Cairo Seminary celebrates growth and legacy of education

December 5, 2019 by Don Crittenden

In the Arab world, the opportunities for Christian theological education are rare, which makes the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo (ETSC) an extremely important resource for sharing the love of Christ in this region.

Early Presbyterian missionaries founded ETSC in 1863. At that time, the Seminary had a floating campus on board the houseboat Ibis. The missionaries sailed up and down the Nile River visiting cities and villages, evangelizing and training leaders. From those innovative times, an important institution took root – and it looks nothing like those early days!

The Seminary settled in Cairo over 150 years ago, and it has grown physically and continues to educate an increasing number of pastors and leaders. Most recently, the growth is thanks in part to the internet, allowing the Seminary to broaden its footprint throughout the entire Middle East. It even has online students living in the United States and Europe.

By God’s grace, it has grown at a rapid pace since 2000, when the Seminary had only about 40 students. Under President Dr. Atef Gendy’s superb leadership, its student body now has over 400 students, including residents and online students. Its curriculum offerings include eight degree programs and three certificate programs.

The Seminary’s growth mirrors that of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Egypt, which had grown by 30 percent since the Arab Spring uprising of 2011. The Seminary is highly involved in the church’s growth, training pastors, church planters, and other leaders. The Seminary’s leaders work very closely with the Synod of the Nile to plant new churches and to strengthen existing churches. Together, they have planted 52 new churches and have 119 new church initiatives underway.

In May, the Seminary celebrated its 148th graduation ceremony, awarding diplomas to 29 graduates.

Growth underway

In 2011, ETSC leaders looked for ways to create space for its growing programs. By God’s grace, an entire floor of a nearby building became available and they purchased it. It has now been rehabilitated, and now they are seeking furniture and equipment to serve the needs of the four new offices housed within it. Those offices are:

  • The Office of Distance Learning and Media, which will host ETSC’s Online Program that provides online theological education for students across the Arab world, and in Arabic-speaking communities abroad. It will greatly enhance both the offerings for students unable to travel to Cairo, as well as to create social platforms for sharing and strengthening faith.
  • Office of Contextual and Social Studies is a program that gathers and analyzes data for development of ministry opportunities. It allows leaders to see the larger issues affecting life in Egypt as they strategically plan for ministry.
  • Office of Alumni Services works to strengthen relationships between the Seminary and its alumni. This office will enhance the Seminary’s ability to invest in the intellectual and spiritual development of its alumni. Not only will this strengthen relationships with them, but it will also enable stronger networks among Arab communities through local churches.
  • The Dr. Martha Roy Institute for Worship will provide resources and training opportunities for churches and worship leaders. The Institute will maintain a rich collection and heritage of worship materials, in both print and digital formats. These materials will assist churches in creating more vibrant and meaningful worship.

The project has three phases:

Phase 1: The purchase of the 1,300 square meters (14,000 square feet) of unfinished space;

Phase 2: The interior finishing of the space so that it is ready for use;

Phase 3: Finally, to furnish and equip it for its intended use.

ETSC celebrated the completion of phases one and two and looks forward to the next phase, which is securing funds to equip it with furnishings and equipment. The goal is to inhabit this space by June 2020. The projected cost of Phase 3 is $340,000. We are halfway to our goal and are seeking the other $170,000.

As we move forward together into the future of ETSC, and theological education in the Arab world, we ask you to prayerfully consider a gift to support this important ministry. If you’d like to make a gift, you may do so on the Presbyterian Foundation’s website. We would welcome a conversation about planning for the future of ETSC in your estate or making a non-cash gift. We’d love to talk with you. You can reach me at (309) 532-3208 or

Rev. Dr. Don and Mrs. Ann Crittenden serve as Coordinators for International Relationships for the Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo. They partner with Mrs. Mariam Hanna, Director of Development, in assisting ETSC President Dr. Atef Gendy strengthen the relationships with current partners and develop broader connections with the global church. In 2012, Don retired after 45 years in ministry. His last post was at Second Presbyterian Church of Bloomington, Illinois, where he was staff liaison for missions. It was there that he learned to appreciate the work of  ETSC. Ann completed a 30-year career with IBM in 2012. They now live in Gallatin, Tennessee, part of Nashville’s rapidly expanding metropolis. They maintain close connections to the Seminary via Skype and email. They would be happy to make presentations about ETSC or arrange for Seminary staff visits.