HISTORY OF NESSL

  •  Origins in the 1800’s

The Middle East, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, was part of the Ottoman Empire, which lasted for four centuries and was accompanied by a complete scientific and spiritual stagnation. The decline of the Empire in the nineteenth century brought with it winds of change and renaissance at many levels, especially that of religious freedom.  In the early years of the century (around 1819) a number of missionaries from the Presbyterian and Reformed Presbyterian churches in Europe and America landed in different areas of the Middle East, including Syria and Lebanon. The believers who responded to the ministry of these missionaries were known as the Evangelicals, due to the way they acted in their worship and behavior in response to the message of the Bible, and sought a life based on the pure teachings of the Bible.

  • Evangelical Church Established

In 1848 these “Evangelicals” were officially recognized as a church within the Millet system of the Ottoman Empire.  The first Evangelical church was organized in Beirut that same year, followed by churches in Hasbaya/South Lebanon (1852), Aleppo (1853), and Homs…   In 1920 the work of the Evangelical churches in Syria and Lebanon was reorganized under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church USA, to form a single Synod: the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon.   In 1959 the Board of Foreign Mission of the Presbyterian Church – USA transferred full responsibility for the spiritual, educational, medical, social, and administrative ministries of these churches over to the Synod and its indigenous personnel.

  • Established Structure

To facilitate its decision-making, the Synod regulated the field of its service through a Synodical meeting (General Assembly), the Administrative Council, the Executive Committee, and the Proper Committees:  Ecclesial and Spiritual Affairs Committee / the Educational Committee / Financial and Property Affairs Committee / Medical Committee / Media Committee.

  • Synod Membership

The Synod field of work in Syria and Lebanon includes around 38 churches, and about 4000 active members, and more than 20 ordained pastors, and another number of legal preachers and students of theology.

  • Emphasis on Education

Since its beginning, the evangelical presence in the Middle East has been accompanied by the emphasis upon sponsoring education.  The Synod has contributed richly to the educational development of both Syria and Lebanon, with its schools today serving more than 14000 students.  Of great significance is the fact that these schools serve students from all Christian and non-Christian affiliation, with no discrimination toward race, religion or gender.  This is a Christian legacy and testimony of  interaction, harmony and reconciliation within a community which has suffered from generations of  Sectarianism.  This commitment to inclusiveness address what has historically been  a source of division and abuse.

The National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon shares, with other middle eastern evangelical churches, the Board of Trustees of the Near East School of Theology in Beirut, and participates in the two Governing Boards of American Lebanese University through its eight delegates.  The Synod is a  co-founder and active member of the ecumenical movement through its membership in the Council and the Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches, and the Supreme Council of the Evangelical Community in Syria and Lebanon (the Evangelical structure representing various Evangelical churches in Syria and Lebanon before the civilian authorities).

  • Our Legacy

The Evangelical presence of the Synod in the Middle East is known to have a spiritual and service-based nature, working eagerly for the true testimony to the God of love and justice, whom we knew in the life and death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus-Christ, to whom we commit ourselves as vessels of service and reconciliation in all what it entails, to restore humanity to God’s eternal purpose and will.

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