Ethiopian Evangelical Church looks to an ecumenical future

By Fredrick Nzwili
30 Sep 2010

Makane Yesus, the leader of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church (EECMY) has said his church is looking forward to the future leadership role that the World Council of Churches (WCC) will play within the wider ecumenical community.

The comment was made during a 23-27 September visit to the church by the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, the WCC’s General Secretary since January 2010.

The Rev Wakseyoum Idosa, the church’s president, said the EECMY is convinced that under the new General Secretary the WCC will assume a larger role addressing the concerns of today, including global threats to peace, unity and human dignity.

“We are convinced and feel no doubt that under your leadership, the WCC and member churches will step forward in the process of doing mission and diakonia [service], especially giving due attention to the change and renewal process to determine the roles and functions of the WCC in the 21st Century,” said Idosa during a dinner reception hosted for Tveit and his delegation in Addis Ababa.

He said the EECMY felt honoured that Tveit, himself a Lutheran pastor from Norway, had chosen to visit the church during an official tour of East Africa. The EECMY holds membership in both the Lutheran World Federation and the World Communion of Reformed Churches, as well as in the WCC.

Idosa said the gathering reminded him of Christ’s prayers for unity and stressed that Christian unity needs to be paid due attention in ecumenical relations today.

“Jesus prayed for the unity of the church so that it would make an impact in the world, and to this end the world needs to see our unity,” he said.

“It is demanded from all of us that we do everything possible to strengthen the bonds of communion between all Christians and churches, for unity is central to the identity, life and witness of the churches. It enables them to promote healing and reconciliation in their communities,” he added.

The EECMY became a member of the WCC in 1979, after working closely with the World Council since 1961. The WCC has supported the church in building its capacity in the areas of education, agriculture and the medical sector.

“This is the time to focus again on the call to be one…because we have to be one for the sake of the commission we have received from Christ, for the sake of all the tasks we are called to do, not to be exclusive but to bring together all churches and their leaders,” Tveit said at the dinner.

Tveit had earlier visited the New Life Young Women’s Rehabilitation Project in the Kazachis area as well as the Gudima Tumsa Wholistic Training Centre. The EECMY-operated rehabilitation project aids in restoring the lives of young girls who have been involved in the commercial sex trade. The training centre equips mentally disabled children with the skills to enable them to live full lives.

The EECMY started the women’s rehabilitation project in 2002. It has since helped 190 girls and women to reclaim their freedom and equipped them with skills that have enabled them to leave commercial sex work.

“I am able to earn at least 100 Birr a day after joining the project. Life is better for me now,” said one of the women involved in the project, Ms Meredes Getachew.

At the Kazachis Church, Tveit said the project was an example of how Christians can help one another keep the dignity that God has given to all.

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(c) Fredrick Nzwili is a freelance journalist from Kenya. He is a correspondent for Ecumenical News International (ENI) based in the country's capital, Nairobi.

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