Photo Credit: Church Mission Society / St Frumentius’ Anglican Theological College
An Anglican theological college established in the Gambella region of Ethiopia is celebrating after its first group of students completed the three-year course and collected their qualifications. Two of the seven graduates of the St Frumentius’ Anglican Theological College are refugees and the others are from two different ethnic groups that have a history of conflict. At several points over the past three years, high levels of ethnic tensions in the Gambella region made it unsafe for students to meet on campus together.
Opened in November 2015, St Frumentius is the first Anglican theological training college in Ethiopia. It was started in response to a great need for theological training in the area: the church is growing rapidly in Ethiopia, largely through the migration of South Sudanese Christian refugees to the area.
Pastors say that while they know how to plant churches and bring people to Christ, they don’t know the Bible and they don’t know how to make disciples. At the time St Frumentius’ College was established, the growing number of churches in Gambella was served by just 17 clergy – and only one of those had a theological degree.
Since it opened, the college’s reputation as a provider of high quality theological education is growing steadily. Following positive reviews by the Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa, the Baptist Church in Gambella has asked St Frumentius to provide training for its pastors and the college is continuing to attract attention from other seminaries for the quality of its programmes.
Church Mission Society partner Chris Wilson oversees the teaching programme at the college. “We are seeing local people coming to faith, communities changed and tribal tensions addressed,” he said. “The students had been away from Gambella for 10 weeks of field education and in that time, one student, Pastor Isaac, planted a church and baptised 54 people, and there were reports of many people making decisions to follow Christ, people healed and set free from various forms of affliction, including alcoholism.”
Another student, a Sudanese refugee, helped build a church in a refugee camp. Christians living in the camp made round trips of two and a half hours into the mountains to bring bamboo to build a new church; alongside this young people decided to disclose their HIV status and commit themselves to educating others about harmful myths leading to the spread of the disease.
Other graduates from the course have started discipling young people in the Gambella region through sport and Bible teaching. One of them, Ajikune, said that before he came to the college he hated people from other ethnic groups – some of them had killed relatives of his – but now he sees them as other children of God.
The graduation ceremony was attended by Bishop Peter Gatbel Kunen Lual from the Anglican Church of South Sudan, CMS mission partners Chris and Suzy Wilson and Rosemary Burke, and Johann Vanderbijl, the first dean of the college.