by Arthur Brown
This year’s Middle East Consultation, The Refugee and the Body of Christ: Exploring the Impact of the Present Crisis on our Understanding of Church, is now less than six weeks away. Plans are coming together well, and consultation registrations are at an all-time high. As consultation coordinator, I thought it would be helpful this week to highlight some of what will be happening during the week of June 20-24, here at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Beirut, Lebanon. If, after reading this, you know that you want to join us for MEC, it is not too late, but we encourage you to apply as soon as possible.
With regard to format, we are trying something new this year. Rather than a series of lectures, each of our contributors [and there are many] will give short, engaging ‘Ted’ style presentations on a range of topics relating to the wider themes we are addressing. MEC 2016 really is a unique opportunity to reflect upon and discuss some of the most critical issues facing the church both in the Middle East and globally at this time. And, we have some of the most qualified people with us to help us on our journey of discovery.
Central to the consultation are two Critical Questions which we will examine from multiple perspectives:
- From a theological, biblical and sociological perspective, to what extent do non-Christian refugees need to be integrated into the previously established church?
- How might a biblical expression of church – made up of new believers from non-Christian backgrounds – be fostered in such a way that it would flourish within a non-Christian context?
In addition to the presentations, there will be numerous opportunities to ask questions and explore new ideas. Each day will also include facilitated discussions and interviews with the main contributors, and round-table conversations for all participants. These sessions will allow for deeper reflection on the critical issues being raised and the challenges and opportunities facing us all, as well as the opportunity to explore how the Body of Christ might respond. Round-table conversations provide an opportunity for all participants to collectively process what they have been hearing and explore the implications for their own church and ministry contexts. Furthermore, a variety of workshops will be offered giving participants the opportunity to learn from and interact with experienced practitioners from within and beyond the MENA region.
In keeping with the IMES ethos and MEC tradition, we are hosting interfaith forums on Tuesday and Thursday evenings in which we invite Muslim voices [religious and political leaders] to contribute to the conversation by exploring issues related to the consultation themes and provide MEC 2016 participants the opportunity to listen to and interact with alternative, often challenging perspectives.
Confirmed Consultation Speakers / Contributors
Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen is a Finnish systematic theologian who teaches in the School of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena. He has published widely on a diverse range of theological themes, including ecclesiology, pneumatology, and the theology of religions. He has recently completed a 5-volume work exploring ‘A Constructive Christian Theology for the Pluralistic World’, of which the most recent edition on ecclesiology is soon to be available. In 2013, he published Interdisciplinary and Religio-Cultural Discourses on a Spirit-Filled World: Loosing the Spirits.
During MEC 2016 Veli-Matti will be presenting three talks and participating in wider discussions, interfaith forums and round table conversations. The titles of his sessions are:
- What makes the Church, Church?
- What would an ‘Emerging Church’ Look like in the MENA region; and,
- The Mission of the Church to Muslims – The Da’wah of the Ummah to Christians.
Jihad Haddad is Senior Pastor of True Vine Evangelical Church, Zahle, Lebanon [also known as Zahle Baptist Church]. Zahle is located in the Bekka valley, and has become home to huge numbers of refugee’s fleeing the war in neighboring Syria. Both Jihad and the church he pastors have undergone a massive transformation over the last few years, and have gained valuable insights into what it means to be church within a context of so many challenges and opportunities. Jihad will share some of his experiences and about how God is doing incredible work in the midst of such a difficult situation. His really is a story of God’s transforming work.
Katie Kraft is a faculty member in IMES’s very own MRel in MENA Studies program, teaching in the MENA Cultures module. In addition, Katie is a lecturer and researcher at the University of East London [UK], in the School of Law and Social Sciences. She has lived in the MENA region for many years, and works alongside local and regional NGO’s. Katie’s presentations will focus on the following themes:
- The experience of being a refugee – a heart response;
- Spiritual dynamics – the long term effects and potential for lasting change;
- Community transformation post-conflict.
