A note from my heart to my children and sisters

On January 17th, 2016, Irinie Andrawes sent an email with the subject “A note from my heart to my children and sisters”:

Dear all,

Attached is a letter of explanation that I wrote to aid you in this hard time. My deepest prayer is that you are able to understand all that I am trying to relay with the spirit, and that it helps you. I am available if you have any question or concerns.
Attached also is abouna’s letter.

Love in Christ,
Irinie

Note to my children and sisters from Irinie (original pdf)

Full text:

Dear loved ones in Christ,

I know that some of you have been hearing many things in regards to Abouna and I and our position in the church. I have much to tell you, in order to comfort any discomfort or lack of peace that any of you may have. All that I am about to share with you is for the sole purpose of removing any stumbling blocks from your way and to give you momentum in your fight against the doubts from the enemy, who is trying to get us to deny the true work of God in us during recent years. For those who are confused and need some clarity, it is time for me, Irinie, to be open and honest about all that is going on, including my past and current struggles, through which I wish to relay the prominent presence and work of God, but never to offend.

As many of you know about me, I was born into the Coptic Orthodox faith, raised by a godly, Coptic Orthodox family. My family and I were regular churchgoers and partakers of the sacraments. I was asked to serve from the age of 16 and since then, the love I felt for God gave me the desire to dedicate my life for Him. Not only that, but I also had a passion to pass on this love of God to the whole world, although I was lacking experience and resources at the time. I continued serving through my young adulthood, putting it above all, even any career ambitions. After 14 years, I had my first child and took a break from service.

After having my son, the pressure and transition of the experience revealed a side in me that I had never seen before. My anger, impatience, selfishness, pride and love for control, among other things, all came out of me and I came to find that I couldn’t win such a battle with my own might. I prayed and asked God to help and guide me, but things seemed to only get worse after having my second child.

I became more confused, bitter and angry and the home was upside down and devoid of peace. I was always praying for God to control my anger and aggravation towards the kids. I read all the Christian books I could on raising kids, and many spiritual books, but in the end, I discovered that I am emotionally unhealthy; I have inner upbringing pain that was not dealt with, which is causing this negative behavior. I knew that I wouldn’t be able stop my negative behavior until God healed all this inner pain.

In reflection, I now see why God had me endure this period in my life. Because the more I grew and interacted with others, the more I came to find that many are suffering in the same way. Many are in pain from not being able to reach their spiritual potential with God. This struggle is real but is underestimated by many.

Unknown to me, God had already started His plan of enlightenment and healing many years prior. Back when we first moved to VA in ’97, there was a lady who came regularly from Egypt to visit her brother, and whenever she came she would give us small booklets and sermon tapes of a consecrated servant. His name is Father Seraphim (used to be Atef Aziz). Every time I read one of those booklets or listened to one of his sermons, it always spoke to my heart and I was amazed at the

depth of it and how tangible real holiness became through these resources. In the midst of my struggle came Lent of 2006. Meditating on Christ’s pain comforted me and along with it came an amazing visit of grace during Holy Week. God spoke to me about many things and it was a deep time of repentance for my soul. Right after Holy Week, I bumped into a booklet for this godly man and it seemed to repeat and confirm most things God spoke to me during Holy Week. I was amazed!

A little background on who Fr. Seraphim is before I go on… Fr. Seraphim is currently a respected monk in the Eastern Orthodox Church who started off as a consecrated deacon in the Coptic Church. After many years in the ascetic life, Fr. Seraphim began to pass down the way he received. He taught mainly from the early fathers about the deep treasures of the Coptic Church and about restoring the image of God in us (taking off the old man and putting on the new one). Within his teachings, he at times mentioned the poor spiritual state of the Church. For this reason, he was asked to stop his teachings, and when his teachings still spread through his actual practice and the practice of those who received the way, he was excommunicated. Later, Pope Tawadros attempted to reinstate him among others, but some of the bishops opposed. You can check his sermons online and you will never find anything deviating one degree from the teaching of the Church and the early fathers.

As I mentioned, I grew up in this Coptic faith all my life, and a deep part in me knew very well and held onto the hope of the treasures and restoration that we are promised through the Church in Holy Scripture. But, up until this point, I had not received the practical steps necessary to find these treasures and receive the restoration from within. And in 2011, my dark time had peaked. I was filled with guilt, confused and shaken in my faith. I had many questions in my head, but of course, I was still trying to serve and hide all this pain within me so that none would be offended. I saw that my relationship with my husband was suffering from it, and my now 8 and 6 year old sons showed negative symptoms. It caused me to be offended at God and in great confusion. I asked Him “In Your word, You promise great things to Your children. Have I not been faithful to You? Have I not dedicated my whole life to You? Then why do I suffer from this monster within? And why is it that the harder I try, the worse things seem to get?” I loved reading saint stories, and Tamav Irinie especially affected me. She was immersed in heavenly things. But even this turned negative for me as it made me feel as though God had favorites, and no matter how much I aspired for a saintly life, I remained as a black sheep; enslaved to my sins and misery. I tried to appear strong, and no one knew I was dying spiritually from inside, to the point that I thought to seek counseling. I read all the Christian self-help books, many spiritual books. I learned, though, that counseling can reveal why you are behaving a certain way, but it is unable to change you or heal you- only God can heal and change.

During this dark time God intervened in His mercy. God sent us two consecrated servants in the church (Brothers Amir and Shady). I was touched by the deep spirituality those two deacons had. They turned out to be second-generation disciples of this godly man, Father Seraphim. And so I thought to try and seek his

guidance, as I do with many church elders. I prayed and God opened the door for him to become a guide for me.

This was a turning point in my life, not because of any human ability on either side, but because it was the time when God answered my prayers and gave me a road of obedience to follow. And without His will and His outstretched arm towards me, no amount of resources or guidance could have done what He alone did.

