Mission History and Partners

Mission History and Partners

Recommended Reading


Christianity: A History in the Middle East, edited by Rev. Habib Badr—This large tome is a collection of articles about the history of Christianity and churches of the countries of the Middle East. Comprehensive and thorough, this book was undertaken by the Middle East Council of Churches and was first available in Arabic. This translation will be of interest to any student of Middle Eastern Christianity.


The Arab Christian: A History in the Middle East, by Kenneth Cragg—This book was published in the 1990’s but is indispensible in gaining an historical and contemporary perspective on Arab Christianity. It is a thoroughly researched book, and is not light reading! Cragg lived and served in the Middle East; he is and Anglican bishop. He has studies and written about ChristianMuslim relations extensively, and knows the Christian community well. He discusses history, sociology, the arts, and ChristianMuslim relations in this book. In some places, he over-simplifies my referring to an “Arab mind” or a “Muslim mind,” an approach which is rebuked by Edward Said in Orientalism, but Cragg’s study is quite valuable nonetheless.


Jesus Wars, by Philip Jenkins—This book will offer much insight into the Orthodox traditions as it explores theological and Christological debates of the early church. Focusing on the ecumenical councils of the fourth century, the reader will have a better understanding of the movements within, and resultant splits of, the church. Not limited to theological debate, these divisions had to do with political and personal power as well. While the history is sometimes challenging, the Jenkins offers a helpful look at the heritage of the churches of the Mediterranean basin. 


Sailing through Troubled Waters: Christianity in the Middle East, by Mitri Raheb—In this collection of seven lectures and papers, Rev. Raheb offers historical and theological insight into the current reality of Christians in the Middle East. The chapters offer the current context of the Christian communities, including encounter with Islam and contextual scriptural readings of the Qur’an; the situation of Palestinian Christians; a brief history of the Lutheran Church in Palestine and Jordan; and reflections on revolution and human rights. 


Who Are the Christians in the Middle East?, 2nd ed., by Betty Jane Bailey and James Martin Bailey—The Middle East has dominated international news and global politics for years. From the perspective of religion, however, many Americans think of the Middle East only in terms of Muslims and Jews and are unaware of the many Christian communities living there. Written by two United Church of Christ pastors who lived and worked in the Middle East for several years, this fascinating volume limns the varieties and experiences of Christians in the Middle East from Pentecost to the present.


Jerusalem Testament: Palestinian Christians Speak 1988-2008, edited by Melanie May—A comprehensive collection of all of the statements and letters issued by the heads of churches in Jerusalem, together, over a period of 20 years, May enhances this presentation of the documents with historical context. This book is useful as a reference, as history, and as theological insight into life under occupation. Over the course of these two decades, the heads of churches have addressed their statements to a variety of audiences. Their message is consistent, though, and it is one that should be heard directly from them: Peace and Justice must prevail. This book allows that voice to come through clearly.


The Forgotten Faithful: A Window into the Life and Witness of Christians in the Holy Land, edited by Naim Ateek, Cedar Duaybis, and Maurine Tobin—This collection of presentations from the 2005 International Sabeel Conference is a trove of valuable insight about the history, demographics, and witness of the Palestinian Christian community. With special articles on various church histories and presence, and deep foci on the current realities Palestinian Christians face as part of the Palestinian community, this book is exceedingly valuable.


Occupied with Nonviolence: A Palestinian Woman Speaks, by Jean Zaru. Mrs. Zaru is the Clerk of the Friends Meeting (Quaker), our partner in Ramallah. She has recently published a collection of speeches and papers. The book is highly readable, and is full of insightful content. It is an excellent treatment of a number of issues relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with a greater vision at stake. Mrs. Zaru treats issues of interfaith relations, women’s rights, human rights, Jerusalem, violence and nonviolence, and others in a way that some of us have come to know well. 


Justice and Only Justice, by Rev. Naim Ateek—Published first in 1989, this book is considered by many to be the foundational book of Palestinian liberation theology. It is seminal in that it addresses, from a theological and experiential point of view, the issues at stake in seeking justice and peace between Israelis and Palestinians. 


A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation, by Rev. Naim Ateek. Rev. Ateek is the founder and director for the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem, a partner of Global Ministries. Ateek’s new book is remarkable, provocative and challenging, and quite poignant. It is part personal narrative and part political commentary/observation, all framed through a theological lens.


