An accrediting agency has challenged Westminster Theological Seminary to “show cause” why its accreditation should not be removed because the school has no women on its 24-member board. The Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, one of six regional accrediting agencies in the country, gave the seminary a September 15 deadline to reply. Westminster spokesman Larry Sibley said the school has responded by charging that the threat to remove accreditation is a violation of religious rights. Further action by the agency was expected by mid-October.

Westminster, located near Philadelphia, was founded in 1929 by several conservative former Princeton Theological Seminary professors, including J. Gresham Machen, Cornelius Van Til, and Robert Dick Wilson. The independent Reformed seminary maintains a policy that board members must hold a church office, such as teaching elder, which requires ordination. Among the Presbyterian and Reformed denominations from which the seminary draws its board members, women are barred from ordination.

In a recent letter to supporters of the seminary, Westminster president George Fuller wrote, “We shall defend our right not to have women on our board, or to do so, in light of our understanding of Scripture, our confessions and the nature of our institution. We shall argue that we have the right to follow our conscience in this matter.”

About 60 of Westminster’s 500 students are women and are eligible for all academic degrees offered by the school, Sibley said. Virtually all classes are open to women, with the exception of any class that may deal “specifically and narrowly” with the functions of ordination, such as the administration of sacraments, he said. Westminster has been accredited by Middle ...

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