Why is Coptic Church Closed to Orthodox Converts?

edited December 1969 in Coptic Orthodox Church
Hello Everyone, I am new to this forum so please excuse my ineptness at writing.  I am a convert Orthodox Christian.  I converted in 2004 after years of being in the Lutheran Church.  I love my Orthodox faith and all it's rich history.  My home church was in the OCA (Orthodox Church of America) up until two years ago when I moved to Southern California.  I am now finding that there really isn't a place for a convert in a Orthodox Church here in Southern California.

To make a long story short, I have been married to a wonderful Coptic man for almost 40 years.  When we married there were no Orthodox churches where we lived, let alone Coptic churches.  So, we went to the Lutheran Church since it has a liturgutal service.  As many of you may know, the Lutherans accepted a very liberal agenda.  Neither of us were brought up that way so we searched for another church.  I found the OCA and we were active members for 6 years.  We then moved to Southern California and found that the Orthodox churches here are quite ethnic in character.  Don't get me wrong, I strongly support ethnicity since I am of Scandinavian descent.  But, they are closed to non-ethnic people.

I have been a member the past two years at an Antiochian Parish.  I want to talk about my walk with Christ, church theology, prayer, fasting, etc. and it's not there.  So, I ventured to look at other churches.  I am quite familiar with the Coptic Orthodox Church.  I went to a Coptic church yesterday and not "one" person said "hello" to me?  Can you explain this?  I was ready to go to Sunday liturgy - I had my Coptic liturgy book along with my head scarf with a design of St. Mena?  I feel as soon as they saw me, they looked away.  As I mentioned, I am of Northern European descent.  I do not look Coptic.  But, unknown to them, I understand their theoolgy, have studied their church and my own children and grandchild have been baptized in the Coptic church in Egypt.

I came home crying.  I am able and willing to be a contributing member(s) of a Coptic church.  My husband is willing to go where we feel welcome. Why was the door closed?  Any insight you could give me would be greatly appreciated.

On a side note, I understand the ramifications of being "Eastern Orthodox" vs "Coptic Orthodox".  I was willing to do what was needed on my my part to become part of the Coptic community.


  • Martha,

    I identify with your experience and unfortunately your experience is a recurring theme in the Coptic Church throughout the land of immigration.

    I suppose this is happening because the Coptic Church is still young in America. We are trying to assimmilate through forming committees whose jobs is to welcome newcomers, evangelize, building relationsships witht the community.

    You are fortunate you are in Southern CA as there are over 25 Coptic churches some are more welcoming to non Copts than others.

    I would advise to go and visit the different parishes and find one that you and your husband are comfortable at.
  • Dear Severian,
    I meant to offend no one.  I want to be a servant to our Lord.  It's not about being one church vs another.  How would you feel in you went to a church, with an open heart to serve our Lord and you were pushed away?  Think about it.
  • ^You did not offend. I just wanted to clarify. Sorry if I seemed harsh, I am not always graceful or tactful in my posts, forgive me. I actually do know how you feel. You see, I am only half-Egyptian, and as a result I look European and many people of my own community have insulted me and pushed me away as a result. I can sympathize (and among my own people nonetheless!). Do not let their ignorance push you away from our Lord or the true faith. Keep fighting the good fight!

    And again, I am sorry if I have hurt your feelings. Too much time around the private forums on OC.net does this to you! :P
  • [quote author=Severian link=topic=13598.msg158530#msg158530 date=1344220193]
    Well, in case you did not know any better...

    Copts like all Oriental non-Chalcedonian Orthodox (Syrians, Armenians, Ethiopians, etc.) believe we are THE Orthodox Church. So referring to the EO Church as simply the unqualified "Orthodox Church", while referring to our Church as the "Coptic Church" without the Orthodox qualifier can and will offend some of us. We are Orthodox in that we uphold the Orthodox faith of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church prior to the Nestorianizing agenda of the heretical schismatics Bishops who assembled at Chalcedon.

