American Episcopalians face searching questions in Cairo - Press release, Diocese of Egypt

Statement released by the office of the Anglican bishop in Egypt

Bishop Mouneer Anis of Egypt welcomed this week a group of senior clergy from The Episcopal Church in America who visited Egypt to understand better this part of the Anglican Communion. They had a series of meetings in Cairo with Bishop Mouneer Anis,  Dr. Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar (the world’s hub for Sunni Muslims), the Grand Mufti, and a number of other senior Muslim theologians. During their meetings they were asked about their positions in regard to same sex marriage and practicing homosexuality. Dr. Ali Gomma, the Grand Mufti of Egypt, one of the country’s top Muslim cleric, stated that practicing homosexuality is viewed by all of the world’s great religions as sinful and not as a human right. Dr. Gomma added that efforts organized by small minorities in the West to add homosexuality to the list of universally recognized human rights threaten the important role that religious leaders must play in guarding and propagating respect for human rights generally around the world.  He also stated that a tiny minority of people cannot be allowed to impose their own personal views on the vast majority of the world’s people who reject homosexual relations and same sex marriage.

Sheikh Umar al-Deeb, deputy to the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar and the President of Al-Azhar’s Permanent Committee for Dialogue with Monotheistic Religions, asked the visiting delegation the same question.  He was answered that the American church is struggling and in confusion over this issue, as it is torn by pressures from the surrounding culture on the one hand, and its desire to remain true to the faith, on the other.  Sheikh al-Deeb followed up by asking members of the delegation if two people of the same sex came to their church and requested to be married would they personally bless the union.  He was told that they would not.

The General Secretary of the Assembly for Islamic Research, Sheikh al-Fayyoumi, noted that religious leaders always face pressure from the surrounding culture to compromise religious values, but their duty is to resist those pressures and to work instead to bring their societies more into conformity with the eternal truths of religion.  He added that when we see a sin and fail to rebuke it, we become complicit in it.

Egypt’s senior Muslim religious leaders were grateful for the opportunity to meet with their American guests. The meeting at Al-Azhar was arranged at the request of the visiting American delegation by the Anglican Bishop of Egypt, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Mouneer Anis in his role as a member of the on-going Al-Azhar - Anglican Communion Dialogue committee. Bishop Anis said to the delegation, “we should have the courage to acknowledge that we are walking in a completely different directions. This became clearer after the last convention in America.”  The bishop continued, “our own diocese, spreading from Algeria in the west to the Horn of Africa in the east, faces a variety of cultural pressures of its own.  In parts of Africa, including my own diocese, multiple wives and even concubines are still widely accepted and considered culturally normative.  So we also face great pressures to ignore the biblical standard of the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman and to yield to the prevailing cultural notions of what is acceptable.  However, we understand that part of what it has meant to be faithful Christians over the past two thousand years has been to be countercultural by standing in faithful witness to the Gospel and its demands, and therefore, in opposition to ever changing cultural norms and fashions.”

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