Possible convert but will I ever be welcomed ?

My boyfriend is Coptic. I was raised non-denominational Christian and I find his religion fascinating. However, I am a bit confused as most of the information that I find about orthodox doctrine is from Eastern Orthodox and not Coptic/Oriental specifically.

1. It appears that Coptics don't want intermarriage at all? I fear that I would never be embraced as a Coptic convert since I don't speak the languages and I am not Egyptian. If I convert to Greek Eastern Orthodoxy or American Eastern Orthodoxy, would Coptic priests marry us/recognize the union? I know this may be priest specific, but I mean more generally what is the view? It seems from online that even marriages to Catholics and non-oriental Orthodoxy is frowned upon. I know even if I converted to Coptic Orthodoxy, my boyfriend is concerned that his church and family may not fully accept me as he says Coptic Orthodoxy in his experience (he is Egyptian and now in US for a few years) because it is religious first, but in essence a culture second, he doesn't know what problems may arise. Does anyone have experience with this? He is concerned as I was not raised Orthodox or even Catholic (although I was baptised by immersion in the name of the Trinity and did attend Catholic school most of my life) that I won't be embraced by his church community.

2. He has mentioned certain things that I haven't seen in the literature and when I spoke with Eastern Orthodox Church they said were not true for them. He said that if a Priest found out that two people who were dating had sex before marriage that even if they confessed and moving forward did not do so, that the church would not marry them because they had sinned together.
I am NOT arguing for premarital sex. I understand and agree it is a sin. I am specifically asking why they would be barred from marriage afterwards when other views of the church don't seem to align with it he said this is true even if they had a child outside of wedlock that they could not be married by a Coptic Priest. This does not make sense to me as Saint John Chrysostom has said, even heathen marriages are holy and pure when true love is present and the couples are eternally given to one another in unending fidelity and mutual devotion. For where such love is present, there is the presence of God... And you would think that we would want to promote the marrying of those that had a child together whenever possible.

3. What other large things would you say are different between Eastern Orthodoxy and Oriental Orthodoxy?

So far this is definitely the best site I have found with Coptic specific views. I appreciate links and citations. It helps since I am learning about Orthodoxy for the first time and gives me context for things.
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Comments

  • edited July 16
    Please Private message me. I am a convert, I need to explain some stuff to you that will help you. Your boyfriend is misrepresenting some things, and is obviously not very knowledgeable of the current situation of the church in the U.S. You have to look past that. Eastern Orthodoxy is NOT the way to go just because you feel some strange sense that you're not culturally appropriate. I just taught a Sunday school teacher of 20 years we were in communion with Armenia. Copts can sadly be misinformed and speak from ethnicity and culture, not our Faith.

    I went through the same thing when I converted. I see why you would use this forum to vent, but you definitely will not get an edifying response from, "Cradle" Copts.
  • hi and welcome, learning orthodoxy. sure there are some people in the world who will never accept you, but that is not the correct way. if you look at basil's recent post, you can see that he (and i) had much more positive experiences.
    there are several things you need to ask yourself (don't answer online!)
    1 do u want the closest, most amazing relationship with God? if so, investigate the orthodox church (any), but don't join till you actually believe it (took me 2-3 yrs of studying church history +being loved by a wonderful coptic community to decide).
    2 is yr relationship with your boyfriend heading towards marriage? this is less related to qu1 than you think, it is possible to split up but stay in the same church.
    why is he saying you won't be accepted? is he heading out of the friendship already in his thoughts? (maybe not but check it out).
    3 do you have issues from your past about being accepted? maybe talking these through with a priest or good friend will help to untangle the different issues here.
    these are just some thoughts, it is probably best not to answer publicly, maybe you should message italiancoptic instead.
    may God guide you +show you the way into the depths of His love
    :)
  • Thank you. Do you guys go to parishes that have a few converts? Is your parish pretty culturally mixed (well for being a Coptic Orthodox Church)

    I would not convert unless I agreed with it. So far the majority of it matches how I grew up for the most part. (My family is interfaith Jewish and non-denominational Christian and I went to Catholic school, so it almost seems like a mix of all three of the things I grew up around). We put a very big focus on a personal relationship with God and I have always been very religious, so I identify with the rules and rituals. I'm also already vegetarian (mostly vegan who keeps kosher) so the fasting won't be an issue.