    Dear Severian,

    I believe Martha is upset at no one welcoming her at the church she visited and she was ignored.

    I do not see how does this experience involve the EO vs the OO debate.

    We as Copts have been under oppression for many centuries, we are forced to be silent after being avery active evangelistic Church. When people emigrated from Egypt, they carried the spirit of oppression with them.

    Fortunately, the 2nd generation does not have this spirit of oppression and are more open to non Copts.
  • ^I retracted my post. If you removed my retracted post from your previous message, I would appreciate it.
  • [quote author=Martha link=topic=13598.msg158532#msg158532 date=1344220573]
    Dear Severian,
    I meant to offend no one.  I want to be a servant to our Lord.  It's not about being one church vs another.  How would you feel in you went to a church, with an open heart to serve our Lord and you were pushed away?  Think about it.

    I can assure you not all Coptic Orthodox churches are like that.  Keep looking around, you are in SoCal!  :)
  • A lot of Coptic churches are very friendly. All the Coptic churches I’ve been in were very friendly to there brothers and sisters who converted. Also we have Russian Ethiopian Armenian Orthodox etc that show up at our church and the church welcome openly and with great friendliness and helpfulness. Here in Canada we have a church specialized in converts and bring ppl back to orthodoxy. So you probably had a bad experience with just that one church. :)
  • never give up. God Himself welcomes you and He will help u to welcome others and be welcomed as well.
    but the church is is full or ordinary humans like me and sometimes we mess up.
    please forgive us and try again.
  • Hey Martha,

    Just read your post and I am a bit dismayed that the church did not welcome you. I am sorry that you had a bad experience at that specific church. Our churches in the US cater to different demographics depending on the congregation and the location. For example we have some churches with no English liturgies, some with half Arabic/half English, and some with all English services.

    I wanted to see what city you're at in California and based on that, we can let you know what church might be more welcoming.

    In Christ,
  • I forgot to mention, too, that this epidemic is not only present in some Coptic Orthodox churches, but can also be witnessed at numerous Greek, Serbian, and Russian parishes in the United States as well.
  • Dear Martha,
    May the Lord give you comfort in your time of need. I am sincerely apologizing for the actions of my fellow coptic brothers and sisters who are bound by their culture to the extent that it may have shaped their christian lifestyle. Egyptian culture is very friendly with people that are of the same type of people, same community, maybe if you ask your husband he'll tell you that if you lived in the same building as someone in egypt you were considered a family member. But unfortunately if you are different, from a different nationality, have different ideas or likes and dislikes you are almost disowned. And another thing that is a huge problem especially here in the U.S. People from egypt came to the US to seek a better like for themselves but not to bring Orthodoxy with Coptic flavor to the US. So the Egyptians brought their culture with them instead of changing their ways to acclimate to the American style of dealing with people. In other countries such as Africa and Brazil and Bolivia The bishops and priests that went there, specifically went to preach, so they opened their arms to all, and went and learned those peoples language, and spoke to those people in their own tongue, unlike here in the United States where we use three different languages and 2/3 of the time a person is in a church they have no idea whats going on. Have faith though, people are beginning to change even if slowly. I am soo sorry from the bottom of my heart. i really cant explain how deeply painful it is for me to see another person to almost be shunned in a coptic church. Maybe God wants to use you there! Ask Him. If you can communicate your point to the priest there, there may be a whole movement in that church specifically to welcome newcomers! God has a purpose for everyone of us. Pray about it and see what God puts in your heart. If He tells you to speak to the priest there by all means go for it. MY prayers are with you and my sincere apologies.

  • Hello Martha,
                        Did you speak to Abouna about how you are feeling? Do so next Sunday if you can. You'll be ok I'm sure, sometimes people take awhile to warm to someone new. Acceptance and rejection is a hard thing but we are all adopted to Christ. An adopted person is rejected the day they were born and become a stranger to the world. You are the stranger, so all you can do is offer a welcome to them and hope it will come back to you. Rejection can make you feel lonely, but I'm sure you won't be alone. Keep trying!!

