Sunday, August 9, 2015

The End of Coptic Orthodoxy

                  It is with great sadness that I write this as I have a deep love for the Coptic Orthodox Church. However, the truth is the truth and it must be said as what benefit is the truth if it remain hidden. As many of you know I am a covert to the faith of about 8 years. Recently there has been some turmoil within our diocese, which consists of only one church. Through this I have gotten a glimpse of the state of the church and in this it became clear to me why the church is struggling, why it is bleeding youth, and why it has difficulty evangelizing without compromising its theology and practice. If the church continues the path it is on, it will not be recognizable 50 years from now. It may have a few remnants of Orthodoxy but for the most part people of today will not be able to know a Coptic Orthodox Church from a western protestant church.

               We see many churches employing western methods and westernized protestant songs into their service. We see many preachers now taking the protestant style sermon that has a lot of emotion but little depth. We see priests abusing their position and other clergy protecting them as opposed to disciplining or outright defrocking them. We have a leadership that is detached from the people, that see themselves as lording over the people rather than serving them. Coming to a clergymans rescue despite the fact that he has brutalized congregation after congregation. We see these things happening and the leadership is unable or unwilling to do anything about it. The protestantization of the church is a huge issue, one that is being all but ignored by the leadership of the church. By simply singing these protestant songs we are equating them to Orthodoxy, by doing that we are validating the source. Is protestantism equal to Orthodoxy? Hardly. We have to remember that this is a different religion entirely and it teaches against everything we deem necessary for salvation. I am sorry to be so brutally honest but if you deny the body and blood of Christ then you are denying Him. How can you deny Him and yet consider yourself to be Christian? But, if we tell our youth, and the rest of the people that are protestantizing, that this is acceptable then what is stopping them from leaving? If protestantism is truly the same then why fast 210 days out of the year when you can fast 0 days and get the same result? This is the danger that we are facing the the leadership is too weak and ineffectual to do anything about it.

               The other problem is the backward minded clergy. Now granted there are numerous good clergy who do a fantastic job but there are also numerous backward minded priests who seem more concerned with their own authority than they do serving the people in their congregation. This leads to friction and strife amongst the people as the priest acts as a dictator rather than a shepherd and beats his sheep into compliance rather than love them and guide them with a steady hand. These priests seem only to care about their authority and abuse the priesthood for their own personal gain. I honestly cannot decide if some of these clergy are dictators or tyrants, either way its not good. The other issue with clergy, which is directly related to their tyrannical mindset is the fact that they are unbelievably difficult to get a hold of. One bishop in particular I called, emailed, and texted over 300 times. Not once was an email, text, or phone call returned. In fact I had to drive over four hours to ambush him at a monastery just to talk to him about the issues in our diocese. The evidence was presented to him and he assured us that he would take care of the situation, only to completely reverse his decision the very next day. This seems common place amongst Coptic Clergy, tell somebody one thing and then do another. I have seen this over and over as if its a cultural tradition to lie to someones face.

             Unless the leadership grows a spine and takes action the Coptic Orthodox Church is utterly doomed. Its slow progression towards oblivion seems inevitable, barring another miracle in the form of a saint the likes of St Pope Kyrillos 6th. Unfortunately I do not see this happening and the churches decline into oblivion inevitable. The leadership even acknowledges there is a problem, putting out a survey asking the entire church why people are leaving the church. It is such a big issue that the leadership actually did something, so it must be big if they actually acted. God willing the church will see the light and come out of the ignorance imprisoning it.



  1. Hi John,

    Sorry to hear you've had such a rough time. I hope you find what you need where you are going.

    If you don't mind a small suggestion... I assume you are remaining within Orthodoxy, and just leaving the jurisdiction of the Copts. If that's the case, if you include a mention of that it might make your post even more impact, rather than have people dismiss it as you having given up when things are hard.

  2. My Dear Brother in Christ,
    If you allow me to share few thoughts with you:
    1- St. Cyril of Jerusalem from the forth century, in his catechetical lectures, he mentioned it clearly to the Catechumens, that they will see issues in the church but this should not drive them away from their main goal "Christ" he even went further to say the lord set for us example when one of his disciple betrayed him. He pointed out there will be conflict between clergy and bishops and congregation. These conflicts which you saw is there from the first centuries and will continue. So these issues should not shake one’s faith.
    2- I agree with you that there are some issues, as you mentioned, confusing how to evangelize and how to keep Orthodoxy while you evangelize. The simple answer is that we are here new in US only about 65 years, so we are gaining the experience, there will be mistakes, but there will be learning and growing. Even within the US there will be changes from one area to another in evangelizing. The key to talk about Christ to the Buddhist differs from the Atheism background .
    3- In our area we have Patristics Bible Study every Sunday with the V. Rev. Fr. Athansuis Farag the dean of Pope Shenouda the Third theological school, it is “Patristics” as we use all patristics resources in order to understand the Scripture : St. Cyril of Alexandria, St. Athanasius, Ancient Christian commentaries, we have people who are catechumens coming to attend, also we have newly baptized are coming to attend. We have a monthly book to be studied with the church, the theme of this year is “Baptism” we have studied many resource books about Baptism, so we can remember our baptism and live it. ( I give you reference to this if you asked) . So I can not just generalize and say that Coptic is going through crises in evangelizing, or mixing between western methods and Orthodox Methods.