As well as presenting three talks, Katie will be giving readings from her latest novel exploring the lives of members of the refugee community in Syria.
Elie Haddad serves as president of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Beirut, Lebanon. Specializing in missional ecclesiology and leadership, Elie is currently pursuing a PhD at the International Baptist Theological Seminary (IBTS) in Amsterdam. He has a heart for the mobilization of the Church and under his visionary leadership ABTS has become a missional educational movement, seeking to expand and impact communities, locally and regionally.
Rosangela Jarjour serves as General Secretary of the Fellowship of the Middle East Evangelical Churches. As such, she is deeply familiar with the experiences, ministries, challenges and opportunities of many churches throughout the region, particularly in Lebanon, Syrian and Iraq. She is an advocate for the continued presence and sacrificial ministry of the church in the region.
Brent Hamoud is a leader at Dar el Awlad, a residential home and school for children and young people on the outskirts of Beirut. He will be speaking about statelessness, a huge issue for many refugees, both as a main presentation and within a workshop. He will help us develop a theology of statelessness which should provoke us into action.
Grant Porter is Lead Facilitator of Near East Initiatives. NEI is a collaborative network of leaders in ministry working together to see vibrant communities of faith for every region across the Near East [Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Iraq]. Grant is in the final stages of his PhD studies, and has been examining various forms of ecclesiology within the Lebanese context. He and his family have lived in Lebanon for over thirty years. During MEC Grant will be presenting three case-studies, showing how different churches have responded to the refugee situation in Lebanon.
- Case Study 1: A new life in the city.
- Case Study 2: Village life made new.
- Case Study 3: A new homeland.
Emad Boutros is Egyptian and a member of the ABTS faculty who will be giving a presentation on ‘Refugee and Migrant People in the Old Testament’. He will focus upon the role of the covenant law in seeking to produce a people attentive to and capable of living as a unified community with the ‘aliens in our midst’.
Helle Liht is Assistant General Secretary of the European Baptist Federation. The EBF covers over 50 countries in Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East. Many of these are either origin, transit or destination countries for huge numbers of migrants and refugees. The EBF overseas a network for members to share information about the refugee crisis, and is mapping the response from Baptists across the region. Helle is a member of the migration/refugee Working Group and will share about how Europe, and Baptists in particular, have been responding in various contexts.
Samar Khoury is a graduate of ABTS and a member of Resurrection Church Beirut. She is involved in the lives of many refugees from a variety of backgrounds who are currently surviving life in Lebanon.
Rev. Juliet Kilpin is a Peace & Justice Advocate/Campaigner and church leader. Although based in the UK she, with others, continue to be involved in ministry at ‘The Jungle’ refugee camp/shanty town in Calais, France. Within her presentation, and accompanying workshop, Juliet will be exploring such themes as peace activism, peaceful presence and peace at the borders, as well as the need to seek justice in the face of oppression.
Marvin Lahoud is a member of Faith Baptist Church, Mansourieh. He will be exploring the theme of ‘Church on the Move’ – a family approach, founded on love and incarnational presence.
Other Contributors Include:
- Representatives from the Relief and Community Development ministry of the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development (LSESD).
- Members of the refugee community – including leaders of predominantly refugee congregations.
- Other local and regional ministry leaders spearheading the church’s response to the crisis.
The Human Touch
MEC 2016 will also provide participants the opportunity to hear first-hand from individuals and families who have been forced to flee their homes and countries. One afternoon during the consultation, participants will visit churches and organisations who are working directly with members of the refugee community. During these visits they will have the opportunity to listen to the stories and experiences people have faced, and how the church has provided for many of them a life-line of hope.
For sure this will be a transformational experience for many.
To find out more and to submit an online application, please visit: www.ABTSLebanon.org/mec2016
You can also email us directly at: MEC@ABTSLebanon.org