    God bless you and comfort you.

  • God bless you, Martha. Excuse my bluntness, but I suspect that the devil doesn't want your family united in the Coptic Church. I've had several friends who were offended by similar experiences. Some European and U.S. wives of Copts could never accept their interpretation of this experience as intolerable rudeness. This resulted in years of their family's alienation from the Coptic Church. My heart is so happy that you've reached a point to try to unite your family in the Coptic Church of your husband. I can only suggest that you be strong and stubborn, like a good Swede, Norse, Dane, Finn, etc. God will help you win this most important battle.

    I suggest to all strangers to the Coptic Church to first try to attend Saturday evening Incense and Psalmody for a few weeks. You don't have to do anything but talk to God and the Saints for the first few visits. There should be Agepeya and Psalmody books in English in the church. If not, ask a deacon or sister to help you find them. The rhythm and text will be strange for awhile, but it will grow on you. Eventually you'll sing some  common verses in Coptic. I think you will find those who are attending these prayers to be more receptive. They'll be happy to have just one more person praying with them. This was my method of introduction to Coptic life. There is nothing comparable in any other church on earth, that I know of. God bless you. Even if you can't sing in Coptic for awhile, you'll improve the appearance of the congregation, in my blunt Irish opinion. Set a good example of modesty for the Cali Coptic women, they'll be watching you closely. Pray for me.
  • I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their kind responses to my question.  I appreciate the time you have taken to respond.  On a side note, I would like to share what it means to me to be a convert.  I was not happy at my Protestant church.  It was at a Greek Orthodox Church festival that I had the opportunity to take an inquirers class about the Orthodox church.  Each week I attended class and through prayer, reading and more reading, I found the church where I belonged.  After the classes ended, I began to attend an Orthodox Church of America parish.  I was  Chrismated at that parish.  I knew from that day, that the Orthodox church would never change regardless of how society around me changed.  This was comforting to me.  And, I continued my studies of Orthodox theology.

    My parish Priest was a convert himself as many are today.  Luckily for me, it was truly a church that held to Traditions.  I have read a few things online that talk about how converts want to "Americanize" or water down the faith.  This was not the case in my parish.  If anything, it was the opposite.  People are coming to Orthodoxy because they want to partake of all aspects of the rich, traditional church.  Many from an evangelical background come with no church history whatsoever.  It's truly an amazing journey and it's a journey that will continue on and on for me.  I love following the church calendar for the fasts and feasts, reading my daily Bible readings (from the Orthodox Study Bible), going to liturgy and confession.  I accept the Orthodox church with my whole heart.  And, I don't want to lose that feeling. 

    So, if you come across a convert, this is how they feel.  They would never go against the church teachings or traditions.  They want to embrace all that the Orthodox faith encompasses.

    Again, many thanks to all of you and I know the Lord will lead me where he wants me to be.

  • My daughter and I (who are both blonde) went to the Coptic Church in Newhall California and people were very nice and welcoming to us there and helped us to follow along with the passages in the book, etc.
    If you are close by you could consider visiting yourself.
  • Martha,

    Your experience in the Coptic Church is typical.

    What tends to unite Copts is Egypt, not necessarily Christ. Are you Egyptian looking? Even if you are Egyptian looking, why would anyone say hi to you?? 

    It doesn't mean people are bad, but the spirit in the Church is very much orientated on Egypt. This is a disaster. 

    If you went to a Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt, you'd be treated like a queen. The reason is that back in Egypt, those going to Church aren't going to have some kind of social Egyptian life. They are going to serve. So, you are bound to be greeted by people who will be interested in knowing what are you doing there.

    I've met Copts that have even become Catholic because of the way they were treated in the Coptic Church outside Egypt.

    it can be quite hurtful actually.

    Good luck!
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