Middle East Council of Churches (MECC)
MIDDLE EAST COUNCIL OF CHURCHES (MECC)
The general ecumenical awakening of the early twentieth century inspired the churches of the Middle East to search for ways to heal centuries-old quarrels and find opportunities for collaboration. The Ecumenical Patriarch Yoachim III raised the issue of Christian unity and encouraged the spirit of reconciliation. The Protestant missions formed a fellowship of 36 Protestant agencies called the Near East Christian Council in 1956. Early contacts between the Near East Christian Council and the Oriental Orthodox Churches blossomed into full collaboration in 1962 when some of these Oriental Orthodox Churches joined the Protestant Churches to form the Near East Council of Churches (NECC). In turn, NECC conducted negotiations with the Eastern Orthodox Churches, and in 1974 the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) was born. Adopting the "Family" system, the original MECC comprised three Families: Protestant-Evangelical, Oriental Orthodox, and Eastern Orthodox. The seven Catholic Churches of the Middle East were initially invited as observers, and after about 15 years of dialogue, they joined the MECC at its fifth General Assembly in 1990, bringing its membership to four Families.
Five themes summarize the objectives of MECC: (1) strengthening a sense of unity, (2) encouraging mutual support among the churches, (3) cultivating mutual respect and understanding, (4) nurturing the spirit of diakonia, (5) fostering collaboration among the member churches and between them and churches elsewhere.
A General Assembly meeting every four years gives the Council its basic orientations. There is also a Council of Presidents consisting of four members. A 24-member Executive Committee meets once or twice a year. The General Secretariat, which comprises the General Secretary and three Associates, organizes programs dealing with human rights and Christian-Muslim dialogue. Three program units: (i) Faith and Unity, which deals with ecumenical concerns, (ii) Life and Service, which offers relief and developmental services, and (iii) Education and Renewal, implement the mandate of the Council at the grassroots level. Two remaining program units deal with communication and finance. All four Families are equally represented at all levels of the Council structure, independently of the number of their faithful.
Since its inception, the MECC has served as a platform for ecumenical dialogue in the region, contributing significantly to the improvement of relations among the churches of the area and with other ecumenical organizations in the world at large. Its various "diakonal" programs and emergency relief services have alleviated significantly the suffering of the people in the Middle East, especially refugees and underprivileged. In addition, it also highlights human right issues and collaborates with other organizations to improve Muslim-Christian relations.
[p. n. sayah]