Letter from H.G Bishop Karas

StMarkDC members received the following email on January 10th, 2016:

Dear St. Mark’s family,
Peace & grace,
Please find attached letter from H. G Bishop Karas.

Saint Mark Coptic Orthodox Church
11911 Braddock Road, Fairfax, VA 22030
703-591-4444

Letter From Bishop Karas (original pdf)

Full text of letter:

الاحباء كھنة وشمامسة وشعب كنیسة مارمرقس بواشنطن

سلام ونعمھ وتھنئة بالعام الجدید وأعیاد الظھور الالھي.

نشكر الله من اجل خدمة كنیسة مارمرقس المثمرة والمشھود لھا طوال السنوات الماضیة. نري من الأفضل للخدمة في الفترة القادمة ان تدمج كل المجموعات الصغیرة لدرس الكتاب والتلمذة والإرشاد الروحي في داخل الكنیسة والجمیع مدعوون للشركة من اجل ان ننمو معا لملء قامة المسیح كجسد واحد. وإذ نصلي من اجل شفاء الأب الحبیب القمص بیشوي أندراوس ونقدر تعب الاباء والخدام جمیعا نطلب للكل

البركة والنعمة. بصلوات القدیسة العذراء مریم والقدیس مارمرقس وقداسة البابا تواضروس الثاني.

الانبا كاراس
الأسقف العام والنائب البابوي لامریكا الشمالیة

Dear Fathers, deacons and St. Mark’s congregation in DC
Peace & grace, greetings for the New Year and celebrating the nativity. We thank God for the fruitful service of St. Mark’s church along the years.

We see that it is best during the coming period to merge all small groups, bible study, discipleship & spiritual guidance. It is better that these groups to be held in church and everyone is invited to participate and to grow to the fullness & perfection of the lord Jesus Christ as one body.

We pray for Fr. Bishoy’s healing and appreciate the efforts of the fathers and servants and we ask the blessings and grace for all through the intercessions of St. Mary, St. Mark and his holiness Pope Tawadros II of Alexandria.

Bishop Karas
General Bishop and Patriarchal Exarch of the Archdiocese of North America.

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15 comments

  1. Marcus Zacharia

    Regardless the message in this Bishop’s letter; this letter is full of spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes in both Arabic and English! This reveals systematic corruption in the church institution. By placing leaders in these high ranks without even knowing how to write, how can you expect good leadership or any sucess in a professional way! #LearnToWriteFirstThenBeABishop #CopticCorruption

    Like

    • Anon

      Easy there Marcus,
      While you sentiments may be understandable, we want to avoid ad hominem attacks directed towards anyone. These attacks do not lend themselves to constructive discussion and only lead to more division as they will only stoke the fires and inflame outrage. I am sure Fr. Bishoy would not want this either. Cooler heads must prevail. (Btw, you misspelled success 😉 ).

      St. Mark DC is in our prayers

      Like

      • Anonymous

        I knew before submitting my comment that “sucess” (it is misspelled again) was misspelled and I was expecting these kind of comments.
        While the bishop has at least 12 Arabic misspelling and a lot more in punctuation and of course people see it as a tiny issue. Myself or any reputable institution will not accept/hire any person at a high rank if this is the way she/he writes. It tells us the quality of education the church leaders have acquired and how out of touch they are. Fact checking and observing is not attacking! Only the totalitarian institutions and audiences see it that way.

