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Egypt’s Anglicans Face ‘Existential Threat’… from Fellow Protestants

Egypt Anglican Protestant
Image: KC McGinnis / Lightstock

This article was first published in the March print edition of Christianity Today. I provided additional reporting.

Egypt’s top Anglican leader is accusing its top evangelical leader of attempting a “hostile takeover” to prevent Egyptian Anglicans from achieving state recognition as an independent national church.

The dispute first surfaced in 2001, but this past summer Egypt’s High Administrative Court ruled against Anglican independence. This means the Anglican Diocese of Egypt must function as a full member of the Protestant Churches of Egypt (PCE).

Representing 18 denominations, the umbrella group coordinates the registration of marriages, deaths, property ownership, visas, and other legal—but not doctrinal—matters.

“The most important thing for me is the unity of the Protestant community,” said Andrea Zaki, president of the PCE and a Presbyterian pastor. “I don’t want it to be divided. This would weaken Protestants, and not develop the strengths we have.”

The Anglicans originally filed their case against the Egyptian government. The PCE says soon after, the court obliged them to join as defendants in the Anglican effort at independence.

After the June 2016 ruling, Anglican bishop Mouneer Anis filed a new suit in a lower court. Zaki followed up with key Egyptian agencies to apply the ruling, and the Ministry of Interior informed the Anglican diocese in September that it needed PCE approval for a visa application for an overseas worker.

At a December court hearing, Anglican attorneys addressed procedural faults in the June ruling. That court did not address their petition for the Egyptian president to recognize their denomination as independent, as they believe the law gives him the right to do.

“We were in Egypt before the Protestant church formed,” said Anis, one of the top leaders among conservative Anglicans in the Global South. When he took office in 2000, the Ministry of Interior ratified his documents; this continued until September 2016, after the PCE asked the ministry to stop.

Please click here to read the full article at Christianity Today.

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Archbishop Mouneer Consecrates First Arab Anglican Bishop for North Africa

bishop-fawzy-north-africa

In a moving ceremony at All Saints Cathedral, Cairo on February 27, 2017, Archbishop Mouneer Hanna Anis consecrated his ‘dear brother’ Rev. Samy Fawzy as the first Arab area bishop for North Africa.

Bishop Fawzy succeeds Bishop Bill Musk, who presided over the diocese encompassing Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya since 2008. Bishop Musk was honored and thanked for his time of service, and participated in Fawzy’s consecration.

Joining also to lay hands on the new bishop was Bishop Grant LeMarquand of the Horn of Africa and Bishop Michael Lewis of Cyprus and the Gulf.

Also present were Archbishop Foley Beach of the Anglican Church in North America, Archbishop Rennis Ponniah of Singapore, and other Anglican representatives from around the world.

Bishop Lewis conveyed the congratulations of Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, welcoming Bishop Fawzy into the fellowship of Anglican servant leadership.

Archbishop Welby also praised the Diocese of Egypt for its role as a bridge between Muslims and Christians as well as among the various Christian denominations.

He also issued a firm plea to the government of Egypt to continue recognizing the Anglican Church as an independent denomination, in light of ongoing legal disputes that jeopardize this status.

Archbishop Beach also welcomed Bishop Fawzy, greeting him in the name of GAFCON, and celebrating their partnership in the gospel while assuring of his continued prayers.

Archbishop Ponniah encouraged Bishop Fawzy that in the ‘boat’ of Christian service, it is the Lord Jesus who brings it safely to shore. He also welcomed him into the Global South effort that is catching many fish for the Kingdom of God, celebrating the recent accomplishments in Egypt of a new conference center and administrative buildings for the Alexandria School of Theology.

Congratulations were also offered by Fr. Bishoy Helmy, representing Pope Tawadros of the Coptic Orthodox Church, Rev. Rifat Fehmy, representing Rev. Andrea Zaki of the Protestant Churches of Egypt, and Bishop Kyrillos William of Asyut, representing Patriarch Ibrahim Ishak of the Coptic Catholic Church.

Fr. Helmy in particular praised the appointment of Bishop Fawzy, recognizing him as one with humility, an ecumenical spirit, and dependence upon the Word of God.

