Prepared on the occasion of its 150th anniversary, this booklet presents glimpses into the history of the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo (ETSC). Throughout its history, the seminary has played an important role in preparing church leaders and ministers for Egypt and many other countries in the world. In the tradition of the school of Alexandria in the first centuries of Christianity, ETSC carries a great theological and educational responsibility in Egypt. Throughout the generations the seminary’s message has been characterized by both tradition and modernity. On the one hand, the seminary has been concerned to be faithful to an evangelical and Reformed theology, one that is rooted in the word of God and guided by the Presbyterian heritage in all its authenticity, depth, and enlightened zeal. On the other hand, the seminary has sought to maintain a modern curriculum that is characterized by openness to different schools of thought so that students will be equipped to engage present-day society with all the best insights of contemporary scholarship.
The seminary is proud of its hundreds of graduates who have served God in the church and in various fields in society. They have contributed to the ministries of education, preaching, evangelism, church planting, and development; and they have served not only in Egypt but also in countries around the world, including Sudan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Jordan, Kuwait, North Korea, Norway, the Philippines, Ghana, the United States and others. We know that this booklet cannot do justice to them all. Many are unknown soldiers to us, but of course they are known to God, having served faithfully and often inconspicuously over many years in various capacities. But whether mentioned in this booklet or not, they are all worthy of our gratitude and appreciation.
Finally, we give thanks to God, for he has guided the seminary through a century and a half, preserving it and meeting its needs in season and out of season. It is with hope, then, that we look forward to the future, believing that God will continue to help us to preserve the integrity and purity of the message taught here as we seek to prepare leaders and ministers to carry the message of hope and love to all people. In all things, to God be the glory.
By Tharwat Wahba
Translated by Samih Rahief
Edited by Michael Parker
Willem J. de Wit
CEOSS publishing team
At the dawn of Christianity, Egypt assumed an important role in the Christian world in the areas of theological and biblical education. The school of Alexandria translated Christian ideas into the language and thought world of Greece, making it available to the entire Greco-Roman world. Great thinkers and writers such as Clement, Origen, Tatian, Athanasius, Cyril the Great, and others articulated daring new ideas about Christology, the Trinity, and scripture that were the cutting edge of theology then and continue to exert their influence even today.
The school of Alexandria was not only an intellectual center but also a true school that students attended to prepare themselves for ministry. The light of this school first shone in the second century, blazed brilliantly in the third and fourth centuries, but then in the fifth century was snuffed out as the school was closed by the Byzantine church following the tragedy of the Council of Chalcedon (451). Condemned as monophysite, the church of Egypt would become increasingly isolated from the broader Christian world.
The Middle Ages were a period of darkness for the Egyptian church. In the first two centuries following Chalcedon, it was dominated and oppressed by Byzantium, and in the seventh century it endured the conquest of Islam. In subsequent centuries, the church produced few biblical or theological writings of any lasting value. The works of the Assal Sons, Bolous Elbooshy, and Severus Ibn al-Muqaffaʿ stand out in this period, but there was no longer a theological school like the school of Alexandria that could teach in a thorough and systematic manner.
Egyptian Christianity may have reached its lowest ebb in the mid-nineteenth century when its priests and leaders were largely uneducated and reduced to memorizing their liturgies in the Coptic language, which neither they nor their auditors could any longer understand. By this time the theological education available was the equivalent of a Coptic madrassa. Students learned basic reading, writing, and arithmetic, and they memorized the Coptic phrases and tunes without fully understanding their meaning.
The Episcopal mission sent by the Christian Missionary Society in 1842 attempted to address this problem by establishing a school in the town of Bush near Beni Suef in Upper Egypt. This was done in collaboration with the Coptic Church to educate Coptic priests, who were taught the three Rs as well as the Bible. Unfortunately, the school did not last long, being shut down after only a few years due to low number of students and the departure of the missionaries.
When the American Mission came to Egypt in late 1854, a new era began in the history of Egyptian Christianity. The Presbyterian American missionaries were keen to use education as the most effective way of serving the Egyptian community and fulfilling the most pressing needs of the time. They established schools for the education of boys and girls in many parts of the Delta and Upper Egypt. The missionaries also presented the Gospel message to the Egyptians, and many Coptic families in Assiut in Upper Egypt and in Cairo in the Delta as well as in other places responded to it. These new adherents formed the basis of the Egyptian Evangelical Church that was established a few years later.
