Tigrai Online March 13, 2013
It was through a documentary video on YouTube focusing on the ongoing war of attrition between what many members of the of the congregation describe as the battle between the “spiritual” and “carnal” wings of the church, that the clergy broke the sad news of the “indefinite closure of EOTC’s oldest church in Europe, Reese Gedamat St. Mary of Tsion.
The video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0Uk5SJjYeA captured the despicable act of wanton acts of sacrilege which had turned the House of the Lord into Tower of Babel for a good part of half a day. The culprits, a motley crew of popinjays, iconoclasts, relics of the Derg and befogged and desperate members of Ethiopia’s opposition as well as those who aren’t even members of the Church succeeded in preventing Sunday Eucharist Service on 10th March 2013 which provided the Priest-in-charge with justifiable security ground to shut down the church until such time peace is restored between the two warring factions of the church.
At the heart of the conflict between the spiritual wing and the carnal wing of the congregation is the proposition of turning the church into a public limited company. In September 2012 two members of the incumbent Parish Council took the brazenly audacious step of registering the Church as a Plc with “Company House for England and Wales.” As this unilateral action constituted a gross violation of both the Canon Law of EOTC and the Trust Deeds of the Church of St. Mary of Tsion, the Priest-in Charge barred the two individuals from the Church. The carnal wing of the congregation will have none of this and resorted in a puerile effort of demonizing and blackmailing the Priest-in-charge. When the Priest refused to budge they went ahead and hand picked a priest who is able and willing to do their dirty works.
Unlike the carnal wing, the spiritual wing of St. Mary of Tsion believes that the word church does not refer to any physical building, but refers to the whole body of believers in Christ. Indeed, the word is derived from the Greek word “ekklesia” which literally means assembly or congregation of people. They argue, and rightly so, that as corporation also means “a group of people combined into or acting as one body,” the Christian church is in a sense a corporation. It is the “Body of Christ” deriving its existence and authority from its Head, the victoriously risen Son of God, and not as the carnal wing is trying hard to convince us from Board Members deriving its existence and authority from its Head, Company House for England and Wales. The spiritual wing continues to argue that the true meaning of Jesus’ declaration that His Kingdom is “not of this world,” (John 18:36) is that it does not derive its power from the world or institutions like Company House. As a spiritual organization the Church of St. Mary of Tsion relies upon the Holy Spirit and the inspired Word for its existence, not upon the efforts or laws of men. The Church of St. Mary of Tsion’s “corporate status”, the spiritual wing continues to argue, is well-established in Scripture: Mathew 16:18, 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27, Ephesians 1:22, 5:23 30, Colossians 1: 18, 2:19 that Christ – and not company board members – is clearly the head of the church, and we all are members of his body. If St. Mary of Tsion, therefore, turns into a Plc, it will become a creature of the state, subject to the laws of the state and the limitation of its charter. An incorporated Church of St. Mary of Tsion simply cannot deny the fact that it has requested permission of the state to operate as a business. As the Priest-in-charge once quipped, “If Jesus had a business plan for his church; the Christendom will be worshiping Jesus’ MBA rather than his Cross.”
On the other hand, the carnal wing of our church, argues that church incorporation will allow the Church of St. Mary of Tsion to physically grow by leaps and bounds as the board of directors is able to secure bank loan on first charge over its mortgage-fully-paid premises. Mind you, what the relic of the Derg and their accomplices hide from you is the fact that if an incorporated church is in default, the board members go scot-free while St. Mary loses her hard earned church building.
To add fuel to the fire, the involvement of neo-Dergist in matters of the church has now opened up old wounds among thousands of Ethiopian orthodox who had first sought shelter from the Derg’s nightmarish rule – a point Ethiopian orthodox are prepared to highlight should the case makes it to the law courts. In the video, you watch with utter amazement how a relict of the Derg and an unrepentant member of a political party (WPE) which believed “religion is the opium of society,” Comrade Major Mamo, plans to lead our church “in anyway we want.” Mind you, this coming from a factotum of Colonel Mengistu Haile Haile Mariam rings alarm bells loud and clear. After all, was it not the Derg who confiscated EOTC’s real estate, who imprisoned and later killed EOTC’s second Patriarch, who imprisoned the priests and archbishops and who shut down Ethiopia’s one and only Theological College?
Permitting an unrepentant Derg turn a Christian church into a commercial enterprise flies against the very teaching of Jesus. You, therefore, have nothing to fear from a Derg with a voracious appetite to gobble up everything that comes its way. Remember: “if a Derg cheats you once, shame on the Comrade if twice shame on you.”
Come to the defence of Our Lady!