NEST Newsletter-June 2017
Written by Dr. George Sabra, President, Near East School of Theology
Future generations will no doubt look upon 2017 as a historic year for the churches and societies of the Middle East, but also and especially for the Near East School of Theology. Two of N.E.S.T.’s alumnae were ordained in the Presbyterian Church of Syria and Lebanon, known as the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon. Rola Sleiman (‘97) was ordained in the Tripoli congregation on February 27, and Najla Kassab (’87) in the Rabiyeh congregation on March 24. N.E.S.T. community faculty and students were in attendance in both events. N.E.S.T. felt proud of its alumnae who became the pioneers of women’s full ministry in the Protestant Churches of the Middle East.
Not only a feeling of taking pride in its graduates, but also a feeling of success and gratification overwhelmed us at N.E.S.T. For years our Seminary has been promoting women’s full ministry in the church, including ordination; for years our faculty have taught and supported and argued for women’s ordination, and now it has become a reality.
I had the privilege and the honor to be invited to preach at Najla’s ordination service, and I would like here to share briefly with the readers of our Newsletter some of what was said:
“…this day is the work of the Holy Spirit in history, the Spirit of truth whom Jesus promised to send and of whom he said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (Jn 16:13). As the Spirit of truth guides us to ordain women – yesterday in Tripoli, today in Rabiya – the Spirit is placing our Middle Eastern Protestant churches once again on the prophetic track. Protestant Christianity understands itself to be the continuation or the revival of the prophetic stream in the history of salvation. Prophets in Holy Scriptures are not those who predict the future; rather, they are the ones who speak truth to their generation, to the present, to the community of faith as well as to the political and social establishment on the basis of their profound understanding of the Word of God, an understanding that penetrates beneath superficial and literal readings of that Word. The Spirit of truth has brought us here, saying to us: open wide all doors for women, for their ministry and role – in the church and in society. Prophets do not restrict their discourse to the narrow religious and spiritual domains of human beings; they address all aspects of life, for the Word of God reaches and addresses all creation. Prophets say “No” to their society when necessary; they reject its customs and traditions and what is taken for granted; they attack its comfort and self-sufficiency and its waywardness; they shake all that people place their trust in, other than the living God.
As the church in our region confronts a situation in which there is an increase in religious extremism, intellectual rigidity, cultural reactionism and social isolationism, and in the midst of a situation in which there is an increase in terrorism, oppression, injustice, trampling upon human rights, suppression of freedoms, especially the rights and freedoms of women, the church has no weapon other than that of word and example; and so it ordains a female servant of the Word and provides an example to its context.”