The Greatest Challenge?

Here’s a little brainteaser for you:

“In the next 20 years, what do you think will be the greatest challenge faced by the Coptic Orthodox Church?”

To be forewarned is to be fore-armed. Although our Lord Jesus commanded us not to worry about tomorrow, He did also command us to prepare, as a king prepares for battle before he sets out to join it. The difference of course lies between preparing and worrying: you can prepare without worrying if there is peace and faith in God in your heart.

So, that’s the exercise I’m asking the readers to try. Don’t worry; just think about it.

In recent years, the Christian Church in general and the Coptic Church in particular has faced many challenges. Here are just a few:

The invasion of worldly ideals and values and beliefs into the faith and worldview of the Church.

The obsession with money and possessions, power, popularity and success leaving people with no time or no room in their hearts for God and Church.

People growing further apart, caring for each other less, caring for themselves more.

The loss of traditional Christian values in the area of sexuality, marriage and divorce.

The supposed threat to faith coming from the trend towards depending on science rather than belief.

The disappointment of members of the Church with the perceived behaviour of the rest of the Church community.

Will we insist on linking faith to a particular culture, or will we allow the culture to change? Will the faith change with the culture? How important is it to maintain the uniquely Coptic identity in Australia? At what price?

Will technology help or hinder our life of faith?

What effects will global warming and overpopulation have on our lives, and will this impact on our spiritual lives?

Will future generations simply not care?

So can you predict whether any of these will be THE major challenge to face us in the next 20 years? Or perhaps it will be something totally new?

And WHY? Why do you choose that particular issue above all the others? What makes it special, or especially dangerous? Some issues may be mildly dangerous but widespread enough to infect the whole Church, whereas others may be quite serious but limited to only a small section of the Church. Which is worst?

I won’t give my own thoughts just yet – I would like you to think about it – so I’ll hold off from commenting for a little while. Think about your own experiences, good and bad, within the Church community and in the light of the society within which the Church exists. Think of your own generation, the generation of your parents and that of your children.

What dangers threaten the Orthodox Christian faith and way of life?

And what do we need to do about them?

Fr Ant

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7 Replies to “The Greatest Challenge?”

  1. Dear father and alll ….you raised an important issue which should be raised and exhausted sometime ago by a our qualified people in this field …i am not qualified in this field but i will put all my experience forward , may the holy spirit support us all for the best of our Coptic community everywhere and specially for us in this part of the world …i will try to cover my vision in point form ….1-recently all organizations restructured to survive with flatter structure and no more hierarchy one , so efficiency , productivity and communication will improve as every one see the other , the top see the bottom and vice verse…2- expenses reduced to minimum 3- all team is responsible and accountable at the end of the day 4- work is done through the right people and the right channels …4-education and technology are important tools in this dynamic change 5- shareholders in our case here our Australian church congregation knowing and sharing their organizational “church ” mission ,vision and strategies will trust, accept and all their loyalty will be to our church leadership flatter team ” bishop, priests and few elected young church reps ….so the bottom line our church MUST change in its way of management to be effective management in order to get back the trust and acceptance of the lord,s flock … some suggestions 1- no need of diocese building and employing people , we can do it simply with a simple accommodation for our humble bishop and a lot of volunteers can help in the diocese work , we must reduce our expenses 2 – education of bishop and priests in problem solving and counseling “christian councellig ” and communication , it is impossible a priest to try to solve a problem without the appropriate tools and skills and in the presence of the word of God will be powerful as he our wonderful councilor… 3 – the congregation need to feel that their issues of concerns , problems and spiritual needs attended with care and love, not seeing the priesthood as only a profession and this is very dangerous 4-churches must take responsibility in running their financial affairs independently within the general diocese strategy focusing mainly in reducing debits 5- church reps not to be selected by priests and all facts to be clear to the whole Coptic community 6 – our identity is Australian Coptic community and no need of Sudanese , Ethiopian or Egyptians 7 – we have got nothing with politics Egyptians or Sudanese stuff and no need for any letters in our feasts from any department …our interest with the politicians in this part of the world and we encourage it , as we pray all the time for our prime minister and the stuff of our country Australia, we are proud of our christian values and our way of life ….8- we need as congregation to feel the spirituality of our bishop as the good shepherd around his people ..9-we need to feel as Australian Coptic community we are capable to deal with our problems locally and not every couple of month our bishop to fly to our mother church 10- truly we have got great bunch of priests with different qualifications and i believe they can make a great team with our bishop 11- truly, there is around a lot of young well educated , well mannered youth know well our Australian system i believe they are capable of doing a lot to our community … keeps changing but our lord Jesus Christ was in the past and HE is in the present and He will be the same one in the future , we have to focus on him and in his great love to us all the time , amen ….please forgive me if i mentioned something not in its place , everything is possible in God , it is hard but possible and always the challenges will be there as we live in this earth ….

