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A handbook of councils and churches profiles of ecumenical relationships

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Church of Jesus Christ on Earth by His Special Envoy Simon Kimbangu

(Eglise de Jésus Christ sur la Terre par Son Envoyé Spécial Simon Kimbangu)

Church Family: African Instituted Church

Membership: 17,000,000*

Congregations: 8,082

Pastors: 3,758

Member of: WCC (1969) – AACC – OAIC

Periodical: Kimbanguist Info (en français)

After having received the mission and the authority from Jesus Christ to carry out a spiritual ministry that would emanate from Nkamba (Lower Congo, DRC) and spread out to the entire world, the Special Envoy Simon Kimbangu began his mission with the miraculous healing of a young woman, Maman Kiantondo, at Ngombe-Kinsuka, on 6 April 1921. The prophecies, healings and resurrections that followed were considered by the Belgian colonial authorities as a messianic movement that could destabilize the colonial fabric. Extreme repressive measures largely approved by the Catholic as well as Protestant missionaries were adopted by the colonial government against the “movement”. The visible prophetic mis­sion of Papa Simon Kimbangu only lasted five months. He was arrested at Nkamba, judged and sentenced to death on October 3, 1921 by a military court, after a parody of justice; the sentence was commuted into life imprisonment by King Albert 1 of Belgium. Papa Simon Kimbangu was deported to Elisabethville (now Lubumbashi), 2000 kms from his native village, where he died 30 years later, on October 12, 1951. Thirty-seven thousand families were deported between 1921 and 1951 for the same religious cause and their faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour through the work and teaching of his Special Envoy, Simon Kimbangu. The only result of these measures was to strengthen the movement which spread rapidly. On December 24, 1959 the Kimbanguist Church was finally recognized by the colonial power, on an equal basis with the Catholic and Protestant churches. It was led by the youngest son of Papa Simon Kimbangu, H.E. Joseph Diangienda Kuntima, spiritual chief and legal representative. As the supreme authority, the spiritual chief has under him a general assembly, a body in charge of the general policy of the church and an executive board.

Today the Kimbanguist Church is universal. It reaches out all over the world, in Africa, Europe and America. The church accepts the Nicene Creed. Kimban­guists believe in God the Father, creator of all that is, in Jesus Christ, only Son of God, Lord and Saviour of the human race, in God the Holy Spirit, comforter, instructor, inspirer and protector. Four sacraments are recognized: baptism, eucharist, marriage and ordination. Baptism and eucharist take place three times a year: on 6 April, 25 May and 12 October. The Kimbanguist doctrine is summa­rized in the trilogy “Bolingo, Mibeko, Misala” which means ”Love, Command­ments, Work”. While the Kimbanguist Church is developing and transforming itself socially, materially and in terms of its universal outreach, it has preserved a very profound spiritual activity which is reflected in the rigorous observance of the commandments of pilgrimage to Nkamba, spiritual retreats, daily morning and evening prayers, intercessions for the sick, the afflicted, the populations of troubled countries and all humanity, hymns, biblical meditation, fasting and con­fession of sins.

Since the death of H.E. Papa Dialungana Kiangani, spiritual chief and legal rep­resentative, who passed away on 16 August 2001, the Kimbanguist Church is led by H.E. Simon Kimbangu Kiangani.

*Of which several million in neighbouring countries, notably in the Republic of Congo and Angola, and elsewhere in Africa.

Evangelical Lutheran Church in Congo (ELCCo)

(Eglise évangélique luthérienne au Congo, EELCo)

Church Family: Lutheran

Membership: 52,000

Dioceses: 5

Congregations: 96

Pastors/ Vicars: 71

Evangelists/Deacons: 15

Member of: WCC (1998) – AACC – LWF – LUCCEA

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Congo(ELCCo), formerly Evangelical Lutheran Church of Zaïre, was founded in the early 1960s at the initiative of lay people who followed the Bible studies offered by the former Radio Voice of the Gospel in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Some congregations were opened, some com­mittees established and the structure of the church was progressively formed. A young evangelist who, with three others, started the church, received his pastoral training at the Seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT) in Makumira, Tanzania and asked the ELCT for support in 1968. Some Tanzan­ian pastors were sent to Zaïre to take care of the flock. The church was growing, and the number of pastors and evangelists increased. In 1980 the church was offi­cially recognized by the state and registered as a non-profit making association. The church became a member of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in 1986.