As I began to receive healing, I felt as though I couldn’t hold all of these treasures to myself. I had a responsibility to share all this wealth with anyone longing for it. That’s why I started offering discipleship groups to people who would be interested to commit to it. I saw how the enemy was targeting me as a wife and mother to hinder my family from being a small church for Him. And as we all know, the devil always targets the family in order to advance his agenda. And my deep hope was that I could transfer this way of life to all mothers, mothers to be, and servants who serve God’s children. Because of the real life-changing experiences and the deep freeing work God was doing within me, I felt compelled to hand down everything I received with every ounce of time and energy I had. I never said no to anyone who needed guidance and, with the grace of God, I was able to do that at a time even when Abouna was away on his sabbatical.

The fruit was encouraging: Moms were starting to take their spiritual role with their kids. They started to understand the real battle the enemy puts on our kids and how to build a wall of protection around them. As we were all receiving guidance, we saw how the Holy Spirit is so loud and clear to show us the hidden sicknesses and sins inside us, one at a time, and leads us to repentance and change. We learned how to keep allowing the Holy Spirit to grow our new man (His presence within us) and how to synergize with the Holy Spirit to deal with uprooting the old man totally so that we can discover our role and calling as children of God. We discovered how much the world and its lies have infiltrated our every thought and action, and how to break free from it.

We were encouraged as mothers, wives, servants and dedicated daughters of God to live as God called us to live. Each one of us was growing in the pace God willed. Each one was striving to be consistent in our spiritual rule, and no two people had a similar rule, each depending on their circumstances. My time was very limited and I never asked anyone to follow up, but I made myself available to anyone who requested.

Of course the enemy, who loves to steal, kill and destroy, saw the fruit spreading to many souls and also spreading globally, is now trying to stop this work.

When Abouna came back from His 6 months of treatment time / sabbatical, he was hoping to keep the faithful work God put on our heart, which is to lead by example in worship, retreats, sermons, discipleship groups and so on.

Unfortunately this was very short lived. Bishop Karas told Abouna that the Pope got news that we are doing discipleship groups, and that we are in communication with Fr. Seraphim and his disciples (Brothers Amir and Shady). Abouna responded with an explanation to the bishop. A few days later I received a call from Bishop Karas, who was relaying a message to me to stop all discipleship groups and to stop my affiliation with Fr. Seraphim or his disciples.

Since I am a servant and a leader in St. Mark’s, I had to officially close all groups. Many of the youth used to come to our house on a regular basis to do worship and all that was not allowed anymore, along with any home meetings. The leadership of the church did not allow any guidance I was giving at the time any longer. The clergy were also uncomfortable with the servant meetings, which were done on church premises. They wanted to lead unified meetings to all servants to ensure that the teachings are “correct”.

Abouna had a meeting with the clergy the same day that the bishop called me (January 5th). In this meeting, the clergy were very disturbed from all the bishops who were calling them and asking them how they allowed Abouna and I to spread this spirit, not just in the church, but abroad also. The clergy decided that Abouna could no longer do any retreats on his own- that they would have to accompany him. He cannot do discipleship groups of course, and basically he cannot serve in any capacity as entrusted by God. Abouna was not even allowed to pray Christmas liturgy on his own. We were also asked to write an apology letter to the congregation and the Pope. When Abouna asked them what the wrong teaching was, they said there was none, but it was a wrong spirit.

And with this – not being able to serve within the church with the freedom of the children of God, nor share our experiences, nor pass on the life-changing teachings that were finally brought to life (teachings of the early church fathers) – it was clear God was totally closing the door of service in St. Mark’s for us. Abouna submitted his resignation on 1/8, and we left.

We are currently in hiding because

we knew that the whole leadership of the church

would try to pressure us to come back, but on terms that we are not able to accept in

clear conscience.

We want to serve God freely. We want every soul that is seeking freedom from old

life to find it. We want to hold every seeking soul’s hand until they break free from

the initial attacks of the enemy as they start this serious journey in the narrow path.

We want to have many retreats and endless worship times to feed our hungry

spirits. We want those who want to love God with all their hearts and worship Him

unceasingly to have that environment to help them. We want to have the freedom to

fly and soar and praise God endlessly. We feel suffocated to do so within the

leadership of the church. God asked us to depart and so we did.

We also know that He will direct our way, along with anyone who wants to do the

same. We trust that God will make a way for us to regroup and unite in His perfect

timing. Meanwhile, rest assured that you are in our hearts and prayers daily. We are

taking it one day at a time and we trust God, who prompted us to leave, will also

direct our every step for the good of every soul.

Because we love you we left. As you see, if we stayed we would have been literally

unable to serve you in any capacity. I understand that this is a time where you can

be very confused, and/or offended. I am praying for you and I trust that as you keep

your connection with Him, He will guide your every step. It is ok if you want to take

some time to sort all this out. I love you and you will be in my prayers. The most

important thing is that you keep your connection with Him and trust that He will

reveal all things to those who seek Him. He has always been the focal point of all

things that were said and practiced and there is no outward circumstance that can

change that or take us away from Him.

Hang in there, the Lord is at hand!

Dear loved ones in Christ,

I know that some of you have been hearing many things in regards to Abouna and I and our position in the church. I have much to tell you, in order to comfort any discomfort or lack of peace that any of you may have. All that I am about to share with you is for the sole purpose of removing any stumbling blocks from your way and to give you momentum in your fight against the doubts from the enemy, who is trying to get us to deny the true work of God in us during recent years. For those who are confused and need some clarity, it is time for me, Irinie, to be open and honest about all that is going on, including my past and current struggles, through which I wish to relay the prominent presence and work of God, but never to offend.

As many of you know about me, I was born into the Coptic Orthodox faith, raised by a godly, Coptic Orthodox family. My family and I were regular churchgoers and partakers of the sacraments. I was asked to serve from the age of 16 and since then, the love I felt for God gave me the desire to dedicate my life for Him. Not only that, but I also had a passion to pass on this love of God to the whole world, although I was lacking experience and resources at the time. I continued serving through my young adulthood, putting it above all, even any career ambitions. After 14 years, I had my first child and took a break from service.

