More Information
ISBN: 9781783686346
Imprint: Langham Monographs
Format: Paperback
Dimensions (mm): 229 x 152 x 25
Publication Date: 14/10/2019
Pages: 486
Language: English

Perception and Identity

A Study of the Relationship between the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Evangelical Churches in Ethiopia


Ethiopia is an icon of freedom and indigenous Christianity across Africa due to its historic independence, ancient Christian identity and rich religious heritage. However, Ethiopia and its various Christian denominations have their own understandings of this identity and how these communities relate to one another. In this detailed study, Dr Seblewengel Daniel explores the perception and identity of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and evangelical church in Ethiopia and examines the relations between the two.

Beginning with the earliest evangelical missionary engagement with the Orthodox church, Dr Daniel skilfully uses historical and theological frameworks to explain the dynamics at play when approaching the relations over two centuries between these two churches and their respective communities. Daniel ultimately emphasizes that what unites the Orthodox and evangelical church is greater than what divides – namely an ancient faith in the triune God. This important study urges both sides to place the Bible at the centre, using it to understand their differences, and challenges them to take responsibility for past negative perceptions in order to move forward together in greater unity and mutual respect.

Author Bios


This book by Seblewengel Daniel is a well-researched, thoughtful and sympathetic study offering a new approach to an age-old problem in Ethiopia – engaging the uneasy relationship between the diverse Christian traditions that have taken root in Ethiopia over many centuries through the twin lenses of perception and identity.

As an important yardstick for understanding the Ethiopian church predicament, she employs three key themes in the dynamics of Christian history identified by Andrew Walls – the essential continuity of Christianity, the indigenizing principle and the pilgrim principle.

Weaving together in a historical survey the perceptions of each other’s traditions and what constitutes the heart of their identity, she analyzes the root causes of the divergence, and identifies commonalities and pointers to convergence, with a view to fostering a greater mutual understanding within the diverse body of Christ in Ethiopia. This is a timely aim, given the many existential challenges facing the church and country today.

Gillian Mary Bediako, PhD
Deputy Rector,
Akrofi-Christaller Institute of Theology, Mission and Culture,
Akropong-Akuapem, Ghana

Perception and Identity: A Study of the Relationship between the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Evangelical Churches in Ethiopia by Seblewengel Daniel, eloquently synthesizes the notion of perception and identity among members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Evangelical churches in Ethiopia. It offers a thoroughly researched analysis of the nature of relationship between the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Evangelical church on multiple fronts: theological, missional, cultural, etc., tapping on secondary and primary sources. It is a distinct contribution to a subject of seminal importance that has been overlooked by scholars.

The book is highly relevant in the context of contemporary Ethiopia where the need for mutual dialogue and unity is vitally felt. This rich and brilliantly presented book deserves a place in serious scholarly instructions and libraries promoting the field of Christianity and mission studies.

Tibebe Eshete, PhD
Visiting Professor of History,
Michigan State University, East Langsing, Michigan, USA,
Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

This is a valuable study, sensitive and well-researched, of culture clash and the interactions of tradition, identity and renewal. It enlarges our understanding of Ethiopia’s modern religious history, gives insights into both ancient and recent Christian developments, and transmits messages both of warning and of hope.

Andrew F. Walls, PhD
Emeritus Professor, History of Missions,
University of Edinburgh, UK
Liverpool Hope University, UK

