The Ethiopian Orthodox Church, an indigenous and integral Church of Africa is one of the oldest Churches in the world, if not the oldest one, and is a founder member of the World Council of Churches. It has branches in other parts of the world such as Jerusalem, Sudan, The United States of America, Canada, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Bermuda and England. From the beginning the Church was affiliated with See of St. Mark of Alexandria. After Frumentius, her first Archbishop died, Egyptian bishops were appointed to head the Church; until 1959 a complete independence was granted. This connection was discontinued for a while because of the conquests occurred by Caliph Omar, a Moslim (634 – 644 A.D. ). During these conquests the Byzantine Empire was pushed out of Syria altogether. Armenia was overrun, all Mesopotamia was conquered and Persia beyond the river. Egypt passed through much temptations.
The Church is in full communion with Jacobite Church of Syria, the Church of Malabar in India, and the Armenian Church. It also maintains friendly relations with many other Christian Churches. Protestant missionaries have been allowed in the country since the reign of Menelik II whereas during the times of Emperor Tewodros (Theodore) (1838) and Yohannes (John) (1886) they were not allowed. These missionaries have their greatest activities in the western part of the country where it borders with former European colonies. When one speaks of the E.O.C. one speaks directly about the nation and their civilization. Intelligence and justice of the country were originated in the Church; its Head being the Lord Jesus Christ. The Church is the creator of art and crafts, literature, as well as creator of the secular and theological educational institutions and its curriculum. Until the time of Emperor Menelik II the Church was responsible for educating the nation. Even the Fetha Nagast (The Laws of Kings) which is composed of Canon Law and Civil Law is the creation of the Church.
Early Types of Worship in Ancient Ethiopia No doubt the element of all kinds of forms of worship were practiced in the country especially the sun god which was widely known in Axum, one of Ethiopia’s earliest Kingdoms. Sun god worship became widely practiced in Arabia in the town of Yemen. These Arabians a Cushite semetic people, migrated across the Red Sea to the South of Axum taking with them their sun god and moon worship and other cultures. Sun worship became widely practiced up to the point when the Queen of Sheba rose up during the era of King Solomon where she “admitted that she was a sun worshipper, though others adores stones, trees and grave images.” Sun god worship was also current in Egypt. It was also believed that during this early stage, – “the worship of the serpent was popular and Ethiopians offered sacrifices to it. This is confirmed to some extent by archaeological evidence found at Axum. On a stelae at Axum an engraving of serpent is still visible today, though the worship of the serpent was spread through almost all the nations of the Middle East. We have reason to believe that this cult was introduced directly to Ethiopia; from Persia. The description in Avesta, the Sacred Book of Persia concerning this matter, is identical with the tradition found in Ethiopia”. Nevertheless, Ethiopia is the first African nation to appreciate and worship the One True God of Old Testament and adopted the Judaic element (1,000 B.C.). It was even said that the idea of worship of one God has been in existence earlier. This was confined to a limited number of families. Later this disappeared when a segment of the population strayed to all forms of worship. The worship of the true God was officially announced and established by Queen Makeda on her return from her historic visit to King Solomon at Jerusalem. This powerful Queen had managed to reign over parts of southern Arabia in Sabaea (Sheba), and because of this was titled, Queen of Axum and Sheba. Her long and strenuous journey to Palestine in Search of righteousness, was a symbol of great faith, and so our Lord Jesus Christ, over a thousand years later, spoke of her to the continuing generations, that she “shall rise up in the judgement with this generation and shall condemn it: for she came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, a greater than Solomon is here” (Matt. 12:42). The Queen was then converted to the worship of the true God. Her conversion was the light she found in King Solomon’s wisdom – the light who is God and therefore, greater than Solomon. Makeda stayed in Jerusalem for six months during which time her union with Solomon produced King Minelik I, who was born while she journeyed back to Ethiopia. She condemned other types of worship and introduced to her people the true light. About Makeda and her work, a wealth of information is to be found in the book of Kebre Negest (The Glory of Kings) from which most of this section is cited. The Kebre Negest, States that when Menelik grew up he visited his father in Jerusalem; and came back home accompanied by Azarias, the son of Zadok the high priest and many other Israelites carrying with them the Ark of the Covenant, and placed it in the St. Mary of Zion Church in Axum, which is the birthplace of the Ethiopian civilization. The Ethiopian Falasha in northern Ethiopia who practice after the Judaism formula to this day, are to be d escendants of those who accompanied Menelik. From this point of view Judaism and paganism were in effect in Ethiopia. The later was short-lived while the former became a channel for direction and introduction towards Christianity.