From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Work Group to Review College Women's Network Meets

Date 30 Oct 1998 20:06:23

Reply-To: wfn-news list <>
    Work Group to Review College Women's Network Meets , 
    Schedules Full Day of Hearings in January 
    by Jerry L. Van Marter 
LOUISVILLE, Ky.-A work group charged by the recent General Assembly to 
review the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) National Network of Presbyterian 
College Women (NNPCW) began sifting through reams of background material at 
its first meeting here Oct. 27-28. 
    The intense but cordial meeting set the stage for a showdown between 
critics and supporters of the network when work group members scheduled 
nearly a full day of hearings when they meet next in January. 
    The NNPCW, a joint ministry of several offices within the National 
Ministries Division (NMD), came under fire in Charlotte when critics of the 
group objected to some its resources.  They particularly attacked a 1992 
publication titled "Young Women Speak: Issues for Study by College Women," 
charging that it violates provisions of the "Book of Order" by stating that 
homosexuality is an appropriate Christian lifestyle.  They also said it 
does not square with biblical teachings on issues of sexuality and 
premarital sex. 
    In a highly contentious series of actions, the Assembly first withdrew 
funding and official sponsorship of the NNPCW.  Then, following a public 
demonstration by supporters of the network on the floor of the Assembly, 
commissioners reversed themselves and voted to continue funding for one 
more year while the work group reviews "the resources, publications and 
programs" of the NNPCW. 
    The work group was instructed to report the findings of its review to 
next summer's General Assembly and make recommendations about future 
funding of the network. 
    Established in 1991 as a pilot project funded by a Bicentennial Fund 
grant, the NNPCW was adopted by the NMD as an ongoing ministry in 1994 
after the pilot project received a positive evaluation.  In 1998 it 
received a total of $50,000 from the women's ministries, higher education, 
evangelism and social justice offices of NMD. 
    The work group spent this two-day meeting reviewing a brief history of 
the NNPCW  --written by current NNPCW intern Gusti Newquist -- and the 
network's by-laws.  The group also reviewed the original Bicentennial Fund 
proposal, the 1994 documents recording the NMD actions and a staff report 
evaluating the network that was prepared for the NMD in 1998. 
    NMD associate for corporate witness the Rev. Vernon Broyles, who is 
staffing the work group, also handed out packets containing some 200 
letters that have been received to date about the NNPCW.  He said "at least 
90 percent" of them appear to be supportive of the network. 
    All seven work group members agreed to review "Young Women Speak" in 
detail between now and Dec. 15 and to report to the whole group any 
departures from "The Book of Order" or the Bible that they find in 
preparation for the next meeting, Jan. 11-12 here. 
    Work group members shared their initial reactions to "Young Women 
Speak," which addresses issues such as sexuality, rape, time management, 
feminist/womanist theologies, discrimination against women, the 
environment, eating disorders and inclusive language.  The resource was 
written by Presbyterian college women and edited by staff interns in the 
former Women's Ministries Unit in Louisville. 
    The Rev. Jeff Bridgeman of Solvang, Calif., said that while he found 
some of the sections, particularly the one on rape, "terrific," overall "I 
was sad."  Bridgeman faulted the editors, not the writers.  "I found an 
overemphasis on victimization without any word on the healing power of 
Christ," he explained.  "There were great places for biblical 
interpretation of these issues that missed the mark." 
    General Assembly moderator the Rev. Douglas Oldenburg agreed that the 
resource needs to be rewritten "but not scrapped - a lot of it is very 
    Oldenburg's plea for more a more solid theological and biblical base 
under the resource was echoed by several others.  Calling "Young Women 
Speak" NNPCW's "defining resource," Assembly vice-moderator the Rev. Jim 
Mead said, " has to be balanced and in-bounds and within the 
Presbyterian Church there's gobs of room for that." 
    Miriam Pride, president of PC(USA)-related Blackburn College in 
Carlinville, Ill., defended the resource.  "From my experience, this is the 
only document that could keep me in the room, because the church was 
horrendous on these issues for so long," she said.  "The document you're 
talking about creating wouldn't have done it for me when I was a student, 
because the church's theologies on these issues were no help." 
    The issue now, Pride added, "is the relationship between `Young Women 
Speak' and church policy.  I look forward to our answers about what it is 
in here that violates [church policy]." 
    Oldenburg put it another way.  "We want the material to be faithful but 
also accessible to folk who are turned off by `God-talk.'" 
    "And not everyone is turned off by `God-talk,'" quickly added Diane 
Wright, an educator on the staff of New Harmony Presbytery in Florence, 
    Mead sounded a cautionary note.  "You know, all this comes at a time 
when we've pretty much abandoned our ministry to college students.  We 
desperately need a ministry here ... to all college women, to all college 
    Ironically, "Young Women Speak" is "no longer in stock," according to 
the Rev. Barbara Dua, associate director for women's ministries in NMD and 
staff to the network.  "We were already planning to revise the resource 
before the Assembly and there was quite a run on it in Charlotte, so we 
have no more copies left," Dua said. 
    Newquist expressed the frustration she said is felt by NNPCW's 
12-member Coordinating Council (CoCo), all of whom are Presbyterian college 
women.  "CoCo is asking the same questions you are," she said. "CoCo 
decided last February to revise the resource, but our energies have been 
diverted elsewhere, obviously, and now they're asking, `Why should we go to 
all this time and effort if we're going to be eliminated next summer 
    The work group agreed to invite the two organizations most critical of 
the NNPCW - the Presbyterian Lay Committee and Voices of Orthodox Women - 
to present their case for a total of one hour Jan. 11 during the next work 
group meeting.  As yet unnamed groups supporting the network will also have 
a total of one hour to speak to the work group, which has also scheduled 30 
minutes each to question the opponents and advocates of the network. 
    The work group has also allotted 90 minutes for "open hearings," in 
which individuals will have five minutes each to express their opinions on 
whether the NNPCW should continue to receive denominational sponsorship and 
funding.  Requests for time to speak during the hearings will be received 
by the work group later in November by mail only.  A means for random 
selection from among those requesting time will be devised. 
    A PresbyNet meeting will also soon be established to receive comments 
on NNPCW from those who wish to communicate electronically. 

  This note sent by PCUSA NEWS
  to the wfn-news list <>.
  Send unsubscribe requests to

Browse month . . . Browse month (sort by Source) . . . Advanced Search & Browse . . . WFN Home