Two Philadelphia College of the Bible (PCB) faculty members resigned last summer over the administration’s decision in January to appoint two women trustees to its board for the first time in the school’s history. Renald Showers, professor of Bible, and Paul Karleen, chairman of the general education division and professor of Bible, stepped down, Karleen said, because the administration and the board did not take the time to examine and discuss the scriptural basis for making their decision.

Prior to the decision, about nine faculty members, including Showers and Karleen, submitted a signed 30-page document to W. Sherill Babb, president of the PCB, requesting more discussion of the issue. They specifically asked for consideration of whether biblical passages that appear to apply restrictions to the role of women in the local church, such as 1 Timothy 2:12, should apply to the college. Karleen said the contents of the document were presented at the January 19 board meeting, but that the board voted shortly thereafter in favor of the appointments.

Karleen said the administration’s desire to meet accreditation standards played a role in the decision, since an accreditation team of the American Association of Social Workers reported two years ago that the board should better reflect the college’s constituency, which is 60 percent female.

Babb, however, denied that the college’s decision to appoint women to its board was in response to accreditation pressure. The appointments were the culmination of a 15-year search, which intensified in the last year and a half, Babb said. Women make up about one-fourth of the faculty at PCB and teach on every subject except the Bible.

The new trustees are Betty Jane Scheihing, a pastor’s wife, and Elizabeth Givens, a full-time missionary with SEND International. Previously the board had been composed of 27 men, primarily businessmen, church leaders, and pastors. Babb said both women agree with the independent college’s conservative positions on issues of doctrine and practice, including opposition to the ordination of women.

By Christine Lehmann.



Paper Labels ‘Right-wing’ Christianity ‘Heresy’

Seven Third World countries have produced a document supporting liberation theology and accusing “right-wing” Christianity of idolatry, blasphemy, hypocrisy, and apostasy. Called “The Road to Damascus: Kairos and Conversion,” the paper was signed by several thousand theologians and laypeople in Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, South Korea, the Philippines, Namibia, and South Africa.

Article continues below

Fr. Smangaliso Mkhatshwa, a Roman Catholic priest who is general secretary of the Institute for Contextual Theology in South Africa, said the main thrust of the document is “the reversal of the accusation of heresy and sin” aimed at liberation theology.

“It is not the Christians who are involved in struggles for national liberation who are heretics, but those who support a right-wing oppressive government.” There is a kairos, or crisis, in the church, he said. “We all need conversion, but those who directly or indirectly support oppressive regimes must now repent.”

The paper was released at a press conference in South Africa that included Mkhatshwa and antiapartheid activists Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu and World Alliance of Reformed Churches President Allan Boesak.


Orthodox Stall Converts

The Conservative Jewish movement won a victory last summer in Israel’s High Court, which ruled that non-Orthodox conversions to Judaism will be recognized by the Ministry of Interior, and the converts will be registered as Jews. At issue was the definition of a Jew. Under Israel’s Law of Return, all Jews, including converts, are guaranteed the right to immigrate to Israel and receive immediate citizenship.

But Orthodox officials are taking steps to diminish the significance of the ruling. Interior Minister Arye Deri, an Orthodox rabbi, said he would not sign the mandatory national identity cards, which state the bearer’s name, address, marital status, and nationality or religion. Deri said he made his decision after conferring with spiritual leaders of his Shas party, who decided the new law did not oblige him to sign the cards.

The court ruling came as a result of lawsuits filed by three immigrants from the United States who were converted by Reform or Conservative rabbis.


Christians Expelled

More than 600 Presbyterian believers were expelled from the village of Mitontic, in the southernmost state of Mexico, after they refused demands from the town leaders to renounce their faith.

A representative of the group told News Network International that the conflict began in late June when the mayor of Mitontic called a meeting to discuss community projects, including the purchase of a statue for the local Catholic church. The mayor also complained of the evangelicals’ lack of sponsorship and participation in local festivals, which are connected to a syncretism of local beliefs and Catholicism.

When the evangelicals told the mayor they no longer worshiped the image and would not pay for it, angry villagers rounded up Christian families, placed them on trucks, and drove them to another city five hours away. Other believers also fled the area following the incident.

Article continues below

The governor of the Mexican state has attempted to mediate a settlement between the two sides. But demands from village officials include an order that Christians stop practicing their faith either publicly or privately, which they have repeatedly rejected.


Briefly Noted

Allowed: By the Anglican Church in New Zealand, the election of women priests to the episcopate. The policy was not challenged during the 12-month waiting period that followed the passage of a resolution permitting women’s election by the church’s general synod.

Ordered to register: All religious groups in Ghana. Groups must provide constitutions, names and salaries of officers, financial statements, and sources of funds to the Commission on National Culture.

Rebuilding: Narkis Street Baptist Church in Jerusalem, which was burned in 1982, allegedly by extremists wishing to drive Christianity from Israel. The congregation faced numerous delays in approval of building permits, attributed to political pressures from religious parties.

Named: By Pope John Paul II, a bishop in the Soviet Republic of Byelorussia. It is the first time since 1927 such an appointment has been made. Soviet officials offered no objections to the appointment. An estimated 2 million Roman Catholics live in the area.

Held: At least 37 Christians in Chinese prisons for religious reasons. According to the Puebla Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based human-rights agency, the number includes both Catholics and Protestants. Charges include refusal to cooperate with the official church and distribution of Bibles from abroad.

Killed: Danny Melki, a 10-year-old student of the Beirut Baptist School, during recent shelling in that war-torn city (CT, June 16, p. 46). He was fatally injured when a shell struck his home near the school. Southern Baptist representative Jim Ragland said it was the school’s first casualty since 1982.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.