I have friends that are leaving the COC. They are extremely Orthodox in their personalities and love the faith, but they feel they have NO place in the Coptic Orthodox Church as NON-Egyptians.
I would agree with you that perhaps the Coptic Church in Egypt is indeed more spiritual, or the life of a Christian in Egypt may be richer than that of someone living outside Egypt - that is true. I do tend to think that what unites us in the Coptic Orthodox Church OUTSIDE of Egypt is Egypt, not necessarily Christ. Its not a fraternity of spirituality that you may find in a Coptic Community outside Egypt, but perhaps one that involves solidarity with Egypt.
The Coptic Orthodox Church has unwittingly focused on Egyptians - and evangelised to Egyptians. It hasn't really reached out to people in general, especially in the Diaspora. I can understand that it CANNOT evangelize in Egypt, but even in European countries, it doesnt even bother to attract anyone OTHER THAN Egyptians.
So what's my point? Well, if you live outside Egypt and go to a Coptic Church where there is NO fraternity, this is a very dead spiritual life. The reason is that HAYAT IL SHARIKA (life of sharing or fraternity) is very important.
I do not find that the Coptic Orthodox Church, OUTSIDE EGYPT, has any sort of fraternity whatsoever (IN ANY CHURCH I've BEEN TO OUTSIDE EGYPT). It indeed has found itself (The COC) as a place where Egyptians who are Christians can somewhat get together and reminice about Egypt. Catholics in France do not go to the Catholic Church to speak French, or mix with other French nationals. Do they?
Unfortunately, just this month, I witnessed (and I even tried to persuade) others NOT to leave the Coptic Orthodox Church, who were so sad that because they are not Egyptian, felt they had no place in the Coptic Church. They were looking for spiritual fraternities and could only find a nationalistic presence in the Church that demanded one either appreciates Egypt and speaks arabic, or is basically alienated.
At first, I was dubious over whether they should leave because they felt alienated for NOT being Egyptian and for not speaking Arabic; but after much thought, it did occur to me that the Church is indeed at fault here. If the congregation insists on speaking Arabic (even during the sermons) and there is no spiritual fellowship either (NON ARABIC) then these people are going to be more alienated. What's the point of having "THE CORRECT FAITH" if you are the ONLY PERSON in a country who has the correct faith?? What's the point?
I would say fellowship is quite important indeed. When the Holy Spirit descended on the Disciples, they were filled with strength and empowered to preach the Gospel. Despite this empowerment, this Grace, they were not deprived of the fellowship of one another. They often prayed together, and this unity of prayer was clearly mentioned.
Indeed, on the day of the pentecost itself, it says CLEARLY in the Bible that the disciples were in the upper room TOGETHER ("UNITED IN PRAYER").
In the Coptic Orthodox Church, have you EVER been "United in Prayer" with anyone?
I've been united in Birthday Parties, weddings, feasts, football matches, inter-church sports events... but never prayer. My Coptic friends have never been into prayer. They've done the tasbeha, but never understood it.
What bothers me about the COC is that the Holy Liturgy starts at 9 AM, and finishes around 12 PM.
During this time, if you follow the liturgy, you pray for the following issues:
* The oblations and those who offered them
* The peace of the One Holy Catholic Church
* The priests/the deacons and subdeacons
* The commemoration of the Saints
* The Pope and the Bishops that God preserves their life
* The raising for the waters of this year that Christ raises them up to their measure.
* Some smart alec may even sing Pinishti JUST IN CASE a saint had been forgotten.
We've spent 3 hours in the Coptic Church liturgy praying for everything and everyone EXCEPT FOR OURSELVES!
What's the point of praying for the peace of the world when we are not at peace with ourselves and others?
What's the point of praying for the Pope when He is already a saint - what about us who are far and distant from God, who are living in darkness?? When do we pray for this?
The deacon ASKS us to pray for the above issues - we CANNOT just go off and start praying individually.
So the question remains - when do we have the TIME or CHANCE even, to ask God for help in our lives???
The answer is clear: there has to be private prayer time. Now, you can all say that this is something you should do in your own private life, but IF THE APOSTLES THEMSELVES had fellowship and they prayed for one another, then SURELY this would be important for us also? SURELY (!!) when Christ said that if 2 or more gathered in my Name that I am amongst them indicates that Christ WELCOMES fellowship in prayer.
WE HAVE NO FELLOWSHIP in the COC!!
Hence, is it better to have the CORRECT faith and NO fellowship, or to have FELLOWSHIP and the understanding of the CORRECT FAITH??
I cannot say that whilst I was in the COC that I had ANY good Christian friends. I had friends that used to go to strip bars after the vespers. I had friends that used to go to bars and clubs. I had friends that used to smoke... This was all in the COC. This is the fellowship I had from Sunday School.
Is this right??
Or is it better to go to the Catholic Church to seek fellowship KNOWING the right faith? Because, my point of view is this.
The differences in dogmas between us and them is REALLY open for debate.
We believe, for example, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father THROUGH the son. They believe that He proceeds FROM the Son. There is a difference, but the path from "FROM" to the destination "THROUGH" is not so difficult.
When I am in the Coptic Orthodox Church, DO I HONESTLY understand theology THAT well to even know the difference??
What do I understand exactly??? What am I taught that is basic? I am taught that we are saved by grace, and CONTINUALLY being saved by God's Grace that we receive THROUGH engagement of the sacraments. That's it. Do the Catholics have the same concept? Yes!!
They do. But they also have a fraternity. What unites them together isn't a national identity.
I DO NOT CARE ABOUT EGYPT. Egypt can go to hell for all I care, I dont even like the country, nor the people. I find them problematic and troublesome, and their expression of the Christian faith OUTSIDE of Egypt is greatly influenced by Islam. Indeed, we are now exporters of an Islamized Christianity, not an Orthodox one.
I remember entering into a conversation with a young Egyptian man living outside Egypt about the revolution happening there. He said to me :"Believe me, I love Egypt MORE than Jesus".
I appreciate his honesty, but if the Church is filled with such like minded people, (WHICH IT IS!!) then what is the spirit binding us in the Church? Is it a fellowship that encourages others to seek and live in holiness and purity of heart?!!!!!! NO!!! ITS NOT!!!!!
But does this idiot have the Correct faith?? YES! HE DOES!!!
After reflecting on all this, I HAVE NOTHING TO TELL THEM!! I agree with them. I think they should leave, or am I wrong??