        Like

  2. Oldchurchgoerand observer

    All my respect and prayers to Fr. Bishoy and his family during this difficult period,
    For more than 15 years I can witness that he was an honest and respectable priest, actually one of the very few priests that touched my life and I am 62 years old! I enjoyed his inspiring and low-voiced sermons, his bible studies and for the first time in my life his detailed explanation of the liturgies. As a human, he reached my heart with his comforting smile and humble demeanor even when you can see his pains!
    I can not belong to St. Mark Church without him. When he was healing in his sabbatical, the church was already changing and separating from my family and other sinners like us. For instance, we heard the “new rules”, you can not just go to Church as we always do, you have to get registered and sign a paper contract! You have to get a Church ID card with your picture taken! Sinners like us can not go to the Church that NOW belongs to the only Saintly believers! Wow! This is no longer a Church for worshipers whoever they are, it is exclusively a church for members with ID’s
    Though Jesus came to earth for the sake of saving “SINNERS”, but our Coptic church now seems to allow only members who have preregistered with Church Photo IDs, and signed the documents.
    How different are we from fanatic Islamists! They claim the righteousness and kill others who are different.
    Now are we doing the same to Fr. Bishoy!
    Where is the Teaching of Christ; Forgiveness and Love!
    If Fr. Bishoy is your enemy then at least love him!
    Shame on you!

    Like

    • The Truth Always Prevails

      Dear Oldchurchgoerand observer:
      We all love Fr. Bishoy, but why are you making up lies about the Church? What are you trying to do? Again, there are no church ID cards or contracts – it’s a membership drive!! God forbid the Church tries to get an understanding of their actual members in the area. Why don’t you take a minute and read before making ridiculous statements like this. Here’s the link: http://www.stmarkdc.org/become-a-committed-member-of-st-mark-dc-by-registering-with-the-pastoral-care-office

      If you’re too lazy to click on the link, here is the actual text (please tell us where it says you’re signing a contract or need and ID card:
      Become a committed member of St. Mark DC by registering with the Pastoral Care Office!
      Who: YOU!
      What: Register as a member or visitor of St. Mark’s
      When: During church hours
      Where: Front desk.

      A follow-up three-week campaign of the membership initiative will be help from December 27, 2015 till January 17, 2016 for those who were unable to register during the the previous seven-week campaign. In those three weeks, members and visitors will be able to contact the front desk, during church hours and on a walk-in basis, to update their membership information and address. St Mark’s remains committed to our vision. As we have communicated throughout the last several years, we want to remind you of the core values of our church which are to be committed to a life of Orthodox Worship, maturing in Christ through Discipleship, and spreading the gospel through Mission.
      This year, the Lord has blessed the Washington Metropolitan Area with many new churches to serve His people in a deeper way. A few weeks ago, we were blessed by the visit of HG Bishop Karas, the General Bishop of the Archdiocese of North America, to the area. As he gathered the priests of the area, he assisted us in designing a plan to ensure that every parish is serving its own geographical zone of 5 cities and serving its own committed members.
      The five cities of St Mark’s geographical region of outreach are: Fairfax, Centreville, Clifton, Burke and Fairfax Station. Please note: Anyone outside of these 5 cities is welcome to be a full member of St Mark’s and any family among these cities have the freedom to become members of any other church in the area. Due to the rapid growth of our church, we believed it to be necessary to figure out how many members we serve. In order to do that, we will have a seven-week campaign of updating our church membership database. It is of great importance that each person in the Northern Virginia Washington DC Metropolitan area register their name and membership in one of the local churches.Every person has the freedom and is encouraged to join the parish of their preference to be your home church while you are still welcome to enjoy the services of any other parish as a visitor. All visitors to St Mark’s are welcome to participate in all of our ministries, but due to the limited resources of space and servants, priority will be given to the members of St. Mark’s. Membership will be for one year and must be renewed annually from September to the following year. In order to apply for membership at St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Church, DC, you have to be Christian, Coptic, Orthodox, obedient to the rules of the Coptic Orthodox Church, regular attendant of liturgies and church occasions, participate in communion and confession periodically. You also have to be committed to the following in your relationship with God and with the other members of the church.

