COVID-19 has disrupted all areas of life, not least of which is the area of education. These past months have revealed the many ways in which prevailing models of instruction and learning come into direct conflict with measures required to minimize health risks of the pandemic. The impact of this crisis has been particularly profound for theological education. Long before COVID-19 many seminaries, theology institutes, and Bible colleges were facing major challenges and asking fundamental questions about the aims and methods of theological instruction and student formation.
Within the dynamic context of the Middle East, challenges facing theological education are uniquely complex, and the pandemic has only intensified ongoing challenges. Thinking critically about this consequential moment is the pulse of the conversation between Elie Haddad, Hani Hanna, Martin Accad, and Stephanie Black during the second webinar in the Middle East Conversations 2020 series on 16 July: COVID-19 and Theological Education in the Middle Eastern Context: Between Mounting Challenges and Emerging Opportunities.
Elie Haddad, president of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary, begins the webinar with a keynote presentation, painting a sweeping picture of theological education in the Middle Eastern context and examining the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. He recalls consequential themes explored in Middle East Consultation 2017– suffering and persecution, emigration, hopelessness and despair, and minoritization – and discusses how these are impacting the Church in the region and revealing further implications amid the global health crisis. The issues discussed range from social ails and mental health to overwhelmed church leadership and strained relationships. All of these burdening the church and demanding greater urgency from theological institutions to make programs robust and relevant as they address the mounting needs of these times.