The first American missionaries sought from the beginning to encourage and motivate their evangelical converts to join the church and engage in its service. A number of Egyptians played important roles in helping the American Mission evangelize, provide social services, and educate the young. Prominent among these Egyptian leaders were Fam Stephen, the Wissa family, a teacher named Tnas, and another teacher named Hanna Awad. These and other church servants taught the Bible, planted new churches, and provided land for church buildings in the period from 1854 to 1863.
They became leaders through the theological and biblical education that they received from the American missionaries and through their own personal talents and initiative. Because of their efforts, a number of Coptic priests and monks were convinced by the message and work of the Evangelical church. Soon they began to put into practice what they had learned, serving and teaching others. Though they were former priests, they lacked education and so were unable to preach, teach, or minister at the level they desired. Hence there was a great felt need for formal theological education for Egyptians called to the ministry.
During these years mission leaders Henry Venn and Rufus Anderson developed the “three-selves” formula for indigenous churches: churches, they taught, should be “self-propagating, self-governing, and self-supporting.” The Egypt church embraced these ideas. “Self-propagating” means that the new national churches, not foreign missionaries, should bear the responsibility of carrying the gospel message to all of the surrounding community. Indigenous evangelists will always be the best witnesses to the gospel as they speak the language of the people and share the same culture. This approach would also result in reducing dependence on foreign missionaries as their work gradually shifted to nationals. “Self-governing” expresses the belief that the church should be led by indigenous leaders. It is natural that foreign missionaries would lead a newly established church. In Egypt it also worked this way, as missionaries served as pastors, leaders of presbyteries, and church representatives before government authorities. Accepting this principle, foreign missionaries were keen to train national leaders and encourage them to assume leadership positions. Consequently, they quickly saw the need to establish a theological institute to train promising pastors and leaders. “Self-supporting” denotes the need of the church to provide its own financial support through the offerings of its own members. At the outset it is unavoidable that a church have some level of financial support from abroad, but this should be gradually reduced so that permanent dependence is not created. It is always tempting for a church to rely on foreign sources of financial support, but in the long run it is unhealthy for the church and will impede its normal growth and development.
In 1860 the American Mission founded the Egyptian Presbyterian Synod, which at that time included only foreign members. Three years later when six indigenous members of the church began to press for theological education, the missionaries in the synod – Mr. Gulian Lansing and his wife, John Hogg and his wife, and Aung and his wife – decided to create a class for theological education in order to provide leaders for the church. On February 15, 1863, the synod made three crucial decisions:
Only nine years after the American missionaries and arrived in Egypt and only three years after formally establishing an Egyptian synod, the missionaries had committed themselves to providing education for indigenous leaders of the church. At the same meeting at which the Egyptian Presbyterian Synod made the decision to provide theological education, the Synod also decided to establish the Azbakiya Evangelical Church, the first Egyptian Evangelical Church. It had begun in Fam-el-Moski and later moved to its current location in opera square. Thus the step of creating the first theological class for Egyptians coincided with the organization of the first Egyptian Presbyterian Church. The American missionaries’ decision to begin theological training shows some strategic thinking. First, they wisely chose to teach the classes in Cairo, the capital of Egypt, albeit the decision was no doubt made at least in part because of the presence in the city of qualified missionaries to teach. Second, they chose to include teachers of the boy’s school, which shows their commitment to create a cadre of qualified Christian teachers. Third, the American mission was committed both to seminary education for the future leaders of the church and to secular education for the general public. We see the later in the boys’ schools established in Assiut and Cairo. Their purpose was to prepare generations of nationals who would be able to lead not only the church but also the community as teachers, engineers, doctors and other professionals. Hence the church, from its earliest years, was dedicated to producing both public servants and church leaders. And fourth, the decision to provide printed theological materials in Arabic for seminary students and the church in general was both farsighted and imminently practical. After the decision was made to begin a theological educational class in Cairo, it took more than a year until the class actually began. The first class started on September 26, 1864, with eleven students. Four of these were former Coptic priests who had left the Coptic church after embracing Evangelical principles. The missionaries initially hoped that these former priests would serve the Presbyterian church well at this stage in its development because of their previous experience in the Coptic church, but it was soon apparent that the educational level of these priests, as well as that of the students, had not prepare them for deep theological study. They lacked the ability for critical thinking as well as basic math and language skills. The teachers concluded, therefore, to provide instruction in mathematics, the Arabic language, logic, and systematic theology. Three American missionaries played the crucial pioneering role in establishing the school and serving as its first educators. They were John Hogg, Gulian Lansing, and Andrew Watson.
