From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Council Postpones Action on PHEWA Review until June
04 May 1996 15:23:16
96084 Council Postpones Action on PHEWA Review until June
by Jerry L. Van Marter
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--The General Assembly Council (GAC) has postponed
consideration of a report on the activities of the Presbyterian Health,
Education and Welfare Association (PHEWA) until its June meeting in
In the meantime, the work group of the Council's National Ministries
Division (NMD) Committee that has been conducting the General
Assembly-mandated review of PHEWA has reopened its process to allow more
input from Presbyterians, especially those who are critical of PHEWA's
The work group, chaired by the Rev. Harry Smith of Santa Fe, N.M.,
concluded that "the activities of PHEWA have been in accordance with the
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the National Ministries Division and
the PHEWA bylaws."
The postponement came after several Council members objected to the
initial report, claiming that the work group failed to talk to any of
PHEWA's critics, including the General Assembly commissioners who submitted
a resolution to last year's Assembly in Cincinnati calling for the
"defunding" of PHEWA.
The Assembly rejected the funding cutoff but asked the Council to
"review the activities of PHEWA since the 204th General Assembly (1992),
monitor PHEWA regarding their Memorandum of Understanding with the National
Ministries Division and report their findings to the 208th General
PHEWA's critics charged that, because the association is a 501.c.3
nonprofit organization, it is independent of and not accountable to the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). They also argued that PHEWA's financial
records are not adequately audited and that the association has taken
positions that are contrary to General Assembly policy.
The work group's report concluded that having 501.c.3 status "does not
preclude support from the denomination or denote independent status." The
Rev. Mark Wendorf, executive director of PHEWA, told the Council PHEWA's
finances are reviewed annually as part of the Corporate and Administrative
Services internal audit and that an external audit is being conducted "as
At the heart of the criticism seemed to be an action taken by PHEWA at
its 1993 biennial membership meeting to "celebrate the gifts of lesbian,
bisexual and gay persons and support their ordination rights."
When the report was considered by NMD, the Rev. Daniel Massie of
Kingsport, Tenn., said, "Let me be blunt -- I don't believe supporting
ordination [of gay and lesbian persons] furthers the peace, unity and
purity of the church and therefore does not constitute responsible
Massie was referring to provision in PHEWA's MOU that states: "PHEWA
serves as a channel to NMD for networks to voice responsible dissent to
current policies of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in the areas of
health, education, welfare or justice." The work group report concluded
that PHEWA followed the provisions of the MOU.
But the Rev. Jonathan Wilson of Carmel, Calif., was not satisfied.
"What steps have been taken to look into all these issues that were the
cause of the concerns [raised at the Assembly last summer]?" he asked.
"This review is not adequate -- it's like asking Hillary Clinton to
Smith said NMD had agreed to review the terms of the MOU when it
conducts its annual review of PHEWA next fall. "It may be that we want
PHEWA to be doing something else, but right now they are adhering to the
Memorandum of Understanding that is in force."
PHEWA, founded in 1956, is a membership association of 10 networks of
Presbyterians that work to implement various social welfare policies of the
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). It receives a little less than $100,000 in
funding from the General Assembly mission budget. The money helps fund the
association's biennial conferences ($10,000) and goes as grants to the work
of the networks. The Rev. Mark Wendorf divides his time, serving as
associate for social welfare organizations and executive director of PHEWA.
The constituent networks that comprise PHEWA are Community Ministries
and Neighborhood Organizations; Presbyterian AIDS Network; Presbyterians
Affirming Reproductive Options; Presbyterian Association of Specialized
Pastoral Ministries; Presbyterian Child Advocacy Network; Presbyterians for
Disabilities Concerns; Presbyterian Health Network; Presbyterian Network on
Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse; Presbyterian Mental Illness Network; and the
Urban Presbyterian Pastors Association.
In addition to Smith, the other members of the work group are John
Baugh of Westlake Village, Calif.; Andrew Browne of Aurora, Colo. (liaison
from the Corporate and Administrative Services Committee); Stephen Grace of
Midland, Mich.; the Rev. Robert Laha Jr. of Richmond, Va. (liaison from the
Congregational Ministries Division Committee); Mary Elva Smith of San
Diego, Calif.; Maria Yee of Stockton, Calif.; and Seong Hwan Kim of
Harrisburg, Pa. (liaison from the Worldwide Ministries Division Committee).
For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
phone 502-569-5504 fax 502-569-8073
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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