Are Anglicans Really Protestants? Complex Row Between Christians In Egypt Reignites Old Argument

Dr Anis said that the diocese was "under heavy attack" from the ECA.Reuters

An organisation of evangelical Protestant churches in Egypt has defended its behaviour towards Anglicans and has denied it is trying to appropriate their churches.

The Anglicans fear a recent court decision could see them subsumed into the Central Office of Protestant Churches (COPC) in Egypt and lose their identity as a separate legal entity.

Archbishop of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, Mouneer Anis, 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." He also complained that he needed to  get approval from COPC to obtain or renew visas for Anglican church workers. "This is causing us a great deal of trouble."

COPC spoke out after a judge ruled that the Anglican Church in Egypt is in effect part of their organisation, and Archbishop Mouneer issued a letter criticising the decision.

In a statement put out this week, COPC said that in the 1940s the Episcopal Anglican Church asked to be allowed to register marriages and authorise of death certificates.

Archbishop Mouneer Anis, second from right, processes with Archbishop Nicholas Okoh of Nigeria, right.Chris Sugden

Permission was granted. "Therefore, the General Council of Protestant Churches has implicitly considered the Episcopal Church as a member of the Protestant Churches of Egypt ever since," the statement said.

In 1982, COPC designated the Episcopal Church an Egyptian Protestant Church.

Currently, the Episcopal Church in Egypt is still officially under the umbrella of COPC.

The courts and Supreme Court in Egypt have refused all attempts by Archbishop Mouneer to separate his denomination them. 

In Egypt, there are more than 1,500 Protestant churches and thousands of other church buildings.

The Protestant body said that current disputes over a couple of church buildings were nothing to do with them. 

COPC does not have the right to buy or sell churches belonging to its members because they are officially owned by these independent denominations, it said.

Archbishop Mouneer will be invited to participate in COPC's general council meetings, as a member of the council.

He said he is to appeal the latest Supreme Court decision.

He said his diocese applied for a visa for one of its workers and had been told it needed a recommendation from the COPC. "This has never happened before, at least in my time as a Bishop from 2000," he 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. 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, Archbishop Mouneer said that the diocese was "under heavy attack" from COPC. He said that for more than two hundred years, the government recognised the Episcopal Anglicans as an independent denomination, but now COPC "is asking the different governmental offices not to deal with us directly but through them."