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Why Ethiopian church followers in Toronto should go to Medhane Alem Church

November 7,2016

Millennia old Ethiopian church with its originality ,in all its forms, and emphasis in the service of God has, or rather had,unfortunately, been a strength to Ethiopia in the struggle to defend its freedom. Revisionists and politically charged interpretations aside, history recorded that Ethiopia’s aspiration for and commitment to freedom inspired entire Africa, and beyond,during the struggle for freedom. Perhaps Ethiopian church movement in southern Africa at the end of the 19th century – which was partly informed by Biblical teaching ; “Ethiopia shall soon stretch forth its hands unto God” Psalm 68:31 – is not mere coincidence. Outside of Africa, spirituality and struggle for freedom are two important noticeable elements in Jamaican Reggae tradition.

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In some sense, and in the past, Ethiopia tend to be seen as, even in Ethiopia, a spiritual concept ; a yearning to connect with and serve God. Over the course time, and with what can be described rather as destructive politicization, Ethiopia came to be perceived as politics and be demonized by different groups of “Ethiopians” for all sorts of reasons -mostly by Ethiopians who were manipulated foreign interest.

As a consequence, Ethiopian church itself became a victim of politics ; worse,currently,ethnic politics. The result is that ,for the first time in thousands of years of history, there emerged a serious schism within the church. Understandably, and evidently, the division brought about huge negative implication in the service to God. For example, Ethiopian churches in the diaspora have virtually become battling grounds where political differences are fiercely fought out but on the surface they seem to be related to administrative issues. For that reason, laity is a little disappointed, and concerned, in the situation of Ethiopian church.

It is partly because of that that one could notice a totally different experience at Medhane Alem Church in Toronto – which is run by Jamaicans. With focus on spirituality and Ethiopia being viewed as a symbol of worship of God, as it used to be viewed by Ethiopians as well, the service is extremely humbling which is relevant for better spiritual experience. A facebook friend actually tipped me that Medhane Alem Church is in fact the first Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church in Canada.

Unlike certain groups of Ethiopians ,initially manipulated and organized by enemies of Ethiopia from near and far, who tend to see the urge to radicalize along tribal line with anti-Ethiopian sentiment as the ultimate expression of revolutionary character, Jamaicans seem to have the advantage of not being distracted by the enemies of Ethiopia. The focus on spirituality is noticeable. And Ethiopia still seem to represent spirituality.

Children's choir at Medhanealem Church, Toronto Photo :  borkena
Children’s choir at Medhane Alem Church, Toronto
Photo : borkena

This past Saturday, Medhane Alem was celebrated. Service is perfected to original form of worship in the tradition of Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo church. Sermon was both in English and Amharic. Choir (Children and youth)sung hymns in Amharic and geez,Ethiopian church language. Ark of Holly Saviour procession within the church by a Jamaican priest resembles one that you find in other Ethiopian churches in Toronto, or elsewhere in North America or Europe.

After service, there was “Tsebel -Tadik” ( Enjera) at Bete Selam. There, big Emperor Haile Selassie’s coronation portrait- very familiar to many in the Rastafarian tradition – is pinned to the wall in a way to be seen when you come in. It was packed to capacity and many had to stand.

Turn out from Ethiopians in Toronto for the celebrations was good but it could have been better.No follower of Ethiopian church in Toronto should miss out celebrations like that. It is truly a wonderful experience.

borkena

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1 COMMENT

  1. “Dark Era”
    The Fusion of Politics Within The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church
    “God and history shall remember your judgment.”
    – Haile Sellassie I, League of Nations,1936
    The Toronto Medhane Alem Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo church is the first Ethiopian Orthodox established in Canada by Archbishop Abune Yeshaq. This church keeps a welcoming communication with all Ethiopian Orthodox churches under both Holy Synods. As you may or may not know, after the split of the two Holy Synods, clergies are confined to participate only in services with the churches that belong to their same Holy Synod. But the experience at Toronto’s Medhane Alem Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo church is quite different. Any Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo church clergy is welcome to perform communion servive here. No priest or laity is forbidden on the grounds of which Holy Synod they belong to.
    In every Annual Medhane Alem celebration it is always a blessing and a true moment of united rejoicing, especially for Ethiopians, to see clergy from both Holy Synods stand together and perform service on same “Betmekdes” (Holy of Holies or Alter). Its a real gift to all members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo church. regardless of what we see happening today, there is a hope visible here that one day reconciliation between the two Holy Synods will happen and this dark era will end. A living hope that all our clergy will be free to perform service with any Ethiopian Orthodox church with out any restrictions. That lambs of God may be fed in peace. I believe it is almost impossible to see and experience this unity any where else.
    I would like to give a sincere thanks to all Toronto Medhane Alem E. O. T. C. brothers and sisters with a special credit to our beloved father Kesis Gabre Michael for welcoming every one impartially and who has always been able to see and love all our church fathers with their due respective honour. By the grace of God, he has been able to keep the church standing within the correct faith honouring the Dogma and the Canon Law of our Tewahedo (oneness, unified) path as he has learned it from God, Our church Fathers and his direct teachings and counsel from the late Archbishop Abune Yeshaq.
    Just to give you all a good grasp on what is going on within the E. O. T. C currently, I would encourage you to please bear with me and read the following Article:
    The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church is in the middle of a period of great confusion caused by the split within the Church into two Holy Synods – the one in Ethiopia and the other amongst the diaspora of western hemisphere. The so-called two “Holy Synods” of the church administration born from the mix of turbulent ethnic politics within our Faith has created a huge division and a deep lack of understanding amongst the faithful. Except for those Archbishops, Bishops, Priests, and deacons who are secretly following the doctrine of the Tehadiso “reformed” movement lurking within both Holy Synods. These wolves hiding in sheep’s clothing fight against the core principles of the Tewahido doctrine of both Holy Synods. Officially there is not even a trace of dissimilarity in terms of dogma, doctrine or belief that can be found among the devout clergy of the Two Holy Synods. They are both one and the same in Doctrine, Dogma and belief.
    This political, ethnic and administrative division power within the Ethiopian Orthodox church has split the faithful followers of the church into two core groups:
    1. Attached with the Exiled Holy Synod
    2. Attached with the Home Holy Synod
    The foundation and expansion of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in North America, the Caribbean and other continents started in 1959, when a group of Ethiopian priests and deacons were sent from Ethiopia to the Americas at the order of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, and The 1st Patriarch Abune Basilios. The first E.O.T.C established in Canada by the then Archimandrite Leke Mandefro who was later Ordained Archbishop Abune Yeshaq of the Western Hemisphere and the Caribbean in 1979. Throughout the years, and until his day of rest in 2005, Archbishop Abune Yeshaq helped expand the Church‘s presence throughout the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, Australia and North America.
    The Churches dark era of the Holy Synod has mainly started since 1991, when the current Ethiopian government of Tigrean People Liberation Front (TPLF) seized national power. Immediately after seizing power, the (TPLF), the dominant part in the EPRDF coalition- government of Ethiopia, removed the current Patriarch Abune Merkorios and replaced him with Patriarch Abune Paulos originally from Tigre, who at the time was residing in the United States. However the government‘s action to remove the Patriarch violated one of the fundamental canon laws and practices of the Ethiopian Orthodox faith and led to the split of the church administration and services between:
    1. The Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church residing in Ethiopia
    2. The Holy Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in Exile
