By Mark Michael
The Rt. Rev. Samy Fawzy Shehata, Area Bishop of North Africa, has been elected Coadjutor Bishop of Egypt, and will succeed Bishop Mouneer Anis upon his coming retirement. Anis reached the province’s mandatory retirement age of 70 in early April. Shehata was elected on April 22 in Cairo, receiving 73 percent of the vote. The Diocese of Egypt has been a strategic leader among Anglicans in the Global South, and Shehata will play a central role in the establishment of the Anglican Communion’s newest province, the Province of Alexandria, which will include the Diocese of Egypt and three dioceses in North Africa and the Horn of Africa created through its mission work.
Bishop Anis told Anglican Communion News Service, ““The election was done in prayerful spirit. I am grateful to the nomination committee who worked very hard to insure a very transparent election. Please pray for Bishop Samy as he prepares to take the full responsibility of overseeing the diocese and for the coming months, in which I will hand over to him.”
Shehata has served as the first Arab bishop in North Africa since 2017, when he succeeded English missionary Bill Musk. He was formerly dean of St. Mark’s Pro-Cathedral in Alexandria, and served as principal of the Alexandria School of Theology, which trains ministers for service throughout the region. He earned a doctorate in theology from the University of Birmingham in 2002, and has represented the region in ecumenical work with the Orthodox churches and in the dialogue with the Al-Ahzar, Cairo’s venerable and influential Islamic university.
Shehata served on the Global South Anglicans’ Study Group on Enhancing Ecclesial Responsibility, which prepared a covenantal structure for deepened fellowship, which was adopted in principle by the Global South Anglicans at their meeting last October in Cairo.
Anis served as chair of the primates’ council of the Global South Anglicans and has been its primary spokesman for the last several years. He stepped down as chair at last October’s meeting. Anis, who has been Bishop of Egypt since 2000, served additionally as president bishop (primate) of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East from 2007 to 2017, when he was succeeded by the current primate, Michael Lewis. Bishop Anis’ own commitment to reconciliation between the Communion’s conservative and progressive provinces has shaped the moderate tone of the group’s public statements.
The Diocese of Egypt has generally steered a middle course during the Anglican realignment, maintaining a commitment to involvement in the Communion’s Canterbury-based instruments of unity. Anis consistently participated in primates’ meetings during his ten years as archbishop of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, and as part of that province, Egypt sent a delegate to the most recent Anglican Consultative Council Meeting in 2019. The diocese also, though, has a close relationship with the Anglican Church in North America, and that church’s archbishop, Foley Beach, participated in Bishop Shehata’s consecration in 2017.
While Anis publicly refused to participate in the initial gathering of GAFCON in Jerusalem in 2008, citing a concern about the group being dominated by “Northern” (i.e. American and Australian) leadership, he also withdrew from participating in the 2016 ACC Meeting. He protested in the latter case that the participation of Connecticut bishop Ian Douglas on the body’s steering committee violated the consequences outlined for the Episcopal Church by the Anglican primates in response to General Convention’s decision to authorize same-sex marriages.
The new Anglican Province of Alexandria will be officially inaugurated later this year, and will elect its first archbishop. While the Diocese of Egypt was formed in 1920, the other three dioceses, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, and Gambella, are very recent creations, and are in the process of developing fully independent diocesan structures. The new province also has the Communion’s most ethnically diverse team of episcopal leadership.
The Diocese of North Africa has only three parishes, one each in Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria, and will be without a bishop when Shehata succeeds Anis. The Diocese of the Horn of Africa, which is served by Bishop Kuan Kim Seng, a retired assistant bishop of Singapore, has only one self-sustaining parish, St. Matthew’s in Addis Ababa. There is, though, current mission work in other parts of Ethiopia, as well as in Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia. Rajan Vincent Jacob, an Indian priest, was consecrated as Bishop of Gambella, a region in Western Ethiopia, in 2019. Gambella has about sixty congregations, mostly composed of refugees from neighboring South Sudan. The region’s first bishop, Grant LeMarquand, founded a seminary there to train local leaders, St. Frumentius Theological College. LeMarquand, a Canadian, returned to North America in 2018, and teaches at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pa.
As the only native of the region among the new province’s bishops, and as a longstanding representative of the Church of Egypt in Communion-wide affairs, Shehata would seem the most likely candidate to serve as the Anglican Communion’s newest primate when elections for the provincial archbishop are held later this year.