Ethiopian Orthodox Church is growing, slowly but surely

By Assta B. Gettu

As the Twin Cities (in Minnesota, USA) have graciously welcomed you to settle among their communities peacefully, and in these blessed localities the Trios -– the St. Luke Lutheran Church, the St. George Ukrainian Church, and the St. Mary Greek Orthodox Church -– have also facilitated you until you are able to stand up on your own feet by establishing your own new Church — the Debre Berhan St. Ourael Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church. May God help those who helped you all these days!

Living in a foreign country, supporting one’s own family, competing with a new civilization foreign to most of us Ethiopians, and fighting against new culture, and preserving one’s own tradition, religion, and custom is one of the greatest achievements a person can accomplish in his life time.

You, members of the Debre Berhan St. Ourael Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church, have been waiting patiently until you find your own worshiping place; now the good Lord in heaven has heard your earnest prayers and given you a place and a church where you can praise him together, you must rejoice fully and be comfortable in your new Church.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church is one of the oldest Christian Churches in the world and has triumphantly crossed many deep and turbulent waters in its long Christian history: the time of Gragn Ahmad, Ate Susinios, Judith-Gudit, Lij Iyasu, and of course the Romans who occupied Ethiopia for five years. The Church bravely fought against such foreign and homegrown invaders.

This unique and glorious Church of ours has been one of the best unifying factors for the survival of the Ethiopian people as a whole: it has marched side by side with its Christian kings, encouraging them spiritually to defend Ethiopia from any hostile enemies and administering Holy Communion for the living and the dying.

It has served its members faithfully by baptizing the Ethiopian children and by blessing the weddings of many Ethiopian young boys and young girls. It has trained thousands of clergies throughout the centuries and passed to us the traditional Church education such as the Yared Zema, the Kine, the Liturgy, the Tirgum, the Kebre Negest, the Geez language, and the Doctrine of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church and many other indispensable Christian books and articles.

Most of the defenders of Ethiopia have been the students of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church whom the Church has trained, cultivated from their childhood until their adulthood. One cannot find in the old days any Ethiopian government official that does not read methehafe-dawit (the Book of Psalm) or does not carry this special book with him wherever he goes.

Therefore, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church has been the training center for many Church and government officials for thousands of years, and the result of its hard work has produced great Ethiopian leaders such as Ate Caleb, Ate Zerayakob, Ate Yukono Amlak, Ate Libne Dingle, Ate Lalibela, Ate Menelik II, Ate Haile Selassie, and many other Ethiopian Christian leaders. It is the dynamic teaching of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church that has taught most of the Ethiopian people civility, hospitality, normality, ethics and faith in the Almighty God.

This Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church has been growing inwardly most of the times; it is now, however, expanding outwardly: the Debre Brhan St. Ourael Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church and many other Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Churches in other countries are good examples.

The recent personal conflict between the legitimate Ethiopian Patriarch Abune Merkorios in exile and Aba Paulos, the usurper of power and the fake Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church at home, helps, in disguise, the Church to expand like the Roman Catholic Church after Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the Castle Church Door helped the new Church expand all over the world.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church has been one of the participants of the four well-known Church Councils through the Alexandrian Church –- the mother Church: the Council of Nicaea (325), the council of Constantinople (381), the Council of Ephesus (431), and the Council of Chalcedon (451). Each Council discussed on different issues such as Christ is Divine (Council of Nicaea); the Holy Spirit is Divine (Council of Constantinople); Natural Man is totally depraved (Council of Ephesus); and Christ is human and Divine (Council of Chalcedon).

Out of all these time-consuming doctrinal discussions, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church and the Alexandrian Church firmly assert that Christ has one nature while other Churches believe that Christ has two natures: divine and human, but the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church believes that Christ’s humanity and divinity are united; therefore, Christ has only one nature, not two. It seems such doctrinal controversy that has divided the Church for many years has now died out, and no one cares about the nature of Christ as far as one believes that Christ is the Son of God and the only savior of the world.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church has been very active until Aba Paulos usurped the Patriarchate and created two churches: one at home and one in exile in America.

I’m so happy to hear that the Ethiopian Christian communities in Minnesota are dedicating a new Church on May 16 and 17, 2009, and may the Almighty God bless the dedication of this new Church and may He also bless those who pray in this new Church and listen to their prayers and accept their requests as He kindly accepted King Solomon’s prayer during the Dedication of the Great Temple in Jerusalem.