Until 2002 the ELCCo was structured in nine ecclesiastical regions coinciding with nine administrative regions of the DR Congo in which it was represented, under one bishop. Because of the vastness of the country, the inefficient infra­structure of communication and the expansion of the ELCCo, it became already clear to the church leaders in 1996 that a reorganization was due. However the process was delayed because of the political circumstances in the country. In Sep­tember 2002 the synod approved the restructuring of ELCCo into five dioceses as


of 1 January 2003 and the election of four additional bishops. The new bishops were installed in November and December 2002. A presiding bishop was elected in February 2003 for a period of six years, renewable once. The national office in Lubumbashi, which is headed by the general secretary, has the task to coordinate and supervise the activities of the dioceses in order to guarantee the unity of EELCo.

Due to the political situation in the country it is very difficult to gather correct statistics concerning the number of church members. During the civil war and its aftermath many people were killed or uprooted. Many are still hiding in the bush without shelter, medical care and provisions, in fear of military aggressions and tribal wars. In the occupied areas at the borders of Uganda, Rwanda and Tanza­nia freedom of movement is hardly possible, and the situation is still unstable despite all the peace-talks.


Population: 520,833

Surface area: 28,050

Capital: Malabo

GNI per capita: 2,700 US$

Classification: Developing economy

Languages: Spanish, French

Religions: Christian 88%; Muslim 4%; African traditional 3%

Christianity: Catholics 435,000; Protestants 20,890; Independent 24,650

Equatorial Guinea was one of the few Spanish colonies in Africa. It achieved independence in 1968. Until 1979, the country was ruled by a dictatorial regime that plundered its resources and oppressed the population. The Christians and the churches were harassed, atheism was actively promoted, and freedom of worship was restricted. A coup d’état brought an end to this period. Since then, Equator­ial Guinea has had the same president, who has established an authoritarian system of government. Offshore oil reserves have made Equatorial Guinea a major oil producer, but for the majority of the population agriculture remains the main source of livelihood, and there has been little improvement in living standards. Christianity was brought to the area at the time of Spanish colonization, and the Catholic Church is the majority church. There are a few small Protestant churches, which have formed a council. Since the 1980s, there has been an influx of Pente­costal, Charismatic, and Evangelical groups. They constitute about 5 percent of the population and form, together with the Protestants, about 10 percent of the total number of Christians.

*Council of Evangelical Churches of Equatorial Guinea

Founded in 1995.

Basis: The Council of Evangelical Churches of Equatorial Guinea is a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour, according to the scriptures, and therefore seek to fulfil together their common calling to the glory of the one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Member churches:

Methodist Church

Evangelical Crusade Church

Reformed Presbyterian Church of Equatorial Guinea

Reformed Presbyterian Church of Equatorial Guinea*

(Iglesia Reformada Presbiteriana de Guinea Equatorial, IRPGE)

Church Family: Reformed

Membership: 8,230

Congregations: 29

Preaching points: 89

Pastors: 21

Elders: 206

Member of : WCC (1965) – AACC – CIEGE – WARC – ARCA

A group of missionaries from the Presbyterian Church in the USA (Synod of New Jersey) established itself on the island of Corisco in the Gulf of Guinea in 1850, after having worked in Liberia and Gabon. From there they moved to the mainland where they founded the first congregation in Bolondo (now Mbini). They spread into the interior of the continent setting up more congregations, as they did also in the coastal area. The presbytery of Rio Muni celebrated its cen­tennial in 1960. In 1900 France yielded the territory of Rio Muni to Spain. This resulted in the establishment of the Roman Catholic Church, marked by an atti­tude of inquisition. Intolerance and persecution produced an unavoidable change in the circumstances of the church which had to give up its schools and medical work. In 1924 all the missionaries were obliged to leave the country.

