Eastern and Coptic Orthodox Churches
The churches of Eastern Europe and the Middle East represent at least three tragic splinterings. The first is the non-Chalcedonian Orthodox family (Armenian, Syrian, Coptic [Egyptian], and Ethiopian) excommunicated at the Council of Chalcedon (451) over christological controversy--while the West and major orthodox bodies hold to two natures of Christ (the human and the divine), the non-Chalcedonian Orthodox hold to one nature, in which the divine and the human are one "without mingling, without amalgamation and without alteration." In 1054 other churches of the East split from the West; these 15 bodies (e.g., Greek, Serbian, Russian) are "orthodox" in that they accept the Chalcedonian christology (as do Western churches) but they acknowledge the patriarch of Constantinople as "ecumenical patriarch"—instead of recognizing the Roman pope's claims to be the jurisdictional head of the universal church. A third group, the Uniates (sometimes called Melkites), consists of five churches that have renewed ties with Rome after the 16th century, but retain their Eastern, non-Latin liturgies. (The Maronites of Lebanon claim never to have broken ties with Rome.)
Mennonite interaction with these churches, despite Mennonite presence in these areas, has been minimal. Mennonites in their two centuries in Russia had little to do with the Russian Orthodox, and recent North American Mennonite fraternal visits have concentrated on the All-Union Council of Evangelical Christians - Baptists. The Eastern Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities (EMBMC) have had a vital interaction in Yugoslavia with Baptist and Pentecostal churches but not with the Serbian Orthodox. A student exchange between Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) and the Romanian Orthodox church resulted in Mennonites studying in Bucharest, and two priests, who later served Romanian parishes in Detroit and Vancouver, studying at Canadian Mennonite Bible College and Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries. In Jordan, there have been fraternal relationships between MCC and several Orthodox groups but no organizational or service ties. Some Mar Thoma (Eastern Syrian Orthodox-non-Chalcedonian) students from India have attended Mennonite schools in North America and there have been fraternal contacts with the Syrian Orthodox (Chalcedonian) in Lebanon. MCC has been an observer at the Orthodox-dominated Middle East Council of Churches, which was based in Cyprus in 1987, and an MCC health care worker has been made available to the council in its work in Lebanon. Close working and worshiping relations existed between MCC workers and Greek Orthodox bishop Ireneos in Crete (1962-1977) when MCC cooperated in agricultural and vocational training projects; this was a reflection of close personal relationships rather than structural ecumenicity. Eastern Mennonite Board of Missions and Charities (MC) and MCC attention in Ethiopia has concentrated on the Meserete Kristos Church (Mennonite), and no relations with the Ethiopian Orthodox church exist. In Egypt, MCC involvement with the Coptic Orthodox began in 1970 with material aid shipments. Placement of a teacher of English in the Coptic Orthodox Institute followed in 1979. Since then, active MCC involvement with diocesan spiritual renewal movements has augmented such teacher placements. Several Coptic bishops have visited Mennonite centers in North America. In the Sudan's Atbara region MCC has helped sponsor events such as the World Day of Prayer that brings together Catholics, Evangelicals, and Coptic Orthodox.
Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Waterloo, Ontario, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, p. 252. All rights reserved. For information on ordering the encyclopedia visit the Herald Press website.
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To cite this page:
MLA style: Ratzlaff, Vernon. "Eastern and Coptic Orthodox Churches." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1990. Web. 23 May 2013. http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/E23873.html.
APA style: Ratzlaff, Vernon. (1990). Eastern and Coptic Orthodox Churches. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 23 May 2013, from http://www.gameo.org/encyclopedia/contents/E23873.html.