I am a Palestinian Christian, by Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb—Rev. Raheb is pastor of Bethlehem’s Christmas Lutheran Church, and president of the Diyar Consortium. This book is a thorough examination of the issues faced by Palestinian Christians today, and is set in the context of history and theological reflection. Rev. Raheb’s book has become a classic on this less-known community. 


Bethlehem Besieged, by Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb—Written in the form of a journal, Rev. Raheb recounts the re-occupation of Bethlehem by Israeli forces in April 2002. 


Faith in the Face of Empire, by Mitri Raheb—This is an essential read to anyone who desires new insight into scripture, seeks a reorientation of geopolitical perspective, and maintains hope for justice for Palestinians. Preeminent Palestinian contextual theologian Mitri Raheb has woven a profound biblical study and theological reflection on empire with contemporary realities and personal reflection in his new book. Inspired by the prophetic tradition and a liberating understanding of the Trinity, Rev. Raheb challenges accepted notions and offers a vision of imagination and hope that he is already making real.


Witnessing For Peace in Jerusalem and the World, by Bishop Munib Younan—Bp. Younan is the head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, based in Jerusalem. He writes this thoughtful and insightful book on the Christian concept of martyriyya, reclaiming it for its original meaning of witnessing. This book is theological but highly accessible to laypeople as well, and provides valuable insights on the situation in Israel/Palestine.


Kairos for Palestine, by Rifat Odeh Kassis—Part memoir, part political history, part theological reflection, this volume examines the history of Kairos documents from Christians in various global contexts, shares the background of the Palestine Kairos document of December 2009, and demonstrates the importance and urgency of this voice and movement from Palestinian Christians. Kassis’s contribution also answers some of the critique that the Palestine Kairos has received. [Please contact Global Ministries’ Middle East and Europe office if you would like to order a copy.] 


Blood Brothers is Archbishop Elias Chacour’s international best seller an addresses issues of Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking from within the context of Israel. Archbishop Chacour is the Melchite archbishop and is well-known globally as a prominent advocate for peace in the region. His writing style is smooth and lucid. 


Water from the Rock: Lutheran Voices from Palestine, edited by Ann Haften—In this short collection of articles, diary entries, and reflections, Palestinian and American Lutherans share the context of Palestine, from their perspectives. The selections include writings by Bishop Munib Younan, Rev. Mitri Raheb, his sister Viola Raheb, and Dr. Nuha Khoury, as well as some US Lutherans who have served in Palestine with partners there. Each section has study questions so this book can be used in an adult education class. 


Christians and a Land Called Holy: How we can foster justice, peace, and hope, by Charles P. Lutz and Robert O. Smith. Smith, the Middle East executive for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and Lutz, have written this very helpful book introducing the conflict, the actors (including Christian Zionists), and church partners, and offering guidance on what church people (and others) can do to be agents of change. This compact volume is especially helpful for those eager to engage locally, and the final chapter lays out suggestions. The bibliography is extensive. 


Truth and Service: A History of the Near East School of Theology, by Dr. George Sabra—This book is a good history, not only of NEST, but of Protestant theological education in the Levant, dating back into the nineteenth century and NEST’s predecessors in the Ottoman Empire, Turkey and Greece. Naturally, there is much mission history here, as NEST was established by the merger of two mission seminaries. The American Board and the Presbyterian Board play a prominent role in the pre-history of NEST. The 75+ years of the life of NEST is also analyzed and presented with great care and clear writing, so that the reader can understand the issues the school has faced. Dr. Sabra has done a fine job with this book, and it is well worth the read.


The Thirsty Enemy: A Memoir, by Rev. John Markarian—This autobiography is written by the first president of Haigazian University, our partner in Beirut, Lebanon. Markarian spends much time on his experience at Haigazian, with some attention to his time at the Near East School of Theology, and the informal history of both is interesting. The theme of the book is based on Markarian’s living the “If your enemy is thirsty, give him something to drink” teaching of the Proverbs and of Paul, in the context of the Lebanese civil war. Markarian’s story is a series of anecdotes from his life and is reflective and quite entertaining reading.


