2012 General Assembly Resolution 15-04: On Supporting a Peaceful, Diplomatic Solution to the U.S.-Iran Issues
The Islamic Republic of Iran has maintained a distinct cultural identity among Muslim countries by retaining its own language and adhering to the Shi’i interpretation of Islam. Much of the Islamic world honors the Sunni tradition and speaks Arabic, the language of the Qur’an. In 1935 the name of the country was changed from Persia to Iran, but the name of the language spoken remains Persian, or Farsi. The city of Bam in southwestern Iran was leveled by an earthquake on December 26, 2003. More than 30,000 Iranians lost their lives, and many more lost homes and livelihoods. Organizations including Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) and other members of the global alliance Action by Churches Together (ACT) International responded quickly. PDA distributed $150,000 in immediate assistance to buy food, tents, and other shelter and relief supplies. The Revv. Mehdi Abhari, then Presbyterian liaison to church partners in Iran, assisted the Middle East Council of Churches, a local ACT member, in setting up an accounting system for the material aid.
History of Presbyterian Work in Iran
In 1834, PCUSA appointed the Reverend Samuel Perkins as its first missionary to what was then known as Persia. The American Presbyterian Mission established the first indigenous evangelical (i.e., Presbyterian) churches, the first modern schools in Iran, the first schools for girls, the first modern hospitals, clinics and nursing schools, and the first college and college for women in Iran. It was widely recognized that in the 1930s and 40s, most of the professional leadership of the country were graduates of the American Presbyterian Alborz College.
The Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Iran was a Synod of the Presbyterian Church (USA) until 1934, the centennial year of the commissioning of Samuel Perkins, when it became independent. For many years, a significant number of the Persian-speaking Christians in Iran were nurtured through the mission work of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
Partner churches and organizations
The PC(USA)’s partner church in Iran is the Evangelical (Presbyterian) Church of Iran (ECI). A community of about 3,000 members, the ECI may be traced to the earliest days of Presbyterian overseas missionary activity. Today this small but vital church makes its witness through three language-aligned presbyteries: Armenian, Assyrian and Persian. Its current pastors receive their theological education by extension. A few are graduates of (or are studying at) the Near East School of Theology. Women, youth, Sunday school teachers and choirs are prominent among the leadership. A Synod Council coordinates the various ministries of the ECI. In recent years the church, together with other Christian churches, has been engaged in a series of healthy Christian-Muslim dialogues facilitated by the semi-governmental Islamic Organization for Christian-Muslim Relations based in Tehran.
The Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches (FMEEC), and the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) have provided an arena for familial and ecumenical participation for the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Iran, which might have otherwise been somewhat isolated from its sisters in the region.
The Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches (FMEEC)
The FMEEC is the family of Protestant Churches, which includes primarily the Reformed, Episcopal, Lutheran, Congregational and Methodist churches across North Africa, the Nile Valley (including Egypt and the Sudan), Western Asia (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Palestine), Iran, Iraq and the Gulf States. The contribution of these churches to the larger ecumenical movement is enormously disproportionate to their relatively smaller numbers. In this Fellowship, emphasis is laid on leadership development, Christian unity and service.
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has been a strong partner and supporter of the work of the MECC since its inception in1974. The Council includes all four families of churches in the Middle East, i.e., the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Oriental (non-Calcedonian) Orthodox Churches, the Catholic Churches (Latin and Oriental Rites), and the Evangelical Churches (Reformed, Episcopal, Lutheran and Congregational). It works on issues of church unity, Christian presence in the Middle East, justice, peacemaking and reconciliation, dialogue with non-Christian neighbors, education, nurture and renewal, participation of youth, women and children, life and service, and Palestinian refugees and other displaced persons.
Learn more about Iran
Visit the BBC country profile.
See the 2013 Presbyterian Mission Yearbook for Prayer & Study, pp. 313-314