Presbyterians support medical marijuana

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Presbyterians support medical marijuana

Postby palmspringsbum » Sun Jun 25, 2006 12:19 pm

The Solanco News wrote:Presbyterian Church (USA) Votes to Support Legal Access to Medical Marijuana

The Solanco News
June 22, 2006

Birmingham, AL – Yesterday, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) became the latest religious body to endorse legal access to medical marijuana for seriously ill patients. By consensus, the denomination passed a resolution “urging Federal legislation that allows for its use and that provides for the production and distribution of the plant for those purposes.”

This comes just days before a major medical marijuana vote in the U.S. Congress. In the next few days, Congress will vote on an amendment to the Commerce-Justice-State Appropriations bill to prohibit the use of federal funds for arresting medical marijuana patients in those states that allow medical marijuana. Medical marijuana patients are already protected from arrest by state and local police in eleven states, including Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) joins the United Methodist Church, Episcopal Church, United Church of Christ, Union for Reform Judaism, Progressive National Baptist Convention, and the Unitarian Universalist Association in support of medical marijuana.

“Medical marijuana is an issue of mercy,” said Rev. Lynn Bledsoe, a Presbyterian minister from Alabama who works as a hospice chaplain. “As people of faith, we are called to stand up for humans who are suffering needlessly. It is unconscionable that seriously ill patients can be arrested for making an earnest attempt at healing by using medical marijuana with their doctors’ approval.”

“Legislators who give lip service to ‘moral values’ had better be consistent on the medical marijuana issue,” said Charles Thomas, executive director of the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative. “The Presbyterian Church (USA) joins six other major denominations explicitly supporting medical marijuana, while no denominations’ governing bodies have ever taken an official position against it.”

“Being seriously ill is stressful enough already without living in fear of arrest for taking doctor-recommended medicine,” said Rev. Jim McNeil, a representative of the Homestead Presbytery in Nebraska, the regional body that brought the resolution to the General Assembly. “It is the job of religious denominations to give voice to those who cannot speak up for themselves. We pray that Congress will have the compassion to stop this war on patients.”

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Postby palmspringsbum » Sun Jun 25, 2006 12:25 pm

Religion News Service wrote:FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 22, 2006

PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (USA) VOTES TO SUPPORT LEGAL ACCESS TO MEDICAL MARIJUANA

Church Joins Other Major Religious Denominations Urging Congress to Stop the White House’s Persecution of Medical Marijuana Patients


CONTACT: Troy Dayton, IDPI associate director, 301-379-2857, <a href=mailto:troydayton@idpi.us>troydayton@idpi.us</a>
Sharon Youngs, Presbyterian Church (USA), 888-728-7228 x5750 <a href=mailto:syoungs@ctr.pcusa.org>syoungs@ctr.pcusa.org</a>

(Birmingham, AL) – Yesterday, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) became the latest religious body to endorse legal access to medical marijuana for seriously ill patients. By consensus, the denomination passed a resolution “urging Federal legislation that allows for its use and that provides for the production and distribution of the plant for those purposes.”

This comes just days before a major medical marijuana vote in the U.S. Congress. In the next few days, Congress will vote on an amendment to the Commerce-Justice-State Appropriations bill to prohibit the use of federal funds for arresting medical marijuana patients in those states that allow medical marijuana. Medical marijuana patients are already protected from arrest by state and local police in eleven states, including Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) joins the United Methodist Church, Episcopal Church, United Church of Christ, Union for Reform Judaism, Progressive National Baptist Convention, and the Unitarian Universalist Association in support of medical marijuana.

“Medical marijuana is an issue of mercy,” said Rev. Lynn Bledsoe, a Presbyterian minister from Alabama who works as a hospice chaplain. “As people of faith, we are called to stand up for humans who are suffering needlessly. It is unconscionable that seriously ill patients can be arrested for making an earnest attempt at healing by using medical marijuana with their doctors’ approval.”

“Legislators who give lip service to ‘moral values’ had better be consistent on the medical marijuana issue,” said Charles Thomas, executive director of the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative. “The Presbyterian Church (USA) joins six other major denominations explicitly supporting medical marijuana, while no denominations’ governing bodies have ever taken an official position against it.”

“Being seriously ill is stressful enough already without living in fear of arrest for taking doctor-recommended medicine,” said Rev. Jim McNeil, a representative of the Homestead Presbytery in Nebraska, the regional body that brought the resolution to the General Assembly. “It is the job of religious denominations to give voice to those who cannot speak up for themselves. We pray that Congress will have the compassion to stop this war on patients.”