Artillery of Heaven: American Missionaries and the Failed Conversion of the Middle East, by Ussama Makdisi. This book is a fascinating study of the first century of American Board history in Syria (including today’s Lebanon), as well as in Palestine and Anatolia. It focuses on the mission efforts and the cases of two Maronite Christians who accepted and were accepted by the missionaries. Using primary sources, Makdisi analyzes the relationships between these two, As`ad Shidyaq and Butrus alBustani, and the missionaries, the missionaries and the board headquarters, and the larger dynamics at work, particularly in the context of the mission to Native Americans and of the American civil war. The comparisons are profound, and the conclusions offer much fodder for reflection on mission today. [A very insightful review of this book was written by David Dorman, in the Near East School of Theology’s Theological Review.]


The American University of Beirut: Arab Nationalism and Liberal Education, by Betty S. Anderson—Especially in the early chapters of this history of AUB, Anderson offers insight into the approaches and debates within the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (the same Board as the UCC’s Wider Church Ministries today). The AUB emerged as a preeminent institution of higher learning, as a result of, and in some ways, despite, its mission roots. 


Towards Golgotha: The Memoires of Hagop Arsenian, a Genocide Survivor, translated and annotated by Arda Arsenian Ekmekji—In this very personal chronicle of the period before, during, and after the Genocide, Arsenian records the events of his daily life. It is a poignant first-hand account, a personal story that so illuminates the tragedy. Beginning in Western Turkey, Arsenian’s path is that of many others—some who survived, most who didn’t—through central Anatolia. His resourcefulness help him survive with his immediate family, eventually arriving in mandate Palestine. His accounts of both the “deportations” and of Palestine are very insightful, and are complemented by the personal journey of his granddaughter, who translated the book, and who is today the Dean of Arts and Sciences at Haigazian University in Beirut. 


Academies for Anatolia: A Study of the Rationale, Program, and Impact of the Educational Institutions Sponsored by the American Board in Turkey, 1830-2005, by Frank A. Stone—With elegance and passion, Dr. Stone, a former Board missionary in Turkey, has made an excellent contribution about the historical presence of the Board in Turkey. Focusing on the schools and their histories, Dr. Stone provides insights into the issues faced by the missionaries with respect to the people in Turkey with whom the Board has worked over the past two centuries: Armenians, Greeks, and Turks. He has offered us perspective in the “way things were” and in doing so, some perspective on the “way things are.”


Ringing the Gotchnag, by Jonathan Conant Page—This book traces the lives and careers of the Allen and Wheeler families, missionaries who served in Anatolia in the 19th century. The book is especially interesting as it relies on correspondence and other primary sources to glean insight on the daily life of missionaries in this period. It also sheds some light into the debates that were taking place in the Board around educational institutions and the role of missionaries.


Nothing but Christ: Rufus Anderson and the Ideology of Protestant Foreign Missions, by Paul William Harris—While not focusing exclusively on mission in the Middle East, this book covers the period of Anderson’s tenure as Corresponding Secretary (the equivalent to today’s Executive Minister) of the Board. A fascinating read, especially as it focuses on the ideological discourse in the mission board, and uses the examples of Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Turkey, and China as case studies.


Christians in Egypt: Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant Communities Past and Present, by Otto Mainardus—The late Otto Meinardus is best known for his insightful and informative efforts presenting Egyptian and Eastern Christianity to a wide audience. Christians in Egypt, the third in the Meinardus trilogy on Egyptian Christianity, all published by the American University in Cairo Press, continues that effort. 


American Evangelicals in Egypt, by Heather Sharkey—Despite a perhaps too heavy link between missionary presence and US diplomatic missions, this book traces the changing course of mission history in Egypt, primarily of the Presbyterian experience. It is helpful to understand some of the theory and the paradigms Sharkey utilizes, as it is applicable in other contexts. This book also is enlightening in that many of the same kinds of issues mission boards face today have existed over the course of time.


A Vision of Hope, by David W. Virtue—This is a biography of the Rev. Dr. Samuel Habib, an Egyptian Presbyterian minister who helped establish the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services. Habib’s life was inspiring and CEOSS’s contributions to Egyptian society are indeed significant. Virtue writes Habib’s story, which offers insight into the country, society, and the church in Egypt. 


Piety, Politics, and Power: Lutherans Encountering Islam in the Middle East, by David D. Grafton—In this well-documented study, Grafton traces the Lutheran encounter with Islam, Muslims and the Middle East. Starting with Luther and his writings, Grafton shows how European, and then American, Lutherans have developed in their approach. From a clear animus to Islam to a mission of accompaniment, the book is quite helpful in understanding the changing thinking, and is reflective of other denominations as well. With a shorter history of mission in the Middle East, the American Lutherans (the ELCA) are eager to work with partners, not only in the Middle East primarily through the ELCJHL, but also in the US, with ecumenical partners. Grafton’s concluding questions about accompaniment with Middle Eastern partners and interfaith dialogue are insightful and can be applied more broadly denominationally. 


