Bethlehem Bible College in Chicago: North Park Theological Symposium 2019
Earlier this month, North Park Theological Seminary hosted their annual symposium, and invited several of Bethlehem Bible College’s (BethBC) faculty and students to attend and participate. It is important to note that in the summer of 2017, BethBC and North Park Theological Seminary signed a memorandum of understanding that would allow for further development for both students and faculty of both institutions to participate in each one’s respective classes, seminars and symposiums.
The symposium topic for 2019 was “Holy Land: Biblical Perspectives and
Contemporary Conflicts.” Bethlehem Bible College worked alongside North Park from the planning stages, and then made the trip to Chicago to present in late September. From the Bethlehem campus, President Jack Sara, Academic Dean Munther Isaac, and two students attended the symposium. In addition, two faculty members from our sister College, Nazareth Evangelical College, were among the speakers: Rev. Dr. Yohanna Katanacho and Dr. Roula Mansour. Over the course of the weekend, prominent scholars from around the world presented and engaged in theological discourse through interdisciplinary theology from a biblical perspective regarding the Holy Land and the current conflict.
The faculty representing Bethlehem Bible College found this symposium to be encouraging in that they were able to present their high quality research and perspective to those that likely have not been exposed to their work. Academic Dean, Rev. Dr. Munther Isaac, stated, “We were encouraged by the opportunity to present and discuss Palestinian theology in a major North American context. We hope to have more of these theological conversations related to our experience and that those in attendance will take our perspective into consideration, as it is not often heard in academic circles.”
In the same vein, President of Bethlehem Bible College, Rev. Dr. Jack Sara, said, “We were able to shed light on the realities here. We were updating the conversation and we were blessed by those that came that were willing to listen to other voices, even if they didn’t fully agree with our interpretation. It is encouraging to see deep thinking and a movement toward presenting a more balanced theology with these kinds of issues.”
President Jack Sara also commented on the opportunity that two of our students had to attend the symposium: “They were exposed to deep theological and textual criticism by a variety of different denominations. This is imperative to their growth, as travel and participation in these kind of events isn’t always a common opportunity for Palestinian students.”
Ghada Bannoura Rishmawi, one of the Bethlehem Bible College students that attended the symposium, reflected on her experience: “I really enjoyed and was challenged by the diversity of the subjects presented. At first the transition of listening in English was difficult, and understanding the theological terms wasn’t easy, but it sparked my desire to know more about different views, even if there was disagreement among those presenting and attending.”
BethBC as Agent of Transformation
With the opportunity to present and engage through the North Park Theological Symposium 2019, Bethlehem Bible College spoke into important issues facing biblical interpretation around the issue of the Holy Land. With first-hand experience regarding the topic, BethBC faculty and students were able to demonstrate a Palestinian theological perspective through quality research and preparation to those in attendance. This opportunity to sit at the global podium with other renowned scholars allows for transformation in how these kinds of academic and theological discussions are taking place both in society and within the church. The leadership of Bethlehem Bible College would like to commend North Park Theological Seminary for their exemplary partnership and inclusion of BethBC in both this event as well as the exchanges that have taken place since 2017. It is a blessing to see the fruit of this partnership, and there is great anticipation for what lies ahead.
Kamila is volunteering full-time with Bethlehem Bible College in the Communications Department. In addition to her love for writing and sharing stories, her endeavors in Bethlehem and greater Palestine involve facilitating cultural immersion programs for young adults from North America to see first-hand the realities that those living here encounter. At times deemed the “eternal optimist,” Kamila holds fast to the future hope of restoration and reconciliation of all things back to God. When she’s not writing, or organizing trips, you’ll catch her training and competing with the Ultimate Palestine frisbee team.