Ethiopian Lutherans elect new president

Rev. Yonas Yigezu (right) addresses the assembly following his election as President of the Ethiopian Evangelical Lutheran Church Mekane Yesus, while outgoing President Idosa stands at right. (Photo: EECMY).

ETHIOPIA – The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) held its 20th General Assembly January 22-28, 2017 in Addis Ababa, during which time the church elected a new president, Rev. Yonas Yigezu.

“God is calling me into a challenge but for enormous blessings ahead,” President Elect Yigezu said follow the election. “I am a team builder and prayer warrior: I see my success in this.”

Prior to his election as president, Rev. Yigezu served the EECMY as Director for Mission and Theology. He was first ordained in 2006, and is currently pursuing a doctorate through Concordia Theological Seminary (Fort Wayne, Indiana), a seminary of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS).

The theme for this year’s assembly was “I am not ashamed of the Gospel,” taken from Romans 1:18. Also elected during the assembly were Rev. Dr. Kiros Lakew (President of the Addis Ababa Synod) as EECMY Vice President and Bacha Ginaas as Treasurer.

President Elect Yigezu succeeds Rev. Dr. Wakseyoum Idosa who served two terms as EECMY President, having first been elected in January 2009. “I am very happy that the unity of the church has been maintained and growth has been recorded during the last eight years,” President Idosa said.” The participation of the EECMY in spreading the Gospel nationally and internationally has increased. I will continue to serve the church in all my capacity.” Dr. Idosa is also president of the Lutheran Communion in Central and Eastern Africa (LUCCEA), of which the EECMY is a member church.

With 8.3 million members, the EECMY is the world’s largest Lutheran church body, and is still experiencing rapid growth. The church is a member of the Lutheran World Federation, though it has broken fellowship with several LWF churches in recent years over issues of sexuality and the authority of Scripture.

The EECMY has also been moving to strengthen ties with the International Lutheran Council (ILC) and its member churches—especially the LCMS—over the past number of years, participating in the ILC’s 2015 World Conference in Argentina, for example, as well as in 2016’s World Seminary Conference in Wittenberg, Germany.

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Oromo Christians hold international conference in Winnipeg

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An Oromo choir sings at the 2015 United Oromo Evangelical Churches conference in Winnipeg.

CANADA – Downtown Winnipeg was buzzing July 24-26, 2015 as Lutheran Church of the Redeemer played host to the 20th annual international Conference of United Oromo Evangelical Churches (UOEC). The event brought together delegates not only from across Canada and the United States, but also from across the globe with representatives from England, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Kenya, and Australia.

A major focus of the business of the clergy portion of the meeting dealt with building further unity among the various Oromo congregations represented, especially in the face of the liberal swing concerning human sexuality in many European and North American Lutheran Church bodies.

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Central District President Thomas Prachar welcomes delegates to Winnipeg on behalf of Lutheran Church–Canada.

Central District President Thomas Prachar brought greetings to the UOEC on behalf of Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) President Robert Bugbee, speaking both to the pastors’ meeting on July 23 as well as to the larger assembly of delegates on July 25. Rev. Todd Hoeffs also welcomed the delegates on behalf of Lutheran Church of the Redeemer as well as LCC’s Red River Circuit, which aided the conference with prayer, volunteer, and financial support.

Rev. Dr. Gemechis Olana of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) was persuaded to continue on for an additional year as president of the UOEC. Lutheran Church–Canada’s own Rev. Assefa Aredo—the first graduate of LCC’s Pastors with Alternate Training program—was elected to serve on the Canadian Board of the UOEC along with two other delegates, one from Winnipeg and the other from Toronto. The Canadian Board coordinates outreach and mission planning among the Oromo diaspora within Canada.

The event came to a close Sunday July 26 with a joint English-Oromo worship, with estimates of more than 300 people in attendance.

“It was a wonderful conference,” said Rev. Aredo. “I want to say a big thank-you to all the volunteers from the Red River Circuit that helped to make it possible.” UOEC President Olana also expressed thanks on behalf of the UOEC board for all the support which LCC has provided to the various Oromo congregations and missions in Canada. This positive interaction, Rev. Aredo relates, has continued to spark interest in both LCC and Confessional Lutheranism among the scattered Oromo Churches around the globe.

The history of the UOEC is in many ways one of diaspora. From the 1970s on, thousands of Oromo people left Ethiopia to avoid persecution, political instability, and economic difficulties. As Oromo people took up residence in other nations, they began to form congregations and fellowships, many of which have since affiliated with various Lutheran denominations. In 1998, these congregations and fellowships founded the United Oromo Evangelical Churches as a way of unifying Oromo Christians living in diaspora across the globe.

