An expounder of false teachings, a man named Atef Aziz, who was excommunicated and whose teachings were formally condemned by the Church of Alexandria’s Holy Synod of bishops in 2002, has recently emerged particularly in the United States of America and has gained some ground and following in the hearts of some. On June 1, 2016 many Copts (by way of CopticWorld.org) and others received a communication from the bishops of North America warning Copts not to have anything to do with Atef Aziz (who has changed his name several times) or his followers or teachings, or otherwise be subject to suspension and possible excommunication. (To learn more about this heresy and recent controversies related to him, see the end of this post). (I got wind of this initially when I, as many others, heard the news of a beloved priest who was originally implicated with Atef Aziz’s teachings but has (as I understand it) since clarified to the Coptic pope his position and remains accepted within the flock.)
Here I continue the second and final part of relaying Francella Brown’s conversion story, from a life lived away from God, to one that was closer to Him and developed further in her joining the Coptic Orthodox Church. For part one, please click here.
Recently, through a mutual acquaintance (Fr. Anthony Messeh), I was introduced to Francella Brown when she planned a trip to Atlanta to visit the St. Mary & St. Demiana Convent. In spite of a very short time knowing her, it’s hard not to immediately embrace her infectious personality, and I regard her as a very dear friend. Of course, after confirming she was a convert to Orthodoxy, I had to ask her about her background and what led her to wanting to come visit a Coptic convent. With her permission, I recorded her inspirational story so that I may share it with others, for the glory of God. I’m providing her story as a recorded podcast, as well as in written blog posts, in two parts.
I’ll be honest. When I found out I was scheduled to speak to my Sunday school class about the the first four chapters in St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, I was less than thrilled, as I didn’t know if I could find a relevant, practical message that could have an impact on those listening. Four chapters, 60 minutes. How?
I just finished giving the lesson and I must say, as I went along the journey of preparing for it, I was delighted to find deep, core Orthodox Christian messages that I was able to share, and that may be easily missed. And this was just the first four chapters! Continue reading →
Where in the Bible does it explicitly state, “Only bishops and priests can baptize and confer the Holy Spirit?” Where explicitly? Nowhere.
So why do we Orthodox Christians believe this? I am addressing this here because someone recently challenged me with just that question, and I realize many Orthodox do not know how to confront this question. Here’s my take. Continue reading →
You squeeze into a small room that can fit only a handful of people. You are barely able to follow along as the bishop/priest rushes through his prayers and the responses to those prayers leave you wanting. You examine the parents’ faces, the baby, and those gathered around, and offer a smile if anyone happens to glance your way. And all you and mostly everyone really wants is simply to get to the end of the service when the baby is dunked in the water three times.
For most of us, the rest of the service is really just superfluous. “Just get to the end already!” is what many of us are probably thinking. And finally, after the “main event,” the baby puts on his new outfit—oh how cute! And then the baby is paraded around the church at the end of the Divine Liturgy in a procession that has all the “deacons” (most of whom were not present in the baptism ceremony) asking, “What’s the kid’s name? Is it a boy or girl? What do we say at the end of this Axios? Do we go around three times or just once? Someone bring a candle! Two candles? Or just one?”
And then it’s all over, and what exactly happened? That’s how the priest actually ends the service, asking, “Didn’t you hear the words full of awe that were told you about the holy baptism?”
How many of those who attended are able to describe the key elements of the baptism ceremony that they just witnessed? Sadly, quite few. It has become more of a show rather than a solemn mystery. Here is my list of 5 key highlights of this occasion that people often miss: