What are the primary theological differences between the Coptic Orthodox Church and the Orthodox Churches under the Ecumenical Patriarch? Are these two groups currently engaged in a dialogue over these differences? Can we be cautiously optimistic that there will be a reconciliation and communion between these two groups in the near future?
The Coptic Orthodox Church was accused of being 'Monophysite' in the Council of Chalcedon. The term monophysite comes from two Greek words meaning "single nature". Monophysitism merged Christ's humanity into His divinity so that effectively it meant that in Christ there was only one single nature, a divine nature. This is NOT what the Coptic Orthodox believes. We believe that "Christ's divinity parted not from His humanity, not for a single moment nor a twinkling of an eye" and we recite this statement in every liturgy. As a result, we are Miaphysite and not Monophysite. Miaphysitism (one nature) means the Lord Jesus Christ is perfect human and perfect divine and these two natures are united together without mingling, nor confusion, nor alteration in one nature; the nature of God incarnate.
The Eastern Orthodox Churches who believe in Diophysitism (two natures) were understood not to believe in the unity between the two natures of Christ. In the recent dialogue, the Eastern Orthodox Churches confessed their belief in the union of the two natures according to the words of St. Cyril of Alexandria Miaphysis tou theo tou logo se sarkomeeni which means one nature for the incarnated Logos of God.
The Eastern Orthodox and "Oriental Orthodox" (Coptic and others) Churches have come now to a realization that they profess the same faith. Their separation in the fifth and sixth centuries can now be seen as having been due to linguistic, political and national factors. Since they have had the same faith all along; all that remains to be done is to remove a few secondary difficulties such as mutual anathemas, the non-recognition of each other's saints and parallel jurisdictions. When these difficulties are removed, a new step will be achieved in the Ecumenical Movement, which eagerly desires the union of all churches.
More information about the current dialogues regarding the unification of the churches can be found at these websites