As part of a Churches Together in England (CTE) initiative, The Coptic Orthodox Church Centre in the United Kingdom hosted an unprecedented meeting of Orthodox and Pentecostal Church leaders. The fraternal meeting, which aimed to build relationships, as well as discuss the issues of the persecuted Church and mission, was facilitated by His Grace Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom, Bishop Dr Eric Brown, Pentecostal President of CTE, and Bishop in the New Testament Church of God, and The Very Revd Archpriest Maxim Nikolsky of the Russian Orthodox Church.
In his welcome, Bishop Angaelos, stated the importance of the common witness of the Christian family regardless of differences of expression and denomination, saying: “There is such value in collaboration, and this historic meeting is the first of its kind in England, the United Kingdom, and possibly worldwide. While we all come from our particular backgrounds and theological understanding, today is a day to build bridges and to strengthen them.”
“In seeing the persecution of our brothers and sisters around the world, and in speaking about mission, we must recognise that this is a time, more than ever, for us to stand together. We must continue to be advocates for all who are persecuted regardless of their faith or ethnicity. As countless thousands continue to be persecuted for their Faith, we must speak out when there is injustice, following the example of Christ, the Chief Advocate, Who came to indiscriminately provide hope and salvation for all humanity.”
During the morning session Bishop Eric Brown said: “Today is a historic day, it is the coming together of the Pentecostals and Orthodox in this country, and essentially we are seeking ways in which we can jointly lift up the name of Jesus and to make Him known in a more powerful way in this nation. Hopefully we can get some consensus as to how we might address the issue of persecuted Christians worldwide.”
Bishop Dr Joe Aldred who works primarily with Pentecostal Churches in CTE, and who was the instigator of this meeting, said: “Today marks a momentous and significant meeting point and a beginning I hope of a lasting fellowship and friendship between leaders. I hope that we can develop a better understanding of what Christians around the world are experiencing, and continue to dialogue and take action where possible together. The other strand of this meeting is mission, and how that mission of Christ in England is better done together than apart.”
Father Maxim Nikolsky commented: “It is important to meet people who certainly share much in common; to meet, to understand some of their way of thinking, and to see what it is that is common to us.”
When asked about the persecuted Church, he continued: “That is a very important topic especially in the modern day, and we need to see if there is anything that can be done on a personal level, and as a community. We read and deliberate on the subject, but we must look at what we can really do to help our fellow Christians, and all who are persecuted for their faith.”
As part of the closing session a discussion was held on ways to collaboratively tackle national and international issues of concern, including religious freedom in England, and the Middle East. It was agreed to establish a working group to develop partnership in fellowship and actions, and a provisional time was set for the next meeting of the group.