After having my son, the pressure and transition of the experience revealed a side in me that I had never seen before. My anger, impatience, selfishness, pride and love for control, among other things, all came out of me and I came to find that I couldn’t win such a battle with my own might. I prayed and asked God to help and guide me, but things seemed to only get worse after having my second child.

I became more confused, bitter and angry and the home was upside down and devoid of peace. I was always praying for God to control my anger and aggravation towards the kids. I read all the Christian books I could on raising kids, and many spiritual books, but in the end, I discovered that I am emotionally unhealthy; I have inner upbringing pain that was not dealt with, which is causing this negative behavior. I knew that I wouldn’t be able stop my negative behavior until God healed all this inner pain.

In reflection, I now see why God had me endure this period in my life. Because the more I grew and interacted with others, the more I came to find that many are suffering in the same way. Many are in pain from not being able to reach their spiritual potential with God. This struggle is real but is underestimated by many.

Unknown to me, God had already started His plan of enlightenment and healing many years prior. Back when we first moved to VA in ’97, there was a lady who came regularly from Egypt to visit her brother, and whenever she came she would give us small booklets and sermon tapes of a consecrated servant. His name is Father Seraphim (used to be Atef Aziz). Every time I read one of those booklets or listened to one of his sermons, it always spoke to my heart and I was amazed at the

depth of it and how tangible real holiness became through these resources. In the midst of my struggle came Lent of 2006. Meditating on Christ’s pain comforted me and along with it came an amazing visit of grace during Holy Week. God spoke to me about many things and it was a deep time of repentance for my soul. Right after Holy Week, I bumped into a booklet for this godly man and it seemed to repeat and confirm most things God spoke to me during Holy Week. I was amazed!

A little background on who Fr. Seraphim is before I go on… Fr. Seraphim is currently a respected monk in the Eastern Orthodox Church who started off as a consecrated deacon in the Coptic Church. After many years in the ascetic life, Fr. Seraphim began to pass down the way he received. He taught mainly from the early fathers about the deep treasures of the Coptic Church and about restoring the image of God in us (taking off the old man and putting on the new one). Within his teachings, he at times mentioned the poor spiritual state of the Church. For this reason, he was asked to stop his teachings, and when his teachings still spread through his actual practice and the practice of those who received the way, he was excommunicated. Later, Pope Tawadros attempted to reinstate him among others, but some of the bishops opposed. You can check his sermons online and you will never find anything deviating one degree from the teaching of the Church and the early fathers.

As I mentioned, I grew up in this Coptic faith all my life, and a deep part in me knew very well and held onto the hope of the treasures and restoration that we are promised through the Church in Holy Scripture. But, up until this point, I had not received the practical steps necessary to find these treasures and receive the restoration from within. And in 2011, my dark time had peaked. I was filled with guilt, confused and shaken in my faith. I had many questions in my head, but of course, I was still trying to serve and hide all this pain within me so that none would be offended. I saw that my relationship with my husband was suffering from it, and my now 8 and 6 year old sons showed negative symptoms. It caused me to be offended at God and in great confusion. I asked Him “In Your word, You promise great things to Your children. Have I not been faithful to You? Have I not dedicated my whole life to You? Then why do I suffer from this monster within? And why is it that the harder I try, the worse things seem to get?” I loved reading saint stories, and Tamav Irinie especially affected me. She was immersed in heavenly things. But even this turned negative for me as it made me feel as though God had favorites, and no matter how much I aspired for a saintly life, I remained as a black sheep; enslaved to my sins and misery. I tried to appear strong, and no one knew I was dying spiritually from inside, to the point that I thought to seek counseling. I read all the Christian self-help books, many spiritual books. I learned, though, that counseling can reveal why you are behaving a certain way, but it is unable to change you or heal you- only God can heal and change.

During this dark time God intervened in His mercy. God sent us two consecrated servants in the church (Brothers Amir and Shady). I was touched by the deep spirituality those two deacons had. They turned out to be second-generation disciples of this godly man, Father Seraphim. And so I thought to try and seek his

guidance, as I do with many church elders. I prayed and God opened the door for him to become a guide for me.

This was a turning point in my life, not because of any human ability on either side, but because it was the time when God answered my prayers and gave me a road of obedience to follow. And without His will and His outstretched arm towards me, no amount of resources or guidance could have done what He alone did.

As I began to receive healing, I felt as though I couldn’t hold all of these treasures to myself. I had a responsibility to share all this wealth with anyone longing for it. That’s why I started offering discipleship groups to people who would be interested to commit to it. I saw how the enemy was targeting me as a wife and mother to hinder my family from being a small church for Him. And as we all know, the devil always targets the family in order to advance his agenda. And my deep hope was that I could transfer this way of life to all mothers, mothers to be, and servants who serve God’s children. Because of the real life-changing experiences and the deep freeing work God was doing within me, I felt compelled to hand down everything I received with every ounce of time and energy I had. I never said no to anyone who needed guidance and, with the grace of God, I was able to do that at a time even when Abouna was away on his sabbatical.

The fruit was encouraging: Moms were starting to take their spiritual role with their kids. They started to understand the real battle the enemy puts on our kids and how to build a wall of protection around them. As we were all receiving guidance, we saw how the Holy Spirit is so loud and clear to show us the hidden sicknesses and sins inside us, one at a time, and leads us to repentance and change. We learned how to keep allowing the Holy Spirit to grow our new man (His presence within us) and how to synergize with the Holy Spirit to deal with uprooting the old man totally so that we can discover our role and calling as children of God. We discovered how much the world and its lies have infiltrated our every thought and action, and how to break free from it.

We were encouraged as mothers, wives, servants and dedicated daughters of God to live as God called us to live. Each one of us was growing in the pace God willed. Each one was striving to be consistent in our spiritual rule, and no two people had a similar rule, each depending on their circumstances. My time was very limited and I never asked anyone to follow up, but I made myself available to anyone who requested.