John Hogg was the key player in the establishment and continuation of the theology seminary. He began his service with the American Mission in 1857 traveling between Alexandria and Cairo. His efforts saw much fruit when he moved to the city of Assiut where he found fertile ground for evangelistic work. Many people accepted the gospel faith, especially those belonging to wealthy families such as the Wissa and Khayat families. In spite of the strong resistance Hogg faced from the Orthodox church, Assiut soon became the main center of the evangelical presence in Egypt. Church leaders and youth emerged from this city to serve the rest of Upper Egypt, from Minya in the north to Luxor in the south. The establishment of dozens of churches, Bible study groups, and prayer meetings was due largely to Hogg’s efforts.
Hogg, being concerned also with secular education, founded two schools in Assiut, one for girls and one for boys. The educational work in Assiut developed so well that soon there was a need to establish the College of Assiut. His primary goals in founding the college were to train Egyptian leaders to create a modern society in Egypt and to train future leaders for the Evangelical Egyptian Church to lead in the areas of mission and social influence in the broader community. The college was considered a model for evangelical schools in Egypt and even the world at that time. Its modern education and the high moral level of its students gave the school an excellent reputation, and its graduates could generally count on job offers from both governmental and non-governmental bodies.
Even as Hogg was doing educational work in Upper Egypt, he was active in the founding of the theology class in Cairo. In fact, he was one of the pillars of this effort. He taught many of the classes, such as introduction to the Old Testament, introduction to the New Testament, church history, Hebrew, and comparative religion. Hogg usually spent his mornings teaching, his afternoons with students and visiting villages for reasons of evangelism and church planting, and his late evenings in translating theological books and references into Arabic – at which he was a master. Then he would begin all over again the next morning, often teaching what he had translated the previous evening.
Hogg’s role was not limited to teaching and translation. He also played an important role in the lives of the students, caring for them spiritually, socially, and administratively. Some of his students attest to how he used to encourage them and help them discover and develop their talents. He also helped to provide practical training for the students in the areas of preaching, evangelism, and church planting by sending them to minister in the many villages and cities along the Nile in Upper Egypt.
Hogg’s achievements in the training of future national leaders for service in the church and the general community place him in the ranks of the greatest of the nineteenth century missionaries – the el-dahabya century of the evangelical missions. He stands shoulder to shoulder in the ranks of such outstanding missionaries as William Carey, Hudson Taylor, David Livingstone, and others who immeasurably enriched the lands where they served. By the time of his death in 1886, dozens of Egyptian pastors had graduated from the theological seminary that he had helped to found. These young men took up the banner of service church and contributed to its extension throughout Egypt and even into Sudan.
In addition to Hogg, Gulian Lansing and Andrew Watson also served the seminary in its earliest days. Lansing was enamored with the history and monuments of Egyptian as well as the task of bringing the gospel to modern Egypt. He traveled in Upper Egypt as far as the city of Luxor and recorded his journeys in one of the first books on missionary work in Egypt, Egypt’s Princess, which includes the journal of his sailing trips on the El-dahabya Ibis. When in Cairo, Lansing taught classes in the seminary that include the interpretation of the prophets, pastoral theology, and advanced Hebrew. Like Hogg, Lansing was also a pillar in the establishment of theological education in Cairo. His contribution was so crucial that the seminary actually closed down when he was traveling in America.
In 1869 Andrew Watson was appointed to assist Hogg both in Assiut and in teaching in the seminary in Cairo. He has taught the students systematic theology using the Socratic method of question and answer. When Watson settled permanently in Cairo, he continued to teach systematic theology but in addition also took up teaching the interpretation of the New Testament, the nature of God, and church management. When he was not working with students, he played a major role in the leadership of the mission, becoming the first president of the Evangelical Synod of the Nile when it was founded in 1899. Watson recorded the early years of the American experience in Egypt in his book American Mission in Egypt, 1854-1896 (1904).
