Coptic Holy Synod Decisions, May 2015

This article highlights a selection of important decisions by the Coptic Orthodox Holy Synod in May 2015.

Coptic Holy Synod Decisions, May 2015

A “Monastery Center” is an administrative and lodging center for monks and nuns, with certain health or social conditions. The center should not get involved in any ecclesiastic services or pastoral care except the divine liturgy.

Our comment
Monasteries are the Church’s lifeline in ensuring the transmission of a liturgical spirituality and an Orthodox approach of worship to the youth, at a time when they may be receiving mixed messages from other quarters of the Church on what constitutes Orthopraxy. It is therefore essential that monasteries in no way associate themselves with anything resembling Evangelical Protestant “praise and worship”.

Churches are obligated to follow the usual rituals of the Resurrection Re-enacting without the use of any special effects of sound, light, 3D, special theatrical effects or fog, etc.

Our comment
This should have been obvious to everyone without the need for a Synodical decree. That such a decree was needed witnesses to a non-Orthodox phronema (mindset) in some quarters of the Church. It should be noted that these kinds of practices are most common in areas where Orthodox spirituality is being compromised in other ways, e.g. through the use of Evangelical Protestant “praise and worship”.

Committee of the Churches Abroad
To highlight the identity of the Coptic Orthodox Church in all publications, documents, releases and television programs and focus on the attribute “Coptic”, emphasizing its title of “Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria”

Additionally, at the Land of Immigration Seminar in May 2015, there “was a statement made by H.H. Pope Tawadros that we must maintain the words “Coptic Orthodox Church” in the nomenclature of all churches”.

Our comment
Removing the word “Orthodox” from the title of a parish witnesses to the adoption of a Protestant ecclesiology and therefore of a generic “one-size-fits-all” Christianity devoid of so-called “denominational” qualifiers. Evangelical Protestant music, culture and mindsets are therefore embraced as “American Christianity”, while they are in fact heretical.

The word “Coptic” also reminds us that the faith is always expressed through and incarnate in culture. There is no “disincarnate” form of “the faith”. If we wish to bring “the faith” to the West, we must therefore use only existing cultural expressions of Orthodoxy – and never American Protestantism – as a starting point for inculturation.

Fr Alexander Schmemann comments:
“there are those who believe that the old pattern of national and religious unity can be simply applied to America. The Church is Greek in Greece, Russian in Russia, therefore it must be American in America—such is their reasoning. We are no longer Russians or Greeks, let us translate services in English, eliminate all “nationalism” from the Church… Logical as it sounds, this solution is deeply wrong and, in fact, impossible. For what, in their cheerful but superficial “Americanism,” the partisans of this view seem completely to overlook is that the rapport between Orthodoxy and Russia, or Orthodoxy and Greece, is fundamentally different from, if not opposed to, the rapport between Orthodoxy and America. There is not and there cannot be a religion of America in the sense in which Orthodoxy is the religion of Greece or Russia and this, in spite of all possible and actual betrayals and apostasies. And for this reason Orthodoxy cannot be American in the sense in which it certainly is Greek, Russian or Serbian. Whereas there, in the old world, Orthodoxy is coextensive with national culture, and to some extent, the national culture (so that the only alternative is the escape: into a “cosmopolitan,” viz. “Western” culture), in America, religious pluralism and therefore, a basic religious “neutrality,” belongs to the very essence of culture and prevents religion from a total “integration” in culture. Americans may be more religious people than Russians or Serbs, religion in America may have privileges, prestige and status it has not had in the “organic” Orthodox countries, all this does not alter the fundamentally secular nature of contemporary American culture; and yet it is precisely this dichotomy of culture and religion that Orthodoxy has never known or experienced and that is totally alien to Orthodoxy. For the first time in its whole history, Orthodoxy must live within a secular culture…
It belongs to the very essence of Orthodoxy not only to “accept” a culture, but to permeate and to transform it, or, in other terms, to consider it an integral part and object of the Orthodox vision of life. Deprived of this living interrelation with culture, of this claim to the whole of life, Orthodoxy, in spite of all formal rectitude of dogma and liturgy, betrays and loses something absolutely essential. And this explains the instinctive attachment of so many Orthodox, even American born, to the “national” forms of Orthodoxy, their resistance, however narrow-minded and “nationalistic,” to a complete divorce between Orthodoxy and its various national expressions. In these forms and expressions Orthodoxy preserves something of its existential wholeness, of its link with life in its totality, and is not reduced to a “rite,” a clearly delineated number of credal statements and a set of “minimal rules.” One cannot by a surgical operation called “Americanization” distill a pure “Orthodoxy in itself,” without disconnecting it from its flesh and blood, making it a lifeless form. There can be no doubt, therefore, that in view of all this, a living continuity with national traditions will remain for a long time not only a compromise meant to satisfy the “old-timers,” but an essential condition for the very life of the Orthodox Church.”
- Problems of Orthodoxy in America: The Canonical Problem