    Yes we have been thinking seriously about marriage and that is the goal of where the relationship will lead. That is why he is concerned. He is concerned I think both about the community and his family because his church parish is essentially all Coptic with a few people that married a different oriental orthodox. He doesn't know at his parish, anyone that converted (which means likely if they did they they blend in culturally at least. I'm a mix of mexican, Jewish, cherokee, Scottish, and Austrian so I would stand out). He also hears negative comments about Catholics and Eastern Orthodox sects, which is fine, but concerns him in terms of me feeling comfortable there. He doesn't think people will hear I'm a Christian-Jew and react well. We have had no internal problems in our relationship about it. We find a lot of similarities in views.. I believe he is mostly concerned about his immediate family fully accepting me , but the examples have been church members. He did speak to his Aboona about me and was told (this is without discussing conversion yet since I am looking into it and as you said it is a process that takes time and you don't rush into. I just mentioned it to my boyfriend for the first time about 2 weeks ago) that he isn't allowed to date me because I am not Orthodox and should break up with me immediately. This last Sunday the Priest specifically asked my boyfriend if he has broken up with me yet.

    I definitely will send a private message as well.
  • i am a pale skinned person, and stood out for a few years, but thank God, in my church there are south asians and other africans (that is not north african), and a few other pale people, so i am now less exotic.
    i think you should visit a coptic orthodox church, not as a 'girlfriend' but just as yourself, an interesting person who is looking into other beliefs. then you can see for yourself what the orthodox Christian faith is about.
    if you are mostly vegan, take your packed lunch with you, as in some churches, people love eating meaty foods when they are not fasting (fasting is more than half of the year!). in most churches people pool their food or sell food for a low price, so often people eat together after the liturgy (Holy communion service). that way you will have something to eat!
    in my church (in uk) there are quite a few healthy people so we usually have stewed beans available all year around, we just put cheese in it when we are not fasting.
    i hope and pray the church you visit is lovely, just like mine.
    :)
  • edited July 16
    I sent you some messages. I would like to apologize, personally, for his Priest's inappropriate behavior. I know it is not my responsibility, but that's not right. I had some pushback from my wife's family because I was of Italian ancestry and not Egyptian, but saying to break up with you just because you aren't Orthodox is a slap in the face to the Apostles Fast we just celebrated. They spread the Gospel to people who needed it, and bringing people to the church with an open heart and mind should be the priority of any Pastoral or Clerical member of our church. Not to push people away because they aren't, "like us." That is absolutely astonishing. His first response should have been to bring you to the church and talk to you, not react as he did.
  • Thank you for the advice. I likely will go and visit a liturgy at one of the few Coptic Churches in the area. I probably will avoid my bf's home church at first to not cause any issues.
  • Hi Learning Orthodoxy,

    You raise some very interesting points. 

    I absolutely praise you on your analysis on whether you'd be welcomed or not. Indeed, many many times I have personally seen non-Egyptians being treated like 2nd or 3rd class citizens in a Church. It has actually been to the point where 1 or 2 have left the Church altogether. 

    But that's secondary. That's not your main concern. No one is going to Church to meet Egyptians. We are going there to meet Christ.  We are all interesed in a mystical union somehow. 

    Then you raise another problem that I am not sure I can agree with: 

    A priest has NO RIGHT to tell you who can you marry or not - whether you sinned with them before marriage or not. That's absurd. Who on earth told you this?
    Should you be abstinant before marriage? Yes! Especially with the person whom you plan to marry. But life is not perfect, and people can mess up, and if they do, the priest has NO RIGHT to refuse marriage based on this. Its not even any of his business (even if he's your father of confession). 

    They can definately, and should, refuse your baptism if they feel that you are only being baptised for the sake of marriage. That's true, and I wholeheartedly support that. 

    But to refuse you because a kiss led to a longer kiss, which led to more sin is ridiculous. 

    That's the very same reason why St Paul advises to get  married: "If you are burning in lust, it is best to get married, otherwise he recommends being single"). 


  • edited July 20
    Hi Zoxsasi:

    > Especially with the person whom you plan to marry. <

    Is this a Coptic doctrine or your Aboona's opinion?


  • edited July 23
    is there a Coptic Doctrine on what you ought to eat during menopause? Is there a Coptic Doctrine on what you should wear exactly to Church??

    There is Coptic common sense here. 

    So you are dating a girl. You put limits in a relationship. Neither of you wish to have sex outside marriage. You both have the same the goals. But then, for reasons of human weakness, you end up having sex outside marriage. You tell Abouna that you both deeply regret this./ He then stops the wedding?? 

    Are you kidding me?

    I am 100% against sex outside of marriage. I agree that it is a huge mistake - especially with the person whom you plan to marry, but Abouna has no right to interfere in your choice of whom to marry.

