And a Child Chooses….

St. Mark's Cathedral in Alexandria

Today at Abbasiya Cathedral in Cairo, Egypt a new patriarch was chosen to lead Egypt’s 8 million strong Coptic Orthodox Christians.

Three finalists were selected earlier in the year: Father Raphael Ava Mina, Bishop Tawadros, and Bishop Raphael. And while there was consensus on the three finalists the final decision was in the hands of a blindfolded child.

Only not really – because the Coptic Orthodox believe that God is sovereign and the choice is made by him. They leave it in the hands of a child so that their will does not interfere with God’s.

So amid incense and prayers, this blindfolded child walked up to a glass bowl and picked a name. Bishop Tawadros of Beheira was the winner of this unusual lottery.

While this may seem strange to western ears, this process is not random. Weeks ago a committee met and agreed on 17 potential names. This number was reduced to five and ultimately the three above were agreed on as the final candidates. A period of fasting began on Wednesday of this past week in preparation for the service held today.

An article written in Christianity Today earlier this week by Jayson Casper who blogs at A Sense of Belonging said this:

“It is easier to find biblical support for choosing by consensus than by lot,” said Atef al-Gindy, president of the Evangelical Theological Seminary of Cairo. “But I have observed the sincerity and genuine desire of Orthodox leaders to conduct a process that is clean and according to the will of God, seeking his guidance.”

This is an important decision, not just for Copts, but for all minority Christians in Egypt. The rights of minorities are a concern as Egypt continues to work out its politics internally and externally.

As for a child choosing….I like it. In fact, I wonder what it would be like if a child were to choose the November 6 election in the United States?! A Blindfolded child, free of political fray and disillusionment. 

I appreciate that the initial process included consensus, that there was fasting and prayer ahead of time, and that there was really not a preference when it came to the final three — all three of them were agreed upon as leaders who could lead with wisdom and Godliness.

So a child chose – and Bishop Tawadros is now the new patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church. May God continue to bless the country of Egypt and may Christians living throughout Egypt have opportunity for freedom and growth.

13 thoughts on “And a Child Chooses….

  1. Also, everyone involved in this process has complete faith that this “choice” is God-made. That the hand of the child is guided by God to reveal His chosen leader. This is how it was described to me by my Coptic friends.


  2. Ok I have sat here and gone back and forth over this whole thing. It all sounds so lovely and innocent. Then I thought that is not choosing. A lottery isn’t choosing. No one made a choice. I don’t mean this to be hateful or disrespectful by any means. Maybe it is a good idea but I just don’t see it as choosing. Not based on abilities anyway. But then again half of America thinks that the other half didn’t choose according to ability either. So I wonder what the outcome would have been if Obama, Romney and Johnson would have been put into a hat and a child had reached in to pull one out.


    1. So – I don’t think you’re being hateful or disrespectful in any way. First off – my statement in the post on a blindfolded child picking the US President was facetious. The Coptic church process is much more than just this past Sunday. It began much earlier in the year after the death of Pope Shenouda. A committee of 18 people comprised of clergy and lay people met and short listed a number of candidates down to 5. After that more than 2,400 met and voted for 3 of those to go to the final stages. Everyone was happy with these final 3 – At the end there was really no preference. People were encouraged to fast and pray each step of the way and a period of fasting preceded Sunday’s selection. So it was really first among equals. That’s where it can’t be compared to the American election which is based on politics, divisiveness, and a lot of lying on all sides. Does that make it clearer? I’m glad you weighed in on this.


  3. what an interesting glimpse into a world that doesn’t often get the spotlight. Drawing by lots happened a lot in the Bible though, I wonder when we decided it was a dodgy process? Sounds like they have a great way of doing things and desire to genuinely see God’s will and not impose theirs. Like you, I love that they fast and pray over it beforehand.


    1. I think we get so far away from truly wanting God’s will – our opinion, will, desire, thoughts can all get in the way. As I said below, it’s a truly thoughtful process once you look at the whole thing. I love your description “dodgy process” – made me laugh!But a great way to describe how lots are viewed.


  4. Wow! Amazing! There is a purity in this. Love the fact that after prayer and fasting any of the three would have been a welcomed choice. No divisiveness possible. May God bless Egypt and draw everyone closer to His heart. Thanks for sharing.


    1. Yes Cathy! I agree and felt the same way. It’s a thoughtful process. I think when we first hear it’s a child there’s some warning bells…and then the more you look into the process the more it feels so right. I echo your prayers for Egypt, Beautiful Egypt.


  5. Marilyn, I watched this ceremony live through the Internet from work here in Cairo. It was a fascinating process and with today’s modern cameras, I felt like I was in the front row. I liken this event to a rare astronomical happening that comes along only every 30, 40 or 50 years (depending on the age and health of the chosen Pope). A Coptic co-worker watching at the same time commented that she was not alive the last time the child drew the name of the recently deceased Pope (41-years ago, I believe). I feel blessed to have seen it! Ann


    1. Ann – Amazing to be able to watch it so closely – and yes, an historic event for sure. What has been the response to the announcement? Thank you for sharing this and I have to confess to some jealousy that I wasn’t by your side!


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