National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon
The National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon has its origins in the evangelical revival in the region in the early 19th century, which was part of the intellectual awakening in the Arabic-speaking parts of the Ottoman Empire. The revival found guidance and support in the witness and service of Reformed missionaries from North America and Britain. The Ottoman authorities recognized the Evangelical (Protestant) faith in 1848, and the first churches were founded in Beirut and in Hasbaya on the slopes of Mt Hermon. Eventually congregations were established in most of the major cities and in many villages in what ultimately became the independent countries of Syria and Lebanon. The synod is the administrative body for Arabic-speaking congregations and groups in some sixty centres where the expression of the Evangelical faith follows the Reformed tradition and the Presbyterian polity. The synod was organized in 1920 as a union of several presbyteries; other parishes have joined the synod more recently. Since 1959 the synod has assumed responsibility for the direction of nearly all the work of former mission bodies from the United States, Denmark, the Netherlands, Ireland, Scotland, France and Switzerland. There is a continuing relationship of partnership in service with some overseas bodies.
Although there has been a steady growth in new members over the years, there has also been emigration of a significant number of Evangelicals to the Americas, Australia and Scandinavia. The troubled times of the decade of war and violence in Lebanon following 1975 led to the damage or destruction of a number of churches and schools and the scattering of some congregations.
The synod has chosen to carry on the educational ministry which has been a part of the Evangelical movement from its earliest days. This is a service to the larger community and a means of reconciliation in a society troubled by sectarian divisions. The synod and its churches sponsor eight secondary schools and several elementary schools with an enrolment of about 12,500 pupils of all religious backgrounds. It also has a hospital in Lebanon and joins with other groups in programmes of social service. The synod shares in the sponsorship and governance of the Near East School of Theology and the Lebanese American University, and is also a member and co-founder of the Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches, the Middle East Council of Churches, and the Supreme Council of Protestant Churches in Syria and Lebanon.