Of course the enemy, who loves to steal, kill and destroy, saw the fruit spreading to many souls and also spreading globally, is now trying to stop this work.

When Abouna came back from His 6 months of treatment time / sabbatical, he was hoping to keep the faithful work God put on our heart, which is to lead by example in worship, retreats, sermons, discipleship groups and so on.

Unfortunately this was very short lived. Bishop Karas told Abouna that the Pope got news that we are doing discipleship groups, and that we are in communication with Fr. Seraphim and his disciples (Brothers Amir and Shady). Abouna responded with an explanation to the bishop. A few days later I received a call from Bishop Karas, who was relaying a message to me to stop all discipleship groups and to stop my affiliation with Fr. Seraphim or his disciples.

Since I am a servant and a leader in St. Mark’s, I had to officially close all groups. Many of the youth used to come to our house on a regular basis to do worship and all that was not allowed anymore, along with any home meetings. The leadership of the church did not allow any guidance I was giving at the time any longer. The clergy were also uncomfortable with the servant meetings, which were done on church premises. They wanted to lead unified meetings to all servants to ensure that the teachings are “correct”.

Abouna had a meeting with the clergy the same day that the bishop called me (January 5th). In this meeting, the clergy were very disturbed from all the bishops who were calling them and asking them how they allowed Abouna and I to spread this spirit, not just in the church, but abroad also. The clergy decided that Abouna could no longer do any retreats on his own- that they would have to accompany him. He cannot do discipleship groups of course, and basically he cannot serve in any capacity as entrusted by God. Abouna was not even allowed to pray Christmas liturgy on his own. We were also asked to write an apology letter to the congregation and the Pope. When Abouna asked them what the wrong teaching was, they said there was none, but it was a wrong spirit.

And with this – not being able to serve within the church with the freedom of the children of God, nor share our experiences, nor pass on the life-changing teachings that were finally brought to life (teachings of the early church fathers) – it was clear God was totally closing the door of service in St. Mark’s for us. Abouna submitted his resignation on 1/8, and we left.

We are currently in hiding because

we knew that the whole leadership of the church

would try to pressure us to come back, but on terms that we are not able to accept in

clear conscience.

We want to serve God freely. We want every soul that is seeking freedom from old

life to find it. We want to hold every seeking soul’s hand until they break free from

the initial attacks of the enemy as they start this serious journey in the narrow path.

We want to have many retreats and endless worship times to feed our hungry

spirits. We want those who want to love God with all their hearts and worship Him

unceasingly to have that environment to help them. We want to have the freedom to

fly and soar and praise God endlessly. We feel suffocated to do so within the

leadership of the church. God asked us to depart and so we did.

We also know that He will direct our way, along with anyone who wants to do the

same. We trust that God will make a way for us to regroup and unite in His perfect

timing. Meanwhile, rest assured that you are in our hearts and prayers daily. We are

taking it one day at a time and we trust God, who prompted us to leave, will also

direct our every step for the good of every soul.

Because we love you we left. As you see, if we stayed we would have been literally

unable to serve you in any capacity. I understand that this is a time where you can

be very confused, and/or offended. I am praying for you and I trust that as you keep

your connection with Him, He will guide your every step. It is ok if you want to take

some time to sort all this out. I love you and you will be in my prayers. The most

important thing is that you keep your connection with Him and trust that He will

reveal all things to those who seek Him. He has always been the focal point of all

things that were said and practiced and there is no outward circumstance that can

change that or take us away from Him.

Hang in there, the Lord is at hand!

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31 comments

  1. Angel

    If Fr.Bishoy who sent this letter, he would send it from his e_mail but this e_mail has come from e_mail not belong to him, please check the resource before you publish any thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • truth truth

      I am extremely disappointed, father bishoy has mislead his congregation for years.
      1. He hired two deacons, paid them money from the church money and he knew that they belong to an ex-communicated person. Regadless of father bishoy’s view, he should have NOT hired them knowing that they follow that man.
      2. He lied at all the congregation, using sermons from someone else and copying them and teaching under the table.
      3. He is a priest, he has a church… run your bible studies at church. Let the layman do their own bible study at their homes. Nothing is wrong with that.
      4. The letter that Irini sent and her husband abouna bishoy, shows that hey has so many marital issues. I know this is common but they should have asked for guidance.
      5. Abouna Bishoy said that the Pope Tawadrous wanted to het Atef Aziz back, this is a way to say that the Pope agrees with his doing. (Does he?
      6. Why would irini send an email, she is just his wife, she should have kept herself away.
      7. The letter is telling people that if God tells them to follow their way then they should…. this is Satan talking …. DONT…Follow only Jesus.
      8. Father Bishoy has given himself a huge thrown for no reason, he should have given the glory to god.
      9. A father, would have NEVER left his children that way at all.
      10. He mentioned that he had issues with the priests serving with him…. well, we all do have issues with people around us… that does not mean that you leave.
      11. It is SO rude that the Pope would try to call you and you don’t answer. Don’t forget that for years you were making hundreds of thousands from the church , at least show respect.
      12. Please STOP telling people lies, you left the church before the church asked you to leave because they have been trying to help you for months and you refused.

      Liked by 1 person

      • bota10

        That’s exactly what I thought! Especially the first point was very true. If he knew that they were disciples of an excommunicated person, he shouldn’t have let them in!

        Like

  2. Peter Guirgis

    This message from Abouna’s wife is both amazingly honest and hard for me to read. Taking comfort in ‘booklets’ written by heretics, suffering from ‘this monster within’, recognizing that she is ’emotionally unhealthy’, feeling anger towards her children, a home ‘devoid of peace’, exhaustive self-help reading. She seems to attribute these feelings, at least in part, toward the sacrifices she has had to make in her life, mainly not pursuing a career and always doing what was expected of her which I guess shows at least some self-awareness. Quite a sad story though really. However, if any of you have ever lived in a home that it not at peace it’s quite a miserable thing. I don’t recommend it. I feel bad for them and that they lived that way for so many years.