    So, let's say you break up with that girl because Abouna said you can't marry her because you had sex. Great. You break up. You then date other girls who are Coptic. You also agree to put limits, but then you end up falling into sin. You go to Abouna and tell him you sinned. He then stops you from marrying her. This cycle of sinning gores on and on and on, until one day, you realise that there is no difference between Abouna and a pimp. 

    That's right. You just go right ahead, live irresponsibly, and Abouna is there to make sure you don't pay for any of your life choices. Marvellous. There is NO difference between Abouna and a pimp if he stops you from marrying the person whom you had sex with. That's insane. 

    Our priests have changed. In the past, they used stop anyone converting to Orthodoxy for marriage. Now, they baptise anyone for the sake of marriage, and I hate that. 

  • I find this very interesting. I guess we have a more old school Abouna since he seems to be very against the idea of conversion related to marriage. I am finding the religion fascinating, my two main issues have been

    1. Not allowing marriage to other types of non oriental orthodox Christians without them converting...I understand why you would not encourage it, would require additional premarital counseling, etc but I have an issue with not allowing the marriage in the church and thereby not recognizing the marriage and forcing someone to choose between love and their role in the church when the person they love is already a Christian.

    2. The use of icons, which I dont believe is required by me if I was to convert, it is just part of the tradition and culture. I don't have an issue with others using them, it just feels wrong for me

    I've spent about 75 hours studying Coptic Orthodoxy and those are the only concerns I have had.
  • What is wrong with Icons?
  • I understand that you venerate Saints and do not worship them and that icons are like photos of people you love that help you remember them and give you examples of godly lives to emulate connecting you to God. I don't have a problem with others doing it if it connects them to God. I understand that you ask Saints to help pray to God on your behalf and you are not praying to them directly in worship. That's all fine, but having an icon corner in my home would make me feel very uncomfortable in almost being like an altar area. In Orthodox Judaism you aren't even supposed to have decorations in your home (I will say I do have some and it's obvious they are decorations and in no way linked to worship). I will say the non people stuff I am more comfortable with as we have mezzuzahs on each door with Deuteronomy scripture inside and a hand with eye blessing on the front door to act as remembering the covenant, a blessing and protection for the home. I would be more comfortable with one painting of a saint in the home.
  • @learningorthodoxy....you DON'T have to have "an icon corner" in your home or even any icons. It's recommended to take the blessing of that specific saint or picture or icons.
  • edited July 24
    @learningorthodoxy

    I would prefer not to stray too far from the original topic of this thread, but I definitely had to jump in and comment on what you said.

    First, don't log how many hours you study the church. I know, "cradle" Copts who know 50% of what I know about church history, the Divine Liturgy and even the purpose of fasting.

    I don't let people know that unless a situation arises when someone teaches or says something incorrect. 75 hours is less than two weeks of work. That doesn't exactly shine a beacon of knowledge towards you since you haven't even studied two work weeks worth of time on the church.

    Second, we are a church. If you live in the United States, you may be legally married by the specific local government who administrates marriage licenses. You can marry a man if you're a man, or a woman if you're a woman, or probably in some states a tree or box. That's secular, and supported by our laws. I support that people should have rights to marry who they wish in society.

    The church is NOT a secular entity. It's obvious you have yet to understand the differences between a Western Christian marriage and an Eastern Christian marriage.

    The church isn't a hall to rent. What's the point of receiving the Sacrament of Marriage when you don't believe in it? That kind of plays down the importance of the Sacraments that we teach. That would be like giving you an antibiotic when you have no need for it. It's useless.

    I believe there are some circumstances where we do allow marriage from different denominations. I have a family who comes to my church from time to time where the father is Catholic and his wife is Coptic Orthodox. You probably shouldn't take your Priest at his word about that.

    Finally, about icons. If you're not into icons, I don't really see a major issue with it and I can honestly understand that.

    Since you are still a, "greenhorn" to our church, your views will change. You have a very individualized perspective about icons. If you know they are merely images to remember the Saints, why would you feel uncomfortable with them? My sister in law thought an icon of St. George was George Washington!! The creepiness goes away and you'll become much more comfortable with them.

    Rules don't apply only to specific people because they are either a convert or were baptized as an infant in the church. There are also no, "rules" you HAVE to have icons in your house. I am truly not sure what you were told when you converted, but that's not true at all. I hope in time we can brush up on some of those incorrect or unexplained things in the conversion process.

    I was similar to you after I converted. I was going to go on a long tangent about icons and their importance. But, as Pope Shenouda wrote in one his book, "Calmness", there is a time to explain something, and there is a time to not explain something.