    After the arrival of Patriarch Abune Merkorios in the United States from his temporary exile in Kenya with the help of Archbishop Abune Yeshaq and other clergymen including Archbishops, Bishops, monks and deacons began making their way to North America and other parts of the world.
    The earlier existence of a few Ethiopian churches in the Caribbean, Europe and the United States helped Ethiopian immigrants to continue practising their religion in newly adopted countries. As Ethiopians created more churches; immigrant priests started to migrate from Ethiopia and establish more churches some under the Holy Synod residing in Ethiopia and others under the Exiled Holy Synod.
    According to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo church Canon, The Fetha Negast (the law of the kings). The Church can only have one Holy Synod and one Patriarch at a time and the dethroning of Patriarch Abune Merkorios is a dark history in Ethiopian Orthodox church. Some suggested that Patriarch Abune Merkorios was indeed dethroned by the force of the government, but it might be better for the church if Patriarch Abune Merkorios rather chose prison or death, and be martyred rather than fleeing from his country.
    Establishing the Exiled Holy Synod is also another dark history of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. Instead of struggling for the truth, which was returning the Patriarch Abune Merkorios to his former position, they chose to establish the Exiled Holy Synod that has left the churches reunion even more hopeless.
    Both Holy Synods are criticized for issues of tribal racism, the Exiled Holy Synod is mostly dominated by people from Gonder and the Holy Synod residing in Ethiopia is dominated by people from Tigri. Lately Ethiopia and the Ethiopian Orthodox church has been undergoing a great challenge being used as a territorial tool for ethnic tribal issues to the point where it dominates every rank of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo administration.
    Arcbishop Abune Yeshaq was ‘suspended’ from both Holy Synods until his rest for the following reasons:
    1. He was suspended From the Ethiopian Synod because he was against the removal of Patriarch Abune Merkorios by the governments force to replace him with Patriarch Abune Paulos. He also stated on many occasions that Abune Paulos was just a political person rather than a religious leader and should give up and return the Patriarchal seat immediately and unconditionally back to Patriarch Abune Merkorios.
    2. He was suspended from the Exiled Holy Synod because he didn’t agree to the Establishment of an Exiled Holy Synod. Some said Archbishop Abune Yeshaq’s reason not to agree to the establishment of the Exiled Synod while still supporting the legitimacy of Patriarch Abune Merkorios was because establishing an Exiled Synod would escalate the current issue to a permanent rather than a short term division within the Ethiopian Orthodox Holy Synod.
    When Patriarch Abune Paulos rested from this world most members of the Ethiopian orthodox church from both Holy Synods believed that it was finally time to put an end to this dark division era as long as Patriarch Abune Merkorios was permitted to reassume his position. But, unfortunately the Ethiopian government didn’t agree to the return of Patriarch Abune Merkorios, therefore Patriarch Abune Mathias is elected and the division continued as is.
    After the election of Patriarch Abune Mathias(Tigri) both Holy Synods, Archbishops and active members that were inclined towards reconciliation between the two Holy Synods believe that it is now just a dream; and have focused their mission to now recruiting more churches under their respective Synods in quantity to get more supporters than the opposition especially in the Diaspora rather than enriching the spiritual life of the faithful. Both Holy Synod are not any more in a position capable of preaching about peace, reconciliation, forgiveness, love, and unity.
    As of today in Ontario Canada only there are:
    1. 5 Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo church under the Exile Ethiopia Holy Synod
    2. 8 Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo church under the Holy Synod reside in Ethiopia
    In Toronto, Ontario alone there is one Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo church under the Exile Holy Synod and around 3 Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo churches under Holy Synod which reside in Ethiopia. The sad part is that even these 3 Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo churches which are under the same Holy Synod are not established because the church members have become too many, but rather because of the problem in the church. Even these churches, which are under the same Holy Synod, residing in Ethiopia, are not able to stand united as one.
    It is not any ones fault at this time, as history teaches us one division would lead us to the next. Every one is so dedicated and passionate to preach about division. Trying to prove why the Holy Synod he/she is part of is better than the other Holy Synod. But at the end of the day we reached to the point that even churches under the same Holy Synod are not able to stand united. We know now that it doesn’t matter any more under which Holy Synod we are under, we have all left our church doors opened wide for division a long time ago. But our church door was not only opened for tribal division its been held wide open for the “Ethiopian Tehadeso reformed movement”
