A long-running legal battle between Anglicans in Egypt and a separate denomination, the Evangelical Church Association (ECA), has culminated with a court decision that could see the Anglicans' separate legal identity vanish.
The Anglican Episcopal Diocese of Egypt is appealing the decision, reached after 14 years of legal struggle. According to ACNS, the Bishop of Egypt, Dr Mouneer Anis, has called on Anglicans to pray and advocate with their local Egyptian consulates and embassies to get the ruling reversed.
A judge has ruled that the Anglican Church in Egypt and its buildings belong to the ECA. Anis, who is also the Archbishop of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, told ACNS: "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."
He said that earlier this month the diocese had applied for a visa for one of its workers and had been told it needed a recommendation from the ECA. "This has never happened before, at least in my time as a Bishop from 2000," Anis said.
The secretary general of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, said he was "greatly saddened" by the situation.
"There is a very long tradition of Anglicanism in Egypt," he said. "We simply cannot lose our identity as Anglicans there. We hope and pray that the Egyptian government and the legal authorities will recognise that we are an independent denomination."
In a prayer letter to supporters, Dr Anis said that the diocese was "under heavy attack" from the ECA. "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," he 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.
Anis told ACNS he was asking Anglicans and Episcopalians to pray for the Church in Egypt. "We feel deprived from our legal rights and our role as a Church, and our freedom, may be compromised," he said.
In particular, he asked for prayer for a fair judgment in the current court case; and for prayers for people in the church, "who are sad about this situation".