Introduction to the M.E.C.C.
The Middle East Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches relating itself to the main stream of the modern ecumenical movement, the same which gave birth to the World Council and other regional ecumenical councils throughout the world.
The first and most remarkable feature of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) is its setting. It was through the Middle East that Abraham, his children and grandchildren migrated. Here the ancient Hebrew tribes wandered; the judges, prophets, priests, kings, singers and sages who gave voice to scripture were nurtured here. And it was here that the Incarnation took place, and the redeeming ministry of Christ fulfilled. The Church was born in the Middle East, and here the early controversies played themselves out and the first divisions in the Church occurred. The people and churches which form the council are the direct heirs of all of that. And the vibrant ecumenical movement to which the council gives expression in this region is a profound healing process. A glimpse of the Tree of Life whose leaves are “for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2) is somehow not so distant here.
The second feature is geo-political. Powerful forces swirl and eddy in this region. They break out from time to time in violence. Death, misery and exploitation are no strangers. Economic forces, ethnic movements, big power pressures, religious passions … they make for a heady mix of variables drawing in influences and interests from around the world, and predators abound. In the midst of this, for the past quarter century there has been the MECC, commited to witness and serve in Christ’s name. The circumstances of human dysfunction place upon it an overwhelming burden. People in the Middle East have reason to be suspicious of those who say they want to do them good. Wolves in sheep’s clothing have been plentiful. In a region overwhelmingly Muslim in complexion, it is remarkable that the council, an indigenous Christian agency, should retain the credibility rating it does. It has worked quietly and effectively as an agent of mercy and reconciliation in war-torn Lebanon; it has interceded in the delicate dialogue between the Palestinians and the world, preparing some of the more important pathways that led to the peace process; it was early on the scene in post-war Iraq; it initiated discussions within Arab society to engage both Muslims and Christians in the examination of what should go into building a just and peaceful civil society; and it has participated in some momentous initiatives of Christian reconciliation. There is a pivotal quality to the MECC, and that pivot has integrity. Having a legacy directly tied into the early days of the ecumenical movement, the Council has served in another remarkable way. Because of its long-standing partnerships with churches and Christian agencies both in the West and in the East, it depicts as no other body in this region that the love of Christ transcends barriers and makes of humanity one people. By the sheer fact of its existence it is a testimony to the fact that healing can happen.
Finally, there is the intimacy of the Council. The twelve to fourteen million souls who claim Christ’s name in the Middle East are few in number when compared to the constituents of similar ecumenical associations elsewhere. But being small means that people know each other, and there is a bond of kinship that is rather special. It is no accident, therefore, that the Council chose to organize itself as a family of families—the Eastern Orthodox, the Oriental Orthodox, the Catholic and Protestant families. Each makes its contribution to the witness of all.
This, then, is the Middle East Council of Churches. We invite you to become better acquainted with it.