Church Women Gain New Role

In the postcommunist church of the former Soviet Union, the leadership role of women has started to evolve. Traditionally, women have been limited to activities such as singing in the choir, but recently they have increased involvement in church education programs for children.

Still, according to Mark Elliott, director of the East-West Institute of Christian Studies, “Women are limited in ways that even very theologically conservative Christians in the West would find puzzling.” Some churches, for example, prohibit married women, though not their single counterparts, from teaching Sunday school.

Soviet specialist Jerry Pankhurst of Wittenberg University in Ohio says women are esteemed in the Russian Orthodox church, in part for preserving the church through years of Soviet domination. But leadership remains patriarchal.

“The Russian Orthodox Church does not accept women as priests or in the highest rungs of church authority. I see no signs of it changing,” Pankhurst says. These same theological attitudes dominate the evangelical church.

Elliott calls women in ministry a “powder keg.” He says “women are so repressed that it has not dawned on the men that there is a problem.” However, activist groups are forming, and women are increasingly coming into contact with other cultures that present a challenge to the status quo.

Leader Resists Pornography

Zambian President Frederick Chiluba has been chastised by some religious and political opponents for refusing to lift a government ban on the sale and possession of pornographic materials.

Chiluba, who came into power in November 1991, is no stranger to controversy. He incurred the wrath of many religious leaders a month after his election by insisting ...

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