From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[PCUSANEWS] GAC apologizes to sex-abuse survivors

Date Sat, 26 Jun 2004 12:56:44 -0500

Note #8290 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:

GAC apologizes to sex-abuse survivors
June 26, 2004

GAC apologizes to sex-abuse survivors

Also condemns Iraq prisoner abuse, OKs youth-ministry statement

by Evan Silverstein

RICHMOND, June 26 - The General Assembly Council (GAC) has unanimously
approved a letter of apology to a group of women who were sexually abused as
children by a former Presbyterian minister in San Francisco's Chinatown.

An investigative committee concluded that F.S. Dick Wichman sexually abused
at least 18 children between 1947 and 1977 while he was executive director of
Cameron House, a ministry to Chinese families, a mission of the Presbyterian

The Presbytery of San Francisco, of which Wichman was a member, appointed the
investigative committee that looked into the allegations.

"Reading the stories now, we are overwhelmed with remorse for what happened
to God's children entrusted to Wichman's care," the GAC said in a letter
approved Thursday during a regular GAC meeting here. "We express our humble
apology for the abuse that continued there for many years."

The abuse allegations began surfacing in 1987, about 10 years after Wichman's

In November 1988, when the presbytery was about to bring charges against
Wichman, he denied the allegations and removed himself from ordination as a
Presbyterian minister.

Because Wichman was no longer an ordained minister, the PC(USA) judicial
process was terminated without a trial or formal judgment of his guilt or

The presbytery consulted with the San Francisco District Attorney's office,
which determined in 1988 that it could not bring criminal charges against
Wichman because of statute-of-limitation provisions.

In 2002, Cameron House's board of directors appointed a "Healing Task Force"
to recommend what the institution could do to help the abuse victims recover.

Some of the task force's recommendations are included in a package of 11
proposed Book of Order amendments intended to help the Presbyterian Church
(USA) respond more quickly to charges that Presbyterian ministers have abused
or sexually molested people in their care. The amendments will be considered
by the denomination's 216th General Assembly, which opens here Saturday.

The GAC's executive committee also voted to send a small delegation to meet
with the survivors. Cameron House officials have also written a letter of
apology and asked the presbytery to do the same.


* Approved a "Call to Confession of Prison Abuse in Iraq," urging
commissioners to the Assembly and the entire PC(USA) to "reaffirm our support
for human rights and the Geneva Convention relative to the treatment of
prisoners of war; explicitly reject torture and abuse as methods of
interrogation and treatment of prisoners, for they are inconsistent with the
Gospel; and acknowledge we are inescapably part of our culture and offer our
confession in repentance."

* Approved a "Vision and Mission Statement (for) Young Adult Ministry" and
conveyed it to the denomination's Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries.

It reads: "Jesus loves me, this I know: Embracing the story. Daring to share
our lives: Telling our stories. Authentic, purposeful, real: Living the
story. This is our prayer."


"Embracing the story: We seek to understand what it means to be
Christ-centered and rooted in the Reformed tradition, recognizing that we are
the beloved community of God. Telling our stories: We seek to embody a fresh
model of community that embraces our identity as young adults, emerges out of
our shared stories and is united by our common story. Living the story: We
seek to unearth new forms, new language and new approaches to reach young
adults for the sake of Christ in the church and culture."

The Young Adult Ministry Coordinating Team, which authored the statement,
advises the PC(USA)'s coordinator for Youth and Young Adult Ministries. The
team, formed in May 2002, is made up of people involved in young adult
ministry. It meets once a year.

*Was informed that Congregational Ministries Publishing had a combined net
loss of $122,685 for 2004, down from $166,686 last year. The net loss on
curriculum was $250,115, including a write-off of inventory worth $129,312,
compared to a budgeted loss of $369,739. Mission Education and Promotion
netted $127,430.

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