    My words would only seem like the words of a nagging parent to you right now. Good luck!
  • Haha no, i know 75 hours is not a lot. I've just started looking into conversion, but for me to only have an issue with two things in that research I think shows I already agree with most of the teachings. I was never told icons were required in the home, which is why I don't think that is a deal breaker issue for me.

    I am more concerned about converting and then not being able to marry someone who I fall in love with later who is also Christian unless they agree to convert as well. I don't understand why the Sacrament can't be between two Christians and has to be between two oriental eastern Orthodox Christians specifically. Whether I marry someone who is orthodox or not, it still is a belief that I am not completely comfortable with.
  • My current Boyfriend is Coptic so it may or may not be an issue that personally impacts me later, but again still something I'm uncomfortable with.
  • @learningorthodoxy,

    Let me try to clarify the concept here. Marriage in the orthodox understanding is a unity between a man and a woman that is sanctified by God Himself. It's a mystery...so much that it was liked to the act of salvation itself...Christ giving up Himself for the Church, as to man who should give himself up to his wife (that's St. Paul speaking). In essence, marriage is a reflection/projection of of what the entire faith is based on--mankind receiving salvation from Christ. Now, if the entire concept of marriage is based on the proper understanding of what God is and how to worship Him, then how can the 2 parties of that marriage be untied if their faith in that God is different?! 

  • But isn't that a decision that they and God should be making and if they still decide to proceed in a marriage bound by God the church accept it? I understand not encouraging it, but again if you have two Christians that feel bound to each other and to God and both look at marriage as a sacrament and a covenant between them and God then what is the problem with recognizing their marriage? Because they aren't 100 percent the same in how they worship that same God, they are not allowed to be bound together in the eyes of the Church and so they have to part, one convert to orthodoxy, or the worse option one feel they must choose their spouse and walk away from Orthodoxy by not being married in the Church? That's my disconnect. I understand why they would be concerned about a non-Christian, but my understanding is that even a marriage between very similar (yes somewhat different but similar) Easter orthodox or Catholic is not permitted. I don't feel like that is what the Bible reflects
  • What makes marriage a sacred union is the proper belief in God. If only one party of that union doesn't have that belief, the the act of unification is null and void. The same thing as someone who is not a Christian "decides" to take communion. The priests will keep the sacrament away from them because the Mysteries, in that context, will mean nothing to him or her.

    This is NOT an OO thing. It's also an EO thing. 
  • EO actually will let you marry someone who is not EO as long as they agree to be married in the church, agree to raise kids EO, and the non EO person is a Christian that was baptized in the name of the Trinity. That I understand. I also agree that God should be at the center of your marriage and that it is a covenant between the parties and God.
  • I stand corrected then if that is the case. That will not change what the OO does though. 
  • edited July 25
    That's true. I grew up in an area with a lot of Greek Americans. They would be able to have two weddings, and get married in a Greek church, and say, a Methodist church.

    But, I wouldn't make such sweeping statements about Eastern Orthodoxy. It is a broad church with different jurisdictions. Different Bishops and Priests may not agree to that.

    Keep in mind, the Coptic church is one church with one Patriarch, who oversees all the Bishops. It actually has significant communication and administrative advantages over Eastern Orthodoxy because it is far more unified.

    Also, we have different synods and political/social standards. If there is anything you'll find about the Coptic church, it's that they take the Sacraments seriously.

    I went to some Eastern Orthodox churches before I converted to the Coptic church. It's kind of interesting to learn about Eastern Orthodoxy. We had a woman who loved our church, but became Greek Orthodox, merely because it was all in English. I don't believe anyone on here would be upset if you came to our closest neighbors.
  • edited July 25
    > I also agree that God should be at the center of your marriage and that it is a covenant between the parties and God. <

    A church is not a social club and the purpose of life is not marriage. It is to walk with Christ and follow Him to eternity. As a Christian, you already know how to ask God to lead you to the church where the Spirit flows and to stay away from places where there are oppressive spirits. If you feel the Spirit flows in the Coptic Church then you must convert. 
  • sometimes people are already married and then one of them joins
    the orthodox church.

    if this happens, it should be done with the full
    understanding of the non orthodox spouse, but even then there are significant
    problems.

    but the differences that seem insignificant in the rosy
    flush of new love, become more significant as people understand their faith
    more deeply.

     

    as orthodox Christians we view all the sacraments as much
    more than attractive symbols of our faith.

    the obedience we demonstrate in taking part in the
    sacraments, is part of our relationship with God, and our experience of the
    sacraments involves more than just our minds.