The theological class changed locations as the missionaries traveled in the country. It was generally held in the cities of Assiut and Cairo because of the presence of Hogg in Assiut and the presence of Ayung, Lansing, and Watson in Cairo. At other times the class was held on the Nile aboard the El-dahabya Ibis. Classes being held on the riverboat was one of the most important means used by the American Mission to spread the gospel message. The mission’s acquisition of the El-dahabya Ibis occurred in an unlikely way. Doleib Singh, an Indian Maharaja, had come to Egypt on his way to England. Singh was the son of the deputy of the English governor in India. During his visit to Cairo, he met the American missionaries, and being a Christian, he stayed for a time with them. After a short while, he asked the missionaries to help him find a suitable wife. They chose Bembh, one of the girls who were studying at the girls’ school established by the mission. Singh married her, and for their honeymoon the wealthy Indian bought the El-dahabya Ibis to sail on the Nile. Upon leaving Egypt with his wife, Singh donated the riverboat to the American mission to be used for its work. Lansing, Hogg, Ayung, Watson, and other missionaries used it to journey on the Nile from Cairo to Aswan. It became their base of operations as they visited cities and villages along the river, doing evangelism and distributing Bibles and Bible tracts, and it was a good place to meet people who were interested in exploring the Christian faith.
The El-dahabya Ibis was also employed as a venue for seminary classes. Students traveled with the missionaries on the riverboat, and when they were not otherwise employed, the missionaries conducted classes, which were generally held in the mornings. In the afternoons and evenings the students entered the towns and villages to evangelize the population, often conducting evangelistic services and planting churches within walking distance of the boat. The students contributed to planting a large number of churches in the provinces of Minya and Assiut. Thus El-dahabya Ibis, which today lies on the Nile Corniche in Giza under management of Evangelical Synod of the Nile, contributed both to the theological education and the evangelistic efforts of the young church. The church continued to use the El-dahabya Ibis and its companion riverboats, the Witness and the Morning Star, until the mid-sixties of the last century. The theological educational class was held on the El-dahabya Ibis for only a short time. In the early years classes were also held in Assiut, Cairo, and the Raml area in Alexandria where the missionaries used to spend their summer holidays. After the death of Hogg in 1886, the class was managed by Watson, who decided to expand it into an entire seminary curriculum. The seminary settled for a short period in Cairo at the headquarters of the YMCA, currently on Gomhoriya Street. It then moved to an American Mission building in Azbakeya where it remained for several years. (This building complex is where the Azbakeya Evangelical church, the Synod of the Nile headquarters, and Evangelical Medical Center are currently located.) The American Mission continued for many years to fund and manage the theological seminary, and it provided students with full scholarships that included accommodation, tuition, and other study expenses.
The theological school accepted students from among those willing to serve in the churches. In the beginning, acceptance was granted to prospective students without regard to the level of their education, and priority was given to those who were already serving in a church or who had a call to church service and the ability to perform it. When it became clear, however, that theological study required serious academic preparation, the Egyptian Presbyterian Synod decided that the students had to have a baccalaureate degree from the College of Assiut as one of the terms of enrollment.
The early curriculum of the seminary included courses in theology, Greek and Hebrew, biblical interpretation, church history, church politics, music, introduction to and interpretation of the New Testament, preaching, the science of care, the Arab Bible, archeology, and missions.
In 1871 the theological school celebrated the graduation of its first two graduates, the Reverends Tadros Yousef, and Ibraham Yousef.
The Egyptian Presbyterian Synod did not make it easy for the school’s graduates to be ordained into the ministry. Each graduate had to stand before the Synod in its regular meeting to be tested on his theological and biblical knowledge as well as his knowledge of the Hebrew and Greek languages. Also each graduate preached a sermon before all the members of the Synod. If the graduate passed these difficult tests, he was dedicated to religious service and ordained a pastor in the Evangelical Church.
During the years from 1863 to 1919 The American Mission supplied the financial support and academic personnel to operate the seminary. The role of the Egyptian Church in these years was to recruit students for the seminary and supervise their summer training.
There were many discussions between the members of the American Mission and those of the Evangelical Synod of the Nile regarding the appropriate relationship between missionaries and nationals. Some insisted, echoing the “three-selves” principle, that the goal of missions was the establishment of independence of national churches – that is, a “self governing” church. Yet the ability of nationals to take up the reins of leadership in the institutions of the church was problematic. The emerging church in these years had not yet produced a cadre of talented leaders to drawn upon; hence, important leadership positions continued to be filled by foreign missionaries. But truth be told, the American missionaries had worked from the beginning on encouraging and stimulating Egyptian to assume leadership roles.