Table of Contents

  1. English Abstract
  2. Kambatisa Abstract
  3. Amharic Abstract
  4. Acknowledgements
  5. Abbreviations

  6. Chapter 1: Introduction
    1. 1.1. Motivation
    2. 1.2. Intellectual Framework
    3. 1.3. Methodology
    4. 1.4. Historical Background to the Study
  7. Chapter 2: The Formation of Ethiopian Christian Identity
  8. Introduction
    1. 2.1. The Aksumite Period
      1. 2.1.1. The Role of the Monarchy
      2. 2.1.2. The Alexandrian Connection
      3. 2.1.3. The Role of the Nine Saints and the Vernacular Scriptures
      4. 2.1.4. Judaic Influences
    2. 2.2 The Move into the Interior
      1. 2.2.1. The Rise of Islam and Its Coastal Presence
      2. 2.2.2. The Long Process of Westward Expansion and the Role of Amharic
      3. 2.2.3. The Process of Christianization
      4. 2.2.4. Development of Learning
      5. 2.2.5. Advance and Recession
      6. 2.2.6. The Great Jihad and the Arrival of Western Christianity
      7. 2.2.7. The Nineteenth-Century Revival of Ethiopia – Including New European Interest
      8. 2.2.8. The Nineteenth-Century Expansion of the Monarchy and the Integration of the South
      9. 2.2.9. Haile Sellassie (1930–1974) and the Italian War and Recovery
      10. 2.2.10. Revolution and the Derg
      11. 2.2.11. The Post-Revolutionary Settlement
    3. Conclusion
  9. Chapter 3: Missions and the Emergence of Evangelical Churches
    1. Introduction
    2. 3.1. Lutherans
    3. 3.2. New Evangelical Missions and Churches
      1. 3.2.1. Eastern Mennonite Board of Missions
      2. 3.2.2. Baptist Missions
    4. 3.3. Indigenous Initiatives in the South Prior to the Coming of Missionaries
    5. 3.4. The Establishment of the Ethiopian Kale Heywet Church (EKHC)
    6. 3.5. Pentecostals
    7. 3.6. Transformation and Polarization: The Outcomes of Pentecostal Movement
    8. 3.7. The Sufficiency of Scripture in Vernacular
    9. Conclusion
  10. Chapter 4: The Anglican-Orthodox Encounter: An Attempt to Revitalize the Church of Ethiopia
    1. Introduction
    2. 4.1. An Overview of Evangelicalism in England and the Establishment of the Church Missionary Society
    3. 4.2. The Political and Spiritual Condition of Ethiopia in the Nineteenth Century
    4. 4.3. The Missionaries’ Interlude in Egypt
    5. 4.4. Firsthand Experience of Abyssinian Christianity
      1. 4.4.1. Kugler in Tigray
      2. 4.4.2. Gobat in Gondar
    6. 4.5. The Deaths of Kugler and Sabagadis
    7. 4.6. The Aftermath
    8. 4.7. Conclusion of the First Attempt to Revitalize the Church of Ethiopia
    9. 4.8. New Recruits, Greater Challenges
    10. 4.9. CMS in Shewa
    11. 4.10. The End of CMS Mission to Ethiopia
    12. 4.11. Renewed Efforts of Samuel Gobat
    13. Conclusion
  11. Chapter 5: Evangelical–Ethiopian Orthodox Church Encounter: A Story of Mutual Antagonism and Misunderstanding
    1. Introduction
    2. 5.1. Brief History of the Encounter between Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Evangelicals
      1. 5.1.1. “We Are the Church in Ethiopia”
      2. 5.1.2. The Tsere-Mariam Accusation against the Evangelicals through the Centuries
      3. 5.1.3. The Depiction of Evangelicals as Mete (Foreign)
      4. 5.1.4. Longstanding Doctrinal Differences between EOC and Evangelicals: The Depiction of Evangelicals as Menafiq and “Thieves”
      5. 5.1.5. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church’s Perception of Pentecostals
      6. 5.1.6. Concluding Remarks
    3. 5.2. The Evangelicals’ Perceptions of the EOC
      1. 5.2.1. The Evangelicals’ Perception of Themselves as Believers “አማኞች”
      2. 5.2.2. The Evangelical View of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church as Authoritarian and Discriminatory
      3. 5.2.3. The Evangelical Depiction of the Orthodox as Ahzab/without Christ
    4. 5.3. The Two Great Battle Grounds and One of the Consequences
      1. 5.3.1. The Mother of God, the Mother of Jesus
      2. 5.3.2. Sola Scriptura and the Mother-Tongue Translations of the Bible
      3. 5.3.3. The Issue of Burial
    5. Conclusion
  12. Chapter 6: Contemporary Reformation Impulses in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church
    1. Introduction
    2. 6.1. An Overview of Reformation in the Church
    3. 6.2. The Controversy over the Term Tehadiso
    4. 6.3. An Overview of Reformation Movements
      1. 6.3.1. Aba Estifanos, the “Ancestor” of Modern Reformers
      2. 6.3.2. Expelled Insiders
    5. 6.4. Tension between Reforming and Preserving the Tradition of the Church
      1. 6.4.1. The In-Between Reformers
      2. 6.4.2. “Silent” Reformers
      3. 6.4.3. Popular Preachers and Singers
      4. 6.4.4. Mahbere Kidusan: The “Watchdog” of Ancient Tradition
    6. 6.5. The Evangelicals and Reformation Movements
    7. Conclusion
  13. Chapter 7: Conclusion

  14. Appendix: Early Attempts at Ecumenism
  15. Glossary
  16. Bibliography
  17. Index of Names
  18. Index of Subjects

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