Bishop Fawzy graduated from the Faculty of Engineering at Cairo University in 1985, but set aside his career to pursue Christian ministry. Later he obtained a Doctorate in Theology from the University of Wales, and upon returning to Egypt was ordained to serve the church in Alexandria, where he was appointed dean in 2013.

Archbishop Anis remarked Bishop Fawzy was distinguished in his pastoral care, especially “among the wounded, oppressed, and marginalized.” He shared a quote which was dear to him at his own consecration as bishop, written by St. Augustine of Hippo, also from North Africa.

“For you, I am a bishop. But with you, I am a Christian. The first is an office accepted; the second is a gift received. One is danger; the other is safety. If I am happier to be redeemed with you, than to be placed over you, then I shall as the Lord commanded, be more fully your servant.”

Archbishop Anis told Bishop Fawzy he reviews this quote each day, and encouraged him to do the same.

“Truly the church needs trustworthy shepherds who love the Lord with all their hearts, and who will exert every effort to guide the people of God to live out the message of Christ, the message of love,” said Archbishop Anis.

“I have seen this in Dean Samy.”

This article was first published at the Anglican diocese.

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Religion

Chris Wright and the Bible of Reformation

chris-wright
Photo: Michael Adel, Bridges Cultural Center

This article was first published at the Anglican Diocese of Egypt.

 

Visiting Egypt for the 500th anniversary of the European Reformation, Chris Wright aptly taught on Biblical preaching. And in his public lecture to nearly 300 people on January 26, he focused on the centrality of the Bible for all reformation.

Ecclesia semper reformanda,” Wright said. “The church must be continually under reformation, renewed by the Bible.”

Bishop Mouneer Hanna Anis of Egypt invited Wright to All Saint’s Cathedral in Cairo to train Anglican clergy how to minister the Word of God in their churches. In a series of four presentations he emphasized godly preaching must be both Biblically faithful and culturally relevant.

Wright is the international ministries director of the Langham Partnership, dedicated to educating pastors toward theological maturity. The ministry began under John Stott, rector of All Souls Church at Langham Place. Wright has a PhD in Old Testament ethics from Cambridge University, and encouraged the clergy not to neglect this great treasure.

“The Old Testament was the Bible of Jesus,” he said. “And if we neglect it we deprive our congregations of a great deal of depth about who Jesus is.”

Wright is the author of more than 15 books, and his Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament is one of ten that have been translated into Arabic.

And in his translated public lecture, he expounded on how Ezra and Nehemiah set a reformation pattern later followed by Luther, Calvin, and other Protestant pioneers.

Expounding on Nehemiah 8-10, Wright outlined four essential movements. The first focuses on the ears, as the Word of God is read and listened to. As Ezra and Nehemiah brought together the whole people, so did Luther make the Bible accessible for the masses. And not just the masses, but political and spiritual leaders also come under its authority.

The second movement focuses on the mind, as the Word of God is translated and taught. As Ezra and Nehemiah helped now-Aramaic speaking Jews understand the original Hebrew, so also Luther translated the New Testament from Greek into the German vernacular. Both also ensured that those they instructed were equipped to teach others.

The third movement focuses on the heart, as the Word of God produces weeping and rejoicing. Ezra and Nehemiah led the people into an understanding first of their sinfulness before God, but also in realization he is their gracious redeemer. Similarly did Luther guide Germans in knowledge of judgment and grace, and provided also a wealth of hymns and liturgy for communal response in praise.

The fourth movement focuses on the hands, as the Word of God prompts finding and doing. Ezra, Nehemiah, and Luther were purposeful students of the scripture, engaging it far beyond the duty of ritual. And as Luther would rediscover that though salvation is through faith alone, he and the Old Testament reformers insisted it is a faith that never stays alone. True faith produces the fruit of transformation as God’s commands are put into practice.

These movements are an essential part of Biblical preaching, as Wright made clear in his seminar lectures as well. In addition to the Anglican Alexandria School of Theology, Bishop Mouneer Anis invited also the Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical seminaries to participate. Though expecting around 60 people, 135 attended, including the Archbishop of Sudan and three additional Sudanese bishops.