The establishment of the theological seminary was one of the most important factors that led to the development of the national leadership of the Egyptian Church. The seminary’s graduates played increasingly important leadership roles in the church, pasturing congregations, managing the denominations, planting new churches, and pursuing missionary work in Sudan.
Following the First World War, the calls for autonomy for the Egyptian church paralleled the calls for an end to Egypt’s colonial status. In 1919 Egypt rose up in rebellion against British rule, demanding national independence. The Egyptian church in general and the Evangelical Church in particular followed these developments closely, and church members contributed to the struggle for national independence by writing, participating in demonstrations, giving fiery speeches, joining third party movements, and supporting the efforts to improve education and health in the country.
In 1919, the year of the national revolt, the Evangelical Synod of the Nile decided to establish a theological seminary of its own as an alternative to or extension of the theological seminary initiated by the American Mission. Towards this end, the Synod made two important decisions. First, it appointed as members of the educational staff of the seminary two Egyptian ministers: Reverend Tadros Hanna, who had studied at the seminary under the management of the American Mission; and the Reverend Gabriel Mikhail Eldabe’, who in addition to his work as a seminary professor would also service as the pastor in Fagala Evangelical Church. Second, it decided to establish a permanent building for the seminary that would be owned and managed by the Synod. The Synod formed a committee headed by the Reverend Hanna Mouawad to assume the burden of this task. The committee did an outstanding job in finding a piece of land, erecting a building on it, and launching the new seminary.
The committee faced a number of options as to where to locate the seminary. Some wanted it to be in Assiut because of the large number of Presbyterians in the area and because for many years the seminary had been there. Others favored Minya where the church was growing the fastest and where the seminary would surely prosper because of the large number of Christians in and around the city. The Synod, however, finally settled on Cairo because its status as the capital of Egypt, the cosmopolitan nature of the city, the ease of transportation, and the proximity of other educational institutions.
After an intensive search, in 1924 the committee finally lighted on a suitable piece of land on El-seka El-beda street in Abbasia, which at that time was a new area emerging well beyond the walls of old Cairo. When the Synod sent in a requested to the government to buy the land, the Cairo government agreed but stipulated that if the seminary building was completed within two years, it would return half the land’s value to the Synod.
The Synod accepted this condition and challenged the committee to finish the construction work within two years. The church responded magnificently. To achieve the goal, local churches conducted an intensive campaign to collect donations. Rich or moderately rich evangelical families took on the funding of small units of the work – a lecture room, a dorm room for students’ accommodation, equipping the seminary’s kitchen, and similar bite-sized efforts.
The church’s official journal, the Al-Huda magazine, recorded the saga as it played out, devoting page after page to listing donors: local churches, youth groups such as Endeavor, and ladies’ meetings such as the Ladies Society. It also listed Evangelical families that were giving, including such prominent names as Wasef, Khayat, Abskharyon, Dabe’, Barsoom, Wahsh, Motaey, Nakheley, Faltas, and Abdul-Motagaly.
In 1925 the committee included in its minutes the following report:
We give Our God all the praise and glory because He paved a way and united the hearts before the pockets, so we received a welcome from distinguished and dignitaries and beloved servants and all evangelical individuals, and from a multitude of non-evangelicals we also found welcoming and generosity and honest emotions who appreciated the project a great appreciation. And we are pleased to tell you, thank God who greatened the work with us and that we have compiled the amount of four thousand pounds actually, and the rest the Committee will receive as premiums. The committee has published in Huda newspaper the lists of subscriptions and we will publish till the end of the project.
After completing the construction, the committee submitted its report to the Synod, giving thanks to God and explaining what had been accomplished:
Distinguished Chairman and honorable members of the Synod of the Nile, with all of the joy and pleasure, from hearts of redundant praise and thanks to God, we bring you the good news of completing the Theological School building. There, in the Abbasya neighborhood in Egypt, in the spacious point of healthy air near the Wayli police department and near the Egyptian university and the police academy, one could find a luxurious beautiful building, built with armed cement and white bricks, so he would stand for a moment to watch it and ask himself, what is this beautiful building? And if he looks upwards the building will answer him when he sees that huge piece of marble inscribed in Arabic and English “Evangelical Theological Seminary”. This is the Building of the School of Theology, and it is one of the most precious blessings that the Lord has bestowed on the Synod after its struggle and the struggle of the building committee for several years in that order.
