A new slate of moderators and representatives were elected on the second day of the business meeting at the Churchwide Gathering of Presbyterian Women in Minneapolis. On Wednesday evening, June 17, the 2015 business meeting began with a prayer: “May the God of freedom, hope, compassion and strength fill us, and may we stand on a foundation of hope, made possible by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.”
The Rev. Dr. Rhashell Hunter, director of Racial Ethnic and Women’s Ministries, brought greetings from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), while sporting the honorary life membership pin she received at the recent Presbyterian Mission Agency Board meeting. She said, “Presbyterian Women is an organization near and dear to my heart. I think of the many women serving the church in a humble way, with hearts of love.”
On Thursday, mission partners attending the Gathering from abroad were introduced and welcomed warmly. And with mixed feelings, voting representatives heard Linda Valentine, executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, express how much Presbyterian Women means to her and the church. Linda announced this week that she is resigning, effective July 10.
“Where would the church be without Presbyterian Women?” she asked. “So many ministries of the church have their roots in the work of Presbyterian women’s organizations: peacemaking, child advocacy, antiracism, hunger, World Mission.”
She celebrated some of the many ways Presbyterian Women and the PC(USA) continue to partner—in world mission, through Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, at the UN Commission on the Status of Women, on the issue of violence against women. “I am grateful to be partners in God’s mission,” she said.
During worship, 2012–2015 Presbyterian Women Churchwide moderator Mary Cook Jorgenson delivered a sermon on Ruth 1:7–22. “We love this story, don’t we? This lovely story of love between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law… They are what we’re all about—community and support.”
She drew parallels between women of the Bible and Presbyterian women in early missionary societies. “The first known organized mission society was in 1803 in Newark, New Jersey,” she said. “Our foremothers knew we could make a difference. And like Ruth and Naomi, they made that difference with faith and trust in each other. But let’s be clear, just as there are so many gifted women present today.”
A highlight for many at the 2015 Churchwide business meeting was the signing of memoranda of understanding with three African women’s groups—the Christian Women’s Fellowships in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (Cameroon), the Women’s Fellowship of the Conference of Ghanaian Presbyterian Churches in North America and the Kenyan Women’s Groups in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Bylaws changeed and budget approved
Based on the coming reduction in the number of Presbyterian synods as voted by the 214th General Assembly, Presbyterian Women’s bylaws were revised to reflect an undetermined number of synods. Jorgenson noted, “We handle change; we are flexible and adaptable. Bylaws will reflect anticipation of that change.”
Another change specified that the business meeting is not required to be held in conjunction with the Churchwide Gathering.
Bylaws revisions also clarified what the requirement of PC(USA) membership means. Voting representatives must be members of the church “via membership in a church congregation or, for teaching elders, membership in a church presbytery and must be actively involved in a Presbyterian Women Group.”
Voting representatives also approved changing Presbyterian Women’s fiscal year to operate on a calendar year. The 42-month budget for June 2015 through December 31, 2018, includes six extra months for the next triennial.
Finance committee chair Carolyn Sprinkle said of the approved budget, “Presbyterian Women is a wonderful organization, but it takes money to run it. We are looking at the reality that Mission Pledge is down, and we are doing our best to live within a smaller budget. Please know that we have to be good stewards.”
Election of 2015–2018 leaders
The slate of new leaders for the 2015–2018 triennium was elected, although with different roles for two nominees than originally announced. Sandy Fefeti will serve as New Immigrant Women’s representative and Lisiann Rodriguez will serve as Young Women’s representative at large.
The new leadership team consists of Carol Winkler, moderator; Wanda Beauman, vice moderator for justice and peace concerns; and Judy Persons, vice moderator for mission relationships.
As she accepted the seat, newly elected Churchwide moderator Winkler said, “Presbyterian Women is a strong organization and a strong leader in the church. It is also a strong partner in ministry, initiating many programs that are now shared throughout the church. I hope we will expand our partnerships within the church, finding new opportunities for shared ministry… Find your passion for advocacy and mission, and use that passion to make a difference.”