Presbyterian Women are committed to strengthening the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) because we are the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)! In fact, more than two million people—women and men—worship in nearly 10,000 Presbyterian congregations throughout the United States. As Presbyterians (and Presbyterian Women), we believe that we are the hands of Christ in this world and that we are ever guided by the Holy Spirit.
In our Purpose statement, we commit to strengthening the PC(USA). It’s an organizational commitment, but also a commitment that individual Presbyterian Women carry out according to their skills and gifts.
Individual Presbyterian Women strengthen the church by being faithful members of the church. You’ll meet Presbyterian Women who are teaching elders (pastors), ruling elders (church leaders), session members (a committee of elders who govern a church), church educators, voting delegates to the General Assembly, or chairs or members of church committees. They also strengthen the church in less visible, less official ways—offering kind words to a newcomer, working tirelessly on a justice issue or sharing meaningful insights during Bible study.
Presbyterian Women groups (from the congregational level to the national or churchwide level) also strengthen the church. PW groups support denominational work, like putting together hygiene kits for Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. They establish programs or resources that are later adopted by the denomination, like the Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, a now-online daily publication that connects Presbyterians to one another through prayer and information about PC(USA) ministries, its members and staff. PW groups also carry out ministries tended by PW that broaden the reach of the church—for example, grant programs such as the Birthday and Thank Offerings.
In terms of polity (that is, how we are governed), the relationship between PW and the church varies by congregation (local church), presbytery (several churches in an area), synod (several presbyteries) and churchwide (national). For example, on sessions in congregations, Presbyterian Women may have voice and vote, voice but no vote, or neither voice nor vote. Nationally, PW’s Bylaws and Incorporation documents ensure the organization’s connection to the PC(USA) Constitution: The Book of Order and the Book of Confessions. At this level, PW is incorporated as an integrated auxiliary of the PC(USA). The organization is in a covenant relationship with the Presbyterian Mission Agency of the PC(USA).
Elected Presbyterians meet every two years to do the work of the church in a General Assembly. This is much like a meeting of our U.S. Congress! The 222nd General Assembly of the PC(USA) (2016) added Presbyterian Women to the church’s Organization for Mission as a related corporation. This action formally acknowledges PW’s unique role within the church: “The Organization for Mission is incomplete without referencing this important point of mission coordination for Presbyterians.”
The same assembly ruled that the national moderator of Presbyterian Women, Inc., is a corresponding member of the General Assembly. This gives the moderator a seat on the floor with voice, but no vote. When speaking to committee about this recommendation, Rhashell Hunter, Presbyterian Mission Agency director of Racial Equity and Women’s Intercultural Ministries said, “PW has supported the church for over 200 years—it’s beyond time for this voice to be at the table.”
Learn more about the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
To ask a question or to learn more about the PC(USA), contact Susan Jackson Dowd.