The Theological School Building Committee in Egypt traveled to the building site several times in 1925 to observe the work in progress, inspecting sanitary arrangements, electric lamps, and furniture for dorm rooms. It also held many meetings, sometimes private, sometimes with the management committee, and sometimes with the missionary committee assigned to negotiate on how the school would be managed. The house was built with an abundance of advisors. When the work was complete, the committee enjoyed the pleasure of describing the fruit of its labor:
This building is a healthy one with free air in a quiet spot away from the noise. It is composed of three floors and the roof. The first floor is a beautiful basement consisting of 6 rooms and a bathroom with all the sanitary conditions and hygiene, and this floor is used for students, for studying and meeting their visitors. The second floor consists of six rooms and the school church and a beautiful lobby and a bathroom, and this floor is used for teaching and for the library and the Management Office and a room for the reception of visiting professors. The third floor consists of 8 rooms and a beautiful lobby and bathroom and this floor is used as bedrooms for the students. The attic is a small room on the roof for unilateral prayer. And the building is surrounded by a round piece of land, from the four directions, and will be planted and will contain the professors’ building according to God’s will and help.
Second: Many people participated in the processing of the building’s furniture so the honorable missionaries prepared the seats, the pulpit, chairs and the rug for the school’s church and this furniture was made of best wood and best hands. And the community of servants in Cairo furnished the management office of the school. And the School of American girls in Egypt furnished a room of the classrooms, and one of the ladies donated a sofa for the school. And some members of the congregation each furnished a room at their own expense, Nassif bik Wissa from Assiut furnished a bedroom, and Aziz bik Hanna Saleh from Fayoum furnished another room, and the Madame of the late Gendy bik Wissa from Assiut founded another room because God healed her from her illness, and the family of the late Bakhit bik Wissa furnished another room for his memorial, and the family of the late David bik Takla furnished another room for his memorial, and family of the late Gendy bik Wissa furnished a room, as well as the family of the late Basta bik Khayat furnished a room for his memorial , and daughters of the late lady Shafeka Ebeed furnished a room for their mother’s memorial, and Dr. and Madame Dr. Habib Khayat furnished a room for the memorial of their late son Victor. The committee has inscribed the name of each one of these people on plates of brass and hanged on the rooms they furnished, which was founded and established in their memorial.
Reverend Gabriel El-dabe’ played an important role in the seminary construction project. He was the representative of the Synod before the government in buying the land, and he held the receipt in his name for half the value of the land that the government had promised to return under the conditions mentioned. The total cost of the building was about 5,800 Egyptian pounds (about $35,000), almost all of which had been collected from the sons and daughters of the Egyptian church in Egypt.
In addition to his administrative role, Gabriel El-dabe’ also taught pastoral theology, church polity, and mission. Other Egyptians successively joined the educational staff of the seminary, such as the Reverends Gabriel Rizk-Allah and Ibrahim Said. The seminary, which was called the Theological School at the time, had a three-year program and a curriculum that included theology, homiletics, pastoral science, church polity, missions, hermeneutics, music, Hebrew, Greek, spiritual formation, comparative religion, church history, introduction to the Old and New Testaments, and interpretation of the two testaments and Creed.
In 1927 the Synod adopted bylaws for the seminary. These provided for the director of the seminary and a Board of Trustees (or Agents), whose president and other members would be appointed by the Synod. The position of President of the Board of Trustees was meant to change frequently. The early presidents include the Reverends Mouawad Hanna, Ibraham Gerges, Ibrahim Said, and Gerges Grace. Under the supervision of the Synod, American missionaries continued to run the seminary until 1939 when the Reverend Gabriel El-dabe’ was chosen as the institution’s first national president. Since him, all the seminary’s presidents have been Egyptians. They include the Reverends Gabriel Rizk-Allah, Labib Meshreky, Elias Makar, Baky Sadaka, Albert Estero, Makram Najib, Manis Abdel-Nour, Ikram Lame’y and Atef Mehany.
