While Americans prepare to elect their next president on Tuesday, Egyptian Christians are leaving this Sunday's choice for their highest leader up to a higher power: God.
On November 4, one of three final candidates will succeed Pope Shenouda III, the beloved "pope of the Bible" who died in March, as the 118th patriarch of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church. But in contrast to the "group consensus" method used to select Roman Catholic popes, the casting of lots will determine whether Bishop Raphael of Cairo, Bishop Tawadros of Beheira, or Father Raphael Ava Mina, a monk from the Monastery of St. Mina near Alexandria, becomes the next spiritual leader of Egypyt's 8 million Orthodox Christians.
"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."
The result has been an election campaign celebrated by Coptic Christians, more than 90 percent of whom are Orthodox. Their church traces its descent from the preaching of St. Mark, the Gospel writer.
A selection committee of 18 members—divided equally between laity and clergy—whittled the potential candidates from 17 down to five. Then more than 2,400 electors, also comprised of both laity and clergy, voted Monday for their choice of up to three candidates to advance to the final stage. The final choice is surrendered to God via holy lot, allowing a blindfolded child to select the winning candidate Sunday in an altar lottery at St. Mark's Cathedral ...