Original Research - Special Collection: Applied subjects - Practical Theology and Science of Religion

The Coptic Church in South Africa: The meeting of mission and migration

David A. Ogren
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 70, No 1 | a2061 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v70i1.2061 | © 2014 David A. Ogren | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 03 September 2013 | Published: 15 July 2014

About the author(s)

David A. Ogren, Department of World Christianity, University of Edinburgh, Scotland; Department of Church History and Church Polity, University of Pretoria, South Africa


Previously identified as an entrenched Egyptian community, Copts have propelled themselves into the greater Africa through two main phenomena: migration and mission. Copts have recast displacement to transcend powerlessness and loss by highlighting the sovereign opportunity to consolidate identity in new contexts and widen the fold of the Coptic community, expressed through ecumenism, holistic ministry, cultural sensitivity and the presentation of the Coptic Church as essentially ‘African’. In migration, the Coptic Church creates identity through physical presence (church buildings), recasting the narrative (African originality), employing a rubric of sovereignty (agency rather than passivity) and engaging others ecumenically (gaining Orthodox legitimacy). Beyond reaching out to migrants, much energy has been devoted to mission by establishing institutions, including a missionary training department at the Institute of Coptic Studies and a Department of African Studies in Cairo. In mission, the Coptic Church extends its influence beyond migrants to include non-Copts and non-Christians through ecumenism, social programs and the presentation of Copts as essentially African.


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