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  2. Q1: What dangers threaten the Orthodox Christian faith and way of life?

    Maybe it is wrong of me to speak so openly about this, but I think that the problem begins in childhood.

    I am not criticising Sunday School Servants (I know how to difficult it is, and their unique challenges), but believe they need more resources and fostering of skills- and that should be a priority. I think it is important that:

    – they can communicate effectively to children
    – they resemble the faith and life of Orthodox Christianity
    – that they can defend and inspire children to live an *Orthodox* faith, rather than what is around
    – that they can reach out to other children
    – that they are counselled, exhorted and accountable for their good work

    I also believe that parents must respect the function of Sunday Schools and this may be increased with edifying them to further their own religious and spiritual education, as well as involving them in their children’s education.

    I think what is eroding many of our values- especially mine- is being unequally yoked to unbelievers- and I don’t mean just non-‘Christians’, but heterodox and television. I thought I have been entrenched in the debasing element of television- but I am shocked at how wide-spread in kids these days- that devoted kids have no thoughts at doing things a generation above me would not do- dancing in provocative dresses, swearing, crude jokes, and blasphemy.

    We can’t in the Diaspora depend on the Nehemiahs, the Ezras, the Daniels and the Hananiahs, Mishaels, and Azariahs of this generation to carry our Church. I think at all levels we need to be edifying each other.

    Q2:And what do we need to do about them?

    In addition to the above, I think that priests need support from deacons in reaching out to those not attending regularly to church. It is too much responsibility for our pastors.

    Maybe we should confront these issues you have raised by doing surveys on our community, and getting feedback on various ministries and issues, and work to tackle them. I don’t mean rating sermons- sermons are about calling for repentance ofcourse, but maybe we can detect problems such as “I don’t feel confident in being able to repent”, or “I find that the Church do not cater to those struggling with…” etc.

    I think one issue among my generation (young 20s) is “making God relevant” rather than the traditional “being relevant to God and the Church”.

    The books and resources available are great, but may not be tailored or reaching out to some Copts. Maybe we need to think about presentation, readability etc. And maybe, the person with the solutions do not hear the problem.

    Maybe we should have a week of prayer about these issues, or next year or something have a theme in the diocese in tackling a prominent issue.

    For atheism, there are obviously people who are gifted in discussing this issue. If they can go around the diocese to discuss the topic, rather than individual priests having to discuss it with varying ability, we can effectively get the message across and might also be able to increase our sense of Communion?

    A few cents.

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  3. What dangers threaten the Orthodox Christian faith and way of life?

    – Secularism? Maybe, but I think the Church has done well in weathering that storm.

    – Atheism? Maybe, but the Church has always emphasised that it relies not on science to explain its faith. If science supports some aspects of our faith, we do not turn from it, if not then we understand that the sciences can never, and will never be able to explain who or what God is exactly. The early Church had many theologians who explained Christological and Trinitarian theology in scientific terms, although even they understood that their explanations were lacking.

    I think there are two big threats, I couldn’t narrow them to one…

    I think the first threat to the Orthodox Church and the Orthodox faith is Latinisation. I do not mean that the Orthodox Church will dissolve into a Latin identity or the Latin Church (although this has happened to some aspects of our faith, in embracing Augustinian thought, even though this is denied), what I mean is that the Church is in danger of heading down the same path that the Latin Church has, and continues to go down: a path which seeks to ‘change’ the Church in order for the Church to speak to each generation; all in the name of reform.

