Middle East Council of Churches
The Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) is a fellowship of churches relating to the mainstream of the modern ecumenical movement, the same that gave birth to the World Council of Churches and other regional councils throughout the world. The Middle East is the region where the church was born, and where the Orthodox churches (Eastern and Oriental) have existed since the beginning of Christianity. The Catholic presence dates back to the time of the crusades and the Latin penetration of the region. In the 19th and 20th century, Protestant missions established themselves in the Middle East and Protestant churches came into being. They formed in 1962 the Near East Christian Council. Informal contacts between Protestant groups and the Orthodox, which began in the 1930s, led in 1964 to intentional dialogue. By 1972, sufficient progress had been made to draft a constitution for an ecumenical body. In 1974 the Middle East Council of Churches was brought into being at its first general assembly, in Nicosia, Cyprus. From the outset, the MECC adopted the model of "families of churches". The Eastern Orthodox, the Oriental Orthodox and the Protestants were the three founding families. In 1990 the Catholic churches (Latin and Oriental rite) joined the council, constituting the Catholic family within the MECC. Each family is equally represented in the governing bodies and the general assembly, and decides on its own representation.
The MECC has been a sign of hope for the Christians in the region in the midst of fear and despair caused by conflict and division. The churches have endeavoured to hold up the council as an instrument through which they could demonstrate together their hope in a better future through spiritual renewal, the search for unity and common witness. This has included efforts for a true and credible witness to justice and peace in the Middle East. The general assemblies since 1974 have been spiritual events and opportunities for mutual enrichment:
Nicosia 1974 Our Common Christian Message Today
Broummana, Lebanon 1977 and He gave us the Ministry of Reconciliation
Nicosia 1980 Your Kingdom Come
Nicosia 1985 The Living Hope
Nicosia 1990 Keep the Unity of the Spirit in the Bond of Peace
Limassol 1994 Peace I Leave With You, My Peace I Give Unto You
Beirut 1999 Jesus Christ is the Same, Yesterday, Today, and Forever
Limassol 2003 Abide in My Love
The recurrent concepts of unity, peace, hope and perseverance that are reflected in the themes of the assemblies point to the will of the churches to address together the issues of the Middle East. The MECC has worked quietly and effectively as an agent of mercy and reconciliation in war-torn Lebanon. It has a long-standing record of solidarity with the Palestinians, providing assistance to refugees, upholding the rightful quest for a Palestinian state and supporting peace initiatives. It was early on the scene in Iraq after the Gulf War, and has supported the churches and people of Iraq in the situation of violence and conflict since 2003. It has initiated discussions within the Arab society to engage both Muslims and Christians in the examination of what should go into the building of a just and peaceful civil society, and it has participated in some important initiatives of Christian reconciliation. The inclusion of the Catholic churches in 1990, which was the fruit of long and patient efforts, has made the MECC the most representative Christian body in the region. The council has also been engaged in a dialogue with Evangelical missions operating in the Middle East, which sometimes bypass the established churches and create tensions.
The guiding principles of the council are to strengthen the fellowship of its member churches, to encourage mutual support between the churches, to build understanding and respect between Christians and people of other faiths, to nurture a spirit of service (diakonia), and to be a mediator between Christians and churches in the Middle East and their brothers and sisters in Christ elsewhere. Programmatically, the MECC works on questions of faith and unity, education and renewal, life and service, and communication. The MECC has 27 member churches in 12 countries, representing 14 million Christians. The head offices are in Beirut, Lebanon, and smaller offices exist in Limassol, Cyprus, and Cairo, Egypt.
Periodical: MECC News Report, Courrier oecuménique, Al-Muntada