EGYPT: Anglican Diocese of Egypt in battle with Protestant Churches of Egypt
By David W. Virtue, DD
January 6, 2017
The following is a letter VOL received from Dr. Andrea Zaki, president of the Protestant Churches of Egypt, about the relationship between his organization and the Anglican Diocese of Egypt which is seeking full provincial status within the Anglican Communion.
A story put out by George Conger of Anglican Ink, with a headline Presbyterians mount hostile takeover of the Anglican Diocese of Egypt is false. There is no mounting hostility by Presbyterians toward the Anglican Diocese of Egypt. The dispute is between the Protestant Churches of Egypt and the Anglican Diocese. The president of the Council happens to be a Presbyterian, Dr. Andrea Zaki, a solid evangelical and graduate of Langham Ministries, the ministry of the late John Stott. Archbishop Mouneer Anis would like the same status afforded the Coptic Church of Egypt, but to date that has not been forthcoming. The Government of Egypt believes that the Anglican diocese is or should be part of the Protestant Council which Dr. Anis vehemently wants to change. He would like to be separate from it, but only the courts can decide that. VOL takes no position as to who is right or wrong. It is in the hands of God and the Egyptian Government as to how events will turn out.
The relationship between Central Office of the Protestant Churches of Egypt, and the Episcopal Anglican Church of Egypt
By Andrea Zaki
The historical relationship between Central Office of the Protestant Churches of Egypt (which officially represents the 18 protestant denominations before the state), and the Episcopal Anglican Church in Egypt began in the early 1940s, when the Episcopal Anglican Church asked to approve the registration of marriage contracts conducted by pastors of the Anglican Church, as well as authorization of the death certificates they issue.
After studying the case, the General Council of Protestant Churches approved the registration of Anglican marriage contracts and death certificates, using the council forms approved by the Bishop and Associate Bishop of the Anglican Church. Therefore, the General Council of Protestant Churches has implicitly considered the Episcopal Church as a member of the Protestant Churches of Egypt ever since.
On October 10, 1980, former Anglican Church Bishop Isaac Mossad sent a request to the President of the Protestant Churches of Egypt, to include the Episcopal Church under the Protestant Churches of Egypt. In February 1982, the General Council of Protestant Churches approved his request and considered the Episcopal Church an Egyptian Protestant Church reserving all rights and duties of Protestant Churches of Egypt.
On April 17, 1981, the Council decided to re-categorize the Protestant Churches into four groups, where the Episcopal Church was considered as one of the churches under the Protestant umbrella. The Ministry of Interior was informed of the decision as required by law. On May 20, 1988, based on the Episcopal Church nomination, former Bishop Gaius Abd El Malek, represented the Episcopal Church in the Council, constantly attending and participating in council meetings. To date, the Episcopal Church in Egypt is officially under the umbrella of Central Office of the Protestant Churches of Egypt, with official documents proving the status.
Since 2007, after Bishop Mounir Hanna became Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Egypt, the Church began thinking of separating from the Protestant Churches of Egypt, raising a number of cases before the Egyptian courts, calling for the abolition of the Minister of Interior's decision considering the Episcopal Church as a denomination under Central Office of the Protestant Churches of Egypt.
The courts rejected all appeals presented by the Episcopal Church, and most recently the final verdict issued by the Supreme Court of Egypt on June 25, 2016. Concerning the Episcopal Church's claim that Central Office of the Protestant Churches of Egypt has taken over some of the Church's properties, this accusation is an attempt to create confusion between the entities of Central Office of the Protestant Churches of Egypt and the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, which is one of the eighteen denominations under Central Office of the Protestant Churches of Egypt. The claims regarding the Evangelical Presbyterian Church taking over two churches, one in Suez and another in Ismailia, is a problem between two churches--the Anglican Church and the Presbyterian Church.
Central Office of the Protestant Churches of Egypt is not an involved party in the matter. As for the Church of Suez, it has been handed over to the Episcopal Church upon the Presbyterian Church's approval. Concerning the church of Ismailia, there is still a pending case before the courts. This church was established by the British, but the land was owned by the Suez Canal Authority, which in turn handed it over to the Presbyterian Church to be used many years ago after the nationalization of the canal and the departure of the British.
Later, the Episcopal Church claimed ownership of the church because it belonged to the British. There is currently a dispute over the ownership of the church between the Presbyterian Church and the Suez Canal Authority, overlapping the Episcopal Church.
According to the Egyptian law, the role of the Central Office of the Protestant Churches of Egypt is limited to validating all the purchase contracts, which are signed by the different Protestant denominations' members. It does not violate the property of anyone. All contracts are official and concluded between the legal representative of the denominations and the owner, the seller, and/or the buyer.
In Egypt, there are over 1500 Protestant churches and thousands of other properties. The Central Office of the Protestant Churches of Egypt does not have the right to buy or sell them because they are officially owned by independent denominations/churches that are part of the Protestant Churches of Egypt. On the other hand, the Central Office of the Protestant Churches of Egypt, like all other Egyptian Churches (Catholic and Orthodox), refuses to lobby foreign governments--with official representation in Egypt--to put pressure on decision makers to make decision in local disputes.
This idea is completely rejected, especially trying to put pressure on the Church and interfering with its internal affairs. All disputes are settled amicably between the involved parties or through the Egyptian courts. Based on the above and the final court verdict issued on June 25, 2016, the Central Office of the Protestant Churches of Egypt once again welcomed the return of the Episcopal Church to work with us as one of our member Churches. Bishop Mounir Hanna will be invited to participate in the General Council of Protestant Churches meetings, as a member of the Council, as well as other meetings held with member Churches' leaders.
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