While the UOEC is interdenominational in scope, many affiliated congregations are members of or have friendly relations with such churches of the International Lutheran Council as The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and Lutheran Church–Canada.

The 21st UOEC Conference will take place in Washington, D.C. in the summer of 2016.

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EECMY and LCMS sign Revised Extended Working Partnership Agreement

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President Wakseyoum Idosa and Rev. Dr. Albert Collver sign a revised working partnership agreement between the EECMY and the LCMS, while other participants in the discussions look on.

ETHIOPIA – Representatives and leaders from the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) met November 10-13 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at the Mekane Yesus Seminary, the EECMY headquarters, and the Gudina Tumsa Wholistic Training Center to discuss the relationship between the two church bodies, revise an extended working agreement, and make plans to strengthen theological education within the Mekane Yesus Church by creating a relationship between the church bodies’ seminaries.

This round of discussions was the result of a January 2014 meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, between LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison and Rev. Dr. Wakseyoum Idosa, president of the EECMY.

The recent meeting for discussions included the following for the EECMY: President Idosa; General Secretary Rev. Dr. Berhanu Ofgaa; and Rev. Yonas Yigezu, director of Mission and Theology. For the LCMS, the discussions included Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, LCMS director of Church Relations and Regional Operations; Rev. Dr. Lawrence R. Rast, chairman of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) and president of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana; Rev. Dr. Joel Lehenbauer, CTCR Executive Director; and Rev. Dr. Tilahun Mendedo, president of Concordia University in Selma, Alabama.

The discussion team reviewed the history of the EECMY, including the history of the EECMY’s mission partners, and the history of the LCMS. The review of this history helped the discussion team recognize how the EECMY and the LCMS could better relate to one another. The team reviewed the past work between the EECMY and the LCMS and discussed ways to enhance that working relationship. The team also examined the commitment each church holds to the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessional documents.

Article 2 of the EECMY constitution states the following: “The Holy Scriptures of the Old and the New Testaments are the Holy Word of God and the only source and infallible norm of all Church doctrine and practice; the Church adheres to the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed … ; the Church sees in the Unaltered Augsburg Confession, which was worded by the Church Reformers, as well as in Luther’s Catechisms, a pure exposition of the Word of God.”

Article 2 of the LCMS constitution states: “The Synod, and every member of Synod, accepts without reservation: The Scriptures of the Old and the New Testament as the written Word of God and the only rule and norm of faith and of practice; All the Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church as a true and unadulterated statement and exposition of the Word of God.”

The representatives agreed that their two churches will respect each other’s constitution, bylaws, and policies as doctrinal discussions and cooperative efforts continue. They also discussed areas where the two churches could work together, such as with theological education and various human care projects.

After the discussions, the delegates of the EECMY and LCMS team signed a working partnership agreement. The agreement emphasizes the ongoing need for the two churches to understand one another better and to identify the challenges that are common and unique to both churches.  While formal pulpit and altar fellowship remains a goal, both churches are committed to continuing their current shared efforts, as well as regular and ongoing discussions of theology and practice.

While formal pulpit and altar fellowship remains a goal, both churches are committed to continuing their current shared efforts, as well as regular and ongoing discussions of theology and practice.

This partner agreement is a revision of the 2010 agreement between the Department of Mission and Theology of the EECMY and the World Mission Department of the LCMS. The revised agreement signed in Addis Ababa was between the two church bodies rather than between units within the church bodies. This demonstrates increased commitment between the EECMY and LCMS to become closer to one another.

EECMY and LCMS representatives, meeting on the campus of Mekane Yesus Seminary in Addis Ababa, also discussed how they might increase their work together in the area of theological education. EECMY participants included President Wakseyoum, General Sectretary Berhanu, the Mekane Yesus Seminary (MYS) President Rev. Dr. Belay Guta, along with many of the seminary’s faculty members. LCMS participants included Drs. Collver and Rast (President of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne), along with Drs. Jeffrey Kloha and William Schumacher, respectively provost and chairman of Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis. The parties agreed to work closely together toward the accreditation of MYS, particularly in the areas of curriculum review and library enhancement.

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About The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY)
The EECMY was formed in 1959 as various synods started by several different mission societies merged into one church. In the 1970s the EECMY developed the theme, “Serving the Whole Person,” now often quoted and referred to as wholistic ministry. This has been a guiding principle for all evangelistic, development, and social ministry of the church. Beginning with 20,000 members in 1959, the EECMY has grown to 6.7 million members. Learn more at http://www.eecmy.org.

About The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is a biblical, confessional, witness-oriented Christian denomination with 2.3 million members – 600,000 households – in 6,200 congregations. Through acts of witness and mercy, the church carries out its mission worldwide to make known the love of Jesus Christ. It is a member of the International Lutheran Council. Learn more at http://www.lcms.org.