The Ethiopian Orthodox Church was established by the monks Frumentius and Aedissius in the fourth century, during the reign of King Ezana of Axum, who converted to Christianity along with many of his people.
The Ethiopian Church exists today as self-governing, though it shares the same faith with Egypt’s Coptic Church. Until 1955, the Patriarch, a Coptic bishop, was sent from Alexandria.
The Council of Chalcedon separated the Coptic Church from the early Orthodox Church in AD 451 and the resound was doctrinal differences.
This issue revolved around the Person of Christ –obviously an important matter to Christians– which Orthodox Christians believe to have two distinct natures, one divine and one human, whereas the Monophysites believed Christ has a divine nature in which the human nature is contained.
During the time, most Christians were Orthodox; the Patriarchate of Rome was not yet alienated from the Eastern patriarchates. Coptic liturgical and sacramental practices stay similar to Orthodox ones, though the usage follows the ancient Alexandrian rite rather than the Byzantine rite.
The historical heritage and theology of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church tradition has had its own appealing developments. Many practices related to ancient Judaism –such as veneration for a representation of the Ark of the Covenant in every Church– are unique to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
On the altar of Ethiopian Orthodox churches there is a miniature facsimile of the tabot, one of the tablets of the Ark of the Covenant, which Ethiopians consider is preserved in their country. Ethiopian icons are colorful works of art showing traditional Orthodox saints, such as early martyrs.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church enjoyed a great deal of independence even when its Patriarch was sent from the Coptic Church of Egypt. Though the Ethiopian Orthodox Churches are not in direct canonical communion with the Orthodox of Greece, Constantinople, Russia, Ukraine, Antioch, and other jurisdictions, they are embraced fraternally to the extent that some of these churches allow their priests to administer the sacraments to the Ethiopian Orthodox.