      Like

      • Anonymous

        My dear “the truth always prevails”,
        I declared myself as a sinner in my post so no need for you to add and call me “liar” and “lazy”!
        To put conditions for being a church member and restrict its membership is something Jesus never said or preached, Jesus came to save “sinners” and not holy people!
        Restrictions are very clear in the documents, regular attendance, communion, confession, one year membership, etc
        How would Jesus respond if you prevent any sinner from going to his home; Church?
        We can not judge people, and we can not dictate who goes to church or not. Church is where we worship God and not where we judge people and decide who is permitted to go.
        Whoever put these new rules is just trying to govern and rule and not trying to save souls and convert sinners to be believers in Jesus!
        Love and Peace to all

        Like

  3. The Truth Always Prevails

    Dear Anonymous,
    Again you have not answered any questions directly and only seem concerned with falsely accusing St. Mark’s. You made false statements in your first post about the church requiring ID cards and contracts to attend church. Now you’re saying the church has put conditions for being a member. Again, read what is written:

    “It is of great importance that each person in the Northern Virginia Washington DC Metropolitan area register their name and membership in one of the local churches. Every person has the freedom and is encouraged to join the parish of their preference to be your home church while you are still welcome to enjoy the services of any other parish as a visitor.”

    Again, please tell us how that is conditional or restrictive?

    Like

    • Oldchurchgoerand observer

      My Dear The Truth Always Prevails,
      It is unfortunate that you can not read the answers to your questions, sometimes we are blind even though we can vision with our eyes! Yes, we are sometimes blind at heart because we are filled with excessive and single-minded zeal.
      Besides, I am not accusing anyone or you of anything, therefore there is no false or valid here! On the contrary, you are accusing me of being a “liar” and “lazy”
      As an old church goer I have received the same documents and text that you posted yourself and was requested to fill in and “sign” and that my picture has to be taken so that I can become a member of the church! When you sign a document then you are signing a contract that you are obliged to respect.
      I am quoting from the text you posted: “…. In order to apply for membership at St. Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Church, DC, you have to be Christian, Coptic, Orthodox, obedient to the rules of the Coptic Orthodox Church, regular attendant of liturgies and church occasions, participate in communion and confession periodically. You also have to be committed to the following in your relationship with God and with the other members of the church.” unquote.
      If you can not read the conditions written then, my son/daughter you are unfortunately blind!
      Restrictions are very clear in the document;… regular attendance, communion, confession, one year membership, etc. Do you need me to count them one by one?
      My dear son/daughter, it seems you are offended by my post and specifically for objecting the new rules. Since you name yourself in this post; The Truth Always Prevail, you must be a responsible person in church and not a layman like me. Whether you are a bishop, priest, deacon, you should never be offended by my questioning the validity of these new rules. You should explain with love and patience how it would not prevent sinners or others like me from coming to church and receiving the glory of God.
      I believe these new rules are not in accordance with our Christian faith. I studied our Coptic church history and nothing like that was ever done before. May be one day will come when the church leadership will consider this a heresy!
      Peace and Love to All

      Like

  4. anonymous173ate

    Dear Oldchurchgoerand observer,

    The rules are an attempt to be more organized in the running of the church. Every church, Coptic, Baptist, Lutheran, Jewish, etc have methods of collecting money, accounting for membership, etc. Its fine to respectfully object to the rules and amend them to be friendly and less rigid. I disagree with the Truth always prevails calling you lazy ,but it is probably stemming of frustration from the entire situation and users bringing up unrelated contentious topics .( However it does not justify the comments). We are all sinners, it seems that you have differentiated people as sinners and saints within the church but we are all the same. We may sin differently but that does not raise one sin above another. We must continue to pray steadfastly for Abouna Bishoy, Tasoni and the church. Do not let these issues of membership rules harden your heart and turn you away from the church. Christ is always faithful and we must be the same for him (or at least try,try and try again).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oldchurchgoerand observer

      Dear anonymous173ate

      Thank you for your rational explanation and discussion.
      Whatever the good cause, these rules remain unacceptable in my Coptic Orthodox Christian belief, even if other churches use them all the time since a long time!
      Jesus told us how to avoid others seeing us when we pray and wash our faces when we fast, unfortunately, with this registration, in order to apply for membership, we are signing and declaring commitment to do the good things that no one other than God should know or see!

