LEWISTOWN - This winter, people may have an excuse for bringing up religion and politics in polite company.
If they are taking a class at the Juniata Valley Bible Institute, that is.
The Lewistown institute is offering a class called "Politics and the Bible" beginning Feb. 28, through the Lancaster Bible College.
Taught by the Rev. Abe Rodkey, the class will run from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays at the Calvary Bible Church, 100 Calvary Lane, Lewistown.
During the eight-week course, participants will study God's perspective on politics. According to the class description: "The biblical teachings about politics can bring hope for change to people everywhere when put into practice. This study first establishes Christian worldview, and then examines the components of good government and bad government, and the Christian's relationship and responsibility to government."
Calvary's Senior Pastor, the Rev. Howard Houtz, who organizes the institute, said they try to offer classes on topics that will intrigue people.
"The purpose is to give adults a more in-depth study beyond Sunday school," Houtz said.
Past course topics have ranged from counseling and personal enrichment, to Old Testament prophets and biblical geography.
The purpose of the classes is more for spiritual growth than academics. Houtz said they do not give tests or assign projects, and there is no grading. Attendance is required at all sessions to receive credit, though.
Lancaster Bible College's Institute of Biblical Enrichment awards continuing education unit credits upon the completion of a class. Students who accumulate 10 CEU credits can earn a basic certificate, and those who complete 30 CEU credits can receive an advanced certificate through the college.
Several local students have earned certificates through the Juniata Valley Bible Institute, Houtz said.
The church began offering post-secondary Bible classes more than a decade ago through Houtz's influence.
For many years, Houtz said he kept a file in his desk filled with ideas for a lay institute. In the late 1990s, Houtz proposed his idea to the Calvary church council. Since then, the church has been hosting fall and spring classes every year.
Because their enrollment numbers have been waning recently, Houtz said they have offered just one class per semester. If interest grows, so will the number of classes, he said.
Local pastors, missionaries and lay ministers with years of expertise have taught classes in the past, he said.
Rodkey, who is teaching "Politics and the Bible," is a retired pastor and former Christian education teacher. He graduated with a Master of Ministry from Moody Bible Institute, and he serves at Evangel Baptist Church in Lewistown.
The cost per class is $45, not including books. The only text required for the spring course is a Bible. Although graduation from high school is desirable, it is not required.
People may register early or at the door during the first night of class, at 6:30 p.m. All tuition and fees must be paid in full at registration.
For a brochure or more information, call Calvary Bible Church at 248-5409.