Out of Egypt
Bishop Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church
Bishop Angaelos is General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom. He served as private secretary to the late Pope Shenouda until 1995, when he was delegated to serve a parish in the U.K. He was consecrated bishop in 1999 and is active ecumenically at the local, national, and international levels. He travels extensively to speak at various youth conferences and conventions. See www.CopticCentre.com.
The following interview took place during a meeting of the Lausanne-Orthodox Initiative, on September 19, 2014, at St. Vlash Monastery, Durres, Albania. Bishop Angaelos is the co-chair of the Lausanne-Orthodox Initiative, "a movement of Orthodox and Evangelical Christians who wish to respect each other's beliefs, learn from each other, and support one another as we each obey the call to share in God's mission" (www.loimission.net).
How did you become involved with the Lausanne-Orthodox Initiative?
I received an invitation from the Lausanne Movement to attend their meeting in Capetown in 2010. It was the first meeting they had had in nearly twenty years.
I arrived late on the first day; sessions had already started, and it had been a long journey to South Africa, so I decided to go and have a cup of coffee. While having my coffee, I noticed two people sitting to my left. They asked who I was and what I was doing there. Obviously, the Lausanne Movement is an Evangelical movement—among 4,000 Evangelicals, I was one of only four Orthodox who were there. So a lot of the people there had never seen an Orthodox clergyman before. They asked who I was—I was dressed in my cassock; within our tradition we're always vested in cassocks. And so we had a conversation.
I received an email inviting me to lunch with them, and so I went and had lunch. There was a session just after that. The session was quite disturbing because it referred to some of the majority Orthodox Eastern European countries as "unreached." I came out of this thinking, "What do you mean by unreached? Christianity has been there for decades and in some cases centuries." We met again, and I flagged this. They were very apologetic and explained that not everyone thought like that, of course.
I was particularly challenged by the fact that in Egypt and other countries there isn't always a healthy relationship between Evangelicals and Orthodox, because Evangelical missions have come into a place like Egypt, where Christianity has existed for two thousand years, and exercised elements of proselytism, where they are preaching to people who are already Christian, rather than preaching to the majority non-Christian population. That has always been a concern of mine because, as you've seen me here [at the consultation], I have very good relationships with non-Orthodox outside of Egypt—but that is the dynamic in Egypt, and the same dynamic exists in lots of other majority Orthodox countries. The relationships are very tense and very unhealthy.
I thought, we need to do something about this. It just so happened that two of the people I was invited to dinner with were Leslie Doll, who is here with us at the consultation, and Grace Matthews, who is also here and was a member of the Lausanne board. I invited them to London to have a conversation. We had a meeting there in January 2011. Leslie and Grace were there, and Mark Oxbrow also, who is based in Oxford. The four of us met and we asked, "What do we do about this?" I am always someone who likes to take the next step. It is not good enough to just meet. So I suggested that we establish an international steering committee to take this forward. We suggested names. Within a few months we had met as an international steering committee. That steering committee met about three times between 2011 and 2012; it planned for our first international consultation in 2013 here in Albania, and now this is our second.
And you hope to have a third, and that may develop into some joint . . .
James M. Kushiner is the Director of Publications for The Fellowship of St. James and the former Executive Editor of Touchstone.
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