To all he gave the same message, as relevant in Europe 500 years ago as it is today.

“As heirs of the Reformation,” said Wright, “we must search the scriptures together and respond with all sincerity and joy.”

 

 

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Current Events

Anglican Bishops Defy British Embassy to Kick-Start Egyptian Tourism

anglican-global-south-at-pyramids
Photo: Andrew Gross

In a defiant gesture of faith from beneath the Pyramids, Anglican bishops sent a message to the world this week:  Egypt is safe.

And this on a weekend the UK embassy warned against visiting public places.

Representing twenty of the more conservative provinces of the worldwide Anglican Communion, delegates to the Sixth Global South conference in Cairo visited the Giza pyramids and dined on the Nile in a show of solidarity.

‘I appeal to you as an Egyptian, please return and visit Egypt,’ Bishop Mouneer Hanna Anis, chairman of the Global South, told delegates.

‘Our economy depends on tourism, and when it is down, thousands of Egyptians cannot earn a living.’

The tourism sector employs roughly four million Egyptians, representing 12.6 percent of the work force. But according to the Central Bank of Egypt, tourism revenue declined by nearly a half – 48.9 percent – year-on-year to September 2016.

The 31 October, 2015 crash of Russian Metrojet Flight 9268 over the Egyptian Sinai desert, claimed by the Islamic State, had a disastrous impact.

Russia, who represented 35 per cent of arrivals, has since barred all flights to Egypt, and the UK at 12 per cent have canceled flights to resort areas in the Sinai.

Ghostlike

luxor-temple
Photo: Darren Haley

In Cairo the pyramids stood empty. In Luxor there was just one family at their hotel, where staff threw a party for their one-year-old’s birthday, to show their appreciation.

American Darren Haley said:  ‘It was sad to see just how much Egypt has to offer and how few are willing to take the journey.  Egypt is history just waiting to be explored.’

Egypt is struggling to promote tourism with an ongoing Islamist insurgency.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reacted furiously to UK and other embassy warnings that they said could ‘harm the country’s economy.’

Without identifying the threat, the UK embassy issued a warning 7 October to avoid ‘large gatherings and public spaces,’ specifically mentioning museums.

‘Most terrorist attacks target the security forces,’ reports the embassy website,‘but it’s likely that foreigners, including tourists, will also be targeted.’

So the bishops’ stance is all the more remarkable.  ‘I wanted the Anglican delegates to see a different picture of Egypt than what they see in the media,’ Bishop Anis told Lapido.

‘It is unfair to call Egypt unsafe, as we have seen there is no place in the world safe from terrorism.’

Before the Russian airline crash tourism was showing signs of recovery. Revenues had increased 45.3 percent compared to a year earlier.

Rebound

Egypt hopes a second rebound is coming.

Officials are finalizing negotiations with the Russian authorities to restore flights. Egypt Air resumed London-Luxor travel on 3 October.

On 10 October Egypt completed restoration work at the shrine of King Tuthmosis III in Karnak Temple.

Last month the ransacked Mallawi Museum in Upper Egypt was reopened for the first time since pro-Morsi rioting in August 2013.

But even throughout this tumultuous period, tourists have come.

‘We have never had a bad experience, even during the uprisings of the last five years,’ Bishop Timothy Ranji of Kenya told Lapido. Every year since 2004 he has brought thirty clergy to Egypt for religious pilgrimage.

‘Egypt is secure, full of lovely people, and I invite everyone to come,’ said Archbishop Tito Zavala of Chile.

‘I am an ordinary person here. There is no need for bodyguards.’

anglican-global-south-bishops-at-pyramids
Photo: Andrew Gross

This article was published first at Lapido Media.

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Current Events

Global South Anglicans Tour the Egyptian Treasures

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Credit: Andrew Gross

In cooperation with the Ministry of Tourism, the sixth Anglican Global South conference enjoyed a taste of Egyptian antiquities. Delegates toured the Giza pyramids, a papyrus gallery, and the Egyptian museum, closing the day with a dinner cruise on the Nile River.

