Welcome to the graduation ceremonies for the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo! Last weekend in one of the larger Presbyerian churches in Cairo students of the divinity program, of other special programs, and of the master's program which I direct were honored by their friends and family, and the entire Presbyterian community in Egypt. It was a joyous event as you can imagine. To receive a bachelor of divinity degree at ETSC one takes a full range of classes in Hebrew, Greek, Biblical studies, Church history and theology and the practical skills necessary for serving the Presbyterian Church of the Nile. This study periord lasts for four years, and each summer in-between students are assigned to ministry locations (hospitals, camps and parishes) for pratical experience and evaluation. One year after graduation and service in a parish, they become eligible for ordination.
Many of the young men will take positions in Upper Egypt, at sites with a church builidng and a small community of believers, but who have had only lay elders as leaders for several years because of the shortage of pastors. Some will marry as they do this. (I remember that it had been the tradition in the past of our Lutheran church in the United States that seminary students often delayed their marriage until after they had been ordained, or would find a spouse among the members of the first parish they served). The seminary continues to be supported by the church within Egypt, but also by the gifts of Christian abroad, both with cash and with the "endowing" of chairs for professors who teach at the seminary. The position I have held here for two years is a type of endowed chair (providing the total resources for a professor to serve at the seminary), which is part of the commitment of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Interviews are under way to bring a new director to Cairo in August of this year. I will assist in the transition period.
You have seen each of these four graduates of the master's program before. Next to me is Wagdy, who wrote his thesis on the changes in the public involvement by the Presbyterian Church of the Nile during the early years of Egyptian independence under President Nasser. Wagdy shows by reviewing the articles and editorials in the semi-official synod newspaper, el Hoda, how the church leaders
ceased to speak out on issues of justice and equality, fearing that the new government would suppress and persecute the church. They became more focused solely on "spiritual" issues, as Wagdy describe this era.
Rania completed her work on the Intertestamental citations of the concepts of the "Messiah" and "Son of God" which were joined together by the writers of the synoptic Gospels to describe Jesus. She had Willem deWit, our Biblical teacher from the Netherlands, as her advisor. Both she and Wagdy will spend a fall semester as guests of Princeton Theological Seminary in the United States, thanks to a generous grant from an alumus of that institution.
Not pictured is our graduate John Daniel Nathan who will continue to be the teacher of Greek to divinity students at ETSC. He write his thesis on the uses of the Genative Absolute verb tense in Greek, as it appears in the Gospel of Matthew. Magdy, next to him, completed his dissertation on the " Influences of the Evangelical on the Coptic Church in Egypt". Since its coming here in the 1850, the Presbyterians from the United States have presented challenges to the Egyptian Orthodox Church, the church which has the tradition of being founded by St. Mark, the Gospel writer. Education through schools and cirriculum, the distribution of the Van Dyke Arabic Bible and other printed materials, and the concept of lay leadership in the church were some of their areas which stimulated the Coptic Church to respond. Magdy will continue in his occupation as a civil engineer here is Cairo.
Musa Kody wrote his thesis on Ephesians chapter two, and how the grace proclaimed by St. Paul needs to be taught in its clarity in the comptemporary society of the Sudan. He will return there to be reunited with his family, (a son was born during this school year whom he has not yet seen), and to teach at the Nile Theological School.
We wish them all God's speed and blessing. I will write more about my transition soon. Roger R.