When Chanters Don’t Chant: How We’ve Lost Sight of the Meaning of “Deaconship” in the Coptic Church

WhenChantersDon'tChantUpdate 6/1:

Looks like the Holy Synod may actually address the matter of chanter ordinations, if I’m reading the following correctly:

From copticworld.org article regarding the May 2015 Holy Synod meeting: “Committee of Pastoral Care and Service: 1- Review the regulations of chanters and celibate consecration for a vote next November.”

https://www.copticworld.org/articles/4745/

Original post:

“I am not a deacon!” That is what I asked a room full of “deacons” to say during a meeting that included the entire gamut of “deacons” from my parish, young and old alike.

“Repeat after me. I am not a deacon!” I exclaimed. Many participated, but there were a few who had an eyebrow raised while responding, and some who did not want to utter a word (and after the meeting, some expressed that they were actually quite offended).

I walked up to the young kids, pointed to one of them and asked, “I am not a deacon, but I am a ???”

Someone blurted out: “Chanter!”

“Yes, that’s right,” I said. Then I pointed to someone older, and asked, “I am not a deacon, but I am a ???”

Understanding better the point of my question, he excitedly responded, “Reader!”

Why all of this? Because the truth is, there is a systemic issue in the Coptic Church that has skewed the meaning of “deaconship,” and I earnestly pray for improvement. But first, we need to see the problem.
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When Men Should Be Silent in Church, According to the Apostle Paul

Coptic Church in Egypt

Photo courtesy of Katherine Nawar.

The apostle Paul is too often (and unfairly) criticized as being a male chauvinist (i.e., excessively displaying prejudiced loyalty for men over women).

One of the main remarks leveraged against him is what he says regarding the need for women to be silent in the church (e.g., 1 Timothy 2:11-12 and 1 Corinthians 14:33-35). While I could attempt to alleviate much of the discomfort or distaste you may have by providing you a lengthy discourse on the historical context of his statement and how it was understood by the early Christians, I would rather focus on leveling the playing field by telling you something you may not know: he told men to keep silent in church too! Continue reading