A partnership agreement between their two churches was among items discussed when the president of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) met with Synod President Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick and other LCMS leaders in St. Louis May 11-12.
Dr. Wakseyoum (pronounced “wok-say-OUM”) Idosa (ee-DO-sa) heads the 5.3 million-member EECMY — one of the fastest-growing Lutheran churches worldwide and, among those in Africa, second in size only to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania.
Wakseyoum made his St. Louis stopover at the invitation of the Missouri Synod, during an extended visit to the United States. While in St. Louis, he also met with the LCMS President’s Church Relations Cabinet and with representatives of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.
The partnership agreement was signed Jan. 22 by EECMY and LCMS mission leaders in Addis Ababa, where the Ethiopian church body has its headquarters. Dr. Michael Rodewald, regional director for Africa with the Board for Mission Services, signed for the LCMS.
Dr. Samuel H. Nafzger, the Synod’s director of church relations-assistant to the president, said that agreement lays the groundwork for the two churches to work together in Africa in such areas as training for evangelistic outreach, food security, community health and education (including HIV/AIDS prevention), and “empowering marginalized groups.”
“This agreement is not church fellowship,” Nafzger emphasized, “but it does express the ‘mutual hope that our work together will give us the opportunity to more fully realize our unity as Lutheran Christians so that on the basis of agreement in doctrine and practice, the two churches may share full altar and pulpit fellowship.’ “
Nafzger added that “one of the areas that will have to be addressed is the question of the ordination of women pastors.” He said that several of the EECMY’s 21 synods (similar to Missouri Synod districts) ordain women, and at present, 18 of that church body’s 2,800 pastors are women.
Among areas where the EECMY and the Synod are already in agreement is opposition to same-sex marriage and to the positions of Lutheran church bodies that support such unions.
A press release from the EECMY reports that, in remarks opening an April 7-10 meeting of his church body’s executive board, Wakseyoum reaffirmed the EECMY position that same-sex marriage “is a clear disobedience to the Holy Scripture and … God-ordained marriage.”
The release also points out that the EECMY and other Lutheran church bodies in Africa in March reaffirmed a 2007 joint position they expressed against same-sex marriage.
News outlets reported on an April 29 statement posted on the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania’s (ELCT) Web site to the effect that that church body would not accept money or help from groups that support same-sex marriage.
That reaffirmation and the ELCT statement are in advance of the Lutheran World Federation assembly, scheduled for July 20-27 in Stuttgart, Germany.
A joint release from Religion News Service and Ecumenical News International states that “homosexuality is expected to be a divisive issue” at that assembly.
Nafzger said that the agreement between the EECMY and the Synod, as well as Wakseyoum’s visit, are examples of “an increase in contacts with churches in Africa that have a deep appreciation for the solid scriptural stand The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod has taken on this and other issues.”
Posted May 19, 2010