From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Council Postpones Action on PHEWA Review until June

Date 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 
we speak." 
     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 
evaluate Bill." 
     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   Web page: 


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