     

    in USA, the understanding of how we learn has been greatly
    impaired by the western european philosophies of 1300 - 1900 AD.

    at that time, the human mind was elevated to being the centre
    of understanding and experience and other types of learning (by copying, being
    immersed in, or accepting something without full understanding) were seen as
    being terribly old fashioned.

    if you have ever learned a craft, such as pottery, bell
    ringing or carpentry, you may have noticed that there is a lot about learning
    that can't be easily put into words.

    european philosophies of the last 100 years have started to
    accept this (i'll spare you the long quotes from my studies in education), but
    the mainstream view is still that the mind is king.

     

    so how is this relevant?

    well, protestant Christianity started exactly in this period
    of time, in the hotbed of atheistic philosophy in central europe and is far
    more affected by this mindset than protestants realise.

    (side note - i also thought i was 'non denominational' until
    a year after i started investigating orthodoxy. it really is a type of
    protestantism and most of these 'non denominational' groups are based on
    calvinist theology from 1500s. i have been orthodox now around 10 years, having
    moved house a fair few times with work and been a member of nearly all uk
    protestant churches at one time or another.)


  • so, for example in the sacrament of Holy Communion, we can
    correctly say that we are receiving eternal life in God through faith in Him,
    as a result of His grace.

    in this we agree with most protestants.

    however, we also believe that the act of taking Holy
    Communion in itself transmits God's grace and blessing to us. this part is
    something we can't really explain.

    it happens outside the narrow confines of our imperfect
    human minds. it is beyond our understanding.

    we can't miss Holy Communion and then just pray a bit extra
    a home and then feel that we did not miss anything. we also can't take Holy
    Communion in a non orthodox church and consider that it is the same. it is not
    the same (every person i speak to who joins the orthodox church from a
    different sort of church says the same, it is not just my own experience).

  • similarly, the sacrament of marriage is not just the priest
    helping two people to make a formal agreement in front of God. of course, this
    is an important part of it.

    but in orthodox marriage, both the husband and the wife
    submit their union to the spiritual leadership of the orthodox church, asking
    all the people to help them and pray for them and to help then raise any
    children they may have in the orthodox Christian faith.

    they agree to take part in the church sacraments such as
    confession and Holy Communion and accept the special grace that God gives them
    through these sacraments, which is something more than they can understand or
    explain.

    it is the priest who puts the rings on their fingers - they
    do not do this for each other, as in traditions which stem from western europe.
    this is (more than!) a symbol of the fact that God has joined them together,
    and they have no right to separate (of course, you can take your wedding ring
    off before you have a shower or a medical scan, for example).

    the husband and wife are spiritual children of the priest(s)
    who administer the sacrament of marriage, and it is normal for them to respect
    the priests and bishops and to follow their advice. so as part of the family,
    it does not make sense for them to be born (married) in one house (protestant
    church) and to eat (take spiritual guidance) in a different house.

     

    i hope this starts to explain the situation for you.

    one last thing, check it out for yourself. don't just go by
    what someone say the priest says.

    going to a different orthodox church certainly makes sense.

    and, as we learn using more than just the mind, don't expect
    to understand everything at once. and may God guide you and show you the way to
    the depths of His love.

    :)

  • edited July 26

    > most of these 'non denominational' groups are based on calvinist theology from 1500s. < 


    Orthodox commonly fail to distinguish between sacramental and non-sacramental Protestants. John Calvin’s theology is sacramental. OTOH, most non-denominational churches follow Anabaptist theology and refuse infant baptism.


    > in the sacrament of Holy Communion, we can correctly say that we are receiving eternal life in God through faith in Him, as a result of His grace. in this we agree with most protestants. <


    Following Anabaptist doctrine, most non-denominational churches believe that Communion and baptism are only ordinances. While a sacrament is seen as a means of grace, an ordinance is a practice that merely demonstrates the participants' faith.  


    > the husband and wife are spiritual children of the priest(s) who administer the sacrament of marriage, and it is normal for them to respect the priests and bishops and to follow their advice. <


    And this submission may be incompatible with western mentality.

  • Hi Learning Orthodoxy. I'm a Greek that joined the Coptic Orthodox Church and I absolutely love it.

    I also struggled finding resources on Orthodoxy specifically from the Coptic perspective, so with much effort I developed a website with articles from many different sources specifically from the Coptic tradition. I hope you find it helpful.

    https://orthodoxy.life/

    I dont live in the USA so I cant give much advice in Churches to attend there, but I know a married couple who converted to the Coptic Church from many years in Evangelicanism. There testimony is below.



    May God bless your journey.
  • do u know them personally?
  • Hi Masboota, I've spoken with Thilo a few times in the past on some theological topics, but nothing more than that. His story is great
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