Theological Education as Formation for Prophetic Ministry

By Martin Accad

When we think about theological education in a country like Lebanon, we are forced to think differently from the way that seminary education has traditionally been understood in Europe or North America. In many seminaries around the world, both in the west and sadly also in the Middle East, students are still primarily taught how to interpret the biblical text largely for preaching purposes. They may also take a couple of counseling courses and some classes in pastoral ministry. They may be offered a limited number of courses in missiology, but often in the form of electives that students can opt out of. This reflects an older mentality, where the seminary views itself as operating at the service of ‘Christendom’ – a society where Christianity is dominant and where the church often lives with a triumphalistic mindset. A large proportion of seminaries, however, have become increasingly aware of functioning in a post-Christian world. Continue reading

Middle East Immersion: Learn. Serve. Experience the Middle East!

What is the Middle East Immersion?

The Middle East Immersion (MEI) is a six-week intensive practicum designed for students from beyond the region wanting to experience firsthand the opportunities and challenges of Christian service in the Middle East. Under the mentorship of respected scholars and experienced practitioners, students in the MEI program practice intercultural work in a dynamic context and engage in mutual learning between Christian and Muslim communities.

Centered on critically reflective practice, MEI provides students an opportunity to earn academic credit and fulfill practicum requirements while being exposed to the language, peoples and cultures of one of the region’s most vibrant cities.

MEI 2017 begins 19 June in Beirut, Lebanon, and runs through July. Continue reading

Kerygmatic Peacebuilding (Part 2): What Does Peace Have to do with the Gospel?

By Jesse Wheeler

Note: This is a difficult week to speak of peace. With heartbreaking tragedy in Egypt and unspeakable horror unfolding in Syria just a few hours away, peace now seems more than ever like an elusive dream continually beyond reach – all while I sit here feeling helpless in the face of such devastation. Furthermore, it is never helpful to speak glibly of peace to those suffering persecution, oppression, or violence. For too often, talk of peace has been used to silence very legitimate demands for justice, to enforce quiescence to an unjust status quo. This, however, means that a proper understanding of just peace and its continued pursuit is as imperative, albeit difficult, as ever.

In my previous entry, I explored the question: “What, if anything, does religion have to do with peace?” Asked in response to the historically inadequate, or otherwise superficial, inclusion of religious thinking within peacemaking and diplomatic paradigms, I came to the conclusion that to promote peace by means of secularization is to in many ways challenge the very identity and worldview of those engaged in conflict – with the very real possibility of doing more harm than good. Rather, the central place of religion within the realm of human experience can be instrumental in both the exacerbation and perpetuation of conflict, as well as in its mitigation and resolution.

This realization, however, leads to an equally important question for the church: What, if anything, does peace have to do with the Gospel? Continue reading

Kerygmatic Peacebuilding (Part 1): What Does Religion Have to do with Peace?

By Jesse Wheeler

One reason, among many, I love working at IMES is its heartfelt commitment to peacebuilding and peace education. Yet, in the course of our work, we have often encountered opposition with regard to the task of building peace and its relevance for Christian life and service. As an evangelical organization, “Why,” we are asked, “focus on peace?” Continue reading

Middle East Consultation 2017 – The Church in Disorienting Times: Leading Prophetically through Adversity

19 – 23 June 2017

We live in disorienting times. This is a reality for the church in many parts of the world today, not least the church of the Middle East. Many factors, historical and social, have reduced the church to the status of minority, in which persecution and hopelessness have become a reality for many. How must our theology inform our response?

During IMES’ Middle East Consultation (MEC) 2017 – The Church in Disorienting Times: Leading Prophetically through Adversity, participants will seek to discern a biblical framework that avoids both self-victimization and triumphalism and encourages the church to prophetically embrace adversity in a way that activates growth and development rather than discouragement and stagnation.

MEC 2017 provides a unique context for the MENA and global church to address a range of critical issues, focusing on the themes of persecution and suffering, minoritization, hopelessness and despair, and emigration. Together we will explore how the Body of Christ can best respond to such challenges, exploring Biblical and theological responses when confronted with adversity.