The denominations’ full positions are available at
<a href=http://www.idpi.us/dpr/GREAT2006-1.pdf>http://www.idpi.us/dpr/GREAT2006-1.pdf</a>

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Postby palmspringsbum » Sun Jun 25, 2006 12:29 pm

The Drug Policy Alliance wrote:Presbyterian Church Joins Other Major Denominations in Support of Medical Marijuana

Thursday, June 22, 2006


The Drug Policy Alliance

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, USA (PCUSA) voted Wednesday to support access to medical marijuana for people who have a doctor's recommendation.

The resolution was passed at the PCUSA's 217th General Assembly meeting in Birmingham, Alabama. DPA-affiliated Alabama Compassionate Care Campaign members, who include a Presbyterian minister, worked with the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative to bring the message of compassion for seriously ill people to the General Assembly members for a full vote. The resolution was passed by consensus.

The Homestead Presbytery in Nebraska, who introduced the resolution, said, "When we see the suffering of others, we are called to stand up and take a look."

"Medical marijuana is an issue of mercy," said Rev. Lynn Bledsoe, a Presbyterian minister from Alabama who works as a hospice chaplain. "As people of faith, we are called to stand up for humans who are suffering needlessly. It is unconscionable that seriously ill patients can be arrested for making an earnest attempt at healing by using medical marijuana with their doctors' approval."

The resolution affirms "the use of cannabis sativa or marijuana for legitimate medical purposes as recommended by a physician," and calls for "federal legislation that allows for its use and that provides for the production and distribution of the plant for those purposes."

The Presbyterian Church, USA, is the seventh major denomination to take a position in support of medical marijuana. The others are the United Methodist Church, Episcopal Church, United Church of Christ, Union for Reform Judaism, Progressive National Baptist Convention and Unitarian Universalist Association. No denomination has come out officially against medical marijuana.

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Liberal Christianity is paying for its sins

Postby budman » Sun Jul 09, 2006 12:43 pm

This article is only peripherally related to cannabis and/or prohibition. However, it does contain a good overview of the denominations that support medical marijauna, the size of their congregations, and their decline over the past decade.

The L.A. Times wrote:OPINION

Liberal Christianity is paying for its sins

Out-of-the-mainstream beliefs about gay marriage and supposedly sexist doctrines are gutting old-line faiths.

The L.A. Times

By Charlotte Allen, <i>CHARLOTTE ALLEN is Catholicism editor for Beliefnet and the author of "The Human Christ: The Search for the Historical Jesus."</i>

July 9, 2006


The accelerating fragmentation of the strife-torn Episcopal Church USA, in which several parishes and even a few dioceses are opting out of the church, isn't simply about gay bishops, the blessing of same-sex unions or the election of a woman as presiding bishop. It also is about the meltdown of liberal Christianity.

Embraced by the leadership of all the mainline Protestant denominations, as well as large segments of American Catholicism, liberal Christianity has been hailed by its boosters for 40 years as the future of the Christian church.

Instead, as all but a few die-hards now admit, all the mainline churches and movements within churches that have blurred doctrine and softened moral precepts are demographically declining and, in the case of the Episcopal Church, disintegrating.

It is not entirely coincidental that at about the same time that Episcopalians, at their general convention in Columbus, Ohio, were thumbing their noses at a directive from the worldwide Anglican Communion that they "repent" of confirming the openly gay Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire three years ago, the Presbyterian Church USA, at its general assembly in Birmingham, Ala., was turning itself into the laughingstock of the blogosphere by tacitly approving alternative designations for the supposedly sexist Christian Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Among the suggested names were "Mother, Child and Womb" and "Rock, Redeemer and Friend." Moved by the spirit of the Presbyterian revisionists, Beliefnet blogger Rod Dreher held a "Name That Trinity" contest. Entries included "Rock, Scissors and Paper" and "Larry, Curly and Moe."

Following the Episcopalian lead, the Presbyterians also voted to give local congregations the freedom to ordain openly cohabiting gay and lesbian ministers and endorsed the legalization of medical marijuana. (The latter may be a good idea, but it is hard to see how it falls under the theological purview of a Christian denomination.)

The Presbyterian Church USA is famous for its 1993 conference, cosponsored with the United Methodist Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and other mainline churches, in which participants "reimagined" God as "Our Maker Sophia" and held a feminist-inspired "milk and honey" ritual designed to replace traditional bread-and-wine Communion.

As if to one-up the Presbyterians in jettisoning age-old elements of Christian belief, the Episcopalians at Columbus overwhelmingly refused even to consider a resolution affirming that Jesus Christ is Lord. When a Christian church cannot bring itself to endorse a bedrock Christian theological statement repeatedly found in the New Testament, it is not a serious Christian church. It's a Church of What's Happening Now, conferring a feel-good imprimatur on whatever the liberal elements of secular society deem permissible or politically correct.

You want to have gay sex? Be a female bishop? Change God's name to Sophia? Go ahead. The just-elected Episcopal presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, is a one-woman combination of all these things, having voted for Robinson, blessed same-sex couples in her Nevada diocese, prayed to a female Jesus at the Columbus convention and invited former Newark, N.J., bishop John Shelby Spong, famous for denying Christ's divinity, to address her priests.

