Carol Weir dies at 86
With husband, Ben, Californian devoted her life to mission in Middle East
December 17, 2010
Carol Weir, who with her husband, Benjamin, devoted her life to Presbyterian mission in the Middle East, died Dec. 14 in Oakland, Calif., the day before her 86th birthday.
An Oakland native, Carol Weir graduated from the University of California School of Nursing and worked as a public health nurse in San Francisco before studying at what is now New York Theological Seminary. She later completed Christian education degrees at San Francisco Theological Seminary and the American University of Beirut, Lebanon.
In 1953, she and Benjamin were appointed to serve as Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) missionaries in Lebanon. Initially they served in a Shiite Muslim community in south Lebanon. Later they lived in Beirut where Carol taught Christian Education courses at the Near East School of Theology. Ben was appointed PCUSA Commission Representative in Lebanon and Syria. He also made mission trips to coordinate work in Iraq, Syria and Iran. They officially served until 1985.
On May 8, 1984, Carol and Ben left their apartment in Beirut to attend a meeting. On the street, Ben was kidnapped by one faction in Lebanon’s civil war and was held for 16 months, 14 months of it in solitary confinement. During his entire captivity — chronicled by the Weirs in their book, Hostage Bound, Hostage Free — Carol (and many others) worked tirelessly for Ben’s release. He was finally freed on Sept. 14, 1985.
Through the entire ordeal, Carol never ceased to urge everyone to pray for all the people in the war-torn country, including Ben’s captors. Though never comfortable in the unwelcome spotlight that Ben’s captivity thrust her into, Carol remained a steadfast advocate for peace, understanding and reconciliation in the Middle East.
In a 1997 presentation at Westminster Gardens in Duarte, Calif., Carol said: “Mission includes some aspect of consciously chosen struggle. In mission we open ourselves up to the reality of the world and we pray for the grace to enter deeply into human suffering. Someone has said we will not enlarge the old essence of the gospel by adding old and new dogmas. We will enlarge it by adding the world.”
Ben Weir was subsequently elected moderator of the 1986 PC(USA) General Assembly and the two of them spent his moderatorial year using the office to promote Middle East peace.
Carol and Ben served as professors of evangelism and mission at San Francisco Theological Seminary from 1987 until their retirement in 1995. Through all those years and well into retirement, they served as good-will ambassadors and fundraisers for the Near East School of Theology.
In addition to Ben, Carol Weir is survived by three children: Christine, Susan and John. A fourth child, Ann, was killed in a November 1985 bus accident in Egypt, where she was teaching at the Schutz School in Alexandria.
A memorial service will be held in early January at First Presbyterian Church of Oakland.
Carol’s family has asked that memorial gifts in her memory be given to the Near East School of Theology in Beirut. Make your check payable to Presbyterian Church (USA). Indicate on your check for deposit to ECO 862612 (NEST, Beirut). Mail your contribution to Presbyterian Church (USA), PO Box 643700, Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700. Contributions may also be made via the PC(USA) website.