21. Laymen and the Church; causes and controversies [2]

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21. Laymen and the Church; causes and controversies [2]


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p. 9
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Kamal Zakhir
Katia Saqqa
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Kamāl Zākhir presents a review of his own book that aims, as he states, to enforce the culture of objective dialogue through presenting a vision of the church and lay history and reality.

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Zākhir discusses a book of his entitled ‘al-‘Almānyyūnwa al-Kanīsah.. Sirā‘t wa Tahālufāt’ [Laymen and the Church; Conflicts and Alliances]. Zākhir argues that the book is based on the idea that the church is the Christ’s body, however, it is also a human community and thus can be subject to continuous revisions and measures, from the examples of the patriarchs.
Zākhir states that the book does not defend the laymen [Reviewer: the laymen here is used to refer to a particular group of laymen that calls for what its members call reform in the Coptic Orthodox Church, and not to laymen in general.]
However, Zākhir argues, the book is a reading of people’s role in administrating the church. The book, he elaborates, is also a reminder of the inevitability of the need to establish a documented church regulation that controls the church according to the present reality, and at the same time is based on the tradition of the patriarchs.
Moreover, Zākhir states that the book tacks one of the most “fertile” and rich eras in the history of the Coptic Orthodox Church with regard to pubic activity; namely, in the 1940s and 1950s. He highlights the Madāris al-Ahad group [Sunday Schools] that was very active in the church in that era.
He then provides a “track” of the group between 1947 and 1954 and shows how members of that group entered the clergy leadership between 1962 and 2008. He also mentions al-Ummah al-Qibtīyah group [the Coptic Nation] between 1952 and 1954 who not only sought to reform the church but also “revived” the social dimension of the Coptic community, which, according to Zākhir was the main reason behind the group’s quick demise.
Zākhir discusses in more details the book’s argument concerning al-Ummah al-Qibtīyah. He states that information about the group was not complete and that the group was more presented in the light of kidnapping Pope Yūsāb as a revolting gang.
In his book Zākhir analyses three controversial points. The first is that of the patriarch’s elections in the light of the changes that took place in the Coptic Orthodox Church in the last 50 years of the 20th century. The second point is that of public participation in administrating the church, which has functioned through the Community Council that, according to Zākhir has been “emptied” of any content as a result of different political changes over the years.
The third point is the so-called church trials which, according to Zākhir, are not just a clerical issue. He stated that the public is affected in a way or another.
Moreover, the book also highlights what Zākhir calls the “laymen current” with its vision, thoughts and arguments. The book also sheds light on the issue of Coptic expatriates and tries to provide a reading of their role in the church and national context.
Finally, the book discusses monastic life as an influential church mechanism and a public system that emerged from a lay initiative.
Concluding his article, Zākhir states that the book in general seeks to enforce the culture of objective dialogue, stating that the book presents a vision that can be subject to any criticism, clarification and correction.