    Like

    • Anonymous

      Yes brother, so many priests don’t have peace in their homes…. That’s why we should help them. But it seems to me that they had lots of confusions in their hearts. There is no way on earth, that a father would leave his children that way,,,, this is the worst depart …. He needs to repent and live in peace.

      Like

    • truth truth

      You are right, but to Peter, NO this is NOT an honest letter at all. Please read it carefully. He is basically saying that he follows a man that has been ex-communicated. We have to respect our Coptic Church’s decisions. He lied, and hired people he knew they are followers of Atef and now everything has been revealed.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Anonymous

    Our thoughts and prayers go out to Fr. Bishoy, Tasoni, their children, family and congregation. This I’m sure has shaken the community greatly, and the Coptic church in the north east. Like many of us who have interacted with Abouna, I’ve always admired him and his love for Christ and dedication to His church. I am also certain this is a difficult time for the church leadership in North America, this is certainly a bad situation that quickly got out of control and wasn’t dealt with properly.

    I am not a member of the local congregation, so I’ll share my own interpretation of what took place based solely on the two letters I saw.

    1) Fr. Bishoy and Tasoni, were inspired and transformed by a message and wanted in all good intention to share with their congregation and seriously pursue spiritual renewal (nahdah) within their community, with great success I am sure.

    2) The issue came in two folds: a) the message wasn’t pre-vetted with the church leadership, and it turned out that the author had some fall out with the church. so when this came to the attention of the church hierarchy, it naturally caused friction and an uncomfortable confrontation with Abouna, who may or may not be aware of the true history of the author at the time he was confronted, or may have known but decided it was ok as long as the focus was on the Orthodox aspects of the message and the parts rejected by the Coptic church were discarded. b) the revival in the church caused friction just like any change causes in a community. Cliques form naturally when people unite, and these groups unintentionally appear exclusive and outsiders feel left out and raise their concerns to the church hierarchy. Also, its easy to mistake spiritual growth with brainwashing or resentment, so I wouldn’t be surprised if some were turned off by those who have dramatically changed. Its also possible that with growing turmoil, some who had long standing grievances with Abouna have taken the opportunity to pile on (one example mentioned is about some who took vow of celibacy with Abouna’s support, which we all know understand angers the family if they are against it).

    I truly respect Abouna’s action given what he’s gone through. He could’ve easily decided to stay and fight for the community he helped build. But him staying after this is public, would’ve caused a massive division in his congregation that would lead to a nasty break-up of the community. the only way to avoid that division is to do what he did, leave promptly and stay out of reach. He could’ve decided to keep his position and steady paycheck and curtail the spiritual revival. but the fact that he didn’t confirms that his service means more to him than a paycheck and that he is principled and also confirms his respect for the Coptic church hierarchy and his love for his local congregation.

    Even though I can understand why he took this action and that it was the best course of action in this very difficult situation, I am sad for his family and for the church he leaves behind. I am also weary of the tension and division this situation could cause in the Coptic church in North America.

    I pray for Abouna and his family, I’m sure the road will be very difficult ahead for them.

    I hope that these types of issues are not a sign of more things to come. I also hope that the coptic church in North America continues to embrace and support new revival ideas like ‘mission’ type churches that have been a beacon of success and have brought Orthodoxy to non-Egyptians masses, which is our true mission outside of Egypt.

    Like

    • Anon

      @Anonymous

      Sorry I don’t agree. From what I’m reading, you wish Abouna had been more politically “cunning” in order to allow these practices to continue. The issue with these groups (as well as the “mission” churches – excluding the ones in LA and SUS dioceses) is their adoption of a Pentecostal/Evangelical spirituality (or “spirit” as Tasoni says in her letter). It’s not just about “cliques” or “dramatic change”.

      See here for many explanations from the church hierarchy on this issue of non-Orthodox methods of service:

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      • Jcitwl Jcitwl

        call me CaptainCoptic

        My comments focused on the human aspects of the situation. I avoided going into the teachings since all I know is what was mentioned in the letters and I didn’t see a whole lot of specifics to form a picture.

        “Abouna should be more politically cunning” – no. only point I made regarding the teachings is that it should have been pre-vetted with the church hierarchy. That’s where I think Abouna made an error and I’m sure he realizes that now in hind sight. I think he might’ve assumed that as long as the teachings are 100% Orthodox, the source didn’t matter…

        “The issue with these groups …is their adoption of a Pentecostal/Evangelical spirituality” – understood. I’m not a member of these groups so I wouldn’t know. That’s why I’d like to see the readout from the investigation. But from what Fr. Bishoy said in his letter, the groups followed “Radical Mentoring” program substituted with Orthodox books…

        Generalities like “Evangelical spirituality” is like saying “a format/style that didn’t feel Orthodox to me” – which in my mind is infinitely elastic, subjective and unconstructive…

        If there were Unorthodox teachings, I’d like to see in the investigation readout a clear and specific description of exactly where Fr. Bishoy and his discipleship groups fell short of Orthodoxy.

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      • orthodoxcopt

        “I think he might’ve assumed that as long as the teachings are 100% Orthodox, the source didn’t matter…”

        That to me is a reasonable assumption. However, often when people say “the teachings are 100% Orthodox”, all they really mean is that they do not explicitly contradict Orthodox dogma, e.g. “no-one ever said that Holy Communion is just a symbol”, etc.

        They do not take into the possibility that “The issue with these groups …is their adoption of a Pentecostal/Evangelical spirituality”. Obviously this requires spiritual discernment so that this label does not become “infinitely elastic, subjective and unconstructive”. To take a hypothetical example, what about speaking in tongues? Which Orthodox dogma does that explicitly contradict? None. But does that make it OK?

        But I do agree, we should be able to describe specifically what is wrong with said “Evangelical spirituality”, not just label things without explanation.

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  4. Anonymous

    To the anonymous who wrote the reply above, thank you. Thank you for taking the time and effort to write out your opinion because it has given me an avenue to think through my own emotions and turmoil about the situation.