In order to revitalize the work, the American Presbyterian Mission sent a mis­sionary couple in 1932 who prepared young people for the seminary and orga­nized the dynamic Women’s Association, which up until today remains the life and soul of the church. There came a time of revival with the establishment of the Republic in Spain, which continued until the outbreak of the Spanish civil war in 1936. During this period the Youth Association was set up.

In 1952 the Spanish government, which was close to the Catholic hierarchy, closed all the Protestant churches, allowing only those which existed before the establishment of the Franco regime to re-open. In 1957 the presbytery of Rio Muni joined the Presbyterian Church of Cameroon as part of the MUNICAM synod. A year later it withdrew for reasons which had to do with the process of decolonization, and integrated the Synod of New Jersey (USA). Several American missionaries worked in the church during this period, but left in 1968 shortly before independence. Between 1936 and 1962 the church was strengthened by the activities of a number of pastors sent by the Presbyterian Church of Cameroon.

In 1960 about twenty delegates met for the last time as the presbytery of the Synod of New Jersey. They approved a new constitution and the church became autonomous as the Evangelical Church of Equatorial Guinea. The independence of the country on 12 October, 1968, brought with it religious freedom, legalized and guaranteed by the state which is secular. Today this ecclesiastical community, which labours with total freedom, defines itself as the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Equatorial Guinea. It is Reformed by its theology and Presbyterian by its form of government, as stated in its constitution.



Population: 4,456,086 Surface area: 117,600 Capital: Asmara GNI per capita: 190 US$ Classification: Least developed country Languages: Arabic, Tigrinya Religions: Christian 51%; Muslim 45%; Other 4% Christianity: Orthodox 1,906,200; Catholics 151,000; Protestants 55,170;

Independent 18,200

In its centuries-long history, Eritrea was successively part of Ethiopia, of the Ottoman empire, an Italian colony (1890), occupied by the British (1941), feder­ated with Ethiopia (1952), and annexed by Ethiopia, in 1962. After long years of war, the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front and a coalition of Ethiopian resistance movements defeated in 1991 the dictatorial regime of Ethiopia. In 1993, in a ref­erendum supported by Ethiopia, the Eritrean people voted almost unanimously in favour of independence. Tensions with Ethiopia remained, and border conflicts in 1998 led to a war which ended in 2000 under UN auspices. The final demar­cation of the border was still on hold in 2005. Eritrea’s economy has suffered from the war, and the country is facing major problems of poverty. Up to 80 percent of the population lives from subsistence farming. The overwhelming majority of Eritrean Christians are Orthodox (Oriental). Before independence they came under the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church became autocephalous in 1994, with the help of the Coptic Orthodox Church, and joined the WCC in 2003. Another WCC member church present in the country is the Mekane Yesus Church (Lutheran), from Ethiopia. Catholic and Protestant presence dates from the 19th and 20th century. More recently, some Pentecostal and Evangelical groups have entered the country.

Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church

Church Family: Orthodox (Oriental)

Membership: 2,000,000
Congregations: 1,500
Clergy: 15,000
Member of: WCC (2003) – AACC
Periodical: Finote Birhan A.Bisrate Gazan (monthly magazines)
Christian practices in the land of Eritrea began through interaction of traders and visitors who traveled to and from the Mid-Orient, using the ancient port at Adulis on the Red Sea. Evidence of ruins such as of prayer houses can still be seen today. The Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church was formally founded in 329 AD under the fatherhood of St Frumentius (Abba Selama) the first bishop assigned by St Athanasius, Patriarch of Alexandria.

The church is organized under the supreme body of the holy synod, which is the council of all the bishops and archbishops of the church, presided over by the patriarch, and whose executive arm is the office of the administrator general. Under this governing body are the dioceses in the various regions of the country. These in turn guide the activities of the sub-dioceses and the congregations under them, down to the village parish. This administrative chain is the communication link for both channels of the hierarchy. Under the office of the administrator general are several departments, e.g. for development (including education and health), spirituality, foreign relations, etc.