In the early years of the newly established seminary, all the professors were part-timers, but a system of full-time “Resident Professors” slowly emerged. The early full-time professors include the Reverends Tadros Hanna, Ibrahim Said, Botros Abdul-Malik, Tawfik Saleh, and Fahim Aziz. Non-professorial staff members were also soon added. The total number of seminary graduates since its inception until 1929 is 202. The graduates came from different cultural backgrounds, but most of them came to serve as pastors of the Evangelical Church in Egypt and Sudan. The Theological Seminary experienced steady growth in its early years. In 1928 a new building was added to house resident professors. Care was also given to the seminary library, as many Christian organizations and churches contributed to provide it with the theological books and references materials that it needed. The seminary continued to provide practical training for its students during the summer months as they were sent into the villages and towns of Egypt to provide pastoral care to congregations new and old.
The seminary continued its three-year program until 1960 when the Synod and the seminary leadership agreed to add a fourth year of preparatory study. The students spent their preparatory year at Assiut Seminary studying a variety of things, but their class work emphasized the English and Arabic languages. The preparatory year also included practical training in the ministry as students gathered every Saturday afternoon and, using available transportation at that time such as bicycles and donkeys, traveled to neighboring villages to minister to the congregations there. Finally, students were expected to attend Synod sessions in order to learn how the church was managed.
The Synod appointed the Reverend Emil Zaki to supervise the students during this year in Assiut. Zaki collaborated with some of the American missionaries in conducting courses in English, Arabic, and an overview of the two Testaments. In addition, he provided pastoral care to the students, helping them in their spiritual journey and to confirm their sense of calling to the pastoral ministry. A number of foreign professors were also involved in the program, including Paul Mclanhen, Kenneth Bailey, and Jean Gerhart.
This preparatory year continued in Assiut Seminary until 1965 when it was moved to Cairo and incorporated into the seminary’s academic program as a fourth year of study. In this period a number of other Egyptian pastors and missionaries arrived to contribute to the education and management of the seminary, including the Reverends Ibrahim Abdallah, Ayad Zachary, Ekhnokh Yousef, Fahim Alakhdary, Fahim Girgis, and Abdul-Messih Estephanos – the latter taught Christian intellectual history and systematic theology. The missionaries who worked in the seminary in these years include the Reverend Jack Lorimer, who played important roles in management, teaching, and writing. His most important literary contribution was a five-volume history of the church. Also, Dr. Martha Roy joined the seminary in 1966, teaching courses in music and worship.
In 1967 the seminary instituted evening classes, realizing Reverend Labib Meshreky’s dream of providing Christian education for interested members of the laity who wanted to courses in theology and other subjects offered in the seminary’s program. The evening classes opened with an enrollment of sixteen students. This program also opened the door for women to study at the Theological Seminary. The first woman to graduate from the evening program was Ms. Victoria Fahim Aziz, who completed the program in 1970.
By 1970 the number of graduates in the morning program of the seminary was about 415, and most of them were pastors in the Evangelical Church. In 1977 a building that included the library and apartments for the faculty was completed. In the eighties the seminary introduced the diploma degree in theological studies.
During the eighties and nineties, the seminary opened two branches for evening students, one in Alexandria and the other in Assiut. Although the Assiut branch did not last long, it contributed in the education of a number of church leaders, some of whom joined the seminary in Cairo and later served as pastors or teachers. Located in the Attarine building, the Alexandria branch continued for a longer period, with instruction provided by both full- and part-time professors. A number of church leaders graduated from the Alexandria branch, while others started there but completed their studies in Cairo.
In the nineties the seminary decided to erect a new eight-story building for students, which included a cafeteria, auditorium, and dorm rooms. Under the able leadership of the Reverend Dr. Ikram Lame’y, the seminary’s director at the time, the building was completed in 1994. The number of students in both the morning and evening program increased in this period, reaching about 180 students. A significant part of the students in this decade were refugees from the civil war in Sudan that was then being waged. Many of them studied in the evening program. In these years there were also a number of students from Arab countries. Students from Kuwait included the Reverend Emmanuel Ghareeb, who was the first Kuwaiti national pastor. Those from Iraq included the Reverends Albert Ondroas and Rev. Rami Waseem. From Syria came the Reverends Mofeed Samir, Firas Salem, and Wael Haddad. And from Jordan came the Reverend Imad Mounir and others. And in 1999 the seminary opened a master’s study program in the areas of theology, biblical studies, and Middle Eastern Christianity. The medium of instruction being English, the program attracted students from several countries, including the United States, Norway, South Korea, Ghana, Sudan, Syria, Palestine, and Italy. During the nineties there was a surge in the number of Egyptian full-time professors. Those who joined the educational staff in these years include the Reverends Samuel Yousef, Atef Mehany, Onsy Anis, Samuel Rosfy, Magdi Sedek, Wafik Wahba, and Elder Mofeed Gamil. At the beginning of the new millennium, those who joined the teaching staff include the Reverends Hani Yousef, Tharwat Wahib, Sami Ayad, Wageeh Yousef, and Sherif Salah. In the last year the Reverend Medhat Nady and Anne Emil Zaki have also joined the staff. The foreign professors – partners in ministry – in these years include: Marc Swanson, Stan Skrselt, Ruth Wilson, Johan Brinkman, Purcema, Darren and Elizabeth Kennedy, Steven Davis, Marc and Joanna Swanson, Michael Shelley, David Grafton, Roger Rogan, Marc Nygaard, Willem de Wit, Dustin Ellington, Michael Parker, Joshua Yoder, and others. A number of the sons and daughters of the church, both clerical and lay, have also provided valuable service to the seminary as part-time teachers or as members of the board of directors.
