1- Why was it founded?
A- As the extension of Sunday School and Consecration movements in the Coptic Church in the 20th century. Carrying this spirit to the next generations in Diaspora.
B- Realizing that the Orthodox Faith and Orthodox Life are the most precious elements in the Coptic Church. The Creed established in the first 3 Ecumenical Councils is the central element in the Faith and Dogma of almost all Christian Churches in the world. The life of the Desert fathers has a profound influence on all Christians in the world.
C- Conviction that the scattering of Orthodox people from the Middle East, Central Europe and Russia to the Western Countries and The New World, as a result of the persecution by Arabs, Turks and Communism, should have a similar Divine purpose as the scattering of the faithful from Jerusalem as a result of Jewish persecution in the first century (Acts 8:4, 11:19-21), i.e. preaching and spread of the Kingdom of God. On a theological level, these events would have the same effects on the Church as the effects of the labors and the writings of St. John the Divine at the end of the first century of Christianity.
D- That is why it is called Saint Mark’s Orthodox Fellowship, and its primary mission is preaching Orthodoxy.
2- How we serve:
A- Nonsectarian Christian Orthodox service: Mark 9:38-40, Luke 9:49,50 “Do not forbid him” who casts out demons in Jesus’ name, although he “does not follow us”, realizing the work of God in him: he cannot “soon afterward speak evil of me”. Cooperation with others.
B- Uniting service, “That they all may be one” (John 17:21) “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold, them also I must bring, and they will hear my voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10:16). Preaching to bring the lost sheep, and work to reconcile and bring together all the people of God to realize this unity is the work of all people in the Church (Acts 8:4).
C- All members are invited to work, and what we are now is the result of the labors of too many members. See SMOF Newsletter.
3- What has been accomplished:
1- Return of the lost sheep needs God’s power; spiritually it is equivalent to raising the dead. However, we should be prepared so that we can do our share when the harvest is ready (John 4:35-38). Bible studies: for all levels to prepare all the people of God so that they can witness both by their life and words.
2- Activities outside SMOF: The Coptic Orthodox diocese of Southern US holds an annual Evangelism conference and has a web site for Evangelism (suscopticdiocese. org/evangelism). The Antiochian Orthodox Church in N. America has a Dept. of Mission and Evangelism; Fr. Peter Gillquist is its Exec. Director. Converts from Protestant churches to Orthodoxy are the most zealous persons in the Orthodox Church for Preaching and, in particular preaching Orthodoxy. OCA is the most rapidly growing church in USA.
3- Proposal for SMOF members: “How Christianity Began …” consisting of Luke and Acts in SRV; handout and copies from it or from the web site. Sharing our experience next conference.
D- Uniting the Faithful:
1- Membership is open to all who share this vision and this goal from any denomination. However, more than 90% of the listed members are Copts.
2- Bible study is the common denominator for all denominations that believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of the living God. We realize that Orthodoxy is clearly seen in the revealed Word of God.
3- “Unity of the Orthodox Christians in Faith and its Application in Our Daily Life” was the title of the 2nd Canadian SMOF Conference (May 2002). Armenian, Coptic, Greek and Syrian speakers in Armenian and Coptic Churches in Toronto was a great step forward in this direction.
4- Speakers and Topics in this Annual Conference: Fr. Dragas, Greek Orthodox Church in N. America, Fr. Tadros Malaty who participated in the Theological agreement between the Orthodox Churches.
4- How are we organized?
B- Executive Board: Not yet; should be discussed this year, especially how to encourage the youth to take responsibilities.
C- Committees: On the Web site.
D- Finances: Member- (IRS: public-) supported; donations but no membership dues. Volunteers usually give their time and talent as well as financial support for their activities, although the latter is not requested. Collections did not exceed the $25,000 annually, and balance is between $2,000 and $10,000 most of the time.
[This text is from a handout of a talk in the 7th Annual SMOF Conference.]