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Coptic Orthodox Church (1970 - Present) - Religious Group

Religious Family: Eastern Liturgical (Orthodox)
Religious Tradition: Orthodox
Description: The Coptic Orthodox Church is one of the so-called Oriental Orthodox Churches (the others being Armenian, Ethiopian, Eritrean, Malankara-Indian, and Syrian) which, unlike Eastern Orthodox Churches, recognize the validity of theological decisions of only the first three Ecumenical Councils. The Copts are a Christian ethno-religious group indigenous to North Africa (mostly Egypt). With headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, the Coptic Orthodox Church – also known as the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria – is one of the ancient Oriental Christian Churches. It is believed that Christianity was brought to Egypt by St. Mark the Evangelist around the year 43 AD. The most venerated Coptic saint, St. Anthony the Great, is widely recognized as the founder of Christian monasticism. Early Coptic monks from the Egyptian desert provided the first models for the Christian monastic tradition at large. Coptic immigration to the United States from Egypt began after the coup of 1952, when Gamal Abdel Nasser overthrew the monarchy of King Farouk and established a republic. Nasser promoted Arab nationalism, while Copts viewed themselves as pre-Arab, the original people of Egypt who had lived there well before the Arab conquests of the seventh century. Early Coptic immigrants settled in New Jersey and New York. The first Coptic Church in America, St. Mark’s Coptic Church in Jersey City, NJ, opened its doors in 1970. A distinct feature of the Coptic Church administration in America is that there is no single Church center. In addition to seven American dioceses with local Bishops, the Coptic Pope Tawadros III maintains direct authority from Egypt over many parishes in the United States. Because a strong emphasis on the monastic tradition has always been essential to the Coptic Church, it is no surprise that despite a relatively short history of this church in America, several Coptic monasteries exist in the United States today. An important spiritual center of the American Coptic community is St. Anthony Monastery in Newberry Springs, CA ( Situated in the Mojave Desert, St. Anthony was founded in 1973, only three years after the first Coptic parish was established. St. Anthony was also the first Coptic monastery outside of Egypt to be officially recognized by the Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church. Unlike many other Orthodox Churches in America, in the Coptic Church there is no formal process set up for becoming a priest. Oftentimes the candidates for ordination lack the formal theological education and degrees (such as Master of Divinity) that are considered standard in most Orthodox Churches. Rather, entering the priestly vocation is an organic process that starts at the parish level when one member is chosen by the parish for future ordination. The Coptic Church continues to grow rapidly in America. Between 2010 and 2020 alone, the number of parishes increased from 170 to 292, while the membership has nearly doubled (from 92,000 to 180,000).
Official Site:

Maps: Coptic Orthodox Church1

Adherence Rate per 1,000 (2020)

Congregations (2020)

Top 5 Coptic Orthodox Church States (2020)1 [View all States]

Rank State Congregations Adherents Adherence Rate
1 New Jersey 27 27,658 2.98
2 Tennessee 17 17,759 2.57
3 California 52 47,364 1.20
4 Virginia 16 9,689 1.12
5 New York 18 16,205 0.80

Top 5 Coptic Orthodox Church Counties (2020)1 [View all Counties]

Rank County Congregations Adherents Adherence Rate
1 Davidson County, TN 8 14,254 19.91
2 Hudson County, NJ 3 9,300 12.83
3 Richmond County, NY 3 3,585 7.23
4 Rutherford County, TN 2 2,275 6.66
5 Monmouth County, NJ 2 4,236 6.58

Top 5 Coptic Orthodox Church Metro Areas (2020)1 [View all Metro Areas]

Coptic Orthodox Church, Members (1976 - 2000)2

Coptic Orthodox Church, Ministers & Churches (1976 - 2000)2

Coptic Orthodox Church, Trends (1976 - 2000)2

1976 40,000 12 14
1980 100,000 25 25
1981 100,000 25 25
1983 100,000 27 29
1986 115,000 28 28
1987 115,000 28 28
1989 160,000 44 40
1990 165,000 49 42
1992 180,000 68 85
2000 16,000 145 100


1 The 2020 data were collected by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies (ASARB) and include data for 372 religious bodies or groups. Of these, the ASARB was able to gather data on congregations and adherents for 217 and on congregations only for 155. [More information on the data sources]

2 All data on clergy, members, and churches are taken from the National Council of Churches’ Historic Archive CD and recent print editions of the Council’s Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches. The CD archives all 68 editions of the Yearbook (formerly called Yearbook of the Churches and Yearbook of American Churches) from 1916 to 2000. Read more information on the Historic Archive CD and the Yearbook.

Membership figures are "inclusive." According to the Yearbook, this includes "those who are full communicant or confirmed members plus other members baptized, non-confirmed or non-communicant." Each denomination has its own criteria for membership.

When a denomination listed on the Historic Archive CD was difficult to identify, particularly in early editions of the Yearbook, the ARDA staff consulted numerous sources, including Melton’s Encyclopedia of American Religions and the Handbook of Denominations in the United States. In some cases, ARDA staff consulted the denomination’s website or contacted its offices by phone. When a denomination could not be positively identified, its data were omitted.

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