Ethiopia: A vibrant Lutheran church with 9.3 million faithful

A choir of the Addis Ababa Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, Ethiopia. All photos: LWF/Albin Hillert

LWF General Secretary and ecumenical guests join Sunday worship at Mekane Yesus

(LWI) - Worshipping together as Lutherans from different parts of the world is so much “at the heart of being churches in communion.”

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) General Secretary Rev. Dr Martin Junge made these remarks when he joined in Sunday worship at the Addis Ababa Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus on 3 February. He was accompanied by LWF Council members and other church representatives from the African region.

More than 400 congregants from all walks of life gathered for prayer, welcoming guests from the LWF, the Lutheran Communion in Central and Eastern Africa, the Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa, and the Presbyterian Church of Korea.

The congregation is part of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY), an LWF member church, and goes back to the very origins of the Lutheran church in Ethiopia.

Welcomed by EECMY President Rev. Yonas Yigezu Dibisa, Junge brought greetings from the worldwide communion of Lutheran churches.

“It is very special for me to visit you here today,” said Junge, “because some 70 years ago, a group from this congregation here, went to Lund, Sweden, to join others in founding the Lutheran World Federation. Already then, they knew: we cannot be a church on our own.”

LWF Council member LoeRose Mbise from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania said, “I was impressed by the fact that we were in a Lutheran church, but the service was participatory, with visitors from Lutheran churches in Africa, but also global representation through guests from Korea.”

She added, “the fellowship and partnership manifested in the service was powerful, and something I will take with me as I travel back home.”

A vibrant church, with a steadily growing membership of 9.3 million faithful in more than 9,000 congregations.

9,000 congregations and emerging preaching places

And, the vibrancy of the church’s witness is not going unnoticed. With a steadily growing membership, of currently 9.3 million faithful, the church hosts more than 9,000 congregations across all of Ethiopia’s nine regions.

Sunday worship, Addis Ababa Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, Ethiopia.

The EECMY employs more than 5,000 pastors. It is a busy life, as several thousand additional congregations, also known as preaching places, are emerging around the country.

Congregants share a moment of prayer in the Addis Ababa Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, Ethiopia.

Seeing the quickly changing context in which the EECMY finds itself, Junge noted, “as we face new challenges, we can do well to remember the very first words we heard from the angel, ‘peace be with you.’”

“In a time of rapid changes, God is still the same, inviting us to be peacemakers and into the ministry of reconciliation,” Junge continued. “Know that we will continue to pray with you as brothers and sisters around the world, as you witness to the gospel in this changing context.”

Presbyterian Church of Korea General Secretary Rev. Chang-bae Byun delivered the sermon, stressing that Christ alone can bring salvation and eternal life.

Ecumenical fellowship and partnership

Bringing greetings from the Korean Peninsula, Presbyterian Church of Korea General Secretary Rev. Chang-bae Byun in his sermon stressed that Christ alone can bring salvation and eternal life.

Seeing the presence and collaboration between the EECMY and the Presbyterian Church of Korea, the LWF general secretary concluded, “It is good to see how the EECMY embraces its roots. Being in Addis Ababa today, my mind went back to Wittenberg in 2017, when the LWF and the World Communion of Reformed Churches signed ‘the Wittenberg Witness’, which precisely invites Lutheran and Reformed churches to join hands in God’s mission.”


Written for LWI by Albin Hillert.