But first some interesting E-mail...
Detterick recounts eye-opening trip to Middle East
by John Detterick
General Assembly Council
Editor's note: For two weeks in July, GAC Executive Director John
Detterick traveled in the Middle East. This is his account of that trip,
conveyed in his "weekly letter" to council members on Aug. 1. - Jerry
L. Van Marter
LOUISVILLE - Uplifting, discouraging, provocative, overwhelming and
Describing my whirlwind ten days in the Middle East is still
difficult as I continue to work through the incredible and sometimes
contradictory experiences. I can say for sure that one thing I did learn is
that everything I "knew" about the Middle East was either wrong or not
Victor Makari, Coordinator for the Middle East and Europe, was a most
gracious and patient guide and traveling companion. He must have
grown tired of the constant questions, the repeated "tell me again about
what this group does," or the "once again tell me this person's
name." But Victor was always the gentle teacher and efficient facilitator.
The only problem in traveling with Victor was seeing the hassle and
intimidation he experiences at every Israeli checkpoint when they
looked at his USA passport and saw that his birthplace was Egypt. That
guaranteed he would be treated with suspicion and little courtesy.
Seeing Victor treated that way was very frustrating for me. But through
it all Victor was patient and gracious. Under those circumstances I
doubt I could have done likewise.
Here's an outline of our itinerary:
*a day in Cyprus where the Middle East Council of Churches has a
liaison office and I attended a young leaders conference on
*two days in Beruit interacting with partner church leaders;
drove overland through the Bekaa Valley to Damascus, Syria, where we
met with religious and governmental leaders and members of the
Evangelical (read Presbyterian) Church of Damascus;
*drove overland to Amman, Jordan to spend time with mission
*drove overland into the Jordan Valley, across the Jordan River just
north of the Dead Sea and up into the hills (much more rugged hills
than I had expected) to Jerusalem;
*a day in Bethlehem with partner church personnel (and a bit of
sightseeing for this wide-eyed, first time visitor); and
*a day in Jerusalem visiting Israelis who are involved in the peace
movement and visiting sights where Palestinian homes have been
Each day was full of events and meetings from early morning to late
at night, so I'm still sorting out all the memories and impressions,
two of which I'll share with you here.
DAMASCUS: 'BRING BACK AMERICA'
The Evangelical Church of Damascus is located in the heart of the Old
City not far from Ananias' house where Paul regained his sight and
Old Damascus is a maze of very narrow, twisting and crowded streets.
Nuhad Tomeh, one of our mission personnel who is assigned to the
Middle East Council of Churches, drove us into the Old City through
streets that I would have sworn were not wide enough for the car, let
alone the car and all the foot traffic.
After snaking through the streets in what felt to me like going in
circles, we stopped in front of a gate. Some young boys who must have
been watching for us pushed open the gates and we drove into a stone
paved courtyard with a modest but impressive church in the center.
After the congestion and clamor of the Old City, the courtyard seemed
like a peaceful oasis.
It was a hot Friday evening but still about 40 members of the church
gathered to welcome us. After a time of coffee, soft drinks and
delicious sweet snacks, we gathered in the sanctuary for dialogue. I had
expected a pleasant time of exchanged greetings. We did exchange
greetings, but they had much more to say. One of the elders graciously led
off with words of thanks and appreciation. He and I had conversed
earlier in English, but for his public comments to me he spoke in
After more words of welcome, he paused and with passion spoke
eloquently about the America he knew in the past, the America of FDR, of
Harry Truman and General Patton. He lauded the America that gave the
democratic example to the world, the America of Christian values, the
America that he had admired.
Almost plaintively he looked me in the eye and asked, "Why can't you
bring back that America?"
He went on to lament what I came to understand is a common perception
held by Middle Easterners: the USA is seen as an aggressive power
unilaterally invading and occupying nations without cause and a nation
that does not reflect Christian values. At the core of this perception
is the absolute conviction that Israel is pulling the strings and
manipulating the USA for its own benefit.
"Whoa! Wait a minute!" I said in shock to myself. "There's no way
Israel controls us."
But as others talked, I came to realize that argument was fruitless.
Their perceptions of the USA are to them just as genuine as mine are
to me. These sisters and brothers in Christ were speaking the truth
in love to me. Their worldview is the Arab worldview. Their worldview
is shaped by being at a very different point of the geographic,
economic and social spectrum than we in the USA are. Even so, they spoke
Afterwards, we gathered in the courtyard for conversation and
good-byes. They couldn't have been more loving and hospitable. I marveled at
how the feelings of frustration and anger, very real and deep
feelings, did not stand in the way of being sisters and brothers in Christ.
Each of them would welcome me, or you, into their homes and show us
hospitality beyond what we are accustomed to in our homes.
The Middle East is so full of contradictions.
TEL AVIV: POLITICAL PAWNS
My final interaction in the Middle East was at the Tel Aviv airport
as we waited for the evening flight to Cyprus. A pleasant, middle-aged
woman asked if I would respond to a survey for the Israeli Tourist
Bureau. I agreed and she sat in the vacant seat between Victor and me
to open her laptop. I looked over her shoulder to read the questions
as she asked them and watch her deftly enter the answers.