When a church doesn't take itself seriously, neither do its members. It is hard to believe that as recently as 1960, members of mainline churches — Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans and the like — accounted for 40% of all American Protestants. Today, it's more like 12% (17 million out of 135 million). Some of the precipitous decline is due to lower birthrates among the generally blue-state mainliners, but it also is clear that millions of mainline adherents (and especially their children) have simply walked out of the pews never to return. According to the Hartford Institute for Religious Research, in 1965, there were 3.4 million Episcopalians; now, there are 2.3 million. The number of Presbyterians fell from 4.3 million in 1965 to 2.5 million today. Compare that with 16 million members reported by the Southern Baptists.

When your religion says "whatever" on doctrinal matters, regards Jesus as just another wise teacher, refuses on principle to evangelize and lets you do pretty much what you want, it's a short step to deciding that one of the things you don't want to do is get up on Sunday morning and go to church.

It doesn't help matters that the mainline churches were pioneers in ordaining women to the clergy, to the point that 25% of all Episcopal priests these days are female, as are 29% of all Presbyterian pastors, according to the two churches. A causal connection between a critical mass of female clergy and a mass exodus from the churches, especially among men, would be difficult to establish, but is it entirely a coincidence? Sociologist Rodney Stark ("The Rise of Christianity") and historian Philip Jenkins ("The Next Christendom") contend that the more demands, ethical and doctrinal, that a faith places upon its adherents, the deeper the adherents' commitment to that faith. Evangelical and Pentecostal churches, which preach biblical morality, have no trouble saying that Jesus is Lord, and they generally eschew women's ordination. The churches are growing robustly, both in the United States and around the world.

Despite the fact that median Sunday attendance at Episcopal churches is 80 worshipers, the Episcopal Church, as a whole, is financially equipped to carry on for some time, thanks to its inventory of vintage real estate and huge endowments left over from the days (no more!) when it was the Republican Party at prayer. Furthermore, it has offset some of its demographic losses by attracting disaffected liberal Catholics and gays and lesbians. The less endowed Presbyterian Church USA is in deeper trouble. Just before its general assembly in Birmingham, it announced that it would eliminate 75 jobs to meet a $9.15-million budget cut at its headquarters, the third such round of job cuts in four years.

The Episcopalians have smells, bells, needlework cushions and colorfully garbed, Catholic-looking bishops as draws, but who, under the present circumstances, wants to become a Presbyterian?

Still, it must be galling to Episcopal liberals that many of the parishes and dioceses (including that of San Joaquin, Calif.) that want to pull out of the Episcopal Church USA are growing instead of shrinking, have live people in the pews who pay for the upkeep of their churches and don't have to rely on dead rich people. The 21-year-old Christ Church Episcopal in Plano, Texas, for example, is one of the largest Episcopal churches in the country. Its 2,200 worshipers on any given Sunday are about equal to the number of active Episcopalians in Jefferts Schori's entire Nevada diocese.

It's no surprise that Christ Church, like the other dissident parishes, preaches a very conservative theology. Its break from the national church came after Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Anglican Communion, proposed a two-tier membership in which the Episcopal Church USA and other churches that decline to adhere to traditional biblical standards would have "associate" status in the communion. The dissidents hope to retain full communication with Canterbury by establishing oversight by non-U.S. Anglican bishops.

As for the rest of the Episcopalians, the phrase "deck chairs on the Titanic" comes to mind. A number of liberal Episcopal websites are devoted these days to dissing Peter Akinola, outspoken primate of the Anglican diocese of Nigeria, who, like the vast majority of the world's 77 million Anglicans reported by the Anglican Communion, believes that "homosexual practice" is "incompatible with Scripture" (those words are from the communion's 1998 resolution at the Lambeth conference of bishops). Akinola might have the numbers on his side, but he is now the Voldemort — no, make that the Karl Rove — of the U.S. Episcopal world. Other liberals fume over a feeble last-minute resolution in Columbus calling for "restraint" in consecrating bishops whose lifestyle might offend "the wider church" — a resolution immediately ignored when a second openly cohabitating gay man was nominated for bishop of Newark.

So this is the liberal Christianity that was supposed to be the Christianity of the future: disarray, schism, rapidly falling numbers of adherents, a collapse of Christology and national meetings that rival those of the Modern Language Assn. for their potential for cheap laughs. And they keep telling the Catholic Church that it had better get with the liberal program — ordain women, bless gay unions and so forth — or die. Sure.

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Boca Raton man wants religious discourse to take left turn

Postby palmspringsbum » Sun Jul 23, 2006 1:53 pm

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel wrote:Boca Raton man wants religious discourse to take left turn

Spiritual Progressives want to shift debate to issues of poverty, health care, peace.



