During Meserete Kristos Seminary’s Commencement Service on May 20, 2023, 101 graduates, including the seven MA graduates, were honored in the seminary’s Multipurpose Hall in Bishoftu, Ethiopia. All 101 men and women completed their degrees and were candidates for graduation. Since the seminary’s beginning 29 years ago, it has trained and graduated men and women, bringing the total number of graduates to 2,273.
For the first time in the history of the Meserete Kristos Church and seminary, the seminary graduated a cohort of Ethiopian students who completed the Master of Arts program in Theology and Global Anabaptism (MATGA). This cohort consisted of seven graduates. These students achieved this milestone entirely in Ethiopia through a partnership between Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Elkhart, Indiana, and Meserete Kristos Seminary in Bishoftu/Debre Zeit, which began in 2019.
Beverly Lapp, Vice President and Academic Dean at AMBS, along with Daniel B. Grimes, the former Vice President for Enrollment and Advancement at AMBS, were in Ethiopia to represent AMBS.
President Desalegn Abebe, who serves as the president of the Meserete Kristos Church, highlighted the continuous growth of the church and the increasing need for trained leaders. He emphasized the importance of education and wisdom during his address. The graduates were motivated to embrace challenges, develop critical skills, and transform their education into wisdom.
The president encouraged graduates to take risks, broaden their horizons, and adopt an open-minded and tolerant attitude towards others. “A crucial challenge of education is to transform skills and intelligence into wisdom,” said Abebe.
He also said, “We are confronted with making choices in our daily lives. Sometimes, these choices involve two overwhelming desires, and we have the ability to make both good and bad decisions. However, it’s important to note that sometimes it’s not the decision itself that hurts, but rather the way in which we make decisions.”
Graduates were also urged to advocate for equity, equality, and justice in a world that often experiences division. The speech expressed gratitude towards the supportive partners and emphasized the commitment to further enhance the seminary as an educational institution.
Beverly Lapp was the keynote speaker and encouraged this year’s graduates to continue learning, saying, “God delights in your learning. Never stop learning from God’s word, from the people God puts in front of you, and from each experience you are blessed to have. May your true evangelical faith manifest itself in all righteousness and in works of love, and may unity in Christ be your greatest joy and source of peace.”
In his speech, Gishu Jebecha Ebissa, the MK Seminary principal, congratulated the Class of 2023 graduates and expressed excitement about their upcoming ministry. He highlighted the seminary’s goals of equipping students for holistic transformation and providing contextualized theological education in the Anabaptist tradition.
Ebissa introduced new bachelor’s and master’s programs that the seminary has been working on, including a Master of Arts in Practical Theology program taught in Amharic to promote inclusivity and accessibility. He emphasized that these programs aim to deepen students’ understanding of the Bible and theology, enhance their professional skills, strengthen their Christian character and foster a stronger commitment to serving the church and society.
Ebissa also pointed out that two of this year’s graduates are from Kenya, which brings the total number of MK Seminary graduates from Kenya to five. The seminary has also had students from Djibouti in the past, including two graduates from Eritrea. Currently, seven students from Eritrea and two South Sudanese (who are now living in the Gambela region of Ethiopia) are enrolled in the Seminary and taking courses. The seminary is actively working to make itself more appealing to brothers and sisters in Eastern Africa, as well as to attract more international students.
Additionally, Ebissa expressed the desire for any seminary and university in the United States or Canada, or anywhere in the world, to bring their students or faculty for a semester-long overseas exploration and teaching. “We have great facilities and student dormitories. If you are looking for a place to get away for your sabbatical leave and co-teach for a semester at the seminary, the seminary welcomes you. Reach out to us.”
One of the benefits of partnering with brothers and sisters in the global south is gift sharing. For instance, MK Seminary’s partnership with AMBS and Mennonite Church Canada witnesses, helps and empowers MK Seminary to have its own M.A. programs.
MK Seminary has many brothers and sisters from the global north who have come the seminary to be part of the community and to co-teach different courses with MK Seminary faculty members. Joanne and Werner De Jong are currently in Ethiopia for a three-year teaching term as Mennonite Church Canada witness workers.
The relationship between the seminary and these brothers and sisters has been a great resource as the seminary designs and launches M.A. programs. The brothers and sisters have extensive experience in how higher theological education works. The seminary and the church will continue these kinds of healthy gift-sharing partnerships and relationships. What MK Seminary asks of brothers and sisters is to start reading Eastern African scholars’ theological reflections, listen to their voices and ways of doing things, and collaborate with them shoulder to shoulder for the expansion of God’s Kingdom.
To strengthen the relationship of the fastest-growing Anabaptist church in Ethiopia with sisters and brothers in the global north, Abebe and Ebissa will embark on a fraternal visit to North America for two months, from June 1 to July 31. This is the first time these leaders will be visiting North America.
Abebe and Ebissa aim to gain more exposure and a broader understanding of the Mennonite community while engaging with brothers and sisters in the United States and Canada. During their visit, they will deliver speeches, preach, and provide updates on the church and seminary’s work, as well as share their vision for the coming five to 10 years.