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Application for Membership of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church

Recognition of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church membership

02 September 2003

World Council of Churches
Geneva, Switzerland
26 August - 2 September 2003

Application for Membership of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church

At its last meeting the Executive Committee decided to resume the reception of new member churches at the meeting of the Central Committee in February 2005. The Committee is asked to make an exception for the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church. This church was formerly a member through the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church. It is therefore not a case of new membership but of recognizing a change in canonical and ecclesiastical status.

Christian practices in the land of Eritrea began through interaction of traders and visitors who travelled from and to the Mid-Orient using the ancient port at Adulis on the Red Sea. Evidence of ruins of prayer houses could still be seen today. The Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church was founded in 329 AD under the fatherhood of St. Frementius (Abba Selama), the first bishop of Abyssinia (i.e., the present Eritrea and Ethiopia). The Church is organized under the supreme body of the Holy Synod, which is the Council of all the Bishops and Archbishops of the Church presided over by the Patriarch, and whose executive arm is the office of the Administrator General. Under this governing body are the Dioceses in the various regions of the country. These in turn guide the activities of the Sub-Dioceses and congregations under them, down to the village parish. This administrative chain is the communication link for both ways of the hierarchy. Under the office of the Administrator General are several departments, e.g. for Development (including Education and Health), Spirituality, Foreign Relations etc.

The Church has 2,000,000 believers in 1,500 local congregations served by 15,000 clergy. Over 3,000 other full-time workers serve the traditional church schools at every church and monastery, in agricultural development projects and other activities. The Church has its own theological formation and is building a full-fledged modern theological college. The number of students currently preparing for the priesthood is 1,140. Women are enabled to participate in all aspects of the life of the church except priesthood. They are active in monastic life and are freely allowed to acquire traditional and theological education in the church.

The Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church has expressed its agreement with the basis of the WCC through a decision taken by the Holy Synod in October 1999 and confirmed by an action taken on 5 June, 2003 by the Holy Synod. The Church also expresses agreement with the proposed new theological criteria for WCC membership. In the current socio-political and economic situation of Eritrea and Africa, the Church sees as priorities of its mission the peaceful resolution of conflicts and the eradication of disease, hunger and ignorance.

The Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church is a member of the All Africa Conference of Churches. It belongs to the ‘family’ of Oriental Orthodox Churches. It participates in dialogue with Christian churches of various confessions.