attacks against women's programs in the PCUSA in recent years, and
calling for renewed support for women.
Voices of Sophia
223 Choctaw Road
Louisville, KY 40207
April 16, 2000
We are writing with disturbing news, and with the
assurance that you can help us make a difference. Over the past several
years women in the Presbyterian Church (USA) have witnessed a
well-organized assault on ministries which advocate for the advancement
of women in the church and in society.
At the last General Assembly (GA) a Commissioner's
Resolution accused Women's Ministries Program Area (WMPA) of heresy and
called for a review of the program area. At this year's General Assembly
the WMPA will come under scrutiny as Commissioners debate whether or not
to accept the overwhelmingly positive review that WMPA received. We must
organize now to preserve the gains made by the women's movement over the
past few decades.
The assault on WMPA is just the latest in a series of
attacks made on the women's movement in the church. Consider the
|Since Reunion in 1983 the number of members serving
on advocacy committees for women has dropped from 55 to 12.|
|In the past six years, the Women's Ministries
Program Area has witnessed the loss of three offices, three national
committees and four Staff in the Synod positions.|
|The Presbyterian Lay Committee consistently
misportrayed the Re-Imagining Conference and its organizers and
participants. The church's silence regarding this blatant attack on
women's leadership led to the loss of staff and caused many women to
leave the church. The contributions of women theologians, pastors
and laywomen, especially those who are openly feminist, mujerista or
womanist, have been placed under a cloud of suspicion.|
|At the 210th General Assembly, members
of the Presbyterian Coalition (the Religious Right umbrella group of
the PC(USA)), attempted to defund the National Network of
Presbyterian College Women (NNPCW), a GA program area which strives
to keep young women in the church who would otherwise not be active
in our denomination.|
|Also at the 210th General Assembly
members of the Presbyterian Coalition successfully challenged the
renomination of the chair elect of the Advocacy Committee on Women's
Concerns (ACWC). This member was replaced by an anti-choice and
anti-feminist woman connected to the Presbyterian Coalition. Since
that Assembly, a member (often two members) of the conservative
press have been present at every ACWC meeting, watching every move
of the Committee.|
|The decision of an elected committee to give the
Women of Faith Award to the Rev. Dr. Jane Adams Spahr was challenged
by pointing to church policy surrounding arguments for and against
Amendments A and B, rather than the faithful witness to God's love
and grace which Rev. Spahr exemplifies.|
The future of women in the Presbyterian Church is in
serious jeopardy. If we do not galvanize now to protect our future, we
will not have an established body which advocates for women, educates
the church on women's issues, and stands up for justice through policy,
education and action. This would send a strong message to women within
the Presbyterian Church and in larger society that women, their voices,
contributions and experiences don't matter.
Now is the time to stand up resist the forces that
work to deny Jesus' persistent demonstration of valuing and loving women
and all people on the margins struggling against powers of domination
and destruction. What can you do?
Send your name to Sophia's Assistant by May 10
(contact information below) to publicly endorse the enclosed declaration
and to support the work and bold witness of the Women's Ministries
Program Area. Then we will send the declaration and signatures with a
cover letter to the Commissioners and Advisory Delegates for this year's
General Assembly in Long Beach, CA.
Please send this letter and statement to all of your
friends who would be willing to sign up. Feel free to start an
email chain so that you can easily distribute this information.
This work cannot happen without financial
support. A donation of $35.00, payable to Voices of Sophia,
will help us cover the administrative costs of this effort as well as
the cooperative work with other progressive groups at General Assembly.
If you are not already a member of Voices of Sophia, this contribution
will entitle you to membership (20 dollars annually). If you are a
member this donation will renew your membership for a year. What does
membership get you? You will become an official part of the growing
network which stands up for what we are calling the Church to be-a place
where all are welcomed to the table. You will receive four newsletters a
year to keep updated on women's issues in the church. Visit our new web
site at www.voicesofsophia.org
send your name and tax-deductible contribution to Mieke
Keep this year's General Assembly, Commissioners and Advisory Delegates
in your prayers.
We look forward to hearing from you with your name,
contribution and ideas.
Voices of Sophia Central Team
Janis Adams, Virginia Copenhefer, Charlene Heaton, Mari Helen High,
Betty Kersting, Mary Kuhns, Rebecca Reyes, Meg Rift, Marcia Smith-Wood,
Jean Snyder, Sylvia Thorson-Smith, Mieke Vandersall, Emily Wigger
P. S. First of all, adding your name in public
support of this effort is most important. Please send your name and how
you would like it to appear on the declaration and, if possible a
tax-deductible contribution, payable to Voices of Sophia, of at least
$35.00 by May 10 to:
Mieke Vandersall, email@example.com
, 218 St. James Place, 3B, Brooklyn, NY 11238, Phone: 718-623-3732
|Click here to
read the Voices of Sophia Declaration||
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!