The Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) was inaugurated in May 1974 at its First General Assembly in Nicosia, Cyprus, and now has its headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon. Initially it consisted of three "families" of Christian Churches in the Middle East, the Eastern Orthodox Churches, the Oriental Orthodox Churches and the Evangelical Churches, which were joined in 1990 by the Catholic Churches of the region. It is a regional council affiliated with the mainstream ecumenical movement which also gave birth to the World Council of Churches, of which the MECC is also a member.
The MECC is composed of two program categories: Core Programs and Service Programs.
The MECC has offices in Cairo and Amman, with liaison offices in Damascus, Jerusalem and Tehran. Through the membership of its four Church families, the MECC works in over 14 countries from Northern Africa, the Levant, Iraq, Iran and the Persian Gulf, representing 14 million Christians.
The MECC was founded in May 1974 at its first General Assembly in Nicosia, Cyprus with the stated purpose to "deepen the spiritual fellowship among the churches of the Middle East, and to unite them in word and deed." From the outset, the MECC adopted the model of "families of churches". The Eastern Orthodox, the Oriental Orthodox and the Protestants were the three founding families. In 1990 the Catholic Churches (Latin and Oriental rite) joined the council, constituting the Catholic family within the MECC. Each family is equally represented in the governing bodies and the general assembly, and decides on its own representation. The MECC initially had three co-presidents, representing each of the Christian "families", becoming four after the Catholic Churches joined in 1990.
The first Secretary General of the MECC from 1974 to 1977 was the Reverend Albert Istero. He was succeeded by Gabriel Habib, from 1977 to 1994. In November 1994, the Reverend Dr. Riad Jarjour was elected Secretary General. He was replaced after two terms by Guirgis Saleh, a Coptic Orthodox theologian and professor, at the Eighth General Assembly in 2003 and served until 2011, at which point Father Boulos Rouhana, of the Maronite Church, was appointed. The term of Father Boulos Rouhana was cut short when he was appointed to the position of Bishop in the Maronite Church. Following a transitional period, Father Dr. Michel Jalakh, also of the Maronite Church, was elected by the Executive committee in 2013 to serve as the sixth Secretary General of the Middle East Council of Churches.
The core programs of the MECC are those which directly contribute to its well-being and vision.
The documentation and archive program makes historical and academic resources regarding the ecumenical movement in the Middle East available as a reference for ecumenical studies and research in order to preserve the historical memory of the ecumenical movement in the Middle East.
The Inter-church Network for Development and Relief was founded in 1975 to respond to the needs across Lebanon. It is financially and administratively autonomous from the MECC. It provides psychosocial support, rights education and protection for children in Lebanon; psychosocial support for Syrian refugee women and children in Lebanon; and a food security program in Lebanon.
The Syrian IDPs program is a direct response to the war in Syria. The program, which is administered by the MECC Syria Office, distributes humanitarian assistance and rehabilitates water systems in schools to restore access to water and sanitation.
The Department of Services for Palestinian refugees was formed in 1951 to respond to the humanitarian crisis caused by the Arab-Israeli war of 1948. It has evolved into an organization which works in the West Bank, Gaza, Nazareth, Lebanon, Jordan.
Christian Zionists, who have long represented a fragment of historic and contemporary Protestants, are characterised as those "distort the interpretation of the Word of God" and "damage intra-Christian relations".