Rev. Nosheen Khan, first woman ordained in Pakistan
It is the need of the time: Rev. Nosheen Khan, first woman ordained in Pakistan, is a role model for women and the Presbyterian Church.
Rev. Nosheen Khan is not afraid of a challenge. She is the first woman ordained in her country of Pakistan, the first woman principal of a seminary school steeped in history, and her first order of business as principal is to help the school out of a crippling financial crisis. On her recent visit to Grace Presbytery, Rev. Khan said her outlook remains hopeful and filled with faith.
“A great change in the church”
“God has blessed me in many ways,” Rev. Khan said, “and I believe women’s ordination is going to create great change in the church in Pakistan.” That great change that Rev. Khan said is coming is the slow shift in both the Pakistani culture and in the Presbyterian Church of Pakistan. The first step was Rev. Khan’s ordination in 2015. “The culture is affecting the church and the church sometimes also thinks that women should have nothing to do with the church,” she said. “I think that women’s ordination is a blessing because it is the need of the time. Men and women should work together to serve the Lord. When people call me Reverend Nosheen Khan, well…I can’t tell you in words, actually…but my feeling.” She pauses. “Very deep feeling.”
Even though she is ordained, Rev. Khan explained that women still cannot be a pastor of their own church. Change comes slowly. Today, women can teach Sunday school, serve in women’s ministry, teach at a seminary school, preach in churches and at conventions and meetings. Rev. Khan said more change is on the horizon.
“There is a change in Pakistan right now,” she said. “If the Pakistani church can ordain a woman, in a few years there can be a chance to pastor a church also. That’s what I believe and I trust it will happen someday. We have 20 female students, and I encourage them to think like that.”
“I have faith God is with this institution”
Rev. Khan is the first woman principal of Gujranwala Theological Seminary in Gujranwala, Punjab, Pakistan. The school was founded in 1877. Rev. Khan became principal in October 2015 when the school was in the midst of a financial crisis. She was on the school’s faculty when her predecessor became ill and needed to step down. The board of directors asked Rev. Khan to lead the school. “I was on the faculty and a senior member of the staff,” she said. “The board asked me to take this responsibility and I took it. I took the challenge. Initially, people congratulated me and encouraged me,” she said. However, even as she received encouragement from some people, she encountered opposition to her new role from others.
“Some people told me, ‘It’s really hard for you as a woman to run the institution.’ I told them, ‘This is not a woman. This is not a man running the institution. This is the grace of God. God is with me and if He wants me to serve here in this position, He is with me and He is going to do everything.’ I have faith God is with this institution. There are many ups and downs these 140 years, but this institution goes on. That’s why I thought I should take the challenge.”
“I want to brings its glory back”
Gujranwala Theological Seminary was founded as a Presbyterian seminary in 1877 by the Synod of North America. In 1954 it became United Seminary. The majority of students are Presbyterian, Episcopal, Pentecostal, and there are students from independent churches. The seminary school offers a Master of Divinity degree program and a Bachelor of Theology degree program. There are currently 79 students enrolled. Tuition covers three years of expenses, which includes housing. A student’s expenses are covered by their church board, but it does not always work out as it should. Rev. Khan said there are students whose church boards have not paid for enrollment. “Mostly, they don’t pay,” Rev. Khan said. “They don’t pay regularly and some don’t pay at all. We run the institution on donations. When I took charge there was no money at all. The finances were below zero. The salaries and utility bills were pending. I knew that.”
Rev. Khan said her board of directors supports her and is helping her with fundraising. “The board of directors told me they would help me find ways to raise funds for the seminary. I am glad they are with me. With the consultation of the board, I am able to run the institution.”
The school began a program called Seminary Sundays, which involves reaching out to the local community to form relationships. “We ask a local church to visit with congregations, we introduce them to the school when we preach, and we explain the need for prayers, funds, and support,” Rev. Khan said. “We also have some connections here in the USA, like the Outreach Foundation. They are really helpful.”
Rev. Khan has a wish for her school, which she said must remain competitive to attract students. “I want to bring its glory back. It’s a historic institution and it’s really precious for us. We should have money and we should have accommodations for more students. I have faith, great faith.”
“The people of Dallas are such loving people”
Rev. Khan was a guest of the South Asian Presbyterian Fellowship. They recently hosted their 13th annual revival, which drew South Asian Christians in the area. Rev. Khan spoke at that event and then preached at First Presbyterian Church of Garland. She spoke warmly of her visit. “I have a chance to move around the USA for preaching and for meetings but the people of Dallas are such loving people. They loved me so much. I want to come back soon.” Even though she would love to visit Texas again, Rev. Khan would also welcome volunteer teachers to join her faculty and make a difference in the lives of her students, even if only for a short while. “Our seminary school has a highly qualified faculty,” she said. “We are eight regular faculty members right now, but we need more to raise the academic standards. We need volunteer theological teachers from the USA to come and teach for a short or a long period of time.”
Before she left, Rev. Khan had a message for Grace Presbytery.
“You can pray for us. We need that. We can ask you to share your blessings with us. Whatever you can do to support us financially will be appreciated. I love you all and I really appreciate your warm welcome. You have given your time and you have provided me a great opportunity to share about myself, about my school. So, I ask the Lord for lots of blessings for you, that you may grow in the Lord and that we altogether may grow in love.”
To learn more about Rev. Khan and Gujranwala Theological Seminary:
Gujranwala Theological Seminary Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Gujranwala-Theological-Seminary-921994221255135/
Presbyterian Church of Pakistan: http://presbyterianchurchpk.org/introduction.php
The Outreach Foundation, which connects Presbyterians to build the church’s capacity to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. https://www.theoutreachfoundation.org/