[ACNS] The first Anglican theological college in Ethiopia, named after Saint Frumentius, has been officially opened by the Archbishop of Jerusalem and the Middle East, Mouneer Anis. Ethiopia is part of Archbishop Mouneer’s diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa.
For many years, St Matthew’s Church in Addis Ababa was the only Anglican congregation in Ethiopia. But that changed with the arrival of large numbers of refugees arriving in the country seeking sanctuary from the protracted civil war in Sudan from the mid-1970s.
“Many of these new refugees were Anglican and they began churches in the refugee camps,” the college said. “Later, Anglican churches were established in the villages of the Gambella region, in the west of Ethiopia.
“Out of necessity, the priests who were ordained at that time were lacking in theological education, having been ordained in a war-time situation. Even now we have only one priest in Gambella who has attended theological college.
“There is a real desire and real need for clergy to be trained. This will help them to become better preachers and teachers, better leaders of worship and better organizers of their church communities.”
The New St Frumentius’ College is affiliated with the Alexandria School of Theology in Egypt. The Anglican college will welcome faculty and students of other denominations “as long as they respect and work within the Anglican ethos of the school.”
The idea for the college came about in 2011 when Archbishop Mouneer visited Gambella and asked the clergy what they wanted from their new Area Bishop. The clergy asked for somebody who could teach theology and Bishop Grant LeMarquand, the former theological college professor and Academic Dean of Trinity School for Ministry in Pittsburgh was appointed.
Bishop Grant is the chair of the college’s board and will teach courses at the college. The Revd Dr Johann VanderBijl, an Anglican priest from the USA, will serve as Dean of St Frumentius.
Courses will be taught in English. Initially, these will be a two-year full-time programme leading to a Certificate in Theological Studies. Each year will have two semesters with five courses in each semester
If the Certificate programme is successful, the college will consider expanding the programme to three years for a Diploma and four years for a Bachelor’s degree.
“The theological curriculum will be divided into four major areas: Bible, church history, systematic theology, and pastoral or practical theology,” the college said. “In each of these areas we will seek to make the programme relevant to Africa, and especially to the Gambella region of Ethiopia, rather than simply a copy of a western model of education.
“In addition to these four areas, students will also receive special instruction in English, in research techniques, and in comparative religion (especially concentrating on African Traditional Religion and Islam).”
This week’s opening ceremony and the chapel dedication came half-way through the work on the college complex. The college itself is already open and work is continuing on the new chapel, “so the dedication fits well between these two events,” a spokesman for Archbishop Mouneer said.
In addition to serving the college community, the large chapel will also serve as the home for St Barnabas’ Church and an English-language congregation. It can also be used by other denominations to host large gatherings.
The circular-shaped church is based on a traditional Ethiopian design. It has a stone and cement floor with local quartz rock. It has been designed with an arched wall surrounding the main worship area to allow air to flow in the church while protecting the congregation from the rain. A veranda will surround the arched walls providing circulation space and overflow seating.
The baptistery will be outside the church in the style of ancient North African churches.
Saint Frumentius, born at Tyre in the early fourth century, was captured as a boy and, with his brother, became the King of Axum’s slave. When he was freed he began to teach Christianity. He travelled to Alexandria to appeal for missionary priests to be sent to Axum (now a city in northern Ethiopia). He was appointed bishop and set about establishing the Church in Ethiopia, where he is credited with converting many people.