JACKSONVILLE, FLA. -- A Presbyterian clergywoman from Texas won election here Wednesday as president of the National Council of Churches, and she promised to lead an administration of renewed activism for the ecumenical body.

The Rev. Patricia A. McClurg, a longtime executive in the Presbyterian Church (USA), is the first clergywoman to occupy the presidency of the council, which has been engaged in a self-examination of its cooperative programs in the wake of charges that it pursues a more liberal social agenda than would be favored by many members of the 32 Protestant and Orthodox bodies in the NCC.

The 48-year-old minister, a native of Orange, Tex., told reporters after her unanimous election by the council's governing board that the image of the ecumenical organization had been tarnished by such allegations.

She conceded that some of the church group's political statements have been provocative and controversial, but she also faulted denominational executives and National Council of Churches' leaders for failing to explain adequately the work and policy positions of the group.

"We certainly need to talk more about what we in fact do," she said. And she acknowledged that there is a need for the group to go "back to the basics: caring about the Bible {and doing humanitarian} work in the world that lives in considerable pain."

McClurg, who serves as a mission executive for the Presbytery of Elizabeth, N.J., succeeds Bishop Philip R. Cousin Sr. of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

The 260-member governing board also reelected to a four-year term the council's general secretary, Arie Brouwer, who delivered a sobering report on the state of ecumenical Christianity after the balloting.

Lamenting the diminishing membership statistics and financial resources of many mainline American denominations, Brouwer said the ecumenical churches should "find ways to offer all possible support to one another and to draw all available strength from one another."

Such a common cause, he said, will "mean loss of turf. But it will also mean a new sense of mission and life together rather than dogged lonely persistence in the face of inevitable decline . . . . We must come out of our boxes, demolish our fortresses, pull down the fences around our turfs and break down the dividing walls of partition within the ecumenical movement itself."