Emerging Coptic Theology in Australia

St Athanasius College (SAC) and St Cyril’s Coptic Orthodox Theological College (SCC) celebrated forty years of Coptic theological education in Australia through their inaugural Research Seminar: Emerging Coptic Theology in Australia (14 – 15 October 2022). The seminar aimed at fostering collaboration between Coptic Orthodox theological colleges in Australia. Coptic Orthodox researchers and research students presented twelve papers, broadly clustered into three categories: theology (five papers), ministry (four papers), and liturgical studies (three papers).

The theology stream covered topics ranging from Eucharistic theology, deification and union with the divine, and natural contemplation as a theological metaphor. The ministry stream discussed the Australian Coptic identity in a secular society, the challenge of secularism, and modern Orthodox Christian apologetic. The third and last stream focused on the liturgical life of Coptic Egypt during the Coptic-Arab golden era, manuscripts of the Red Sea monasteries, and the hymn of the intersessions throughout the church’s history.

On this occasion, Wagdy Samir, Director of Orthodox Studies at the Australian Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies, presented a paper on “Divine Participation: The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit in Fr Matta al-Mīskin’s Theology.” The Australian Theology Research Foundation Inc (ATRFInc) funded the research. The paper examines Fr Matta’s views on divine participation within the context of humankind’s indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The paper emphasises the interconnectedness of Fr Matta’s soteriology, pneumatology, trinitarian theology, and sacramental theology with Christology as the central locus of humankind’s union with the divine. Fundamentally, Fr Matta speaks of divine participation’s real and transformative power in humankind. He argues for the continuity in God’s plan to unite humankind to himself since before the foundation of the world. He acknowledges the dynamics of the divine activity in facilitating participation and humankind’s free response to it. He also emphasises that union with God does not lead to human beings becoming ontologically divine. Finally, for him, humankind’s participation in God begins in this life and reaches its zenith in eternity.

A quote from Fr Matta:

on Pentecost Day, the human nature of the church partook of the ‘fiery’ nature of God, and out of this nature, the new human being was born.

Official flyer of the event: