Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod announce formal discussions
For Immediate Release
ST. LOUIS, January 27, 2014—Representatives and leaders from the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) and The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) met at the Mekane Yesus Seminary, the EECMY headquarters, and the Gudina Tumsa Wholistic Training Center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Jan. 23 – 26, 2014, to discuss the relationship between the two church bodies.
Those meeting included the Rev. Dr.Wakseyoum Idosa, president of the EECMY; the Rev. Dr. Berhanu Ofgaa, general secretary of EECMY; the Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, president of the LCMS; the Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, LCMS director of Church Relations and Regional Operations; and LCMS missionaries the Rev. Dr. Carl Rockrohr, Dean of the School of Theology at Mekane Yesus Seminary, and Deaconess Dr. Deborah Rockrohr.
Although the churches have diverse histories and developed in different contexts, the EECMY and the LCMS have discovered that both church bodies believe that the Holy Scriptures are the Word of God and the only source and infallible norm of all Church doctrine and practice. Both churches also subscribe to the Lutheran Confessions.
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, to wit: the three Ecumenical Creeds (the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed), the Unaltered Augsburg Confession, the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the Smalcald Articles, the Large Catechism of Luther, the Small Catechism of Luther, and the Formula of Concord.”
Although the two church bodies recognize they have differences in doctrine and practice in certain specific areas, both believe that the common confession they share about the Holy Scriptures and acceptance of the ecumenical creeds, the unaltered Augsburg Confession, and the Small and Large Catechisms justifies, even demands, that the two churches engage in more formal discussion regarding areas of agreement and disagreement.
As an outcome of the meeting, the EECMY and the LCMS agreed to appoint a three-member team from each church body, along with the church bodies’ respective presidents, to begin formal doctrinal discussions. This six-person team, plus the two church body presidents, will begin doctrinal discussions within the next nine months and have the authority to form other ad hoc committees for particular topics as needed.
Wakseyoum said he hopes that, “through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the study of the Holy Scriptures, both church bodies would come closer to each other.”
Harrison said: “Contact between our church bodies began almost a decade ago. We have been tremendously encouraged by Mekane Yesus’ public confession of the Holy Scriptures regarding issues of sexuality. Their zeal in outreach is something the Missouri Synod can learn from. I am glad that we have come by God’s grace to this moment of serious dialogue.”
While the church bodies engage in dialogue, both will look for areas where they can mutually support one another.
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 holistic ministry. This has been a guiding principle for all evangelistic or developmental church work. Beginning with 20,000 members in 1959, the EECMY has grown to 6.35 million members. Learn more at http://www.eecmy.org.
About The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS)
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, founded in 1847, 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. Learn more at www.lcms.org.
The choir sang severs songs during the service. Many of the songs were from the period of the Marxist Derg Regime, and had apocalyptic overtones. One song written when the Gospel could not be proclaimed freely described how the gospel would go out into the world and be victorious by bringing about the Lord’s kingdom. Another song said, “We are in the desert, but The Lord will remember his promise and drown our enemies like Pharaoh and his army.”
– Posted by Dr. Albert Collver on 26 January 2014 using BlogPress from my iPhone
Today, the LCMS Delegation, consisting of President Mathew Harrison, Dr Collver, Dr. Carl Rockrohr, and Dr. Debbie Rockrohr, met with EECMY leaders at the Mekane Yesus Seminary and at the EECMY headquarters.
At the Mekane Yesus Seminary,
President Harrison presented to faculty, students, and church leaders on Lutheran identity. The presentation was followed by a Q & A session moderated by Dr. Carl Rockrohr.
After the presentation on Lutheran Identity, President Harrison played the banjo. Mekane Yesus Seminary has a music school on campus. After finishing playing, the banjo found its way into the capable hands of the director of the music school.
Over lunch Dr. Berhanu, the EECMY General Secretary, described the church’s persecution under the Marxist Derg Regime (1974-1991), including his own imprisonment. Dr. Berhanu closed by saying, “The Lord always works a blessing through persecution. Through persecution, The Lord purifies his Church.”
In a presentation about the EECMY, we learned that the first Lutheran, Peter Heyling, arrived in Ethiopia in 1633 AD. He worked in Gonder between 1634-1652. He practiced medicine and taught Greek and Hebrew to the Ethiopian Orthodox Priests at Gonder. He tried to reform the Ethiopian church by teaching sola Scriptura and by translating the New Testament into Amharic, the vernacular of the ruling class. In 1648, Heyling fell out of favor and was forced to leave Ethiopia. On his return to Germany, he was captured by the Turks and offered the choice of conversion to Islam or death. Peter Heyling chose death rather than to deny Christ, becoming a martyr at the age of 44. Traces of his work remain an influence in the EECMY today.
At the end of the day, both President Wakseyoum of the EECMY and LCMS President Matthew Harrison offered reflections about the day. President Harrison commended the Mekane Yesus church for desiring to remain faithful to the Holy Scriptures and for taking difficult stands on Biblical teaching that were unpopular with her partners. In particular, President Harrison commended the EECMY for breaking fellowship with the ELCA and the CoS over their position of affirming homosexual marriage and clergy. President Harrison also discussed frankly where he believed the EECMY and the LCMS had differences in doctrine and practice. President Wakseyoum thanked President Harrison for his honesty. While holding his Bible in hand, President Wakseyoum stated the EECMY’s and the LCMS’s commitment to the Holy Scriptures was the primary reason that the two churches should be talking to one another. He stated that fellowship comes through the working of the Holy Spirit. In the mean time both churches should pray and study the Scriptures.
– Posted by Dr. Albert Collver on 24 January 2014 using BlogPress from my iPhone
Yesterday, 23 January 2014, President Harrison arrived in Ethiopia for his first visit there. After a several hour travel delay in Nairobi and an aborted landing attempt, we safely arrived in Addis Ababa. We met with the leaders from the Mekane Yesus Seminary and the EECMY. Pictured above: President Wakseyoum gives President Harrison a copy of the seminary’s history.
– Posted by Dr Albert Collver on 24 January 2014using BlogPress from my iPhone
On 22 January 2014, President Harrison visited the headquarters of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya (ELCK), in altar and pulpit fellowship with the LCMS and a member of the International Lutheran Council (ILC), to celebrate a decade of LCMS work with the ELCK. President Harrison, then executive director of World Relief and Human Care, visited Kenya in December 2003 at the request of then Bishop Walter Obare.
President Harrison, Dr. Collver, and Rev. Shauen Trump spent the day with Archbishop Obare and the bishops and bishops elect from each region of the ELCK. Remembrance of the past and hope for the future occupied the day.
President Harrison and Dr. Collver departed Kenya for Ethiopia.
– Posted on 23 January 2014 by Dr. Albert Collver using BlogPress from my iPhone