Participants and contributors will come from across the region and the world, providing a unique opportunity to reflect on the critical challenges facing the Church today. MEC 2017 will feature high quality presentations, first-hand testimonies, pastoral responses, practical workshops, interfaith forums, and opportunities for all participants to engage in robust discussion. In addition, the consultation will include time for prayer, worship and biblical reflection.

Held the third week of June each year at Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS) in Beirut, Lebanon, the purpose of IMES’ Middle East Consultation is to equip participants to respond in prophetic and Christ-like ways to the many challenges facing Christians and Muslims in and beyond the Middle East. Mark your calendars.

Registration information will be made available shortly. Please sign up to The IMES Blog to receive our weekly posts as well as periodic updates regarding MEC 2017 – The Church in Disorienting Times: Leading Prophetically through Adversity.

We look forward to seeing you here!

Flush Out your Toxic Thinking about Islam before Election Day!

By Martin Accad

As our American friends approach election day this coming November 8, the rest of us around the world are holding our breaths as we consider the implications of that event on the country’s foreign policies. At a time when the question of Islam and Muslims in America has become so divisive, it would be easy to vote for one or the other candidate for the wrong reasons. In this brief reflection, I would like to point out a few mistakes that we often make in our thinking about Islam and Muslims, perhaps to help some of the voting be less fear-driven and more rational and socially compassionate. Continue reading

Mission in a World Gone Wild and Violent: Challenging the Monochromatic View of Islam from a Silent Majority Position

By Martin Accad

[Note: This post was first published on Fuller Theological Seminary’s ‘Global Reflections Blog,’ in preparation for Fuller’s 2016 Missiology Lectures on 3-4 November. To learn more, click here]

On May 16, 2016, the day that I am writing this blog, we are commemorating the secret deal between Britain and France known today as the ‘Sykes-Picot agreement.’ Following secret negotiations in 1916, Britain and France agreed on the new borders of the Middle East as they predicted the fall of the Ottoman Empire at the end of WWI (1914-1918). A third minor party to the agreement was the Tsarist government of Russia. But following the Bolshevik Revolution and the end of the Tsarist era, Russia would fall out of the agreement, and the Bolsheviks would make the agreement public on 23 November 1917, provoking what one scholar has described as ‘embarrassment’ to the British, ‘dismay’ to the Arabs, and ‘delight’ to the Turks (pun intended!)[1]

In the summer of 2014, the group calling itself the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS – or in Iraq and the Levant, ISIL) went on a rampage, conquering and massacring Christians, Yazidis, Shiites, and any Sunnis who disagreed with its program. Continue reading

Should we wish a ‘Blessed Ramadan’ on our Muslim friends?

By Martin Accad

A few days ago, the month of Ramadan began. ‘Ramadan’ is the name of the current month, the ninth in the Muslim lunar calendar, which has come to symbolize the 29 to 30-day Muslim fast, one of Islam’s five pillars. The social media, over the past few days, have been filled with Ramadan-related posts and comments. Given that Facebook conveniently connects you mostly with like-minded people, the posts I have been seeing are for the most part either pious ones from my Muslim friends or well-wishing ones from sympathetic non-Muslims.

But from time to time, both in my network and, I am sure, in other ‘less Muslim-friendly networks,’ there is also the odd voice of dissent, Continue reading

Jesus, Muslims and the Qur’ān: in search for KERYGMATIC peacebuilding

By Martin Accad

My friend Peter believes that the Qur’ānic portrayal of Jesus stands in complete contradiction with the New Testament witness. He was once called Ahmad, but when he converted to Christianity after consistently watching polemical programs about Islam on satellite television, he became convinced that in order to follow Jesus he had entirely to deny his former Islāmic faith, even give up his birth name. Continue reading

Come Follow the Crucified! An Interfaith Reflection on Easter

By Martin Accad

My father worked for the Bible Society in Lebanon for most of his life, serving as its General Secretary for over 25 years. Growing up, several of my summers were spent in the distribution of Biblical literature and in organizing viewings of the Jesus Film in Christian, Muslim and Druze villages. I have mostly fond memories of drinking icy lemonade and mulberry juice on hot summer days, listening to pleasant conversations about religion and about Jesus in the atmosphere of friendly home gatherings.

Continue reading