Since the year 2000 the seminary buildings have undergo a complete renovation. The administration building was remodeled, the full-time professors’ offices were renovated and personal computers added, and six classrooms were updated to include power-point projectors, comfortable seats, and air conditioners. The seminary also installed a computer lab containing 30 computers and added a large new classroom. The seminary’s main library has also been renovated with the building of new bookshelves and the installation of a computer system for book borrowing and cataloging. The library contains more than 53 thousand books, making it one of the largest theological libraries in Egypt and the Middle East. The library also contains a rare book room (with many nineteenth-century books and manuscripts), a journal room, and a Christian education room. Finally, the seminary has renovated its playground, provided brick walkways, and added a small concession stand and bookstore. On the third floor of the main building the seminary constructed its Middle East Christian Study Center, which was inaugurated in 2012. The new facility was carefully designed to incorporate Middle East motifs in its interior design. The classrooms, meeting rooms, and offices are entirely modern, providing a comfortable, aesthetically pleasing environment for professors, students, researchers, and staff members. The center also includes a small museum of rare manuscripts and collectibles, and a library that specializes in Middle Eastern Christianity. In addition, the seminary has purchased an entire floor (1300 square meters) of an adjacent building, which will provide extra space for offices, classrooms, guest apartments, and other needs.
As the official institution of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Egypt, the seminary aims to prepare servants and pastors dedicated to performing pastoral work in the church and to serving in the broader Arab society.
The Seminary Dean leads an educational staff that includes 16 full-time professors and many part-time and visiting professor from both inside and outside the country.
The Seminary serves about 320 students, who study in either the main campus in Cairo or one of the two branch campus in Alexandria and Minya. Most of the students are Egyptians, but at any one time there are a small number of foreign students who come from countries such as Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, Sudan and South Sudan. The full-time students who are being prepared for ordination reside in the student dorm rooms on the main campus. In addition to their academic work, they engage in spiritual, cultural, social, ecumenical, and athletic activities under the supervision of their teachers.
The full-time students participate in the seminary’s summer internship program. In their first summer, the students work under the supervision of the pastor in a congregation where they learn the fundamentals of church management, pastoral care, and general ministry work. In their second summer, they work in a specific non-church ministry, such as those in a home for the elderly, a medical center, a shelter for the indigent, and a social service organization; or they serve in ministries designed for those with special needs, such as addicts, prisoners, and street children. In their third summer, the seminary and the Council of Pastoral and Outreach Ministries work together to place students in village churches to serve as pastors.
ETSC offers the following degrees:
Master of Divinity (MDiv) — this program is designed to prepare students to be ordained as pastors in the church. A four-year program, it includes the practical summer internship in the ministries described above.
Master of Arts in Theology (MAT) — this program is designed to prepare church leaders who are interested in theological study but can only attend classes part time. Students in this program may specialize in mission, counseling, biblical studies, or theology.
Master of Theology (ThM) — this is a teaching degree designed for those who have already attained the MDiv or MAT. Students pursuing this degree may specialize in biblical studies, systematic theology, or Christianity in the Middle East. The medium of instruction is English.
Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership (MAOL) — this degree provides instruction in leadership and management roles in the church and society. The medium of instruction is English
Doctor of Ministry (DMin) — this degree is offered at ETSC but the program is organized and staffed by Fuller Theological Seminary and results in a degree from Fuller, not ETSC. Nevertheless, ETSC coordinates with Fuller to offer this program in advanced ministerial studies.