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Middle East mission in the 21st century

American and Egyptian pastors gather to discuss the changing paradigms of mission and ministry

by Gail Strange | Presbyterian News Service

(L-to-R) Bob Morrison, Raafat Zaki, Andrea Zaki, Magdy Girgis, Rhashell Hunter and Moses Biney were the presenters at the Middle Eastern Intercultural Ministries gathering to explore mission and ministry in the twenty-first century. (Photo provided)

(L-to-R) Bob Morrison, Raafat Zaki, Andrea Zaki, Magdy Girgis, Rhashell Hunter and Moses Biney were the presenters at the Middle Eastern Intercultural Ministries gathering to explore mission and ministry in the twenty-first century. (Photo provided)

LOUISVILLE – What will ministry and mission look like in the twenty-first century? Leaders from the Presbyterian Church of Egypt and other Protestant denominations came together to meet with American pastors, professors, synod and presbytery executives, and lay leaders from New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania to answer the question. On October 28, the Middle Eastern Office of the Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministry (RE&WM) in the Presbyterian Mission Agency sponsored a panel discussion to take a look at the paradigm shifts of mission and ministry in the twenty-first century.

Held at the historic First Presbyterian Church of New York, the gathering kicked off with a traditional Middle Eastern banquet followed by the panel discussion. Panel participants included Dr. Andrea Zaki, head of the Protestant Community in Egypt and General manager of the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services (CEOSS), the Rev. Dr. Rhashell Hunter, director, Racial Ethnic & Women’s Ministries, Presbyterian Mission Agency, the Rev. Dr. Robert Foltz-Morrison, executive presbyter of the Presbytery of New York City, the Rev. Dr. Moses O. Biney, assistant professor of religion and society and research director for the Center for the Study and Practice of Urban Religion (CSPUR) at New York Theological Seminary, and the Rev. Raafat Zaki, moderator of the National Middle Eastern Presbyterian Caucus.

“When I was asked to join in mission and ministry with pastors from our sister churches in Egypt, I enthusiastically said yes,” said Hunter. “We come from places far away from each other, yet we enjoy each other, share together in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and speak in one voice for justice and peace in the U.S. and the Middle East. This opportunity to envision how we do church now and how we might engage in paradigm shifts to work toward emerging church ministries is exciting.”

Thirty-eight church leaders from Egypt and 48 church leaders from the U.S. participated in this Office of Middle Eastern Ministries discussion. Panel participants explored four paradigms: the sociopolitical landscape of the church, intercultural ministry, discipleship, and the local church, and Raafat Zaki gave a reflection on the future of the church. Discussing the first of the four paradigms, sociopolitical landscape of the church, Andrea Zaki said, “The church needs to speak the language of the people in transparency, wisdom, and creativity in its mission in the twenty-first century.”

Biney, who led the conversation on the paradigm of discipleship, said, “The healthy paradigm shifts that are occurring in the Presbytery of New York City include traditional churches moving from merely being a functional congregation to a visionary congregation, pastors drawing in new immigrant populations, and congregations creating alternative ways of being church in the twenty-first century with innovative worship and intentional ministries of justice and learning.”

The PC(USA) began its work in Egypt more than 150 years ago. Magdy Girgis, Associate for Middle Eastern Intercultural Ministries, says while the church’s history in Egypt will forever be important, the church now needs to look at new ways it can continue to pray for and support the ministry and the mission of the Synod of the Nile. Likewise, the Synod of the Nile needs to explore new ways to pray for the PC(USA)’s ministry and mission among the Middle Eastern people in the U.S.

“This was a historical event,” said Girgis. This will be the first time we’ve gathered pastors, elders, seminary professors, mission co-workers, and women ministry leaders from both countries to come together to discuss this topic.

“This was a day of celebration and thanksgiving to God for the mission partnership between the PC(USA) and the church in Egypt. We learned from each other what God is doing in the U.S. and in Egypt to make Jesus Christ known in both nations. We need to remind ourselves how God used the PC(USA) to plant the seed of the gospel and our Reformed theology in Egypt.”

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