“Egypt is safe,” said Archbishop Mouneer Hanna Anis of Egypt, chairman of the Global South Anglicans. “As an Egyptian I appeal to you, please come and visit.”

Anis emphasized to delegates that one-third of the Egyptian economy depends on tourism. Millions of lives are affected by the downturn, he said.

But both bishops and laity smiled as they interacted with local Egyptians, tasted local dishes, and took countless selfies.

Theirs was the absolute opposite attitude of Jonah, who ran from the place to which God called him. Johan was the subject of the morning’s Bible study led by Archbishop Tito Zavala of Chile, on the church and the challenge of world evangelization.

Zavala highlighted several applications from Jonah’s story. God is in control of everything, so no matter the hardship and rebellion, Christians should never give up in their missionary enterprise.

God’s unique character is full of compassion, so Christians also must love all the people of the world, even their enemies.

Some Christians suffer from Jonah Syndrome, getting angry at everything that conflicts with their biases. Zavala asked delegates if they view their cultures similarly. Do they have a missions mindset, or a maintenance mindset?

Instead of simply having the right theology of evangelism, churches must develop actual touchpoints with society. He highlighted the development of his own nation of Chile, where the Anglican work began in the 1820s with foreign expats only.

Today the Anglicans have 100 churches in the country, with 95 percent Chilean leadership funded by 95 percent local tithes. Zavala himself was the first Chilean to be appointed bishop, and now he is the first Latin American to become an Anglican primate.

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President Sisi Welcomes the Anglican Global South to Cairo

anglican-global-south-with-president-sisi
Credit: Egyptian Presidential Office

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of Egypt welcomed yesterday a delegation of 16 archbishops from the Anglican Global South, led by Archbishop Mouneer Hanna Anis, chairman of the Global South Steering Committee.

In a discussion lasting 90 minutes, Sisi affirmed the important role religious leaders play in peacemaking, helping spread a culture of tolerance and accepting the ‘other’.

Unfortunately, he said, extremists in religion do not accept diversity, calling anyone who disagrees with them an ‘infidel’ worthy to be killed.

Sisi told the archbishops that Egypt is keen to guarantee freedom of belief and worship for all its citizens, stressing the need to reform religious discourse to confront such extremism.

The archbishops commended Sisi for visiting the Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Cairo for Coptic Christmas on January 7, to which Sisi replied it was his joy to be able to bring such joy to others.

Archbishop Ezekiel Kondo of Sudan and South Sudan thanked Sisi for looking after the refugees in Egypt, the majority of whom are Sudanese.

At the end of the meeting Anis thanked Sisi for their warm reception, and spoke of the efforts of the Egyptian diocese to build bridges between the different faith communities.

The meeting was also attended by the British ambassador to Egypt John Casson, joining Bishop Paul Butler of Durham in the UK, a member of the House of Lords.

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Global South Anglicans Open 6th Conference with a Nod to Athanasius

anglican-global-south-day-one
Credit: Michael Adel

Anglicans of the Global South met today in All Saints Cathedral, Cairo, taking communion and opening their sixth conference. Archbishop Mouneer Hanna Anis of Egypt, chairman of the Global South Steering Committee, welcomed 12 primates and 90 delegates from 20 provinces of the Anglican Church.

In his opening address he gave a brief history lesson, recalling an earlier archbishop of Egypt, the 4th century Athanasius of Alexandria.

“He was known as ‘contra mundum’, ‘against the world’,” said Anis of the ancient champion against the heresy of Arianism. “He was opposed at that time even by the emperor, but eventually the false teaching disappeared, while orthodoxy flourished.”

Anis encouraged delegates to take two lessons from this history. First, drawing on the conference theme from I Corinthians 4:2, the church must be “found faithful” to the gospel received from the apostles. Second, the truth will prevail in the end.

Anis decried an “ideological slavery” in which some in the Western church use their money and influence to push their agenda on the Global South. They undermine the scripture and the traditions of the church in redefining the definition of marriage, he said, and their unilateral choices to ordain homosexual bishops is fraying the fabric of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

“I want to weep,” Anis said, “as Jesus did over Jerusalem.”

Anis also challenged delegates over the weaknesses of churches in the Global South. Corruption, tribalism, polygamy, poor treatment of women, and the prosperity gospel all show the need for greater theological education.

