P.B. Arnold stepped into the vacuum in leadership in India when the Mennonite Brethren mission board pulled back from the oversight of its mission program in the 1960s and ’70s. Over most of the years since, whatever the questioning — and there has been much questioning — Arnold has led as the India MB conference has grown into the strengths it knows today.
There was much to balance, as Arnold, a well-respected surgeon, simultaneously ran the conference’s medical center in Jadcherla. But he managed until about a decade ago, when his unwillingness to engage opposition and his corrupt practices particularly regarding conference properties caused individuals’ opposition to grow into a more general unrest. And as his intransigence deepened, his attempts also to pass along power within the conference to his daughter coalesced the unrest.
The International Community of Mennonite Brethren’s determination to step in is appreciated (“India MB conference faces turmoil,” Nov. 6). But two notes of caution: First, Arnold continues to hold power and, though increasingly isolated, shows no signs of giving way. Second, Tim Huber’s fine reporting relies heavily on the words of Paul Gandham, and well it might. Gandham’s intelligent leadership over the past decade has stood in opposition to what Arnold has come to be and represent.
But are 90% to 95% of church members supportive of Gandham’s group? The estimate of opposition to Arnold’s leadership is accurate. But the implied correlation is inaccurate. A number of groups are vying for power. Several, including Gandham’s, have not associated themselves integrally with movements gaining strength. Until they do, their influence will remain much less meaningful than it otherwise would be.