About two-thirds through the survey she asked about the purpose of my
trip. With my mind full of images of the plight of the Palestinians,
I answered, "To better understand the Palestinian situation."
She keyed in the phrase, "political situation." I said, "No, please
enter my answer, to better understand the Palestinian situation." With
rueful glance at me, she re-keyed the answer and went on pleasantly
Having finished with me, she began asking Victor the questions. I
continued reading the paper only to realize shortly that they had
stopped on the same purpose of the trip question. Apparently Victor had
given her an answer even more expansive than mine and she was reluctant
to enter it. Just then our plane was called and I gathered my bag to
head for the line.
Rudely I'm afraid, I inserted myself in the woman's conversation with
Victor by asking, "Have you been in the occupied territories?"
"Yes," was the abrupt answer.
"Have you seen what happens to Palestinians at the security check
points," I asked.
Another abrupt "Yes."
"Then how do you feel about the treatment of the Palestinians," I
With fire in her eyes she almost spat the answer in my face, "How do
you expect us to treat people who are determined to kill us!"
Taken aback by her intensity, I headed for the line deflated by the
huge emotional gap that exists in the Middle East. Throughout the ten
days, our encounters with Arabs, Palestinians and Israelis were warm
and enriching. On all subjects but one we found openness and warmth.
But on the issue of Israeli-Palestinian relations the raw emotions
consistently overwhelmed me.
So often the situation seems hopeless. But I know, and am here to
tell you, that there are people of faith on both sides working
tirelessly for peace in small but meaningful ways.
I pray every day for the peacemakers in the Middle East. Will you
please join me in that prayer.
Youth Assembly urges moderation, not abstinence, in sex debates
by Jerry L. Van Marter
LOUISVILLE - A group of more than 500 young Presbyterians has urged
the General Assembly to continue discussing issues having to do with
sexuality - including whether sexually active gays and lesbians should
be eligible for ordination - but not to allow those matters to
dominate its proceedings.
That was the message from one Assembly of the Presbyterian
Church (USA) to another: from the 2003 Presbyterian Youth Connection
Assembly (PYCA) to the GA, the denomination's highest governing body.
The PYCA brought more than 500 Presbyterian high school students
together here on July 30 for five days of worship, Bible study,
leadership-development workshops and GA-style debates of proposed
The youth Assembly concluded Sunday morning after two days of plenary
sessions devoted to tortuous parliamentary process and impassioned
exchanges of opinions and deeply-held convictions - debates
demonstrating that dissent permeates all generations of the PC(USA).
Wading through 34 resolutions submitted by delegates, the youth
Assembly, like its adult counterpart, was dominated by two issues: human
sexuality and abortion. And the PYCA, again like the General Assembly,
was not of one mind on either.
Sexuality and ordination: Keep talking
The more than 500 voting PYCA delegates - representing their
presbyteries - overwhelmingly defeated a resolution asking the 2004
General Assembly to "postpone the issue of the ordination of
A.J. Piccone, of Hudson River Presbytery, a co-moderator of
the PYCA Committee on Sexuality, said: "While the committee agrees
that this issue should not take center stage, we feel it should stay on
the table, as painful as it may be. We seek to discern God's will
throughout continued discussion."
A delegate from Holston Presbytery in Tennessee agreed that
sexuality issues should no longer be front-and-center. "The PC(USA)
should move away from focusing in the issues of sex and sin," she said,
"and move toward focusing more on such issues as evangelism."
A related resolution to "affirm the call of homosexuals,
bisexuals and transgendered persons to all areas of ministry" also
passed, but only after several unsuccessful attempts to include references
to the PC(USA)'s constitutional prohibition against the ordination of
sexually active non-married persons as church officers (G-6.0106b).
Pat Murray, an adult advisor serving as the other
co-moderator of the sexuality committee, said during plenary: "This resolution
carefully avoids ordination. The committee wanted to make sure (the
ordination question) is not the issue of this resolution. This
resolution is about God calling everyone to ministry in some way or other."
Abortion: Following the denomination's lead
The Assembly accepted a recommendation from the Committee on
Abortion that a resolution promoting pro-life resources and events be
In the single case in which a committee's recommendation was
substantially changed by the Assembly, the delegates rejected a comment
proposed by the committee, and instead adopted a carefully worded
statement on abortion excerpted from current General Assembly policy.
The committee wanted to include the observation that "the
Presbyterian Church (USA) is prayerfully pro-choice."
The full text of the PYCA's comment:
"In life and in death we belong to God. Life is a gift from God. We
may not know exactly when human life begins, and have but imperfect
understanding of God as the giver of life and of our own human
existence, yet we recognize that life is precious to God, and we should
preserve and protect it.