    Like

  5. Androu the Pharmacist

    This is an unusual situation to say the least. I’m very sorry for the trouble your family has gone through and I pray for your inner peach during this time.

    I’m an open-minded guy, so I took it upon myself to further investigate Atef Meshreky. I don’t care what anyone says about him (Coptic or otherwise), I wanted to examine his teachings: Is he who he says he is, and is he consistent with what he claims to be preaching? What is he actually saying? I’m hardly “pro-establishment”, having heard, read, and/or met Dr. Faltas, George Dr. Bebawi, and Father Matthew the Poor. My thought is simple: let’s critically examine what’s being said before accepting some Synodal opinion.

    Unfortunately, upon further inspection of Atef Meshreky I’ve found him to be highly suspect in more ways that one. His status in the Eastern Orthodox Church is not affirmed on his website, and his time spent in asceticism is questionable: which monastery was he at? Under which Bishop was he appointed a Father (Eastern or otherwise)? If one is going to claim to be an Ascetic or an Abouna, one must also describe the diocese under which he teaches and practices.

    Another point: His website, Shine International, has a section on Early Christian Teachings and yet not a single post mentions actual excerpts or quotations from the Church Fathers (e.g. St. Athanasius, St. Cyril, Origen, St. Basil, etc.), which I find extraordinarily unusual. His specific section on reading the Bible (found here http://www.shineinternational.org/Content/1/2/13/Reading-the-Bible), He says the fathers were distinguished by their “deep knowledge of the word of God” and “became a reference to the nobles of their age…the pillars of ecumenical synods”. He keeps referencing the Holy Fathers but only uses the Bible to reference them – that doesn’t make sense for me. If I’m going to reference the Holy Fathers, I’m going to reference their COPIOUS commentary on Scripture, not take a Bible verse and provide my own window-dressing on it, then stick a “Church Fathers” label on it. He says they used to read the Gospel through a “worship approach”, but never ONCE mentions what this means. The only anecdote he mentions is the one regarding the bucket with holes and the water illustration, which every child over the age of 7 knows. Hardly derived from the Church Fathers. He mentions that he wants to use the Church Father method of reading the Bible, yet never once mentions the most popular method of the Alexandrian Fathers: Allegory. He mentions that there are many methods to reading the Bible, but only calls out two “prevalent in Spiritual Circles”: meditating on every word and scholastic approaches. He glazes over them quickly before returning to his verse-mining.

    Unfortunately, “Church Fathers” have become a buzzword in the Church, and many who use it haven’t actually read them. Atef mentions that “According to what I have received from the Lord, my conviction is that going back to the Early Church teachings is very important and essential for the battle of the End Times.” yet never mentions a SINGLE Church Father on his website. His apocalypticism strikes me as very Protestant in nature (nothing wrong with that, it’s just not orthodox). His cryptic statement that “The resources were buried and guarded [as what happened with the body of Jesus see Matthew 27:62-67.] It takes a battle of faith to recover them.” is bizarre and incoherent. What hidden resources is he referring to?

    Looking over his other teachings, nothing strikes me as particularly profound. Much of it is a re-hash of Scripture accompanied by his own private interpretations that he continually labels as from the Fathers, without a single reference ever made.

    One final thing.

    The Holy Synod (in your post) mentions 10 activists, 8 of which are women and 4 of which are former Tasonis. While we cannot draw a causal link between being a former Tasoni and listening to this man’s teachigns, we can say that Atef is either consciously preying on those who are vulnerable or unconsciously attracting them with his message. His continual invocation of the Spirit combined with cherry-picked bible verse strikes me, and clearly the Synod, as totally unorthodox. He insists to be following the Fathers while never mentioning a single one by name once – this should strike every reader as immediately suspect. His sketchy background with the Church, both Oriental and Eastern, doesn’t help his case either. Finally, his banter on the End Times and The Spirit is very strange; my exposure to Protestant teachings in the past are eerily familiar to this man’s tone and message.

    I don’t know the extent of this man’s teachings in causing this huge disruption at St. Mark’s DC, which I’ve attended once (while Abouna was on sick leave). One thing I know, this Atef character seems like a peddler of snake oil. I implore you: PLEASE do not make this man’s teaching cause the demise of your service at St. Mark’s.

    Tasoni, your story made me realize how vulnerable you were – and I’m very sorry about that. Atef has a certain way with words that have attracted people in similar situations, and half of his activist movement are former-tasonis. Again, no causality can be confirmed, but I implore you to critically examine this man’s teachings and let it not be the reason for your dissociation from the great Coptic family that loves you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • anonymous173ate

      I agree, it seems that he was preying on women. Tasoni unfortunately seemed to be suffering from Post Partum depression and never sought the help she needed. What is concerning is that she led groups of young women, when she was mentoring from a very unhealthy place. Its a very sad situation, but we will keep them in our prayers.

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    • Tony Rezk

      Excellent assessment Androu. This man, while claiming to be teaching the church fathers, fails to quote them in his teachings. Moreover, he seems to be lacking any orthodox mentality (phronema) at all, he doesn’t mention the sacraments, he doesn’t mention being part of the Orthodox Church. Instead we hear comments such as “the body of the church is sick”. No respectable Orthodox priest would ever say such a thing. This is borderline heretical. Even more, his teachings seem to be a mix of Pentecostalism and Gnosticism. I fully agree with your comment about preying on women. May god forgive him for ripping our church apart.

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      • Anon

        Androu, great comment! You are right on. Because of our great respect to Abouna and Tasoni we were unable to be critical of these teachings. Continue to pray for the hurting congregation.

        And Tony, their teachings most certainly are Gnostic and Pentecostal. Atef’s group in Egypt was called the New Testament group and there is a Pentecostal church with the same name and they also seem to focus on “end times” just as it was pounded into our heads by Abouna and Tasoni through the teachings of Atef.