By Lois K. Solomon
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

July 23, 2006



Tom Tift believes it's time for spiritual discourse to take a left turn.

Tift, a staffer at First United Methodist Church of Boca Raton, wants to ignite a Palm Beach County movement that swings religious talk in America away from the right. He says the Republican Party has dominated religious-political discussions for too long.

"The left needs to find its spiritual voice in American politics," said Tift, 55, a father of two raised as a Baptist. "It's a grass-roots effort to change the spiritual focus of the nation."

Tift has joined the Network of Spiritual Progressives, a national group founded by Rabbi Michael Lerner of California. The group seeks to refocus national religious discussions away from abortion, gay marriage and school prayer and to issues such as poverty, health care, peace and disarmament.

He hopes to start a Palm Beach County chapter in the coming months.

More than 1,000 people attended the Network of Spiritual Progressives convention in Washington, D.C., in May. The strong turnout was one of several indicators that the religious left, which many say has been dormant since the 1960s civil-rights and anti-Vietnam War era, is regaining strength.

U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., advocated the fusion of religion and liberal politics during a speech last month.

The first Progressive Faith Blog Con, or bloggers conference, took place last week in New Jersey. Members of the U.S. House of Representatives formed the Democratic Faith Working Group to make Democrats more comfortable as they talk about religion. And several books have been published in the past year denouncing the prominent role of religious conservatives.

Among them: God's Politics: Why The Right Gets It Wrong And The Left Doesn't Get It, by Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners magazine, and Lerner's The Left Hand of God: Taking Back Our Country From The Religious Right.

Lerner inspired Scott Lewis of Pembroke Pines when Lerner spoke in Miami three years ago. Soon after, Lewis started a chapter of Lerner's spiritual network. The group meets monthly in Miami-Dade County.

"A lot of people in the right wing claim the religious high ground, but their ideas are repulsive to a lot of people who think of themselves as religious," said Lewis, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Miami who is Jewish but does not attend a synagogue.

The chapter, with attendance ranging from six to 15 members, has been studying Lerner's writings and deciding which issues to tackle publicly. Members come from various backgrounds, but most have lost ties with organized religion, Lewis said.

The religious left still has a long way to go to become a dominant political force, said Allen Hertzke, a political science professor at the University of Oklahoma.

"It still is a movement more among activists in churches and certain other cadres rather than a mass phenomenon," Hertzke said. "I don't think progressives win when they challenge the Christian right on things like gay marriage. They succeed on issues like corruption in Washington, the bungling of the war in Iraq, tax breaks for the rich and squandering our future with debt."

Hertzke said a coalition of black pastors advocating civil rights, Hispanic Catholics rallied by immigration restrictions and white progressives who favor issues such as stem-cell research and abortion rights could become a natural coalition of the religious left.

But some evangelicals also believe Christianity has strayed from core social issues and seek to refocus. In recent years, they have issued statements on global warming, AIDS and poverty.

"Baptists are just now getting more into this," said the Rev. Patrick Moody of Northwood Baptist Church in West Palm Beach. Baptists have a lengthy history of helping the poor, Moody said.

He said evangelicals are stereotyped as voting only for Republicans. But his congregation demonstrates the assortment of people attracted to Baptist beliefs.

"I know there are Republicans, Democrats and independents," he said. "Like any church, no matter what position the hierarchy might take, people will vote according to their conscience."

A recent Gallup poll indicates Americans might be tiring of government entanglement with religious questions. The poll showed the percentage of Americans who think the federal government should promote "moral values" fell from 60 percent in 1996 to 48 percent this year.

Although some evangelical churches might be moving toward the center, left-of-center believers have played a historical role in mainline Protestant congregations. The religious left is now trying to reclaim those roots, to much controversy, said the Rev. Gary Cecil of Palms West Presbyterian Church in Loxahatchee. During the national Presbyterian conference last month, the left pushed for more inclusive prayer language, the legalization of medical marijuana and the right of local congregations to ordain gay and lesbian ministers.

"I remember when Christian liberalism was a good term," Cecil said. "But progressives today are making life difficult for mainline churches."

Ray Armstrong of Miami grew up Catholic but today considers himself a "non-affiliated Christian." He joined the Miami Dade-Broward chapter of the Network of Spiritual Progressives to counterwhat he sees as the punitive nature of America's most vocal religions.

He subscribed to Lerner's Tikkun magazine and read The Left Hand of God and said Lerner's devotion to peace and confronting institutional power appeal to him.

"The religious right, organized by the political right, have become almost one and the same," said Armstrong, 62, a psychologist. "I could sit and moan about it, but I decided to do something."

Lois Solomon can be reached at lsolomon@sun-sentinel.com or 561-243-6536.


Copyright © 2006, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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