Saturday, August 13, 2016

Diagnosis and Prescription

There are many problems facing the Coptic church today, many indeed. However the people seem unable or unwilling to address these problems and instead choose to bury their head in the sand. What is worse is if someone, especially a non-Egyptian, points these out, they are essentially shunned for speaking it. Here I will diagnose the problems first, then prescribe each problem a remedy. I will lay out the problems and how they can be solved since everyone seems clueless that they exist and or how to fix them.

1. Clericalism
Clericalism is rampant in the church. The priesthood is often, but not always, treated like an exclusive mens club. These men will come to the aid of one another regardless if he is in the wrong or not, rather than approaching a situation in an unbiased manner. Clergy will immediately defend one another against the people, even when the evidence overwhelmingly shows that clergy has done something wrong. This is especially a problem in the Coptic Church as when a priest does wrong he is simply moved to another church and the issue not addressed. The people allow this so the clergy continue to do it. Many seem to have this idea that speaking out against clergy is wrong. That is the furthest from the truth. In the 4th century St Cyril the Great, one of my favorite saints, incorrectly tried to canonize Ammonius who attempted to murder the prefect Orestes and was killed as a result of this attempt. The people rose up against St Cyril in defiance, and they were correct. St Cyril, the pillar of faith, was forced to reverse his decision.

Prescription - The people need to hold clergy accountable for their actions. This does not mean people need to constantly attack clergy, but if a clergyman is corrupt then his actions need to be made public, especially since we cannot count on the leadership of the church to defrock these priests, we know they will be protected and simply moved to another church. Perhaps starting a registry in which clergy can be rated according to personal experiences from people who have interacted with them, a website that people can check. This will force honesty from the clergy who abuse their position of power and hopefully keep corrupt people from becoming clergy in the first place. The leadership needs to understand that these positions attract mentally unstable power hungry people not interested in actually serving the people but only serving themselves. Those clergy need to be punished swiftly and severely, not coddled.

2. Ethnocentricism
The church suffers from a good dose of ethnocentricism, which makes evangelizing nearly impossible. Many expect catechumens to not only learn and accept an entirely new religion, but an entirely new culture and language. Neither of these are essential for salvation. However catechumens often feel left out or set aside, especially in churches where they refuse to use english. This often borders on racism, which I have seen a fair share of from people within the church who come to this country a persecuted people and then look down on black americans, another persecuted people. This is entirely unacceptable but is also rampant within the church. Many of these congregants seem to only be coming because it is their culture and not for salvation. So they see it as maintaining their culture and not as a means of healing the soul.

Prescription - When you come to any country the liturgy should be done in the language of that country. The people themselves need to use only that language to as not to alienate the people who come seeking Christ. Do not expect people to adopt your culture, but you should adopt theirs and adapt it to Orthodoxy. Copts seem to immigrate to countries with no plan whatsoever pertaining to the culture of the land they are immigrating to. This gives people the idea that Copts view their culture and language as superior to the land they immigrated to, which turns people off. Adapt to the surrounding culture in which you live so as to make it an easier transition for people converting.

3. Protestantism
The church has a serious problem with this. Many are attempting to adopt many aspects of protestantism into the church. Either knowingly or unknowingly destroying the church. I have written 11 books on the subject with the backing of Anba Youssef of the SUS Diocese in America. Sadly nobody has listened and the influx of protestantism into the church has continued. It has started with simply singing their songs, but take a look at what many of these people post on facebook and you can see that they are delving into protestant teaching. Not just C.S. Lewis, but frauds like Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer. Many seem to see no difference between Orthodoxy and protestantism and consider all 40,000 denominations to be Christian. This is dangerous as it equates protestantism to Orthodoxy, telling people they can get the same result without being Orthodox, which is untrue.

Prescription - Stop singing protestant songs. Stop seeking protestants for theological advice. Start delving into the rich history of your own faith. There are countless writings from Orthodox Christians that far exceed what any protestant could produce. The early writings of the church, especially the commentaries on scripture, are invaluable, use them. Sadly many Copts have no idea when it comes to early church writings and are content settling for superficial teachings and teachings that focus on pulling emotional strings. Listen to those that spent time as a protestant and converted, stop thinking you know it all and listen to those that actually do know. You are destroying the church so be humble for once and listen to what people are saying who are against it.

There are a number of other problems facing the church, I felt these are the most important and if these are fixed the others will eventually work themselves out. You may be surprised that I did not include islam on this list. Islam is merely a physical danger and in no way presents a theological danger to the church. As Tertullian said the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church, we should not be worried about physical persecution. Our numbers grew in the early church when we were physically persecuted. The danger came when people became complacent and theological errors entered into the church, fracturing it. Incorrect theology poses a far greater danger then someones ability to persecute another.

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