This summer, teaching staff and graduates celebrated as St Frumentius’ Anglican Theological College in Gambella, Ethiopia, saw its first intake of students receive their certificates. Present at the ceremony were Bishop Peter Gatbel Kunen Lual, Church Mission Society mission partners Chris and Suzy Wilson, who are part of the leadership team at St Frumentius’ College, CMS mission partner Rosemary Burke and Johann Vanderbijl, the first dean of the college and his wife Louise, who flew in especially to witness the celebrations.
For all students, graduation is a major achievement, but for these students, the road to this accomplishment has been especially challenging: two of the seven graduates are refugees and the others are from two different ethnic groups that have a history of conflict. At several points during their studies over the past three years, high levels of ethnic tensions in Gambella made it unsafe for students to meet on campus together, say the Wilsons.
But at St Frumentius’ they’ve found a place of peace as well as preparation for ministry.
St Frumentius’ is the first Anglican theological training college in Ethiopia, and 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’ was established, the growing number of churches in Gambella were served by just 17 clergy, only one of whom had a theological degree.
Opened in November 2015, St Frumentius’ reputation as a provider of high quality theological education is growing steadily. Following positive reviews by the Anglican Church in Ethiopia and in Egypt, the Baptist denomination 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.
Chris Wilson, who oversees the teaching programme at the college, said, “We are seeing local people coming to faith, communities changed and tribal tensions addressed. 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.”