Protestantism was brought in to Ethiopia through the mission societies, which, though present in Ethiopia for much of the 19th century, did not make intrusion into Ethiopian society. Three main missions fashioned the modern Protestant churches in Ethiopia are:
• the Lutherans
• the Sudan Interior Mission and
• the Mennonite Mission
The Lutheran missions
The Lutheran missions were the initial presence in Ethiopia and grew into the Mekane Yesus (meaning the Place of Jesus) Church, formed in 1959.
Mekane Yesus looks to have more dominance in the south and west of Ethiopia, which are were opened to missionaries as there was little Orthodox Christian influence.
The Sudan Interior Mission
The Sudan Interior Mission started its work in the South of Ethiopia in the 1920s. It advanced slowly, baptizing four converts in 1932 and possibly a hundred by the time they were driven out of Ethiopia by the invading Italians in 1938.
When the Sudan Interior Mission came back five years later, they discovered a flourishing church of a hundred congregations and 20,000 members. That number grew to:
• 100,000 by 1960 and
• 500,000 by 1974.
The Kale Heywat (Word of Life) church, which grew out of the Sudan Interior Mission churches, has kept on flourishing converted many to the fath of Jesus.
The Mennonite mission
The Mennonite mission came to Ethiopia after World War II as a relief agency; however, got permission to evangelize soon after. The two distinct churches grew out of the influence of the Mennonite mission are:
• The Meserete Kristos church (remained an important part of the wordwide Mennonite fellowship)
• Mulu Wengel Church (insisted on maintaining its independence from western ties)
Many members of the Mulu Wengel church joined Meserete Kristos when Mulu Wengel was outlawed by the government in 1972.
Meserete Kristos followed Mulu Wengel’s lead in using the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit. Consequently, the Meserete Kristos church has become far more charismatic and Pentecostal than most of its sister Mennonite churches.
Orthodox Christians refer all Protestants as “Pentes” (meaning Pentecostals), which is a testimony to the influence of the Pentecostal movement on Ethiopian protestantism, despite the official disapproval of the Kale Heywat Church and the Mekane Yesus church. Both Meserete Kristos and Mulu Wengel churches practice:
• faith healing
• exorcism of demons, and
• speaking in tongues
In 1982 Meserete Kristos, with 5,000 members, outlawed by the Marxist government came to power in 1974, suffered severe persecution for nine years.
When religious freedom was restored in 1991, Meserete Kristos found out that its believers grew tenfold and numbered 50,000 during the time of persecution.
Note: The nine years suffering of the Christians during the Derg Regime (Marxist government who came to power in 1991) is believed to be known so little and the documents written about the tragic days are rare. So we encourage you to have your say here in this blog if you have had any experience during this time. Share your experience and help your brothers and sisters grew in faith.
May God bless you!
Keywords: Lutherans, Mennonite Mission, Mekane Yesus, Orthodox Christian, Kale Heywat, Meserete Kristos, Mulu Wengel Church,