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First VTS Doctor of Ministry Graduate from Tanzania

3/14/2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contact: Curtis Prather
Tel: 703-461-1782
Email: cprather@vts.edu

Alexandria, VA –
Virginia Theological Seminary congratulates the Rev. George Meshack Okoth (VTS ’04) who successfully defended his Doctor of Ministry project thesis yesterday, “A Missiological Approach: Building Relationship through Friendship as the More Effective Way of Bringing New People to Church.”

"Through his work in the D.Min. program, the Rev. Dr. George Okoth’s very strong ministry has continued to grow,” said the Rev. David Gortner, Ph.D., Director of the Doctor of Ministry program. “His nuanced approach to evangelism with the poor and isolated Mengati tribe near the parish he serves in Tanzania is a perfect, artful demonstration of the power of listening evangelism in the context of building relationships.  His work contributes an important chapter to African missiology – and in the practices of evangelism and mission in any context from ‘pre-modern’ to ‘post-modern.’ We are thrilled to celebrate with him this momentous achievement, and are proud to claim him among our doctoral graduates.”

The first VTS Doctor of Ministry graduate from Tanzania, Okoth entered the D.Min. Program in January of 2008. After completing his intensive residencies over the course of three years he began his project thesis on friendship evangelism in August of 2010. This consisted of three relationship-building meals with several persons of the unreached Mangati Tribe.

“Dr. Okoth has explored an innovative – yet common sense – way to share the gospel through listening and showing value to others,” said the Rev. Dr. Randal Gardner, Rector of St. James by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, La Jolla, California, who was one of Okoth’s D.Min examiners. “By showing value, essentially through the commandment to love and serve, others could hear that he treated them so respectfully because that is the way of Christ, George offers an important example for the church, especially since we are so often tempted to speak as if more and more strident words create open ears.”

Okoth’s approach laid the groundwork for the establishment of a house church among the Mangati people. It also provided evidence for his thesis that building relationship through friendship is the more effective way of bringing new people to church. In doing this project he worked with a team from his local church. He and the team continue their fellowship with this house church in hopes that leadership will emerge from the Mangati participants and continue the evangelization effort.

“George did a creative project of friendship evangelism with an unreached people – a people with whom no one had been successful before,” observed the Rev. Jacques Hadler, former Director of the VTS Field Education program and Okoth’s advisor. “His patient relationship-building way of approaching the Mangati people with the Gospel in Tanzania is also amazingly applicable to Episcopalians in America.”

The head of the Biblical Studies department at St. John’s University of Tanzania in Dodoma, Okoth was previously a professor at Msalato Theological College. Okoth has also taught at St. Phillip’s Theological College, Kongwa, and at Buhemba Bible School in Buhemba, Tanzania. Before becoming an educator, Okoth served as a parish rector at Mori Parish in Tarime, Tanzania. He is a priest from the Anglican Diocese of Mara, and is active in his local Dodoma parish.

Okoth holds a Master of Theological Studies degree from Virginia Theological Seminary, a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theology from Open Theological College in Cheltenham, United Kingdom, and a diploma in Theology from St. Mark’s Theological College. He is married and blessed with three children.

The Doctor of Ministry program at VTS offers three distinct tracks in Ministry Development, Educational Leadership and (beginning in 2014) Christian Spirituality. This month 17 Doctor of Ministry Project Thesis will be defended, making this potentially the largest D.Min. graduating class from Virginia Seminary.

Founded in 1823, Virginia Theological Seminary is the largest of the 11 accredited seminaries of the Episcopal Church. The school prepares men and women for service in the Church worldwide, both as ordained and lay ministers, and offers a number of professional degree programs and diplomas. Currently, the Seminary represents more than 42 different dioceses and 5 different countries, for service in the Church.