I go on record as being opposed to any further review of WMPA. After the continuing review of WMPA since 1993, I must name this most recent decision for additional review as a blatant sign of continuing harassment and violence against women in the PC(USA). However, if there is additional review, I would encourage the review be redirected to the PC(USA) itself and that we include questions such as the following, as part of the “so what” questions raised by the GAC Executive Committee.
1. Let us review the past 30 years of decisions and resolutions made by General Assemblies, and now a part of PC(USA) policy, and see how the church is implementing its commitment to the full inclusion of women’s leadership, participation and voice in the church.
2. Let us review the decisions of the General Assembly in regard to the Re-Imagining Conference and hear the overall affirmations of the conference and the affirmations of Feminist Theology. then we can ask how women’s theological perspectives have been incorporated in the three [Ministries] Divisions, program areas of the GAC and congregations of the PC(USA).
3. Let us review the small group leading the attacks against women’s ministries and ask who they really are, what their agenda really is, who finances them, and who benefits from the attacks they continue to focus on women’s ministries.
4. Let us review why WMPA lost almost all restricted funds designated for women during the negotiations leading up to reunion in 1988, making WMPA the program most dependent on unified funds of any program area.
5. Let us review why WMPA receives less that 1 percent of the entire GAC budget when women represent at least 66 percent of the membership of the PC(USA).
6. Let us review why WMPA’s budget and staff were cut by more than 50 percent during decisions made during the 1993 Shape and Form and since then. (Some have blamed these cuts on the Re-Imagining Conference, but the decrease in PC(USA) giving and budget and the decisions for eliminating staff positions were made long before the critics of women turned an ecumenical global symposium into an opportunity for smear tactics and fund raising for their own political purposes.)
7. Let us review the underlying root reasons why women ministers are leaving ministry in the PC(USA) in alarming numbers.
8. Let us review why eight women in leadership positions of the GAC and OGA have been forced out of their positions or left their positions in the past year and a half!
9. Let us review why leaders in the church have chosen not to publicly support women in the church during the last nine years of continual attacks and abuse directed toward women. Why have leaders been silent? What does Christian leadership mean in the PC(USA) today?
10. Let us review what “broaden the scope” of WMPA really means. WMPA already seeks to serve all women in the PC(USA). This program area is at least as broad as any other GAC program area. WMPA serves women of all economic situations, all racial ethnic women’s groups, young women and older women, survivors and victims of domestic violence, global sisters and immigrant women. WMPA is so broad that Presbyterian Women has groups in approximately 85 percent of Presbyterian Congregations — this must represent a broad group of women! Let us review what “broad” means to the critics of women’s ministries. With limited funds and staff no program area can do everything every Presbyterian would desire.
11. Let us review why references to vague, undefined “catch phrases” such as “radical feminism” and “Re-Imagining God” have been allowed to stand and discredit women without serious dialogue in the PC(USA) about the different understandings of our Reformed biblical and theological interpretations. Do these terms really mean anything universally understood so as to have significance as a major critique?
12. If the theologies coming from women’s perspectives are so controversial and misunderstood why were these concerns not a part of last year’s “Unity and Diversity” conference and not a part of suggestions for ongoing unity and diversity conversations in presbyteries?
In 1998 the Ecumenical Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women concluded with a conference in Zimbabwe. A document, “The Churches, Moving from Solidarity to Accountability,” was presented and affirmed by the 8th World Council of Churches. The PC(USA) then accepted and affirmed the positions and goals of that document at the 1999 General Assembly.
In conclusion, let us begin the review of the PC(USA) studying in a comprehensive way, how our denomination is moving toward accountability to women.. Hopefully, true theological dialogue will replace the current secular style of negative politics by those seeking power over others, control, domination and narrow political agendas. How we do our business as Presbyterians demonstrates our theology. Hopefully, as we review the PC(USA) and its relationship to women we will find ways to grow in exhibiting the love of Jesus Christ, in empowering all persons to be affirmed as being created in God’s image and that we will discover new ways to work for the biblical justice of the healing of all creation.
Allow me to conclude by expressing my deepest appreciation for the staff members of women’s ministries and to say together we have been gracious to our critics while attempting to maintain the integrity of women’s ministries as mandated over the years by many generations of Presbyterians through the actions of many General Assemblies.
Grace and Peace as together we week the Truth that sets us free.
Barbara Dua is associate director, Women’s Ministries Program Area, PC(USA). She is resigning to take a position with the New Mexico Conference of Churches..