Anglican and Oriental Orthodox Church leaders meeting in the UK have shared their fears about the future of Christianity in the Middle East. This was the first Anglican-Oriental Orthodox International Commission in 12 years. The dialogue’s central topic was the Holy Spirit, but Christian persecution in countries across the Middle East was inevitably a key issue. During the consultation the Co-Chair of the Lausanne-Orthodox Initiative, Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the UK, said, “We gather to remember our brethren in Egypt, Syria, and throughout the Middle East, where many continue to suffer persecution for their faith. Some suffer even to the extent of losing their lives, yet their faithful witness in the Middle East is a blessing to the whole Church, and to the whole world.”
In the midst of such sadness and concern there was also joy and hope that believers from different traditions had so much to share with one another. The Rt Revd Christopher Hill, the Church of England Bishop of Guildford said, “When Christians welcome each other it is a mutual welcome because God in Christ welcomes us. Bishop Angaelos echoed these ecumenical sentiments, “We are blessed to have brothers and sisters in Christ who are also sharing in our vision. There are differences, but the things we have in common are far greater, and far more important. …We are faithful to the one flock, one Shepherd.”
On Sunday 6 October, the Commission members welcomed Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Revd Justin Welby to the Chapel Royal, Hampton Court, for its Feast of Dedication. Archbishop Welby said there was “an urgency and an importance” to the Commission’s meeting not least because of the need for its members to seek “God’s powerful hand” to deliver their brothers and sisters from persecution.