[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] The Bishop of Egypt, Dr Mouneer Anis, has called on Anglicans to pray and advocate with their local Egyptian consulates and embassies after a court ruling effectively subsumed the diocese into a separate denominational body. Dr Anis, who is also the Archbishop of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, told ACNS that the Evangelical Church Association (ECA) has been laying claim to the Anglican Episcopal Diocese of Egypt for several years. Now, after a 14-year legal battle, a court has ruled that the Anglican Church in Egypt belongs to the ECA and can only be represented by the ECA President.
“This preposterous claim did not just stop there,” Dr Anis said. “They further claimed that they can take possession of all of the Episcopal/Anglican Church properties as their own. They are now forcing us to take their approval before we notarise any document in the government. Moreover, we need to receive the approval of the ECA before we ask immigration to grant or renew visas to our workers. This is causing us a great deal of trouble.”
The Anglican church has had a presence in Egypt since the early 1800s; the first church was built in 1839 on land donated by the Governor of Egypt, as “a foreign church for the English-speaking community in the country”; today, most services are conducted in Arabic and the congregations are primarily Egyptian. There will be a new hearing next week, on November 1.
In a prayer letter to supporters, Dr Anis said that the diocese was “under heavy attack” from the ECA, which is a Presbyterian denomination. “For more than two hundred years, the government recognised us as an independent denomination, but now the ECA is asking the different governmental offices not to deal with us directly but through them.”
The standing committee of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, of which the Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa is a part, and the bishops of the province are united in opposing the ECA’s actions. They “rejected the idea of having one diocese in the Province to be under another denomination,” Dr Anis said. A letter from the Province has been sent to the President of Egypt and to Pope Tawadros II, leader of the Coptic Orthodox Church, in a bid to resolve the issue.
Image: Archbishop Mouneer Anis with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby in 2013, from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s website.