Middle East Conversations 2020

The Middle East Consultation is an annual event that has gathered participants from around the MENA region and the world since 2004 to explore issues of faith by presenting insightful analysis and facilitating meaningful discussions. Due to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the new global realities of distancing and travel restrictions, this year’s consultation (originally scheduled for June 15-19) has been reimagined and a new type of MEC 2020 has taken shape: Middle East Conversations. We look forward to having you join us for monthly online webinars as we embark on an innovative MEC 2020!
Purpose of MEC 2020: To lend Middle-Eastern voices to the global discourse on urgent matters of faith and witness.

In a moment of global pandemic fraught with health crises, economic fallout, and widespread disruption, ABTS seeks to engage the global Church with a biblical worldview on topics of weight and relevance. Middle East Conversations 2020 will bring together MENA and global perspectives to illuminate our understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing us at this time, encouraging thoughtful analysis and constructive debate.

Join us for our third MEC2020 webinar:
August 20, 4:00-5:30 pm Beirut Time (GMT+3)

No Space or New Space? Navigating Exceptional Times as the New Normal for the Local Church

Contributors include:
Keynote Presentation: Nabil Habiby, Arab Baptist Theological Seminary
Case Study: Ara Badalian, Baghdad Baptist Church
Case Study: Bassem Melki, Church of God-Beirut
Global Respondent: Shadi Fatehi, Pars Theological Center, London
Moderator: Emad Botros, Arab Baptist Theological Seminary

Webinar Context:
As churches worldwide take measures to mitigate the health risks of COVID-19, the unprecedented situation of pandemic is stirring fundamental questions about the role and form of the local church. Extended lockdowns had left church buildings largely empty for months – with meetings and functions largely occurring on virtual platforms – and a return to in-person church life is slowly emerging in ways that involve elements both familiar and strange. Practical stipulations, like wearing protective gear and practicing distancing, are but one dimension of new fellowship realities. Deeper than this are ecclesiological questions leading us to rethink our understanding of the nature of “church.” This profound moment calls people of faith to explore illuminating readings of scripture and tradition.

In the Middle East, places of worship are regarded as meaningful, almost-sacred, spaces pivotal to forming identity and manifesting expressions of faith. Christians in the region have long faced a myriad of complex challenges, and for many the continuation of church gatherings is a crucial measure to maintaining a Christian presence. For believers living in contexts of extreme regulations and restrictions, church life has always lacked secure access to designated worship spaces; being a church beyond specific space has been more normative than exceptional. As the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts traditional church life in various ways, faith communities in the Middle East and beyond must navigate a new normal and reconsider what it looks like to be the Body of Christ in exceptional times like these.

For questions, please contact MEC@abtslebanon.org.

Previous Webinars:

July 16:
COVID-19 and Theological Education in the Middle Eastern Context: Between Mounting Challenges and Emerging Opportunities.

Contributors included:
Elie Haddad, President of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary, Lebanon
Hani Hanna, Academic Dean at the Evangelical Theological Seminary, Cairo
Stephanie Black, Associate Director for Orientation and Training of Theologians Without Borders
Martin Accad, Chief Academic Officer at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary, Lebanon
June 18:
A Dynamic Pause: Reflections on Simplicity, Purpose, and Transformation in this Time of Pandemic.

Contributors included:
Martin Accad, Chief Academic Officer and Director of the Institute of Middle East Studies at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary, Lebanon
Rima Nasrallah, Professor of Practical Theology at the Near East School of Theology, Beirut
Gary Nelson, President of Tyndale University, Toronto