The Presbyterian Church (USA), one of the biggest and most influential Protestant churches in the U.S., has elected a Korean-American, Syngman Rhee, as its moderator.Rhee was elected June 24 by the church's 212th general assembly, meeting in Long Beach, California. Four candidates stood for the election, and for the first time in the church's history there was no white, male candidate.The moderator holds office until the next general assembly, which will take place in June 2001. Rhee will represent the church as its "good-will ambassador," visiting congregations in the U.S. and the church's numerous overseas missions. The PCUSA is one of the most generous U.S. denominations in terms of partnerships for aid, education and mission with overseas churches and agencies. The moderator is not paid a salary.The PCUSA has 2.6 million members in 11,400 congregations. The general assembly's annual budget is about $130 million. The church has 625 national staff and 15,000 active and 5,000 retired ministers, as well as 800 missionaries in 90 countries. Rhee, 69, was elected 50 years to the day after he fled North Korea as the Korean War broke out. He is professor of mission and evangelism and director of the Asian American Ministry and Mission Center at Union Theological Seminary/Presbyterian School of Christian Education in Richmond, Virginia. The PCUSA has more than 250,000 Korean-American members and is involved in various forms of partnership with Presbyterian churches in South Korea.However, the main focus of the media and much of the debate at the general assembly was not the election of the moderator but debate about blessing same-sex unions, an issue that is causing controversy in most U.S. mainline churches.Late on June 30, ...

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