      Besides, I have many legal and liability questions for example; What would happen to these signed membership applications and pictures? would they be filed and kept in a safe? Who among the Church administrative staff has permissions to view them and how often? Has the administrative personnel signed non-disclosure agreement? How secure is your filling system? Would these information at any time be disclosed to any third party, or law enforcement, security agency, …etc. And then finally the financial question, how much money was spent on this registration project and how would it be reimbursed?

      Actually, I have not differentiated people into sinners and saints, it is unfortunate that some people believe and act as if they are saints and judge others; the sinners. I agree with you we are all human and make sins and I declared myself as a sinner. The priest and even the pope publicly declares in the liturgy, “I sinned Please forgive me!”

      Unfortunately we are slowly, unknowingly, turning into pharisees who we learned to detest!

      Peace and Love to All

      Jeremiah 17:10
      “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”

      Matthew 6:3
      But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,

      Matthew 6:6
      But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

      Matthew 6:18
      so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

      1 John 1:8
      If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

      Like

  5. hellofromtheotherside

    OCGAO, I think you’re misunderstanding the point of the “membership”. It is truly just an organized way to identify which believers/group of people a parish serves so as not to overstep the pastoral territory of other churches but to be efficient in the ministry so that all Copts in the area are attended to spiritually. The “membership” actually aids the priest in knowing who he needs to follow-up with. One church cannot meet the spiritual needs of every Copt in the greater DMV area so this helps narrow it down. Just like it was said above, every single institution in the world, both religious and secular, has similar systems to ensure people are being provided the best care and the work of God is being done: “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.” – 1 Corinthians 14:33, this is actually a Biblical concept, same with feeding the 5,000, Christ separated them into groups of 50. Again, its just an organized way to make sure every Christian/Copt is attended to, if you look too far into it you’ll miss the point of actually going to the church 🙂

    As for the stipulations to becoming a “member” (you have to be Christian, Coptic, Orthodox, obedient to the rules of the Coptic Orthodox Church…) this is actually the basics of becoming a Christian and joining any denomination! If a non-Orthodox friend asks how he/she can take communion in your Coptic church, you will give him/her a list of things, actually, it’ll be the same list! “You have to believe in Christ and His word, you have to be baptized, repent, confess…” these thing’s aren’t new, and it is the duty of the priest to remind each person of this, especially baptized believers as he is responsible for them in the eyes of God. You’re interpreting it as: “You cannot come to the house of God unless you’re name is in our system” but actually they’re not saying that all, they’re actually saying all visitors are welcome at any time but if you want us to physically reach out and touch you by name we need to know who you are, thats all that is. If a visitor is a non-believer who shows up one day and wants to become a member, great, ahlan wasahlan, just make sure you go through the steps of becoming a Coptic Orthodox Christian, who is baptized etc etc…

    God bless!

    Like

    • Oldchurchgoerand observer

      Dear hellofromtheotherside
      You also misunderstand the point of the “membership”!
      Our Church has survived over 2000 years without these new rules and signing a contract, committing to regular attendance, participation in communion and confession! and you know, what the church should survive more thousands of years without this new misconception!
      By these new rules you are transferring our good deeds from pleasing and worshiping God to abiding by the signed contract so that applicants stay members of the church and the membership gets renewed after one year!
      You are acting on behalf of God to impose rules of who becomes a member, i.e those who respect and abide by the rules that you wrote down! We are searching inside people hearts and souls!
      More questions to come;
      who out of the applicants to church membership would not be accepted or renewed after one year?
      who in our church has the legal and spiritual authority to deny an applicant of membership?

      if the answer to the first question is None, then why in the first place make membership and registration!
      If the answer is yes and those non-believers will be denied membership then you are acting on behalf of God!

      I am not against organizational reform of our church, we should work hard to do that all the time, but I believe that the way this registration was done and its wording is simply un-Orthdox and Non-Christian!

      Peace and Love to All

      Like

  6. Pingback: Lessons from St Mark's Washington DC Pentecostal Infiltration • Return to Orthodoxy

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