"The big difference between the [heterodox] songs and the [Orthodox] hymns - the hymns are addressing the spirit and they are theological. Songs are emotional."
- H.G. Bishop Youssef
Oftentimes, proponents of introducing Evangelical and Charismatic praxis into the life of the Coptic Orthodox Church claim that they do so out of a desire to make the Church more palatable to "potential converts". Sometimes, this is merely a smokescreen for their own identity issues as they seek to "fit in" and acculturate in the "Lands of Immigration". Other times it is born of a genuine if misguided desire for evangelism to those outside or service to second-generation immigrant youth wit...
On a recent visit to Washington DC, Metropolitan Serapion described it as a "challenging area" that needs an Orthodox bishop in order to "move forward like the other areas". H.E. also voiced his opposition to worldly Protestant songs entering our youth meetings.
“After you understand the American culture, next step you need to discern what’s right and what’s good. Discernment, actually, is a virtue of the spiritually mature people."
“What are the tools that God gave us to be able to transform our culture? The Holy Scriptures, the Church, early Church Fathers. And we have many biblical examples about people who lived in a different culture, but they did not only adapt well to the culture but also they were able to transform the culture, like Daniel,...
Fr Thomas Hopko distinguishes Orthodox and Protestant worship as two separate entities, the former as "worship in spirit and in truth" and the latter as a deviation.
"Let us not forget that unorthodox
worship can pollute our being, leading to forgetfulness. It can cause one’s mind to drift quite far, rendering him unable to value the Traditional Orthodox melodies and style of Church Worship... Orthodox worship is distinct in its constant reminder of the real presence of Christ and his Saints in our lives. We must be careful to ensure that the worship songs we use are Orthodox in their origin, lyrics, melodies and in their spirit. Communion and unity with ...
“The liturgy is the top. It’s not just something we have to do because we are Orthodox. ‘Of course, I attend the liturgy because how can I be Coptic without attending the liturgy!’ But I feel the real spiritual life for me is not this. This is just a duty to do, but REALLY I grow spiritually when I pray, when I have a prayer meetings, when I have praise, I have a worship. That’s what we call “worship”! This is a deviation of the meaning of it, because the centrality in our service is Ch...
"Popular culture is a very dangerous thing, especially when it has to do with our faith… It’s one thing to advertise for me buying a jacket on TV and, being satisfied with the advertisement, I go and buy it. It’s another thing to advertise something on TV about my soul and about my relationship with God and for me to buy it just based on this commercial is a grave mistake.”
- Emmanuel Gergis, Lecturer at Antiochian House of Studies and St Cyril Society
"Some people show their misunderstanding of the problem when they say, "What is meant by the word 'methods'? 'Methods' don't make a difference, there's no such thing as Orthodox versus non-Orthodox methods."
No, sorry, as an Orthodox Church it is important for us that the methods should be in agreement with the teaching, and that the teaching should be in agreement with the methods."
- Mary Malak Sadek, Logos TV, Coptic Orthodox Diocese of Los Angeles
"When Moses asked Aaron, 'Why did you make a golden calf?', he told him, 'The people pressured me.' Today when God comes to ask ANY youth servant in our Coptic Church, 'Why did you bring these songs?', he'll tell Him, 'Because the congregation wants this.' You have fallen into the same error as Aaron."
- H.G. Bishop Raphael
"Sometimes success causes the person to reject any guidance. This is the problem... One can become addicted to fame, so he feels like he cannot accept any guidance and direction. Why? Because he can see that there is activity regardless."
- H.G. Bishop Serapion of Los Angeles
Due to popular demand, here is the Washington DC video with subtitles that work on non-mobile devices. Please spread this link around, as we will be deleting the old video soon.
"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."
- H.G. Bishop Karas, G...
“Actually I consider this a great challenge that you are facing here, and I trust that you will succeed in presenting the Orthodox deep spirituality… God assigned that you be living here in this country, under the care of these beloved fathers [Bishops Youssef and Serapion], so that you can spread this spirituality on this land."
- H.H. Pope Tawadros
"The bishops of each area should get a good music commission, so that they have music book containing Catholic hymns, so that only Catholic hymns are sung. Because what we sing should manifest what we believe, and should nourish our faith. And not just sing anything - it should be theologically deep, liturgically rooted, and musically acceptable. Unfortunately, many things sung in some Catholic churches should not figure at all inside the church."
- Francis Cardinal Arinze, Prefect Emeritu...
The Criteria of the Coptic Orthodox Song
The Committee of Faith, Education and Legislation, Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church
14th June 2003
1. The sentences of the Orthodox song should be far from claiming the guarantee of obtaining the eternal life through faith only without deeds.
2. Be far from claiming that repentance without baptism is considered a new birth, such as the following statements: (in a moment of change, to be born as new).
3. The song must emphasise the value of the...
“Without being too negative about other forms of Christianity, we have to say this - that worship is not about emotion, it’s not about entertainment, it’s not about feeling good. It’s about coming close to God with your heart beyond feeling… these [Orthodox forms of worship] are not cultural artefacts, these are laboratories of the spirit… whose unworthy inheritors we are as Orthodox Christians. That’s the precious gift of Christ we bring to others."
- Fr Moses Curley
In this video, H.G. Bishop Serapion discusses the topic of new hymnological compositions to replace Protestant songs, as well as the inculturation of worship in America.
Summary of key points:
- Any new hymnological compositions should “take from the same spirit” of our existing Orthodox chant. There should not be a “kind of schizophrenia” between existing Orthodox chant and any new composition (as if they represented two distinct kinds of worship).
- If we separate out two kinds of worship...
“Sometimes with a congregation who has been served well, and even a [new] priest arrives, they tell you “His methods are not Orthodox”. The congregation themselves [say this], and we’re talking about a priest who is preaching to them in the church. We ask, “What did he say?”
Interviewer: He hasn’t said anything wrong.
HG: No, no, his ‘style’, they say that his ‘style’ [is the issue]. Just like someone, for example, who is accustomed to a certain food – they recognise it when they are presen...
In this video, H.G. Bishop Serapion of Los Angeles explains his idea of a “short” tasbeha in order for youth “to taste the spirit of the Church”, which he explains is the most important aspect of the “hymns vs songs” debate. H.G. points out that “the youth” is often used as an “excuse” by those who want the Church to move away from its liturgical Tradition. H.G. observes that in fact the American-born youth tend to be “more in the spirit of the Church” than the youth who just migrated from ...
A must-watch! In this 30 minute sermon, H.G. Bishop Raphael, Secretary of the Coptic Orthodox Holy Synod, explains the characteristics of Orthodox worship, and contrasts this with Evangelical Protestant “praise and worship”.
H.G. Bishop Antony of Ireland, Scotland and Northern England concludes:
“Unfortunately Pentecostal and Protestant thought has entered our Church by means of servants. And unfortunately it has entered our Church by means of priests. And it is being spread. And right n...
"Many people want to modify the worship, "as I see it right", or "as I perceive it right", but this will not be acceptable to God."
- H.G. Bishop Youssef
“Right now we see youth - you know, people - just make this decision on their own, ‘That’s culture, remove it from the Church’… No… that is the role of the leadership in the Church… the responsibility of the Holy Synod.”
- H.G. Bishop Youssef