    With our Church in particular, the Coptic Lay Council made this attempt during its beginnings, and continues to, although more controlled, to strive for these’reforms’.
    The word ‘reform’ is a ‘dirty word’ when said in conjuction with the Orthodox faith; it needs to be stamped out! The Coptic Lay Council needs to be abolished, or if not then have no standing in Church affairs. If they continue to exist and insist on mingling in Church affairs, they should be demonished and given the same status as the self-proclaimed Archbishop Maximus’ splinter group. No group should interfere or have any say whatsoever in Church affairs save the Holy Synod itself!

    The second thing I see as a threat, and forgive me for saying this, is the Ecumenical Movement. I know our Church has been an active participant in this Movement for a number of decades.
    Although some good has come of it, particularly in dealings with the Eastern Orthodox Church, I think it is too widely pursued, and could I believe, do great unrepairable damage to the Orthodox faith.

    Both the Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Orthodox groups of Churches have now recognised each other as Orthodox in all respects, and this is a great thing. Both sides have been able to put aside the animosities of the past and understand that the Orthodox faith can (and was in the early Church) be expressed in different ways as long as the essence of the faith is the same.

    However, in pursuit of full Eucharistic Communion between the two sides, the Eastern Orthodox side wishes to see the Oriental Orthodox Churches dissolved into Byzantium (and the whole struggle of the 5th century is repeating itself). They do not understand the relationships between the Oriental Orthodox Churches, in which although full Eucharistic Communion exists, each Church is completely independent. This to them in not Communion at all, and they wish to see the One Holy Catholic Apostolic Orthodox Church formed with one rite, one liturgy, under one Ecumenical Patriarch.

    Although the Oriental Orthodox Church has rejected this, and wishes to establish a model based on its own inter-relationship between its Churches, the nature of the Ecumenical Movement seeks negotiations and concessions; which can be extremely dangerous. And if negotiations and concessions are given in this aspect, as they have to other aspects such as Saints, Council and Ecclesiology, then the Orthodox faith, and the Oriental Orthodox faith in particular, is in danger of being destroyed.

    The Ecumenical Movement has however gone most dangerously further than this, in seeking negotiations, communion and signing ‘Common Declarations of the Faith’ with other heretical churches such as the Roman Catholic Church, the Church of England and the Assyrian Church of the East.
    Although I understand that denouncing any church or teaching as heretical does not have the same weight as it did in the first centuries of Christianity, to seek any sort of communion or negotiate with these churches regarding the faith, goes completely against the work of the first three Ecumenical Councils, which strived to stamp out these heresies.

    In the early Church, heresies and heretics were completely driven away from the Church, and for good reason. The Ecumenical Movement now, strives to bring them back in, signing with them ‘Common Declarations of the Faith’, which is putting, and will continue to expose the Orthodox faith to the grave danger of heresy.

    The Orthodox faith is one in which concessions cannot ever be made. The Ecumenical Movement does just that. It is enough that the two Orthodox expressions have recognised each other as legitimate, to go any further than that with the Eastern Orthodox Church, and continue to seek meetings, negotiations and signing of Common Faith Declarations with heretical churches, will dissolve the Orthodox Church, and the Orthodox faith to a status just the same as any other Christian expression and it will no longer stand alone as the One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church.

    Thats what I think anyway…
    Please don’t shoot me…

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  4. Somebody the other day told me mate why you put yourself in all this big headache and writing , mate nobody there to listen ???!! i said , mate we live with hope and always there is room for improvement , we will get there one day …. then he said that challenges we find every where in our life , in our houses , with your kids , at work and it is there as far as we live in this earth !!! the biggest challenge pal with our church in this part of the world and it is at all levels from the top to the bottom is the problem of ATTITUDE ???!! he said , mate TRUST and ACCEPTANCE in our church community will be improved by improvement of our attitudes at all levels …he said those on the top must lead by example ..oh boy seems a lot needs to done pal ….it is really a worry ???!!!! i believe the whole community must work hard ….may the holy spirit guide us all amen …