"We derive our understanding of human life from Scripture and
the Reformed tradition in light of science, human experience and
reason, guided by the Holy Spirit. Because we are made in the image of
God, human beings are moral agents, endowed by the Creator with the
capacity to make choices. Our Reformed tradition recognizes that people
do not always make moral choices, and forgiveness is central to our
"In the Reformed tradition we affirm that God is the only
Lord of conscience, not the state nor the church. As a community, the
church challenges the faithful to exercise their moral agency
Leadership: Clamoring for more
The largest number of resolutions urged more youth
representation on sessions. The Assembly approved measures calling on the
National Presbyterian Youth Ministry Council, which oversees the
Presbyterian Youth Connection between its triennial Assemblies, to advocate
greater youth membership on sessions. It also urged denominational
agencies to provide resources to congregations that will encourage
greater youth participation on sessions.
Despite objections that it would be too costly, the PYCA
asked its council to seek an increase in the number of Youth Advisory
Delegates to General Assemblies from one per presbytery to two per
presbytery when the Assembly moves to biennial meetings (with a 50 percent
increase in the number of commissioners) in 2006.
Evangelism and interfaith relations
The delegates expressed a keen interest in reaching out to
potential new Christians, including people of other faiths.
The Assembly asked its council to call for the development of
PC(USA) evangelism resources "to help youth and young adults express
their faith and share Presbyterian beliefs in their community." It
also urged presbyteries to help congregations "become aware of
available resources and evangelism training opportunities."
Noting the PC(USA)'s chronic loss of young adults after they
leave high school, the Assembly asked the Youth and Young Adult
Ministries Office to help train congregational leaders "to attract and
minister to post-high school members."
Dathan Brown, a co-moderator of the Assembly Committee on
Evangelism, said, "Statistics show there's a drop-off after high school.
…More can be done."
The Assembly asked the Congregational Ministries Division to
"develop or recommend" curriculum to help young people engage in
study and dialogue with non-Christians and with non-Presbyterian
The PYCA also voted:
* Not to seek biennial meetings (in the General Assembly's "off
years"), but to continue meeting once every three years;
* Not to seek the development of a "youth confession" for the church;
* To urge development of a curriculum on "how youth can live
Christian lives in a nation where church and state are separate," and the use
of existing materials "to educate presbyteries in theocracy";
* To take a more active role in promoting the Pentecost Offering,
which benefits youth and young adult ministry in the PC(USA);
* To ask its council to "evaluate" the existing PC(USA) confirmation
* To ask the council to explore the possibility of launching a
fund-raising campaign to endow a scholarship fund for PC(USA) youth
* To help publicize and promote AIDS ministries in Malawi, one of the
African countries hit hardest by the pandemic; and,
* To help raise awareness of the PC(USA)'s goal of increasing its
While I no longer claim affiliation with the Presbyterian Church(USA), I still recieve e-mail from them. Which I don't mind particularly, since it provides a rather interesting look at how a national denomination is dealing with issues of the modern world. Plus, every once in a while, I get nostalgic for the days of being part of the "frozen chosen".
So, work still sucks. Nothing I can do about that, tho adagiogray
is trying to get me to become a deputy sheriff in Franklin County with him. Yeah right...go ahead, give me handcuffs.
Mr Gray, who still claims heterosexuality, dragged me to Union Station tonite after work for 2 martini's (his), 2 beers (mine), a shot of Cuttysark (mine, much to my regret). and a shot of Frangelica (shared). Needless to say, I was stumbling when we walked out at 2:15. However, from the blur of music I heard while my head spun, I do recall hearing "The Bad Touch" by Bloodhound Gang, and the damn one hit from Sonique who's name I can never remeber, but I love anyway.
After that, we went to TeeJay's for Mush, sausage gravy and biscuits, and banana cream pie. My diet starts tomorrow anyway, might as well enjoy the home cookin' now. Problem being that the Tee-Jay's effect is kicking in, and George has me in mortal terror of the bathroom. George being the little spider who spun a web between the tub and the door wall, who likes to stare at me while I sit on the pot. I'm trying to talk gothic_oreo
into helping George find a new place to live, namely the sacred huting grounds, if only so I can clean the damn bathroom without screaming everytime George drops from the ceiling to visit me.
In the meantime, I still need to find a nice gift for Herb's mom, since she's turning 50. So, Thursday, I will enter the hell of commerce known as City Center to find something licenced by Betty Boop. Then on Friday, El Herbo and I will take his motorized carriage to Port Clinton for my whopping weekend vacation this year. *cheer*
I will be so happy to get away for a short period of time. And I swear that I won't get plastered on Jello shots on Put-In-Bay this time.
Oh yeah. What do a desk and opening day tickets for Buckeye football have in common? Both are reason enough for my mother and brother to wake me up following a 12 hour shift. I'm about ready to tell mom to give Richard the fucking tickets and go see Billy Idol instead. Anything is better than dealing with the landmine that is my family.
Of yeah, Dragonlance Legends
wasn't anywhere near as good as I remembered it being. And the Deathgate Cycle
is kind of dull. *sigh*