From the Holy Mountain: A Journey among the Christians of the Middle East, by William Dalrymple—Excellent in its presentation of the Christians of the region, this book combines good story-telling with insightful information about the region’s oft-forgotten Christian community. Dalrymple has produced a much-needed window into the culture and society of the Middle East through this focus on the Christians who live there. 


The Body and the Blood: The Middle East’s Vanishing Christians and the Possibility for Peace, by Charles Sennott—A well-written account of the issue of Christian emigration through an examination of the Christian populations of several of the region’s countries. Sennott examines the potential role of the region’s Christian community in fostering peace. 


Political Islam, Citizenship, and Minorities: The Future of Arab Christians in the Islamic Middle East, by Andrea Zaki Stephanous— Stephanous is the General Director of the Coptic Evangelical Organization for Social Services in Cairo, Egypt, and in this volume, has made a major contribution on the interaction between Arab Christians and Islam, particularly in Egypt and Lebanon. Beginning with an excellent historical roadmap of political Islam, Stephanous explores positions and critiques within Islam, and continues by engaging the question of minorities and specifically Christians. In the second half, he examines Coptic and Maronite identity and political participation before concluding with a proposal for dynamic citizenship, which goes beyond political citizenship and involves pluralistic identity. This book is packed with insightful information, theoretical (and theological) discussion, and hope for the future.


Islamism and the Future of the Christians of the Middle East, by Habib Malik—In this short booklet, Malik predicts the continuing demise of the Christians of the Middle East based on his assessment of the place of what he calls Islamism, both modern and historic. This is really an essay, and can be read fairly quickly. The focus on Islamism as the cause of diminishing Christian presence in the region overlooks many other factors which should also be considered: economic political, and social. Malik fails to consider positive relationships and the role of the vast majority of Muslims in the region.


American Missionaries and the Middle East: Foundational Encounters, Mehmet Ali Doğan and Heather J. Sharkey, eds.—This volume consists of nine chapters, each of which treats a subject in mission history. An edited volume, it brings together research by scholars on primarily 19th century mission in Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, and Bulgaria. Each chapter is rich with insight and helps to illuminate our contemporary understanding of this era. Focusing on the beginnings of the ABCFM, debates about education and its role in mission, the presence and witness of women, and aspects of ecumenical and interfaith encounter, this book is a valuable resource.


Faith Misplaced: The Broken Promise of U.S.-Arab Relations: 1820-2001, by Ussama Makdisi—If the beginning date looks familiar, it is not coincidence. Makdisi has chosen to begin this excellent analysis of American relations in the Middle East with the initial encounter of Board missionaries. Throughout the 19th century, Makdisi argues, potential for good relationships existed, and by examining the writings of people from the Middle East, documents this hope. The main turning point was the mid-20th century, when hopes and actual policies clashed. His examination of Arabic sources is especially informative. 


Michael Oren’s book, Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East 1776 to the Present. Michael Oren is the current Israeli ambassador to the US, and academic. This book is an attempt in roughly 600 pages to cover the US’ diplomatic, religious (missionary), and cultural engagement with the Middle East over the life of the US. In it, he treats the 19th century missionary movement, and deserves our attention for that reason. It should be read critically for its treatment of themes and motives.


Nearest East: American Millenialism and Mission to the Middle East, by Hans-Lukas Lieser—In this dense study, Lieser attempts to connect the points of initial and more recent millennial approaches to engagement with the Middle East, beginning with ABCFM missionaries, and concluding with more recent interpretations of US foreign policy, especially concerning Israel. This book examines a number of issues, including the missionary approach and appeal of the Middle East, and tells history of ABCFM engagement there until about the 1930s. Lieser links US policy vis-à-vis the Native Americans, the Ottoman Empire, and Israel, and demonstrates American Board critique of all three. Chapter 3 is the fulcrum of this study, as it deals with the 1908-1930 period; it is the most clearly written and argued. Lieser gets somewhat lost in the metanarrative of millennialism, but is at his best in analyzing policy history.