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  6. Houston, we have a problem

    You know what is most hurtful about these letters from Abouna and Tasony – they basically say that unless you were part of these “discipleship” groups, you didn’t matter enough for them to serve you. I’m sure those groups were great (except for the apparent false teachings part), but what about the rest of the congregation? What about the people that were not in these groups? Since when do church leaders hand select who gets to be special? It all seems so divisive.

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    • anonymous173ate

      I think Abouna was trying to defend these discipleship groups from people who complained that these groups were “extreme” and was trying to give examples of how people in these groups had grown spiritually. Abouna stated that these groups were open to everyone.

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  7. Samar

    Abouna and Tasony,
    We were taught when we were young that if we do something in ‘hiding’, it meant we are doing something wrong. Why did you hide your beliefs if you felt it had no wrong teaching. Why are you still hiding now?
    Another point, why are you spreading teachings of an excommunicated deacon from the Orthodox Church to Orthodox Youth when you were their Orthodox father and leader? Don’t you think this act by itself is disrespectful and deceiving to these young adults and to the Orthodox Church?
    A lot of us are disappointed of your actions but we are still praying for you and the unity of our church.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Stanley Goodspeed

    Given that this was bombshell was dropped out of the blue, it would seem that this is an opportune time to talk about transparency. It is impossible to claim that there is transparency now, when it is otherwise impossible to have hidden this. It’s like telling my parents that I got a bad grade in school after they’ve already seen my report card. Transparency should have been there all along.

    “Another complaint was one that came from parents (of adult men and women) who were concerned that their kids were becoming ‘extreme’ – i.e. prayed too much – in their spirituality.” I think the tone here is telling.

    Now, I think that employing the teachings of someone who’s been excommunicated probably runs counter to the Coptic Church’s traditions (and probably the traditions of most other churches and religions). I have to believe that a Coptic abouna would know that.

    I am having difficulty reconciling this contradiction, maybe someone can help me: “And even though I’m very confident in Fr. Seraphim’s teachings, I never gave his books or website to anyone at St. Mark’s, respecting the position of the church that I served in.” Respect, in this case, would seem to be impossible. If he’s been excommunicated, and one is still engaging with him under the name of the church, then one is, by definition, not being respectful. Even though the books were not given out, it is impossible to believe that their teachings did not influence in any way, and that influence would be felt in ways beyond giving out a book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • faithful2God

      I pray for Abouna, Tasoni, and their family. I pray for our church to heal from this, and I hope and pray we look to God for strength. For sure, we have an amazing church and no trial will take that away. As with other difficulties, St. Mark’s will overcome this. We can learn from it and move on with direction from God.

      Like

  9. orthodoxcopt

    Why does Tasoni speak about her “dream” to have “worship times” as if this doesn’t occur in the Church already?!
    What do we do every Sunday? What do we do every morning (Prime) and evening (Compline)? It’s almost as if she considers this “fake” worship, whereas the “real” worship is something else only found through Atef Aziz.

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  10. Faith TG

    It was said in Abouna’s letter that other saints in the history of the church have been excommunicated. However, I believe this wasn’t due to incorrect teaching, and there is a real difference here. I just wanted to clarify this in defense of the saints and the truth. Maybe others can do a better job of shedding light on this. For example, please read below on St. John Chrysostom, who was mentioned in the letter:

    The wife of the emperor who made St John Chrysostom patriarch had a great desire for wealth. She once forcefully took a garden which belonged to a poor widow. The widow went to St John with her misfortune. St John asks the emperor’s wife to return the garden to its true owner. She did not obey and St John prevented the emperor’s wife from entering the church and partaking of the Holy Communion.

    The emperor’s wife summoned the council of bishops and proclaimed her displeasure with him and had St John Chrysostom excommunicated. He was exiled to the Island of Thrace for one night only. The people became greatly enraged with St John’s exile and gathered around the emperor’s palace demanding the return of their patriarch. A severe earthquake shook the city almost destroying it. Taking this as a sign of God’s displeasure with the exile, the emperor’s wife went to the emperor asking him to return Saint John.

    The exile was not to be soon forgotten. Saint John Chrysostom’s life was to always be full of struggle. St John ardently attacked the behavior, dress and adornment of the upper class, particularly the women. Christians boldly attended races on Good Friday and games in the stadium on Holy Saturday. He constantly battled this immorality and sin and courageously preached against these behaviors openly in his sermons. Although a compassionate father of the sinner, he remained firm in maintaining discipline.

    His enemies together with the emperor’s wife, who took his morality issues as a personal attack, accused him falsely before the emperor and he was once again exiled. He was provided no minimal comforts and was moved from place to place in untoward weather conditions so his health would deteriorate quickly on route to Comana, his place of exile. He died in poor health in Comana, in the year 407AD. His departure of the earthly life was the Holy Cross Day. Having been dressed in white garments by the clergy of the chapel of Saint Basilicas a short time after receiving the Holy Communion Saint John Chrysostom truly departed in peace.

    During the reign of Theodosius II, the son of Emperor Arcadius (the emperor who exiled St John) his holy body was taken back to Constantinople where it was placed in the Church of the Apostles.

    St. Cyril, the 24th Pope of the See of Alexandria, denounced the exile of St. John Chrysostom. History documents that St. Cyril knew of the regret of the exile and cruel death of the Bishop of the See of Constantinople by Pope Theophilus.

    “Glory be to God for all things” was the last words uttered by the great saint, John Chrysostom. Truly, glory was brought to God through the life led by this gifted and great saint, a life golden from youth.

    -Bishop Youssef
    https://suscopts.org/resources/literature/201/saint-john-chrysostom-golden-from-youth/Bishop, Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

    Like

  11. Jcitwl Jcitwl

    The latest message from the Pope to me is a direct vindication of Fr. Bishoy. Yes, Fr. Bishoy made poor choices, but from the way I see it, he preached nothing contrary to Orthodoxy, otherwise the Pope’s letter would’ve pointed it out. If you all agree, I think the appropriate course of action is this: fellow copts who were swift to insist that Fr. Bishoy’s teachings were deviant and attacked him should search their hearts and if they feel personally responsible for actions that caused damage/pain/division and personal anguish to Fr. Bishoy and others, they need to take action to reverse the damage to their best ability. Also everyone needs to remember in the future to be quick to hear, slow to speak slow to anger. We should always seek to understand, support and if necessary defend first. never give into the spirit of slander to enter the church.