Apart from the clergy, over 3000 other full-time workers serve the traditional church schools located at every church and monastery, in agricultural develop­ment projects and other activities. The church has its own theological formation and is planning to build a modern theological college that will provide education in both traditional and modern theology. The number of students currently preparing for the priesthood is 1250. Women are enabled to participate in all aspects of the life of the church except priesthood. They are active in monastic life and are freely allowed to acquire traditional and theological education in the church.


Population: 74,188,932 Surface area: 1,1 million Capital: Addis Ababa GNI per capita: 90 US$ Classification: Least developed country Languages: Amharic; Oromo; Tigregna; other Religions: Christian 62%; Muslim 33%; African traditional 5% Christianity: Orthodox 38,956,642; Protestants 10,446,017; Catholics 550,000;

Independent 1,418,900 (double affiliation)

Ethiopia has a record of resistance against foreign attempts to colonize it, except for the Italian occupation of 1936-1941. The monarchy embraced Christianity in the 4th century. Already in the 7th century there was Muslim influence. Tensions and conflict have been recurrent between the Christian and Muslim communities. In the 19th century the Amhara monarchy extended its reign to the south of pre-sent-day Ethiopia. In 1974 the emperor was deposed and assassinated by a mili­tary junta. The coercive regime was overthrown in 1991 by the Ethiopian People’s Liberation Front. Democratic elections were held for the first time in 1994. Ethiopia faces a difficult economic situation with frequent droughts, and poor agriculture. Coffee is the main export product. As one of the most ancient nations of Africa, Ethiopia has a prominent place in the continent. It hosts the head­quarters of the African Union. The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church is one of the churches that does not accept the decisions of the Council of Chalcedon on the nature of Christ. It was the state church under the monarchy but has lost this position. Catholic presence goes back to the 16th century, and Protestant missions arrived in the 20th century. The largest non-Orthodox church is the World of Life Church (Evangelical), followed by the Mekane Yesus Church (Lutheran and Pres­byterian). There are also two large Pentecostal churches. Most of these churches belong to the Ethiopian Evangelical Churches Fellowship, which is affiliated with the WEA.

Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY)

Church Family : Lutheran

Membership: 4,033,413
Synods: 19
Congregations: 5,514


Pastors: 1,287

Member of: WCC (1979) – AACC – LWF – WARC – FECCLAHA

Periodical: EECMY Information (in Amharic and English)

At the turn of the 19th century, Ethiopian Christians began proclaiming the gospel with the help of the Lutheran missions in the country. From these joint efforts the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) was instituted as a national church in 1959. It takes its name from its first congregation in Addis Ababa, Mekane Yesus, meaning the “Place of Jesus”. The EECMY believes that she has been called by the triune God to proclaim Christ to his people in diverse social and cultural contexts. The church professes that the holy scriptures of the Old and the New Testaments are the holy word of God and the only guiding source and infallible method/doctrine of all the church’s principles and practices. The EECMY believes that all powers and duties exercised by the church are com­mitted to her for the furtherance of the gospel through the word and the sacra­ments. She therefore lives and acts to fulfill the great commission.

Under the central office, the church is organized in synods and work areas, a gospel ministry department (Christian education, youth, Sunday school, theology, evangelism, counselling, Christian-Muslim relations, Bible translation, music ministry and university students’ ministry), a development and social services commission, a peace commission, and communication services. In the 1970s the EECMY developed the theme “Serving the Whole Person”, later on often quoted and referred to as holistic ministry. This has been a guiding principle throughout the years for all church work, be it evangelism or development. The concern is for the spiritual needs of the human being as well as for their physical and human needs. Therefore the EECMY has been integrating physical development and spir­itual services. The 1972 statement of the national synod of the EECMY in which these views were expressed was an important contribution to the ecumenical reflection on development cooperation.