    When the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewhado church Patriarchs, Archbishops and Priests who were supposed to correct and lead us were tied up by the two Holy Synods power struggles and political unrest they were handcuffed from being able to do any good for the church, the “Ethiopian Orthodox Tehadeso “reformed” movement”, based on Evangelical Protestant theology and financial support, has gotten a chance to plot its deepest conspiracy against the Ethiopian Orthodox church. Their exact plan is to change the Ethiopian orthodox church into Protestantism – with out building another church or with out a need to look for another place to worship.
    The Tehadiso “reformed” movement expanded from Ethiopia to the diaspora and poisoned several Ethiopian Orthodox churches and injected their Protestant doctrine in our churches using our own Archbishops, Bishops, priests, and deacons. As we all know Tehadiso “reformed” Ethiopian Orthodox Church movement has members starting from Archbishops, Bishops, Priests, Deacons, Monks in Gedam (monestaries), both in Exiled Holy Synod and Holy Synod of Ethiopia.
    If you want to know more about this dangerous movement please refer to their official website: http://www.tehadeso.org/
    We do not have the luxury of fighting between ourselves when the future of our children is in Jeopardy. It will be to our shame to become tied up within the split of two Holy Synods and risk giving up our churches to the Tehadiso “reformed” movement, which depends on our being divided within so we cannot stand against them as one. This is the time that the two Holy Synods should put their divisions aside in order to save the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church from this dangerous movement.
    Church can be subject to some challenges and tribulations, it is true that many of the faithful simply expect the priests, deacons, or Archbishops to do miracles and resolve all issues. But when conflict happens within the church or in our orthodox communities it is the members of the church and/or the community need to work together to bring the peace back. As members of a church we actually should never wait until the conflict escalates to the extreme. Every conflict needs to be addressed in a timely manner. As Matthew 5:23 said “Therefore if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”
    Our African culture has also taught us this same virtue. We all learn that our fathers used to make peace even between enemies of bloodshed without having a court system. I am sure they had to make efforts, pray to God and lose some sleep but they did what it took to make peace. The church is a big family and we are part of one flesh. So we all need to do what it takes to make peace between our brothers and sisters when there is an issue. Whichever church you go to there will be happy times, and there will be dark times. Every one of us makes mistakes that hurt each other knowingly or unknowingly. But there is nothing that could be bigger than forgiveness. When it is needed the elders in the church or the priest needs to be there to correct the youth, even the adults. We should care for each other as family and we should also learn to be tolerant of one another. We are allowed to make mistakes, but we need to learn from our mistakes. That is why we come to church to get forgiveness, to see our weaknesses and to correct and learn from each other.
    As Our father Archbishop Abune Yeshaq said we shouldn’t resolve one mistake by making another mistake. A mistake is not going to bring a solution, instead it would put us into a bigger problem. If any thing needs to be decided related to our Ethiopian Orthodox church, members of the church need to become united as one first. How can the Holy Spirit show us the right way when we are not one?
    Let us come together as one first to resolve the internal problem, forgive each other and be one family. Then as one united family we can fast, cry to God together and ask the Holy Spirit to be in the midst of us and show us His will and choice for the future of our church. Any decision we make united as one family, asking the Holy Spirit to be in our midst will be the right decision for our children’s future.
    Whether we like it or not, with Eyesus Kerstos, we are one flesh. No matter what, when our left hand hurts our right hand the rest of our body wont be able to rejoice. Because of a few circumstances that happened in the past we might not feel we stand as one family as we should, but we are one family. We might feel that no one is feeling the pain within us when we are hurt. But our pain affects the entire body.
    But, that is in the past now. We are Christians. As God is forgiving our sins every single minute of the day, we have an obligation to forgive each other and forget. We are one happy family we need to be willing to forgive each other now, tomorrow and any time in the future again and again. How long does it take to forgive our brothers and sister? One second, one minute, one hour? That is what it takes to solve our church problems. The faster we resolve to emulate our Gods mercy the faster the Holy Spirit will direct our paths.
    Guess what? it doesn’t matter which Holy Synod we are under now but in the heavenly Jerusalem we will all be together as one family with the mercy of our almighty God. It is only one heavenly kingdom for all of us no matter which Holy Synod we are supporting

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