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Ethiopic Church

(Abyssinian Church). Tradition associates the origin of Christianity in Ethiopia (Abyssynia) with the return of the treasurer of Queen Candace (Acts 8:26–39) to his homeland. But Christianity did not take permanent root in Ethiopia until the 4th c., when Hezana ('Ezana; Aizanas; [Ta]zana), king of Aksum, is said to have become Christian, probably under influence of Frumentius.* By ca. 500 the ch. in Aksum was apparently Monophysite (see Monophysite Controversy), perhaps partly as a result of an influx of those exiled from the Roman Empire for religious reasons, partly as a result of dependence for apostolic succession on the Coptic* Ch. of Alexandria. The Aksumite empire disappeared from hist. after the 6th c.; Muhammadanism spread; the ch. declined. We know little about the Abyssinian Ch. from ca. 650–1268, when, after several changes of govt., the old dynasty was restored; under an able, energetic, and ambitious patriarch (abuna) the ch. then took a new lease on life. From the 13th to the 17th c. and in the 19th c. the RC Ch. tried to gain control of the Ethiopic Ch. In 1951 the Coptic Ch. freed the Abyssinian Ch. from the requirement that the abp. be a Copt; a native Abyssinian, Basil, was made abp. In 1959 a separate patriarchate, under the “Pope of Alexandria, Patriarch of the See of St. Mark,” was est. for Ethiopia. Head of the Ethiopic Ch. is called catholicos-patriarch. There are many monastic communities for men; cloisters for women are rare. The typical ground plan of Abyssinian chs. is round or octagonal. Saints, esp. Mary, are venerated. The order of service perpetuates with variations the Egyptian form of the E rite. There is a colony of the Abyssinian Ch. in Jerusalem. Ties to the imperial throne of Ethiopia are traditionally very close. The Abyssinian Ch. belongs to the WCC Recent yrs. have seen a measure of assimilation to E Orthodoxy. See also Africa, E 2; Jacob Baradaeus; Mark, Liturgy of Saint. ACP.

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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