Middle East Consultation
Last month, on a small mountain on the outskirts of Beirut, Lebanon, over two hundred people gathered for this year’s Middle East Consultation (MEC) held at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary (ABTS). Langham has a long history of close relationships with ABTS – as a member of the Langham Literature program and also through its leadership, faculty, alumni and students. The MEC is an initiative of ABTS’s Institute of Middle East Studies (IMES), headed up by Martin Accad, a Langham Scholar. Langham has now partnered with IMES to publish the fruit of these consultations, establishing the IMES Series for current and future publications.
The topic for this year’s event was “Jesus Christ and the Religious Other: Toward a Biblical Understanding of Islam.” Keynote speakers led challenging sessions on how to connect with the “religious other,” focusing on Muslims, but also addressing a wide range of other groups, from Hindus to Humanists. The days began with excellent Bible teaching, complimented by panels, forums and conversations. The consultation included much diversity with one forum looking at Orthodox, Catholic and Evangelical views, while another session included two guest speakers – a Muslim philosopher and a sheik.
Not Just One Book
Langham had the privilege of being involved in a book launch one evening during the consultation for The Church in Disorienting Times: Leading Prophetically Through Adversity. Edited by Jonathan Andrews, the book is the output of last year’s consultation, including material from last year’s speakers. It seeks to inspire Christians worldwide to stand alongside people that are living through trauma and to provoke everyone, in the Middle East and elsewhere, to ask what they should be doing to encourage transformation of societies to the glory of God.
Several other recently published books by Langham with relevance to the MEC and with links to ABTS were also promoted during the launch. A second book that was presented was Challenging Tradition: Innovation in Advanced Theological Education, which includes contributions from educators around
the world, and was edited by Perry Shaw and Havilah Dharamraj, a speaker at this year’s consultation. The book challenges the current theological educational standards which include processes that follow a linear-empiricist tradition developed in the West which has been exported to the Majority World. It highlights the need for these traditions to be reconsidered in every context throughout the world and demonstrates how we may better prepare theological leadership through means that are contextually relevant and locally meaningful.
The third book was presented by Brent Hamoud, co-author with Rupen Das of Strangers in the Kingdom: Ministering to Refugees, Migrants and the Stateless. It is a concise and informative read that provides biblical, theological, and missiological foundations for ministries to those who have been uprooted from their homes and all that is familiar. Through these lenses we see on the one hand the intense ways in which displacement fundamentally undermines the human experience, but on the other hand the truth of our compassionate King and limitless Kingdom that are the source and the expression of a reality where the strangers of our world can claim and experience the fullness of belonging. The book also provides global case studies, recommendations, and discussion questions all intended to help individuals and groups to consider their contexts and their opportunities for ministry.
New Dimension to a Long-Standing Partnership
The ministry being done by those involved with ABTS and the churches in Beirut is inspiring – with an overwhelming refugee crisis set against the historical backdrop of serious division and hatred between the Lebanese and Syrians, many churches are rising to the challenge of loving and caring for the Muslims around them. The Resurrection Church, pastored by Hikmat Kashouh, has a congregation that is now around 70 percent refugees. Through loving, forgiving and displaying the Christ-like character that is drawing Muslims to Jesus they have gone from having 90 members to 1,300 and 270 life groups, in 9 years.
This year was the first time that anyone from Langham Literature was present at the Middle East Consultation, and it gave us great joy to connect with a number of our other authors, including Imad Shehadeh, Hikmat Kashouh, Mike Kuhn, Elie Haddad, Martin Accad, and Ida Glaser. The plan is for Langham Publising to continue to produce books that arise out of the Consultation and IMES, thereby providing a way for the Consultation to impact numerous others around the world.