  3. 4-Regarding the problem of exercising authority, again if it happens from the first centuries, it can happen not only in the optic but in any other church. “I have written something to the church; but Diot'rephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge my authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, prating against me with evil words. And not content with that, he refuses himself to welcome the brethren, and also stops those who want to welcome them and puts them out of the church.” 3 John 1:9-10 speaking of this I do not approve or disapprove the situation in the church you were talking about, as I do not live in this area. but I acknowledge that it can happen in every church.
    5- Regarding the survey you mentioned, about why youth are leaving the church? If it says anything, it says that we address a problem and not hiding it, it is coming from the concerns of HH pope Tawadros the II to gather all the children of the church, aiming to learn from the experience, does this mean all youth left the church, no and I think you know that. In a testimony by our sister church they were acknowledging that the Coptic Church is marvelously using the youth in different activities and do many retreats, attended by bishops form the mother church: Bishop Mousa the general Bishop of Youth, Bishop Antonious Markos, General Bishop of South Africa ( who has an experience in evangelism over 40 years in Africa), Bishop Thomas the Bishop of the diocese of Quosia and the founder of Anaphora project to educate the girls in Upper Egypt. We are doing this survey to care for those who are not attending so the One Body of Christ can be completed. Last week we came from ECCYC where 100’s of youth are attending, our youth are participating in missionary trips to Africa, Egypt, Bolivia, Ethiopia, and also in trips inside US in high poverty areas like Bronx.
    6- HH Pope Tawadros the II conducted special conference in Egypt two months ago gathered priests and youth ( he insisted to listen to the youth in different areas) he was writing carefully all the points, presented by youth from US, Canada, Europe, Australia, He mentioned that he would do this conference every three years to follow up with the church in the immigration land.

  4. 7-From the care of the mother church, there is “Preaching Festive “ in which more than a million youth from Egypt, Africa, Gulf, Eurpoe, Australia, US and Canada are participating in one spirit with the mother church, organized by HG Bishop Mousa of the youth, all are using the same curriculum, competitions reached the blinds and those who are in prison, special needs, seniors. Where there are 100’s of consecrated servants around the world, preparing the materials and conducting the tests. Living the One Spirit even during the same time during the summer months. If you google “Mahrgan El Keraza” you will see the pictures.
    8- In spite of all issues we have in the church the Church proudly presented 20 Martyrs in Libya, who witnessed by their blood, That is only in Libya, add to this 100’s from two years ago when churches were burned in Egypt in Aug. 14, 2013 where the people were attending the church and they do not know if they would make it back to their homes or not.
    I am not trying to dilute the problem my brother, I mentioned before and will mention it here again that yes there are problems, but I am sharing with you that no church will not go through problems like this, if it happened it means we are in heaven. But our New Nature which we have received in the Baptism is elevating our eyes to look to the Only One who shed His Blood for this Church as we say in the Anaphora “ this which you have acquired with the Precious Blood of Your Christ , keep her in peace” I am praying for you my brother and I am sorry if you encountered any difficulty, but before you go I am asking you to pray from your heart as any church you will go might have similar or different issues, this should not be a stumbling block “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;” Phil. 2: 12.
    May God Protect you in His holy Name

  5. Dear John,
    just sharing couple of thoughts
    1. The church and clergy has the good and the bad, 1/12 was rotten despite following christ for 3 let us focus on Christ and faith and not people
    2. It is easy to judge, and forget about my self, no benefit for me if i judge others and at same time i loose my salvation (by doing similar or other things that i judge others for ) is a an old trick
    3.light a candle rather than saying darkness is bad..The best evangelism is through our acts of true love, kindess, that the world needs and certainly see if Christ is alive in u s, we are given the mission to have him presented to the world through our life, actions, love
    4. Certainly if there is something you can / want to act on go ahead..pray for it that the Lord puts in your heart the best way to handle in love, even if it is tough love...share with 1-2 persons you trust does not hurt and God puts in your heart the good action of love...salam