The church must also address the issues of poverty and economic migration, moving away from a dependency on Western aid into a more sustainable development. And as concerns terrorism and religious violence, Christians must again look to history, following the example of the martyrs, if necessary.

During the communion service, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria preached on the peace of Christ that is able to prevail in a crisis situation. The world has not achieved peace, citing examples in Syria, Yemen, Sudan, the Central African Republic, and his own homeland.

Christians, however, are called to be peacemakers focused on justice, fairness, and the love of God. This is also a call for world evangelization, he said, that the knowledge of the Lord may fill the earth as the waters cover the sea, quoting the prophecy of Isaiah 11.

Bishop Rennis Ponniah of Singapore prayed for the delegates, that God would melt their pride, free them from biases, and strip away all rivalries. He urged humility and submission to follow Jesus, that God would reveal what this means for them in the Global South.

“Let us weep over what breaks your heart,” Ponniah prayed. “May our faithfulness be the means by which you restore your church.”

Ecumenical and interfaith guests included representatives of Al Azhar, the Vatican, the Coptic Orthodox and Coptic Catholic Churches, and the Armenian Catholics. Political and diplomatic guests included representatives from the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the embassies of the United States and Singapore.

The Anglican Church has 85 million members in 164 countries, the world’s third largest Christian denomination behind Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox. Anglicans in the 24 provinces of the Global South number 61.8 million, constituting 72 percent of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Participants included archbishops from the provinces of Sudan, Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Burundi, Southern Africa, Western Africa, Indian Ocean, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar and South East Asia. Joining them from outside the Global South were archbishops from North America, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

Archbishop Anis urged them to adopt a joint statement of faith.

“Our unity in the Global South is very important,” said Anis as he closed the opening session. “We must face our many challenges together.”

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Global South Anglicans to Hold Sixth Conference in Cairo

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From October 3-8, All Saints Cathedral in Cairo, Egypt will host the sixth conference of the Anglican Global South. Over 100 delegates from 20 provinces will discuss the challenges facing the church in the world today.

Archbishop Mouneer Hanna Anis of Egypt is also chairman of the Global South steering committee. He stated the most critical of these challenges include poverty, illegal immigration, religious violence, and the false teachings about homosexual marriage prevalent in the West.

Delegates will also discuss the importance of ecumenical and interfaith dialogue. Invited guests to the opening session include the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Ahmed El-Tayeb, and Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II.

The Anglican Church has 85 million members in 164 countries, the world’s third largest Christian denomination behind Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox. Anglicans in the 24 provinces of the Global South number 61.8 million, constituting 72 percent of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Expected participants include archbishops from the provinces of Sudan, Nigeria, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Burundi, Southern Africa, Western Africa, Indian Ocean, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar and South East Asia. Joining them from outside the Global South will be archbishops from North America, Australia, and the United Kingdom.

The first plenary session will be led by recently retired Bishop Bill Musk of North Africa, on the historic church of Carthage in present day Tunisia. He will be followed by Dr. Michael Glerup of Yale University and executive director of the Center for Early African Christianity, speaking on how Africa shaped the Christian mind. The final seminar will feature Dr. Ashley Null, renowned scholar of Thomas Cramner, on how Africa shaped the Anglican faith.

The sixth Global South conference was originally scheduled for Tunis in 2015, cancelled on the advice of the Tunisian authorities due to terrorist threats. But this year delegates will spend half a day touring the Egyptian Museum and Giza Pyramids, and enjoy a dinner cruise on the Nile River.

Begun in 1994 in Kenya, each of the five previous Global South gatherings issued a “trumpet,” a declaration of principles and call to stand firm on the faith received from the Apostles. It is expected that many delegates will wish to challenge the current innovations happening within the traditional centers of Anglicanism in the United Kingdom and North America.

“This is a critical moment in the life of the Anglican Church,” said Bishop Mouneer. “We pray that as we strive for both truth and unity, our efforts will be ‘found faithful’ by God Almighty.”


Note: I will be assisting the diocese with its media coverage of the event, and will provide updates as possible.