Ethiopian church and college continue growing

Dec 11, 2017 by and

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The Meserete Kristos Church in Ethiopia continues to grow, increasing by 4.5 percent over the last year to 310,877 baptized members. It is the largest national Anabaptist body in the world.

MKC Link Canada team members Darrell Jantzi and John Peters of the Waterloo, Ont., area connect Mennonite Church Canada and Meserete Kristos College. They were invited by the MKC general secretary to attend the church’s annual general meeting in August.

MKC Link Canada team members John Peters and Darrell Jantzi, center, meet with leaders of Meserete Kristos College, including Yigezu Testaye, left, and Kiros Teka. — Darrell Jantzi

MKC Link Canada team members John Peters and Darrell Jantzi, center, meet with leaders of Meserete Kristos College, including Yigezu Testaye, left, and Kiros Teka. — Darrell Jantzi

An important part of the visit was reviewing the relationship between MC Canada and MK College, as well as learning about the church, which has 1,011 local congregations.

About 60 percent of congregations worship in rented space or temporary shelters made of poles and tarps. They are being pressured by the government to erect permanent buildings or risk losing their land.

MK College hopes to continue growing and has a strong desire to partner with a Mennonite seminary in North America to offer a master of arts degree in theology.

The college is highly respected and has graduated more than 1,000 students. The theology program has been expanding with a main campus at Debre Zeit, where boarding students are taught in English, and an extension campus in the city of Nazareth, where degree and diploma students learn in Amharic. A second extension campus opened recently in Addis Ababa for part-time students.

Facilities at the original campus are stretched. A women’s dorm is nearing completion, and the kitchen and dining room are no longer adequate.

Tuition, room and board costs each student $2,000 a year. The Link team hopes to raise $250,000 in Canada for the nearly depleted scholarship fund.

Jantzi and Peters visited an underground church where believers meet in secret prayer cells. In some areas, the ultra-conservative Ethiopian Orthodox Church makes it dangerous to openly profess faith, prompting people to seek Jesus at night for fear of family rejection and alienation. Over time, new believers gain confidence and prepare for baptism, then celebrate their faith in Jesus Christ more openly.

In an inner-city setting, Jantzi and Peters observed MK Church members on their knees on a Monday morning, praying and fasting for homeless children and youth. A leader in the church said he had a horrible home life and had run away at age 13 to find a better life on the streets. Attracted by the singing and words of invitation by Christian young people, he was welcomed, led to Jesus and became part of a caring community.

“In an age that casts doubt on just about everything spiritual, it is heartening to see and experience the concrete indisputable power of God manifest in a solid rapidly growing community of believers,” Jantzi said.

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  • Harvey Yoder

    There’s still something seriously wrong with the huge disparity between their educational programs and ours.

  • David Bontrager

    How can we explain the disparity between 310,00 baptized members of the Ethiopian Church and 69,000 members of the Mennonite Church USA? Perhaps it is too many Phd’s and Masters degrees in theology. Maybe we should be receiving missionaries from them to teach us how to grow our churches from the bottom up through simple worship and prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit. Our arrogance and self righteousness will be our downfall.

    • Matthew Froese

      The MK Church has been able to accept people in marriages that are not conventionally welcomed within the church (polygamous marriages, in this case) in order to expand their reach, and did so without coming apart at the seams. There might indeed be some lessons here for North American churches.

      • Gene Mast

        Perhaps this is true while ignoring trajectory. It is one thing to adapt to a people coming to Christ from a pagan culture and quite another to champion a return to such a lifestyle within a culture that once rejected unbiblical sexual behavior. The first would see persons moving in a direction that would place them closer to a scriptural ideal; the second precisely the opposite. Closer to home, the implosion of MCUSA over this issue ought be instructive on some level, don’t you reckon?

        • Matthew Froese

          I don’t follow what you’re saying here, but I’m not familiar with the use of the term “trajectory” in a faith context so there might be something you mean there that I’m not grasping. I think North American anabaptist churches have an established history of splitting apart over almost every conceivable issue (language of worship, worship music style, method of baptism, clothing choices, etc.) so I don’t take the schisms themselves to tell us very much about any particular issue. I’m more interested in what lets our sister churches find a path forward on substantive issues and remain in community together.

          • Gene Mast

            Perhaps reading between the lines where there is no script, that is, misreading your implication, it would appear that in the current ecclesiastical context assumption of a certain advocacy of the acceptance of same sex marriages within the church would be a reasonable conclusion. The correlation of growth and acceptance of polygamous relationships may be only that; correlation. To posit causality seems unwarranted, particularly considering the sad experience of the Episcopalians.

            A root problem may be a de facto rejection of the call to discipleship. The concession, valid though it is, that we are saved by grace alone, has permitted us to normalize behavior we once were horrified at, including, currently, same sex relationships. It should be possible to accept as fellow Christians those in entanglements that are nearly impossible to unscramble without conveying approval of arrangements that are outside the Biblical ideal of one man, one woman, for life.

            I obviously do not know the approach of the African church in its totality, but would certainly hope that, while accepting as members those previously in polygamous relationships, there is not an ongoing normalization of such marriages. The same sex question in the West is easier to deal with as there seems no Biblical precedent whatsoever for such things as well as virtually no significant degree of economic deprivation or child abandonment issues involved in the dissolution of such unions. In the third world, as difficult as these things might be, there are factors not present in the first world. Perhaps the church in a polygamous culture has made a reasoned decisions on a difficult issue without wholesale abandonment of the call to follow Jesus beyond a bland intellectual agreement with principles

            It is somewhat amazing that anyone would still argue that MCUSA, to pick one example, needs to be more liberal in order to grow. As cultural accommodation has increased in the pulpit, the people are fleeing the pews, at last count headed for slightly over half its combined predecessor groups. I suppose the Illuminati might consider that simply the primitive reaction of the unenlightened masses, but the great unwashed ain’t buying what is being sold. In a brutally capitalist system, an enterprise that persistently ignores and treats with a certain degree of arrogance and condescension the wishes of its market, will find its future greatly diminished. This appears to be the state of the church. The utterly dumbfounding aspect of this situation is the apparent inability of those in leadership to realize the peril into which they have guided the institution, given fifteen years or so of experiential evidence.

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