From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Women's Division voices concern about Church Women United

Date 20 Feb 2001 07:26:40

Feb. 19, 2001  News media contact: Linda Bloom·(212)870-3803·New York

By Kelly Martini*

NEW YORK (UMNS) - The United Methodist Church's Women's Division has written
a letter detailing concerns about the future of Church Women United (CWU)
and recent actions taken by the ecumenical group.

The Women's Division, a unit of the United Methodist Board of Global
Ministries, sent the letter Feb. 14 to United Methodist Women leaders in the
denomination's annual conferences. The division is the administrative body
for the million-member UMW.

The letter follows efforts to reconcile issues around the Dec. 11 firings of
seven CWU staff. After the dismissals, the Women's Division decided to
withhold funds in an effort to persuade CWU to set a clear direction for the
organization and resolve justice issues around the firings.

On the last weekend of January, CWU officers, their transition team and
supporting denominational women's organizations met in Daytona Beach, Fla.

"At that meeting, the staff liaisons clearly articulated their concerns
regarding the method used in the dismissals, the lack of communication with
the denominations, the financial condition of CWU, the justice issues around
the dismissals and anxiety about the future of the organization," said Joyce
Sohl, deputy general secretary of the Women's Division, in her letter.

At the meeting, Church Women United agreed to distribute a press release
about the discussed issues after approval by the attending denominational

The denominational staff recommended that CWU enter into mediation with the
seven former employees to resolve issues of severance. The denominational
representatives also advised canceling CWU's Assembly 2001, planned for July
in Milwaukee. CWU representatives agreed to present a plan by March to the
governing body for the future of the organization at the national level.

"I left that meeting feeling that some progress had been made and
communication would continue," Sohl said. However, events since then have
prompted more concern for the Women's Division. In the letter, Sohl
criticizes the CWU's most recent press release for misquotes and
misinformation, and she states that denominational staff attending the
meeting were not given a chance to review the release, as previously agreed.

The CWU press release states that "dialogue resulted in restored
relationships and financial support."

"The dialogue only started the process of 'restored relationships and
financial support.'  Much work is yet to be done," Sohl said.

The CWU press release also states that Assembly 2001 "is embraced as an
important cooperative venture."

"[This] is not true in light of our recommendation that it be cancelled,"
Sohl said.

It became evident to the Women's Division that CWU would not enter into
mediation with fired staff but would continue conversations through
attorneys, and that plans would proceed for the July assembly.

In her letter, Sohl announced several responses to the CWU's press release,
including reinstatement of 2001 financial contributions on a quarterly
basis, as opposed to a semi-annual basis; encouragement of women to continue
participating in CWU events; and disappointment with CWU's refusal to enter
into mediation.

"We encourage the CWU Board of Directors to thoroughly review their
procedures, policies, bylaws, etc., so that a similar situation will not
happen again; to seek reconciliation and healing within their board, among
members and with denominations; to publish a clear and definitive statement
of their financial condition; and to make a just settlement with former
staff," Sohl said.

"This is a difficult time within Church Women United," she said. "Let us
keep the leadership, membership and organization in our prayers." 	

CWU is a movement of Protestant, Roman Catholic, Orthodox and other
Christian women, organized into more than 1,400 local and state units in the
United States and Puerto Rico. 

Employees who were asked to resign or be fired were Kathleen Hurty, CWU's
top staff executive; Jeannie Lee, program manager for ecumenical development
and global advocacy; Ascension (Inday) Day, program manager for leadership
development; Mary Stamp, program manager for communications; Jeanette
Zaragoza De Leon, program manager for ecumenical celebrations; and Aaron
Agne and Jennifer Peterson, two Union Seminary students serving as part-time

As the administrative arm of United Methodist Women, the Women's Division
has made annual contributions of $32,525 to CWU in recent years. Sohl said
in an earlier United Methodist News Service report that the amount
represents the ecumenical organization's largest contribution from a single

# # #

*Martini is executive secretary for communications of the Women's Division,
United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.

United Methodist News Service
Photos and stories also available at:

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