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    • orthodoxcopt

      The reason the Pope’s letter was not more explicit is clearly for political reasons. Abouna Bishoy is very popular and therefore commands a lot of financial backing. The letter, however, does say that Abouna “wrote a commitment to stop an unorthodox methods in the service”. So if he was asked to STOP these, then that means that they were previously there. Further, Anba Serapion’s interview on Logos TV, as well as his lecture on Discipleship, clearly indicate deviance from the faith in Abouna Bishoy’s teachings. I myself watched one of the Servant Retreats videos posted above and it really was quite foreign to my ear.

      Like

      • captaincoptic

        Didn’t catch the issues in the videos, would like to hear more of the details. but, few things to keep in mind:

        A) I think we can all agree that there are degrees of deviance. There are deviances beyond repair, and there are major and minor technicalities. and there are NON-deviances that just appear to be so only because they are new/unconventional/contemporary or haven’t been seen before (Fr. Makary/Fr. Armia Boules come to mind). Last thing we want is to cry wolf about the latter rather than the former… I worry that in Abouna Bishoy’s case we are arguing about minor technicalities or non-deviances…Or just assume he’s guilty by association and end it there.

        I’d like to see actual details to understand where the teachings deviated from Orthodoxy. Someone on a different post mentioned a technical detail that I thought was very insightful (something about a specific sentence used by a very particular sect). That was a good catch and we need to see more of these. But again, that reveal was about Dr. Atef Aziz, NOT Abouna Bishoy.

        B) Abouna Bishoy said (in the letter attributed to him) he would rather quit than be told to radically change his approach to service. If you take him at his word, and since he didn’t quit after the meeting with H.H., and since he wasn’t excommunicated or “retired”, that tells me one of two things: 1) H.H. saw no unorthodox teachings or 2) H.H. saw some minor unorthodox teachings, pointed them out to Abouna Bishoy, and Abouna conceded knowing that the issues are truly peripheral rather than at the heart of his service, and Abouna decided he can stay true to his mission while correcting these minor technicalities.
        In either case, H.H. must have realized that Abouna Bishoy’s heart is truly in the right place otherwise why would he take a chance and re-instate him?

        C) that one sentence in H.H. letter “stop an unorthodox methods in the service” could mean one of two things: 1) it could be referring to minor technicalities or peripheral ideas that aren’t essential to Abouna’s service, otherwise Abouna would’ve not agreed to do it (see point B#2 above). 2) it could be there to reinforce to the critics that H.H. wants to see 100% compliance to Orthodoxy and will continue to monitor Abouna’s service.

        I highly doubt that H.H. gives weight to politics of dealing with a popular Priest. Pope Shenouda III didn’t either. If they saw an consistent and unrepentant violation of orthodoxy, neither would stop short of excommunicating the priest in question regardless of their influence. That I can trust.

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      • orthodoxcopt

        @captaincoptic

        I think the issue here is that you consider faithfulness to Orthodox theology to be a matter of academic “technicalities” unrelated to spirituality. But in reality, theology and spirituality are one. You can’t have right spirituality (Orthopraxy) without right dogma (Orthodoxy) and vice versa. Divorcing “academic” theology from “mystical” spirituality is known as pietism:

        “Increasingly pietism equates the spirituality and piety of the various churches and confessions, taking them on the level of individual, or socially useful and efficacious, ethics, while disregarding even fundamental dogmatic differences. The piety of a Roman Catholic, a Protestant and frequently even an “enlightened” Orthodox, do not present substantial differences; practical piety no longer reveals whether the truth one lives is real or distorted. Dogma does not appear as a “definition,” laying down the limits within which the Church’s experience is to be expressed and safeguarded. Christian piety appears unrelated to the way we experience the truth of God in Trinity, the incarnation of the Word, and the energies of the Holy Spirit which give substance to the life of the members of the Church…

        Pietism undermines the ontological truth of the Church or totally rejects it, but without questioning the formulations of that truth. It simply disregards them, taking them as intellectual forms unrelated to man’s salvation, and abandons them to the jurisdiction of an autonomous academic theology. Pietism preserves a formal faithfulness to the letter of dogmatic formulation, but this is a dead letter, irrelevant to life and existential experience.”

        – Professor Emeritus Christos Yannaras, http://returntoorthodoxy.com/pietism-ecclesiological-heresy-christos-yannaras/

        So Fr Bishoy may well have “preserved a formal faithfulness to the letter of dogmatic formulation”, but at the end of the day he was inspired (as he himself admits) by UNIQUELY and DISTINCTIVELY Pentecostal ideas in the spiritual life. Personally, I consider this more serious than some technical error someone picked up that can be corrected in two seconds, before said heresy is translated over time into the spiritual/liturgical life (thereby distorting it). Unlike importing heterodox dogma, importing heterodox praxis/spirituality, e.g. an unbalanced approach to asceticism (which Bishop Serapion mentions in his sermon posted above), has immediate negative spiritual effects on the congregation.

        It’s interesting you bring up Fr Makary Younan – who is also SPIRITUALLY deviant, even if he is not “technically” deviant. He is the perfect example of a priest Pope Shenouda could not get control over due to his immense popularity. Fr Makary once proudly proclaimed on air how “all of Egypt watches my weekly meeting [on a Protestant satellite channel]”, a veiled threat to those who wish him to stop his unorthodox methods, not the least of which is performing “miraculous” spectacles on live TV, unlike Christ and the monastics who eschew this kind of attention when performing miracles. He also charismatically draws people to his persona by firing them up emotionally (through sermons, songs, etc), as opposed to spiritually drawing them to Christ through accepted, historical forms of spirituality.

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