In the spirit of holistic ministry, the gospel ministry departments at the levels of the synods and the central office have been charged to coordinate the spiritual ministries of the church, to produce Christian educational materials, to conduct consultations on theological and doctrinal issues and formulate statements to guide the life and ministries of the church, to develop curriculum guides for Bible schools, to focus on discipling and training youth leaders, to do leadership train­ing, to visit synods, presbyteries and work areas to advise and encourage on mat­ters related to theological issues and church ministries. The priority areas of the development and social services commission are: integrated rural and urban devel­opment through community-based and gender-balanced projects towards food security, assistance to needy children, youth, disabled and destitute people through education, rehabilitation, skill-training and social support, Christian and academic education through formal and non-formal training, preventive and cura­tive health care services, community water supply, environment conservation, appropriate technologies, sustainable development, social health programmes with a focus on HIV/AIDS and family planning, emergency assistance to the vic­tims of natural and human made calamities.

The peace, justice and advocacy commission, established in 1998, aims at making the prophetic voice of the church heard and equipping the members of the church for peace-building. This is achieved through training, integrating peace education into development and evangelism programmes, lobbying, conflict man­agement, interreligious cooperation, etc.

Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church

Church Family: Orthodox (Oriental)

Membership: 38,956,642

Dioceses: 44

Bishops: 57

Parishes: 31,481

Monasteries: 1,056

Priests (Congregation leaders, pastors and

Deacons etc): 364, 769

Member of: WCC (1948) – AACC

Ethiopia was introduced to the Christian faith by the Ethiopian eunuch who was baptized by the apostle Philip (Acts 8). The Ethiopian Orthodox Church was founded on a synodal level in 328 AD. The first bishop of the church was Fru­mentius, a Syrian by birth brought up in Ethiopia in the palace of Axum. He went to Alexandria and returned after being consecrated as bishop by Saint Athana­sius. The faithful in Ethiopia call him Abba Salama Kassate Berhan (Father of Peace and Revealer of Light). Nine saints from the Middle East and Asia Minor migrated to Ethiopia 150 years later. They introduced monastic life, translated many religious books from Aramaic and Hebrew into the Geez language, and expounded the One-person, One-nature doctrine of St Cyril. Since the schism of 451, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church shares the same faith with the Coptic, Syrian and Armenian Orthodox Churches and the Syrian Orthodox Church of India (Tewahedo is a word that reflects the Ethiopian understanding of one nature).

The church has suffered greatly from various religious persecutions down the centuries. The reign of Queen Yodit in the 9th century lasted for forty years and caused great damage to the life of the church. The invasion of Mohammed the Left-Handed in the 16th century was even more destructive. Again during the 17th century, the church suffered persecution at the hands of the Jesuit Alphonzo Mendez and his followers. During the fierce five-year struggle against the inva­sion of Mussolini from 1935 to 1940, several bishops, many priests and thousands of faithful lost their lives. More than 2,000 churches were destroyed and numer­ous church manuscripts taken away.

Since 1950 the Ethiopian Orthodox Church has been autocephalous. The church has 81 canonical books and 14 anaphoras. The language of the divine ser­vice is Geez, the ancient language of Ethiopia. Today, however, portions of the liturgy are also rendered in Amharic. There are seven official fasting periods: (1) all Wednesdays and Fridays (except during the 50 days after Easter); (2) the Lenten fast; (3) the Nenveh fast; (4) the vigils or Gahad of Christmas and Epiphany; (5) the fast of the apostles; (6) the fast of the prophets; (7) the fast of the Assumption.

The supreme authority in matters of church administration and justice – leg­islative, administrative and judicial – belongs to the holy synod which meets twice a year, under the chairmanship of His Holiness the Patriarch. The diocesan arch­bishop is the chairman of the diocesan parish council. The national parish coun­cil meets once a year in the patriarchate, also under the chairmanship of the patri­arch. The church has two kinds of clergy: the regular priests, who administer the sacraments, and the learned lay clerks, who are entrusted with the chant of the church offices and teaching in the schools. There are six clergy training centres and one theological seminary. The current administrative structure has been most conducive for both the clergy and the laity to meet the vital needs of the whole human being and to work together for the development of the church, both spir­


itually and socially, through the respective parish councils. The Sunday school programme unit is very active.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church exists in the Sudan and Djibouti, in Jerusalem, Europe and North and South America. Eight of its bishops serve the church outside Ethiopia.

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