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  5. Seems our worldly feasts are changing these days and mixed with our ritual feasts and that only i believe occurs in our churches in this part of the world …on mother day feast our church celebrates our Tasoneys and give them presents !!?? and on father day feast , they celebrate father Mina Nametalla “God bless his soul “????!!! the priest extended his congratulation in his announcement to the family of our late Mina Namatela ???!!too much mate ???!! it is a circus ????!!! truly , “too many chiefs and not enough Indians “!!!?? oh pal we live more , we see more !! that is life !!

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  6. Nil distraction and order was tryed before by Fr Anthony and a lot of Sunday school teachers during the mass and specially during the holy communion where it escalates and our St Stephen church becomes a real market !!!?? i came across a good experience in one of our churches that when the holy communion comes the deacon reads the prayer before the holy communion and the whole congregation repeat after him , so he does the same on the prayer after the holy communion , it is great , quite , smooth , nil noise of any sort of movements around to find Aggpias or find a tablet on the wall to read the prayers of our sacred sacrament ,it is great , why don,t we try in our church and see how it goes ???!! you never know it might work !!?? oh mate keep trying , i believe we will get there as far as we keep our positive attitude and focus on our FATHER WHO ART IN HEAVEN OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST , HE is our only father, happy fathers day …by the way think of a better way of the location of water after the holy communion !!? it might be a better location and way around to reduce the noise and congestion and eliminate the habit of leaning at the walls at the back of the church ??! may the holy spirit guide us all to improve our attitude and be positive and do something for ourselves and our church ..we thank God that our church has got a lot of youth in our church i believe with great and positive ideas , do something mate for your community …

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  7. we come back to square one and we put forward the big question “DO WE HAVE A PROBLEM OF ATTITUDE IN OUR COMMUNITY CHURCHES !!!????” the other day i attended a mass in one of our churches and the priest was upset from the nature of those heaps of small papers the congregation ask to be put in the altar ??!! oh pal i was shocked of the hatred and unchristian nature of those papers as the priest commented about them at the end of the mass such comments on those tiny papers “may God destroy x and y ” ,” may God destroy the house of so and so “, “may God burn x and y by kerosene as they did so and so “, oh my God till now i can not be recovered of all these and i am trying to convince myself this is only a nightmare and not true ???!! sometimes i wonder if our christian values and way of life were already gone and just we are going in circles with the devil ???!!now i REALLY understand why more and more leaving our churches and join the apathy group ??? now i understand why most of our youth, boys and girls prefer marriage out of our community and it is escalating with high rate in daily basis ???!! now i understand why half of the church have problems with one another as one get absolution not to say hello to own brother and the other brother get absolution from other priest not to say it too ???!! so very easy and they get regularly the sacrament of the holy communion ????!! where are we heading with such LACK OF LOVE AND NO FORGIVENESS ???!! what do we expect from our youth and we are setting the bad example and sending the wrong message for them all the time ???!! i believe our biggest challenge that we have to start with our selves and we MUST live in the fear of God and act as real Christians…” truly if somebody hate all the time , certainly no one do have time to love !!” i believe this is the real cancer in our community churches and forgive me in saying this …my understanding our lord wants only to love him from all our hearts and our souls and to love thy neighbor as thyself and look after those least in Mathew , He does not want from his creatures more than that ???!! i believe this is the real underlined cause for all our problems …. in Arabic language we call “FIRRA ” hitting our community ???!!i believe it needs a lot of prayers so the holy spirit inside each one of us must be reignited with the love and forgiveness for each other in our christian life as real images and followers of Christ …. pray for me as i am one of you as well ….i thank God that He assisted me too to stop and look back through those thoughts which i have being trying to share with you ,so i go back to square one , reflect and by the support of our Lord to rectify a lot of unchristian things inside myself before it is too late ….may our Lord have mercy on all of us ….DA HAL ALDOUNIA !!!!!???the real challenge now is to build up the true christian with those basics of our bible !!!!???

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