CHRISTIANITY AND THE MIDDLE EAST: EMEU Conference to Ponder Christianity's Future in Mideast

By Humphrey, L. | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, December 31, 1997 | Go to article overview

CHRISTIANITY AND THE MIDDLE EAST: EMEU Conference to Ponder Christianity's Future in Mideast


Humphrey, L., Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


CHRISTIANITY AND THE MIDDLE EAST: EMEU Conference to Ponder Christianity's Future in Mideast

EMEU (Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding) describes itself as "an informal fellowship of North American evangelical Christians committed to dialogue which seeks mutual understanding, respect and friendship between Middle Eastern and Western Christians." The theme for its Nov. 6-8 annual conference in Houston will be "Mission Today Where Mission Began: The Future of Christianity in the Middle East." Scheduled to be held at the First Presbyterian Church, Main St. (hard by the Wyndham Hotel, where most out-of-town participants plan to stay), its pre-conference on Thursday, Nov. 6, will focus on "Jerusalem and the Things That Make for Peace."

Sharpening that focus in its past, present and future contexts will be Prof. Gary Burge of Wheaton College, director Tom Getman of World Vision's Jerusalem office, president Nancy Kort of the Arab Orthodox Society, formerly with Catholic Relief Services in Jerusalem, and Dr. Harold Vogelaar, professor of missions at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago and founder of that city's Christian-Muslim Program of the Reformed Church in America. Vogelaar served as a missionary in Cairo for 15 years, followed by 14 more years in the Gulf countries.

The conference proper will open at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, with an hour's Bible-centered study probing "Toward a Biblical Basis for Mission in the Middle East." The rest of the morning will be devoted to analyzing the conference theme's Islamic and Christian context. This emphasis relates to the fact that Islam is statistically the overwhelming religion of the Middle East and, of all the world's religions, the closest to Christianity.

Slated to be the springboard presenter on Friday is Princeton-trained Dr. Habib Badr, professor of church history at the Near East School of Theology and pastor of the National Evangelical Church in downtown Beirut. Designated to lead responses to that presentation are Dean Dudley Woodberry of Fuller Theological Seminary's School of World Missions, who has served the Presbyterian Church in Lebanon, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia and who was a consultant to the Carter administration on Middle East matters. In 1989 he edited Muslims and Christians on the Emmaus Road.

Discussion of these presentations will be in small, intimate groups followed by workshops on "Toward a Just Peace in Jerusalem," "The Suffering Church in the Middle East," and "Middle East Programs for the Local Church," with three more workshops centered on specific developments and challenges in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Egypt.

Keynote addresses will be given at the evening banquet by Susan Baker and Riad Jarjour. Baker is a founding member of the National (U.S.) Alliance to End Homelessness, a board member of numerous agencies devoted to issues of justice and poverty, and a director of the forward-looking First World Congress on Forgiveness and Reconciliation slated for Jerusalem in 1999. Jarjour is general secretary of the Middle East Council of Churches, which he had previously served for 15 years as director of youth programs.

Saturday morning will feature a panel on "The Suffering Church and Our Response." Father Mauritius, a monk of the Coptic Orthodox Church and secretary to Pope Shenouda, will report on Christians in Egypt. Dr. Jarjour will speak on Christians in Iraq, Dr. Badr on Christians in Lebanon, and Nora Kort on Christians in Palestine. Aida Farris, former president of the YWCA in Lebanon, now director of the Center for Middle East Studies in Buffalo, will speak on Women in the Middle East.

After lunch seven workshops will concentrate on "Fund-raising for Peace and Justice," "Sister Church Relationships," "Responsible Christian Tourism," "Christian Responses to Legislation," "Mission and Dialogue in the Islamic World," "Women to Women" and "New Forms of Mission Partnerships in the Middle East. …

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