Our Orthodox Faith

Q: What does "Coptic" mean?
A: The term "Coptic" is derived from the Greek "Aigyptos" meaning "Egyptian." When the Arabs arrived in Egypt in the seventh century, they called the Egyptians "qibt." Thus the Arabic word "qibt" came to mean both "Egyptians" and "Christians."

Q: Why do you call yourselves "Orthodox"?
A: The word "orthodox" was coined by the ancient Christian Fathers of the Church. Orthodox is a combination of two Greek words, "orthos" and "doxa."

"Orthos" means "straight" or "correct." "Doxa" means at one and the same time "glory," "worship" and "doctrine." So the word orthodox signifies both "proper worship" and "correct doctrine."

The Orthodox Church today is identical to the undivided Church in ancient times. The Protestant Reformer Martin Luther once remarked that he believed the pure Faith of primitive Christianity is to be found in the Orthodox Church.

Q: Who founded the Coptic Orthodox Church?
A: The Copts are proud of the apostolicity of their Church, whose founder is St. Mark – one of the seventy Apostles and one of the four Evangelists. He is regarded by the Coptic hierarchy as the first of their unbroken 117 patriarchs and also the first of a stream of Egyptian martyrs.

This apostolicity was furnished not only on grounds of its foundation, but rather by the persistence of the Church in observing the same faith received by the Apostle and his successors, the Holy Fathers.

Q: I thought there are just two kinds of Christians, Protestant and Catholic. How can you claim you are neither?
A:From the Orthodox point of view, Roman Catholicism is a medieval modification of the original Orthodoxy of the Church in Western Europe, and Protestantism is a later attempt to return to the original Faith. To our way of thinking, the Reformation did not go far enough.

We respectfully differ with Roman Catholicism on the questions of papal authority, the nature of the church, and a number of other consequential issues. Historically, the Orthodox Church is both "pre-Protestant" and "pre-Roman Catholic" in the sense that many modern Roman Catholic teachings were developed much later in Christian history.

The word "catholic" is a Greek word meaning "having to do with wholeness." We do consider ourselves "catholic" in that sense of the word, that is, as proclaiming and practicing “the Whole Faith.” In fact, the full title of our Church is "The Orthodox Catholic Church."

We find that Protestants readily relate to Orthodoxy's emphasis on personal faith and the Scriptures. Roman Catholics easily identify with Orthodoxy's rich liturgical worship and sacramental life.

Many of the "polarities" between Protestants and the Roman Communion (i.e., "Word versus Sacrament" or "Faith versus Works") have never arisen in the Orthodox Church. We believe Orthodox theology offers the Western denominations a way in which apparently opposite differences can be reconciled.
Q: Are you a conservative or liberal church?
A:In current usage, the words "conservative" and "liberal" indicate a variety of often-conflicting viewpoints. Usually we don’t really fit either category very well.

On three major occasions during the first millennium of Christianity the leaders of the worldwide Church, from Britain to Ethiopia, from Spain and Italy to Arabia, met to settle crucial issues of Faith. The Orthodox Church is highly "conservative" in the sense that we have not added to or subtracted from any of the teachings of those three Ecumenical Councils. But that very "conservatism" often makes us "liberal" in certain questions of civil liberties, social justice and peace. We are very conservative, or rather traditional, in our liturgical worship.
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