Moderator looks to closer ties with Egyptian Church

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Marion Morrison, Hannah Mary Goodlad and Rt Rev Dr Angus Morrison with Council Members of the Synod of the Nile. On Dr Morrison's right is Synod Moderator Rev Kamal Yousef. The picture was taken on the roof of the Synod's hospital building in central Cairo.

A consultation to develop closer links with the Presbyterian Church in Egypt is being considered following the Moderator of the General Assembly's meeting with the Synod of the Nile in Cairo. Rt Rev Dr Angus Morrison is in Egypt on an official visit with the Church's World Mission Council as part of his Moderatorial year.

"There is much we can learn from you " Dr Morrison told the Synod's Council leaders after receiving a briefing on the wide ranging activities of the Church in Egypt. "For too long the idea of working together simply meant sending money and exporting western ideas. Hearing about the way your Church is growing and the valuable social services you are providing has given me great encouragement. We are part of the same family and we should develop our relationship in a meaningful way."

The Synod's Moderator, Rev Kamal Yousef, credited the Church of Scotland with sending Pastor John Hogg to Egypt as one of the country's first Presbyterian missionaries. He is still remembered as a dynamic preacher who pioneered work in education, leadership development, evangelism, and church-planting. Mr Yousef said John Hogg had created an enduring bond between the churches in Egypt and Scotland. "We are not just looking at financial connections anymore. We can share our experiences in mission, evangelism and systems of governance. We should come together and share our dreams and vision into practical resolutions in the near future."

There are now around 1.5 million Protestant Christians in Egypt, but due to seismic shifts in the population away from their Christian heartlands in traditional villages as many as 80% of them have no church to go to. Where Christians have settled, their faith has expressed itself in the creation of new fellowships. From these, the Synod has established 28 new churches in the last 3 years. In the new cities, the government provides land dedicated for church building and the Synod is busy complying with the condition that the churches must be erected within 3 years of the land being allocated. A further 25 churches are planned in the next five years, as well as 3 more schools and a new hospital in addition to the 2 hospitals the Synod already operates.

The Egyptian Revolution in 2011 has provided opportunities for the Synod, which responded by creating a new Council of Dialogue to further ecumenical and interfaith relations. Many of the pupils and patients the Synod cares for through its schools and hospitals are Muslim. The new Egyptian parliament which has begun sitting this week includes 39 Christian members, the highest ever number. Of these new members, 4 come from Synod of the Nile congregations, and 3 are women.

World Mission Secretary, Rev Ian Alexander, told the gathering that developing relations with the Synod of the Nile fits into the Council's strategy of "walking together with our friends and finding Christ in our midst." He said "We have been developing our model of 'attentive accompaniment' to establish more reciprocal relationships. We would welcome the formation of twinning links between parishes here and those in Scotland. There are the possibilities to develop other exchanges. We look forward to exploring these through formal consultation soon."

The Moderator is conducting a 10 day visit to Egypt accompanied by his wife Marion, the Moderator of the National Youth Assembly Hannah Mary Goodlad, the World Mission Council Secretary Rev Ian Alexander and the Middle East Secretary Kenny Roger.

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